“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”
If this quote from Booker T. Washington is to be taken at face value (and I believe it should), then traumatic brain injury survivors are some of the most successful people on the planet. Think about it: there is literally no bigger potential obstacle than having to rebuild your life while your brain slowly reconstructs itself. From the agony of physical therapy to the agonizingly slow pace of neuro rehabilitation, people with brain injuries know they can either accept the challenge or settle into a new, lonely and depressing existence. Assuming that you’re either the former or a caregiver to the former, we have compiled this list of books and links with you in mind.
The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge, M.D.
The concept of "neuroplasticity" is quickly becoming gospel in brain injury rehabilitation circles. Basically, it means that the brain can rewire itself after a trauma. To borrow an analogy: neuroplasticity is “muscle memory” for your brain. In this fresh look at the brain, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, M.D., provides an introduction to both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity and the people whose lives they've transformed. Click here to purchase
Falling Away from You: One Family's Journey Through Traumatic Brain Injury by Nicole Vinson Bingaman
This is the story of Taylor Bingaman and his journey through the world of traumatic brain injury. Authored by Taylor’s mother, Nicole, this book recounts the events following Taylor’s devastating fall down the stairs. She brings to life what happened in his accident and the rehab process that followed in a very personal and candid way. She reminds readers that each day is a precious and irreplaceable gift and that it can take a village to heal a brain injury survivor. Click here to purchase
Over My Head: A Doctor's Own Story of Head Injury from the Inside Looking Out by Claudia L. Osborn
This is an inspiring story of how one woman comes to terms with the loss of her identity and the courageous steps she takes while learning to rebuild her life. The author, a 45-year-old doctor and clinical professor of medicine, describes the aftermath of a brain injury that stripped her of her beloved profession. For years she was deprived of her intellectual companionship and the ability to handle the simplest undertakings like shopping for groceries or sorting the mail. Her progression from confusion, dysfunction and alienation to a full, happy life is told with great style, and considerable humor. Click here to purchase
Mindstorms: Living with Traumatic Brain Injury by John W. Cassidy
Navigating your way through the morass of doctors, medical jargon and the healthcare system can be daunting, especially when you only want what's best for the person you love. Dr. John Cassidy has devoted the past twenty-five years to helping families cope with traumatic brain injury. Mindstorms is his compassionate, comprehensive manual to demystifying this often frightening and life-changing condition. Click here to purchase
Traumatic Brain Injury: A Caregiver's Journey by Lydia Greear
Many family members are not prepared to deal with the drama of life after a traumatic brain injury. Greear provides a day-by-day account of her son’s journey from injury through rehabilitation. This book is written from the family member’s perspective and includes written accounts published by former patients, doctors and doctors who were patients. This book is a passionate account of the author’s journey as caregiver and guardian for her adult son following a traumatic brain injury. Click here to purchase
An Insider's Guide to the Injured Brain: A Workbook for Survivors and Those Who Support Them by Ruth Curran MS and Mary Lanzavechhia
Co-authored by two brain-injury survivors “The Insider’s Guide” provides insight and practical suggestions for survivors and their support systems. Generous in personal narrative and community sharing, “The Insider’s Guide” acknowledges the hidden world of brain injuries, validates the pain of the process and pushes you to work through it all. With an empathy that can only come from experience, “The Insider’s Guide to the Injured Brain” invites you to fumble, practice, work and ultimately grow your way into a new normal that feels sustainable, supported and full of life.
Click here to purchase
League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru
“PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYERS DO NOT SUSTAIN FREQUENT REPETITIVE BLOWS TO THE BRAIN ON A REGULAR BASIS.” So concluded the National Football League in a December 2005 scientific paper on concussions in America’s most popular sport. That judgment, implausible even to a casual fan, also contradicted the opinion of a growing cadre of neuroscientists who worked in vain to convince the NFL that it was facing a deadly new scourge: a chronic brain disease that was driving an alarming number of players - including some of the all-time greats - to madness. Click here to purchase
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
An award-winning memoir and instant bestseller that goes far beyond its riveting medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity. While the author did not sustain a traumatic brain injury, her experience with encephalitis has much in common with that of a TBI survivor. In her breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen. Brain on Fire is a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic. Click here to purchase
The Day My Brain Exploded: A True Story by Ashok Rajamani
Following a brain bleed at the age of twenty-five, Ashok Rajamani, a first-generation Indian American, had to relearn everything: how to eat, how to walk and to speak, even things as basic as his sexual orientation. With humor and insight, he describes the events of that day (his brain exploded just before his brother’s wedding!), as well as the long, difficult recovery period. Irreverent, angry, at times shocking, but always revelatory, his memoir takes the reader into new territory. That he lived to tell the story is miraculous; that he tells it with such aplomb is simply remarkable. Click here to purchase
After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story, A Journaling Workbook by Barbara Stahura and Susan B. Schuster
This workbook guides TBI and blast injury survivors through the cathartic experience of telling their own stories with simple journaling techniques. By writing short journal entries, survivors explore the challenges, losses, changes, emotions, adjustments, stresses and milestones as they rebuild their lives. Journaling after brain injury helps written and verbal communication skills as well as provides cognitive retraining for following instructions. It helps promote self-awareness as well as recognition of strengths and difficulties after brain injury. It is a tool for planning for the future and discussions with family members.
Click here to purchase
Beyond the books we compiled for this list, there are literally hundreds of texts written by and for brain injury survivors, their loved ones and caregivers….which ones would you recommend to the world?
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About the Doc
Dr. Bryan Weinstein is a practicing psychiatrist with certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He has practiced psychiatric pharmacology and psychotherapy since 1997. Dr. Weinstein is the CEO of Life Skills Village.