Introduction to this episode on post-concussion syndrome recovery
Post-concussion syndrome recovery is psychologically hard. Especially so if doctors told you that there is no hope for you ever recovering from your brain damage. This is what they told me and still – I made a full recovery! So what does that tell you? That there is hope, and that the only way to recover is if you believe that you can do it (or will get as close to recovery as you can, if that’s what works better for you).
This episode is all about the hope you need for post-concussion syndrome recovery. Without it, my brain would have never healed. It’s like Henry Ford said: if you believe you can do a thing, or you believe you can’t – you’re both right! So, let’s get started with another new Concussion Stories episode intended to help you get motivated about your recovery in this month of hope & personal power at Lifeyana!
[0:00] Welcome to Concussion Stories, a Lifeyana podcast series filled with hope. I’m here to let you know that you are not alone in your concussion recovery. I’m Melanie, and I spent more than six years experimenting, training and learning in order to heal myself from a very bad case of post-concussion syndrome. And today, I feel better than ever before.
In Concussion Stories, we dig deep while discussing hopeful stories of recovery, as well as the hard stuff and the messy middle. If you’re struggling to focus, be sure to take breaks. Down in the description of each episode, you can find a table of contents, in case you want to skip ahead. Let’s dive right in.
Post-concussion syndrome recovery & hope
[0:45] What better time than on the brink of a new year to talk about the topic of hope? And now I’m so happy to devote this entire Concussion Stories episode on it. Be prepared to be inspired, because I want to talk about hope in general: what is it? What can you do about it? The importance of it, because it’s so important to your recovery from post-concussion syndrome. And, of course, I want to spark hope and a lot of it.
Brené Brown on hope
[1:12] So let’s first have a look at what is hope really. And for this, I want to quote Brené Brown. Brené is a great inspiration when it comes to a lot of the psychological effects that come with post-concussion syndrome. She has written so much about shame and about vulnerability, about wholehearted living, and about for example hope.
Hope is a way of thinking
What Brené writes is that hope is not an emotion, like a warm feeling of optimism and possibility that just comes and goes whenever it pleases. That is what I believed really about hope. It’s like, one day I would feel hopeful, and another I would feel hopeless, and that was just what happened. But that is not true.
Brené writes that hope is a way of thinking, and it is learned. So that means that you can train your brain to hope. If you’ve already read some things on Lifeyana.com, or you’ve listened to some interviews with me on other concussion podcasts, you know that I’m all about training your brain in numerous ways. So this something that really interests me, and that I think is very interesting to you, especially if you want to kickstart your recovery or reignite your recovery after his new year.
What is hope?
[2:34] So what then is hope? Hope, she writes, is a combination of three things. One: setting goals. Two: having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them. And three: believing in your own abilities. Let’s have a look at that.
Set your concussion recovery goal
The first is setting goals. So having a vision for what you want to achieve. Back when I decided that I would make a full recovery from post-concussion syndrome, and then help you do the same. That was my goal. That was the one thing I would do anything for.
I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew that that was what I wanted to achieve. And I would not stop until I would find it. So that’s the goal setting part. What do you want to achieve? Or what do you want to go for?
Tenacity, perseverance and belief in yourself
Then having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them. So for me, that meant working every day, spending time on figuring out the way in which I would achieve those goals: recover and help others. It was just integral; they were one.
And then the third part is believing in your own abilities. At that time, back when I decided that I would recover and then help others do the same, I had no idea how I would do that. Until that time, I had had the belief that I couldn’t recover, because doctors told me that my brain damage was beyond repair.
I didn’t believe recovery was possible
[4:03] So I was working within this paradigm that there was no option for me to ever get rid of these symptoms that were ruining my life. And also because I had been experiencing depression, my system was continuously warning me for a future that didn’t look any better. Instead, it looked worse than what I had already experienced.
Just before I made my decision that I would recover, I felt so lost that I didn’t see a point in living anymore. That was just a hard line for me: I decided that there was no other option than that I would figure this out. I had to figure it out. So I had to believe in myself.
Dedicate yourself to this goal
This is the resolve that you need. This is what Brené Brown means with believing in your own abilities. And it doesn’t have to be that strong, like I was driven by this force of life and death. But it’s not a continuous feeling of strength. You just want to get back to it every time that you feel that you’ve lost it.
So you have a goal, you dedicate tenacity and perseverance to pursue it, and you believe in your own abilities. That sparks hope. Because you will feel that once you have these three aspects working for you, that you’re moving forward, that you’re creating momentum. You feel your capacity increasing, and this in itself already sparks hope.
Taking control over your concussion recovery
But before it sparks, before it’s the result of the process you’ve started, it already gives hope to take control. To decide what you want, to decide that you’re going to spend time on it, and to decide that you’re going to make it happen. That’s the strength that you have. Those are your decisions to make and nobody can take them away from you.
Let me quote Brené Brown for a little bit more, because she also shares something else that I think is very helpful for you. She says: when we experience something difficult, we can respond with hopelessness. And the thoughts that belong to that response are, for example: “This is supposed to be easy.” “I wish it were easier.” “It’s not worth the effort.” You can already feel the energy draining from your body, right?
Activating hopeful responses
[6:15] Instead, she says, if you choose to respond with hope, your thoughts will go like this, for example: “This is really tough. But I can do it. I can do this, I can find my way through this.” You see how this gives you energy? It all starts again with “you can do it, you can find your way through it.” That’s a goal in itself. But it also shows the believing in your own ability.
And “I can move through this” shows that you have this focus on the tenacity and the perseverance that you need to pursue your goal. So you see how these responses of hopelessness and hope really activate a very different response in how you deal with your post-concussion recovery? This is the core.
Belief and hope are choices only you can make
You can eat the healthiest stuff for one day, and you can go for a walk the one day, but the next day, it will be so much harder to motivate if you don’t have your belief system. And believing and hoping, those are choices. Those are not things that happen to you.
Yes, sometimes hope will fly out the window. You can just feel it because something happened or you feel exhausted from training your brain or anything. I know about this so much. The point is not that you lose it: that just happens. It will happen so much; it happened so much to me. The point is that you always go back to hope. That’s your choice, not something that happens to you. You choose control over your recovery, you choose how you respond in the next moment.
How to cultivate hope during post-concussion syndrome
[7:51] So how does hope really work? Because it’s very easy for me to say, of course, that you need hope in order to build on your recovery. But it’s completely another thing to actually do it. So this is something that I’ve practiced until it became second nature.
Human brains are drawn toward the negative
And the way I see it is: you need to train your brain. We as humans have a negative bias. The human mind is automatically drawn toward the negative. Our brains are literally wired to zoom in on threats. It’s a survival mechanism. But focusing on the negative keeps you in a place where it’s hard to look for a better future.
How to rewire your brain to hope
It is you who has to train your brain to look for a way out. So how do you do this? I always envision it as an extra layer that I put between my brain and my skull. So it’s a very thin, but it’s a very smart layer. And this layer is always scanning: it picks up on negative thoughts. You want to be able to observe the draw toward the negative.
So once you have a negative view of the future, so for example, you think that whatever you do today doesn’t matter anyway because you’re not gonna get better or it’s not helping anyway – it’s the hopeless thought. This shield this extra layer between my brain my skulls, like I saw you, that is a negative thought. So registered first.
This in itself is their hardest thing to train. Because it’s not easy to observe your own thoughts. This is training in itself. It’s like you have to extract a part of you and observe yourself. It’s not an easy thing, but it is doable. And once you train it, and once you get the hang of it, it will become easier and easier until it becomes second nature.
Address hopeless thoughts
[9:47] The second part is after you are able to observe it – and you don’t have to wait until you’re fluent at it – the first time that you observe that your brain is serving you a negative outlook on the future (a hopeless outlook), you want to address it.
The way I do it, is I actively say to it (you don’t have to really say it aloud, but you can think it): “Hey, I see you. Thank you brain. Thank you, but it’s okay. I’m not going to go with this flow.” That already calms your system. You can feel that after you have observed the draw toward the negative and you’ve addressed it and you thanked it and you’ve laid it aside.
Replace your view with hopeful thoughts
Then you want to replace it. You want to replace it with the way you want to see. So for example how I did this is: back when I was still feeling hopeless, I was eating a lot of crappy food. So oven pizza, chocolate chip cookies, and croissant with marmalade – all at the same time. I would do that so that I could fall asleep. So that I didn’t have to feel whatever I was feeling for a couple of hours.
Back then the root cause of that behavior was: I was thinking that whatever I did that they didn’t have an influence on my outcomes. So I was feeling very hopeless. When I was turning that behavior around, after I made my decision and set my goal, I noticed this, I told my system: “Hey, thank you for warning me, but it’s okay, I’m gonna take over from here.”
And then I would tell myself: “Whatever I do today matters. It does matter!” It was so important to change from a state of complete hopelessness to hope. And hope creates action and strength and momentum. So I hope that this already gives you a good idea of what hope is, why it’s so important for your recovery, and how hope works.
Post-concussion syndrome recovery momentum tips
[11:42] So now, I would like to give you a ton of things that you can do right now, so that you can start off the new year, or whenever you’re listening to this (it doesn’t matter when you start: every day is a new beginning). I want to give you these things that you can do right away, that will help you create momentum.
Set your recovery goal
The first thing you can do right now, is write down the three aspects of hope. One: set a goal. Two: decide you’re going to persevere to pursue it. And three: believe in your own abilities. Then write down what the goal is for you. So for me, it was: I want to make a full recovery and then help others do the same.
That second part, so doing it for another person, other than myself really motivated me. It wasn’t just for me: I had to do it for you, too. So maybe that inspires you to write down your own goal. Let it be something that makes you happy. And if you cannot feel happiness in this moment, let it be something that you know will make your life meaningful.
Devote to your goal and believe in yourself
Then write down that you will devote your time, energy and any resources that you have to this goal. Then work on believing in your own abilities. This is not something that all of us just have lingering within ourselves. Hope is something that we learn from our parents, but we can also learn it another way. So you can learn it right now, if you haven’t learned it before.
How to practice believing in yourself
[13:14] It’s something that you want to tell yourself every day, and when you find that you are not believing in yourself – just like I said that how hope works – you want to observe with the same layer that I visualize that you’re not believing in yourself. Or that you’re obstructing yourself.
And then you want to say: “Okay, I see that you’re doing this. Thank you, but I’m going to go my own way.” And then you want to replace it with believing in yourself, saying to yourself, like Brené Brown wrote: “This is tough, but I can do it. I will find a way.” Tell yourself that.
Hope and believe are a practice
The more you practice, the more it becomes your reality. And also, the more you practice, the more you will do for your recovery; the more you will experience that is helping and the more it will be strengthened by the feedback that you’re getting from the process.
The Andrew Maas interview
So, other things that you can do right now are to listen to my interview with Andrew Maas. He is the project coordinator of CENTER-TBI. This is a large, huge, European research project on traumatic brain injury. And he shares some of the newest findings in TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury – Research.
[14:26] And it is so helpful. It is so important for you to hear if you’ve heard a lot of negative messages from doctors – or from the Internet. It’s very important to hear from such an expert how much hope there really is.
Neuropsychologist Lindsay Wilson
Then another thing that you can do is listen to the Concussion Stories interviews with Lindsay Wilson. He is a neuropsychologist and he will give you the recognition that you possibly never got from any doctor about the way that you’re feeling right now. This is something that will really help you move forward, because it will give you strength.
3 things to do right now to speed up your recovery
And one last thing that you can do… so those are a lot of things already, but I just don’t want to miss this chance to inspire hope within you… is make sure to download the free guide that you can find in the links below to get started right away with three things that will help you speed up your recovery right now.
Just remember: hope is a choice. And look at my story. Doctors told me that I couldn’t recover, that my brain was beyond repair, that I had to learn to live with my nightmare symptoms that were ruining my life. And in the end, I figured out that that wasn’t true. There so much hope!
Let’s start with that this new year. Choose hope, because otherwise: where will you be? If you’re hoping, you’re inspiring this positive action within yourself and that is the best place to start your recovery with. You’re the one who’s creating your own reality. This is your power.
Can I ask you something?
[16:01] Now I would love to hear from you. What do you take away from this episode? Is there something that you can apply to your life right away, head on over to Lifeyana.com and leave your comment now.
And if you want to hear and read more Concussion Stories, actionable steps and inspiration, be sure to subscribe to the Lifeyana email list while you’re there, so that you never miss out a on new materials become we constantly make for you.
If you want to support this podcast head on over to patreon.com/concussionstories. Thank you for listening to this Concussion Stories episode by Lifeyana. May you be well and may you be happy.