Mickey & Steve working out a construction problem

There is a mystique in this country about the "working man." In recent years the mystique has expanded to include women. What is it and where did it come from? It most likely is a descendant of the Puritan work ethic, and the basic tenet is that a working person is a "good" person. The opposite therefore is implied to be true - a person who doesn’t work isn’t good. While most of us know on a logical level that these are not valid assumptions, most of us at the same time really believe deep down inside that there is some truth to these beliefs. This conflict in beliefs can put us in a terrible pickle. People who have suffered a brain injury may feel driven to return to a job that is no longer relevant or possible.

In the first days, weeks, months and sometimes years, after a person has suffered a brain injury, the main priorities are to regain as many functions and abilities as possible. After a period of time, depending on the severity of the injuries, many people begin to consider going back to work. This consideration is entirely personal and specific, involving a myriad of questions and answers.

Your life has been irrevocably changed. You are different in some ways than you were before the injury. Are you now physically, emotionally and mentally able to do the same job? Do you want to do the same job? For the same number of hours? What happens to your self-esteem, your sense of self, if you are unable to return to work? How much is your sense of self tied to your occupation?

Are friends, family or coworkers encouraging you to return to work? What kind of message does this give you? What has changed in your situation and how will this impact on your ability to return to work?

Fortunately vocational rehabilitation specialists can help with the problems that you may encounter. In addition to helping you assess your current skills and abilities, counselors can evaluate the workplace, meet with the employer, recommend adaptive devices or changes to the work site where needed, provide counseling for both worker and employer, and help you develop compensatory strategies.

Sometimes you can learn from others who have had a brain injury. This issue of NeuroNews focuses on work related issues. Some of the articles are written by professionals, some by survivors and some by care givers. We hope you will find this information interesting and helpful.

Revised: Saturday, February 23, 2002 08:42 AM