Monday, July 19, 2010

Key #4: Support Network

I hope everybody had a wonderful weekend. I did have a great one. Spent time with many friends and family. The things I will mention are based on my personal experience.
I said that I spent time with family and friends this past weekend. A key to success in my opinion is having a positive support network. It is life changing to know that I have shoulders to lean on, ears to listen to me, and many people that give advice, encouragement and motivation. Within the support network the most important piece is the family. Most of us live with a spouse, mother, father, sons, daughters, among many other relatives. This are the people we have access to on a daily basis. It is as important for them to understand the TBI condition as it is important for us to facilitate the education to them. After a brain injury it has been easy for me to think that nobody understand what I'm going thru. A brain injury makes understanding some situations very hard. Sometimes I recognize the meaning of different situations might not be how I see them. I might perceive it different from what it really means.
Let me make a quick pause to talk about perception. For some reason sometimes people tell me something and I take it the wrong way. They probably didn't mean it the way I took it. The way I perceive things at times is off from the real meaning of the intended message. This has triggered arguments or resulted in feelings being hurt. Now that I understand the perception issue I make myself pause and think before I act. This has helped me understand and really look at the real meaning of what goes on. Impulsivity is tied to this too. At times we are too quick on "jumping the gun" and kind of instinctively doing something without thinking. Like I have mentioned before "knowledge is power", we have to learn to stop and think before we act. Understanding these issues has helped on self control and helped my relationships with family and friends.
Going back to Support Network. Support Network is not limited to family and friends, it is broader than that. Compassionate providers are another very important part of the support. The encouragement, motivation, advice and understanding are one of the most valuable things I have received as support of my providers. We always try to demand the compassion and so many other things from the providers. I ask us today to think about how much effort are we putting in our recovery. As we at times get upset about having a provider that seemed like they don't care, or don't put enough effort on our treatment; providers at times get the same feelings towards a patient that doesn't put effort on his/her recovery. Remember that caring goes both ways.
As I mentioned the perception issue. It is important for us to share our feelings with other in the support network. I always try to avoid to keep things that bother me inside of m,e because as you might have experienced it is very easy to get overwhelmed. Sharing our thoughts and feelings with others greatly helps releasing that pressure and that overwhelming feeling. Don't forget self-control. When sharing your thoughts and feelings think before acting because we have to be respectful and tactful.
When building a Support Network make sure you surround yourself with positive people. People that don't care or that draw us in the wrong direction might be very harming to our recovery. For example, people that are always complaining about things in life or people that are always upset about everything have been detrimental to my healing. I have cut them off understanding that I'm not in position to play around with my recovery. Many times I found out that if it doesn't feel good it might not be good for me. It is not that I'm being selfish or that "everything is about me", it is about recovering and healing as fast as possible.
I encourage you to open up with your providers, family, and friends. Expand your horizons and you'll see how many people are out there waiting to help you.
Another element of the Support Network might be a support group. It is a relieve for me to see that other people share the same symptoms I have. Those are the people that I learn from as they share their coping strategies among other things. In my opinion a group should be conducted with these factors taken into consideration: it has to be a safe place, everybody has to commit to confidentiality (what's said in the group, stays in the group), everybody has to be respectful to others, it has to be volunteer and one person talks at a time. The leader of the group should be able to steer the group, meaning that if members deviate from TBI related things, the leader should have the skill to bring it back on track so the group can accomplish its goal.
I close with this: find a support network, be in control of your recovery (you are the most important element in your rehab), trust others, and if you feel overwhelmed talk to somebody. Involve your family and educate them as well as educate yourself. It makes a difference. And most importantly DO NOT USE THE TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY AS A CRUTCH.
If you have any questions or comments and are unable to post them here feel free to address them at
Big hugs to all.
See you all tomorrow.

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