“What have you been up to?” should be a pretty superficial easy question to answer but can be an absolute nightmare since having a brain injury, it used to really used to catch me unawares. You see in memory there is encoding (filing the memory away) and retrieval (getting the memory out again) and after my brain injury I am still ok at encoding but have trouble with retrieval. I can file it but I can’t find it. I know this because of ‘prompting I’. If I’m really struggling when trying to remember what I did yesterday then someone reminds me for example: “you went into space!” (I could honestly forget something that obvious) then I would remember because the memory is there I just needed help to find it.
Maybe this is something I know from growing up by the seaside but you know those amusement machines where you put in 20p and attempt to guide a weak claw to pick up a crap teddy bear, which it inevitably drops although very occasionally it picks it up?
That’s quite a good analogy for my memory: the chances are that I won’t remember but sometimes I do. In the machine you’re likely to waste your 20p but you could win the teddy!
I feel I have lost my ability to be spontaneous and think on my feet. Most of what I say I have thought about or I have said before, I’m a bit like the TV channel Dave, always repeating stuff! The more times I have gone through something beforehand in my head the better I am able say it, that is just practice makes perfect! I have given talks before and been unable to answer questions it’s a bit embarrassing! but I’m making mental notes of those questions and can answer them easy if the question ever comes up again. I’m like a comedian using the same material over and over, if it’s a fresh audience it goes down well but if its something they’ve heard before then people get this glazed look in their eye and I just say “I’ve told you this before haven’t I?” busted! Its usually fine though if you like that show ‘Mock The Week’ then they don’t come up with that stuff on the spot they have said it before at some point. Some days if everything goes ok then I can be fine and nobody would ever have any idea I had a brain injury, yet other days my thoughts can be erratic; I am forgetful, stressed, slur my words and my eyesight is bad. Everyone is unique but this is my issue and the cause of this is that F word: Fatigue!
Fatigue makes everything more difficult! Pretty much whenever I have any problems it tends to be my old nemesis! So what can you do to beat it? Quick answer: You Can’t! Fatigue is not tiredness in the general sense but it is your brain running out of energy (fuel) and because your brain is everything you think and do, no amount of positive thinking can get round it. Besides, to think positively, you need energy from your brain and if there’s none there…. Ahh you get the idea!
So if you can’t beat it what can you do? It seems to be one of those things with brain injury that has no cure. I have had success with accepting a few things and working around it however and although I have by no means cracked the code, I am aware of what I ‘should’ do to avoid certain situations; the next step is actually doing it. Sometimes I am good but sometimes I am crap so it’s about making the best of the good times; ‘making hay when the sun shines I think they say’. Hopefully these tips may help other people who suffer with fatigue and poor concentration too.
On a morning before I go out I’ll have a little look at my diary to remind myself what I have been doing over the last week, you know in case anyone asks me what I have been doing over the last week! And then very importantly I need to be able to look ahead because when I get really tired and fatigued, I get really down but if I can predict that it’s going to happen then it’s not as bad, so that’s where planning comes in. Boring old planning! Anybody who has had occupational therapy will know about planning and you know what, they’re right!
I found that when I went to meet friends in a busy place it would go great for a short while, things would be just like old times but then the dreaded fatigue would start to kick in! I would do my best to ignore the fatigue, convinced it was just in my head. Of course it was in my head, a bloody big bruise on my brain! I would make an effort to be livelier like I was having a better time, this of course is like being on a long drive when your petrol light comes on and just ignoring the light pushing harder on the accelerator and telling yourself you’re going to get home! Not going to end well that, is it!
Now I just cut the journey short or go home earlier, it’s better to have a better time for a shorter time than end up staying and saying something rude and offending someone. Quality not quantity as they say! In the past I’ve felt my energy levels going so I will try to bring myself back into the conversation by making a joke and inevitably saying the wrong thing. That might make for a funny story to tell afterwards to someone who understands but it doesn’t exactly help you fit in at the time!
I like to do a lot of running and planning is something that I have to use when training because I like to write and also I need to run. They cannot both be performed on the same day; physical exercise stops me from doing anything cognitive (involving thinking, like writing) and vice versa. So in order for me to do both I cannot do both on the same day and that involves preplanning.
I’ve actually trained and just completed a half marathon for the Great North Run; I’m raising money for the Brain And Spinal Injury Centre (BASIC) in Manchester. A place that has been beyond brilliant to me and I want to do all I can to help them!
I’ve had a few things going on and been training hard so I am sorry I haven’t written a blog for a while, I hope you liked or found this helpful and the next one wont be as long! If anybody would be kind enough to sponsor me then you can do so by clicking on this link my donation page is still open. Today is Tuesday and I should be walking normally again by the end of the week! Haha To donate you can do so by clicking the link below it will be very much appreciated: