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About My New Normal

Suzanne Tobin is a former copy editor and designer for The Washington Post. At 59, in great health and working full-time as a copy editor for AARP, Suzanne was planning a trip to London to celebrate her 60th birthday, when everything changed. She experienced a series of seemingly unrelated health complications... Read more

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Blog ABCs of Brain Injury: R is for Routine

Before my brain injury, I thought routine was a bad thing. Routine was “phoning it in,” not caring, being subpar.

Routine was BOR-ING, I thought.

After my brain injury, fellow survivors told me having a routine would be crucial to a successful recovery.

What I’ve realized five years out is that having a routine is a much calmer, and saner, way to live. That doesn’t mean it is easy.

Brain injury survivors are often confused due to a short- or long-term memory loss.  It is frustrating and makes one feel crazy.

For example, I may have no memory of taking my pills, but the “morning” compartment of my pill box is empty and the pills are no longer on my breakfast plate. So even though I don’t remember taking them, evidence suggests I did.

What’s a proud, stubborn brain injury survivor to do when something like this happens?

I have a few choices.

I can continue to be angry about my deficits, question my sanity, and become agitated and irritable. Or I can just relax and try something different: perhaps check it off on a daily routine list or on my phone’s to-do list to double check myself.

Before my brain injury, I also arrogantly thought routine was for those beneath us smart, ADD multitaskers.

I had been told how smart I was my whole life, showing off as a kid by spelling words like Mississippi and onomatopoeia as a young child.  (Reality check: today I had to look that last one up. Thank you, Google.)

Now I have humbly concluded that multitasking is a myth, even if you have a healthy brain, which is no longer true for me.  One of my therapists and I coined a new term: unitask, meaning I should  just focus on doing one thing at a time to the best of my ability and be satisfied with having made the effort, not judging the quality of the outcome.

My left hand is still not online with my brain, but I’ll keep trying by touch typing with all five fingers on the right and just my index finger on the left, as my hand therapist suggested. It’s painfully slow, but it gives me hope that someday I will attain my ultimate goal: to be able to put in my contact lenses again and get rid of these glasses that I hate.

As my mother used to say, “Do your best and leave the rest.”

They are good words for a  brain injury survivor to live by.

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Suzanne Tobin

About Suzanne Tobin

Suzanne Tobin is a former copy editor and designer for The Washington Post.

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