My experience of traumatic brain injury and aphasia
Aphasia can happen to people who have endured serious brain injuries or strokes.
It often requires relearning all of their communication skills.
Following my brain injury, my family and friends taught me about who I was before it happened.
As I became increasingly aware of what I’d lost, I realized that I needed to regain my previous skills and talents. I wanted to have that part of myself back.
I started to work every day, firstly focusing on relearning the entire English language. I focused on reading, writing, and speaking, and as I gradually improved in these areas, I started reading each day.
I read a lot of articles, as they helped me remember the world. I used a dictionary to look up the meanings of words, and I started writing any unknown words down in a list.
I still do this; my list currently stands at 2,684 words. Each day, I read 10–20 of these words to test myself on their meanings. If I don’t remember a word, I will use the dictionary to remind myself. I have found this to be immensely helpful.
I also discovered that I had a very broad range of hobbies and interests before my injury, such as writing, photography, playing musical instruments, singing, contortion, and sword swallowing.
After 4 years, I can happily say that I’ve finally relearned all of these abilities to some degree.
Lists and relearning
For years now, I have been using lists to help organize my mind. I have found that doing this helps me focus and put more time and energy into thinking about my next steps.
Now that I have a list for everything in my life, I can use my time more efficiently. Below is an example of one of my daily lists:
I have learned that repetition and consistency have helped me in all areas of my life. This is why I can finally write again, and I believe that anybody who reads my work wouldn’t know about my brain injury unless I told them.
I have also found that physical exercise has been a huge help in my recovery, and I make sure that I regularly practice contortionist work and treadmill running.
It’s also vital to exercise your brain, as this can help protect against degeneration. I practice brain-training exercises daily, and these have helped me with my math and, more importantly, my long- and short-term memory capabilities.
Learning and practicing a musical instrument has also helped me regain my cognitive abilities. So, now, I make time to practice piano, guitar, or both every day.
I’m now, slowly, writing a book about my life post-brain injury and looking for a publisher. This book is important for me; it’s about how I am winning instead of letting my brain injury have any power over me.
I am keen to show that even though I had to relearn the world — my language, my body, and all of my abilities — I honestly feel stronger than I have in my entire life.
Without my family, I couldn’t be so dependable and persistent; they were always there for me when I needed them. I want to give them something back, to make their lives easier, and this is one of my inspirations as an author.
Knowing that I could help my mom, dad, brother, and boyfriend in any way would make me so jovial and hopeful. I need to show them just how much they have helped me and why I couldn’t do this without them.
As much as I have progressed, it hasn’t been without struggle. I used to believe — before my brain injury — that I had many friends. However, I released soon after that none of them were there for me; only a few real friends were there when I needed them most.
I found this very hard, but I feel very happy and blessed to have these few friends, and having a support network like this can make the world of difference in recovery.
What the future holds
About 2 months ago, I went on a date. Since this first meeting, our relationship has blossomed. The truth is that before I met him, I thought this part of my life was dead. I thought that nobody would ever want me again, but I am so delighted to know that I was wrong.
It’s so easy to become frustrated and get into a negative train of thought when recovering from something as life-changing as this, but there really is light at the end of the tunnel.
Even though my brain injury is definitely the most demanding and exhausting thing that has ever happened to me, I am also the happiest that I have ever been. I really am.
Every month, I see just how much more capable and durable I am, and I see how much more agile and bright my mind has become. I am excited for my future as I continue to work on my book and move forward with my personal relationships.
I aim to continue my volunteer work; I know that there are so many people who have experiences similar to mine, and I want to show them that it doesn’t have to hold them back.
No matter what happens, I am going to live because I am still here, and I am determined to do as much as I can with my life.
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