And now I can talk about regaining my Sense-Of-Self again…

Reaching out to others is what brings us back to ourselves
Reaching out to others is what brings us back to ourselves

A funny thing happened, when I was working on my TBI S.O.S. writing… Here, I was feeling really strong and certain, starting to feel like my old self again…

And then, all of a sudden, I wasn’t. I went through a period where I really lost touch with my identity all over again, and each day I woke up wondering, “Who the hell am I, and how did I get here?”

Any talk about regaining a sense-of-self after TBI seemed, well, ironic. And unfitting. It didn’t exactly ooze integrity, from my point of view.

I guess I still needed to learn a thing or two.

So, I had to step away. And do some more work in myself. And get myself back in shape… back to a place where I actually did feel like myself again… and feeling like I could actually talk about restoring a sense of myself in terms that were true and honest and genuine (not contrived and forced).

I thought I was in a good space, back in February. And I was ready to start writing some more. But then life happened, and I got caught up in the neuro stuff, so the Sense-Of-Self stuff took the back seat again. My sleeping habits got bad. I got too tired. I got too bent out of shape over things. I really wanted to write… but there were so many other concerns coming up, and I only have so much bandwidth.

It’s been a little while, now, and I’m actually feeling much more stable. I’ve worked a lot on my sleeping patterns, lately, and I’ve also gotten settled in at my job (while keeping an eye open for any new layoffs — supposedly there are some coming next week? who  knows?). My schedule is steady. I have my tools in place. And I feel like I recognize myself when I get up in the morning, and when I look at my reflection at night as I brush my teeth before bed.

TBI is a strange little m*therf*cker of a chronic condition. It takes so much from us, it steals so much, it separates us from everything we love and hold dear… and it offers us absolutely no clue as to how to get back to where we want to be.  Sometimes we can never get back to where we want to be, but we can find some peace in knowing we’re back to where others need us to be.

TBI can make us incredibly self-centered. We have to be, in a way, because we have to recondition ourselves to do so much, to re-adjust to changes in so many things we used to take for granted. How ironic that the one “cure” I’ve found for that sense of rootless confusion, has been to look away from my fanatical self-centeredness and put the focus on others and what they need. Ironically, when I put my selfish concerns aside, I actually find a sense of myself that is whole and wholesome — and helpful for others.

And that focus on others absolutely has to be about helping people understand the impact that a fractured Sense-Of-Self has on TBI survivors. It is absolutely positively central to the issues we have — and I firmly believe that that S-O-S condition is a key factor in PCS and other lingering after-effects of TBI. I believe it’s an important driver behind the stress that takes over so often after a brain injury, and I’m convinced that it — rather than any self-destructive tendency or even impaired risk assessment — is behind the behaviors that result in multiple concussions / mild TBIs that accumulate over the years.

I’ve watched my own fractured Sense-Of-Self play a pivotal role in my own poor behaviors and “flawed” decision-making. Some believed it was because I felt badly about myself or I didn’t respect myself, or I wanted to harm myself in some way.

On the contrary — I actually wanted to help myself, and risky behavior was the only way I could figure out how to get the pump of biochemical goodness that “brought me back to myself”. So long as we continue to ascribe “self-destructive” risk-taking behaviors to psychological wounds, rather than biochemical impulses, treatment for mild TBI and concussion sufferers will remain incomplete — and a self-fulfilling prophecy of poor long-term outcomes.

The loss of a Sense-Of-Self lies at the heart of so much suffering in TBI — both for those who have been injured, as well as their loved-ones and social circles.

And until we “get” that and start treating it directly, it will continue to be a problem.

That, dear reader(s), is what I’d like to remedy.

And so I shall do my utmost.

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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