I recently was interviewed by a professional who works within the brain injury industry. During the interview, he asked 26 questions.
Among the questions, he asked me, “What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘new normal’ after experiencing a brain injury?”.
Below is the answer to that question with details. Because of the length of the article, I divided the article into 3 parts. I would encourage you to read all 3 Parts. Below Part 1 is a link to Part 2.
My Experience with Brain Injury
As you may have read in my about page, I sustained an open skull fracture in an automobile accident in 1967 when I was 10 years old. The open skull fracture resulted in right frontal lobe damage, a severe brain bruise with brain stem involvement. I also fractured my left femur (thigh bone).
I remained in a coma for 3 weeks and was not expected to live the night of the accident. I was also not expected to succeed beyond high school academically. This expectation was shared with my parents after I underwent 2 EEG’s and a battery cognitive, social and psychological testing at the age of 10. My parents did not share the expectations of these cognitive, social and psychological testing with me.
What I Shared with the Professional when Asked About the Term “New Normal”
I believe that life is likened to being on a train. The train runs down what I envision as the track of life. Along the track, I come to various places that look familiar to me. And then the day came when I experienced my traumatic brain injury. On that day, unbeknownst to me, a “switch” was pulled and my life headed down a different track of the railroad. The railroad of my life.
Experiencing a brain injury is likened to being on a new and different set of railroad tracks.
The track that once looked familiar no longer looks familiar to me. Although being switched to a different track wasn’t my choice, I now find my life traveling in a different direction. Although what I now see myself traveling on is unfamiliar, I realize I that can’t get back on the other track of the railroad. The track before my brain injury.
Accepting Something Does Not Mean I Like “IT”
After 20 years of getting and being fired, terminated and “let go” from many jobs, I reached a “bottom”. A “bottom” in my life when I realized I could no longer deny my reality. Although I was able to obtain my undergraduate degree in 10 years and my master’s degree in 3 1/2 years I could not keep a job.
After applying for SSDI (twice in Florida and once in North Carolina) and completing 2 Department of Vocational programs (one in Florida and one in North Carolina) I was deemed unemployable my third SSDI application was approved in 1999.
In my experience, even after my third application was approved by the Social Security Administration I still had a difficult time accepting the impact of my traumatic brain injury. How could I be able to obtain my undergraduate degree and master’s degree and not be employable?
But there was nothing I could do to change that reality.
To Be Able to Accept My “New Normal” after My Brain Injury
In my experience to be able to accept that I was traveling down a train track that I did not like, I had to grieve what I could not change. What I found was that I needed to confront what I could not do (my denial). I needed to allow myself to be angry for what I realized I could not change. I needed to try to disprove several more times that I was not impacted by my brain injury (bargain).
Finally, I needed to allow myself to be in a place of despondency (depression). I needed to be despondent until I became sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Sick and tired before I could begin to confront my denial and begin the grieving process.
In my experience, I had to move through the stages of grieving (denial, anger, bargaining, and depression).
Move through the grieving process before I could begin to accept what I could not change.
Please read Part 2 of this article by clicking on this link: Discovering a “New Normal” after Experiencing a Brain Injury Part 2
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