Sometimes life is bitter and some moments are worth the bitterness.
These words came to mind during hours, moments and months after realizing the recovery I had made from brain injuries were more than plausible, recovery was in effect and I had changed for the better.
Earlier in the beginning years of confusion and frustration, the sound of these words might had exacerbated a fury of frustration. Here is another story, a moment to peek back into the illusory quandary TBI individuals face during ordinary daily activity.
While driving one day without either one of my dogs, (most likely I had appointments and the heat of the car would be a concern), I spotted a parked car, when sudden panic – delusion and confusion enveloped my calm demeanor.
Shockingly the park car had a dog in the back seat who appeared to be my white Shepard mix Buddi, so I thought. I would have bet my home on this fallacious realty. Whoever this car belonged to had my dog Buddi in the back seat. He seemed quiet calm, as opposed to my present reaction of extreme angst. A myriad of thoughts filled this moment as I slowly passed the parked car, carefully assessing the white/husky mix; “it’s my Buddi” I told myself.
As I slowly drove past the parked car disorganized wild thoughts traveled through my head. How could someone get my Buddi? That is My Buddi, I know that is my Buddi. Thankfully there was a little voice inside, urging me to drive the six blocks to my house.
I was so confirmed at this moment Buddi had been kidnapped, the six block drive to my house was terrifying for I was leaving my Buddi in stranger’s car; none of which made any logical sense. No one could access the back yard of my home, for Buddi lived two Rottweilers. Sweet dogs as they may be, most people who do not know Rottweilers are big lap dogs, people often react in fear. Rotties have an unusual ability, they will look you straight in the eye, and to strangers this strong canine awareness is intimidating. It is only an inquisitive gaze, not in the least ominous.
Upon arriving home I was greet by Buddi wagging his long tail, the two Rotties wagged their butts and nub of a tail. Their smiles comforted my worries for the moment, until I realized the utter confused state and how confirmed I was my Buddi had been stolen.
Further struggle consumed me with bewilderment, agitation and perplexity; how could I confuse the two dogs, more how could I think that some stranger would approach my safe-guarded home with two Rottweilers to steal Buddi.
This is a perfect case of the disoriented and delusional thinking that often occurs with TBI injuries. The distortion is believable and yet disoriented in nature, then confusion remains. These moments produce extreme anxiety, where the turbulence might exacerbate into anxiety attacks or extreme frustration; a constant conundrum for those with brain injuries.
Having the ability to separate and stand outside myself once calmed, I watched my thinking from a different analytical perspective; first I was horrified at the potential ramifications if I had acted upon my delusional thoughts when first seeing a twin Buddi. Next moment after giving a great deal of attention to my three dogs, I had to make note of the moment and parallel thinking process; becoming my own lab rat study. This was the mid 1990’s, I was left to my own devises.
Much later I assessed: the frontal (Cortex) lobe potentially showed a degree of dysfunction in “reasoning, visual processing and virtual memory”. Thankfully the “planning organizational, impulse, coupled with a fragment of intuition and inhibitions” resumed; I heard the words “no – wait”. With the small amount of reasoning kicking in, I was saved from a possible confrontation. I know I would not have had the presences of mind to say “I am sorry I have a TBI”. What was a TBI in those days?
This moment was a monumental to my overall dysfunctional behavior, leading to more notations and slow research. Reading neurological text was a new venue for me and exceedingly difficult, impossible to assimilate or comprehend, for I had also lost the ability to assimilate and comprehend all reading material.
I relied on my psychological background, understanding of behavior and examined my own odd performance, questioning how it related to my overall TBI comportment throughout each day. This was confounding at the time; collecting and making notes were a later valuable study.
This poignant yet pivotal moment was a beginning in understanding the severity of my first TBI; I made grave errors in judgment, my behavior required vigilant scrutiny throughout my day to day living. The scrutiny without outside professional assistance lead to a deeper hyper-vigilance, later developing an over caution response in many areas of my life. Thankfully I was undaunted.
I did keep my condition a secret, particularly after seeing a handful of doctors who knew nothing about TBI and were labeling me with outlandish psycho-drama diagnosis. At one point in the future I did confide with my boss at the hospital where I worked, (we had become close friends and relied upon each other for support), announcing one day “I have a TBI” came falling out of my lips, shocking me for divulging my shameful secret. Michael looked at me with a smile and said “is that why you have that glazed look in your eyes at times”? My response was, “I guess, I have never seen the glazed look, good to know now that you mention it”. Another thing to study about myself although admitting I never could see that glassy-eyed appearance in the mirror.
My job, Michael and my dogs became a measuring strong-hold in my life, the better side of behavior. My past functional reality – now a connection with an oddity residue from untreated TBI, I no longer had an awareness of safety around me. My home was a sanctuary for the TBI confusion and notations to study later, much later. From this point on, at least one dog always accompanied me to doctor visits and at times to work when I was not training hospital staff.
The continuation of hiding my condition encompassed many years, only a few individuals would I confide in; a moment of testing the trust. I studied my behavior, reactions to situations, disorientation, balance problems, amnesia and other oddities. Writing freely of how I felt, later to reread the scribbling’s in dreadfulness, wondering will I ever be normal. I had to put in perspective my angst over my inability to articulate, think reasonably in any given moment.
I watched how I related to others, self-examination was arduous; I was in over my head. For a long time I felt doomed – nevertheless undeterred, reminding myself of my own earlier thoughts: Sometimes life is bitter and some moments are worth the bitterness.
Having brain trauma consumed me with the emptiness of shame and inferiority; first lesson, “quit comparing myself to who I use to be and my injury”.
MicheleElys is a Neuro-Behaviorist working to aid people globally, in discovering Behavioral Solutions and TBI/Trauma Recovery
Educator – Author – Speaker – Reluctant French Chef – Equine Devotee
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