The word “should” may be one of the most hazardous words in the life of a brain injury survivor. It tends to appear in sentences such as “I should be walking already” or “I should have been back at my job by now.” The word confers a tremendous degree of expectation on the survivor and implies that somehow the survivor is a failure if he or she has not achieved what he or she “should” have achieved. Often, this word sparks a cascade of statements by which survivors verbally punish themselves. “I should have been able to walk without a wheelchair but I instead I fell. I should be doing better with my mobility. I am letting down my whole family!” These “should” statements can easily lead to depression, stress and damaged self-esteem.
The reality is that each brain injury heals at its own rate and as a result each survivor is left with his or her own unique set of challenges. After a serious brain injury, it often takes a survivor considerably longer than he or she may expect to reach goals due to the severity of the injury suffered. An injured brain is not like a broken arm. You cannot put a brain in a cast as you would put an arm, expecting that in a relatively brief period of time the brain will be healed. Brain injury rehabilitation is a process that takes time and patience. The only applicable “should” enters into consideration in emphasizing that the survivor should dedicate full effort to his or her therapies. That is all anyone, including the survivor, can reasonably ask for. As long as the survivor is giving his or her best effort, the survivor is doing everything in his or her power to get better. The rest of the process will depend on time, the practicing and learning of new skills and how the survivor’s individul brain heals following a specific injury. Recovery cannot be rushed or forced. “Should” statements that imply that somehow recovery ought to have gone differently are thus plainly revealed as emotional snares best avoided.
Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: http://tlcrehab.org/