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March 12, 2013 / Mark Kerrigan

Cursing after a Brain Injury


“Son of a..”

Before my TBI, I cussed, but not as much as many of my friends. But don’t get me wrong, I cussed. However, I watched my language around my parents and around any adult I’d come into contact with. However, after my TBI, when I could finally speak (eight weeks after my car wreck), I was a bit less guarded about my use of “colorful” words, as I liked to think. The first time I remember cursing in front of my parents was one time when I had to go to the bathroom, and you guessed it. “I gotta take a shit,” I announced unabashedly. I just said it as plainly as I would have said “I’m hungry.” It was just information that I thought would be helpful to those around me.

And that is pretty commonplace, as far as I understand. People who have BIs tend to have a bit more colorful language than non-injured people. When I worked at the Brain Injury Association of Tennessee, I heard about a nun who had been in a bad automobile accident, and underwent some serious personality changes. A priest-friend of hers went to see her while she was at a rehab, and although he was warned about the sister’s uncharacteristic behavior, he insisted on seeing her. One of the staffers explained to him, “Father, she’s really changed. She’s not at all like herself.”

“How bad could it be, right?” the father thought. He was a good friend to the sister, and he was there to support her after a horrible trauma. Really, how bad could it be?

Was he in for a surprise! He found the sister’s room, knocked and entered when he heard her voice from the inside. I imagine his mouth fell to the floor when he realized that the sister was bouncing on the bed, buck-naked and cussing as loudly and in as many ways as she could.

A friend of mine from high school said after her father had a stroke, he would routinely drop the F-bomb around her and children, leaving her with the responsibility of having to explain to her kids that Poppy didn’t mean to call you a F&#*@^% pain in the butt.

For myself, I tend to cuss when I’m really angry. It seems as though the madder I get the more the colorful words tend to fly. The first time my son heard me drop the F-bomb was when he was about 10 and we were on vacation in Crossville, Tenn. A little background, before you call me a horrid parent. My hips had no cartilage between the ball and the socket, so I was in tremendous pain constantly. Occasionally, while I was sleeping, I would get a sharp, stabbing pain through one hip or the other. And this pain would wake me just enough to cause me to scream out in pain. When it was particularly bad, though, I would actually scream the F-bomb in desperation.

So there we were in the same room at Cumberland Mountain State Park, and I awoke in tremendous pain. My son sat up in bed, looked around, and then lay back down to go to sleep again. I wasn’t sure about this for about 18 months, but now I realize that it must have happened. The surreal nature of what I thought I remembered, and what I had almost convinced myself didn’t occur slowly started to wane away as I came to realize that I must have done what I had thought.

And since I have known a whole host of people with brain injuries, I feel as though I can speak with a great deal of authority when I say that survivors of BI often have a penchant for cussing at inappropriate times.

Keep getting better, and I’ll talk to you soon.


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