Returning to driving after TBI – my experience for survivors and their families.

I wished so much at the time I went through what I’m about to tell you I had someone to help me through it who had been in a similar position to me. But, like the entire journey of my recovery has been, I had no one to speak to about it and I had to deal with it all myself. Like many of you guys out there, I know what its like.

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A hard thing to come to terms with after suffering a TBI is being told you are not able to drive.

Being an independent adult at the time of my injury, I was devastated to know that I wouldn’t be able to drive again for a long time.

At last … another opportunity to help me get my life back on track!

Looking back on this time in my life, I wasn’t respecting my brain injury and you can put it down to my age (22 at the time) or the knock to my head, either way it’s apparent. My first piece of advice would be to respect the fact you now have limitations and perhaps be a bit more aware of them than I was!

It was so early on in my recovery at this stage that I was still convinced I was ok and all the doctors were wrong about my symptoms and prognosis. I was in denial.

 

On the day of my ‘test’ my consultant had set up for me with a TBI specialist,  I experienced true fear for the first time.

People who have suffered brain injuries are sometimes unable to move on from subjects, they become stuck on them. We often ‘catastrophise’ or obsess over things which makes them appear far more intense and acute than they actually are. But that does not mean the fear is not real. 

The man who was due to assess me arrived 30 minutes late. Although I was told he specialises in brain injuries, he clearly didn’t have the knowledge that people with TBIs find it very challenging to deal with any sudden changes to plans or routines.

We got in the car and he wouldn’t stop talking to me. I was trying so hard to concentrate, but he just wouldn’t shut up.

People with TBIs have extremely compromised executive functions, and their ability to concentrate is also severely diminished. I found it so hard to concentrate under the pressure I was feeling in conjunction with his ability to talk non-stop without oxygen inhalation that I made silly mistakes.

I was devastated when he told me at the end of my assessment I’d need to see him more, because my driving wasn’t safe. I was certain he was trying to manipulate a vulnerable with the sole purpose to increase the linings of his pocket.

I took no for an answer. I felt my driving was safe and he was merely trying to take advantage of me in order to spend more money on him. In the report he’d written to my consultant (after I had shouted at the instructor down the phone, accusing him of being a manipulator) it was clear he was trying to falsely obstruct my progress.

There were numerous things in the report that didn’t happen. They were plain lies, and at this point it was clear what he was trying to do.

So I contacted my old driving instructor who had passed me before my accident. I told him what happened and asked if he would assess me instead.

He said yes. He showed up to my house on the day of the assessment and I drove him around Bournemouth for an hour and a half. After the assessment has said:

“If I’m honest Mikey, you drive better and more safely than my wife. There are no problems with your driving at all and I will write a letter to your GP as you asked. That other instructor was overcharging you and clearly trying to take advantage, I’ve heard of him”.

The letter he wrote was good enough for my GP, so I was back on the road after a year out.

After TBI, If you want something to happen, you have to go about it in your own way. Everything is a fight.

I know how it feels to be told you cannot drive. The depression and anxiety that comes with this is unbearable, I remember. I wish someone with a TBI could have told me:

Don’t rush. Respect your limitations, but understand you might need to think outside the box to achieve anything now. And if you’re not quite ready for driving, don’t be scared to take some refresher lessons to get your skills back on track. 

You survived a TBI. You’re already a certified badass, don’t let the rumination horrors, bouts of extreme depression and anxiety issues we face override this. I did at the time, but I’m now in a place where I ensure that these two daisys that I experience daily, never get the better of me.

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If you want to get back on the road, like everything in TBi world, slow and easy wins the race. Meditate everyday and get your emotions and thoughts in check as much as you can, then show everyone how much of a badass you are by getting yourself one step closer to living a happier life again.

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