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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



TBI and PTSD isn’t limited to just war vets, it can happen to anyone

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There has always been media coverage about how service men and women in the armed forces can sustain visible and invisible injuries which can be life changing. And of course it’s absolutely right that the public are made aware of the sacrifices these people make on the behalves of the citizens of their country. They deserve respect and more importantly, support and understanding when they return home. In fact, PTSD only really started to get recognised as a thing from back in the day that it was referred to as “shell shock” when war vets returned home with changed behaviour following serving in a campaign.  So for that I thank them as well, because at least that started us talking about it.

But actually you don’t have to be working in a danger zone to sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or suffer Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Normal civilians just going about their daily business can be casualties to both of these serious and complex conditions, often whilst doing the most mundane activities. 

Road traffic accidents and sporting collisions also result in a high number of TBI’s

I’m sure that by now many of you know that I sustained a diffuse axonal brain injury (where lots of connections across a vast area are ripped) in a car accident due to the rotation forces of the impact. You might also know that I don’t remember that day at all, so you could be forgiven for thinking that my lack of memory saved me from developing PTSD. If only that’s how it works….

Being a passenger in a car terrifying

Something in my brain was constantly looking for danger, but with a dramatically reduced processing speed, I was seeing it late. As I wasn’t in control of the car, or sure if the person driving me had seen  the hazard, I would panic, making an involuntary yelp. I’m sure this was distracting for the driver and not at all helpful, but I couldn’t help it.  But at least this was understandable and a reasonable response.

Then the irrational fears set in

Just days after my release from hospital my mum died in a tragic accident at home. The shock was overwhelming and I found I was struggling to function. I think this, coupled with the car accident which had happened only a few weeks before, triggered my fear of anyone important to me dieing. Everytime my phone rang I began to panic, certain that it was going to be some catastrophic news.  My biggest fear was that my partner, James, was going to die. I insisted that every day, if I was still asleep when he was leaving for work he had to wake me up to say goodbye. It was like it was a forgone conclusion that he was going to die in some horrible accident, but I just didn’t know which day it would be. I didn’t want it to be that I didn’t say goodbye when it happened.

This stage of being constantly on edge was exhausting. Any sound that I wasn’t expecting, like a person walking into the room, would make me jump up so violently it was almost painful. All day everyday, I would be shaking with anxiety.

My brain used another unexpected tragedy as proof that this fear was rational

In the next summer my cat went missing for a few days. In previous summers he would wander off for a few days, so initially that didn’t set off the alarms. After 3 or 4 days James said he was going to look in the trees behind our garden just in case he was out there but refusing to come in. Moments later I saw him hurrying back towards the house with a distressed look on his face. “He’s dead!” he said. For a moment I though it must have been my brain overreacting again and that I’d miss heard him. Then he repeated it and I’m sure the colour must have drained from my face. The poor little thing was literally just the other side of our fence. He had no injuries, so he probably had a heart attack. The uncontrollable shakes, which had calmed down only recently, came back with vengeance. My nightmares were coming true, and that was all my brain needed to cement my worries of loved ones suddenly passing away .

I think I must have driven James potty, by always saying how everyday he might die, although he was very patient and understanding with me. As you can imagine, this also lead to me assuming every bit of news I got about anything would be disastrous. If anyone stated saying something and paused, I would jump in, asking “What,what?!” as I needed them to get to the point super fast so I could stop panicking about what awful news they might be about to impart. I can’t remember how long this behaviour went on for or when I learned to stop worrying about things that hadn’t happened, but it was a long time.

I’m telling you this not because I want your sympathy, but because I want people to realise that both TBI and PTSD can happen to anyone. It doesn’t have to even be something that extraordinary which causes it. Neither my car accident, or the passing of my mum and cat are that uncommon, although devastating. These irrational fears are all consuming, and whilst it might appear overly dramatic to the next person, they are very real for the sufferer. So please, if someone appears to worry and panic about things which you deem unnecessary, please show them patience and kindness. You can say “Calm down dear”, until you’re blue in the face, but all you’re going to do it might it worse. Compassion will get you much further.


4 replies on “TBI and PTSD isn’t limited to just war vets, it can happen to anyone”

Michelle, I recently experienced PTSD for the first time. The psychiatrist that I saw told me he believed I couldn’t get it because I don’t remember my accident.

I had my eyes lazered in January (not the best plan for a DAI survivor with damage to the occipital lobe, but that’s another story!). I was given a sedative & watched on my Garmin as my stress level & heart rate decreased.

I was cool, calm & collected – until the machine pressed down hard on my face & shoulders. I panicked & began shouting in English (it was a Swiss clinic) “Stop, it’s too much!”

I can only assume that it brought back memories of the 3 medicus in the helicopter who had to hold me down & force me inside as I was so agitated.

I believe that just because we can’t access those memories, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. I’m disappointed that your psychiatrist said you couldn’t get it, that’s the type of attitude that we need to change. I hope you’re doing better after your experience and it doesn’t keep triggering.

I survived a near-fatal TBI with a coma after a newly trained horse threw me just outside of the farm as we headed out to the trails. I was not wearing a helmet. I was immediately knocked out and never suffered PTSD. My TBI was serious, I was bleeding from every orifice and my ICU nurse friend, Liz , who was riding with me when I had the accident, told me months later she didn’t think I would live long enough to make it to the hospital only 4 miles away. She was the one who had to get both horses back to the barn, call 911, call my adult daughter and parents, and get back out to where I was lying to meet the ambulance with my wallet containing my insurance info, etc.. She saw the whole thing. Poor Liz was a nervous wreck the first day we went trail riding after I rehabbed for 6 months! And she and I both ALWAYS wore our riding helmets after my accident!

I just wanted to say that this was truly informative, because as a TBI survivor I realize that the feeling I feel going down a set of stairs, or walking on icy roads or even just walking in general, the amount of fear now has a home. I have PTSD and was found to have it by talking to the counselor I had who helped me transition back to daily life.

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