March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month, and as promised, I am writing a series of blogs to help educate others and bring awareness to traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
1. Our brains no longer work the same.
We have cognitive deficiencies that don’t make sense, even to us. Some of us struggle to find the right word, while others can’t remember what they ate for breakfast. People who don’t understand, including some close to us, get annoyed with us and think we’re being “flaky” or not paying attention. Which couldn’t be further from the truth, we have to try even harder to pay attention to things because we know we have deficiencies.
Martha Gibbs from Richmond, VA, suffered a TBI in May of 2013 after the car she was a passenger in hit a tree at 50 mph. She sums up her “new brain” with these words:
Almost 2 years post-accident, I still suffer short-term memory loss and language/speech problems. I have learned to write everything down immediately or else it is more than likely that information is gone and cannot be retrieved. My brain sometimes does not allow my mouth to speak the words that I am trying to get out.
2. We suffer a great deal of fatigue.
We may seem “lazy” to those who don’t understand, but the reality is that our brains need a LOT more sleep than normal, healthy brains. We also have crazy sleep patterns, sometimes sleeping only three hours each night (those hours between 1 and 5 a.m. are very lonely when you’re wide awake) and at other times sleeping up to 14 hours each night (these nights are usually after exerting a lot of physical or mental energy).
Every single thing we do, whether physical or mental, takes a toll on our brain. The more we use it, the more it needs to rest. If we go out to a crowded restaurant with a lot of noise and stimulation, we may simply get overloaded and need to go home and rest. Even reading or watching tv causes our brains to fatigue.
Toni P from Alexandria, VA, has sustained multiple TBI’s from three auto accidents, her most recent one being in 2014. She sums up fatigue perfectly:
I love doing things others do, however my body does not appreciate the strain and causes me to ‘pay the price,’ which is something that others don’t see. I like to describe that my cognitive/physical energy is like a change jar. Everything I do costs a little something out of the jar. If I keep taking money out of the jar, without depositing anything back into the jar, eventually I run out of energy. I just don’t know when this will happen. Sometimes it’s from an activity that seemed very simple, but was more work then I intended. For me, like others with TBIs, I’m not always aware of it until after I’ve done too much.