My mum will attest that my curiosity at the early toddler age led to a number of incidents where without any idea of self preservation and fuelled by my desire to explore something there was often less than favourable circumstances the worst of which I think was having to have a needle extracted from a leg vein as it travelled porcupine quill style in my bloodstream. But it didn't put me off being curious.
I look back now on the events of Five years ago and my SAH with similar curiosity. I have never had the courage to ask exactly about the events that unfolded that day and no memory of them but instead turned my questions to the why of where I was in a particular moment in the days and years that have followed and then started to figure out what I could do next with that.
Exploring all the new possibilities in my reconfigured brain became my focus. Could I do this? What happened if I tried that and why did I feel that way? It helped me plot and learn about limits that now exist for me but also to explore new ways of doing old things.
I remain just as curious today but more accepting of my daily trade offs. I know now that in order to do something that requires my cognitive demand I have to allow for it and trade off that extra demand with extra rest and so I adjust accordingly and I say no a lot more and worry far less.
You see Brain injury is a strange condition to live with and I have the added condition of having James Shunt in residence and so my daily rhythm changes as frequently as the weather despite trying to bring regular routines. I attended a useful session recently with Martin Gremlich about brain injury and learnt something that has passed me by. Your brain doesn't feel any pain and so it lets you know that something is broken or not quite right by sending you different signals. I now know my signals for when I am doing too much, when I need to ask for help, when I need to stop but I wonder how many of you do too? How many of you ignore the signs of tiredness or high emotions or illhealth and dismiss it? Maybe it's time to think about the exertion upon your brain and how you are treating it?
And so in honour of five years on of intensive learning more about how to be kind to my brain and what has helped me to create a environment where it continues to heal, learnt from watching it rebuild connections, learnt from hearing the CSF that it is bathed in shift through my shunt and just coming from my everyday experience since it all went pop here are some of my tips to help you nurture your grey matter whether you are healing from a brain injury or just want to invest a little more in brain health.
- Learn your fatigue and stress signs and don't push through or ignore them. Think of it as traffic lights, when you are at a green it is safe to proceed but amber then slow and red , stop. Observe when you feel certain ways and take action and steps to try and solve the cause.
- Get some regularity with your sleep routines; go old school and read a book and wind down but whatever works for you do it.
- Go easy on yourself and work to your limits of that day, that moment. Try to silence that inner critic that tells you 'I should' or 'I didn't ' and just know what you 'did' do.
- Ask for help. This is a biggie and it's something we should all of use do more. Know when you are struggling and say, 'please could you' to someone. Mostly they really want to help you and you in turn will be better able to help them should they need it.
- Offer help to others. It may be something you least feel like doing but there is always a way t help others. Share your experiences and people feel less alone. Have a helping hand and tasks aren't as hard. Offer a listening ear and you'll make a difference.
- Don't ever give up hope or fully accept today's limits, always be curious and seek new possibility. It may be painful to do that but that curiosity opens doors as well as shutting them so it's always worth the exploration
Five years ago I permanently injured my neurons. Some of them are now forever out of order but with gentleness, time and continued exploration of the new brain routes on offer I have my lifetime left to explore my possibilities.
So do you.