Vulnerable times & brain injury

Dealing with a brain injury can result in a range of challenges that may leave you feeling vulnerable in ways you have not experienced before. On those days when you may be feeling defeated or impatient with the fluctuating pace of your recovery – how can you not be fearful about the uncertainty of it all?  What does it mean? Where will this end up?  How can you guard against discouragement?  

When coping with a brain injury, it is common for individuals to compare themselves, and their perceived identity and ability, to how things were pre-brain injury.  In the context of re-engaging with your work, it’s important to beware of this. Trust your instincts, while at the same time strive to re-connect with those things in your life that bring you peace and calm; joy and fulfilment; positive energy and enthusiasm.

An example:

Perhaps you are telling yourself that before your brain injury you were capable of being at work and carrying out your roles and responsibilities. Given some of the challenges you may currently be experiencing, following your brain injury you may be telling yourself that you are no longer capable of this.

Some other examples of this thinking may involve the following:  

  • Organized, now disorganized
  • Strong, now weak
  • Energetic, now passive
  • Efficient, now inefficient

All of the attributes that we self-identify with can be thrown into question when recovering from a brain injury. This is understandable. However, the reality of the situation is that for many individuals, with the proper supports and job accommodation plan, they are more than capable of re-engaging with the workplace and reaching their goals.  

It may look different than it was before. However, the good news is that as you make this transition, you will be able to work towards reconnecting with your skills and abilities. 


  • Pre and post brain injury comparisons will create limitations, as well as un-helpful and negative thoughts
  • This form of thinking needs to be challenged
  • Think about the continuum between the before and after. This is where things are more balanced and your actual attributes and skills will be found

Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • What are some of the attributes that I am now doubting?
  • What am I telling myself?  
  • Am I comparing and applying extremes to my thinking?
  • Is this factual, or in some ways does it just feel that way?  
  • Do I always feel this way, or only in certain circumstances?
  • If I evaluate this specific attribute, what are some ways that I am already connecting with it and/or ways that I can strive towards it again?  
  • If I map the comparison out on a continuum scale – with 1 being how I believe I am now and 5 being how I was before the brain injury, where am I in reality?  

This check-in will help you to gain a degree of perspective and control. It may also help you identify specific areas that you need to address overall. 

Gaining perspective: worry and vulnerable times

Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere. It’s understandable that you might be worried about any number of things. On top of coping with a brain injury, you may be wondering about:

  • Your recovery timeline
  • If you are ever going to feel well again
  • How you are going to manage things in the future

Part of feeling vulnerable has to do with feeling a lack of control.  It’s difficult to process this, while at the same time navigating all of the “what’s next.”

With that in mind, there is a choice that you can make to help yourself to rebound in a healthy way. Ask yourself some key questions:

  • Where am I feeling the most vulnerable?
  • How would I like this to look in the future?
  • In what way does this affect me and/or others?
  • Should I reach out to obtain some support with this?
  • What areas/factors do I realistically have control over?
  • What steps can I take to change the level of vulnerability I am experiencing?
  • What steps can I take to re-gain some control over this situation?  

The degree of vulnerability experienced will be unique to each individual. Should you require additional support, be sure to reach out to your medical team and/or contact a brain injury association near you.