Location, location…

It’s all about location, especially when you’re looking at head injuries. There are many common signs of head injury, but that doesn’t mean that everyone with a head injury will have the same problems.brain-regionsThe more I talk to people who have had some kind of head trauma, the more I realize how unique each person’s experience is. An injury to the top of the head is nothing like damage to the front of the brain. Likewise, a person in a car accident does not necessarily have more significant injuries to the brain than a person who has been thrown off a bicycle.  Every head injury is unique, depending upon a whole list of factors that led up to the precise location and timing of the accident. I think any generalizations or assumptions about head injury based upon common knowledge of concussion can get in the way of individual treatment. If you have had a concussion, and you have enough energy to read here without causing yourself any pain, I hope you’ll find this interesting. If your head hurts though, turn off your computer and do something else. This will still be here tomorrow.

I’ve talked to people who have dramatic changes to their emotional stability, people who have lost their sense of smell, others have lost their sense of direction. For some people, the unrelenting headaches take over their lives, and other people blow up in anger or burst into tears over the slightest stress.  All of these signs are in relation to the areas of the brain affected by trauma. In order to help yourself through brain rehabilitation, it’s first going to be important to recognize the effect of your injury on your own brain. The brain itself doesn’t feel any pain, so it’s not like a doctor can tap around on different areas of the brain to see where it hurts. They also can’t go inside and fix any broken parts. The true test of brain injury is in its function, and this is something that you can learn to do yourself.

In my own experience, I found that this was something I needed help with at first.  It’s very difficult to recognize dysfunction in your own brain when you have a brain injury. Setting aside any pride that might interfere with your ability to accept help, ask someone you trust to help you recognize signs of problems in your brain. Keeping a journal may be helpful (or it may drive you crazy) but there will be some consistency in the reactions your brain has to certain tasks. If you can start to make note of the problems you are having and the circumstances in which they happen, you will be making the first step toward independence in your own brain rehabilitation.

Take some time at the end of each day to reflect on the problems you encounter and look for connections. (Do this after eating, you’ll need the fuel.) What were you trying to do when the problems happened? This is a very challenging task on a tired, injured brain, so it’s probably easier to discuss this with someone who is close to you. In my house, the close calls I had with nearly burning the kitchen down were some pretty good warning signs. I love to cook, so I had to take a new approach. By eliminating multi-tasking, I can cook again. This was initially a huge frustration for me, I had to take my own advice quite literally but as soon as I started to have some success with my new approach, I could work around the dysfunction.

The second factor to consider in function is fatigue. You may find you can overcome some of your dysfunction by pushing yourself but this is a really bad idea. Exercising your brain through learning is good, but pushing yourself through pain to build up endurance has a reverse effect with brain injuries. The nervous system reacts to harmful stimulus in a protective way. You may not be able to recognize the stress you are causing to your brain when you push yourself to function ‘normally’ for you, but your nervous system does, and it will become increasingly sensitive to these triggers. That’s how symptoms get worse, instead of better. If, when you are taking a moment to sit down with someone who spends a lot of time with you and you feel like things are getting worse instead of better, then that is a sign that you are not aware of the demands you are putting on your injured brain.

So, today’s advice is to take stock and find ways around your injury. Parts of your brain may not be working, but other parts can take over if you let them. If you live on your own, you may not have anyone observing the day to day mess-ups, but you can take the time to be honest with yourself and look for patterns of fatigue, mistakes, and physical symptoms. You can build up endurance, but it has to be incredibly slow.  The best way to build up function again is through very gradual increases in activities that are difficult for you. In the meantime, find ways to work around your brain dysfunction, avoiding the broken pieces, and you’ll be not only more highly functioning, you’ll be happier.



One thought on “Location, location…

  1. Thanks, for putting this post up regarding brain injury. this will help my Mom especially My brother has a brain injury since July 18, 2016 since he got stabbed at the right side of his brain. He had two surgeries in order to save his life. My brother is getting better though the doctors said it will take 18 months to heal. He has his ups and downs gets very emotional. He also forgets what he is supposed to be doing.


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