This is the first part in a multi-part exploration of sense of self and how it’s affected by traumatic brain injury. Note: This is the first version I created in January, 2011. I am currently writing a full-length work on it, and I am posting the sections here as I write them (click here to go there now).
Something has been on my mind a good deal, lately:
The Question of Self.
How we can lose ourselves after TBI, how we get separated from parts of ourselves — sometimes some of the most important parts of ourselves.
It’s been discussed on this blog, how loss of self is one of the biggest hurdles of TBI — it’s confusing, disorienting, frustrating, and is one of the biggest challenges to overcome. There’s no lack of evidence that it’s a problem for TBI survivors; “I just don’t feel like myself,” is a common complaint/observation from those working their way back from traumatic brain injury, and I’m no exception. For years, I haven’t felt 100% like myself, and despite my progress over the past three years of neuropsychological rehabilitation, I still don’t feel like I would like to. It’s like there’s something missing — some pieces that don’t quite fall into place.
And yet the question of losing (and possibly finding) a sense of your Self doesn’t seem to be discussed much, outside of the official literature. Thousands upon thousands, maybe millions, of people are struggling with this aspect of their life, and yet the disussion around it seems to be almost, well, silent.
Why? Well, it could have to do with the fact that so many traumatic brain injury survivors are so involved in just getting through their days, that they don’t have a lot of bandwidth to philosophize about their deepest sense of who and what they are. It’s tough to find the time to do personal development, when you’re struggling with things like not losing your car keys, being on time for important appointments, and paying the rent. And for many, the complications of navigating complex bureaucracy of government agencies, raising kids, putting food on the table, and figuring out how to hold down a job, makes the whole situation even tougher — all against the backdrop assumption that “it was just a bump on the head – you should be fine.”
To me, this is a problem. Here we have one of the most vexing and persistent issues of TBI, which causes all manner of suffering for survivors and their families, friends and co-workers, and yet who’s talking about it?
Well, some rehab folks are, apparently. They’re writing about it and talking about it in their scholarly journals. I find plenty of material when I google “TBI + sense of self”. And I’m about to start talking about it, too. This, to me, is a key and critical piece of TBI recovery — our sense of self, who we understand ourselves to be, and who we think we can become. It’s so central to our existence and our ability to recover, I think we owe it to ourselves to spend some time pondering this “gray area” that is perhaps the most vital aspect of who and what we are, and to what extent we bounce back from the problems life sends our way.