TBI: Tips for a Successful Recovery
Find doctors that you trust and follow sound advice.
This seems like obvious advice but, some doctors know more about TBI than others. As explained in the blog, Who You Treat With Can Make All The Difference, there’s a striking difference in the quality of care provided to TBI and MBTI patients at different hospitals and by different doctors. There are some very good institutions in the Massachusetts area such as: Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital, and the Cantu Concussion Center at Emerson Hospital. On the other hand, some institutions have been known to misdiagnose, under-treat, or ignore patients’ symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury. Where you seek treatment is a huge determining factor in your recovery so, do not rush this decision. Do your research, talk to previous/current patients, and utilize all your resources before you make a decision for yourself or for a loved one.
Take short breaks when you need them.
Even just a ten-minute nap can help rejuvenate you and give you the energy to enjoy a full day.
Have multiple ways to accomplish something/ Always have a backup plan.
As we all know, mental fatigue is harder to overcome than physical fatigue. For those recovering from or living with a TBI, the challenges of mental fatigue are exaggerated. People recovering with TBI recommend breaking mental work into smaller segments of time. One survivor explains, “I might read the newspaper in the morning, balance my checkbook an hour or two later, and check email or work on the computer for only thirty minutes at a time. Taking a break in between mental work sessions allows me to stay energized.”
Be patient, don’t be hard on yourself.
Laugh at yourself! You are recovering from a life-altering injury that very few people in your inner circle will be able to understand. If you mess up, forget something, stumble over words, or need a nap… you are not a failure. As Maya Angelou says, ““You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Always evaluate risk: both physically and mentally.
This tip is from Hugh Rawlins, a severe TBI patient who after fifteen years of intense treatment is going back to work and inspiring others. Rawlins explains, “I ask myself these questions: How could I get hurt if I do this? If I do get hurt, what will be the likely injury? What plan do I have for escape? (If riding my bicycle on a road, I make sure there is a safe landing spot, grass, etc.) I leave extra length between other cyclists and especially vehicles. For mental risk, I think about places that are loud, noisy, or have flashing lights (all three aggravate my symptoms and give me a headache). So I might choose to sit in a corner away from the crowd, or I may use earplugs (during a concert) to dull the noise.”
Keep an active social life.
The transition home after receiving rehab at a hospital or inpatient care facility is extremely difficult… oftentimes the onset of “normal” life is overwhelming and fills you with negative thoughts, anxiety, and paranoia. According to studies, the most common negative thoughts and feelings, a person recovering from a TBI might experience are listed below…
- I can’t relate to others anymore.
- I’d rather be alone.
- People are avoiding me now.
- What happened to everyone who came to visit in the hospital?
- They just don’t want to be around me.
- Nobody returns my calls.
- They want to fire me – I just know it.
- People just don’t understand me.
Although it might be uncomfortable and challenging, you need to maintain relationships with friends and family. Having a support group and constant communication line helps eliminate these negative thoughts and feelings, which are detrimental to your healing process. These relationships enhance your life… which is a blessing during challenging times.
This is easier said than done but, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy routine is vital to a healthy psyche. Not only does exercise release endorphins and relieve stress but, it also creates an opportunity to track progress which provides motivation!