Sunday, 11 August 2013

An update on Mike's recovery

It's been awhile since my last post on this blog - time for an update.  It's now eight and a half years since my TBI.  Although I am still recovering, my life continues apace.  I've taken a demanding new job.  I've moved in with my girlfriend.  I continue to make progress with my running.  Steady as she goes, but with a thumbs up.

A new suit for my new job!
First of all, my job.  I'm working as a Regulatory Economist for a major NZ telecommunications company.  It's my first job since my accident that feels like proper progress with my career.  As expected, I have to be a bit careful.  For example, I need to take regular breaks during each day.  Still, I am getting the job done.

I've moved in with my partner, a girl I was lucky enough to meet a couple of years back.  She didn't know me before my accident and basically doesn't want to know the specifics of it (although she says I should point out that she's not callous and uncaring).  Could there be anything better at getting me to move on from the debacle that was my accident and its effects?

I was lucky enough to complete that 60k (37.5mi) mountain run that I mentioned in this post.  It was an amazing race to finish, but I won't be doing another ultra-marathon in a hurry.  Now, I've got a new goal, increasing my running speed.  Again, progress has been patchy: my TBI still causes issues with my running.  However, I am slowly getting there, reaching an important milestone, my first 4 min km, just the other week.

As I've explained, I'm by no means free from the effects of my TBI. I am however definitely moving forwards.

Also, I decided to keep this post short, but readers might be interested to hear how I've gotten to this point.  I can only encourage people to read through the posts on this blog.  I think I go through mat of the trials and tribulations I've experienced along the way.  It ain't been pretty, but I'm slowly getting there.


Monday, 23 April 2012

Friends and TBIs

In comments on this post, I was recently asked how, following my TBI, I got on with the friends I'd had from before it.  I think this is a very understandable issue: TBIs often change the sort of person that we are, it almost stands to reason that we won't get on with our friends like we did, before.  The thing I think's important is accepting that we're different now and that, just as we've changed, our friends might need to change, too.

I myself was raised to only bother hanging out with people who are keen to hang out with me.  If people didn't want to hang out following my TBI (and I'm sure there were some), I just shrugged my shoulders: that was their choice and well, I had better stuff to do, any way.

In terms of meeting new people who might want to hang out with me, I love picking up new sports, joining new teams or trying new activities. Which activities do I try? As I explain in this post, Get into it, I love trying things I reckon I’ll enjoy.

Even with focusing on hanging out with those who wanted to see me, I'm quite sure that I still had much to learn about being a friend.  I've written up some thoughts on that issue here: Talking through people skills.


Thursday, 15 March 2012

Being Sherlock Holmes

Recently, I've come to realise that what might help many recovering from a TBI is to think of themselves as Sherlock Holmes.  In this blog post, I described the idea that a TBI is like a fingerprint: every one is different!  Other recoverers sometimes asked me if I've experienced an issue they're facing.  Most of the time, I have to admit that I haven't.  However, I still think I can say something useful: recoverers should think of themselves as being Sherlock Holmes.

When I say this, I mean recoverers have to become an expert on deducing what causes or contributes to their issue.  Is it more severe when they're fatigued than when they're feeling rested?  Does it come on after certain activities, like eating particular foods or drinking alcohol?  To recover better, we need to be gurus about ourselves, we need to be Sherlock Holmes.

A part of being Sherlock Holmes and being very familiar with research on the issues we face: read heaps on the Internet or in books (although keep your sceptical mind when doing so); talk through the options with the right people; try different ideas of things we think might help us, just to see if they work.

In this post I wrote last year, I describe one issue I worked out how to deal better with only through a Sherlock Holmes approach.  I worked out how to help my right quad muscle cope with my running by exercising/strengthening my right gluteus maximus.  Learning this only happened through a Sherlock Holmes approach of thinking about it and trying different things until something worked.

Good luck with being Sherlock Holmes.


Friday, 24 February 2012

How to celebrate my recovery

I think it's very important for recoverers to celebrate the wins from their recoveries: that's another thing that helps keep us going during dark days. There are two things I think are important to the way I celebrate my recovery:

  • some time ago, my brother had the great idea of not doing anything on the 20th February, the anniversary of my accident, but on the 21st, the "anniversary" of my recovery and
  • consistent with my thinking discussed in this 2008 post that the state of my recovery depends on what goals I've achieved, I make special emphasis on celebrating my recovery when I've done something cool.

Earlier this week, I had a special celebration on the evening of the 21st. It was the seventh anniversary of my recovery and, during the last couple of years, I achieved the two big goals I discussed here, completion of my Ironman and my Masters thesis. I went out with my parents for a special meal that night to celebrate.

For some reason, I felt like I had an extra reason to celebrate this year, it felt like I was ruling a line under my recovery. Of course, as I discussed in this post, I firmly believe my recovery will continue from here. However, eventually I think our lives and our recoveries become inseparable. That was what I reckon I was celebrating: I was ruling a line under my recovery by acknowledging that my life and my recovery had become inseparable. I'll continue thinking through this idea so, if I'm confusing you by referring to it, please hold on and look out for my further posts on the subject.


Saturday, 7 January 2012

To recover or not to recover, that is the question

If you're reading through my musings here and haven't yet picked it up, there is one fundamental thing I hope you take away from this blog.  It is this: as a recoverer, it's your decision to recover or not to recover from your brain injury!

A brain injury can give you a hell of a kicking!  And it will be a kicking the an effect of which others can only guess at.  My TBI certainly did.  This is me, almost seven years ago.

I stayed in roughly that condition for a long time, too.  This photo is taken approximately one month on from my accident.

Yet, do we have it within ourselves to choose to recover?  I cannot talk with confidence about what pulls us through when life hangs in the balance.  Once we're through that stage, though, I hope all of us recoverers believe absolutely, it is our choice to recover.  I've dedicated these last seven years of my life to proving this is so.

Five years on from my accident, I finished an Ironman triathlon, a goal I'd had from well before it.

Last month, I graduated with a Master of Arts from Victoria University of Wellington after writing, having written an 80,000+ word thesis to complete it.

I believe it is up to us to choose to recover.  I hope you will join me in making that choice and that the posts on this blog will help you for it.


Friday, 9 December 2011

Talking through people skills

I was recently asked by a fellow recoverer if I might write a post about re-developing people skills following a brain injury. Two things make me happy to oblige: I myself am very much a "people person" and I remain committed to helping those recovering from brain injury. What I think will help other recoverees out is talking through people skills in depth with a family member or empathetic therapist.

People skills are of course essential to how we get on life. Yet, they can also require a particular sort of brain power, including a strong sense of other people. For example, there are a whole host of conceivable answers to simple questions like, "What shall we do tonight?" Choosing the best one requires an appreciating not only the context, but also the person asking the question. Following a TBI, it is no surprise if recoverers have trouble with this sort of thing.

What I think's needed to help recoverers re-learn people skills is someone to carefully discuss people issues with. A family member might be the first port of call. However, if a good one of those isn't on hand, I'm very confident that many empathetic therapists would love it if someone asked for the therapist's help to improve their people skills. Talk things over with that person: how social were you before your brain injury, how social do you want to be, now? Talk to them carefully about your experiences socialising, post-brain injury: why did that person say that, why did that person get upset?

In my own case, I am lucky to have a very social mother. She of course understood the way I was before my accident and what sort of person I wanted to be. She merely offered suggestions and encouragement to help me be that person. She did things like encourage me to always ask questions of others and warn me that it's rude to simply walk away from a conversation you've been involved in, but are no longer the central focus of.

I encourage all recoverees to find someone to talk through social issues with. This can be seen as another application of the idea that we need to talk to the right people to recover better.