Life After Traumatic Brain Injuries

Effects of TBI can be physical, behavioral and/or cognitive.

Due to two traumatic brain injuries I have a flip-flopped personality. I used to be a shy, quiet, sit at the back of the room, be invisible, leave me the fuck alone, kind of girl. Now I am loud, obnoxious at times, center of attention, squirrel brain, random kind of girl. I talk loudly and don’t know I am doing it, because of my TBI. It is not a hearing problem, its a brain wiring problem. I get criticized often and get told to get my hearing checked. I had a boss constantly threaten to write me up until I told her it was a brain problem and not a hearing problem! I have earned the nickname squirrel. I change topics in conversation at a whim because I have to say something out loud or I will forget it.

My BEST friend, my SISTER, the light of my life, understands this completely. She understands the frustration I live with. We can hold a conversation with 10 different topics going on and still know everything that is going on! I am just a random person that spits out whatever I am thinking at the time, with no filter. I have some cognitive deficits, although I am very blessed they are not severe. I have poor short term memory. I have a calendar and sticky notes for everything and everywhere. If I don’t write it down, it goes into nothing land. I talk out of turn and interrupt others frequently, although I don’t mean to. I find myself constantly apologizing for my brain not working properly. I get frustrated more times than not because I can’t put something into words or I cannot remember something.

I have a very difficult time with numbers and math skills. when I have to keep track of dates and events I have to color code everything. As a case manager for children, I keep a calendar. Events in red are court dates, events in green are scheduled parent/child visits, events in purple are document due dates. Everything I do has a color associated with it. Certain forms are kept in certain color folders.

I have poor coordination. I am very clumsy. I bump into everything. I am always finding a new bruise somewhere. I used to do cartwheels on balance beams. Now? Yeah I would fail a field sobriety test SOBER. I have difficulty paying attention to what is being told to me, especially if I have to sit for long periods of time. You know….SQUIRREL!

And sleep? What the fuck is that? I took a benzodiazepine, 30 mg of Restoril (temazepam) for 14 years, every single night so I could sleep. I finally found a psychiatrist who took me off Restoril and put me on a safer drug, trazodone. I have been on the trazodone for about 6 years now. I feel better living a benzo-free life. I was also on Ativan 1 mg three times a day. I became addicted, through no fault of my own. I NEVER abused my benzos. But now I had an unwanted addiction problem to deal with. Luckily, once the withdrawals were over, I was treated with Klonopin for one week, after about a week, I have been fine ever since. I never developed a physical addiction to the drugs, or otherwise. Glad those 14 years were over!

Today I am suffering with chronic pain. I have severe, excruciating dystonia cramps in both feet. I have days of severe fatigue where I don’t want to get out of bed. My muscles are weak despite exercise. I cannot climb stairs because my leg muscles are just too weak and it is painful. But I still work 40+ hours a week. I am an avid theme park goer, regularly visiting Walt Disney World and Universal Studios a few times a month.

I can still do what I used to do, I just have to do it a different way. Sometimes it just takes me longer. Sometimes I may repeat myself or I may ask you to repeat yourself. Sometimes my brain hears things differently than what my ears hear. Sometimes my mouth says things completely different than what my brain intended it to say. So if someone asks you to repeat something or if they forget something or even if they respond a moment later than what you expected them to, think about that. You don’t know what someone has been through and what they may continue to go through. Be kind, be patient, and above all, compassionate.

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”

-Marcus Aurelius

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