“How has your life changed since your brain injury?”
I’ve been asked this question many times – often not that phrasing verbatim, but with the same intent. It’s asked by people who genuinely want to know, are interested in the answer, and/or are trying to better understand my mindset.
It’s better that I acknowledge their good intentions up front, because after my long, confused, convoluted, and inevitably boring answer they’ll likely realize that I haven’t actually answered the question. It’s not because I’m trying to intentionally avoid it, it’s because the real answer is actually much longer and much more complex. I get lost in my answer that ends up being an impromptu sociological examination of 20-something North American males. My brain injury was 7 years ago. I was 23 and in graduate school, purposefully avoiding the workforce.
‘How has your life changed since your brain injury?’ Implicit in this question, is that the answer isolates the brain injury and the time in recovery, from the expected trajectory of the life of a 23 year old. I didn’t have my life mapped out by any stretch of the imagination, but I presumptuously thought that the basic theme would stay more or less the same.
I view the world differently now, but I doubt there are many 30 year olds who view the world as they did at 23. I would never say my life is “better” now, nor would I ever say life is “worse”. It’s different. In many ways my brain injury is like any major life moment. It wasn’t something I decided and it has had many lasting negative consequences, but it has also had many lasting positive consequences. What are the positive consequences? That poses the same problems for me as the original-‘how has your life changed?’ question. It’s impossible to separate the positive consequences from the time that has passed, the changes in location and the negative consequences. They’re dependent on one another. For example, there are a lot of great people I met in Ottawa who I never would’ve met if I hadn’t taken a job there, but I may not have taken a job there – and certainly not in the same timeframe – had I not been brain injured 4 years earlier.
It looks like I just applied chaos theory to my life after my brain injury, and I guess I did, but not intentionally. My point is, I cannot tell you how my life has changed since my brain injury without telling you how my life has changed since August 1, 2003. To me, they are one in the same.