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(Editor’s Note: Writer, BEST guest blog contributor and brain injury survivor, Isaac Peterson, shares his personal coping strategies for dealing with brain injury in this comprehensive personal essay. KT)
Since no two brain injuries are alike, I’ll share some coping with strategies in general terms.
One of the most important things you can do to help yourself recover is to be open with your family and friends. Let the people you care about most, and who care about you, know what’s happened, how you’re feeling, and what you need.
Most people don’t know or understand what having a brain injury is like, so they can’t know unless you tell them. Family and friends are great support for those times when you feel worthless or helpless.
You may have those feelings while you are trying to adjust to your new normal. Some of those feelings can come from comparing the new you to the old one–the person you were before your brain injury.
My advice on comparing the new you to the old you is simple: don’t. There will undoubtedly be things you could do before but can’t do now, or things you can’t do as well as before. Don’t dwell on what you can’t do any more–focus on what you can do now. Always work to do those things better and better, and gradually work your way back to doing what you could before.
If you’re like a lot of traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors, you’ve got less energy and different sleep patterns, coupled along with constant sleepiness.
That’s only natural; sleeping is the way your brain works to heal itself.
And if you’re like me you may even notice that at certain times of day you have less energy and may need to take time out for a nap; my low energy time of day is early afternoon. I’ve also had trouble sleeping at times. Prescriptions can really gum up the works—one of mine causes drowsiness and another causes insomnia.
What to do?
Two things that have worked for me with the down times is to try to set a daily routine where I’m not doing much of anything in the middle of the day. I recommend you set a routine that works for you and hold to it as much as possible. For the times I have trouble sleeping at night, taking a couple of Benadryl tablets when I go to bed helps me get to sleep. Benadryl doesn’t have nasty side effects like other sleep aids (check with a medical professional for possibilities that may work for you).
Every day things you could do without even thinking can be pretty hard to do now. You’ll need to come up with workarounds, alternate ways to get done what you need to get done. My brain injury made bending down to tie my shoes a real ordeal sometimes, but somehow I managed it. A simple thing like being able to tie my shoes was a major personal victory–that may seem like a silly thing to people, but those people usually aren’t people who’ve had a traumatic brain injury. Don’t let that get to you.
What I hope you’ll do is to celebrate every victory, no matter how small. Even tying your shoes again is a victory. Try to experience the joy and sense of accomplishment you experienced when you first learned to tie your shoes. Try to do that with every positive step you take and celebrate it.
Set yourself up to experience a series of small victories–make winning a habit. You can set yourself up to master small but manageable tasks—but make sure they are things you can manage to overcome in your present state.
As you master more and more of these tasks and keep winning, winning will become a habit. Make winning and keeping a positive outlook part of your new normal. But if you don’t meet your goal, don’t beat yourself up or quit. It’s not failure, it’s a way to get a better handle on what you need to work on and get better at. You’re not a failure until you give up. Just start again, be patient and keep going.
Try not to dwell on things you can’t do. Look at them as things you haven’t done yet.
One thing that will help is including exercise in your routine. Going out walking is an activity is something that’s been huge in my recovery. Exercise will help keep your body in better shape, and the better shape you’re in the better foundation you have to recover from your injury. And of course, a good diet can help with that. I recommend a heart healthy diet.
I can’t emphasize the value of patience enough. One thing that may try yours is the responses of other people who have never lived in your world. A traumatic brain injury, unlike a broken leg, is an injury that’s invisible to other people.
People will feel free to give you unsolicited advice. You may hear things like, you’re just looking for attention; get over it, it’s all just your imagination or if you’d just stop thinking about it, it will go away, and all sorts of comments that only show you how little these people understand or can relate.
I can’t really tell you how to cope with that kind of thing; all I can really advise is to try to patiently explain to that person. Encourage them to ask questions so it becomes an opportunity for that person to learn.
Having a brain injury doesn’t mean you can’t ever have any fun. As much as you’re able, keep doing the things you used to do for fun. As you move forward, you might actually redefine what fun means—you’ll want to have as much fun as you can, so be sure to include some fun time into your daily routine.
Keeping a positive attitude is key. I know it’s hard to do and I can’t tell you how to do it. Keeping busy when you can and doing things you enjoy will help. Surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people will help. Your loved ones can help, and joining a support group can go a long way. Being around people who are going through what you’re going through and can tell you how they cope with their own traumatic brain injury is huge.
There’s so much to learn and remember—I could spend the rest of the day telling you what I’ve learned.
And since every brain injury is different it’s hard to tell you exactly what can help. I’ve tried to cover some of the things that apply to most people with brain injuries.
One thing I can tell you with complete confidence, though, is simple: Your life definitely isn’t over; it gets better. Just give it time and don’t give up.
Click here for a catalog of more essays and articles from Isaac Peterson.
Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at email@example.com.
Our latest e-newsletter is hot off the press with a 2019 recap and a 2020 preview.
It’s going to be SUPER!
Click here to read.
Would you like our e-newsletters delivered to your email inbox each month? Click here to make it happen quickly and easily!
OR would you prefer a mailed, paper copy? If you are interested in that option, please email Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org with your request.
The 2020 Washington State Brain Injury Conference will be held on April 15, 2020 from 3 pm to 7 pm and April 16, 2020 from 9 am to 4 pm at the Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington.
Here is the save the date flyer with information, schedules, costs and more:
A limited number of scholarships for the conference will be available for individuals with brain injury and unpaid caregivers of individuals with brain injury.
Click HERE to apply for a scholarship (Note: you must scroll to the bottom to see the application form link to download).
Scholarship applications are DUE NO LATER THAN MARCH 1, 2020. Please follow the instructions on the form. Here’s what the form looks like:
The Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) was thrilled and honored to share the art of the Washington State brain injury community.
BEST participated in a community art installation at the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM). Work displayed in Tacoma Art Museum’s TAM Local: Community Art Space for the “Superhero” show. The show ran from October 16, 2019 to December 26, 2019, with an opening night receptions and artist meet and greet on Thursday, October 17, 2019 in the TAM Community Art Space.
With 18 artists featured and nearly 50 pieces of art, this installation was enjoyed by many.
Now that the “Superhero” show has taken flight, we’d like to thank the following:
Thank you to the Tacoma Art Museum for their support, partnership and friendship; you are SUPER!
Thank you to our superhero artists who shared their time and talents: Diane Rasch, Robin Spicuzza, Jennifer McCarthy, The Tacoma Brain Injury Support Group, Nancy Sonduck, Cindy Ose, Erin Thompson, Justin Thompson, A.E. Bennett, Marilyn Bennett, Susan Peterson, Hannah Krueger, Donavan Vilet, Renne Emiko Brock, Kory Christiansen, Tim Carter and Diana Bluthenthal.
Thank you to Diane Rasch of Heartfelt Tidbits of Creativity for providing our superhero make and take art project!
Thank you to our installation team who put together the installation in October. Thank you for your time and hard work: Gloria Kraegel, Jeff Hartson, Marilyn Bennett, Erin Thompson and Kim Thompson.
Thanks to the “de-install” team. Your hard work and support was appreciated: Marilyn Bennett, Casey Bennett, Andrew Bennett, Erin Thompson, John Rasch, Renne Emiko Brock and Kim Thompson.
And extra special thanks for those who came to see our show and for the support for the brain injury community in Washington State!
Here’s a quick recap of the installation. Enjoy!
(Editor’s note: The Brain Energy Support Team is delighted and honored to share a blog exclusive article from our BEST friend, Dr. Jannine Krause! Dr. Krause shares her thoughts steps to healthy eating. Read on for some great tips and strategies to start in the new year. KT)
Or perhaps your family wants to help you eat better.
The thought of making your own meals is overwhelming.
Where do you start?
Whether you’ve just had a brain injury, or it was decades ago, you can use food to support and regenerate your nervous system.
Foods to Focus On
Foods rich in fat, protein, minerals and b vitamins support your nervous system.
Below is a list of foods and per meal portions to support your brain.
Salmon, Halibut – 4-6 oz (palm or entire hand sized portion).
Tuna – canned in water – 1/2 can.
Avocado – ½ or 4 tbsp of guacamole.
Olives – 10 or 2 tbsp of olive tapenade spread.
Raw or Sprouted Nuts or Seeds – walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, ground
flaxseeds are best for the brain – 1 handful.
Seed or Nut Butters – 2 tbsp – size of your thumb = a tablespoon.
Eggs – 2 whole.
Beans – Navy, Kidney, Red, Pinto, Black, Mung, Cannellini, Aduki, Garbanzo.Chickpeas ¼- ½ cup – ½ to ¼ of your fist.
Lentils – ¼- ½ cup.
Eggs – 2 whole.
Salmon, Halibut – 4-6 oz (palm to hand sized).
Leafy Greens – spinach, kale, chard, collards, bok choy, cabbage, arugula – 2
cups (two fists).
Broccoli – 1 cup (size of your fist).
Cacao Powder – 1 tbsp, Chocolate – 1 oz.
Tumeric – 1 tsp.
Blueberries – ½ cup.
Fermented Veggies – sauerkraut (Oly Kraut), kimchi, pickled veggies (Bubbies
brand) – ¼ cup.
Adding the Brain Boosting Foods to Meals
Think of the foods mentioned above as medicines with dosages.
When you are putting together a meal or a snack, it’s wise to add your medicine to each
Below you will find examples of how to incorporate brain food into meals.
Here are some breakfast ideas:
Oatmeal, or Cream of Rice with blueberries, walnuts and ground flaxseeds.
o Cacao – 1 tbsp, ¼ cup of one of the following: walnuts, pecans, ground
flax or a mix of the 3.
Scrambled or poached eggs with 2 cups of spinach or dark leafy greens.
o Scramble the spinach into the eggs.
o Sauté the spinach on the side.
o Make a breakfast salad with fresh spinach & poached eggs on top.
o Avocado toast.
o Avocado with salmon lox toast.
o Refried beans on toast.
o Nut butter on toast.
Check out some lunch/dinner ideas:
Veggie Bowls – 2 cups leafy greens, ½ cup beans or lentils, ¼ cup of nuts or
o High Protein Bowl: 4-6 oz of salmon/ ½ can tuna salad on top of the
o Chickpea/Garbanzo Curry Bowl: ½ cup chickpeas, 4 tbsp full fat coconut
milk (canned), Curry Powder (has turmeric), salt and pepper to taste.
o Add fermented veggies to any bowl.
Soups – lentil, black bean (Brand: Amy’s Kitchen).
Salmon, halibut, tuna 4-6 oz with 2 cups dark leafy veggies or broccoli.
Tuna, Salmon or Egg Salad ¾-1 cup with 2 cups of leafy greens.
o Tuna, Salmon or Egg Salad Sandwiches.
o Tuna, Salmon or Egg Salad in ½ avocado.
Here’s a few snack ideas:
Hard boiled eggs – 2.
A handful (1 cup) of nuts or pumpkin/sunflower seeds.
½ avocado; 2 tbsp pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
Blueberries ½ cup with ½ handful (1/2 cup) nuts or seeds.
10 olives – any kind.
Keep in mind that you can always have more in your meals or larger portions.
The portions listed are the minimum amounts of these foods that have found to boost
Putting It All Together
Solidifying healthy eating habits takes time.
You’ll have to train yourself to add these foods in daily.
Start by picking one meal or snack to focus on at a time.
Be patient with yourself as you work to boost your brain health.
You can do this! What are you waiting for? Grab your medicine and get started.
Dr. Krause is a doctor of naturopathic medicine, an acupuncturist and podcast host dedicated to empowering people to take charge of their own health. Her unique approach is simplifying natural medicine and healthy habit formation. She believes that health starts with what we eat, how we move and how well we manage stress. She wants to help prevent little health issues from becoming big ones down the road. She’s committed to slowing down the aging process and wants to help others with this too. There’s a lot of health information available out there, and she’s here to help people focus on what’s important and sustainable for them. Learn more here.
Super individuals. Dynamic duos. Superhero leagues. Our 2019 real-life superheroes supported the brain injury community in the BEST ways! Thank you, BEST Superheroes for all that you do and all that you are!
BEST is now taking nominations for 2020 for our BEST Superhero of the Month recognition and appreciation program. Click here to nominate your real-life superhero in the new year!