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Calendar Envy: Strategies for Living

14 Sep

It takes two weeks of repeating a behavior to form a habit.

Those new habits can, in some cases, change how you see yourself and how you interact with the world.

Think about this: After two weeks of repeating a behavior, perspective and approach can fundamentally change. Repeat that behavior long enough, and that new way of acting and reacting becomes part of who you are.

The facts of life about fundamental change came up for me in a recent planning sessions with my co-author, co-conspirator, and confidant Mary, as we got out our “calendars” to schedule one of our upcoming, live and in person, book events. Mary reached across her desk for her Franklin (old school, paper, bound calendar) and I pulled out my phone….

That book, holding a pen in her hand, and writing something in ink on a specific date at a designated time has great meaning for Mary. As I watched her (on my computer screen via Skype, across the miles) record the date, I remembered how significant the act of scheduling a meeting or an appointment or even recording someone’s birthday in my book used to feel.

In that moment, recording my daily tasks, my appointments, my meetings, and my events in the calendar on my phone felt so much less meaningful and powerful.

I started thinking about when and why I moved from my trusted pocket calendar that I carried with me (that once held all the emotional value I saw in Mary’s simple actions of saving a date for an event) to using my phone as a method to organize my life and my day.

I think you know where I am going with this….

During recovery from brain injury it is necessary to develop strategies that make life more manageable or at least not as chaotic. After a couple weeks, those strategies really do become habits and those habits, especially the ones that make life easier in the moment, become part of how we, as survivors, approach situations or cope or manage our moments.

In the midst of the fog of my brain injury, I lost pieces of paper whether they were in a book, a calendar, or hanging out on their own. I simply lost anything paper related. I rarely, however, misplaced my phone.

My cell phone was not just a way for me to communicate but it was also a tool I used to walk into rooms without having to engage with other people, a distraction during agitated moments, and a lifeline to someone who could bail me out of my own mind. I rarely misplaced my phone because it held so much emotional value and was so tied to my safety and well-being.

I don’t know how many appointments, meetings, and phone calls I missed before I realized I needed a better way to keep track of my schedule or even if it was my idea or someone else’s, but moving my calendar to my phone helped me get a grip on a huge piece of my life.

Creating the habit of keeping my important events on my phone gave me peace of mind and helped me calm the feeling of not know where I was “supposed” to be.

So, next time I look at someone else’s Franklin longingly and nostalgically, I will remind myself how good this habit – one that I established when I was pretty darned vulnerable – is for me and breathe just a bit more easily.

I guess the point is this: A compensatory strategy – a method employed to address a condition that is keeping you from functioning at your best – is not always a crutch that you will remove once the condition eases. Compensatory strategies can become habits that help you function better. Period. No need to lament.

What strategies have you employed in your life that remained long standing habits.

This piece originally appeared on www.insidersguidetotheinjuredbrain.com

#BrainInjuryAwareness Month and Cranium Crunches

10 Mar

From the beginning, Cranium Crunches has taken March and Brain Injury Awareness Month seriously. This is the time to raise the level of understanding about brain injury –the perfect time to get good information to those who need it.

It seems, however, that every March I find myself thinking, really hard, about the brain injury journey. This year, before sharing my current thoughts, I decided to get a little perspective and take a good look back to see how my message has changed over the past seven years.

That dive into the past was a beautiful exercise for me and before putting the 2017 version of my thoughts about the brain injury journey out there, here are three bits from pieces from past Brain Injury Awareness Months that showed me just how far I have come… but not really 😊!

Last year’s March self-reflection included this:

Dear Brain,
I am almost done grieving the losses
The loss of my keys, the loss of my words, the loss of where I fit in the world.
As peace sets in and I find a comfortable level to float
It really is time to honor, celebrate, and thank you for all I found.
Within your imperfections, I learned to listen closely
And I found my voice, calling me to action.
Within the fog I walked into a deeper understanding of what is around me
And I found the focus I needed to see the beauty right in front of me so much more clearly.
Within the confusion, I learned to look for clues in context
And I found the insight that comes with shifting my perspective.
Within the fear of doing it all wrong I heard the laughter
And I found the key to my survival.
Within the world of believing that no one could possibly understand I discovered a community
And I found my purpose.

With deep love and gratitude,
Ruth

 

This piece of March 2015’s reflections jumped off the screen (entire selection here):

As I think about Brain Injury Awareness Month and those in midst of the fog, I am reminded of a few key things.

First, most of the time people with brain injuries look sooooo normal. It is those conditions that you can not see that are difficult for both those who are living them and those who are living with and caring for those who are living with them. Please, as my friend Kim Tackett says, Be Kind.

Second, living with, caring for, and cleaning up after someone with a TBI is a hard, thankless job. Patience, understanding, and then more patience works…most of the time.

Third, honor those who carry the load. My husband, my son, and a few trusted friends are freaking amazing human beings and I did not always remember to thank them but, I am now. Every chance I get.

Finally, embrace the imperfections in any way possible. My dear friend Kathie (one of those trusted friends mentioned above) still has a scarf I made for her as part of my recovery work. It is a symbol of my imperfections — it is uneven and has holes but every stitch was knitted with every bit of gratitude I could muster.

One of my favorite March musings to date is this sort of words to the wise piece from 2013:

So… as part of your journey into understanding the world of brain injury from the outside:

  • Listen, watch closely, and adapt to changes as they happen.
  • Drop assumptions and preconceived notions about how that person “should be”.
  • Slow down and think through your questions, especially when you get unexpected answers. Perspective, among so many other things, changes so it may take a while to find the right question.
  • Find those things that are difficult and create ways to practice those skills in a safe place. Games – board games, word games, car games, online games, apps – are ideal.
  • Think about how frustrating the changes are for you and now imagine having those same frustrations with no way to control your emotions or think your way out of them….
  • Find the experts as you need and support groups when you need.
  • Know that you will all come out differently – make the most of that and celebrate what you can.

Stay tuned for this year’s reflections!

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