Experiencing a TBI is like falling off a cliff, and we all want to climb back up.
Although everyone’s TBI cliff is different, all of us, at some point, stand at the bottom, looking to the top of our TBI cliff, where we hope to find the cherished,
“way we used to be.”
We all want to find some way to climb back up. In fact, for most of us, just about the first thing we say after our injury is, “How long before I get back to where I was?”
Even though we can’t see the top from where we stand now, we know the top is there, tucked away, above the outcropping…above the clouds.
We tell ourselves that the victory we achieve by climbing to the top will end up being a great thing, but as we stand at the bottom of the cliff, looking up, we are filled with questions.
We can see just enough of the cliff to get a little pumped up and tell ourselves we can do it, but then…there are all the things we can’t see, and the fear and uncertainty begins.
You want to stop someone and ask them “How do I get to the top, to the Way I Used to Be?”, but maybe you should be asking, “Will I really be better when I get to the top?”
Recovery may not be at the top, but something else is there for us. Each of us needs to find our own path to the top, where we find we can live a fulfilled life.
Clearly, the fastest way to the top is straight up, but the most direct route is the most difficult. Throwing ourselves headlong into going up the cliff, straight up, is one of those things that is easier said than done, and in the end may present more problems than it is worth. So, what are we to do?
Committing to begin is the only way to start. When you do finally decide to take on this challenge, you need to make that leap, and the moment you make that leap is where and when you actually begin. That leap is where your life changes; you have made a clear commitment to take on the challenge of climbing that cliff.
Ideally, you want to have all the information before you make a commitment like that, but we all know that life after brain injury is full of unknowns, so drawing that line, in may ways, is a leap of faith, and an acknowledgement that you are going to have to trust yourself to get where you need to be.
When you are going to climb the cliff, the first thing you need to do is get the proper tools. Then you need to choose a route. You want to avoid routes where you get stopped dead in your tracks, so you look for a route up the cliff that follows a good line, but you have to be prepared to encounter unforeseen obstacles and deal with any number of plan changes.
Climbing that cliff is a journey, with many stops and starts, and you have to be able to deal with both success and failure. Knowing, though, that you have committed yourself to this endeavor, makes it easier because once you do that, you have no choice. This is your life.
During our journey, our frame of mind is just as important as our climbing skill, and there are some important things we need to examine to make sure we are helping ourselves and not getting in the way of our goal.
We need the same mental tools rock climbers need. In a nutshell, to get up that cliff we need to be smart and mentally tough. We need to avoid deluding ourselves. Finally, we need both patience, and we need humility.
1) Be smart and mentally tough:
How often have you heard that to do something you need brains, not brawn? Well, that is very true when we are talking about life after TBI. In addition to using your smarts, it takes a tremendous amount of mental toughness to stay on track and be true to yourself and your goals. In order to climb that wall, you will need to learn to thrive while not getting sidetracked by constant trials and tribulations, and you need to use your smarts to adjust and adapt so you learn about the path you need to take to living a fulfilled life.
2) Avoid deluding yourself:
Fooling yourself, or believing things about yourself that aren’t true, can be extremely hurtful, and it can work both ways; you may think you’re better off than you are, but you may also think you are worse off. You need to always looking for the truth, because deluding yourself will be harmful.
3) Patience and humility:
These are two important character traits, and they actually go hand in hand with being smart and mentally tough. While having patience allows you to better examine situations so you can come up with correct decisions and help you avoid rash ones, humility is an important character trait that implies steadiness and self examination.
Climbing the TBI wall is not just a function of physicality, but it is also a function of how you live your life and the kind of individual you are.
Spending some time focusing on the mental aspects of life after TBI will benefit you in the long run, as it will not only contribute to climbing that wall, but it will enhance your life as you do.
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