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It took me so long to accept that my life had changed, that I am not the old me anymore. I was fighting for so long to become the person I was before the accident. It felt like my life was on pause, and I waited, searched for concussion treatments, and took a lot of rest. But after doing this for a long time, I was done waiting to get better. What if I wouldn’t? I don’t want to spend more years waiting when nothing will change. I needed to enjoy life exactly how it is right now with my brain injury symptoms. Was and is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.
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Everyone said I needed to accept my brain injury symptoms - I didn’t want to
In the first two years, more and more people started to tell me that I needed to accept my new life with this limitation instead of always looking for concussion treatments. It made me so sad and mad at the same time when people told me that. It felt like they’d given up hope that I would get better one day. I started to feel more lonely, and I didn’t want to hear anything about it. I focussed on searching for new therapies and not on acceptance at all.
I didn’t realize by that time that not giving up on hope and working on acceptance could also go hand in hand. You don’t have to choose one of them to keep going.
The first change towards acceptance
One day, I felt so bad that I thought, I don’t want to wait to get better anymore because what if I never get better? In the beginning, it’s easier to “wait” because everyone around you, including yourself, thinks that this will just last for some weeks/months. But after a long time (two years for me), I started to adjust to the new me. I almost forgot how it felt to feel “normal.” I just didn’t want to wait until I would feel like I was before my accident.
Realizing that I wanted to enjoy life now and not only in the future was my first step towards acceptance. Acceptance takes time, and you can’t rush it. We are all on our own journey, and it may be easier for some than others, but in the end, we all reach this point. But let me share some things that helped me towards acceptance.
7 Things that helped me with acceptance:
I always said to myself that this is temporary and that it’s okay to slow down for now. People always say, but you don’t know that.. that’s right, I don’t know that. But I also don’t know yet about all the possible things that can happen, concussion treatments that will come on my path, the miracle of how the brain really works. We don’t know everything about how the brain works and new concussion treatments that are coming up, so it helps me believe that I will get better. One day I will, but in the meantime, it’s okay to slow down and accept that you can’t do things like you used to. I felt more at peace by thinking that it’s temporary.
I started to focus on my mindset. I wanted to switch it from a negative to a positive one. I started focussing on healing affirmations. You can read more about that in my other post: “Positive Concussion Healing Affirmations”. And I started to think of a positive thought each time a negative thought crossed my mind. You can read more about the 6 steps I use for that in this post: “Negative thoughts - How I let go of them in 6 steps.“
I started to let go of the things that didn’t serve me anymore. It took me a while to figure out which things cost me energy and what gives me energy. I started with a list of people and started to talk less to the people who cost me energy. Maybe before my accident, I was a match with these people, but after my injury, I changed, and not everyone still fits within my new world. People who didn’t respect or believe my brain injury symptoms or where I couldn’t talk about it, for example. I made the same list when it came to activities. For example: Before my injury, watching television was relaxing, but now it cost me energy, so I replaced this with listening to a book with my eyes closed. Same for working out in a gym; I replaced this one with walking/running in nature.
Allow all emotions to be there. I fought for such a long time against my emotions. When I felt sad, I tried to ignore it, and when I felt angry, I didn’t accept that it was okay to feel like that. Those feelings are totally normal after sustaining a TBI, and the more you let them in, the better you process those feelings. Putting them away can be done temporarily, but in the end, they will come out even stronger. This happened so many times when I tried to act normal in the beginning. I always reached a point where I couldn’t act like things were normal, and I burst into tears. Believe me, this happened many times (on a daily basis in the beginning).
Find support from people who are in the same situation and a psychologist. Talking about your brain injury symptoms, emotions, and how things changed for you can help you a lot. It gives you new insights on how to deal with a situation or relationships. I learned so much by reading other people’s stories and tips.
Don’t try to force the healing process. From the moment I stopped rushing my healing process, I felt calmer, and it felt like my brain injury symptoms had started to improve. Your brain needs rest, and rushing recovery isn’t working at all. Please be patient with the pace of recovery.
Try to keep moving. It may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re experiencing traumatic stress, but exercising can burn off adrenaline and release feel-good endorphins to boost your mood. Every time I stopped exercising, I felt way worse than when I did exercise. I barely couldn’t exercise in the beginning, so I started with gentle short walks. I heard this many times: “Exercise is medicine.” I totally feel that one.
Once again, acceptance takes time and patience; you can’t force it. But I hope these things will help you move towards it a bit easier. We will get there!
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