Crafting a New Life after Brain Injury
By Carole Starr
When your life has been shattered by brain injury and the door to your old life has not just closed, but slammed shut, how do you find a new door to happiness? Where do you look? How do you begin? Below is a list of actions that gradually helped me in my journey from banging against the closed door of my old life to walking through the open door of my new life after brain injury. I hope they can help you too.
- Get to know your new self
- Listen for the wisdom of the little voice inside
- Take action
- Start small, find success and build on it
- Find ways to give to others
- Take risks: Feel the fear and move forward anyway
- Make something: Create meaning out of suffering
Get to Know Your New Self
Before you can find your new door to happiness, you have to turn away from the old one. The longer we look at the old door of our lives, the longer we stay stuck in denial, grief and loss. A crucial step in turning away from that old door is getting to know your new self, the person you are right now. The importance of self-knowledge has been recognized for millennia, as evidenced by this wisdom from the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates: ‘Know thyself’.
How can you get to know your new self?
Listen for the Wisdom of the Little Voice Inside
When you’re focused on knowing yourself in the present, the door to a new life has begun to crack open. I believe all of us have a little voice, an inner wisdom that can offer guidance about how to further open that door. It’s a quiet voice, one that can’t be heard when you’re living in the past and trying desperately to get back to the way life used to be. The little voice inside is like a compass, pointing you in the direction of your new life. When you can hear and act on its wise counsel, you are on your way.
What does your little voice inside say?
It isn’t enough just to observe the little voice inside. You have to act on it. Observation without action won’t get you anywhere. Even the smallest of actions can open new doors. Actions build on one another. It doesn’t matter where you start or what you start with, just that you do. Once you take one action, more can follow as you gain momentum.
What’s one small action you can take?
Start Small, Find Success and Build on It in Your New Life
Whatever action you choose, it’s important to start where you can succeed. Finding that success often means you have to break down tasks into very small pieces. When you find something you can do successfully, no matter how small it is, that’s where you build from.
What’s an activity you’re successful at right now?
Find Ways to Give to Others
Finding ways to give to others can open the door to happiness. Giving to others is a win-win activity, with both the receiver and the giver benefiting. Brain injury can make finding ways to give to others challenging. Often we have to find new ways to give, since our old ways may not work anymore. There are many simple ways to give to others and show how much you care.
In what ways can you give to others?
Take Risks: Feel the Fear and Move Forward Anyway
Moving forward into a new life means taking some risks. I don’t mean negative risks that are impulsive and can lead to dangerous situations. Instead, I mean positive risks that are calculated and can lead to growth, increased confidence and new opportunities. Taking calculated risks can push your boundaries in a positive direction. When you begin to stretch yourself, life becomes richer.
What’s one small, calculated risk you can take?
Make Something: Create Meaning out of Suffering
So many choices are taken from us with brain injury. However, one thing we can choose is to turn all that suffering into something meaningful. It’s about whatever brings a sense of purpose into your life. When you can make meaning out of all you’ve been through, the door to your new life is flung wide open.
What gives your life meaning now?
Finding another door to happiness is key to the brain injury acceptance process. Creating that new life is not something that happens overnight. It’s a long process, one that often takes years. Know that you will grow and change as you progress through this journey. You will be in a different place one year, two years and five years from now.
Never give up on having a fulfilling life. Yes, brain injury means that dreams may have to change. But by getting to know your new self, listening for your inner wisdom, taking action, building on success, giving to others, taking risks and creating meaning, you can craft your new life after brain injury.
Note: You can find Carole Starr’s book “To Root and To Rise: Accepting Brain Injury” at this link!
You can find Carole’s website at: www.starspeakerauthor.com