Nick Mercer: Change is Not the Enemy

7 Oct

Why have a blog if I’m not going to write? Why write if I’ve got nothing to write about? Why write about anything if I’ve got nothing to say?

That personal interview has been running through my head for the past several weeks and it pretty much sums up my reasons for not writing much recently, but I’ve found something to talk about…

Every day there is news about brain injury; prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. That said, the stories that make it to the wider media are usually sad stories of lives being completely and negatively altered, the occasional story of recovery and how, with some changes, the individual does what he or she always did, and ominous warnings of the perpetual threat of head trauma. Almost every story about brain injury laments the change that has taken place in the life of the brain injured individual and their friends and family. After reading stories like these it is often forgotten that even in the best of times, everybody’s life changes. That’s a very basic and simple fact. The degree to which, and how, life changes differs. Drastic change sometimes happens, but it’s not always a bad thing, even though it may start looking that way. If my family and friends weren’t so awesome and accepting of change, I would probably never be happy.

Acceptance is not a synonym for quitting or giving up. In fact, in difficult situations, it’s just the opposite. After a serious brain injury (or any imposed change) some people are so adversely affected that it is not reasonable, or even possible, for them to devote attention to anything but one goal. If, however, the injured person finds themself in a more fortunate situation, then I think it is very important for he/she and those closest to him/her, to remember that before the injury, that person had a life involving many facets that changed over the course of their life. Recovery from a serious injury, especially one that can change the way your brain works, takes a lot of effort and a long time. Just as life is dynamic and constantly changing for everybody, it changes for the injured person as well. The importance they placed on one aspect of life may change and a new interest take its place. That’s not a bad thing. It’s life.

Before I was brain injured, I played water polo and 7 months prior to the accident had started racing and training for triathlon. Immediately after my brain injury I couldn’t walk and I had double vision. It’s now 10 years later and now I walk everywhere (but it’s not as easy as it was), but my double vision remains, even after 4 surgeries. Therefore, though I walk everywhere, I am not yet stable enough to run, jumping takes a lot of concentration, and my left side is generally weaker/lacks the speed to coordinate with my right. Because of this, I am not able to play water polo (a game I love and had gotten better at throughout university), nor am I able to ride a bike or run, so triathlon is out of the picture for now. I truly feel I will get back to where I can finally play water polo again, but it’s going to take a lot more time. That’ll happen eventually, but my point is that since my accident 10 years ago my interests have changed. Of course, if I hadn’t been brain injured, they wouldn’t have changed as much, but I was and they did.

My friends and family have been huge supporters of whatever I have tried since. They haven’t encouraged me to only look backwards, to where I was previously, but instead to look forwards to where I want to go. That is the point. Too many times it seems that people get discouraged when things don’t go back to the way they were before change was imposed. Things have changed and the road ahead is different, but by no means is it necessarily worse. For example, before my brain injury I was playing very active sports that required stability and strength, so I didn’t give those aspects of fitness much more thought. They sort of took care of themselves. Stability and strength were adversely affected by my brain injury, so they’ve become a focus of mine, and as such, so has Pilates and my core. So too has reading. So now, while I still try to stay involved with water polo by helping with score keeping and the game clock, my interests have changed and even though they are different from what they once were, they make my life better, as playing water polo or riding a bike once did.

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One Response to “Nick Mercer: Change is Not the Enemy”

  1. brokenbrilliant October 11, 2013 at 08:05 #

    So true. I think of concussion/TBI as a kind of “natural disaster” — like a tornado or earthquake, that causes a lot of damage in some areas, but not in others… and that often cannot be fully understood until some time after the event. After hurricanes, local officials often aren’t sure what the extent of the infrastructure damage is. But do they throw up their hands and say, “Oh well, then we can never have another school or hospital or roads or sewer system or utilities ever again!” Of course not – they assess the damage and take steps to repair or work around.

    Look at Colorado from last month — devastating floods, which were dealt with.

    Everybody goes through changes. Everyone’s life takes unexpected turns. The real culprit in TBI/concussion recovery is the idea that the brain cannot change. That’s silly. Of course it can – it changes every day. We learn, we grow, we adapt. Just because we lose some functionality in some areas for a while, doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to either restore it or work around it.

    Flexibility is a human trait like muscles — you need to exercise it to keep it.

    Concussion/TBI is not the end of the story — unless we make it that way.

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