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A Story of Perseverance

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A brain injury survivor sat down and shared her story with us today.

Thanks to her courage and perseverance, others can learn from her experience and use it to help with their own recovery.

Here is her story:

"I was in a car accident in 2008, four days before Christmas. I went from one reality to another

Depression hit like never before, I couldn’t figure out how to get out of it. I felt like I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t get motivated. I lost my ability to work, I lost my home. I ended up living in a hotel, and then at a transition house, without access to any of my personal belongings. I e-mailed my family and said I didn’t think I could go on.

I heard about the Victoria Brain Injury Society and came to see one of the case managers. I cried through the first two sessions. With the case manager’s help, gradually over time, I started to heal. I began educating myself on what the brain does. I realized I had acquired several mild traumatic brain injuries over the course of my life and the car accident had made everything worse. I started recognizing that I had challenges with impulsiveness, anxiety, stress, motivation initiation and was lacking basic social skills. The case manager suggested I take the Society’s Coping Strategies Course.

I would have never survived my experience at the transition house experience without the Coping Strategies Course. I had to deal with so much noise at the house, with 20 different people living in the same household. I felt overwhelmed. Sitting at the dinner table at night was too much, I could never relax. Coping taught me to use the STOP method: Stop what you are doing, Think about potential options, Observe the situation, Plan what to do next. I would use this every day at the house. I got through it all by using mechanisms that really helped me manage my emotions, that stopped me from being depressed.

I was sending nasty e-mails to family and friends because my brain injury would cause me to misinterpret what people said. When I later learned more about what I was going through, I realized I didn’t have to lash out at others. I came into Coping Strategies Course without these insights. I am coming out of the program with so many of them.

Our teacher has helped me realize that I don’t have to suffer. I am learning how not to suffer. I am learning that I can stop before I react to things; to make sure I am clear on what communication I just received and respond appropriately, rather than impulsively. This has helped me with my social skills and anxiety and stress. I was so stressed out when I was impulsive, and would be irritable for no reason at all because I misunderstood what someone said. Now I realize that I can get things wrong so I don’t go into the anxiety and stress. This has helped me so much.

Everyone in our Coping class is very, very relieved to have a place to go where we have something in common with others. We are suffering in all the same ways. With the group I have made connections. We have decided to go walking together, to do art programs together. The camaraderie carries on outside of the class. We are forming a support system outside of the group,  which is a huge thing for all of us.

We are so thankful to have a place to go to express what we’re going through. Each one of us has realized that we got a different personality after our injury and our old reactions are no longer appropriate. We must now think about how to respond in a way to our families and friends in ways that will help them understand what brain injury is. We are carrying the information we have learned in the course to our family and friends, clearing up strained relationships. We can now teach our family and friends the things that come along with brain injury so they aren’t going to be upset when we may do something inappropriate. They can understand when we have trouble with word finding or short term memory, and that we live in the now and have trouble planning things in advance.  

This course has taught me that the brain is always finding new pathways, which  is very promising and motivating. I believe now that I could go back to school or back to work. I may not work in the same capacity as I used to, but if I start out slowly I am optimistic that I can do it. I can go back to being a contributing member of society and giving something back for all the help I have received. My sense of self has gone from being very dire to thinking I can return to work in a part-time capacity. Between the Victoria Brain Injury Society and the transition house, I’ve been able to find a place, where I live with friendly, safe people. I am now in my own place with my own things. I am only a couple of blocks from the society and actively participate in the society’s programs.

The society and the Coping program helped me bring to light many things about my injury and the impact it has had on my life. I don’t have to be afraid that there is something wrong with me, I’m just a different person now.  It has helped me take steps to move through the grieving process, knowing I will never be the same person I used to be. I accept who I am now and will go on with a positive outlook"