A happy accident?

Lately,  I have been reading about right-hemisphere brain injuries, and it seems to me that some of it applies to me.

What are some signs or symptoms of right hemisphere brain damage?

Cognitive-communication problems that can occur from right hemisphere damage include difficulty with the following:

  • attention
  • left-side neglect
  • memory
  • organization
  • orientation
  • problem solving
  • reasoning
  • social communication (Pragmatics)

Attention: difficulty concentrating on a task and paying attention for more than a few minutes at a time. Doing more than one thing at a time may be difficult or impossible.

Yes, in some cases, that would be me…

Left-side neglect: a form of attention deficit. Essentially, the individual no longer acknowledges the left side of his/her body or space. These individuals will not brush the left side of their hair, for example, or eat food on the left side of their plate, as they do not see them or look for them. Reading is also affected as the individual does not read the words on the left side of the page, starting only from the middle.

Doesn’t sound like me, thank heavens…

Memory: problems remembering information, such as street names or important dates, and  learning new information easily.

Yes, in many cases, that would be me…

Orientation: difficulty recalling the date, time, or place. The individual may also be disoriented to self, meaning that he/she cannot correctly recall personal information, such as birth date, age, or family names.

Not so much…

Organization: trouble telling a story in order, giving directions, or maintaining a topic during conversations.

Yes, in too many cases, that would be me…

Problem solving: difficulty responding appropriately to common events, such as a car breakdown or overflowing sink. Leaving the individual unsupervised may be dangerous in such cases, as he or she could cause injury to himself or herself, or others.

Sorta kinda, in some cases, that would be me…

Reasoning: difficulty interpreting abstract language, such as metaphors, or responding to humor appropriately.

Sadly, yes. Though I’m a lot better now, than I was when I was a kid.

Social communication (pragmatics): problems understanding nonverbal cues and following the rules of communication (e.g., saying inappropriate things, not using facial expressions, talking at the wrong time).

All too true, sadly. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot over the years – mostly from trial and error, much to my chagrin – about what works, and what definitely does not.

I also came across this about right-hemisphere brain injury:

So what happens if one side of the brain is injured? People who have an injury to the right side of the brain “don’t put things together” and fail to process important information. As a result, they often develop a “denial syndrome” and say “there’s nothing wrong with me.” For example, I treated a person with an injury to the right side of the brain–specifically, the back part of the right brain that deals with visual information–and he lost half of his vision. Because the right side of the brain was injured, it failed to “collect” information, so the brain did not realize that something was missing. Essentially, this person was blind on one side but did not know it. What was scary was that this person had driven his car to my office. After seeing the results of the tests that I gave him, I asked, “Do you have a lot of dents on the left side of your car?” He was amazed that I magically knew this without seeing his car. Unfortunately, I had to ask him not to drive until his problems got better. But you can see how the right side puts things together.

I’m not blind on my left side (I think…  joke!), but I do sometimes wonder if the right-side brain injury I had when I was eight might be mucking with my ability to tell whether or not I’m able to do the things I think I can do. I’m up for a promotion at work, and part of me is wondering if maybe I might be over-estimating my ability to do the job. I know I’ve been having a lot of trouble, doing the job I’m doing now, and I’m not sure why I think I’m going to be able to do something that’s even more challenging. But part of me is quite confident I’ll be able to figure it out.

Go figure.

It’s kind of wild, how I’ve been able to pretty much sail through a lot of tough spots, without being really seriously derailed by anxiety over them. It’s almost like I’ve been  blind to the dangers and risks of certain types of work — certain tasks that nobody I worked with, would take on, so I got to do them… the dangers and risks associated with being around certain types of people and pursuing certain types of activities, like traveling alone in foreign countries and walking down rough inner city streets at 10 p.m.

I remember reading about how right-side brain injuries can lead to denial of illness, not to mention getting facts and figures all turned around. And that has sorta kinda been setting off alarm bells in the back of my head, when I’ve contemplated getting this new job. I know I can’t continue to do the kind of work I’m doing now. I am coming to the realization that my fall in 2004 has sort of closed the door on that type of work. I’ve been able to do similar types of work temporarily over the past 5 years, but now that I’m in it full-time, it’s really turning out to be impractical and self-defeating. I need to make a change.

I just wonder if this is the right change.

Now, thinking back, I’ve got a looooooong history of struggling with details and not being able to accurately assess my abilities. The second head injury I can remember was when I was eight years old, and some kids who didn’t like my looks were throwing rocks at me. They hit me on the right front side of my head, above my temple, and I was knocked out for a while. I’m not sure how long I was knocked out, because the sibling I was with can’t recall the exact details of the incident, but I do remember opening my eyes and seeing them crouched over me, crying.

And when I got home and my parents found out and made me lie down, I remember having to lie on my left side, facing the back of the couch, getting all hot and antsy and irritable and restless because I hated the feel of my breath against the back of the couch… and my dad wouldn’t let me go to sleep.

That wasn’t the first injury I had — and lately, I’ve been bothered by an old, old memory of when I was in daycare and I was playing with some of the older kids, and something happened where I got hurt or something, and one of the older kids ran downstairs to tell the lady who was watching us, and she came upstairs and yelled at all the older kids and brought me back downstairs. I think I got hurt, but I’m not sure. The memory is still working itself out, and it may never fully form.

But anyway, that time I got knocked out by the kids, I did get hit on the right side, above my temple, towards the top of my head. And whether or not it was the specific cause, I have had a lot of difficulties with the kinds of things listed under right-hemisphere brain injury. And one of the things that has really been a hallmark of my life, has been this unwavering conviction that all is well, that I’m fine, that everything is hunky dory, and no matter what, everything will work out just the way it should. Now, some folks firmly believe that as a matter of their spiritual or moral makeup, but with me, it’s been almost an unassailable “fact” that I flatly refuse to refute. Even when things are at their worst, there’s a part of me that’s like, ‘Oh, well — fiddle-dee-dee!’ and goes merrily on its way, no matter if all the world around me is going to shit.

I can feel like death warmed over. I can be hobbling along in excruciating pain. I can be teetering on the brink of personal financial ruin. I can be pushing the limits of good taste with big, angry people who have a chip on their shoulder. I can be face to face with big, nasty people who want nothing more than to pounce on me and beat me to a pulp. But I merrily fly in the face of whatever danger presents itself — not because it gives me a charge, but because I frankly don’t perceive the danger.

To me, it’s just not there.

It’s kind of wild, though, how things eventually worked out. Okay, so I have almost been attacked and rolled by disadvantaged people looking for money. I was almost abducted by a dirty old man when I was a little kid – I almost ended up on a milk carton, dude. Okay, so I have been in a number of really hazardous situations, and I am frankly lucky to be alive. But either there is a God and a heaven full of angels looking out for me, or there’s something about the quantum field that makes my cluelessness prophylactic, and protects me like a big-ass cosmic condom as I poke my way through life — sorry about the image — it’s late, and I’ve had a long day;). It’s like my ignorance and blindness to the dangers negates them, or something.

Either that, or the world isn’t nearly as dangerous as my friends (some of whom have had left-brain injuries) tell me. I hear the left-brain injuries make you over-cautious, and I’d definitely concur with that.

Well, I can’t get too tweaked over it. I’m going to stand up straight and walk face-forward into my job situation (hopefully not ramming the glass door with my nose in the process), and I’ll do my best under any and all circumstances. I’ll also just have to trust that there is a God and a heaven full of angels who are at the ready… or at the very least, the quantum field is sensitive to what I’m “putting out” and only organizes its atoms around the dangers I’m actually aware of.

It’s all a deep mystery, to be sure. But it might be a good idea to keep in mind that one of my early injuries was to the right side of my head, and that may cause me to over-estimate my abilities. Somewhat.

Well, there’s only one way to find out if I’m right or wrong about myself. And that way is to give it a shot and see what happens.

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.

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