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Is lethargy a common after effect of brain injury?

I’m a year post CO poisoning and find it so hard to get motivated to do anything, even getting washed and shaved. I need prompting a lot of the time. All I seem to want to do is lie on the sofa all day, getting up only for a drink or some food.

I enjoy having friends around for a coffee and a chat, but don’t feel like venturing out at the moment.

I’m afraid that I’ve lost the fighting spirit which i know is so important to recovery. Having tried to fight my mental illness for thirty odd years, then suffering with ME, I’m feeling a little defeated by life to say the least.

Yet I read on here so many stories about people who were far worse off then me learning to walk, read and write again.....I feel like a bit of a failure for not being able to muster up that king of motivation and being a bit overwhelmed by my symptoms.

Sorry to be a bit of a downer but needed to share.

Any experience really appreciated.


11 Replies

Hi Ian.

I am tempted not to answer if that answers your question. Sorry not really funny.

Seriously yes it is common. People do learn to recapture skills one to get back to how they were but mainly as a focus.

It is hard to find the get up and go but keep pushing it will come



Thanks Pax.....actually it was funny!


Yes and it is a real challenge, many days more than others to find the motivation and feeling good enough to do even the simple things in life. Main thing I think is to make it ok that you're having these challenging days. Pick and choose what things seem to be the most important to do. As an example - I found the whole ritual of showering shaving etc many days so very exhausting. I am now a little over 4 years post event and settled into my new routine of shaving every other day and have made it ok that that is all I can do. Other things are more important. Before I would have never done that. Accepting my new normal, whatever that has helped me. It doesn't mean you'll never make improvements but you'll make discoveries on how to compensate for what has been lost in many ways and figure out the new ways to take care of things.

Be kind to yourself in this new frustrating life. It is OK to have bad days, just not any fun to deal with. I'm sorry this has happened in your life. I wish you well going forward.


Thanks.....being kind to ourselves I suppose is the best thing we can do.


Something that really helped me was a timetable I set up for myself. In manageable half hour slots. Time to wash, to eat, to rest, to yoga, to rest, to walk, to (try to) read, to eat, to rest, ta talk to a friend, to colour in books to eat and then sleep....

If I had to think about what to do I would always (and sometimes still will) choose to do nothing. But knowing I had plans and a timetable to achieve really helped me.

Half an hour seemed do able each time.

Worth a try?

Good luck


Thanks Moo, you reminded me that I’d drawn up a little schedule with my neuropsychologist a few months ago, and had totally forgotten it, so pulled it out again. Mainly includes calming activities like listening to music, taking baths, listening to audio books etc.

Thanks for reminding me.


We can wear ourselves out worrying about what we should be doing and it's rarely productive anyway. The indecisiveness is paralysing so, as Moo suggests, decide what needs doing (even if it's only one task) and note it down before going to bed. I always leave notes by the kettle so I can't miss them when making my morning cuppa !

Often, if we motivate ourselves into doing one small task, we create enough adrenalin to inspire more action and hopefully WANT to do stuff rather than just needing to.

I've been especially unmotivated these past few weeks owing to a spinal issue which needs loads of rest with occasional gentle movement. So it's been easy to justify doing nothing, mostly owing to the pain. But today I needed to attend a fundraising event (which I dragged myself to and endured long enough for a coffee & to donate). But afterwards I found myself wanting to do more with the day.

It's about producing the necessary brain chemistry Ian and, considering the nature of your brain injury, you'll need any trick in the book the overcome your handicap. If you're really stuck, you might consider an addition or change of meds to compensate for low levels of Serotonin.

Starting small, but decisive, often means more will follow rather than overwhemling goals which never get off the ground. How about a walk around the block tomorrow, come rain or shine..............and take it from there ? xx


Hi Cat, thanks once again for taking the time to reply so fully. I’ve noticed how often you reply to posts on here, and am guessing that you are a real blessing to so many who post.

I managed to motivate myself to go out for lunch with my wife yesterday, and to find a time for prayer. It was so good to feel the fresh air as we walked the short distance from the car to the cafe. Sadly walking around the block is impossible for me at the moment because of my ME, but I can do very short distances. Maybe as Taia suggests I could do some simple exercises.....better than nothing.

I think I’ve been feeling a bit down the last couple of weeks because of exhaustion....we had our two adult children and three grandchildren visit for a long weekend and I threw myself into that because I wanted to, but I’ve probably pushed it too much.

I’m looking forward to Spring so that at least I can just go and sit in the garden rather than stay cooked up in the house all day long. We’ve even discussed getting a wheelchair so that I can go a bit further afield.

I know I have to overcome a victim mentality but every now and then I fall back into it!

Thanks again for your reply and hope that you can get some relief for your spinal issue.

Ian x


Dear Ian,

I just was hearing a program on which they mentioned that viewing actions as optional makes them unlikely to be done. This is basically validation of Moo's suggestion: Perhaps just a couple of actions at a time, at first. If you choose two or three key activities that you will make imperatives, rather than choices, you will be on your way. The people you refer to made progress in very small steps. Don't wear yourself out by looking ahead at the full journey. (I myself could not walk a full block without stopping several times just a couple of years ago. After spending money on a lot of approaches to "fixing" the issue, I made a commitment to a daily session at home of seemingly inadequate exercises that I could barely do when I started; today I am no longer in pain. The progress came in millimeters, but it came.)

One other thought. I once found myself "stuck in Neutral" mentally/emotionally, as you describe. I wandered through a bookstore and ended up buying two books: "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale and a book on Time Management. The combination of the attitude NVP inspired me to take and the practices in the time management book led me to put one foot in front of the other and climb back into a consistently motivated state.

Be patient and kind with yourself. You have endured so much. But you are so deserving of the little joys of life that come when we push past barriers and lose ourselves in the benefits of the moments beyond those barriers -- the feel of the warm water in the shower, the freshness of the air outside during a short walk*, the little lift that you sense in someone else when you greet them with a smile.

Your self awareness is a great starting point. Notice that you took action: You wrote the post. I wish you all the best as you take the additional steps that you seem ready to take.

Best wishes,


* If that walk can be in a natural setting rather than a populated area, all the better. The former has been shown to leave people with a more positive, less self-critical frame of mind


Hi Taia, thanks for a lovely, encouraging reply. Some really good advice....as I mentioned in my other replies I’m going to take on board the advice re time management and finding enjoyable activities within my limitations.

The way you described getting outside and feeling the fresh air on my face was a real motivator.....I used to be a serious hiker!

Thanks again,



Been there 15 years of fighting The fatigue, unwillingness to function normally /socially.Self isolation.... I did endeavour to try random Healthy fixes. Green tea, sushi All week, various Holland &Barret potions.

Do make a complete List of Anything that makes you happy, and Try do something, regardless of others. Big one for me was music to shift my state of mind.

You're Not Alone, you Found Headway Helpers.


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