Why I spend (most of) my weekends at home after brain injury


A brain injury can come with a variety of symptoms, from visual disturbances to changes in personality.

I have a diffuse axonal injury – a fancy term for damage to tissue in multiple regions of the brain – and the most significant symptom that comes with such a fancy term is fatigue.

When fatigue is present at all hours of the day, down time is precious. I work full-time, and anything beyond that requires a lot of thought, caffeine and an understanding that I need to be in bed by 9 p.m.

Unlike other symptoms of brain injury, fatigue is predictable: if I’m not at work, I’m probably at home. I may leave the house for a few hours on a weekend, or not at all.

My friends often ask what I do when I stay home, how can I stay occupied for all of those hours?

picture of Alyson's home: a picture on the wall of a door with a pillow on a white table that reads 'live, laugh, love' a coffee pot, mug and flowers on a wooden table. Coffee cup reads 'go away I'm reading'

My days at home start with the relaxation essentials: my diffuser and candles. Trust me, whether you want to feel relaxed, energized, renewed, happy or sleepy, there is an essential oil and candle for that. I take an opportunity to stay at home as one to take care of my body and feel good. This means alternating between sipping tea and water while I light up the diffuser and candles.

The reason I stay home is two-fold; I’m staying home because I’m exhausted and I’m staying home because I need to rest up for the week ahead. The more brain injury symptoms I’m having, the more likely I am to be on my couch.

Essential oils

While I spend some time watching movies and television, I can’t sit for hours doing this. My favourite activity when Netflix is off is reading. I usually have a lot of books on the go depending on my mood, including crime books, academic reads and something light, like Mindy Khaling. My other favourite activity is Sudoku, the extreme sport of the brain-injured. (On a side note: if you have any unused Sudoku’s from your newspaper, let me know!)

This down time has also given me more time to write. Beyond the BIST Blog, I also write for The Mighty and have contributed a personal essay to a feminist comedy book coming out in the summer.

Since I moved into a one-bedroom apartment and got an adult job, I have become obsessed with decorating (and redecorating) my apartment. I have decided that if I’m going to be spending so much time at home due to my disability, I’m going to make my home beautiful. I’m a big fan of fake plants as they are self-sustaining and do not care that I am a bad plant mom.

This may sound boring to the able-bodied as there are plenty more interesting things that one could be doing with their weekend. As a person with a disability, this works for me and ensures I’m able to show up for who and where I’m most needed.

Alyson is 26-years-old and acquired her first brain injury ten years ago. She graduated from Ryerson University and is a youth worker at a homeless shelter. In her spare time, Alyson enjoys writing, rollerblading and reading. Follow her on Twitter @arnr33 or on The Mighty.





The BIST guide to FREE Toronto fun – the quiet times, fewer crowds edition


Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit vendor

With traffic jams and massive street festivals taking over our city this season, it’s easy to think that every corner of Toronto is jammed-packed crowded, all the time. But fear not, it is possible to enjoy Toronto and avoid large crowds and too much noise. Here’s how:

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit

Are you an art connoisseur, or are you more in the category of, “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like?” No matter, there’s bound to be something to appeal to everyone at the annual Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit. Held every year since 1961, the exhibit features 500 artists in a variety of art forms including painting, sculpture and ceramics. WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

July 4, 5 and 6, Nathan Phillips Square
100 Queen St. West, 416-408-2754

ROM Walks

Are you one of those people who have lived here for years, but don’t really know much about the Toronto’s history or architecture? Then one of the twice-weekly ROM Walks may be just the thing to get to know the city a little better. Walking tours are held Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings between June and October, each one exploring a specific neighbourhood or location, such as the Old Town, Yorkville, the Annex or the Necropolis Cemetery. Walk themes are cyclical, so if you miss one, the same walk will be repeated a few weeks later. CALL FOR ACCESSIBILITY INFORMATION: 416 586-8097.

Sundays, 2-4 p.m. and Wednesdays 6-8 p.m. until October
Various locations, 416-586-8097
ROM Walks Brochure (PDF)

Music in the Garden

If classical or world music is your thing, then be sure and investigate the Music in the Garden series in the Music Garden at Harbourfront until mid-September.This summer’s concerts are so diverse, there’s bound to be something for everyone. WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

Various times and dates
Toronto Music Garden, 475 Queens Quay West
416-973-4000, info@harbourfrontcentre.com

Art Gallery of Ontario – Free on Wednesday Nights

Speaking of art, there are times when we may just need a bit of solitude – some time for quiet reflection away from the tribulations of everyday life. And what better space to find it than at the Art Gallery of Ontario?  Marvel at the Old Masters or discover something new you’ve never seen before in the beautiful Frank Gehry Redesign building on Dundas St. West near McCaul WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

Wednesdays, 6 – 8:30 p.m.
Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas Street West (near McCaul)

Outside the Art Gallery of Ontario


Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery is presenting numerous exhibits over the summer, including Vasco Araujo: Under the Influence of Psyche, Akram Zaatari: The End of Time and Pedro Reyes: SanatoriumWHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

231 Queens Quay West *Queen Quay is one-way only from Bay St. to Lower Spadina Ave. due to construction – see contruction updates here *
416-973-4949, info@thepowerplant.org

Heritage Toronto

Those particularly interested in Toronto’s history should definitely check out the walking tours offered by Heritage Toronto. Most are held Saturdays and Sundays and are about an hour and a half in length. While the walks are free, a donation at the end is always welcome.

Various times and lcoations, 416-338-1338

People on a Heritage Toronto Walk

Toronto Outdoor Club

Like keeping active? The Toronto Outdoor Club runs hikes throughout the city which are mostly free, guaranteed to help keep you fit, and let you discover new areas of our green city. You need to register for a hike in advance, and they fill up quickly. NOT WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE

Toronto Outdoor Club