My experience of traumatic brain injury and aphasia

Around 4 years ago, when I was just 26 years old, I experienced a serious brain injury. As a result, I couldn’t use my arms or legs, and I could no longer read, write, or speak. Essentially, I lost all the skills that made me who I am. This is called aphasia.

aphasia brain injury through my eyes
‘For years now, I have been using lists to help organize my mind.’

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:

medication

breakfast and coffee

shave face

math/reading/writing/Photoshop

medication

shower

contortion

meditation

treadmill

medication

dinner

brain-training games

medication and sleeping

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.

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Learning to work with OCD

Many develop obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) after sustaining a serious brain injury. I always had OCD, even when I was a child, but it is a lot more intense now.

I had to learn how to work with it instead of fighting it; I find that when I try to fight my OCD, it only intensifies its hold over me. It is a fixation, and though everybody will have some fixations, it is much stronger for people with OCD; we can’t escape these thoughts.

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