Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of TBI recovery. Some folks claim that there is no recovery from TBI, mild or otherwise, because the brain is unalterably changed and you can’t just go back to the way things were before.
The brain is not unlike a piece of metal, in that respect. Once you bend a piece of metal, you can never get it back to exactly the way it was before it was bent — you can get it back to the same shape, but there will always be a little wrinkle or dent or crook in it that shows you where it was damaged before. The object may be totally serviceable (like the door of my car that got side-swiped by someone who was texting while driving), but no matter how you try to pull out the dent, you’re always going to have some sort of tell-tale sign that something happened before. In my case, the car door is fine, it opens and shuts, but I’ll always have that reminder of the night that someone wasn’t paying attention as they were driving towards me.
Same thing holds true with the brain – once you’re “dinged” you’re dinged. The connections that were once in place aren’t ever going to go back to exactly like they were before. Tough nuts. What’s done is done. Your faculties may be 99% intact, but there will always be that little 1% (at least) that’s a regular reminder that things aren’t working as they once were, and you have to do things a little differently than before.
However — and this is where I differ from the experts who are riding the “no recovery after TBI” hayride to hell — just because certain connections no longer work, doesn’t mean you can’t create whole new connections that do the same thing, only a little differently. Sometimes whole areas of old abilities and ways of being are blown out, and they aren’t coming back to the state they once were. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create new connections in different ways that serve the same purpose, albeit not identical to the way things once were.
Think of TBI as a tornado that smashes the roof of your car and wrecks the roads going out of town. Combine that with a flash flood that washes out parts of the roads, too. Your car is toast. Totaled. An irretrievable loss. Everybody knows that sometimes you can’t repair a road to be exactly like it once was. So what? You take the check the insurance company sends you and you buy another car. You build a new road, you create something different. And sometimes the new road is even better than the old one. Sometimes it’s not, but it still does the trick. The new car might handle differently from your old one. The new road might take you down a longer route and it might be a little bumpier in places, but it will still get you where you’re going.
And you might get to see some different scenery, as well.
I have a theory that many (if not most) people go through some kind of major shift in the course of their lives, which causes them to rethink the routes they’ve been taking from the Point A’s and Point B’s in their lives. Whether it’s a mid-life crisis or a health crisis or an injury or a job loss or a failed marriage or a natural disaster, we all go through something like this at some point in our lives. Some of us have it happen more than once — which is not a sign that we’re total screw-ups, rather that we have even more opportunities to learn and grow and change. Even when the transitions are totally unexpected or seem to come at the “wrong” time of life — a concussion during a high school soccer game, or a car accident on the way to your vacation — they still present us with the chance to change and grow and find out what else we’re capable of doing/achieving.
Recovery from TBI, in my opinion, is no different in nature than recovering from the above “disasters”. And telling ourselves that just because we can’t get back to exactly how we were before, it means we cannot/will not recover…. that’s pretty counterproductive. And when an expert tells you that, well, it’s just ignorant and cruel and seems more like them covering their expert ass, than giving you something to work with.
Ultimately, expert advice aside, we all need to figure out how to live our own lives to the best of our abilities. If we put our whole trust in experts, who are human, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. What matters most is what we believe about ourselves and what we believe is possible for our lives. Whether we move ourselves on through science or religion or psychology or exercise or will-power or tons of hard, hard work… or all of the above, the bottom line is, there are many ways to progress, to create positive change, and to become more and better than we were before.
It’s a process. It’s all a process. Never let anyone take hope from you, and never let anyone else define you with their own limitations. It’s bad enough that they want to do it, but you don’t have to let them. So get up and get moving and see what you can do today. (Just make sure you eat right and get plenty of rest in the process.)