Self-identity after a brain injury is fluid. While things have changed and that’s hard, with time, patience and support you have the opportunity to explore your new identity and shape your new normal.
Ask for positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement from others is helpful – everyone needs encouragement, especially during recovery. You can also give yourself positive reinforcement by writing down encouraging statements or recording the positive parts of your day on an audio device (like a smartphone).
Therapy is an excellent way to explore your feelings and your self-identity after brain injury. A psychologist or psychiatrist will help you work through what you’re feeling, focus on positive progress, and adjust to your new normal.
Be patient with yourself and others
Finding a new normal and re-forming a self-identity doesn’t happen overnight. You’re going to have a lot of ups and downs. Reflect on what can you do now that you couldn’t do a month or year ago, rather than always compare your current self to your pre-injury self. It’s difficult but being patient with yourself is one of the most important things you can do for your mental/emotional health and well-being.
It’s also important to be patient with others, especially families and caregivers. Everyone is adjusting to the changes in relationships and responsibilities. It’s normal to feel frustrated with others – you’re going through a lot. But try to remember that their whole world has changed as well, and they need your support and love too.
Celebrate your wins
It’s important to recognize your accomplishments, even the smaller ones: they are worth recognizing. For example, can you sometimes remember things without looking at your notes? Or control a strong emotion? Or feel a little more stable on your feet? Celebrating your wins will not only improve your mood, but it will reinforce how far you have come.
Find the familiar
While you shouldn’t compare where you are now to where you were before the injury, it’s okay to take comfort in the aspects of yourself you recognize or are familiar after your brain injury. It’s reassuring, and it’s helpful when building your new normal.
Try new things
Part of living in the new normal is trying new things and learning what works for you and what doesn’t. This can be done through rehabilitation or simply getting out there through community classes, social groups, or trying new hobbies. Recovery does not have to mean get your old life back as much as possible. It can also mean bringing new valued activities into your life.