Adjusting to life after a traumatic brain injury is often a challenging process. In the hospital, surrounded by care professionals, it is naturally difficult to connect with what life will look like upon returning home. Yet, that day will come and when it does it is bound to impact both your mental and physical health while trying to adapt to the changes. Depending on the severity of the injury, the path to recovery will fluctuate in terms of needs and adjustments. This guide explores some universal guidance.
Take the Time to Understand
Gathering all the facts may feel overwhelming, but there is undeniable value to doing so. Before leaving the hospital setting or care facility, ensure you have the answers to:
- What the cause of the injury was, alongside the initial consequences.
- Details about how that will impact your life in the short and long term.
- A care pathway with details of treatment including physical rehabilitation and mental health support.
- How much care you will require.
- How long the recovery might take.
Being equipped with honest facts will enable the recovery journey as it gives back control of the situation and understanding something is a step closer to finding positive ways forward.
Protect Your Mental Health
Mental health is one of the biggest things to be affected after a brain injury, especially if the new circumstances mean significant change. People who have suffered an accident that caused head trauma are more likely statistically to experience some level of depression within the first year post-event. Depression is a serious condition that causes multiple complications as a solo act, so when combined with other factors it becomes even more prevalent to seek help. If you feel like you are withdrawing from loved ones or your social circle, struggle to meet basic hygiene needs, eat properly, or simply lack motivation to get up and out of bed in the morning, these are clear indications of a depressive episode.
Mental Health Support Guidance
While this may be situational depression, it still needs supporting as, when left untreated or mismanaged, it is capable of yielding devastating consequences and even impeding necessary healing. Here are some ideas for finding support.
1. Join a group of people with similar experiences. Talking to others with a shared trauma is a great way to feel connected and combat loneliness or isolation. There may be shared coping mechanisms or innovative tactics that come to light, a shoulder to cry on, or a safe space to vent real emotions during a time of crisis.
2. Set yourself a routine, and stay strict about following it. Waking up in the morning is one of the biggest mountains to climb when poor mental health sets in. Make this your top goal and celebrate the little victory, because that’s what it is.
3. Consider enlisting the help of a trained therapist. CBT and similar are proven methods of combatting depression. An expert clinician will have an abundance of tactics to bring you back to empowerment and help you to assert ownership over the dark days.
4. Don’t say no to medication because you feel there is a stigma attached. Depression is a medical condition, and there are treatment options to help you feel better and start to cope again. Addressing the mental health aspect of recovery might just enable the physical recovery too, so it should be viewed as an essential part of your journey and the logical option for moving forward.
Seek Compensation for Closure
Brain injuries have multiple consequences depending on the severity and circumstances. Sometimes, there are long-term additional care needs that mean time off work is necessary and even dictate extra support at home. Therefore, claiming compensation is sometimes appropriate for TBI sufferers. The process of acquiring it is not always simple. When the injury in question was not caused by yourself and has culpable external parties, there are routes you can take to find peace, compensation, and support. A regular solicitor may not have the right experience to navigate such a case, and that is why finding a head injuries lawyer with the correct education and know-how is a better option. They will help you in the appropriate way, give legal advice, and get you the best possible outcome.
Adapt Supportive Dietary Changes
What you eat will have a big impact on how you recover. There are certain foods to be avoided, and things to be added in that may encourage better cognitive redevelopment. Below, there are some food types that need to be eliminated from your new regime and others that can be enjoyed in abundance.
Foods to Avoid
Let’s start with the types that need to be cut out. Some of these you might not even miss, and others you might mourn a little. Whatever your stance, try to view it as a supportive pillar in your overall health movement that will widen the scope of enablement for your rehabilitation
High quantities of salt are bad for anyone regardless of age or weight yet it is used frequently in many dishes. It is known to be a contributing factor to high blood pressure and strokes, all of which are detrimental to brain health. So, if you can cut it out (not entirely) then now is the time to do it. There are other ways to flavor your dishes, so don’t take this as a sign that your plate has to be bland from this point forward!
You don’t have to completely abandon caffeine, but it is sensible to calm down your intake. If you were an avid coffee drinker pre-injury, this may feel like yet another blow. However, small amounts are generally okay as they do provide some antioxidants, which are shown to positively support recovery. Yet, the flip side of caffeine is that it is a vasoconstrictor, which just means it effectively reduces the flow of blood to the brain. This is not ideal for a period of supposed healing, as it may (certainly) hinder the process and counteract all the other changes.
Foods to Swear By
Foods that are rich in protein support healthy cell regeneration and muscle strength, so naturally, they will aid the process of getting better and back to strength. Protein is found in chicken, other meats, eggs, and beans.
Antioxidants are present in lots of different food sources and do astounding things for our bodies. They are great for general detoxes and promoting healthy cell growth, while also acting as a protective shield from free radicals, which may impact heart health and more. The other bonus is that it is super easy to add antioxidant centred food into your diet. Berries are a prime source, which can be enjoyed as a dessert alternative or are a great way to start the day for your morning meal. Leafy green vegetables like spinach, nuts, and dark chocolate are three other food types worth exploring.
Omega-3 is mostly found in fish and is well-known as a super component for supporting cognitive health. Therefore, anything in this remit is bound to positively impact TBI recovery.
Be Honest With Loved Ones
Being upfront about our personal lives is never easy. However, in situations like this where recovery is the primary focus, getting life back on track might just require opening up to those closest to you. Loved ones and friends in a close social circle are the perfect confidants for anything that is going on. While it often feels more difficult to connect with people who aren’t having a shared experience, in a way they are. Those closest to you may be involved in care elements, and are also there as a support network. Tell them how you are feeling when they ask if you’re okay, saying no is a valid answer. Sharing the load makes it lighter.
Find Kindred Spirits
As explored above, there are bound to be support groups in the local area that are set up to help people in a similar setup to yours. You are not alone with this injury, and if you really are struggling to open up to family or friends, finding someone who has been through a similar thing could be a more appealing option. Shared trauma forges bonds that may naturally fizzle out over time, or potentially stay forever. Whatever use you get out of it, don’t dismiss the idea outright.
One Day at a Time
The biggest frustration when trying to get back to normal is how slow things may seem. Though things take time, a day will come when you find more peace. Every part of your healing journey is relevant and important, and each day you get up and go through the motions is a win. The one day at a time method works, so don’t spend too much time dwelling on the bigger picture during those moments where everything feels helpless. The bigger picture can wait. Today is the one to focus on.
Life after a brain injury looks different. Regardless of how severe the consequences of the accident, brain injuries often change things in both subtle and drastic ways. Being able to deal with those changes is a challenge, but not one that is insurmountable.