Looking at my blog stats, it appears that a lot of people are concerned that concussions make people dumber. “do concussions make you dumber” is one of the top searches of all time, following a number of searches about tbi and mental illness.
On the surface, it would seem that concussion makes you dumber. You end up doing things that are genuinely dense, and no logic can explain it, other than that you must be incredibly stupid. I can’t help but think about my own experiences in the first months (and years) after my most recent TBI. I did some seriously dumb things — like tangling with police during routine/minor traffic stops, walking around in the woods at the beginning of deer hunting season with no camouflage on, saying and doing things that no one in their right mind would do…
Yeah, it would appear that concussions do make you dumber. If stupid is as stupid does, then I was a real idiot. For a while.
The thing is, it doesn’t last. At least, it doesn’t have to. There’s a lot that can be solved with having presence of mind, physical fitness, and really focusing your energy. The three might seem unrelated, but they’re closely connected.
Presence of mind happens best, when you are rested and able to concentrate.
Being rested and able to concentrate happens best, when you are physically fit and you’re taking care of yourself.
And becoming physically fit is a lot about focusing your energy on that goal, and sticking with it.
The three all feed each other, and the more fit you become, the more balanced your nervous system becomes (so you’re not always in fight-flight mode, and your system isn’t constantly shorting out, thanks to all that adrenaline and floods of stress hormones). The more balanced your nervous system becomes, the better able you are to control your emotions and not let the anger/rage/impulsiveness run away with you. The better able you are to control your behavior and your outbursts the better able you are to concentrate on what’s in front of you and not get side-tracked by every little distraction.
It’s all connected. So you see, there is a solution for post-concussive stupidity.
I have found it really helpful to keep this in mind, when I am having one of those non-brain days. When I’m just coming up with all sorts of really stupid ideas — and acting on them — at least I can remember to do something about it.
Like focus in on paying attention. Like getting some rest or some food (good food, that is), and maybe stepping away to catch my breath and block out all the swirling crap that’s running around in my head. Like just remembering that post-concussive stupidity is an intermittent and often transient condition that can be addressed with actual strategies — that I can do.
So, I do it. I keep it simple, when I can. And things have gotten better. I haven’t done anything really stupid in about six months, but now that I’ve said that, you never know what can happen.
Main thing is to keep present and focused on what’s in front of me. That’s what works best for me. That, and remembering that this moment will never, ever come again, so I better make the most of it. That usually snaps me out of my fog and brings me back to front and center. I’m not saying it will work for everyone, but the principles are common across the condition of post-TBI brain-lapses.
Fatigue is a big problem post-TBI/concussion.
Fatigue impacts brain function and focus.
Poor physical fitness and poor diet fuel fatigue.
Impaired brain function can result in certifiable denseness.
Learning to restore focus and get some energy going again can help reduce denseness.
All these things can pass and improve with time — so, stupid is as stupid does. But it doesn’t need to “do stupid” forever. There are ways to get past it… but at some level you’ve got to accept the fact that you will, now and then, do things that other people think are idiotic — but are really just part of your neurological landscape.
So hang in there. Not to worry. This stuff — with the proper approach and steady practice — can be sorted out.
Just keep trying. Just keep going. Focus in. Pay attention to the NOW, because it’s not going to be NOW forever. And you never know what can happen next.