I’ve been thinking a lot about what TBI does to our intelligence – if it affects us at all, if if makes us stupid. “Does concussion make you dumb?” is a frequent google search that brings people to this location.
There’s a general perception that TBI/concussion makes you stupid. When I started to tell people about my TBI issues, they often protested, “But you’re so SMART! You can’t have a brain injury!” I didn’t tell them about ALL of the TBIs/concussions I’ve sustained, once they made the announcement that they had no understanding of what is involved with traumatic brain injury, and they had no interest in learning more.
The way I see it, folks who are recovering from brain injury actually have to be smarter than most. It takes flexibility and a real ability to learn, which most people neither have nor are interested in developing, once they get to be “adult age”. When you are dealing with TBI, it’s a constant process of self-discovery and self-examination that can – and will – take you places and teach you things that you might not prefer. When you’re learning your way back to a “new normal” you have to be resourceful, patient, inquisitive, curious, and very, very persistent.
Name any regular people — any “normal” people who are ready and willing to do that?
I can’t think of many.
In fact, if anything, being “regular” or “normal” often seems to involve ceasing to use your intelligence, ceasing to be flexible and “plastic”, stopping learning, stopping growing, stopping any sort of personal development that doesn’t A) make you money or B) get you laid. “Normal” seems to me like a path down the other side of the hill… a gradual surrender to the “inevitable” decline – which isn’t inevitable at all, if you don’t think (and act like) it is.
The thing that makes TBI so difficult for some, is that it completely blows you conception of “normal” out the window, and it forces you — FORCES YOU — to become more resourceful, more open to learning, more flexible… more human… or else. If you stay stuck in the false belief that you are what you are, and that’s that… well, your goose is pretty much cooked. If you fall back on the old assumptions that how things are is just how they are, and how you are after a certain age is how you should always be… good luck with your recovery, if you have one at all.
TBI sorta kinda forces you to grow up and grow a pair. It forces you to look at your humanity in the face — right straight in its fearsome gaze — and accept that there’s a whole lot you don’t know and are mistaken about and can lose track of, and that you’ve got to work a little harder at living your life, if you’re going to do anything other than turn into a lump on the couch watching bad t.v., feeling sorry for yourself.
Facing that, and dealing with that, and taking steps to address all that… well, that takes intelligence. And if you didn’t have it before, you’d better well learn it — because intelligence, like so many other physical and mental activities, can be learned and enhanced, it is NOT set in stone.
So, if you’ve had a concussion lately, or if you’re dealing with TBI after-effects, and you’re wondering if it’s made you dumber, all I can say is, “Stupid is as stupid does. It’s time to get to work learning how to be smarter than ever.”
Nobody’s going to hand it to you a silver platter. They never were, to begin with, but you had it in your head that they were. Life isn’t going to stop to accommodate you. It doesn’t do that for anybody – rich, poor, healthy, or sick. The world won’t slow its spinning to wait for you to catch up. You’ve gotta pick up the pace, yourself. All those assumptions you were living under before — they were as wrong then, as they are now. You just can’t keep fooling yourself in your present state of mind.
So, let’s get on with life and forget all the old crap that no longer applies. You aren’t going to know exactly which crap doesn’t apply, from moment to moment.
But I can guarantee you’re going to find out.