How has your life changed after a brain injury? You probably had to make changes and accommodate yourself to a multitude of once familiar daily tasks like dressing, washing, cooking, cleaning, shopping groceries, other household chores, hobbies, work, and/or community reintegration.
Not only do many brain injury survivors struggle with physical changes, they also suffer emotional changes. Brain injury survivors are familiar with the information about physical changes and how to rehabilitate, but some of them are not aware of their emotional changes. I’ll explain to you some of the major changes after a brain injury and let you know the best mind health constellation.
Here are some changes brain injury patients suffer:
- Movement restrictions
Hemiplegia (complete paralysis of one side of body) and hemiparesis (weakness of one side of body) are very common, which result in functional and physical deficits.
Also, part(s) of your body may become weaker and gradually stiffen due to the lack of use. This is more prevalent in your hands more than your legs. Upper extremity recovery usually takes longer than lower extremity.
Exercising the weak and/or stiff parts of your body can help improve your function and prevent contractures.
- Swallowing problems (dysphagia)
Are you having difficulties swallowing food? The technical term for this is “dysphagia”. It can be improved with proper treatment and/or change in diet (make sure to consult with your MD and speech language pathologist (SLP))!
Some of complications occur when you have trouble swallowing food or liquid. Sometimes the food passes through the airway, instead of esophagus, and blocks the airway, causing you to cough or choke.
Dysphagia can also lead to serious conditions such as pneumonia, dehydration, or malnutrition.
- Cognitive impairment
Brain injury survivors’ cognitive skills, such as alertness, awareness, perception, memory, attention span, etc, may be affected.
Though it is impossible to predict the outcomes, this can be improved over time, hard work, and therapy.
Try not to feel too anxious about it—Let’s beat this together!
- Communication problems (aphasia)
Do you have trouble formulating speech or articulating words?
Aphasia occurs when the brain injury affects the part of the brain that is responsible for comprehending and expressing the language.
Depending on the severity, the loss of speech and language abilities may be temporary or long-term. Consult with your SLP, as speech therapy could help you with language communication skills!
- Emotional changes
This is one of the very common symptoms among brain injury survivors.
You may experience emotional changes for 2 reasons:
1) You may experience emotional changes as you try to cope with the losses or aftereffects from the brain injury itself; and/or, 2)the brain injury may have damaged the part of your brain that regulates hormones and emotions.
Either way, please don’t blame yourself for the mood swings and depression. It is not your fault, and we are here to help you cope with this!
- Other signs
Visual impairment (trouble with visual processing, neglect or unawareness of one side of the visual field, spatial awareness, difficulty identifying objects, etc.) and numbness in the limbs may occur.
To recap, these changes arise from damage to particular areas of the brain.
Although damaged brain tissue can’t be regenerated, your brain’s ability to reconnect and recover the functions—neuroplasticity—is possible!
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Many go through sudden and uncontrollable mood shifts: like bursting into tears or laughing involuntarily.
Also, they are concerned if they’ll actually recover because daily progress isn’t visible to the eye. Oftentimes, needless worries and doubts cloud your judgment. Feelings of grief may take over or some actually give up on rehab altogether.
Some worry that others will judge them.
Will they notice my illness? Will I cause discomfort? Will some avoid me for my disabilities?
These repeated thought patterns will lower their self-esteem and minimize their social interactions.
There will be temporary downturns. It may feel like you’re getting worse no matter how hard you try.
"Will this work?”
“I’m not getting better.”
“I want to give up.”
Many brain injury survivors express concerns and frustrations. In fact, the emotional rollercoaster is a natural part of recovery.
But, you are not alone. We are here to encourage you and help you cope with the negative thoughts and emotions as you go through brain injury rehabilitation.
Rehabit’s 5 Stars
We want you to remember these five elements for emotional wellness as you cope with brain injury recovery. There will be times where you may feel vulnerable but let these stars guide you in your day-to-day life as you continue with rehabilitation.
Let's begin with Star 1—“Embrace the changes.”
Here’s a comment from “Neofect Support Group”, our Facebook community:
“I had my brain injury a year ago. Lately, I’ve experienced some emotional changes. I bursted out crying while watching a Disney movie last night. I’m suddenly feeling sensitive these days. I’ve never been this way before. But recently, I discovered it’s a common post-injury symptom. Have any of you gone through it?”
Did you ever feel this way? Unable to hold your tears during a movie, or laughing unconsciously at something trivial?
The technical term for this condition is called PBA(Pseudobulbar Affect).
It’s an uncontrollable display of emotions regardless of one’s actual feelings. Physical damage to the frontal lobe that controls emotional expression causes these strange outbursts.
Many suffer from this emotional rollercoaster. These unrestrained and unintentional expressions of emotions may end up dragging you down to self-sabotage and depression.
Stop right there.
Remind yourself that this is the normal part of the rehab. It’s a natural physiological response to the damaged brain following a brain injury.
You are surrounded by your family and friends who care about you. There are also other brain injury survivors who can relate to you. We, Rehabit, are also here for you. We will help you develop healthy coping skills.
“Am I getting better?”
Many brain injury survivors question their recovery. They look at their stiff hands and worry if they’ll ever improve. They doubt, then lose motivation, which may affect their recovery negatively.
Don’t allow these negative thoughts to misguide you. Always remind yourself that you are better than yesterday. Your body functions are recovering every day. Your mental health is also improving every day. These are hard facts.
What brain injury survivors need is faith, first and foremost. And let experienced therapists provide you with quality rehab solutions and trust the process.
Remember you’re always moving forward even if it’s not visible to the naked eye.
According to therapists, progress may not be visible each and every day even if we are always getting better everyday in rehab, we're not aware of it because it’s not tangible.
However, all your efforts and struggles will eventually pay off!
You are getting better.
Walk with us in the Rehabit journey, and you will see your progress in the end!
Gilovich et al. (2000) conducted a study on “The spotlight effect in social judgment”, and found that people tend to overestimate how their actions and appearance are noted by others.
In this study, participants had to wear T-shirts they didn’t like while interacting with others. When the participants were asked roughly how many people did they think had seen their T-shirts, their answers exceeded the actual number of people that have noticed the T-shirts that the participants were wearing.
This indicates that people’s primary focus is on themselves and are rather too self-conscious to pay much attention to others.
Many brain injury survivors are self-conscious, and worry about what others would think about them. They assume that others are uncomfortable around them because of their physical disabilities, postures and/or awkwardness caused by injury.
This causes them to be withdrawn and isolated. They struggle, or even avoid socializing with others in the communities.
Instead of being worried about what others may think of you and convincing yourself that you’d rather be alone, step out of your comfort zone and interact with others!
Having meaningful conversation and spending quality time with others can be very helpful. It will also give you a sense of belonging and security when you regard yourself as an important member of your social groups, such as family, circle of friends, etc.
Moreover, others need your support just like you need theirs. Socializing plays a major role in rehab because it provides social support and motivation in your journey to recovery.
Have you ever thought — “I’ll socialize more after I succeed in rehab.”
This may not be the healthiest approach. Your social life before rehab should be maintained even after your injury.
Start practicing your social skills today. Stick with the habit of talking to your family and friends, and ask them how they are doing. You can also meet up with them and spend quality time together. You can even take a step further and chat with new people in the online or offline support groups. They’ll be glad to connect with you.
Many brain injury survivors experience rehab slumps. Even if they get enough training done, the body doesn’t feel right.
You feel like you hit a brick wall on the path to recovery. In fact, rehab may even seem like running on a treadmill...What should you do?
Bear in mind that slumps won’t make you collapse. They’re stepping stones for you to forge ahead.
They're only temporary yet necessary—a sign that you’re on the right track.
Coping with these setbacks and challenges may be difficult at first, but will get easier with time. Eventually, you will get stronger and more resilient, which is considered an important factor in your progress.
When a slump comes your way, welcome it as if it’s your day off, knowing it’ll ultimately lead to healing. The right amount of rest is a part of rehab, too. Make rehab a happy journey where you can unwind and relax along the way.
Remember—After every setback, there’s a comeback!
Life is filled with the unforeseen circumstances and traumas. Brain injury brings a lot of changes, losses, and challenges in your mind and body. It is normal to feel frustrated and overwhelmed during brain injury recovery.
Happiness is not defined by your illness and medical conditions. Happiness is actually based on your perception. However, it is not easy to stay positive all the time.
Regardless of the life circumstances, there are always things to be grateful for everyday. For instance — clean water, food, social support, technology that allows you to be on this app, enough strength and energy to complete your rehab routines, etc...
Actively look for the happy moments and simple pleasures in your life.
Engage in activities that you love, recite positive affirmations, and work on changing your lifestyle. Write down the small and big goals in your life, and think about what you can do today to get a step closer to achieving them.
Though it seems unimaginable at the moment, it is possible to get through this, and live a life full of contentment and purpose even after a brain injury.
You need time to heal physically and emotionally, and we hope that each day gets easier for you.
Which star did you think was most memorable?
Regardless of your frustrations, your efforts will eventually pay off. Your valuable time and efforts in your current path will come to fruition—just like nurturing a plant, watering it and giving it time to grow into a sturdy tree with strong, deep roots.
Your progress has transpired from the beginning and it's happening at this moment. Be with Rehabit, and it's still to come. And in due time, it will bear fruit.
If you’re interested in Rehabit, please visit here. 😊
Install Rehabit now and reclaim your health and happiness!
- June LeeClinical Manager / Physical Therapist