Monthly Archives: November 2010

Refresh Your Memory

Remembering things can be very difficult, especially right after acquiring a brain injury. When I was in rehab, people would tell me things and I would agree with them, even set a time to do it. Five seconds later they would bring up that same thing that we had been talking about and I would reply “what?”

I notice something though. I would only forget if I stopped thinking about what we had talked about. I noticed I would remember if I had kept coming back to it or thinking about what ever it was that we were talking about. I still use this technique. Even though I do not need to to remember things. I still use this technique subconsciously.

The technique is to REFRESH YOUR BRAIN. Your brain is like a computer, it needs to be refreshed after time passes. Have you ever been online and the website freezes? You can no longer click on anything/ navigate the page. You must hit the refresh button to refresh the page, that way your computer can remember what it is doing.

The same thing happens with your brain. Your brain tends to forget what you need to do. If someone tells you to be somewhere at a certain time or tells you to get something done later, you may forget. In order to remember these things I keep revisiting when that person told me to do this in my memories.

Every time you revisit your memories, you are refreshing your brain. Think of it like this. You can only remember it for so long, say 15 mins. But if you keep revisiting what you are supposed to do you add on 15 mins to whatever it is you need to remember.

So instead of just getting 15 mins to remember you now have an opportunity to expand that time much, much longer.

Breaking Bad Habits

We all develop bad habits in our rehab phase to learn how to make the correct movements. For example to learn how to walk again, I had to pick up my knee when I walked. I did this in order for my brain to know that I had to pick up my leg when I walked.

I remember in rehab, my physical therapist would say something to the likes of “heel, toe, knee.” These were all the steps that I needed to do to learn how to walk again. By repeating this in my head, I could not forget the correct steps on how to walk.

Once I learned how to walk correctly (on my own, without a cain) I still was lifting my knee when I was walking. I would lift it in an exaggerated motion, just like I had in rehab to remind me to lift my leg off the ground and swing it forward.

So, it would look like I was doing high knees with one of my legs and not the other. The only way I was able to stop this was by forcing myself to not lift my knee up high. I had to consciously think about my knee and what it was doing, where it was in space.

I would consciously tell my self to keep it straight at an attempt to reverse the affects that rehab had left. When I would practice walking with my mom or dad, I would constantly think about what my leg was doing.

The minute my concentration would run off to something else I would catch myself lifting my knee up way to much. In time though I was able to force my knee down. I began to walk normal again. I noticed something else in my walking though.

When I first started to re-learn how to walk I had developed a habit of kicking my left leg out to the left. So, picture my body going straight as my left leg was going kicking out to the left but would loop around to land in front of me. It made me walk with an awkward limp.

I had to get rid of this, the only way to get rid of this was to concentrate like I had before with my knee. I had to consciously tell my self, watch my left leg. Make sure it goes in a straight land and lands in front of me. So, I tried to land my left foot right in front of me and parallel to my right.

In time I was able to walk in a straight line, I no longer looked like I wobbled.  I must confess though, there are times that I am fatigued or tired and I begin to wobble again. Whenever I loose focus or I personally feel I do not have the power to concentrate, my old habits resurface mildly.

Frozen in a time period

Kelly Sanders is a person who, like me, helps people with brain injuries. She has came to the conclusion that wherever we were in our growth progression, we became frozen to that period of time of our injury. She says to me about being frozen in a time period “Hence, if you were prepubescent then regardless your current age, you will still have the behaviors, attitude and general demeanor of a pre pubescent person. If you were just on the verge of adulthood then most likely you will maintain those behaviors attitudes and expect the same of others. I have also developed the following similar to the AA 12 step program, this is my tbi10step program.”

Injury Psyche Levels

1. Acceptance/Denial

2. Association/emotional understanding

3. Re-learning age appropriate behaviors, betterment of self & skills

4. Leadership (taking charge of disabling condition)

5. Sharing, mentoring, empowering of ability

6. Speaking out, teaching

7. Engaging, empowering increasing roles (setting goals)

8. Team building

9. Achieving goals

10. Independence

Dealing with Being Different/Slurred speech

Slurred speech can also lead to people believing that someone who has a TBI is drunk, when in fact he/she is just tired. Slurred speech was one of the hardest things that I encountered with my Brain injury. I was constantly harassed because everyone would think I was drunk when I was tired. My tongue would get tired and have trouble making the correct movements to produce the correct sound.

You must consider where they are coming from. It is not every day that they see someone with a brain injury but they see people drunk all the time. It is what they are familiar with so they associate someone with slurred speech with being drunk than to have a brain injury.

Not to mention, many are ignorant to what a brain injury is or to the effects of one. So, yes this is a pain in the neck to go through while you are recovering but you must look at their point of view. This was one of the hardest things I had to go through during my recovery. All you can do is turn the other cheek.

Awesome Attitude

I was  eating lunch with my friend David. We were talking about what we were up to as of late. He told me that he had been talking to an agent in California. I told him all about my book and how I am helping people with brain injuries like myself.

After I was done talking about everything that I had been doing. He was smiling and laughing. I asked him “what’s so funny?” He answered back “The way you talk, you talk like every things alright, like every things good.”

I explained to him that every thing is good, everything is alright. I said to him “You have never gone to bed at night wishing to not wake up in the morning” refferring to my time in inpatient rehab. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, couldn’t do anything and now I do whatever I want. I’m alive and doing great things every thing is good.

This is the attitude you should develop after you have almost fully recovered from or injury. Actually, this attitude helped me through many hard times during my recovery. When ever something wouldn’t go my way I would just say to myself, “at least your alive dude.”

I know its hard to develop this attitude when nothing is going your way but remember you have a second chance at life. It’s not going to be easy to recover fully from this injury, a lot of people do not, heck I even haven’t and they call me the Miracle Kid.

You must stick with it and in time you will develop this attitude. Like every thing is “good”, like every thing is “alright”.

Energy Supplements

I know that with a brain injury you look for all types of things to fight fatigue. One of the many things I tried were energy supplements. I was so tired all the time I tried all types of caffeine supplements to try and stay awake.

It was mainly my mom. She would always come home from the store with some new supplement that was suppose to give you more energy. Some of these types of supplements were gums, pills, drinks, and even mints.You could get these at GNC.

In all seriousness, none of these worked to keep me awake. When I was tired and needed to sleep or needed to “recharge my battery” thats exactly what I needed and nothing could stop that. I had to get somewhere where I could lay my head down.

Now, maybe these things would be able to work for you, but when I was recovering from my brain injury they did not work for me. As time went on though, I found caffeine began to have an effect on me.

Sometimes I would drink (this still happens at times) and begin to develop a head buzz like I would if I had started to drink alcohol or smoke a black and mild. In time caffeine did have an effect on me, just not right away.

It is not the kind of effect that most people have as you can tell. It doesn’t keep me up at night. Just the other night, I drank a Coke Zero an hour before bed and was able to fall asleep no problem.

I am not saying use supplements or not use them, all I am saying is simply they didn’t work for me. Especially, when I was recovering.

Run With What You Got!!!

This is one of the most important posts on this blog. Finding happiness is a struggle everyone with this injury struggles to achieve. The hardest thing for most of us survivors is that we are stuck wishing that we were like we were before our injury ever occured.

You cannot dwell on the past, because thats exactly what it is the past! It happened, there is nothing we can do to change that. It is over and done with, as unfair as it may seem, but there is a reason why we have survived. Not many people get to talk about their experiences after having this injury. REMEMBER WE ARE THE LUCKY ONES!!!

You must remember that you are lucky and every day that you are alive is a blessing in itself. I know for me, there is no medical explanation why I am alive. But I’m here and I’m using my knowledge of what I have learned to help others.

I think it as being the reason God saved me. He wanted me to help others and that is why I can do everything I can do so well. I can do every thing as well as or even some things better than people who haven’t had this injury.

For the longest time I would stress myself out about playing division baseball or why I couldn’t get the perfect body. I would forget where I was coming from, forgot what had happened to me.

Then I learned something. If I didn’t have it then I just didn’t have it or if I couldn’t do it then I couldn’t do it. See, I was caught up in if I work real hard everything will come back to me, everything will go back to the way it was before the accident.

I learned that because I couldn’t do the things of old that I had improvise. I had to become a different person. Not completely different but enough to conform to my limitations and “RUN WITH WHAT I GOT.”

I began to think about what have I done that no one else has done or what knowledge do I have that no one else can share. I began to embrace my injury, began to write a book about my experiences hoping to help anyone who had this injury or was dealing with these type of injuries.

As I was finishing up my book, I thought to myself “why do I have to wait for my book to be published to help others.” I created this blog, facebook group and pages, and began to friend others dealing with the same problems that I face.

Now, I am happy. I am happy because I am not fighting with myself to try and be something that I’m not or that I was. I AM RUNNING WITH WHAT I GOT!!! It feels great to help others and I am really good at it (at least I like to think so).

Please remember this tip during your recovery. You will save your self from depression and disappointment. This may be the key to your recovery that you have been looking for!

Naps

NAPS are going to be your best friend during your recovery. I know they were mine! When ever I would get annoyed by people, when ever I would get tired of trying to focus both mentally and physically I would tell my self that I needed a nap.

Naps are great because you go into your nap as one person and come out a totally different person. One who is rejuvenated and ready to take on what ever the day brings.

Your brain swells when ever you concentrate to much or do to much (have a long day). This causes you to have headaches. When you take a nap your brain stops thinking about all the stressful things, you were thinking of before.

The swelling goes down, you also get more energy. You wake up from your nap without a headache and with energy to listen to what others have to say and energy to do physical things.

Naps help me with everything. I used to do rehab or go to the gym and work out hard; come back home and go right to sleep. I wouldn’t even have the energy to take a shower!

But when I woke up from my nap, I could take on what ever task the day would bring.

I take naps when I’m bored. Instead of watching the television or something I will go lay in my bed to pass the time. I love it because you recharge your battery but you are also in a stress free environment for that time period.

I take naps even before I’m tired. A couple months after my accident, if I was going out and I knew it was going to be a long night, I would take a nap before I would even go out. Almost in a effort to make sure that I went out with a fully charged battery.

Naps helped me through out my recovery, I suggest you take them as well. I mean I still take them. I may be almost fully recovered but I don’t think I’ll ever be recovered enough for a nap. I love naps now when I take them I hardly ever sleep. I usually just end up closing my eyes, but it passes time.

This is unlike when I was initially recovering from my accident. When I was tired I would lay my head down and I would fall into a heavy sleep. Nothing could wake me. When you need sleep, you need sleep. Don’t deprive your body of what it needs.

Drinking Liquids

I know for me one of the hardest things to do is drinking liquids, especially clear liquids. Liquids of all kinds give me trouble. I learned how to swallow, while I was in rehab, but I still choke dramatically when ever I try to drink fast.

While I was in rehab the speech pathologist taught me how to swallow again. She taught me how to drink using a straw at first. I then graduated to a can, bottle or I drank out of a cup after I had left rehab.

There is a certain way to insure that you will not choke. That way is that you need to angle your head down and swallow. You can’t tip your head up because this opens up the air ways and the liquid will go down, causing you to choke.

You must keep your head angled down because this closes your airways, because of this you are no longer allowed to drink fast. Well you could but I do not encourage this. If you want to not choke then take little sips of your water and keep your head angled down.

When you drink fast you must angle your head up so make the liquids come out of the bottle/ can. Because your head is angled up your airways are now open. You will almost always choke when you try to drink fast, unless of course you use a straw.

I try to drink fast now but I still have a hard time with it. A large gulping sound comes from my throat. It comes directly out of where my tracheotomy was, right where the scar is now. It is so loud that I’ll be in the kitchen drinking a Gatorade and my parents in the living room complain about the sound.

I believe a lot of my choking comes a lot from having a tracheotomy. That and my left side of my throat is a lot weaker than my right.  I have developed a bad habit to prevent choking so I could drink faster.

The bad habit I have developed is every time I drink out of a can, bottle or even a cup I practically French kiss the bottle. I do this, subconsciously, to slow the flow of liquids. My friends make fun of me all the time.

I stick my tongue to the bottle opening or the end of the glass/ cup/ can/ bottle, I tilt my head back slightly and this slows the liquids from shooting straight down the back of my throat. Now, I am slowly stopping this habit.

I must consciously tell my self to not do it. I curl my tongue to touch the top of my tongue with the tip of my tongue, then I bring the beverage to my lips. I do it in this order to remind myself that this is the correct way to drink a beverage.

I have the hardest time drinking water. Nearly everytime I take a sip of water I choke. It must have something to do with it being a clear liquid. I am not sure, but I still struggle drinking this beverage.

Recharging Your Battery

I don’t really suffer with fatigue like I once did but when I do, I take a nap. I don’t even have to sleep. I found just closing my eyes and not thinking about anything strenuous helps me. I picture my brain like a battery. When it runs out of power I need to recharge it. I do this by taking naps

They don’t even have to be long naps. I take little “power” naps they may be half an hour long. When you begin to stress and think a lot your brain swells because of this you can get headaches and you get tired.

A lot of times you do not even need to take a nap. I find that if you just lay down for a little bit and close your eyes just to get away from the stresses of everyday life for fifteen minutes to a half an hour or so, you will emerge from your time out rejuvenated.

I found that my brain would feel like it was swelling, if I got stressed out or overwhelmed. I know this because my head would begin to feel full and often times I would get a headache.  Taking this time out to not think about anything for awhile helps the swelling go down.

All you need to do is close your eyes and not think about anything for a little bit. The swelling will go down and you will be able to think clearer.

You need to be able to get away for a little bit. I know when I was recovering people would make me angry if I did not get my way or whatever have you.

When you get tired or stressed out you become cranky and people will be thrown off by this. They will think you are an ass but in reality all you need is a nap or to go rest your head down somewhere.

It is so relaxing, it feels good to just get away from the world for awhile. I also used to meditate to recharge my battery. I would walk into church and I would sit in the pew and just be one with God. I tried to picture me with God.