The Basics of Traumatic Brain Injury
“Traumatic brain injury” – for me, the words themselves conjure up images of someone running around with a dent in their head, or of a brain sitting by the wayside with a bandage on.
That is what comes to mind for me, and I have traumatic brain injury (TBI), so I can only imagine what people who don’t have it think! Or what people who have no idea of what it means at all think of it.
It sounds freaky.
It also doesn’t help that mainstream society tends to think that if you have a brain injury – or brain damage – you might be a homicidal maniac or completely non-functioning. Those of us with TBI are commonly portrayed in movies as either the person in the corner rocking themselves or the guy running around with the chainsaw.
The reality is that we are pretty normal, and that we are all around you (who don’t have TBI); TBI is arguably the most common disability there is.
Added to that, thousands of people are going to acquire this disability, and are acquiring this disability right now, this very minute, as I type. Because you now what? Out of all the disabilities out there, this one is just about the easiest to “catch” – it’s as simple as a swerve, an uncomplicated as a fall.
Getting a brain injury is a piece of cake.
I think that since it’s such a breeze to acquire a brain injury, and since those of us who have it are all around you who don’t, we all should understand it a little more.
I mean, if I, someone who actually has a brain injury, thinks the words “brain injury” can sound freaky and scary, how much worse must it be for someone who doesn’t have it? Right? Okay!
What is Traumatic Brain Injury and How Do You Get TBI?
Brain injury is exactly what it sounds like: it’s when you have hurt your brain by rattling it against something.
The most common ways of acquiring it are through car accidents or head-banging sports like football. Bicycle accidents, motorcycle accidents and anything, really, that will bang your brain up solidly against your skull.
Traumatic Brain Injury Classifications: Mild, Moderate, Severe
There are plenty of differences among brain injury, because much of how you are affected depends on where exactly you hurt your brain, and and how hard you hurt it.
All brain injuries, however, are classified as either “mild” or “severe”. “Mild” is defined as a “loss of consciousness and/or confusion and disorientation is less than 30 minutes.” “Severe” is defined as a brain injury resulting in a loss of consciousness of greater than 6 hours and a Glasgow Coma Scale of 3 to 8.
That spectrum range of “mild” to “severe” in real life, with real people is huge, absolutely enormous!
People can have slurred speech, altered personalities, or just be scattered with a sketchy memory.
Typically, areas that are affected by traumatic brain injury are:
- Speed of processing
- Language processing
- Executive functions
What Is Difficult About Traumatic Brain Injury
I think that what is ultimately hardest for most people who acquire a brain injury, as well as for their loved ones, is that unlike other acquired disabilities (where you are suddenly unable to walk, talk, see, etc), there is significant change but the person is still themselves. With brain injury, however, personality itself can be changed.
This is like a person’s complete orientation changing, similar to the motor of a car being swapped out. Instead of driving a Ferrari engine in a Ferrari car body, the person with acquired brain injury is now driving a Ferrari car body with a Hyundai engine. You are still driving to be sure, but it feels, looks, sounds and handles differently.
This doesn’t end things though: you can still drive! You still have a car! You just need to adjust to the new engine.
In real-life terms, that just means that you need to learn to use the tools of accommodation.
How to Accommodate a Traumatic Brain Injury:
In my own life, I use many tools to help accommodate my own injury.
For example, I use multiple calendars – both paper and electronic. I use timers and I have reminders programmed into the i-Phone and computer. So far, so good, right? A lot of people do this!
I schedule everything I need to do in a time that will allow for concentration. Music helps me to keep my focus, and flow charts help with organizing. Fluorescent lights used to trigger brain shut-downs on my part (- I would just fall asleep when I was around them), but I have healed a lot from my injury. I just get distracted with them now, so I avoid them.
Talking about Traumatic Brain Injury: How I Acquired It, What it Means
Like I was saying in the video, the Job Accommodation Network has lots of accommodation ideas for both work and personal life.
Which brings me to a final important point: healing.
Healing From a Traumatic Brain Injury:
Yes, you can heal from traumatic brain injuries!
The brain, like any another organ, is remarkably resilient and is capable of healing.
When you give it time, space and wherewithal to heal, it usually can. You might need to learn new ways of doing things and utilize accommodations. Your life might look very different than how it did pre-injury. But that doesn’t always mean it’s worse, and it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of everything either. It just means that it’s different than how it once was.
Brain injury sounds scary and no doubt about it, it can be.
It can also be interesting, because you sure do learn a lot about yourself, how you function, and how important environments and tools are when you have a brain injury. Of course, first you have to get over the hump of adjusting and learn how to function with your altered brain before you are likely to find much interesting, but it will happen.