Unfortunately, there are no answers.
We learn quickly that, much to our dismay, there is no roadmap for life after brain injury. There is no schedule. There is no “approved method” for living. The best we can do is listen to doctors and therapists, as well as other survivors who have already travelled this road, hoping we can find ways to improve and live a fulfilled life.
The path to achieve some sort of “normalcy” in our lives is tedious and frustrating; filled with failure and emotional turmoil. We are haunted by how our lives have changed and by the upheaval we live in daily, and we look for ways we can make our lives work.
And That Method Is…
Insightful survivors have been able to employ the use of “strategies” which allow them to function better on a daily basis. An example of a simple strategy is this: in order to combat forgetfulness, one might leave things lying around so they are visible and, and this way, make one less apt to forget about them.
I’m sure that each of us can think of similar routines we have developed that allow us to be successful in different situations.
As you can deduce from this example, or might know from your own personal experience, one needs all kinds of strategies for all types of situations; meaning there are an infinite number of strategies that one must employ in daily life. Ultimately, we become a repository for these “strategies”; human beings who sometimes spend more time thinking and planning about how to go about our lives than actually living.
These “strategies”, although beneficial, are really not what might be called solutions. They are tools, or workarounds that allow us to get by. They are used as any tool might be used: we have to stop and think about what tool to use and how to use it. We don’t really act on impulse of instinct because it is not us that is solving the problem. It is the use of the tool.
Let me show you an example:
Imagine you are trying to start your lawnmower but it is broken and you need a part. In order to mow your lawn without losing time, you devise something that takes the place of the right part so the machine can work until you are able go purchase the part and fix the lawnmower. That is an example of a “strategy” that is not really a solution; it is a temporary fix.
Relying On Strategies
Using strategies shows you have the ability to improvise in life, and it is absolutely normal and good to employ strategies to make things work so you can be successful. We want to do things in a way that makes us feel capable, as though we are a functioning part of society again, performing near or at the level we used to.
When we talk about strategies, we speak of things that are helpful in achieving a goal, but are not cures. Strategies are tools we use to get us through the day.
Now, think about this: ideally, do we really want to spend our whole lives having to think about and implement strategies for every situation we find ourselves in? I’m sure we would all rather be able to react and achieve our goals naturally.
What Can We Do?
Concentrating on strategies as a way to be successful in life distracts us from the true mission, which is to regain and live our life as a human being, not a person who lives from activity to activity and strategy to strategy.Although strategies are an important part of life after brain injury, what we are really looking for are solutions. Finding solutions is difficult and frustrating, but necessary. Otherwise we become dependent on strategies for every situation, rather than looking for ways for us to react instinctually, without taking the time and energy to think and plan.
Where do we even begin to look for these solutions?
You Are the Solution
It is easy to become reliant on strategies when the real goal should be weaning ourselves off them. When we become reliant on strategies and treat them as solutions rather than “work-arounds” we run the danger of not thinking “outside the box” and not moving forward in our life and we all want to progress and be strong individuals.
Weaning ourselves off strategies and looking for solutions, as much as possible, involves looking at the bigger picture, trusting ourselves and knowing ourselves so we are able to handle ourselves in different situations.
We certainly need strategies, but we also need an elastic approach to life after brain injury where we treat ourselves as humans, humans who might make mistakes but who try to figure out a better way to do things. To do this we need to learn about ourselves: about what makes us tick, about what drives us as people, and we need to learn how to be who we have become after our brain injury. If we develop a better understanding of ourselves, accepting our situation, perhaps over time we can learn to trust ourselves without having to be as reliant on strategies.