The gamble of socialising after brain injury

I used to enjoy socialising with my friends, at work or an evening out. But even now, almost 2 years after my traumatic brain injury, I struggle with groups. There are so many reasons why this is difficult for me. I hate it needing to turn down kind offers for events, but I have to.

Socialising in groups means too many conversations to follow

Trying to get used to having a massively shortened attention span, like me, and following what someone is saying is tough. But add in several conversations happening at the same time, and it’s too much. I find I get distracted by hearing a word or two that someone else said. Then I’m trying to workout what they might be talking about. Oh but the conversation I’m having isn’t over. Yes you’ve lost me now, what did you say?

Socialising with a brain injury isn't always fun

I’m not stupid, I’m just slow

As many of my brains pathways are damaged, thinking and processing takes a lot more effort than before. It takes me time to think about what you said, let alone a reply. I get there, and other than the fact I struggle to find the words I’m looking for, my response is still the same. But when you have met up with friends, and the buzz is flying as this group are excited about socialising, you don’t want to be stuck with me. I suck the energy out of the flow as I slow it down so much. So I can’t blame people when they start up conversations with others, and I’m left like the lemon that I am. 

All the concentrating wears me out

I get tired, and although adrenaline might carry me through the event, I pay for it later. The headaches and eye aches are awful. coupled with the cognitive fatigue, it can wipe me out for a week. And I mean I’m struggling to even get out of bed I’m so bad. I can’t string a thought together, not even that I should try taking some more painkillers.

This aftermath is the part that only my partner James sees. If I do decide to go to something, I know he’s thinking of both sides. Yes it’s good it have that social contact, but he knows it’s probably going to cost me more than dinner.

Socialising with a brain injury

I can cope with a couple at a time so much better. It means there’s just one conversation for me to follow. And I don’t mind if they do most of the talking, in fact it takes the pressure off me. It’s not that I’ve gone off socialising. I just have to weigh up the pluses and minuses of each situation. That’s pretty much the same for everything when you are living with a brain injury, you have to choose your battles.

Another thing to consider when thinking about going to an event is the environment. You can read why in Light and Noise Sensitivity.

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Do you find socialising in groups works for you? Please share any good tips.

After my brain injury I find socialising in groups can be tough. Not just while I'm with them, but I pay with pain and fatigue later. I'm not a hermit, yet.



15 Replies to “The gamble of socialising after brain injury”

  1. Pretty much the same for same for me, 2 or 3 people max all I can follow & then still only if those people know my condition & limits & take that into consideration when talking. Otherwise if everyone just goes all at once it’s way too much over stimulation for me, I can’t even find a place to try to insert myself in the conversation. I end up twitching all over the place, & going home to take a pain pill hit bed & most times won’t recover until the next day. Group outings just aren’t an option anymore, dinner out with my family hardly is anymore sadly😔

    1. Yes I twitch too. I call it shivers but it has nothing to do with temperature, but gets worse the more stressed I get.

  2. I feel exactly like you do. A couple weeks ago I went out with my family to a Sushi place. My cousin and teenage son were visiting from Germany so I did not want to miss it. Lots of small kids and constant talking. I did not go for wine at my sisters after like I used to. The next day I spent about five hours with cousin to say goodbye. I was wiped out for a week. I felt I like I may have been unconsious at times. It took me about three hours just to get out of bed. Scary.

    1. It’s so horrible when it happens, and it’s the affect that they don’t see. They don’t understand it’s not just the effort while you see them, it’s committing yourself to being unavailable for a week afterwards too.

  3. This totally sums me up too!

    I’ve tried to ask friends and family to have one conversation at a time but it never seems to happen, that is until I’ve snapped at the kids or something like that and then they start to realise that I’m struggling. It takes me ages to recover too so much so that I now try and avoid large social occasions!

    1. Others forget as they don’t live with it themselves. But also us humans can sometimes get hooked up with our own agenda and forget others. Like how suddenly one comment in a meeting can set off everyone talking amongst themselves. It’s not that they aren’t interested, or are bad people. Just that they want to express the thought it inspired before they forget it.

  4. I am 2 years post car accident and still have a very difficult time in loud groups and noisy areas. I have to really be up to it. I used to be able to go to concerts with general admission and just stand wherever. The thought of that is terrifying to me now. If I don’t have a seat I don’t go. Big crowds and loud bars are just too much for me now. It’s hard because I used to be a club hopper and the life of the party but now I’d rather have dinner at a friends house. I don’t have nearly as many friends as I used too but I’m ok with that.

    1. Life changes and different things become important. I’m glad you’re ok with having less friends, as those people who backed away haven’t changed with you. That doesn’t make them bad people, just on a different path to you.

  5. You aren’t alone. This is very accurate. And sometimes it’s so frustrating because you know how you were before the head injury. I never had anxiety before the head injury and now I have crippling anxiety

    1. Thanks Darian. I wonder if friends understand it’s not really a choice to socialise less, but a necessity?

  6. The difficulties outlined in the article and in the other responses above strike a strong chord with me. I find social situations difficult and easily get distracted after I being treated for a brain tumour. I’m glad I’m not alone in having these problems.

    1. Tom, I wish you all the best for your treatment on behalf of everyone who has commented here. It’s totally understandable that social situations have become challenging and you’re definitely not alone in that.

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