Changed Lives, New Journeys blog on life after brain injury

Listen to this post: 

Here’s a most fabulous blog! I like the title of it a lot because it doesn’t imply that any particular thing after a brain injury is inherently positive, negative, or meh. It’s changed. You have new journeys. The details are as individual as we are, and they can even change as much as we can.

It’s not just the name of Melanie Atkins’s blog that’s so open to interpretation and exploration. It’s the entire site itself. While Melanie describes the blog as being a place for supporters of people with brain injury, I adore reading it. I think anyone with an interest in brain injury would get a ton from the site. It’s a wonderful blend of technical information, links to extremely helpful resources, first-hand stories from survivors, and Melanie’s own journey of learning and growing. Her journey is humble, modest, and let me tell you what: it’s not a bad idea to read every word she writes. It might save you eons of time and tons of effort in trying to untangle things and answer questions all by yourself.

Here are a couple other reasons to go to this site if I haven’t yet convinced you. First off, Melanie walks the walk and talks the talk. I can’t even tell you how many times I engage in written and spoken conversations with speech-language pathologists who are experts in communication, and I can’t follow more than a few words or sentences at a time. I repeatedly ask people to slow down, use shorter sentences, and write lists with numbers or bullet points to help me see what I’m supposed to see. It’s not just speech therapists, to be fair. I run into this daily. I think in my own case, I’m a fluent writer and can pass as completely non-disabled in some settings. So people honestly don’t keep in mind that I have cognitive impairments. I can’t read nearly as well as I write, nor can I listen as well as I talk. I get lost in people’s emails and blog posts all the time, but…I look great! And so people don’t tend to write to me or talk to me with the accommodations that I need. Melanie, however, is keeping her blog with a huge range of people and experience levels in mind. It’s clear, straightforward, light, humorous, and filled with section headings and bullet points to guide your eye along the way. What a grand relief!

The other reason is that Melanie doesn’t act like an expert. So many of us want to help, to take someone else’s hand and guide them through the rough parts, to show the way and prevent someone else from struggling as much as we have. But when you mix that desire to assist, support, and guide with a way-too-strong dose of self-assurance and self-confidence, you can come across as preachy or a know-it-all. It’s one thing to share with the world what you have done to help yourself or someone else and invite them to try it; it’s completely another thing to decide that your personal experience should guide others because it’s the ideal experience, and you have the universal answers to just about anyone else’s problems. I see that in various places in the disability world. You HAVE TO try this diet to heal yourself because it worked for me. You HAVE TO get into this oxygen chamber. You HAVE TO make art. You HAVE TO accept this, that, or the other. You HAVE TO socialize in this particular way because it’s the healthy way.

This is not what Melanie does. Changed Lives, New Journeys is as much about Melanie’s explorations, questions, and humble confessions that she’s learning to see things in a new way as anything. I could stand to see much more of this.

We all deal with change and newness in different ways. What I find to be very supportive about Melanie Atkins is that she acknowledges that when one person sustains a brain injury, everyone in that person’s community can be changed. The person with a brain injury is not the only one responsible for examining themselves, learning about brain injury, and adapting. We are potentially all in the journey together. And none of us is above learning more.