1. You can’t push through. Regardless of how strong or tough or determined you are, you can’t bully you’re way through recovering from an mTBI. I know you’re going to try, but you will save us both a lot of time if you didn’t.
2. Rest. I mean completely rest. Stop work, stop TV, stop looking at your phone. Just sit on a couch, pet a cat, and stare out the window. I know it’s inconvenient, I know you can’t afford to, I know you don’t have time… but you will really really regret it if you don’t.
3. You need help. Like – significant help – in every aspect of your life. You might not think you do, you might not know you do… but you do. Trust me on this one.
4. Your easy social life and party days are over. Loud noises, bright flashing lights, even regular fluorescent lights – all those things will suddenly drain your energy and make it difficult to think. That means you have to plan and strategize every time you want to go out to dinner, meet a friend for coffee, or go to a family member’s birthday party. Every time. Without exception.
5. You are missing nuances. Your brain can’t process all the complexity of communicating with others right now, be it the words or the body language or the situational cues. That means your ability to understand situations and other people is compromised. You probably feel different and you know something is missing – it is that easy understanding of the world around you that is gone.
6. The world isn’t out to get you. I’m pretty sure about this one. It might seem like everyone is being mean, but in reality you are simply more sensitive right now to others’ emotional variations. Also, people are going to react when you aren’t able to give them the energy or support they are use to. Don’t take that shit personally – people aren’t trying to be cruel. Change sucks for everyone.
7. People are helping you. You may feel like you’re all alone, that you have these herculean tasks to tackle and no one will help you – but likely, you have people helping you. You just don’t realize it. Your perception is off right now, and that can make you a self-involved ungrateful jerk. But, really, see #6 and assume people who cared about you before still care about you, are trying to help, and you can trust their perceptions about the situation. It is helpful here to find at least one person you trusted and were close to before your injury (parent? sibling? lover? friend?), and check in with them about reality once in a while.
8. It’s going to take time to heal. More time than you think. Perhaps a lot more time than seems reasonable. Any estimate about how long it’s going to take to heal is bullshit – no one really knows, no one can guess. Expect your life to stay fucked up for the foreseeable future. Plan accordingly.
9. Your life is over as you knew it. It’s not fair, but it’s true. Let go of who you were and figure out who you are now.
10. Love your new life. The sooner you can start loving who you are now, the better. Yes, this injury sucks and it’s completely unfair and every day there are overwhelming things that you have to deal with that drive you crazy… and it’s still the only life you get. Make the most of it. The most of it might be a lot less than you are use to, or a lot less than you think is fair… but it’s your life. Love it with all your heart.