Can you remember those days when you weren't that aware of your brain most of the time, it was mainly running in the background, doing its incredible thing?
For those with a brain injury those days feel as though they are gone. What is going on inside my head is something I am constantly aware of and trying to understand and trying to control.
In the first few years after my brain injury there used to be a constant chatter in my head and I think this was a fundamental part of my overall problem. On a basic level it was really frustrating, if my brain has limited capacity and is learning and gets easily tired why doesn't it shut up for a while then?! Why do I have constant chatter and worry when surely what we need is peaceful quite time for the brain to recover and relearn?
However the wider implications of this were that it was very difficult to exist with a sense of normality. Pre brain injury I had had periods of stress where I had things 'swimming' around my mind but they would pass and things would return to normal. In normal life we live mainly in a world of 'cause and effect', your thoughts and emotions will come in response to things happening in your external environment. Post brain injury there was no room for this as my mind was a relentlessly turning machine of thoughts and emotions leaping from one subject to another with no rhyme, reason or real purpose.
In keeping with many themes of brain injury life these are all aspects of our existence, such as internal chatter and stress, that are common to everyone only for those living with a brain injury it is all consuming, and most importantly it tips the balance. When the degree of dis-order and lack of consistency reaches a certain point this is where you lose a sense of self, and this is where things get really difficult.
Having a pattern of such random thoughts and reactions means that you have little consistency, and consistency is essential to our personality. Our personality expresses itself through how we ‘normally’ react to a situation or how something makes us feel. You take this away and how do we know who we are and without knowing this you are lost.
Furthermore I was, and am, very aware of the different ‘compartments’ within my mind, they seemed far more clearly defined than before. My sub-conscious gives me the most trouble as this is so often ‘fired up’ and the greatest contributor to the sense of chaos in my head. My conscious mind is trying to keep up with the sub conscious and its barrage of information but equally the conscious mind has to deal with immediate situations like the conversation you are having or task you are undertaking. For the first few years I felt as though you I was on a constant treadmill that would not let up, and was living in permanent fear that any second something else would come along and that will be the straw that breaks the camels back and I would lose it.
There is also another compartment in my head that took a long time to both locate and understand and that is the part of me that isn’t angry and stressed but is actually quite sad and vulnerable. Through research and practice I have been able to far better understand what going on in my head, and with this learning I very aware of the cruel irony of brain injury life. At your very core there is a part of you that has suffered immense shock and trauma, and is vulnerable and confused, yet your outward response is to be angry and frustrated, not sad and needy. You can push people away with aggression when what you really need is to be sad and support that part of yourself and accept other peoples love and support to help with that process. Through relating research on trauma to my own experiences I have learnt a lot more about the reasons as to why your brain reacts in such a contradictory way and overworks itself when it should be resting and repairing. More on this on the next page.
Compartments in my mind...
No room for 'normal'....