BY: MARK KONING
It’s like stacking blocks that may come crashing down if you are not mindful and patient. At times I have felt that I took one huge step forward only to take three steps back. It is hard, but to find any type of recovery, I think you got to be willing to accept failure.
June is Brain Injury Awareness Month, a great time to talk about recovery, and to shed a little light on the challenges that can come along the way. A lot of us have gone through recovery, or have at least put ourselves on the path towards it. And I think we need to all be aware of that path and how it can look different for everyone, happening in different stages and following different timelines.
Quite some time ago I wrote a piece titled The Myth of Recovery. The ‘myth’ is the wrongful notion that recovery plans are written in stone, that there is ‘one’ singular approach. There are many different branches to recovery, and there is always going to be change involved, because recovery lies within a person or people, not just a well thought out document.
I consider myself a pretty organized individual. I like to plan and write things down, and to think about the process and steps I will need to take. But sticking to the plan and not being open to alterations I don’t think would work for me. I need to be able to adapt to what comes, I can’t just say, ‘Well, that wasn’t in the plan,’ throw my hands in the air and walk away.
From the time I sustained my brain injury through a viral infection to my current life and times, the different paths that I have taken have all included some form of recovery. From recovery of a coma, to the recovery of adapting to my role as a caregiver of someone living with a somewhat similar but also very different type of brain injury, and the recovery from a fairly major car accident (that by sheer luck resulted in no further injuries to my head, though it did affect my mental health in many ways); and now this, a global pandemic. During these recoveries I experienced difficulties in school and the workplace, and I started to finally begin to understand and explore my diagnosis of my brain injury.
Through every single one of those things there has been a plan, written or not. There have been changes that I have made when there has been a need for me to go off course. There have been changes where I’ve gone off course and there has been no need. I realized that you cannot always control everything about the recovery process. I have faced failure and the need to start from scratch. I have become lost at times.
But I have always managed to find my light; sometimes on my own or with aid from family or friends. Regardless, I am aware of this much: recovery takes time. Sometimes you must face certain things solo, and sometimes you need to let others in and allow yourself to take a helping hand. It is work that may require tiny, and always cautious, steps. Embracing these things, this notion, it helps me deal with anything I have to face.
I don’t know if I have fully reached the recovered stage of my life. Certain things have improved, wounds have healed, but I think it’s ongoing. Challenges will always come up, familiar or new, and I will work through it, because I know I can.
Recovery is a process we can all bear.
Mark’s passion to lend a helping hand, offer advice and give back, has developed into a moral and social responsibility with the goal of sharing, inspiring and growing, for others as well as himself. His experience of working in non-profit, volunteering, trainings undertaken, as well as being a Survivor, Caregiver, Mentor and Writer, has led to his credibility as an ABI Advocate.