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Mental Health – Where to Start After a TBI?

Updated on 30 January, 2019
Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Alina Fong

Mental Health – Where to Start After a TBI

If you have had a recent brain injury and are unsure how to deal with the symptoms and changes you are experiencing, then this post is for you! To begin with, we encourage you to find a doctor and work with them throughout your recovery. Finding the right doctor to be on your team is very important to a successful recovery. 

Typically, you will follow the return to play protocol, starting with rest and self-care. Then you can use the following suggestions to help you adjust to the changes after a concussion or TBI. I wish I had a list things to do to support me in my mntal health when I experienced my TBI. 
1. Awareness
Be aware of the changes that are happening to you. Write them down, talk about them. Notice the physical changes, the emotional changes, the relationship changes, the memory, cognitive, and every other kind of change you notice. 

Everyone’s experience is different, be aware of your experience. Be patient with yourself as you experience all of these changes! It may be a lot coming at you, all at one time.

Allow yourself time to adjust. Start a journal. Later you will appreciate being able to go back and read about your experience and how much you have changed and grown, and that you have survived. Document all the emotions. There may be a lot of fear but don't forget that everyone has fears.

2. Support

Find supportive people. Family, friends, support groups, a therapist, understanding neighbors, social media groups, someone who’s had a prior concussion or TBI, a sponsor of sorts.

Try to avoid people who give you ultimatums or time constraints, and they are unfamiliar with what you are going through. You can go back and educate them, once you are in a better place. They will probably, unknowingly, say the wrong thing.

While you may not be able to trust everything you read online, there are many resources available to answer questions or make suggestions for healing. Here are a few additional Facebook groups as well:

Cognitive FX does not explicitly support or endorse these groups or their content, but they may be a place to start. 

You can also continue to find support on the Cognitive FX blog in the Mental Health Support Category

3. Adjust

Maintain healthy self-care including eating a healthy diet, drinking enough water, exercising (if allowed), and getting enough sleep. Take care of yourself. Then use creative avenues to assist in problem areas.

Adjust how you deal with life because you may not be able to do it the way you did before the injury. And that’s OK! It’s just different.

Compare it to a drive to work. You have your typical drive, the way you always go. But, there is now a roadblock, and you can’t go your usual way. You have to find a new way to get to work. Try multiple new avenues, look at the scenery as you do. Try to enjoy this necessary change. You will still get to your destination. You just need to adjust how you get there.

This new path may seem scary. But, if you never run into a challenge, you’ll never grow or progress. Breakdowns and difficulties are necessary to make possibilities possible. 

You may experience grief after your brain injury, and this is common. Grief is complicated and confusing at times, but you can get through it. You can learn about the stages of grief, how they apply to you after your brain injury, and resources available to help you through it. This understanding of grief is something I wish I would have had after my TBI.

4. Humor

With the changes that you are experiencing, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or even broken. The things you are dealing with are not simple. If you can find creative ways to laugh, do it!

My memory problems and language struggles caused me a lot of frustration. Rather than cry every time I forgot something that was important to me, I laughed about my “Aimee-nesia.” It was a simple, fun play on words, but it helped me get through some difficult and depressing times.

Find and use language that allows you to talk to yourself in a positive way and laugh whenever possible. Laugh at yourself. Don’t be your worst critic. Talk to yourself like you would your best friend, your sibling, your child. Use the 3rd person, if necessary. You will be much more kind to yourself.
Feel free to borrow my “Aimee-nesia,” while substituting your own name, if you’d like.

5. Acceptance

Your identity has been rocked. Know that. Accept that. Then work with it. This is the NEW you. Different is good. Different can be better!

Perhaps you are more understanding, empathetic, patient, thoughtful, or honest? It could be anything. Please be sure you are talking to yourself in a loving, motivating, and uplifting ways. What you say about you will influence your ability to be who you want to be, and it will affect how you deal with this injury. You are strong, confident, and capable. I recommend saying this to yourself all the time. Out loud.

The best way to learn is through experience. Educate others as you learn to accept your new identity and rock it. You are a champion. A rock star. A fighter!

Also know that it is important to accept that you can make improvements with the right team of specialists, there is always hope, and don't let anyone fool you into thinking there isn't. 

6. Gratitude

Viktor Frankl wrote “Man’s Search For Meaning” in which he described his experiences in a Nazi prison camp. He is my hero. Not only for surviving, but also for finding small things to be grateful for in each trial he endured.

It may feel impossible to be grateful when you feel miserable, and not at all like your “old” normal self, but there is always something to be grateful for!
In my auto accident it was a miracle I lived. I was grateful I hadn’t lost the use of my arms and legs. There were definitely days it was a struggle to be grateful, but I can attest to the fact that I had better days on the days I chose to look on the bright side.

Today I can say I am grateful I am alive and that I get to help others just beginning their brain injury journey.
You have an opportunity. Accept this opportunity for progress and growth. Gratitude takes time, maybe even a LONG time, but it will come.

All of these tools: Awareness, Support, Humor, Adjust, Gratitude, Acceptance, can provide you with insight into living and having a better life after a brain injury or concussion. This can get better. It WILL get better. If it doesn’t, as you work through the suggested activities, reach out to Cognitive FX and let us help you fill in the blanks.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Cognitive FX helped me to be a better version of me, with the science to prove their methodology. I call it a scientific miracle. Most importantly I want you to know you are not alone, and there are others including doctors who get it.


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