Busy places can be difficult for anyone who isn’t feeling well, but they can be a total nightmare if you have a brain injury. Usually our brain filters out a lot of information that it considers unnecessary, but many of those with a TBI find those filters aren’t working.
This sensitivity can cause over stimulation and be overwhelming.
One day James’ parents had come to see us, which is a long laborious drive for them. So first we had them relax with a cup of tea. We had a good catch up and although I do find visitors take up a lot of mental energy I thought I was doing alright.
We went out for dinner, and the restaurant was pretty busy. They were playing music to give the place an upbeat feel, but the table they sat us at was right underneath one of the speakers.
I was trying so hard not to make a fuss but all the chatter from the other dinners and the music left me unable to follow any conversation. It was so uncomfortable and I knew I must have looked like a sulking teenager. But I felt I was being polite by not storming, out as I was drowning in sound. At this stage I couldn’t think properly, and we should have just moved tables to a quieter spot. But I thought by saying “no I’m fine here, don’t worry” that I was helping. Clearly it wasn’t.
My mood kept getting worse as I continued to struggle with how the noise was making me feel. When the food arrived I could barely touch it. The sensation of feeling it in my mouth and taste was just extra input for my already completely overloaded brain. I found I had to just stare into nothingness and not even try to hide that I wasn’t paying any attention to anyone. I was acutely aware that I was being rude but it genuinely was the best I could do. But everyone was fine about it, and I was just relived when we went home so I could try to recover.
But its not just noise I can struggle with. Light can be painful for my eyes. Sensitivity to both light and noise can be disastrous.
On a bright summers day, or a winters morning, when the sun is low and straight in your eyes we all can struggle and be reaching for the sunglasses. But I find being indoors can affect me too. The strip lighting in some supermarkets is devastating for me.
As for the dentists chair, that’s another story. I have to shut my eyes due to my light sensitivity . Then they keep asking if I’m OK, because they aren’t getting any visual cues from me, even that I’m still conscious. So I make the eh-huh noise, as you can’t speak when you have all their equipment in your mouth. Coupled with being in the chair I get so dizzy that I’m no longer certain if I’m managing to stay still for them. But I’ve had no complaints from them so I can only assume that I do.
So I can find myself wearing my shades in what looks like odd places. I’m not trying to look cool, I’m just trying to stay sane! But knowing that I might look unapproachable, or as if I’m some celeb wannabe, also makes me feel awkward. I know I put too much effort into trying to second guess what others are thinking of me, when in fact they probably haven’t even noticed I exist.
If I don’t wear shades, as well as the pain, I can become dizzy and confused. All together it’s a crushing combination and can mean the only solution is to go lay down in a darkened room. It makes everyday life such hard work at times.
I have to shut the world out because my brain keeps letting too much of it in.
For more on senses being affected by brain injury try:
- Double vision trouble from brain injury
- Tinnitus, the loathsome bells of brain injury
- Balance feeling unstable due to brain injury, it’s awkward.