Eleven years ago my balance and mobility were better than good. My health was better than good. Ten years and seven months ago, I was a long way away from feeling anything remotely close to good about my balance and my mobility, or about my health at all. That was a drastic turn, and it sucked, but it happened. I can’t pretend it didn’t. Well, I could pretend, but what good would that do?
Since most people’s introduction and familiarity with rehabilitation is through movies and TV, it’s important to reiterate that it’s a gradual process. It doesn’t just happen one day that everything clicks and all of a sudden life’s back to normal. Hard work is also not the secret. It’s essential for improvement, especially continuous improvement, but it doesn’t guarantee it. It happened for me. I’ve worked hard and I’ve improved, but by no means am I back to normal. It certainly doesn’t mean that someone, whose condition doesn’t improve, didn’t work hard. I know of countless examples. Movies and TV have to fit a story into an allotted time. If a book is too long nobody will read it. So, most of what people know about rehabilitation is a very condensed and, therefore, inaccurate rendition. That’s not to say it’s bad, but while a single story out of millions may be completely true, it certainly doesn’t represent the norm. Patients strive to be like that person in that movie or book and that’s great that they’re inspired, but what about themselves? Why can’t they do it? The answer is – they can. Instead of trying to be like ‘that movie’, prove something to yourself!
When people hear about my brain injury and continuing recovery, they pay me some extremely nice compliments, and I truly appreciate every one of them. However, hearing “I could never do that”, while well-intended, can be frustrating. When someone says that, they’re not giving themselves any respect. It’s hard, physically, emotionally and psychologically, but anyone can do it. Here’s where the hard work part comes in. Knowing you can do it is an essential step, working hard is another vitally important step, dealing with the ups, downs, and flat periods is an under-appreciated, yet crucial part of the whole process. Basing expectations on a two hour movie plot will certainly challenge your ability to cope with ups, downs and flats, but knowing that recovery happens slowly and is never ending, will help you prove something to yourself.