Concussion making you crazy?

The broken connections can make you a little nuts

Don’t be surprised. Concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury — or any brain injury, for that matter, including stroke or some other brain “attack” — will do that to you.

Why? Because the connections in your brain have been rearranged a bit. Sometimes they get really rearranged, sometimes they shift a little bit. But often it’s the little shifts that make the biggest problems.

Because everything is “off” just a tiny bit, and it can create a huge amount of insecurity and anxiety and stress in your life, trying to figure out why the hell everything is working wrong, all of a sudden. On top of your own confusion and frustrations, you’re suddenly surrounded by a whole truckload of people who also wonder why the hell you’re “off” … and whose patience is getting shorter by the day (sometimes by the hour).

What – did you suddenly become an idiot? Did you suddenly get stupid? What’s wrong with you?

Actually, there’s nothing wrong with you — your brain has gotten its wiring scrambled a bit. The old connections that you built up over years and years have been disrupted, and your brain has to work all the harder to find new ways of making those old connections to do its job. It tires you out. and when it tires you out, it makes your brain work even less well than before. Everything’s messed up, and nothing makes sense. And the worse things get… well, the worse things get.

Of course it all makes perfect sense, in a way. The brain needs energy to function, and when it’s spending all its available energy on trying to things the same old way, when the same old way is exactly what’s not working, it’s exhausting. It’s like you’re beating your head against a wall — ramming up against it, time and time again, getting more and more frustrated with your failures, and working overtime trying to overcome the obstacles. But the obstacles aren’t moving. The harder you try, the worse it gets, and you spend your life marinating in a daily biochemical soup of stress hormones, adrenaline, epinephrine, cortisol… you name it … that tenderizes your life into a big piece of raw meat. It’s the ultimate paradox — the very things that should be made easier by trying harder, actually get harder. And the things that you normally don’t have to think about at all, you have to give a huge amount of thought to.

So, your brain gets completely depleted, drained of all energy… and hope… and nobody is the wiser for how this has all gone so wrong.

For those who understand, it’s quite logical. (I saw the new Star Trek the other night). But for those who can’t see and don’t know, it’s a huge problem. Why are you screwing up? Why can’t you get anything right? Why do you seem so dumb, all of a sudden?

Well, think of it this way — all those connections in your brain — the synapses — are like roads and bridges between the different parts of your brain. You’ve spent a whole lot of time building up the right connections, building the right bridges, paving the right roads. TBI is like an earthquake or a tsunami that tears through those connections and wipes them out. Maybe they get rebuilt over time, maybe they don’t. The point is, for the time being — who knows how long — those connections are frayed, the old bridges and bypasses are damaged, sometimes severely, and you have to do a combination of figuring out how to go around the wreckage and/or repair the damage.

It’s literally like the aftermath of a storm, the hours and days and weeks after a concussion or traumatic brain injury. Looking at pictures of the recent storms in the northeast, I’m reminded of TBI challenges. From house to house, from block to block, from town to town, you just don’t know till you investigate or go there, how much damage has happened. And you sometimes can’t tell from looking, what kind of infrastructure damage has taken place. A structure that looks sound may have significant cracks in the foundation. Or a bridge that looks like it’s out for good might be easy to repair.

You just don’t know till you try to travel the old routes in your brain. Then, by experience, by trial and error, you find out.

And it’s the finding out that’s the problem. Because as you go along, when you’re not expecting problems and they come up, it’s stressful, no doubt about it. It creates confusion. Frustration. Stress. It causes all these chemicals to be released into your brain and body that do not help you with your recovery. The more anxious and stressed and agitated you are, in fact the harder it is to recover. Because when you’re in fight-flight mode, parts of your system get shut down to conserve energy for basic survival. Your body doesn’t know any better. It’s just trying to protect you. But its way of protecting you is actually hurting you. It’s making you less capable of recovery, just when you need to be more capable.

So, here’s the thing — after concussion, after TBI, after brain injury of any sort, you’ve got to stay pretty chilled out. Relax. Not get bent out of shape over things. You have to find some peace, some calm. And that can be very difficult, indeed. You have to keep your system mellow and stable, so it can repair the damage.

Of course, the problem is, you’re all jazzed up and revved up, and your body and mind are going into overdrive, trying to correct the damage as soon as possible — ’cause your body and mind detect imminent danger, and their natural impulse is to fight it or flee it. So, you end up in this loop, this messy, messy loop of one problem after another, with no apparent way out.

Crazy, right?

Yeah.

But if you can see through to understanding that the connections in your brain are like roads and bridges after an earthquake… and if you can “get” that you need to either rebuild or divert the traffic in your synapses… and if you can find a way to test out the roads and bridges and see what’s going on there without getting too bent out of shape over it… you can start to rebuild your life and find new ways of dealing with this.

This is not to say you necessarily need to resign yourself to a “new normal” of disability and disadvantage. For a while, I myself thought I was going to have to do that. But then I chilled out, found someone to talk to regularly, and I was able to build back my abilities over time. And that’s good. It’s really good. I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to do things exactly the same way I have — and why would you want to? You’re your own person. But I do think that with the right approach, and an open mind, people can overcome a ton of stuff that they never thought they could.

It’s all about in the infrastructure. So keep on going. Concussion doesn’t have to make you crazy.

Just keep on going.

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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.

13 thoughts on “Concussion making you crazy?”

  1. I work in the hyperbaric oxygen therapy industry and I have personally seen the miracle that this therapy can do for someone who has suffered from a traumatic brain Injury. I myself suffered a significant head injury shortly after the first of the year. I had bleeding in my frontal lobe and my brain had four contusions plus swelling. Hyperbaric therapy helped me to one, suppress the horrible constant headache I had and two, to accelerate my healing time and return me to my normal self. Hyperbaric therapy helps the brain begin to function normally by saturating the blood with oxygen through permeation and osmosis. This helps the vascular system (veins and arteries) to start creating new capillaries thus helping the brain to fix itself and possibly return to normality. There is a website http://www.hyperbaricnation.org that lists centers and facilities nationwide to help people find the help they need. If you are wanting to have a chamber in your own home go to http://www.hyperbaric-options.com I personally used the home portable chambers.

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  2. That’s great to hear that you found something that has helped you. I have heard about hyperbaric oxygen therapy, but I don’t know much about it. Oxygenating the blood seems like a good idea, especially when you’re recovering from an injury. I have a theory that this is also what happens when I do deep, focused breathing for extended periods of time — probably a lot less intense, but still it’s more steady oxygen than I usually get.

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  3. HBOT adds oxygen under pressure so that it surpasses the levels that would be carried by hemoglobin – supersaturation. The concept is that some neurons die but some simply go to sleep and the hyper oxygenation allows them to come to life. It has shown good results.

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  4. This is the second time I did a search on the internet and your blog came up as the first result! I had a concussion in February, it was my second one, and I swear ever since then I feel like I’m going insane. I was never a talker, very much a loner, but as the days roll on, I find myself talking more and more. And more. I will talk about virtually anything and everything to anyone and everyone! My coworkers, family and friends have said they’ve noticed a huge difference in my personality. I wish I was back to my old self. I can’t stand all of this talking, it isn’t me. I’m driving myself nuts! AHHHHH!!!

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  5. Yeah, I hear that. On Tuesday after my episode, I kept running my mouth at meetings, which wasn’t great, because I was the one leading the meetings, and my role is not to editorialize, but keep everyone on track. I was working directly against my own purposes. I finally had to force myself to just shut the heck up — NOT say whatever came to mind. Maybe it was nerves. Maybe it was my brain.

    A couple of things come to mind for your case — impulse control might be low? So be careful about doing things that require some restraint — like using power tools, driving in heavy traffic, etc. Sounds to me like your brain might need some rest. Impulse control issues are part of some concussions. I know they play a role for me.

    Then again, maybe that old loner way of being wasn’t working for you anymore, and the most recent concussion broke up the inhibition. I’m a heck of a lot more outgoing now than I ever was before. My concussion in 2004 really put me under, but after I came out from under the black cloud, I now find myself pretty chatty at times. It’s actually turned out to be a good thing.

    Get some rest. The emotions go up and down. It’s crazy. It’s your brain trying to figure stuff out again. Go slow, pay attention, and make sure you eat properly so your body can heal up and get what it needs.

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  6. Yeah, my impulse control has changed for sure…including having a major surgery that wasn’t necessarily necessary, and buying a car that I can’t afford payments on, two major impulses among other smaller things. I do eat well, I have to because of the major surgery. If I don’t eat right, then the surgery was pointless. The rest part isn’t quite so easy though. I try to get enough rest and usually fail.

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  7. Well, you know, I have a theory about impulses — buried in there somewhere is something we need to find out about ourselves. Or there’s some part of ourselves that needs to be tested, to find out if we can manage it. I have lived beyond my means for many, many years, and over the past 5 years, I’ve paid the price to clear out a whole boatload of debt. But you know what? Because I lived beyond my means, I was able to have a much higher standard of living than I “should” have. And it pushed me to test my limits and see how much better I could do, to get ahead and better myself. And now I have a pretty sweet life AND almost no debt (aside from the mortgage). So, it all works out. Eating right is important in any case, so maybe that surgery was your internal system’s way of upping the ante on your eating habits, and forcing you to do what you know you should. Maybe you just needed a little extra push.

    A lot of things have changed since my TBI in 2004 (and all the ones prior). Not all the changes have been bad. Some, I wouldn’t have made, if my injury hadn’t forced me to. So, there is something to be said for not using one’s head.

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  8. Thank you thank you so much for sharing, I really thought I was going to go insane- I was scared to death about that prospect until now- your blog alleviated this obsession that I was going crazy!! I had a MTBI due to a motorcycle accident and did not receive the medical attention it required (that I know now!) and then I was not even aware of how much it had changed me until recently – so after 14 months I will seek follow up medical counsel; particularly because although my symptoms are improving there so many residual things… Which make sense since I had a concussion as a 12 year old that didn’t also received the right attention; despite rendering me blind for about 20 min. This is the first time I speak out loud about this to the world.. It felt good not having to try to be someone I’m not quite anymore!

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  9. You’re very welcome. I’m glad you found your way here. I hope you can get the help you need – doctors know a lot more now, than they did even just a few years ago, so I hope you can find some good help and get on the path to healing.

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  10. I’m almost 4 weeks into concussion and this is the absolute best post I have read so far! Thank you for giving me my sanity back till I hopefully heal.

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