So, what’s “normal” after TBI?

I’ve been giving some thought to M’s comments about what folks might want to know about TBI, and I figured I would start with the “normal” question.

It’s truly hard to say, what is and is not “normal”…  but my experience was that I was doing and saying a lot of cranky, precipitous things that pissed people off and alienated them and gave them the wrong impression of what was going on inside my head… all the while without having a clue that the problem was with me.

As I understand it, when the brain is injured, it starts to mis-fire. The connections that were there before can be severed or frayed, so the usual ways that energy and ideas get from one part of the brain to the next just aren’t there. And the brain has to find another way of doing it.

It’s like when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit the San Francisco area, back in 1989. Someone I once worked with who lived through that said that their drive home from work usually took them 45 minutes — 20 minutes if there was no traffic. But after the earthquake, with all the roads closed and impassable and extra traffic with people panicked, it took them 3-4 hours to get home. And when they got there, they were exhausted… and all their dishes were lying smashed on their kitchen floor.

That’s a bit like it is when you’ve had a TBI. All the usual ways of thoughts getting from point A to point B are mucked up… and there’s this traffic jam of concepts and energy and ideas and impulses that are all glommed up in the process. By the time your brain figures out how to get where it’s going, you’re just plain wiped out. And there’s sometimes a big mess all around you, too.

That being said, “normal” after TBI can be:

  • feeling exhausted
  • feeling dull and dense
  • having a very short fuse and blowing up at a moment’s notice
  • having a headache
  • being dizzy
  • having trouble hearing
  • having trouble seeing
  • having trouble sleeping
  • having trouble waking up
  • being easily distracted
  • having trouble concentrating
  • not being able to understand what people are saying to you
  • not being able to do things you always did as easily as you used to do them
  • becoming confused over “simple” things for no reason that you can tell
  • feeling like everyone is out to get you

All of this is made worse by fatigue. Without question. The brain needs extra rest to recover and rebuilt its pathways, and if you’re tired and your energy is all taken up with trying to keep up with your life, that doesn’t help your head any.

You basically have to just get lots of rest, take it easy, and be very, very patient with yourself.

And get used to redefining “normal”. Forget how things used to be. Get used to how things are now. Let the old stuff go, and come up with a new set of measurements for what’s “normal” in your life.

It’s not very easy, at times, but it is what it is.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

One thought on “So, what’s “normal” after TBI?”

  1. I agree with your comments and the earthquake metaphor is a great one – for me my vision and sound and touch all very hyper sensitive – like I lost all ability to filter – colors were brighter, sound piercing and my skin picked up every touch to the extreme. I also had moments of extreme anger – not just bad mood, nasty fighting but saying stuff that was really really terrible – though the worst of that lasted only a short time.

    Exhausted lasts a long time however – one of the biggest complaints. I have always been a high energy person and now its hard to go 8 hours without a nap.

    I also believe that some of the earlier exhaustion was due to my brain trying to heal itself, trying to rebuild those roads. Afterward there were some hastily built bridges and new roads but they weren’t paved super highways – rather they were rough jungle roads and hard to get over. Sometimes the road gave out and there was nothing but a big chasm, a gaping hole in thought. I could watch my thoughts form they were so slow – as though I were speaking in a foreign language except it was my native language. Yet many parts of me seemed pretty normal – I could write even if I couldn’t read, I could run but not walk, I could talk better than I could listen. So that if I was doing some things I almost felt okay – until I tried to do something else. For a long time my short term memory was holier than Swiss cheese – I’d forget I was cooking something till the kitchen filled with smoke, if I tried to drive (and I finally stopped for a while) I had to think consciously brake is stop, gas is go, red is stop, green is go else I got them confused. I’d get lost easily, I’d stutter, couldn’t find words or used the wrong words. Much of the more obvious stuff went away after a year or less – but the smaller and subtler stuff remains – much of what BB describes as a general way of living.


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