The 3 Key Elements of MTBI Recovery

In Brain Injury, Recovery by Emerson Jane Browne2 Comments


Recovery is a delicate balance between achieving enough acceptance to have a modicum of peace yet maintaining a quiet rebellion which keeps you reaching for more.

I have reached a place of acceptance and adjustment with the post TBI me, but I have not reached a homeostasis nor defeat.

TBI Recovery is Continuous

The brain has an amazing ability to build new pathways, reconnect old ones, and recruit areas of the brain to take over the functions of damaged areas.

So the good news is that you will keep getting better.

The bad news is, it will often seem maddeningly slow.

The brain grows quickly but it seems slow because there is a lot more to grow when developing neural pathways. It is very different from simply healing a broken bone.

Compensatory Strategies aid TBI Recovery

The development of compensatory strategies to work around the brain holes is very important.

Compensatory strategies include tools such as a day planner, timers, pill organizers, post-it-notes, etc. The more you use those sorts of tools the more brain energy you will free up to do more important thinking, actions, and healing.

Plus utilizing tools like those actually helps with the reprogramming / remapping of the brain.  The saying “Use it or you’ll lose it!” in regards to brain pathways has a corollary of “Use it and you’ll map it!”

The compensatory strategies also become a way of life – in a good way.

People comment to me all the time about how organized I am.  The reality is I am so very organized because I have to be to survive because I cannot track everything in my head like I used to.  It has become my mode of operation now and I like it.  (I am going to write a series of posts that go into more of the “How To” of organizing after a brain injury.)

Adaptation is part of TBI Recovery

Adaptation is the second of the three important elements for TBI recovery.

Adaptation is “a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.”

As you begin to adapt to the “new you” your brain starts to figure out ways around some of your brain holes. Some of it you do consciously, but some of it just happens. Our brain figures out a way around a difficulty without conscious effort.

For example, finding words to express thoughts in a verbal conversation is still far slower for me than it used to be. So my brain started utilizing quotes and song lyrics in conversations to explain my points.

I can’t generate my own words quickly enough to keep pace with my thinking, but I can access someone else’s words quick enough to convey my thoughts.  It works quite well!

But I never set out to do that.  My brain just automatically found a way around the expression issue.

Compensatory Techniques for TBI Recovery

Another form of adaptation is that we get more comfortable in using intentional compensatory techniques.  As we heal, our brains gets faster and smoother at utilizing compensatory techniques.

An example of a compensatory technique is circumlocution. Circumlocution is the act of describing around the word that that you cannot find.

I have gotten so good at “talking around” the word I can’t find I do it without letting it interrupt the flow of conversation. People barely notice that I am having a hard time finding a word.  They are focused on the content of what I am saying and often they will even supply the word without even being fully aware that they did it. The conversation goes on without missing a beat.

An important point to make here is that what we struggle with is stuff everyone does; we brain injury survivors just do it a whole lot more. everyone forgets words and uses circumlocution. Many people also use quotes to make their points.

We brain injury survivors know that we do it a whole lot more than “everyone”. The trick here is that if we can relax about it, and act like it is normal (even when we want to scream that it is not normal for us) the problem gets in the way a whole lot less.


Recovery is a delicate balance of pushing ourselves to achieve more and being compassionate and gentle with ourselves around the slow process of brain recovery.

Have patience. You are getting better daily whether you see it or not.

Emerson Jane Browne
I am Emerson Jane Browne. I write about Brains, Apps, & Productivity, and many other aspects of Life. I speak to TBI support groups, speak and teach workshops at tech, music, and writer conferences. I consult with organizations on strategic planning and building a strong community.