When your life has been shattered by brain injury and the door to your old life has not just closed, but slammed shut, how do you find a new door of happiness and acceptance? Where do you look? How do you begin? Below is a list of actions that gradually helped me in my journey from banging against the closed door of my old life to walking through the open door of my new life. I hope they can help you, too.
- Get to know your new self
- Listen for the wisdom of the little voice inside
- Take action
- Start small, find success and build on it
- Find ways to give to others
- Take risks: Feel the fear and move forward anyway
- Make something: Create meaning out of suffering
Find Ways to Give to Others
Giving to others is a win-win activity, with both the receiver and the giver benefiting. Besides the general feeling of satisfaction that comes from giving, there are also health benefits. These can include lower stress levels, lower blood pressure, decreased depression, increased self-esteem, greater happiness, and a longer life.
Brain injury can make finding ways to give to others challenging. Often, we have to find new ways to give, since our old ways may not work anymore.
Ways to give don’t have to be big and grand. Brain injury taught me just how powerful small gestures can be. Things like a card, a phone call, an e-mail, a hug, a plate of muffins or a bouquet of flowers can mean the world to someone who’s going through a rough time. There are many simple ways to give to others and show how much you care.
Crafts helped me find my new way to give. I began giving items I made to family and friends as gifts. It was so exciting to see how pleased they were to receive something that I created for them. Making gifts was a rewarding way to spend my time.
Even though I still needed a lot of help from my family and friends, I began to realize that I could give to them too. I didn’t always have to be on the receiving end of help. Through giving, I began to feel less like a professional patient and bottomless pit of need. I gradually began to like myself again.
Crafts opened another door for me. At the rehab hospital where I received outpatient treatment, I taught other brain injury survivors how to make jewelry. This led me back to teaching, another way to give.
Finding ways to give made me feel useful again and more a part of the world. The more I gave, the better I felt about myself. It became easier to accept my new life and to see that some good was coming from it. Finding ways to give to others can open the door to acceptance and happiness.
Making It Your Own
How do you currently give to others?
What’s a new way you could try to give to others?
- Send a card
- Make a phone call
- Send an e-mail
- Give a hug
- Send flowers
- Bake something
- Make something
When you give to others, what emotions do you experience?
Carole Starr is a 20-year brain injury survivor, national keynote speaker, author of To Root & To Rise: Accepting Brain Injury, and the founder/facilitator of Brain Injury Voices, an award-winning survivor volunteer group in Maine.