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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



Brain injury survivor explains why people have depression wrong

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As someone who has faced depression and anxiety, I’m always drawn to articles where people talk about them. I mostly find them on Pinterest as it’s full of great work. But as well as blogs, there are images of quotes or thought provoking sayings. And it’s one of the most commonly used ones that I take issue with. Not because I’m a brain injury survivor, just as someone who as struggled with these demons.

Have these people ever really experienced depression and anxiety?

Depression is when you don’t really care about anything. Anxiety is when you care about everything too much. And having both is just like hell.

What are they talking about? If I didn’t care about something it wouldn’t make me feel anything, let alone depression. It is born out of shame and guilt, two of the most self destructive emotions.

Yes I understand that a sufferer may not care as much about how clean their home is for example. But that happens because when depression is making you question your self-worth. It makes the washing up pale into insignificance.

Anxiety is about over analysing things because you want to stop negative things from happening. It’s about fear, not a measurement of how much you care. Following my brain injury anxiety became a big thing for me, as I would immediately go to worst case scenario. It’s your brain trying to keep you alert and avoid danger. Unfortunately it means you see danger in situations when it’s not necessary.

Many brain people suffer from depression, as do I as a brain injury survivor. But there's a common description which gives people the wrong impression of us.....
Many brain injury survivors suffer from depression, as do many others. But there's a common description which gives people the wrong impression of us.....

You can’t put these powerful states of emotion in 3 sentences.

It makes me annoyed that these people think they are being clever, minimising  mental illness this way. I’m all for raising awareness, and having a starting point for creating a discussion. But at least get it right.

I was depressed because I didn’t see that I was good enough anymore. My brain injury had stolen many of my skills and I couldn’t see what I had to offer. So many times I offered to my partner James, that I move out and go look after my Dad. I said it because I loved James so much, I was prepared to let him go and find a way to be happy without me being a heavy burden. It most certainly wasn’t because I didn’t care. For me, I was offering self sacrifice to protect the person I loved.

In fact that would have put me straight in the path of anxiety, which I knew. My Dad was struggling with Alzheimer’s, but still wanted to be in control, as a Dad should be. But how do you guild someone who thinks they are the leader of the pack? And the responsibility of someone else’s life when you have only just sustained a serious brain injury yourself, is just too great. Why would I offer to put myself in an overwhelming situation if I didn’t give two hoots?

Mental health is a journey, there’s highs and lows, but we keep going because we care.

Despite how my brain injury made me question myself, I knew I had to move forward for both James and my Dad. All they wanted was for me to be happy again. It took time, but I got there. But I also know happiness isn’t a remote island where depression can’t get you. It’s like a Vulture, just watching and waiting for it’s chance. Just as well I like Vultures then, seeing as it’s going to be a companion for the rest of this trip.

What do you think of depression and anxiety being described this way? Or does having a brain injury make a difference?


10 replies on “Brain injury survivor explains why people have depression wrong”

I think, for me, I worry too much. Part of it is not having things in one’s control. Like you being unable to do things since your injury, that’s what happened to me. And it hurts, because sometimes it’s things you love to do.

Thank you for this!

Yes I completely agree! I found that I couldn’t even explain to someone else how to do some tasks, so how were they going to be dealt with? Of course people worked it out in the end, but it was all out of my control, and I assumed the worst.

Tick. And tick. I’ve had my AVM(my ABI) for 45 years. The same amount of time I’ve been here. Have had some form of depression since 9 y.o., due to the death of a sibling. Was disagnosed at 34, and since treatment have had my disability for now 10 years. Depression and anxiety, big time. Much acceptance and grief. Cheers,H

I’m so sorry about your sibling, that’s so tragic. No wonder the affects have stayed with you. Hugs ?

Hi. Its the duality of anxiety and depression that seems to be missing from a lot of things I’ve read. Backstory: I had a malignant brain tumour removed after I suffered a series of strokes and have lived with after effects more than half my life.

I really can’t factually declare how much being prone to anxiety and depression has anything to do with the damage, the surgery or the medication. But I think it does. I can say that recuperation, self pity and self loathing kept me bed ridden for a year. I get anxious worrying that I’ll ever be that bad again and depressed when I can’t pull up out of the rut, then anxious that I’m stuck there.

The duality? I get depressed about being anxious and anxious about being depressed! When I’m not depressed or anxious it seems ridiculous. When I am, it seems unavoidable.

Mike is it weird that I think what you describe makes perfect sense? I’m sure I haven’t experienced it to the degree you have, but I recognise a part of me. You put it so well.
I hope the cycle lessens for you and I wish you all the best for you continued recovery.

Yes, a brain injury is a factor in the tangle of anxiety and depression. The two conditions are a tangle to begin with … and I think that the core of them is often some kind of trauma. I sometimes think of depression as malignant grief. I know that my brain injury has cemented both depression and heightened anxiety into my makeup. I also know that I was born, prematurely, with a form of depression called anaclitic or brainstem depression — a metabolic, autonomic depression of function. Everything from blood pressure, respiration, digestion, weight, thyroid function, body temperature — all much lower than normal. It seems that the brain injury threw my system back into that original baseline.

I can’t stand that depression and anxiety are so often portrayed as conditions of thought, rather than whole-person disorders. The cognitive/behavioural aspects are only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak — the most evident and obvious.

I agree that quotes such as the above tell only a minute portion of the story. The mind is what the brain (in part) does. Caring and not caring … they’re existential.

Andrew Solomon said, in one of his TED Talks, that “the opposite of depression is not happiness; it is vitality.” Everything in me said YES! to that. I always sensed that there was much more to depression than the agonizing thoughts. I finally felt validated in my experience. And as we all know, brain injury is exhausting to the nth degree!

Thanks for your advocacy, Michelle. I hope you’re thriving.

Thank you Courage, I had not heard that definition of depression and it’s opposite before. I suppose the closest I got was thinking it would be to be content. But actually that doesn’t go far enough to explain the many complex ways depression can affect a person.

I also had not heard of brainstem depression before. My brainstem was affected in my accident, but I’m sure being born with that condition means it’s affects would be magnified. You are clearly not just a survivor, but a fighter!

All the best x

so many thoughts, they are getting all tangled up. this is exactly what i’ve been dealing with at of late. all the neurologist said was we will treat the depression aggressively before possibly doing ECT. that was years ago and i’m still stumbling around in the dark. like treatments for physical issues, everyone is rooting around in my mind for causes. yes, i have tons of issues that were never truly dealt with, but they never bothered me as much as after the stroke. now i find a support group and people that are speaking my language. i’m so confused as to which avenue to take anymore. do i keep poking around in the dark places that have always been there or try to live the life i was dealt and take the depression and anxiety as it comes, when it comes…..

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