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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



Distracted after brain injury and it’s causing problems

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Prior to my brain injury I could focus on a task pretty well. If it was a long one I would need short breaks, as anyone would, but I could complete it. But now I can be distracted even before I’ve started.

Yesterday was a simple, although not hugely important example. I needed to put the bin at the end of the drive before I went out that evening to be emptied in  the morning.

(If any of you are fans of the British soap Eastenders, don’t worry. I’m not about to copy their most boring story-line ever , complaining about how often the bins are collected.) 

It was the general waste bin that was due for collection, but I thought I would take out any recycling on my way. So I collected any plastic bottles and cardboard up and took them to the recycling bin outside. Then I remembered that as James, my partner, would be a while yet before he was home from work I better check I’d locked the door. Ah-ha, no I hadn’t,  I’d caught myself almost forgetting a crucial step. Pleased with myself I set off on my journey.

Did you spot my error?

I still hadn’t put the general bin out for collection. It’s not a big deal, James did it when he got home, but it’s frustrating. I’d got distracted simply by congratulating myself for locking the front door. My attention span is so short, that even simple mundane tasks don’t get done.

My brain injury leaves me easily distracted, so I lose my train of thought.

I don’t want to have to refer to a list for everything I do. Appointments and shopping lists, fine I accept everyone does that. But I don’t think I even could list all the little boring things one does in  a day. And if I started trusting my incomplete list, well there really would be no hope.

Why do we get distracted?

It’s partially to do with our inhibitions. Between each temple is the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) which plays a big role in this. It’s this system that helps us stay focused by putting the breaks on things that can distract us. But as we are wired to respond quickly to danger, this system only works for short periods of time.

What can we do about it?

Apparently it’s about timing. Once you start doing something it takes more effort to stop than it does to start. Our brains run on glucose and are energy hungry, so if it has to put more effort into one task, it has less ability to do the next. Particularly if you have a brain injury this is an issue. So you have to try to notice that you’re starting something that doesn’t have to be right now. If I’d finishing putting the bin out, I probably would have still remembered to lock the door. But because I allowed that process to be interrupted I became distracted. 

In short, just do one thing at a time. If you need to you can write an emerging thought down, or in my case, I could have kept saying to myself “lock the door” as I wheeled the bin.

For more examples of my silly errors, read Agony of cognitive tailspin after brain injury.

Have you become more distracted since your brain injury? What do you find helps you stay focused?


5 replies on “Distracted after brain injury and it’s causing problems”

“One breath at a time,” I often remind myself. Remember the movie, Field of Dreams? “If you build it, they will come,” is the reminder, the imperative, the hope. I tell myself, “If you pause it (my panic, through that one breath at a time), they (whatever I forgot or couldn’t grasp) will come.” Just this morning, I couldn’t remember what today’s date is. I started to scrabble; the thoughts tore off! –> “That’s it, I’m having a stroke; I have dementia, etc.” Panic-thoughts hit like lightning! Wiser mind said, “Just wait. Wait for it. It will come.” Then the reminder from Field of Dreams, a deeper breath or two, and permission to pause. Today’s date eventually revealed itself. I checked the calendar just to be sure … 😉

What helps me to stay focused? Most of all, touch. Some kind of sensory connection. Yesterday, I laid my hands on my fiance’s grandmother, whose hip was in pain. All of my focus went into that touch, into listening through my hands, into my breath, into awareness of sensation. Last night, my sweetie and I cuddled before sleep. Again, my awareness concentrated in my hands, and into the sensation of touch. Nothing calms and quiets me like that. Permission to pause … awareness of what I’m sensing … slowing down the breath … one breath at a time.

Thanks for this post, Michelle. Reading and pondering it, composing a response … all this helped me to come up with the phrase, “Permission to pause.” Applying a dab of kindness to my own human condition makes all the difference. And hmm … I need to take the garbage out …

Yes I’m so distracted too I never get any jobs finished, and then I’m angry when i see what I was supposed to have done. It’s not just every now and then it’s all the time every day. Every day I find on my mobile phone I’ve started replying to a text and got distracted and forgotten about it til much later. I’m always apologising to My friends/family for this. My friends and family now know they have to write/note down my appointments as I’ll probably forget to put them in my calendar. It’s very very frustrating as I too used to be really competent and could remember so much! I really hate this after effect of the stroke, It’s not recovered at all after 6 years so I’m probably going to be like this for the rest of my life. I’m 46. But I love reading your blogs Michelle you have some good suggestions, and its always nice to know I’m not alone ?

Claire, I encourage you by saying your comment above was so well put together and easy to follow. And the fact that you still HAVE ANY friends and family who want to not only be around you, but want to help, is extraordinary. Like most who have gone through a traumatic experience, you are not seeing how blessed you are. DO NOT COMPARE, IT WILL STEAL YOUR JOY! And if you begin asking your loved ones what progress they have seen since your injury, I bet they would give you plenty of uplifting examples! We are always healing, really we are. And I know it’s just one more thing to do, but consider journaling. Keep it handy at your bedside and write one sentence about what you are grateful for about that day, and in no time, you will have a whole book of positive reflections! And the habit will grow into getting out your frustrations and being aware of how you have improved. They may be tiny things to others, but monumental to us TBI victors! Yes, I am a victor, not just a “survivor”! Don’t beat yourself up about forgetting to journal, we do that enough; pick it back up that night…it’s supposed to be healing and positive! Our lives will never be the same as before our injury, it could turn out to be even better than before! I wrote this using Grammarly, which helps condense and make my thoughts more readable. Love and blessings!

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