You look great! How to support someone with a mild traumatic brain injury

In February 2015, I accidentally smacked my head on a wall. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I immediately knew something was very wrong. I couldn’t focus on what people were saying, couldn’t balance on one foot which I usually could do no problem, and I had an incredible, relentless stabbing pain in my head. Emergency room and primary care doctors didn’t find much to be worried about using traditional diagnostic tools, so I was sent home with a diagnosis of mild concussion and told I’d be able to return to work soon.

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A few months after my life-changing mTBI in 2015. I look fine, right?

This did not happen. My symptoms did not improve and worsened when I tried to return to work a week later. I instinctively understood that if something I did made my pain worse, I needed to stop doing that. That meant quitting my job and taking on a much slower pace of life. I temporarily gave up my dream of going to law school that fall because I still couldn’t read fast enough to keep up, or without pain. For an intellectual, a reader, and an achiever, dealing with post concussion syndrome and learning how to use my brain again at a very basic level has been humbling and frustrating.

It only takes one brain injury to turn someone into an advocate for and supporter of other brain injury survivors. This horrifying sorority involves recovery and rehabilitation in multiple areas: speech, vision, balance and coordination, organization, attention, focus, memory, reading comprehension, mental and physical stamina, emotional regulation, pain management, sleep, light and hearing sensitivities, new allergies, and more. It can involve multiple diagnoses and an endless pursuit of the right practitioners who balance knowledge with belief in their patients. The impact of even a so-called “mild” traumatic brain injury (mTBI) on life can be severe and last for years.

I have spent the past two and a half years since my injury seeking treatment from a variety of practitioners. In the last 7 months I have seen huge improvements since going to Amen Clinics, where scans confirmed what I already knew.* My brain was indeed injured. Online forums like Hope Unfading provide resources and support for survivors trying to navigate this complex injury world. Brain injury is often an invisible disability. Many survivors appear fine, normal, like themselves, but their internal daily experience is much different than it used to be.

Emotional support is a critical factor in healing, and in healing brain injury in particular. It is more crucial now than ever to learn how to respond compassionately to one of the hundreds of thousands of newly injured each year, plus the millions currently living with brain injury.

So how do you help someone with an mTBI ? What do you say and what do you do? Whether you are a friend, a sibling, a parent, a coworker, or an acquaintance, here are a few suggestions.

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A little more than 2 years later, drinking the best cocoa of my life in Paris. I’ve healed a lot, and there is much more still to be done.

Brains are neuroplastic. They change under the right conditions and they have miraculous ways of healing, even if it takes a good long time. If you’re suffering or you’re supporting someone who is suffering, seek proper help from professionals. Things get better. I promise. You can do this!

*This is not a sponsored post for Amen Clinics. I have never received any money or discount or extra benefit for talking about them, and I will not be receiving any money, discount, or benefit from them now or in the future for making this post. They don’t know that I have written this. I am sharing one treatment avenue that helped me, when there are hundreds of thousands of others that might work for you.

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