Living with a Brain Injury

There’s no denying that life is different after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In addition to all the physical changes a brain injury may bring, a TBI can also mean the loss of a career or the disruption of an education. It can change your plans for the future, alter the way you meet and make friends, and affect the way you think about yourself. Life after a brain injury usually involves challenges, but that doesn’t mean life is less valuable or fulfilling.

Dealing with a Brain Injury

Soon after the injury, most people tend to focus on the abilities that have been lost. Emotionally, the experience can be overwhelming, confusing, and frustrating. But as time goes on, everyone begins to grapple with their injury in both productive and non-productive ways. One common response is to deny the significance of the injury; unfortunately, a brain injury can’t simply be “walked off.” Brains are notoriously slow to heal, which only compounds the frustrating aspects of TBI. Brain injury also has a tendency to bring a lot of emotional challenges and may affect mental health. Depression, anger, and anxiety are common repercussions of brain injury, so people with TBI should be vigilant to seek out qualified care and support if they experience mental health problems. As people begin to regain lost abilities or acquire new coping skills, they also begin to accept the realities of their injury. At this stage, a person might express that they are no longer fighting the injury but rather seeking ways to integrate their TBI into their lives. For most people who experience a brain injury, life will return to a similar pace. But for many others, a TBI may mean months, years, or even a lifetime full of changes.

Moving Forward After TBI

A brain injury sets off a clear chain of medical events, all of them around the injured person’s healthcare: the emergency room, intensive care, hospital recovery, and then rehabilitation. But there isn’t a roadmap for all the aspects of life that fall outside of medical care as life marches on despite the injury. While most people who sustain a TBI recover quickly, for those with moderate to severe TBIs — and their families — life may need to be reinvented, reinterpreted and accepted as something different.

Communicating with TBI Survivors

  • Speak in short sentences
  • Give time to respond
  • Repeat information
  • Avoid over stimulation
  • Put things in writing