"Life in a vegetative state," "unlikely to finish high school or university," "can't work on your own," – basically a life confined in bed. This was what my doctor said my life would be like after my accident. But I thought, “There is no way I can accept that. I'm going to be better and go beyond my brain trauma” – that was my conviction.
Life after traumatic brain trauma is not easy. There's no way it could ever be, and the hardest was accepting that my life will never be the same. Overcoming my accident and defying the doctor's prognosis was a lot of work. So let me tell you how I turned the "can't" into "how" after my brain injury.
The Accident and the Aftermath
It started when I got my first-ever tax return. It was pretty exciting, getting your first tax return and thinking about what you can do with it. I wanted to buy a car, but I couldn't afford it with the money I got, so I settled into buying a motorbike. I was in New Zealand then, and at 15, you can already get your license.
So, I had my motorbike, and I probably rode it a lot except, I don't remember much of what happened at that time. All that I can remember is that I was going to a basketball on the night of the accident. So there I was, out and about on a cold winter night in 1987.
My lights went out, and I died three times
I was going to the basketball and going through a roundabout when suddenly, my lights went out. A car collided with me. It was a hit and run, but I must have passed out because I don't know what happened next. All they told me was that I died three times. In the end, I was barely revived and left in a coma for three weeks.
If you can see me right now, you would never believe I was told I would live in a vegetative state. Right now, I'm a proud rehabilitation counselor, accredited mediator, and best-selling author. I'm enjoying success no one believed I'd attain through hard work and my sheer stubbornness.
I wanted to prove the doctors wrong
My sole drive and motivation then were to prove my doctor wrong. So when I graduated, I couldn't help but get it to my doctor's face. I sent him a copy of my degree and transcript, gloating. But to my surprise, he actually congratulated me. He was happy I proved him wrong, and that acknowledgment left me free from the anger I felt.
Only my psychologist gave me hope when I was depressed and resentful about my accident. While my friends were all doing okay, I was struggling with disabilities and making my body move the way I wanted it. I was down in the dumps, but I overcame it and am now happy to share with the world how I did it.
How I Enhanced My Memory and Mindset
This isn't a miracle, of course. With a traumatic brain injury as bad as I had, I needed plenty of strategies to achieve the success I dreamt of. I employed various techniques to help me cope up with the effects of my injury. I stay organized, plan my days, and take care of my health. But the six steps below are what really kept me going during those hard times.
1. Developed a positive mindset
First, I had to accept my situation. I had to take the good with the bad, focusing on the positives instead of the negatives. Maybe I'm in a vegetative state, but I'm not dead yet. My story isn't over, and I'm not letting it be. "Happiness is a choice," and I chose not to dwell with my misery but rise above it.
2. Proactively taking control of my health
Changing my mindset is just the first step. After the mind, I focused on the body. I took control of my health, which means diet, exercise, and hydration. The exercise was the most important. My body was severely injured, and so was my brain. I had to fix that by making sure I eat right, do some training, and stay hydrated.
3. Set solid goals
You would never achieve anything without a goal and a conviction that you'll accomplish it. In my case, my goal is to show the world that a vegetative state wasn't my end. So, I set my objectives – to learn everything again, get back to school, and get my degree. By putting my mind into those goals, I was able to stay on the path to success.
4. Paced myself
People say, "Study at your own pace." People improve on their own time, which I applied with my condition. I know I can't be impatient and that I had to pace myself. So I slowly went at it. I walked, talked, and moved at my own pace, slowly but steadily. It took me a long time, but I knew success was waiting for me.
5. Be surrounded by positive influences
I would never have succeeded in my goal if I didn't have positive people in my life. Without my family and friends, who kept my hopes up, I wouldn't be here. They were my support system. With them, I have shoulders to cry on and people to turn to. When you're in the dark, the positive people and influence in your life will always lift you out of it.
6. Utilized memory strategies
The last step is utilizing memory strategies. I collected memory tricks from mnemonics to even creating my own memory management app. I know I can no longer rely on my memory, but that doesn't mean I just had to live with that. I found that there are many ways to augment and supplement my retention and recall.
An accident like what happened to me at 16 was one of the worst things in a person's life. Like most people, I could have simply accepted my fate and followed the path set for me. But I'm all sorts of stubborn, so I pushed back, and I'm glad I did because here I am, telling other people my success story and helping others achieve theirs.