Dealing with plateau’s

Recovery can be a hard slog. It can have many twists and turns, ebbs and flows, highs and lows. There will be times when it feels like the improvements are really noticeable and consistent, and then there will be periods where it feels like nothing is improving or perhaps you feel like you have gone backwards. These times, for many (myself included), are the most frustrating! Well, I’m right here now, so I thought I would share with you my tips for getting through the ‘plateau’ stage. Firstly, experiencing a plateau is completely normal and expected. Here’s why. Immediately after injury, the brain goes into a “heightened state of plasticity”. What this means is that when the damage first occurs, the brain reacts by temporarily making it easier for itself to reorganise (called spontaneous recovery). It just happens. So, you may have or are, experiencing rapid improvement and then after a time (generally after 3 months), the brain reverts back to a less pliable, but still plastic state (see neuroplasticity or brain plasticity). This can be frustrating to say the least, but it doesn’t mean that further improvement is not possible. There is also something that is called “diminishing returns”, which all of us experience in life, and brain injury recovery is no different. Take for example, learning to paint – you go to your first class and you will leave knowing 10 times more things about painting than when you first arrived. Now, fast forward to a year of painting classes – the difference in ability between your 90th and 95th painting is going to be much smaller than the first 5 painting you did. This is because when we first learn something, there will be a stage of rapid improvement (called rapid spontaneous progress) as we learn new skills and … More

It is possible to rewire your brain to think positively!

There was a period of time after my first 2 brain haemorrhages where I lost hope. I felt trapped in a body that didn’t function. I felt beyond broken, and I couldn’t see how my life could possibly be worth living. I was very much a victim of my circumstances, and I couldn’t see a way out. I didn’t believe that my life would get better, let alone be extraordinary! I certainly didn’t realise it at the time, that was the key that triggered change – How I believed things to be. When you convince yourself of life being one way, that’s exactly how it is. Why? Because you direct your thoughts to match your beliefs. A pivotal point in my recoveries came when I witnessed people who were much worse off than me, still smiling and remaining positive no matter what life served them, including death. If they could, there was NO reason why I couldn’t. It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It wasn’t a quick fix, it took a conscious effort. The more conscious I became, the more I challenged my thoughts about my current reality. I discovered that our thoughts shape our reality. By changing our thoughts, we can change our reality. Now, that’s not to say that it changed my reality of being paralysed overnight, it did not. Nor did it change the difficulties that I had with my speech, the pretty much non – existent memory, the emotional lability, the intense and very frequent headaches or the learning difficulties. It is easy to get caught up on the actually physicality of the issues that you have, without much though beyond that. What has happened is only one part of the equation. How you choose to respond to what has happened is where you will find either your reasons … More

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows!

I am a hugely positive person, but don’t think for a minute that I don’t have my low days. I do! Today is one of those days. I am 2 days post surgery to try and rectify the scaring that I have in my trachea from being intubated. This was an issue from my original intubation in 1996 when I had my first brain injury (TBI). I have been intubated a number of times, the most recent being from my third brain haemorrhage in January 2017. This recent intubation resulted in further damage to my trachea, as they weren’t aware that my trachea is considerably smaller than the average adult due to my past history – a condition called subglottic tracheal stenosis. So here I am, feeling rather ordinary and a little sorry for myself. You see, there will always be situations/ circumstances that happen in life that can get us feeling down. That’s life – It’s going to happen! There is nothing wrong with having a shitty day or week…Just don’t unpack and live there! So what do I do when these days or weeks strike?  I accept and acknowledge that life isn’t always happy and amazing! I tell myself something along the lines of – ‘I’m having a bad day, and that’s okay. It’s just a feeling that will pass’. We can be flooded by the notion that we should be happy all the time. It’s utter BS! Sometimes life can be really shitty, and there is nothing wrong with that. After all, you are human. Like anything in life, bad days come and they go. I often think of the ocean when I describe emotions. Like the ocean, some days are calm, gentle and fun, while other days they are turbulent, frightening and unsettling. Learning to ride the waves through … More

No Matter What, I’ve Got This!

“Not everyone can be as positive and grateful after a brain injury as you”. I have heard this statement, or something to the same effect countless times over the years. But let me tell you, it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows. After my first brain injury in 1996, life was incredibly difficult. Nothing came easy! I was left with complete right side paralysis, a serious speech impediment, very poor coordination, epilepsy, and a dodgy memory just to name a few in a long list of issues. The icing on the cake came a few short months after – a  second brain haemorrhage.  All of that hard work unravelled faster than a Learjet darting across the sky. There I was again, stripped bare. I hit rock bottom! For years on end, I struggled through the gruelling hours spent in rehabilitation. My childhood a blur of appointments from one specialist to another, surgeries and hours upon hours spent working on all the issues every week. It was relentless and unforgiving to say the least. I struggled. I fell. I fought. I cried. I got angry. I got frustrated. I wished it was different. I wanted to give up….But I didn’t! I was not going to let my brain injury, or any other life struggle beat me. That, I was sure of. I had made up my mind! You see, as humans, we have this extraordinary ability to choose one thought over another. So, I chose to tell myself that ‘no matter what, I’ve got this!’ I said it over and over again, in a million different ways. The more I said it, the more I believed it. The more I believed it, the more my life transformed! No, it wasn’t a quick overnight ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ kind of fix. It took … More

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional!

Life sure does throw some curve balls. Sometimes it even throws you ones that you thought you’d never have to face again. You see, this isn’t the first time I have been down this road. This was my third brain haemorrhage, in my short 30 years walking this Earth. Some would call this unfortunate and unlucky. Not me! I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. And while some experiences are difficult, painful and damn right challenging – they tend to teach us an extraordinary amount about life… if we are prepared to listen. As a child, it taught me patience, determination and resilience. As an adult, it is teaching me that accepting things the way they are, and the way they are not, is where inner peace and calmness can be found. It has taught me that suffering IS optional. What do I mean by this? Well, we live in a world where there is an extraordinary amount of suffering that goes on around us, whether it be our own personal suffering or the suffering of others. Suffering, to me, is a state of mind. It is a choice – a choice in which we have control over. Pain is just a fact of life – each person will experience pain, in varying degrees. Some more than others. But as an individual, we have a choice over the impact that pain has on lives. We can carry it around with us and let it weigh us down. Or, we can acknowledge that it is there and make a conscious choice to let it go. I continue to witness so much unnecessary suffering, day in and day out, over such trivial and small issues in the grand scheme of things. I see the impact that this suffering has … More

A different kind of extraordinary.

Life as you have known it, can change in a split second. It will never be the same. And just like that, YOU have another chance of creating a different kind of extraordinary!!! While it may not feel like that right now. I can promise you, that all that is standing in the way of living a truly remarkable life – is you. Regardless of your brain injury, or any other challenge you face. I understand only to well, the seemingly impossible task of a massive recovery. One that feels like it will be a long uphill battle that drags on, and on, and on, with no end in sight. It is easy to get swept up in feeling defeated, lost, lonely, bitter, angry , frustrated –  the list goes on. And, for a time, its ok to go through these emotions. You are human. It is a part of your healing journey. Healing is just one aspect of a long road to recovery. Especially for people who have had moderate to severe trauma. It can change ones emotional and mental state, just as much (if not more) than the physical. It is known as the ‘hidden disability’ for many people, because it can affect ones behaviour, cognitive functions, their ability to communicate, emotional instability, impaired executive dysfunction, hormonal imbalances and memory – just to name a few! It it a monumental recovery process on so many levels. But just like anything, it is possible to achieve great things, regardless of how hopeless the situation might feel to you now. And it all starts with your mindset… ‘Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.’    Napoleon Hill How does one create a strong mindset with the pieces of a very broken body and the now distant memories of a life that once was? … More