I feel like it is super important for me to at least try and explain what it feels like to be a TBI patient having to go out in crowded places or situations. Places like restaurants, stores or even parties.
Our Brains Get Tired More Easily
Our brains get tired more easily than yours do. Just doing normal everyday life is more work for our brains to process than it is for yours. It will require so much more energy for us to do something that someone without a bruised brain could do without even thinking. Which leads me to my next point.
Thinking Is So Hard When Your Brain Is Bruised
It probably sounds sort of cliche, but it is absolutely true. My brain has to try so hard for me to be able to balance and walk with my walker. It also is constantly trying to interpret what my jacked up eyes are seeing.
It gets to a point in some situations where our brains are so tired and focusing so hard, that we literally can’t even think. For example, I was at an awards banquet last week in a large group in a crowded hall. I made it about halfway through.
My vision started getting blurry and double. I could not process what anyone was saying. Even though I knew they were talking, I did not know what the words were. I started to get the feeling that vertigo was going to set in. My dad was standing across from me. I needed to get his attention to help me out of the room to take a break for a bit. By the time I managed to think my way through getting his attention and asking for help. It was all I could do to walker myself outside.
The noise overload was just too much. Different sounds coming from every which way. My bruised brain trying to process them and it is a real struggle. It ends up exhausting our brains to the point that we feel like our minds are shutting down. It was like I was hearing all kinds of noise, but couldn’t distinguish what any of it was. Then when I finally realized I needed to go outside, it was a struggle to find my words to ask for help. It was like they were there floating around in my brain, but for some reason, my brain couldn’t catch them and send them out of my mouth.
Your Brain Does All These Things And You Don’t Even Realize It!
A healthy brain is constantly processing everything that is going on around you. To the point that you don’t even realize that it is doing it. When your brain is injured it isn’t able to process all the different stimuli it is experiencing.
Your brain is doing things automatically, while my brain is still struggling to understand what is going on.
It Is Not Just Physical Activity That Is Hard
So many times I have been told things like, “oh well you are just going to be sitting there, what’s the big deal?” Even though mobility is an issue for me, I’m pretty nimble walking with my walker at this point. It is not the physical part of doing things that hinders me the most.
It is the mental part. If there is a conversation around me with multiple people, I can’t follow who is saying what. A lot of times this is really stressful which then causes my brain to be even more of a mess. I get that feeling that I can’t find my words again. I embarrass myself because I realize that I had been there the whole time, but hadn’t followed the conversation at all.
A lot of the times that I go out in situations that I know that I will struggle with, I wear earplugs. The kind that musicians use to help block and filter out background noise. The earplugs I use are called Eargasm Ear Plugs and I would highly recommend them to anyone with a TBI. They are well worth the money. It doesn’t fix the noise and overstimulation problem totally, but it does take the edge off, and make things a little easier.
The More Tired My Brain Gets, The More My Symptoms Flare Up
I have a headache all the time. Usually, it is tolerable, maybe 3 or 4 out of 10 with 10 being the worst pain. Stress and loud noises very quickly turn a tolerable headache into a migraine. My migraine symptoms include nausea, dizziness and seeing bright lights in my eyes. Since I struggle with balancing myself, when I get in a situation that exhausts my brain, my balance gets worse. It is a weird feeling that comes on suddenly of my muscles feeling very weak, like a noodle that can barely hold me.
Part of rehabilitation for TBI is gaining tolerance for all these things slowly, a little bit at a time. It is a long hard process though. Just when you feel like you have overcome it to a certain level, it’s time to push for more tolerance. The more you push, the more the symptoms that you thought were finally going away, come right back. Just as strong as they were before it seems a lot of the time.
To Give You An Example…
It is like you have the flu, so you are tired and have a headache. Then you are forced to go to the loudest concert you have ever been to. You have to be able to hold a conversation with three or four people. Then, it is finally time to leave, you are so exhausted. Then someone comes up to you with a sheet of math problems and expects you to be able to answer them. Your brain begins to process the conversation around you so slowly that you can’t even piece together what people are saying. Your headache is getting worse to the point that you feel sick to your stomach. Then you realize you have no idea how to get home. So while feeling awful with a headache and upset stomach, you have to find someone ask them for directions. When they start talking it is like they are speaking a different language because your brain can’t keep up with processing all this.
You suddenly get dizzy and blackout. Then you wake up and realize it was all just a dream. A nightmare really! At least for you, these situations don’t happen in real life!
They are a reality for those of us that are recovering from brain injury. Things like this happen all the time and we are constantly learning and adapting to handle it.
Why Did I Tell You All This?
I know that this is something that is hard to believe or understand until you have experienced it. I just figured I would try to help you understand what it can be like for us as we rehabilitate. It is hard! Our brains are not working quietly and magically to help us live life like yours are.
So, if we say we need a break, now can you understand why? Sometimes we literally just can’t push through. We have to stop and allow our symptoms to simmer down.
If we say we don’t want to go to a certain place, it is probably because we know the situation will put our symptoms into overdrive. If we say we can go but we can only stay a little while. It is because we know our limits and want to stop pushing ourselves before the symptoms start to rear their ugly heads.
We lose our train of thought easily. We can’t find our words…it is all part of what we are dealing with as we recover from our injuries.
Thank You For Listening!
Even if you still don’t get what the big deal is, thank you for reading this. It makes me feel better to know that I at least tried to explain what we are going through.
To make a long story short, it sucks and it’s hard, so please take it easy on us.