I have an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). My ABI is a direct result of a suicide attempt in 2009 that left me in a coma for over ten days, caused a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in my lung), two cardiac arrests and decreased or interrupted the flow of blood and oxygen to my brain…causing injury. 

I am not the same person I was before the injury.

My ABI may not be obvious to most but it’s painfully obvious to me. I am not the same person I was before the injury. I am no longer the queen of multi-tasking and organization. My attention, focus and memory are short-lived. The way I take in new information, process it and remember it is not the same. 

The injury affects my daily life. I used to be able to whip up a delicious meal without much thought or effort. Now it takes more time and parts of it may end up burnt while other parts are not cooked long enough. Thankfully the friends and family that join me for these meals are gracious and hungry!  

I’m easily distracted. I often start a task but don’t complete it because I think of something else that needs to be done and move immediately to that task. Clothes get left in the washer without being washed. The sink gets filled with warm, soapy water and dishes but by the time I think of them again the water is cold. These sound like small things but they’re the type of tasks I used to master easily. 

Some people are patient and understanding and others are not.

In order to understand and retain new information I need to hear it and/or see it several times. I have a hearing impairment so sometimes I have to ask someone to say something twice before I hear it and then may ask again, five minutes later, for the same information. Then I’ll likely write it down…in at least two places and may still forget. Some people are patient and understanding and others are not. 

I wasn’t able to return to the job I had previous to the injury. I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments and I am still learning how to cope with the help of understanding professionals at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre in Halifax. 

All of these issues, and more, cause me a great deal of frustration. I know what I used to be able to accomplish. I remember being able to multi-task and being very organized…always on top of everything! Now I struggle. I’ve lost confidence in my abilities. My self-esteem has plummeted. Some days I feel completely useless and helpless. I also feel a great deal of shame and guilt, knowing that this injury is the direct result of self-inflicted harm. 

Living with an ABI and a mental illness is challenging to say the least. I have to put one foot in front of the other. When I stumble and make mistakes I have get back up and put that same one foot in front of the other again…try again. Some days it’s much easier said than done.  

All I can do is learn to accept it and accept the new me.

I cannot reverse the ABI. I can’t make it go away. All I can do is learn to accept it and accept the new me. I have to stop being so hard on myself…stop kicking myself and instead pick myself up and keep going.

About Debi Noye

Debi is a writer, a mental health consumer, and a suicide attempt survivor. As part of her recovery, she has found freedom in embracing her creative side (painting and creating mail art as well as writing), which allows her to be open and honest about living with a mental illness. Debi is passionate about playing an active role in the mental health community, not only as a consumer but also as a friend, resource, and advocate for other consumers. She lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.