When life sucker-punches you after TBI

The Concussion Blog posted a great video a little while back explaining concussion

One of the things they talk about in the video is how the “sucker punch” can do you more harm than a hit you can brace for. A sucker punch doesn’t let you get ready to get hit. You just get hit.

The same kind of thing happens with your life after TBI – you have all these “sucker punch” experiences, where you get hit with all kinds of unexpected circumstances, because you think things are going to go one way — based on your prior experience and brain training — but they go completely different, because of your brain being a bit “re-adjusted”. Things that “should” be easy, turn out to be hard. And you can end up in a state of panic and confusion on a regular basis.

This is a problem for a number of reasons.

First, it sucks. It’s unpleasant, it’s irritating, and it can be distressing in the moment when it happens. Your best-laid plans fall apart. Your plans and expectations don’t pan out. And you don’t always know why.

Second, it makes you doubt yourself. One mistake is a mistake. Two are a possible coincidence. Three are a pattern. Four can make you start to second-guess yourself from every angle. And when this happens to you, day in and day out, the cumulative effect is… well… not good.

Third, it hampers your ability to learn new things and re-train your brain.  See, the thing with TBI is you have to retrain your brain and learn new things and restructure the way your brain works. When you are stressed and defensive and confused, it is harder to learn. It is harder to acquire new skills. It is harder to re-train your brain’s connections in the way you want them to be trained. Stress seriously impedes our ability to learn new things — and that’s exactly what you need to be doing after TBI — learning new things.

Fourth, it can trigger a case of PTSD. Not many people out there seem to be paying much attention to this. They seem to think that PTSD and TBI have different causes. But TBI, with its recurring “micro-traumas” can build up a real stockpile of stress and stress hormones and ultimately cause full-blown PTSD to emerge. This is just common sense. When you understand the nature of PTSD as a mental and physical response to unresolved mental and physical traumas, and you understand that TBI can be an ongoing source of traumas that never get cleared out, in part because nobody’s paying any attention and taking them seriously… well, then you’ve got a problem.

What to do? Learn ways to clear out the traumas on a regular basis — physically first, then mentally. Find ways to get your body to clear out the “sludge” that comes from shock and surprise and stress — including exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, rest and relaxation — so that your body isn’t hijacking your brain’s attempts to right itself. If you can find someone to talk to about your situations, who can help you feel supported by someone in your corner, that can help, too. The main thing is figuring out ways to clear out the after-effects of all those little unpleasant shocks and surprises that cross your path on a regular basis.

Speaking of clearing that stuff out, it’s time for my walk. I have about 36 hours left in this vacation, and I’m going to make the most of it.

Onward.

 

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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.

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