True Life With Traumatic Brain Injury
Yes, it took me almost 20 years to be able to say it, but I have a traumatic brain injury. I am head-injured. There’s really nothing wrong with saying it, but for the first five years or so, I was not willing to tell people the reason I’m a little different.
The problem with that strategy was–for me– that I looked completely normal. People couldn’t understand why I made certain choices, and they didn’t comprehend why I would react the way I did when I was told my actions were inappropriate. It’s not because I’m mean, stupid, crazy or retarded; it was because I had a head injury–and my brain was doing the best it could given the circumstances.
Even the smallest things would set me off: I remember my dad telling me to stop reading and come out of my room when my sister was in town for a visit. That set me off. I wound up getting into a shouting match with him and stormed out the door to the garage, where I slammed my fist into a cinder block wall, shattering my fourth and fifth metacarpals, or the bones between the knuckles and the wrist on the right hand.
I was livid when I did this. It was just a way of acting out–a sort of temper tantrum, if you will. That was about 13 years ago. As a result of this little “temper-fit” I had to have surgery to insert a pin and a plate, along with four screws, to hold the bones together while they healed. Sometimes it still gives me trouble, but now I’m more careful about letting my anger get the best of me.
I have made poor decisions socially, as well. Most of what readily comes to mind is rather embarrassing, but it suffices to say that those choices resulted from my being “socially retarded.” I didn’t always pick up on cues from girls indicating that I was too close or was making them uncomfortable. I was treated by those who knew me before and shortly after my car wreck like I was a toddler. And subsequently, I relied on others to police my behavior. When my parents weren’t there, I felt as though I was free to make my own choices…which I wasn’t always ready to make on my own.
One reason for this situation was that my friends before my brain injury all but disappeared after I emerged from the coma. Granted, we really didn’t have all that much in common anymore, but it was really hard for me to accept that we were in separate places in our lives. While I was trying to make it through my two classes without falling asleep, they were trying to figure out what colleges to apply to, and whom to take to prom.
The disappearance of my friends left me feeling anxious and depressed. I first began to realize that something was wrong with me. I constantly started negative self-talk and began to question why people were staying away from me. When someone like my mother would say, “You don’t always behave appropriately,” I would get defensive, defiant, and even aggressive. Even my reaction to the truth was inappropriate.
So I have taken my love of the written language to the next level: with this blog, I have decided that I want to help others who have sustained acquired brain injury and their families. The goal is to provide hope for them that things (life, in general) do get better, indeed. It just takes a great deal of work in addition to the unwavering love and patience of those in the immediate surroundings.
As always, I’d love to hear what you have to say–if you yourself have acquired brain injury or if a loved-one has sustained brain trauma. Feel free to comment or shoot me an email if you’d prefer to keep your story more private.