Jasper Hoogendam reflects on his life with ABI (Acquired Brain Injury).
It took me a year before I was able to put into words what it was like to live with ABI (Acquired Brain Injury). Yes, I could describe the daily pains and limitations. But simple questions like “How’s it going?” were too open-ended. If it was intended as a greeting, a response of “I’m doing fine” didn’t make much sense. If not, I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know how to condense my experience.
Often I was asked, “Do you find it frustrating?” My first response was, “I’m thankful the injury wasn’t worse.” I had a sense of feeling okay with the need to live with it. At first, I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything. I was learning to cope. I was monitoring my progress. I was reading everything I could get my hands on about ABI, mTBI, PCS, PTSD and the rest of the “alphabet soup.” I was looking for ways to ease the pain, to manage the disappointment of an aborted career.
Being almost two years into my ABI life, I must say there are many things that I am appreciating. That might sound strange in light of having experienced significant loss. But there are things over the years that I have overlooked, didn’t have time for or rushed through. I now have the luxury of time to reflect.
The word “contentment” describes much of what I currently feel. I am content because I am less conflicted about receiving requests. Knowing my own limits, I don’t need to struggle with the often difficult decision of whether or how to say “no” when approached with a request. Previously, whenever I received a request and I recognized I had the skills to do it, I would find it very difficult to find a way to say no.
Now I have had time to reflect and set personal priorities. Even though my abilities are limited and often short-circuited by neural fatigue or sensory overload, I feel blessed by what I am able to do. I have no room for apologies. I have a stronger sense of being accepted for who I am, not what I do. That in itself is liberating.
I have rarely shunned new opportunities or new projects. The combination of excitement and a sense of accomplishment along with responding to a need were real motivators. Invariably this would be accompanied by words of appreciation.
Now I am content having time to connect with immediate family and extended family. Seeing the next generation emerging, learning, developing and acquiring a world perspective is exciting.
I am more content having life slow down. When life is hectic it brings with it an adrenaline rush. A slower life leaves me something to savour. Time to digest each experience.
There are things I long to do. These longings are the things I can envision myself eventually doing. It might be a long and slow road, but the longings grow as I experience healing in certain domains. I am content not having to meet very many fixed deadlines. When I experience setbacks and health challenges, the disappointment is not compounded by failing to meet deadlines.
Has my ABI diminished my quality of life? If it was quantifiable, the result might come as a surprise. Life can’t be reduced to a math equation.
I experience quality of life. I believe the weighted average has gone up.