Covid-19, brain injury and me: diary of an ABI survivor - Part four
Covid-19 notes from a small English island
How do you cope through Covid-19 when you’re alone on a small English island, living life with a brain injury?
It is uncertain times for brain injury survivor, Anne Ricketts as each new day dawns in the coronavirus pandemic.
But the Krysalis team are in close contact with her – and her loveable Labrador, Summer – as she reports on her progress from her island home via her new ‘live’ blog series, here...
Part 4 – This alien world.
The usual boundaries which typically dictate the way we experience life - our perspectives, beliefs, judgements and assumptions - have all changed so radically recently.
Yet, the chasmic differences in how we think and behave, which so often divide us, now have the opportunity to be bridged in unprecedented ways.
We are united by the sudden unpredictability of life.
In our isolation, through the loss of control over the hopes and dreams we held so dearly, we are all feeling the force of change
No one knows how long we will need to pull together to alleviate the strain on our health services; no one knows if this new life is just the beginning, or how much it will take for us to rebuild new normality.
Will the fear and panic subside into more exceptional social thinking, raising our overall sense of self-responsibility?
Or will our communities be split into those who acknowledge the clear and sound advice of the Government and those who forsake us all by choosing not to conform?
Experience isn’t always predictive of behaviour, but I believe altruism lives within us all and is often realised when we understand and prioritise macro-scale humanitarian needs.
There is no doubt that some of us are more practical and know how important it is to acknowledge the change.
By doing that, we can accept the changes more quickly and make sound choices in planning future action.
In contrast, others struggle to be aware of problems in their thinking or in understanding the cause of their emotions.
For example, I remember when my mother told us that her cancer was terminal and there wasn’t anything else the doctors could do for her; my heart fell into my tummy and stuck in my throat at the same time.
I made the immediate decision that the rest of her journey was going to be about her.
I had the rest of my life to grieve, and I chose not to spend what time I had left with her distracted by my emotions.
I stuck by these choices, and they created the basis for my future deliberate actions. I cried with my mum, not for her.
When life changes drastically, it is essential to get to grips with the psychological effects as swiftly as we can. Our humanness makes us all vulnerable, but our ability to prioritise rapidly makes us strong.
One way to do this is to pause and notice what we are thinking; to step back and notice repetitive thoughts, and then to ask ourselves if what we are thinking is helping us to feel better or worse.
If we can ingrain habits like these, we become more durable, and the stronger we are, the more we can help and support others.
One thing is certain; when we do come out of the other end of this pandemic, we will all have an increased wealth of self-knowledge and, as such, a greater awareness of who we are.
Macro-scale changes to individuals work the same way.
There are infinite possibilities for events which alter our familiar reality. Trauma is just one of these.
Just as covid-19 has created changes in our boundaries, perspectives, beliefs, judgements and assumptions in unimaginable ways, so too does brain injury.
Brain injury creates chasms in the realities experienced within close relationships because we are experiencing a unique inside world that nothing can prepare us for.
While everyday experiences may seem similar, people must understand that the root causes are entirely different.
For example, everyone can lose their keys when they are distracted, but not everyone does this because their brain isn’t processing their actions or the environment – all the time!
We can no more avoid these gulfs in understanding than we can visit Neverland with Peter Pan.
For those whose lives are inexorably altered by brain injury, it is like entering an alien world.
The boundless but predictable scope of familiar thinking becomes distorted beyond recognition, and it can take decades before you start to recognise the intimate and knowable voice in your head again.
The journey through recovery is like being closed in at one end of The Channel Tunnel. As you sit in the dark silence, your senses slowly adjust until one day, possibly many years later, you see a pinprick of light and start following it.
Even though we are all adjusting to this strange new world, we are doing so to different degrees of emotional, cognitive and psychological intensity.
While, at present, we are all moving along a shared spectrum, please try to be aware that some of us are much further away from achieving balance than you are.
Part five of this fascinating and insightful series is here: Covid-19, Brain injury and me part 5
Visit our talking heads page for the latest blogs, news and articles.
Anne Ricketts is the founder of Global Brain Injury Awareness (GBIA); a not-for-profit community interest company she launched after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in July 2000. GBIA aims to inform and support people in need after brain injury. More here: https://www.globalbia.org/
Opinions and endorsements published by others on Krysalis Consultancy Ltd blogs or publications do not necessarily reflect the views of Krysalis Consultancy Ltd.