That time of the year, again

BY: MARK KONING

This time of year, I often find myself singing along to that old Christmas carol, ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year.’ Having said that, I also often find myself asking if that’s really the case.

We are in a season that can be full of cheer and magical moments, but as a brain injury survivor, the season can also be stressful and tiring. I feel more isolated during the Holiday Season than at any other time of year. It is a tug of war as I go back and forth, I enjoy the festive times, but they take their toll.

I feel more isolated during the Holiday Season than at any other time of year.

I look forward to the memories and experiences the holidays bring; an ‘Ugly Christmas Sweater’ party, watching Die Hard (what I consider the staple Christmas movie), the Santa parade (which, in my home town is done at night where you can get an awesome effect from the lights regardless of how much snow is on the ground), a Christmas Open House and hanging beautiful lights outside my house. I cherish these things, but I also need to pace myself. If I am not careful, it all can become too overwhelming, depressing even.

Where is the snow I remember as a youngster and into my teens? The kind I could build forts from, have snowball fights with, and make snow angels in. It seems to be few and far between.

Maybe I just don’t have the energy I used to. I get a little impatient with an overabundance of too many Christmas tunes, but at the same time they can get me rockin’ and into the festive mood.

There are two types of people in the world: those who think die hard is a Christmas movie and those who are wrong

I love this time of year, and I also dread it. What is up with that? Is it the familiar territory of my brain injury not knowing what direction to go in? I can tell you I’d rather believe in Santa and his reindeer than deal with this ongoing fatigue and confusion.

I love seeing the smiles from my niece and nephew after they unwrap their gifts, but navigating large crowds at the mall can be frustrating and painful. My head can only handle so much, so I try my best to avoid the consumerism of the season. The fact that there seems to be so much build up only to have it all go by so quickly can also be disparaging.

Is it simply the time of year? The lack of sun, the cold and the damp, these elements do not help my fragile mind. Christmas in July then? Perhaps. But maybe I just need to carry this spirit of the holidays with me all year round. Maybe I should put that in a note to leave with the cookies and milk I put out by the fireplace on the 24th.  Hmm.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!


Mark’s passion to lend a helping hand, offer advice and give back, has developed into a moral and social responsibility with the goal of sharing, inspiring and growing, for others as well as himself. His experience as a Survivor, Caregiver, Mentor and Writer, has led to his credibility as an ABI Advocate and author of his life’s story, Challenging Barriers & Walking the Path. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Koning or go to www.markkoning.com.

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Gift shopping with a brain injury

BY: ALYSON ROGERS

All I want for Christmas is a brand new brain – just kidding – but shopping for the holidays with a brain injury can be a struggle.

This time last year, I could only manage going between home and work. Doing anything extra became extremely difficult due my physical brain injury symptoms. I tried to go into the mall, and had to leave almost immediately. This lead to me doing all of my gift shopping online. Now a year later, my health has significantly improved, but I still plan to do my shopping online.

Woman drinking a hot drink on a grey couch wearing red christmas socks with snow flakes and reindeer

I realized that as much as I love shopping, the mall at this time of the year is not my friend. I find the crowds overwhelming and I’m already uncoordinated; trying to walk through a hoard of last minute shoppers is the equivalent of being a professional athlete for someone with a brain injury. The bright lights bother my light-sensitive eyes, and while the Eaton Centre tree is beautiful, I can’t look at it for too long. It’s hard for damaged brains to process so much sensory information, such as what I have described above, and I haven’t even gotten to picking out gifts yet.

Due to the part of my brain that has sustained damage, I struggle with making decisions.  I have a hard time deciding what to buy someone in a quiet room, let alone while trying to process all the sights and sounds going on around me. My holiday trips to the mall often end up with me being very fatigued and coming out with little, no or the wrong gifts. This defeats the entire purpose of going to the mall in the first place.

Giant Reindeer infront of the giant Christmas tree at the Eaton Centre
PHOTO VIA CF EATON CENTRE FACEBOOK 

This year, I don’t plan to enter any mall for gift shopping, I will order everything online.  Having a brain injury is exhausting enough and if I can do something to negate or avoid symptoms, I will. People often ask me if I am worried about my gifts coming late. I am not worried about this, because my loved ones will understand that it’s easier for me to shop online and sometimes gifts arrive late. If they don’t, they’ll be on the Naughty list next year.

Happy Holidays!


Alyson is 26-years-old and acquired her first brain injury ten years ago. She graduated from Ryerson University and is a youth worker at a homeless shelter. In her spare time, Alyson enjoys writing, rollerblading and reading. Follow her on Twitter @arnr33 or on The Mighty.

How to survive the holidays when you’re recently injured

BY: DAWNE McKAY

Christmas can be a challenging time for all of us but it can be extremely difficult for many collision survivors, or others, who are recovering from a brain injury. Everything is supposed to be happy with plenty of family and togetherness, but what if you are a survivor of a car crash or another recent brain injury? As survivors, we need to acknowledge that the holidays will be different this year.

Here are some helpful tips to support you during this festive period:

1. Say yes to help!

There will people who will want to help and may offer their support. Take them up on their offers. If family members or friends aren’t offering, ask. If you have always been independent like me, I found this very hard to do, but it is so important. Asking others to help with cooking, shopping or decorating can be a big relief and can help take away some of your stress.

Say yes to help

2. Decide where you want to spend the holidays.

You may want to change the location especially if you travel out of town every year to celebrate with family. Ask your family members to come see you or suggest a Skype or Facetime chat if you are unable to celebrate with them this year.

3. Remember that not everyone will be feeling the same way as you.

Be honest. Tell people what you want or what you do not want to do for the holidays.  Let them know what will make you uncomfortable, such as a drive to visit a relative.  Make it clear that some things aren’t easy for you.

4. Don’t send holiday cards if you are not up to the task.

Finding addresses and writing cards can take a lot of energy and could cause unnecessary fatigue. Your family and friends will understand if they do not receive a card from you this year.

5. Make a Holiday list and check it twice.

Yes another list!  Surviving a collision and recovering from a brain injury makes it harder for us to concentrate and remember things. Once you complete a task on your list make sure to check it off as you go. Put your list in a safe spot. I always have my list on the front of my fridge so I can always find it and have easy access to it.

If you are stressed about getting to the mall or walking around with the crowds, cut back on gifts or shop online.

alone time is necessary especially if you are recovering

6. Skip (or minimize) the decorations if it is too much for you this year.

You don’t have to have the perfect tree, perfectly wrapped gifts, and perfect table. Accept that this year may not be perfect and that it is okay. Ask someone for help.  Remember that your family and friends are there to help and they will understand.

7. Remember that crying is okay.

The holidays can be overwhelming even for someone that is not recovering from a collision. If you have a house full of guests, excuse yourself if you feel a cry-fest coming on and take some time to yourself. Find a quiet spot to de-compose. Holidays can be hectic so “alone” time is necessary especially if you are recovering.

8. Watch the food

Food can make us feel better in the short term. Don’t deprive yourself, but be careful that you do not let food become your holiday comfort especially if you are sedentary. You already have enough going on with your recovery without having to deal with a bad stomach from overeating or a sudden weight gain.

9. Watch your intake of alcohol.

Alcohol can become a fast friend when we are feeling anxious, stressed or simply overwhelmed. You may already be taking prescription medication for your injuries and those two substances are not a good mix.

Accept that this year may not be perfect and that it is okay

10. Splurge on a gift for you if you can.

Make it small and simple. I always treat myself to a beautiful Christmas Bouquet at Christmas and place them in an area where I can always see them. When I find myself overwhelmed or frustrated, I gaze upon those lovely flowers and it helps lessen my anxiety even if its just for a few minutes.

11. Take a social media diet

Limit your use on social media during the holidays especially if you are feeling frustrated, sad or lonely. Your eyes need to rest!

12. Stick to a proper bedtime

Try your best to go to bed the same time every night. An hour before bed, start winding down your activities so you can set yourself up for a good night’s sleep. Think of this as your time to power down: focus on relaxing your body and mind.

13. If you’re still in hospital 

If you are in the hospital recovering from a crash this Christmas, it is only natural that you may be missing your family and friends not to mention all the wonderful food and festivities. Remind your family members and friends to visit you only if you feel up to it. If they cannot visit, ask them to call you at a certain time so you do not feel alone or left out. Ask a family member or friend to bring you something from home that is festive to bring some Christmas joy to your room.


Dawne McKay is a survivor of a horrific car crash and is the Founder of the online support group MVA Support & Recovery which allows survivors of collisions from all over the globe to come together to support each other as they navigate their road to recovery. Dawne is also the Founder of “Sharing Our Recovery” which is a quarterly newsletter filled with informative up-to-date articles from organizations, groups and businesses relating to Motor Vehicle Collisions. In 2018, her advocacy continued as she became a “Crash Survivor Blogger.  You can find her writing about her own personal experiences during recovery which includes advice and tips for survivor on our Crash Survivor Blog