7th June, 2021
I started a “sit spot” practise during lockdown. This involved spending 5 minutes outside every day in a quiet space, just paying attention to what’s around me and appreciating it. This mindfulness improved my focus and helped me find something I enjoy doing (photography).
Being mindful in nature lets you stop and think. Nature takes me away; it allows me to not think about anything, to relax. As I was more focused, I could really observe the details on plants and flowers around me and I realised they are all in their own micro-worlds and have their own challenges to overcome so they grow.
A bramble bush has a lot of adversity to conquer in its environment and in order to grow, it has to compete for light and other nutrients it needs. In order to ensure it gets what it needs, the bramble plant has evolved a number of adaptations to thrive.
Bramble plant runner reaching for the light
The bramble plant’s leaves find sunlight and grow in that direction, sending out vines/runners to find more nutrients and resources. It is reaching out of its comfort zone and adversity to get to a better place instead of staying where it is. Prior to the plant sending out any runners, the bramble will ensure that its root system is well established. If a vine finds an environment that provides what the plant needs to sustain itself, it will “lay” down its own root system. While the runner is forming roots and its own layers, it still connected to the parent plant and original root base for support until it is established enough to support itself alone. These adaptations mentioned above mean that when a bramble bush makes its reach for the light it can do so from a position of strength.
Not that I think I am a bramble bush, but in essence the same notion is applicable to myself in terms of my recovery. The bramble has to overcome many adversities in its attempt to reach sunlight from other stronger plants. As the plant moves along, every time it lays down roots and adds another layer, it becomes stronger. My family are my “roots” and are the most important part of my recovery, care and support. In hospital they kept me grounded and motivated during my recovery; from organising and finding different types of medical care, to listening to my anxieties and helping to rationalise them.
Bramble plant vines reaching out over a fence
My equivalent of the bramble sending out vines is making sure I have a multitude of different ways of coping with my impairments. It’s important to try other therapies and not rely on one thing. Some of the things I’ve found most beneficial for recovery are things I might not have tried before because I had no previous interest in trying them e.g. forestry, gardening and blogging. However, they provided a different environment to fill the void left from working. As they are task based activities, it doesn’t feel so much like I am there for ‘rehab’.
A fence isn't a barrier to the bramble plant sending out runners - they go over, under and even through!
A bramble plant has not only adapted to survive a harsh environment but to thrive and even prosper. Obvious and immediate limitations might not always impact success (the bramble doesn’t let barriers stop it from growing!) and the ability and willingness to adapt to the situation could be said to be more important. “Success” is relative to the individual; for example a Paralympian achieving outstanding feats of physical endurance to win the gold medal and someone with a brain injury navigating their way to town (and back!) are very different but they are both successes! When you are dealing with any condition that affects you cognitively or physically, achievements and goals may be different to what they were pre-injury. Although I want to succeed, be reasonably independent, have a family, responsibility etc., I know I have to reach my goals in a slightly different way now and in a way, these are my “light sources” that I am reaching for. Like a bramble, there is no set route to this destination and I can’t know at this point of my life if I can achieve these goals, but realise now this doesn’t mean I can’t have the same happiness in life. I’m just reaching towards it in a different manner and I’m going to keep on trying to add to my arsenal of adaptation to conquer the adverse environment of a brain injury.
Examples of layering and sending out runners
“ As a brain injured person it can sometimes be hard to feel positive about your progress but the gym instructor at Headway Cambridgeshire pushes me in the right direction and helps me to feel more enthusiastic about what I am able to achieve and what I might achieve in the future. ”