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
It isn’t enough just to observe the little voice inside. You have to act on it. Observation without action won’t get you anywhere. Actions don’t have to be big and grand to have a major impact. Even the smallest of actions can open new doors.
Acting on my quiet voice inside that said ‘make something’ was a turning point for me. It was the first time that I turned away from beating loudly and unsuccessfully at the closed door of my old life and toward opening the new one.
At first, I didn’t know what action to take in response to my inner voice’s ‘make something’ guidance. I had no idea what to make. I went to the craft store once, got overwhelmed and left with nothing.
Feeling discouraged, I talked to a friend, who suggested I try paint-by-number. Taking action often requires some assistance. My second trip to the craft store was successful. I went right to the paint-by-number section and picked out a mosaic picture of a sun.
I liked it because the pattern was pretty and bright and seemed doable.
When taking action, small and simple is the best way to start. With brain injury, that’s often the only way we can start. Because of my difficulties with fatigue, concentration and attention, I could only work at my paint-by-number for fifteen minutes at a time and then had to take a nap. Despite the challenge, I loved making something. My inner voice had pointed me in a good direction.
Taking action made me feel better about myself. I looked forward every day to working on the paint-by-number. I could see how it was helping my attention and concentration, as I was able to work at it for longer times. I started to feel like I was once again moving forward, at my own pace. Taking action is good for self-esteem and self-confidence.
Actions build on one another. Successfully finishing that paint-by-number spurred me on to try other crafts, such as jewelry making, cross-stitching and photography. I don’t think it matters where you start or what you start with, just that you do. Once you take one action, more can follow as you gain momentum.
Making It Your Own
What’s one small action you can take?
What help do you need to get started?
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.