Brain injuries can be caused by something as “simple” as going down hard when being tackled in a game, knocking your head against something that’s harder/more stationary than your head, a fall, or an automobile accident. Head injuries can be “traumatic” when the brain is physically injured — something that is surprisingly easy to do… and can be surprisingly difficult to recover from. The connections in the brain can be distressed, frayed, shredded, or downright severed by physical trauma, and the effects can be devastating.
Even “mild” injuries (such as a closed-head injury that results in just a few seconds of unconsciousness — or simply “knocks you silly”) can have life-altering effects, as I can testify. Memory can be affected, as can cognitive processing, and don’t get me started about the effects of confabulation (being certain that you know exactly what’s going on, when you only have part of the story right), or anosognosia (not even realizing that anything is wrong, or there’s a problem). These are real cognitive issues that can have a wide range of effects.
If you’ve been hit on the head during a sports match, or you’ve been in a car accident, or you’ve had a fall (I’ve had all three happen to me multiple times), and you’re having more trouble with basic functioning — things that used to come easy to you — you might be dealing with the after-effects of mild TBI (mTBI).
I’m convinced that in the coming years, we’ll expand our collective understanding of the brain and TBI, and we’ll develop clever and ingenious ways to either fix the problems we have, learn how to compensate for our identified issues, and find ways of avoiding problems caused by things that cannot be fixed. As far as I’m concerned, the most vital ingredients in dealing with mTBI are:
- open-mindedness to a wide variety of alternatives
- lack of judgment about the injury and the resulting problems
- compassion for the “walking wounded”
- patience with everyone
- love shared abundantly between all people impacted by the injury
- acceptance of each and every person’s limitations
- respect for the dignity of all human beings, as children of our loving Creator
- recognition of each and every person’s own unique gifts and strengths, some of which may emerge only after a TBI
I actually prefer to call my past experiences “BMI’s — Brain Modifying Incidents”, rather than just “TBI’s – Traumatic Brain Injuries” since I do believe that recovery is not only possible but probable. I believe that our brain changes in unexpected ways, and neuroplasticity (the ability/tendency of the brain to “re-map” its functionality from one area of it, to another) causes our brains to evolve and develop differently as a result. The thing that makes TBI-introduced changes the most difficult, in my opinion and experience, is rigidity and unwillingness to adapt to those changes and recognize the hidden advantages and blessings that come with any challenge.
But for the sake of this blog, I’ll call my past experiences TBI’s — or mTBI’s if you will, since I was never knocked out for longer than 30 minutes, and all my injuries (that I can remember) were closed (my scalp wasn’t broken, nor was my skull fractured).
I believe that there are ways to take command of the often-daunting situations introduced by TBI.
- Learn all you can about it.
- Seek help where you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – people love to help each other, no matter what our greed-driven markets and me-first pop culture may try to tell us.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things. It could be that the next great breakthrough in TBI recovery is something that you’ve been wanting to try out.
- Share what you learn with others. You are not alone, and others may really benefit from your experience.
- Don’t be afraid to challenge authorities and question experts. They do not live in your body and they do not experience your life.
- Use your own experience as a guide and rely on the judgment of both yourself and others whom you trust.
- Learn who’s really on your side and actively cultivate those connections. Know your tribe and stick together.
- Don’t resign yourself to a life that’s less than all it can be!
- Remember, your Creator loves you , no matter what, and you are always a child of the universe who has something to offer, no matter how small that gift may seem to be.
You don’t have to resign yourself to a shadow life of impairment. Recovery is possible, no matter what others say. I’m walking, talking proof of that.
Never, ever, ever give up!!!