Staying Healthy Beyond Brain Injury

David Grant and his wife smiling at camera

For close to nine years, I’ve been working on navigating life as a brain injury survivor. Thankfully, as time passes, my life as a brain injury survivor has gotten easier. I no longer jump into battle every day with my injury, hoping to eventually come to the point where I can say, “Hey. brain injury. I beat you!” That type of wishful thinking disappeared years ago.

Victory these days is better defined as coexisting with my injury. Happily, I have ceased fighting a fight I will never win and have come to the point where I am reasonably comfortable most of the time. Thank goodness for not-so-small miracles.

But like any human being with a heartbeat, I have other health issues. These are health issues that need my attention and constant care. It is at the intersection of brain injury and some of my other health concerns where things can get very dicey.

How about a real-life example!

In addition to being a TBI survivor, I am also a diabetic. Twice every day I have medication to take, and once a day I need to give myself an insulin injection. Did I tell you that I am still dogged by memory problems?

Imagine this: It’s 4 p.m. and time for my daily insulin. I wrack my brain trying to remember if I already took my inulin, or if I still need to take it. If the pendulum swings one way, I could miss a dose. If it swings the other way, I’ve doubled my insulin and run the very real risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), a potentially fatal condition. The stakes are indeed high.

It’s safe to say that well over 90% of the time, I don’t struggle with this. Though having a challenge 10% of the time may sound like a small number, it means that at least once every couple of weeks, I do indeed have a problem remembering where I stand with my daily dose of insulin. It is a source of ongoing frustration for me, as I think I should know better.

Those who know me know that I rely very heavily on compensatory strategies. I have an app on my phone that reminds me that it’s time for my medication. There is one flaw in the app. I can snooze the reminder. If I am in the middle of something, I very frequently either snooze my reminder, or I simply mark my medication as “taken,” thinking I’ll attend to it when I have a free moment.

When my second reminder chimes in, I occasionally have the very uncomfortable thought, “Did I just take my insulin, or do I need to take it?”

Even with a compensatory strategy in the form of a very visual reminder, I still struggle. 

There are other medications that I need to take daily. As routine seems to work better for me, these I take in the morning. All of my medications are lined up in our medicine cabinet. I simply work my way through them. Unlike my afternoon challenges, my morning medication routine has gone off without a hitch for years.

I’ve seen others who get so wrapped up in having a brain injury, that everything else seems to have taken a back seat. I steadfastly refuse to have that singleness of focus. For me, being healthy involves body, mind, and spirit.

Today I do the best I can to take care of myself. I exercise daily, live mindfully, and move forward as best I can with the other health challenges that I face. I try not to beat myself up when my brain injury rears its head and try to accept that it’s all part of the journey.

As long as I measure my progress by how far I’ve come, I feel okay. It’s when I set unrealistic expectations upon myself and my damaged brain that frustration creeps in. So for today, I’ll do the best I can … and let tomorrow take care of itself.