Sep 15, 2022 10:39:58 AM
Approximately 2.5 million people each year suffer Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). It's a medical issue that is getting more awareness today, but still has a long way to go in terms of resources and information.
If you're living with a TBI, the best thing you can do is join a support group of others who understand what you're going through. TBI support groups offer you the opportunity to cope with your injury so that you can not only recover and get back to a normal life, but also help others.
Here's what you should know.
What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
What is a traumatic brain injury? It's any condition that causes brain trauma due to an external blow or other force.
It's an injury that affects adults and children alike. The 40 million active youth athletes each year need to be aware of the seriousness of these injuries and how to prevent them.
Older adults often suffer these injuries later in life from slipping and falling. People who work risky jobs may also suffer a TBI in their line of work. Once you have been diagnosed with a TBI, it's not something that you have to deal with alone.
What Are the Benefits of TBI Support Groups?
There's power in numbers. Plenty of people who have suffered TBI are finding support groups not just helpful, but essential.
After you have gotten diagnosed by a medical professional, ask them if they can point you in the direction of a support group. Once you do that, you can experience these benefits:
It Lets You Know You're Not Alone
Whether its a brain injury or any other traumatic event, joining support groups lets you know you're not alone. A big part of life is just knowing you're not going through something by yourself.
This gives you the strength to persevere, and also gives you a group of people that you can relate to. You can share things with them that others wouldn't understand, and vice versa.
You'll Learn More About Your Injuries
Joining a TBI support group gives you the knowledge that you need to respond to your injury. Having the right information can help ground your stress levels, so that you take a proactive approach to healing.
These groups can familiarize you with the recovery process and what it will require. They can provide you with literature and studies, and can exchange notes with you about what they've gone through in their recovery process.
They'll Teach You Techniques for Living With a TBI
More than anything, you need practical, actionable information that you can take with you. You'll get that when you join a TBI support group.
For example, dizziness and balance problems are common TBI symptoms. People in your support group can teach you information that'll help you learn how to gain balance, set up your home to protect you, and prevent dizzy spells from occurring.
They'll also tell you about alert systems and other helpful forms of tools and technology that people with TBI use to get help when they need it. Having access to these sorts of techniques will make life easier for you, and will allow you to press forward without doing any further damage.
Groups Provide Emotional Support
More than anything, suffering a TBI can create an emotional toll. People that suffer head trauma often find themselves depressed, and sometimes even suicidal.
At least 5% of the adult population lives with depression. This is more likely when you've gone through a traumatic experience like a traumatic brain injury.
The damage to the brain can also adversely effect your endorphins, which can also cause depressive symptoms.
While support groups aren't trained in a clinical sense, they can give you a shoulder to lean on when you need it. This way, you can decompress in a safe and healthy way, and will know that you have the strength to persevere.
It'll Steer You Toward Professional Resources
Professional resources are worth their weight in gold for people who have suffered any sort of TBI. You need a strong team of medical professionals, mental health professionals, nurses, and others who know these injuries and how to help people with them.
These resources can teach you about the differences of traumatic brain injuries in older vs. younger patients, so you can take the steps that you need.
You might even be able to take part in clinical trials for groundbreaking TBI treatments. The resources that you get will help you also deal with the symptoms, such as vision problems, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and others that come with the territory.
You Learn to Accept Yourself
Acceptance is a big part of joining any support group. When you deal with something as potentially traumatic as a TBI, the effects can be so jarring that you don't want to accept them.
Having a group of people you can be vulnerable with will help you learn to accept it so that you can take the healthy next steps toward recovery.
The Group Is a Safe Space
After suffering TBI, the outside world can feel confusing and even hostile. You may have trouble relating to people, and may fear expressing yourself because you don't want to be judged.
For example, the injury may have to cause you to relearn social cues and skills. Making social mishaps can be embarrassing, but with a TBI support group, you can practice your social skills again without fear of being judged.
You'll also get a safe space to vent your darkest and most negative feelings without a fear of being judged. You can bet that no matter what thought or emotion you have, others in the support group have gone through it or are currently going through it.
Caregivers Can Learn How to Help You
Joining a TBI support group is not just great for you, but it also benefits the people that help you out. If you have a person who provides care, you can share what you've learned in the group with them, or even invite them to some sessions.
This way, they'll come away with information and resources as well. It'll help provide your caregivers with treatment options to make them better able to support you.
Many people have the support of a spouse or medical professional. Ask others in the TBI support group for tips on communicating and relating with your caregiver so that you can strengthen that bond and make it more effective.
They Provide a Friend Circle
Don't underestimate the impact of friendship. Sometimes having a friend is the best thing in the world for a person going through a traumatic experience.
When you meet with the group consistently, you'll start to develop a kinship with them that is likely stronger than other people in your life. They'll become part of your social circle, and rather than a chore or obligation, the group will become a highlight of your week.
You'll hang out and build bonds outside of the group, and may even find friendships that last a lifetime.
You Get People to Vent To
Finally, the group can offer you a source to just plain vent. Whether those thoughts and feelings are good, bad, or indifferent, it doesn't pay to walk around without expressing them.
Getting it out will let you see these thoughts for what they are, and you'll feel less burdened overall. It will help you not walk around with as much stress, and you'll find it cathartic the more sessions that you attend.
Having this outlet to vent can make you more open and expressive in your everyday life as well.
How Can You Join a Support Group?
Now that you can see the importance of joining a TBI support group, how can you make it happen? There are several helpful steps you can take to not only find a group, but to find the best fit for you.
Start with these tips:
Search Your Region
In many cases, you'll find official organizations that list TBI support groups all over your region. If proximity is a big deal for you, do a search for the best support groups within your zip code so that you can find the right fit.
From there, you will be able to reach out to the people that run the group to find out the meeting schedule and begin attending.
Understand the Type of TBI You Have
Certain groups specialize in different kinds of TBI. That's why it's important to get a diagnosis early, so you can learn all about the type that you're living with.
Here are some of the major types of TBI that people suffer:
Second Impact Syndrome
Coup-contrecoup Brain Injuries
Diffuse Axonal Injuries
Penetrating Brain Injuries
Knowing as much as you can about the injury is a good place to start, because you will have an idea about the type of help that you need. It will also help you to find a group that you're on the same page with and that fits what you need.
For instance, if you're a younger athlete dealing with concussions, you might find more support around other athletes, rather than older TBI patients who have suffered different types of injuries.
Finding the place that you belong will give you the comfort that you need to eagerly stick to each session and get the most from it.
Sit in on a Group Meeting
You don't know what you're getting from a TBI support group until you see it for yourself. Ask the group what you have to do to sit in on a meeting to see if it's the right fit for you.
They might allow you to participate completely, or you may just take it in as a spectator. When you're there, be respectful of other people's privacy and vulnerability, but take mental notes to see what you like about the group. Before leaving, talk to the group organizer to share your feedback and to ask them how you can benefit from the group.
You may find the perfect match right away, or it may take a few different group visits until you get the best fit for your needs. Take whatever time you need, since joining a TBI support group is so helpful to your health and well-being.
We're Here to Help
Joining TBI support groups can help you live with your injury and get the assistance and resources that you need.
While we at Power of Patients wish we could fully eliminate the stress and emotional trauma for TBI and mental health survivors, we do provide them with a ground-breaking online tool to help manage these conditions.
We are also committed to driving research in both fields. Power of Patients is especially concerned with improving the welfare of those suffering from debilitating symptoms caused by TBI and resulting long-term headaches, loss of memory, and depression.
Using the Power of Patients customized symptom tracker to track one’s symptoms and healing will not only help you and your clinician to better understand your symptoms in a broader context, but it will also give Power of Patients the opportunity to use your information to study effective treatments for TBI patients. Overall, it is a win-win situation for patients, caregivers, clinicians, and medical researchers.
We are here with you through every step of your journey. Take the time to subscribe to our newsletter so that you can join our Power of Patients webinar series, and get notifications for new webinars and other valuable information.