Coping WithTBI

When I was first diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury, I felt relief. Finally there was a name for what I had been suffering from. There were so many deficits that altered my ability to function normally.

For instance, when driving, my judgement,reasoning and reaction time all put me in danger. When I saw a traffic signal my mind was on a delay of sorts. I had to determine the color of the light,the meaning of the color, and then my brain had to tell myself what action to take. I have on several occasions been afraid to make a wrong move.When in doubt,I sit still for a moment. I might irritate some folks behind me. But,all I took was a little of their time. I didn't hurt anyone by making the wrong move.

When traveling, even to familiar places,alternate routes often became mixed in my memory. I found it difficult to concentrate on my path.Then, I found my wonderful GPS. I no longer become fearful at the thought of driving into Charlotte,NC. My wonderful little electronic friend coaches me every step of the way. It tells me which lane to get in for an upcoming turn and even announces the street name. All my fear is gone.I can't get lost. No matter where I am,I just put in my home address and it will escort me home:) I am not alone.

In matters of organization I was totally unable to keep up with my life.I couldn't remember where I put things. I couldn't remember when I was supposed to do things.I had a million sticky note reminders. At the time I wrote them they made sense. Later when I tried to make meaning of them I was lost. Note:Brenda,12 o'clock Friday. What about Brenda at 12o'clock- and which Friday? I learned to make notes with complete thoughts, because in a second my thoughts would be gone-irretrievably lost.There is an interesting thing that my brain injury specialist pointed out later in my journey. If you put sticky notes all around to remind you of things,your mind becomes used to seeing them and it doesn't process the fact that they are even there.So you forget whatever they were to remind you of.Tip: You must move the notes around to new locations so your mind doesn't get used to seeing them and block them out.

My personality changed after my accident. Now, I cry uncontrollably if I become overwhelmed. It is as if a million ants are crawling on me. I feel an urgency to escape. I know I am trapped in a circumstance where I cannot function normally- and it frightens me. My responses are sudden and not always appropriate.My voice tone and facial expressions do not match my thoughts or my attempts at communication. This is especially true if I am tired.

I have trouble focusing on stimuli when it comes at me from several sources at once. I have an increased sensitivity to sound. Ringing phones,conversations and interruptions make it impossible for me to concentrate.Restaurants are horrible. I hear conversations and sounds from far away tables and cannot hear the person across from me at my own table.My brain cannot separate sounds.

With TBI, memory is a tricky thing. I can remember people's faces. When I see them,I know that the person is familiar to me.I have a sense of whether they are bad or good but, I don't recognize them.This can happen without warning. People are confused by my lack of interaction and seeming disinterest. They look at me and I look normal. They expect me to act normal.My expression is flat. They often perceive me to be unfriendly.I explain to them that I have a brain injury and cannot remember them. They remind me of who they are and a lost file opens inside my head and I can remember all about them.

Some pieces of my memory are gone to a dark place where I cannot reach them. I don't remember where some of my important,precious and treasured things are.This is very disturbing to a person who was always an organizational perfectionist.

People with Traumatic Brain Injuries have many issues that the general public is not aware of. My hope is that my blog will enlighten. My purpose is to connect these people and their families to sources that will enable them to have a better quality of life. Small changes can make big differences toward creating new comfort zones for the TBI and memory care population.

In my early days after being diagnosed I would often say negative things about myself. I have learned not to say," I used to be able to............but,now I can't." Now, I search for new coping skills and technologies.What I can change,I change.What I can't change,I make peace with.There are parts of me that don't work so well-but, there are parts of me that are exquisite........Isn't that true of all of us?

Last thought: I can't spell. An award winning writer and newspaper reporter -and I can't spell. THANK GOD FOR SPELLCHECK:)