This is a continuation of the discussion about PTSD from TBI – Exploring some possibilities.
Ah, here’s an interesting one… that is particularly strongly colored by TBI — Extent of Brutality — as in, how personal was it? Was it brutal? Was it intentional? Belleruth Naparstek tells us
“Atrocities and interpersonal violence have a more devastating effect on the human spirit and psyche than, say, a natural disaster, even though both can be equally terrifying, life threatening, and consequential in terms of actual injury or material damage suffered. When people are subjected to malevolence and brutality at the hands of their fellow human beings, the ravaging symptoms of PTSD go wider and deeper.” (from Invisible Heroes, p. 50)
And this is where TBI is especially troublesome. Because the pain inflicted by others can be real, or it can be imagined, but either way it hits hard and it strikes deep. In fact, it hits harder and strikes deeper than anyone would reasonably expect it to. With emotional lability, the volatile hair-trigger stuff going on, and a ton of other amped-up nervous system reactions, everything can take on a sense of personal attack. When you’re addled by TBI and your sympathetic fight-flight system is in overdrive, it’s easy to perceive every less-than-perfect interaction as some kind of attack or a personal slight or injury. ‘Cause your rewired brain has got its wires crossed and it tends to take things the wrong way.
On top of that, “regular” people are generally not very kind to people with TBI. There’s something about us that seems to prompt their laughter, even scorn… and who in the TBI ranks hasn’t been on the receiving end of ridicule or accusation because someone thought we were either lazy or faking or not trying hard enough… or just plain stupid?
It’s a nasty little mix, that — the real difficulties along with the perceived danger along with the hyper-activated fight-flight impulse that has all those stress hormones marinating your body, mind and soul, day and night… which in turn impedes your ability to think straight about much of anything important.
People don’t even need to BE brutal towards us, for us to sense a certain brutality to the interactions. Having a botched conversation with someone and having your system go haywire with all sorts of doomsday messages and klaxon alarms has a way of giving even the most harmless of misunderstandings a sharp, jagged edge that tears the living crap out of our sense of who we are and what we’re capable of in life. The brutality seems to be at the hands of others, but it’s really at the hands of our rearranged nervous systems and our rewired brains… which is about the most intimate kind of insult you can live through, day after day.
Indeed, if we are our best friends or our worst enemies, with TBI, things tend to get skewed to the latter. And god help you if you try to fight back. There’s no fighting a battered brain — because it beats back, even harder than before.
So there it is. Brutality can come in all shapes and sizes. And when it comes from within, man is it a bitch.