The main reason it’s been a couple of week since my last blog is because I have been fervently trying to correct my first brain injury booboo of the university semester. Not the worse booboo I’ve made of all time, but a pain in my bosom all the same.
So I’m a couple of week’s into studying for my big exam in January: Anatomy and physiology, for which we have no lectures: just independent learning. This suits me down to the ground, as I need to take more breaks during revision time than the average bear nowadays anyway. So the uni bods have put a revision calendar up online for us, with which topics we should be studying week by week. There have been about 3 different topics each week so far.
So I merrily get to the end of the second week, thinking I’m doing a pretty good job. Everyone is worrying about how much work needs to be done, but I can’t really understand that. We have plenty of time. I’m logging on to my course calendar at the end of the second week, and I spot it. It looks like this;
Week 1 Week 2
Organisation of the body Tissues
Cells of the body Integumentary System
Genetics Immune system
I had been studying the first topics of the week no problem e.g. Organisation and tissues. I was completely forgetting there were another two topics to study in depth after the first one..doh! This only left me two weeks behind, which I managed to catch up on. Rather two weeks in then a month in, that’s what I say. This is a perfect demonstration of a brain injury symptom I have issues with: impulsivity. Not the worse case I’ve ever had, but I’ll take this as an early warning from the brain injury fairy.
Impulsivity and lack of filter pretty much go hand in hand and since starting uni there have been a few moments where words have escaped my lips before I had time to asses or stop them. It just so happens to be rotten luck that a few of these times have been in a lecture hall in front of 400 people. Cest la vie.
In lectures, I find that if someone next to me or within earshot mumbles something under their breath that’s not a suitable thing to say out loud, or that I think is jolly funny, maybe something a bit cheeky like “good afternoon” when the lecturer arrives half an hour late for a morning lecture, I find myself shouting it out before I’ve had a chance to think about it.
Again nothing too major, just another warning from the fairy. I really would shoot that little bitch if I could catch her. Whoever thought being so truthful could get you in such pickles.
- One thing I get all the time, and I don’t blame people for saying this, is: “Oh I wouldn’t worry. I get THAT all the time. That is ALWAYS happening to me. I misplace things ALL the time. Oh don’t worry, even I get a dodgy head when THAT happens.”
The mentality of human beings is to try and fix what is broken. The reality of living with brain injury is that thing’s like this do NOT get fixed, it is part of who you are now. Another reason BI is so misunderstood is that the symptoms are not exclusive to brain injury alone. Here are just a few examples of the responses I’ve had over the years:
- “Try not to blame your anxiety on your brain injury. It’s life: it’s not easy for anyone.”
- “I know why you are so dizzy all the time, it’s your Blood sugar. Try eating before during and after, you’ll feel a lot better. It’s not a brain injury – TRUST ME.”
- “You can’t talk like that. I don’t agree with it. I think it is wrong, you are wrong for saying it.”
- “It might be unintentional, but you are causing BIG problems for us here”
- “Everyone get’s tired. That’s just normal”
“You can walk 200 metres? You’re not in a wheelchair? You can’t work but you say you are severely exhausted after minimal activity? You’re NOT entitled to this. I don’t see any reason you can’t be returning to work in two months” – Medical Professional 2011, the same year of my injury.
The only way you can hope to get around this sort of bullshit is meticulous planning, learning techniques to help, build strategies that work for you etc. E.G. For me, if I know I will be in a situation that I will most likely become angry, like meeting with certain people, I prime myself. I envisage wearing my nurse’s uniform. I never get angry as a nurse. It’s nothing personal.
My family and I had to pay 35K to get that idea
These ridiculous and insensitive comments were ALL made by grown adults. Some advice for non brain injured people might be: You don’t ALWAYS have to say something. You can be just as caring if you are SILENT. Anyone else out there who does have a brain injury and is reading this blog, this piece of advice is for you my friends:
Learn not to care too much what people think of you.
This is a hard pill to swallow, and has taken me nearly three years to perfect. If I really cared about what people thought of me, I certainly wouldn’t be going back to university go try and get a degree in paediatric nursing! I would never get to sleep at night. I wouldn’t be able to get up in the mornings. I would be anxious, worried and angry all the time.
You need to accept the fact that your brain is a lot slower now. Being completely misunderstood and therefore totally isolated is an occupational hazard and a certainty with BI. Blurting things out, making really inappropriate comments and often being a little “too truthful” is something you’re just gonna have to accept and learn to live with, for now at least. Things will get better.
IDGAF = I don’t give a monkeys
I’ll tell ya something for nothing – I am quite glad I can listen to lectures we have on the exam at home, because every 30 seconds I find myself pausing the lecture and letting my brain make sense of the fact that was just explained to me. It is unreal just how slow my brain is compared to how it used to be! When someone tells me a joke, I often don’t get it. So I’m left standing there while the tumbleweeds come and go, the situation growing all the more awkward by the minute (I had happen most recently with my tutor lol. Not understanding the punchline of jokes is another symptom of brain injury). People must think I’m mad, but mostly people think I’m just pissed off with what they’ve said.
Some of you might be thinking “He says he struggles, but this blog is written pretty good. How can he say he has these problems and write so well?” Well my friends, that’s just the shite reality of brain injury. I can write words and if they need to be changed before you read them, I can go back and edit them. You can’t do that in a conversation, once it’s said that’s tough poop. It takes effort to write like this, so don’t be fooled. Or ignorant. That’s why it is such a risk me writing this thing, it might serve to confuse you even more, which certainly is not my intention and I hope I’m not!
One of the most important things you need to learn if you are living with a jolly old BI is you MUST ACCEPT and ADAPT
- You need more time to do things now.
- You will make more mistakes now. Allow time for these, don’t beat yourself up.
I’ve been living this for three years now, so I know what time the clock says. In brain injury world, it is a miracle I’m returning to uni at this time, as it is still very early days.
You’re still alive. Still functioning, even if it is a little less than before.
This was the hardest thing for me was to accept I am no longer the person I used to be in regards of temperament, intelligence, wittiness, social etiquette etc etc…
If I am in a situation where detailed information is being explained, and I can access it another way that is simpler and less fatiguing to me, I’ll just zone out. Whether in a lecture hall or a conversation, If I think it is not important that I waste precious glycogen or neuron firing on this task in front of me then I will ignore yo’ ass. I’ll try my best to do it in a way that is socially acceptable but if it is still left leaving a bad taste in your mouth – IDGAF.
Self preservation. You HAVE to be selfish sometimes, otherwise you won’t survive brain injury.
I’ll end this blog with one of the most important quotes anyone who is lucky enough to have beat the odds like me must always bear in mind:
All this would be a lot harder being sat in a wheelchair.