A Different Lens – Mental Health Monthly
By RanDee McLain, LCSW
I was looking forward to this night for weeks. I was going to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants with one of my favorite people. As we drove down to the restaurant, I told him how thankful I was to have this time away from work and just to enjoy his company.
As we began walking into the restaurant, I stopped and said I love this restaurant but have never been to this location….it was so beautiful. He chuckled a little and said RanDee we used to live across the street you have been here many times! What how could I forget that?
As we sat at the table I noticed him looking at the menu closely…..I joked …do you need glasses? He said…you know we did Lasik at the same time? …haha. Well, no that slipped my mind too.
My memory isn’t the same as it used to be.
I occasionally lose my words. I get migraines much more now than before. All of these are reminders that my TBI is a part of me and will always be. I just find ways to manage.
What is TBI?
TBI may happen from a blow or jolt to the head or from an object penetrating the brain. When the brain is injured, the person can experience a change in consciousness that can range from becoming disoriented and confused to slipping into a coma.
The person may also have a loss of memory for the time immediately before or after the event that caused the injury. Not all injuries to the head result in a TBI. TBI injuries result in a range of symptoms from mild to severe.
The rate of PTSD after brain injury is much higher in veterans than civilians due to their multiple and prolonged exposure to combat. It is estimated that up to 35% of returning veterans with mild brain injury also have PTSD.
Range of TBI Symptoms:
Symptoms can appear immediately or weeks to months following the injury. Depending upon the severity of the wound, TBI injuries fall into different categories:
Most people with mild injuries recover fully, but it can take time. In general, recovery is slower in older persons. People with a previous brain injury may find that it takes longer to recover from their current injury. Some symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer.
Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI): Is a brief loss of consciousness or disorientation ranging from a few seconds to 30 minutes, or no loss of consciousness.
Severe Traumatic Brain Injury (STBI): Possible loss of consciousness for over 30 minutes, or amnesia.
• Lightheadedness/ Dizziness
• Blurred vision or tired eyes
• Ringing in the ears
• Bad taste in the mouth
• Fatigue or lethargy
• Change in sleep patterns
• Behavioral or mood changes
• Trouble with memory, concentration or attention
• Headaches that gets worse or do not go away
• Repeated vomiting or nausea
• Convulsions or seizures
• Inability to awaken from sleep
• Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
• Slurred speech
• Weakness or numbness in the extremities
• Loss of coordination
• Increased confusion
• Restlessness or agitation
• Sensitivity to light
• Poor Balance
• Poor judgment
• Impulsive Behavior
• Slowed performance
• Difficulty putting thoughts into words
• Angry outbursts/ Irritability
What Brain Injury Survivors Need YOU to Know
• Please listen to me with patience.
• Try not to interrupt.
• Allow me to find my words and follow my thoughts. It will help me rebuild my language skills.
• Please have patience with my memory. Know that not remembering does not mean that I don’t care.
• Please don’t be condescending or talk to me like I am a child.
• If I seem “rigid,” needing to do tasks the same way all the time; it is because I am retraining my brain.
• If I seem “stuck,” my brain may be stuck in the processing of information.
Coaching me, suggesting other options or asking what you can do to help may help me figure it out. Taking over and doing it for me will not be constructive and it will make me feel inadequate.
• I work best on my own, one step at a time and at my own pace.
• If I repeat actions, like checking to see if the doors are locked or the stove is turned off, it may seem like I have OCD — obsessive-compulsive disorder — but I may not.
It may be that I am having trouble registering what I am doing in my brain. Repetitions enhance memory. (It can also be a cue that I need to stop and rest.)