The things I’ve talked about previously, although I’ve tried to put a positive spin on them are on the whole pretty negative subjects. Brain injury is negative and having a brain injury is hard, in fact I could think of something to moan about every single day. My memory is terrible, I tell someone and they say “yeah my memory is bad too” but its not like that, they have no idea! I’m always tired so I tell someone and they say “yeah I’m always tired too”. Alright Brooke we get it! Moaning about a situation improves that situation about as well as complaining about not having a Sixpack has given me a Sixpack! Eventually I realised I could either continue to complain or do something about it. I wanted to become a bit more positive and to write about strategies, I want to share the ones that I have learned and maybe learn some more.
If you live in the Manchester area then I would really recommend Dr Mary Todd’s Memory Workshop at the Brain And Spinal Injury Centre (BASIC) in Salford. Check out this link for more details:
WRITE IT DOWN: TBI causes memory problems and makes people forget things. On the other hand what doesn’t forget is ink on paper or text on screen (providing you don’t smash it!). Once it is written down it won’t be forgotten. For this reason Dr Mary Todd swears by a having a memory notebook on your person at all times so that anything you may want to recall later you can write down. I use the notes facility on my smartphone.
USE A CALENDAR: Any time you learn of a future commitment be it a medical appointment, work commitment or social appointment get into the habit of immediately writing it on your calendar. If you are not near your calendar then make a note of it and be sure to transfer the information as soon as you get the opportunity. Write it in your memory notebook and transfer it when you get home. I use the calendar on my smartphone which automatically links to my calendar on my laptop. Now I hate Smartphones and what they have done to mine and the social skills of an entire generation but they are so useful for someone with a brain injury!
PLAN YOUR WEEK: I remember when I had finally been discharged from hospital, I was back home at last! People had been coming to visit me and I felt like a bit of a celebrity but pretty soon they stop. TBI may have been a massive change to yours and your immediate families life but it hasn’t had the same effect on the life of everyone else and they quickly get back to their lives. Its Monday Morning you have watched Jeremy Kyle you predicted the outcome of the lie detector, you knew she was lying! Now you don’t know what to do with yourself, Why? Because you have no plan! What can you do about this? I’m so glad you asked! There is so much to say on this but briefly I’ll tell you what I do; I have a whiteboard weekly planner which I fill in on Sunday nights. Of course, I need to remember to plan my week. I do this with a re-occurring alarm set for 8pm every Sunday night. So you see, even planning takes planning!
I put the most important things in first like medical or appointments of any kind that I need to attend. Any classes I attend, volunteering commitments, clubs I am in come next, I like to keep fit so I exercise regularly so I plan that in. I like to write sometimes like I am doing now, I planned this what I am typing now! And this… ok we get it! What I’m left with is a full week planned, remember the time table you had at school? Like that! Now I will inevitably forget this very soon after so it is by my table where I eat breakfast so I can check what I have got on that day. There is fatigue management to consider when planning but that’s for another time.
FILE IT DON’T PILE IT: I am typing this on my laptop which is sat on a pile of bills and bank statements, this is me being very hypocritical and it is very much ‘do as I say and not as I do’. However the aim is to make your filing system simple and run as smoothly as possible. Get some sort of filing system (a concertina file is great I don’t necessarily mean a filing cabinet) where you can store all bills and letters by type and put the newest ones to the front of the file making it easy to find a particular letter when required. If a letter requires action e.g. a bill needs paying then leave it out where you will see it. When you make the call to pay the bill then write on the bill the date and time of the call, the name of the person you spoke to and write in capital letters PAID!
It can then go in the relevant section of your file, only ever put things in your file that have been dealt with otherwise they will be forgotten about!
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING IN IT’S PLACE: Memory is fascinating and I would never pretend to know a lot about it but one thing that I do know is that even after many cases of TBI you can teach yourself to form habits. A habit is stored in your longterm memory and is something that you do automatically without thinking therefore lightening the load on your memory.
Since my TBI like may others who have survived a severe head injury it is my short term memory that is weak while my long term memory is good, as good in some cases better than many of my friends. The problem being that long term memories must first be a short term memories. If you put something in a particular place once then more than likely you will forget it but if you keep doing it, every time you do it you reinforce that memory and it may well transfer into your longterm (good) memory.
So make habits, always put things in the same place; do it with your glasses, your wallet, your phone charger anything you want then the next time you want it you won’t have to waste energy looking for it because you know where it is. The only thing is that you have to remember to put them back or its not a habit is it, you have just put it somewhere haven’t you and you can’t remember where it is can you?!
MAKE YOURSELF A MEMORY HUB: When you have a brain injury the aim of the game is to simplify life as much as you can and wherever possible lighten the load on your injured brain by giving yourself less to remember. A number of years ago I went into town with the idea of becoming super organised and I bought a diary, a calendar, a notebook and a yearly wall planner. This meant that when I got an appointment I would need to transfer it to all four that were in different rooms! How long do you think that lasted? Exactly!
Making a memory hub involves having all your memory aids in one place, as I mentioned, I keep my glasses, my wallet, my laptop and I charge my phone there. I also have my concertina file there so that whenever I want something I know where to look. Anyone that knew me before my head injury will tell you that I was a nightmare for losing my wallet. Now my memory is much worse than it was then but I never lose it because it’s in my memory hub in my flat. I’m not telling you were it is in case you rob me but trust me it’s there! You just have to be strict with yourself and always put it back until you develop a habit then you will do it without thinking.
Brain Injury is difficult, its isolating and nobody will ever truly understand what goes on in your head but you. I’ve always scoffed at people telling me that I’m lucky because they make assumptions about how I may feel and don’t have to live with what I have had to live with. This week my opinion on this matter changed when a beautiful person both inside and out that I went to school with lost their life. I don’t know the details but I have found this particularly upsetting, think it was from a severe head injury.
I had a particularly severe head injury, I have been told I had someone watching over me. I don’t buy that; I survived because it happened in Manchester City centre less than a mile away from a major hospital then was quickly transferred to Salford Royal; one of the leading Neuro units in the country. That’s not a guardian angel that is luck! TBI is difficult to live with, everything becomes harder and nothing will ever be easy again but I’m telling you from experience that if you work at it you get better at stuff. It used to really annoy me when people used to say “you can do anything you want to do!” Thats not true, you might not be able to do it the way you did but there could be a different strategy you can use to get the same result. Right, before the X Factor style inspirational music starts I’m off! Thanks for reading, if you like it please share it I’ll think of some more strategies and you’re welcome to share anything that works for you in the comments below. If you know anybody that has been affected by brain injury then please tell them about me and if you haven’t already then please like my Facebook page!
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Cheers and speak soon!