Covid-19, brain injury and me: diary of an ABI survivor - Part Six
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.
Have you missed the start of this fascinating, insightful and honest series? if so head here: Covid 19 Brain injury and me - part one
Part 6 - Grateful for the practice
Being able to see someone on a device when we are speaking to them makes a real difference to how well we feel connected in these times of isolation and staying at home.
My own family gathered in their conservatory this bright and sunny morning for our daily visual screen get together (video call), and it was clear that they are feeling the change far more strongly than I am.
Since I came off a huge horse and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury twenty years ago, I have lived in my own little world and, in truth, it hadn't occurred to me before to pay attention to my human needs to connect.
At first, people abandoned me, and when I didn't go away because I couldn't see the differences that they could and I failed to appreciate their responses, they began to ignore me.
I mindlessly kept going until, one after another like skittles falling, people began to reject me outright.
The few who did hang around kept their distance, and eventually, the constant criticisms led to my withdrawal.
Initially, I had no awareness of being cut off from everyday life. It was as it was because my thoughts were incapable of progressing further.
When I look back, I think it’s only been in the past decade that I’ve really acknowledged my retreat.
Listen and learn
My awareness grew as I chatted online to more and more people who are also living with the outcomes of brain injury and subsequent isolation.
Even my appreciation of what it means to be segregated from society began to increase in ways I would never have imagined.
It is easier for me to understand how other people are feeling if I can see them – and when people can see me, I am less likely to wander!
I often miss nuances in voice and find it more difficult to focus on a conversation at times when I am susceptible to distractions.
And so now, although I am okay, I like my own company and am very used to filling my time, it has been a bit of a surprise to me that others are feeling stir crazy and are beginning to feel bored.
I am very grateful at this time to have had so much practice with learning how to entertain myself.
I hadn't thought about how difficult it would be for people to adjust or how quickly they would run out of things to do around the home.
It reminds me of how many problems my ex-father-in-law had with adjusting when he retired from the prison service.
We are creatures of habit and, without a doubt, people are used to being able to plan their spare time and to buying whatever they need, whenever they want, for their projects.
My friend Freya, also living with the effects of a traumatic brain injury, came up short last week when she couldn't get any paint to recoat the pallets in her garden.
She mentioned how she feels as though her opportunities for creativity are limited by what she now can't freely obtain.
While my son-in-law, who deserves a well-earned rest, is enjoying catching up on his sleep, the lack of social motivation is making it difficult for my granddaughter to focus on her school work.
The initial freedom and joy of bouncing on her trampoline seem to have worn off, and something similar is happening to my daughter.
For her, as the days have passed, gardening doesn't seem to be a rewarding pursuit anymore. Digging up endless weeds and bramble roots has given way to becoming a chore.
Without opportunities to listen and understand, I’m not sure it would ever have occurred to me to pause and think more widely about how others cope with being suddenly socially and physically separated from family, friends and work colleagues.
While my own family reached acceptance very quickly, it seems that being unable to go out is making some people feel as though their freedom has been taken away.
It is all a bit of an awakening for me because I shun social interaction.
I am unable to keep up with conversations - especially if there is background noise or more than one person present - and have a minimal repertoire of subjects to discuss.
When I interact with people, I invariably get the wrong end of the stick and repeat and over-explain myself because of the fear of not being understood.
I prefer to shut myself away and, yet, have been incredibly surprised at the enjoyment I am getting from sharing more of my time with people via screen and microphone!
The instruction to stay at home has helped me realise there are a lot of people out there who love and accept me for who I am.
They overlook my oddities, ignore my faux pas, and disregard my wayward or uninformed opinions.
There is life without judgement at the end of the tunnel, after all.
Part seven coming soon!
Further advice on how to use video calling here: Helping brain injury survivors use video calling technology
Visit our Talking Heads page for the latest blogs, news and articles.