To watch and listen to a video presentation of the article, you may click on this link: Surviving a Brain Injury — Will I ever Feel Normal Again? Video Presentation
To watch a 4:38 minute video slide show of this article, click on this link: https://youtu.be/LE5v-x8BSPc
Recently, I received a question that I feel led to address in this article. The question is one that many brain injury survivors face.
“I am just wondering…will I ever really feel normal again. I still struggle with depression….and not feeling like myself. It has been x amount of years…”
When the individual asked that question I thought about a statement that I do not particularly like, but in respect to living with a brain injury, it pertains — “a new normal”.
In my experience and for many years, I had no idea what normal looked like, much less; what a new normal would look like for my life.
In my experience, I spent a lot of time guessing at what was normal. I lived in several denial systems for many years (both my denial and in the denial of other people).
I did so in an attempt of trying to not be impacted by whatever was impacting my life.
In my experience, once I came out of the 3-week coma and my external wounds healed — the impact of my open skull fracture, right frontal lobe damaged, severe brain bruise with brain stem involvement — and I learned how to walk, talk, etc I looked normal. Consequently, the impact of the injury to my brain was never again factored into the difficulties that I experienced as I lived my life. Instead of understanding and learning to compensate for (but who knew because I looked normal) the difficulties that I experienced, related to my brain injury.
Unbeknownst to me for many years, I was blamed, shamed and made a scapegoat. In response, I joined in with the chorus; of blaming and shaming myself for not being enough. I denied my reality in an attempt to not feel less than, for the difficulties that I experienced for not measuring up.
I discovered that I denied and defended both my denial and other people’s denial to keep people from going away.
I discovered that I defended both my denial and other people’s denial in an attempt to not feel less than and keep from being blamed and shamed for not being enough. But my good rarely seemed to be good enough and I continued to be blamed and shamed for not meeting expectations. And I continued to strive to defend my denial, the denial of other people and how my life was being impacted until I reached a threshold in time. A threshold in time when I could no longer deny my inability to do more, to be more to be enough.
A point in time when I could no longer deny my reality.
A point in time when I could no longer defend the denial that kept me believing that there was something wrong with me for matters that were out of my control. A point in time when I realized that I was powerless to change the impact of the open skull fracture and traumatic brain injury that I experienced when I was 10 years old in 1967. A point in time when I began to grieve what I was powerless to change, despite everything that I had tried to deny my reality.
Looking back, I am so grateful for the pain and anguish that I experienced. The pain and anguish that motivated me to move beyond the “box” of my denial. The pain and anguish that motivated me to grieve what I was powerless to change. To read more about what led up to my reaching this threshold, you may click on the following link: Traumatic Brain Injury and Facing Denial).
By facing the pain of my denial, I began to heal.
By facing my and other peoples denial — concerning how my life had and was being impacted by my traumatic brain injury — I started to heal. By confronting the denial that perpetuated my feeling less than, I was able to get into action. I was able to begin to grieve. To grieve what I could not be, learn to accept who I was meant to be and in the process find a way to pursue my dreams and my destiny. In my experience, I found that as I moved through the grieving process, doors were opened for me. One of those doors was hope. Moving through the grieving process helped me to find a way to be, where I was, with what I had. Several years ago I wrote a series to share how I moved through the grieving process. To understand the process of grieving that helped me, you may click on this link: Traumatic Brain Injury and the Grieving Process.
This process did not happen overnight and it took a commitment to facing and working through my denial — despite family and other people who sought to convince me that it was all up in my head. That if I just tried hard enough, then I would not be impacted by the traumatic brain injury that occurred in the motor vehicle accident when I was 10 years old. Although facing my denial, and the denial that was coming from outside of me; was difficult and painful, I am glad that I stuck with the process. What I discovered, through sticking with the process; was my new normal.
By grieving what was, I was able to begin to create and build a life in my new normal.
More will be revealed to all of us — in time. You will get through this period of time in your life. I went through black periods in my life too. Passing through these dark periods is a necessary part of the process — facing our denial, experiencing anger, realizing that all the bargaining in the world is not going to change the reality that our lives have and are being impacted by our brain injury and then experiencing the accompanying depression that comes with this reality — prepare you and I to accept our reality. By accepting our reality — that our lives have changed because of our brain injuries — we are able to get into action. We are able to rebuild our lives.
We are able to create and thrive in our new normal, as individuals living with brain injuries.
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