A couple more tips that I have picked up along the way:
Your brain is damaged and cannot do what it did before the accident, it is like a 3 legged donkey and you would not give a 3 legged donkey the same amount if anything to carry because its only got 3 legs. This doesn’t mean that the donkey is useless however, it just can’t do as much and sometimes needs a helping hand. Forgive the strange analogy but the idea is to make your brain do the least amount of unnecessary work as possible.
In the last blog I wrote I mentioned forcing yourself to learn habits i.e. doing things automatically without really thinking about them, a good example is putting your keys in the same place every time you walk through the door of your house\flat ideally on a hook. DO IT NOW or you will forget, never mind in a minute NOW!! At first you must make the effort to do this each time but if you continue to hang your keys on the hook eventually it becomes a habit which you do automatically without thinking about it.
Learning habits are stored in your ‘procedural memory’ this is the same part of your memory involved in learning skills like riding a bike. They say that you never forget how to ride a bike don’t they? Whoever they are! that is because the blueprint for riding a bike is stored in your procedural memory. These type of memories are stored in a separate area to your other memories, its deeper within your brain so deep in fact that it is rarely affected by a trauma to the head so is rarely affected and often in working order after a tbi. Any habits you can form and make automatic take a load off your brain, look at it as giving that 3 legged donkey a bit of a push or even a prosthetic leg.
The vast majority of people will experience problems with their memory after a TBI, you will try to explain this to others but will most likely be met with comments like “yeah my memory is bad as well!”. This used to make me really mad and I would try and correct everyone but this is exhausting and do I really care? Just smile and move on. Friends and family may well offer to help and at first it is very useful to lean on them and use their memory because you cannot trust your own. However getting used to relying on others will do nothing for your your recovery or your pride, you will become too dependant on others. If you don’t use it you will lose it so make sure you use it!
Now it may be the case that your memory will never be what it once was but this is no reason to give up. The way you used to use your memory isn’t the only way to remember something, there are others.
There are various ways to form habits and use your procedural memory to your advantage, I once left my bank card in a chip and pin machine so I formed this habit to make stop it happening in the future. Whenever I take my wallet out in a shop I leave my wallet open in my hand and do not allow myself to close it until my card is back in the wallet, I’ve trained myself to not put it away without my card inside. That was a couple of years back and I’ve never done it since! The trick is to do it EVERY TIME! Don’t ever miss the opportunity even if you are feeling confident you must DO IT! You won’t always be feeling confident so you must make the habit to cover those timesl
Something I heard the other day was a solution to leaving your bank card after using the cash machine which usually happens because of problems with poor concentration, the card owner drifts off forgetting what you’re doing leaving cash and card in an ATM. You need to recognise that you need to pay attention and force yourself to do so, in your head chant this rhyme “Card, Cash, Stash”… louder than that! “Card! Cash! Stash!” LOUDER! “CARD!! CASH!! STASH!!”. I find that my attention drifts off because I don’t have anything to focus on and I find that forcing myself to pay attention can work for the brief time it takes to use an ATM. You can focus on shouting that louder and louder and do not stop until you have your card back in your wallet, your cash from the machine and your wallet stashed in your pocket, you must remember to keep the shouting INSIDE your head however or you may find yourself in trouble with the police and you can’t blame it on me!
I remember locking the door used to be a massive stress for me, I remember staying at my sisters house in Manchester and going to get the bus into town. The bus stop was 15 minutes walk away, as I waited I couldn’t remember if I had locked the door or not so ended up walking back only to find I had locked it anyway! I know this has been a problem for at least one other person I have met and I’ve heard a couple of solutions the first being to carry a pen with you and make a little cross on your hand when you have locked the door. When waiting for the bus stop I could have just looked at my hand, seen the cross and been reassured. Now I don’t trust myself so I have to make a video of myself locking the door on my phone! There is no right or wrong way to do this, everyone is individual and you have to do what ever works for you.
Use repetition wherever you can, I remember getting my car a couple of years back and driving to the Trafford centre for 10am, there were hardly any cars there and so I parked in front of the entrance to John Lewis and went inside. When I came out a couple of hours later I went to get in the car and about a thousand more cars had turned up! I wanted to drive home but it was nowhere to be seen (in a carpark of 11,500 spaces great!), my fatigue was playing up and the more stressed I got the more exhausted I became. I checked every car in the first ten rows in front of the entrance, I was such a mess! I was so stressed, so tired I think I even phoned my mum (because she was bound to know where I had parked!) I got myself so worked up that I went inside to customer services and reported my car stolen! Someone came with me to look he was being really patronising asking me if I had had a really good look? It wasn’t there I had looked for half an hour! He then asked me what was near the door in the shop, what did that have to do with anything? It was by the entrance! I was starting to lose my temper but then he asked which entrance?….. Oh! Apparently there are two and I had parked in front of the other, well that shut me up! What I now do is take a picture of the carpark area Im parked in, don’t take a picture of the cars you are parked near because they will probably move! (Yes I’ve done that as well!). If its somewhere you go often make sure you have a regular parking space, if I go to the Trafford Centre (or TC as the Mancs call it) I park on the top level (because I’m a child and I like driving up the ramp) next to staircase 7 because that is far enough away from the entrance that there is nearly always a space there.
If you have a TBI I hope that was of some use to you or even if you don’t I hope that you can use it to help someone else who has. As always please leave me a comment below. Cheers!