By Christie Young
There is so much more I know now about why socialization became difficult for me after my mild traumatic brain injury. I learned that it took several months after my accident for the slow cascade of my brain injury to affect the visual and auditory sensory pathways in my brain. My short-term memory, inability to handle excess stimuli in my environment and difficulty communicating with others were just a few of the sensory deficits that had sent me into an unexpected tailspin of trauma that I never knew my concussion initially caused.
My physical injuries had overshadowed the slow stages of mounting problems from my TBI. My communication skills began to suffer. I became unable to stay on track in conversations with others or retain the information discussed. It was as if everything I heard dropped into a deep well within my brain and unless there was a visual or verbal reminder of the information, it was difficult for me to retrieve much. The shock of what was happening to me caused me to retreat, and I remained isolated for months while I searched intensely for a doctor who could help me. Due to the ongoing physical therapy in addition to trying to navigate through my life with the after effects from my concussion, I had to quit my job. My hands became full trying to recover.
Because socializing with others became a challenge, I learned early on that it was best for me to slow down and become a good listener. Before my injury, I was always a communicator. For many years I had a career that required strong social communication skills. Upon the onset of my injury, I found that If conversations became lengthy, I had to make time immediately after to write my notes so I could not only process the information at my “new pace” but remember what was discussed. I quickly realized that bringing my notes to many appointments would help me achieve the desired outcomes.
I was grateful after I attended brain injury rehabilitation. For me, I knew that type of therapy was an intricate part of my road map to recovery. The incredible practitioners taught me to use several compensation techniques such as extra sticky notes, digital calendar reminders, notepads, and physical placement of items to visually recall what I needed. After attending several rounds of rehabilitation, life became a bit more manageable, however I knew my journey had just begun.
During my recovery process, I read several books from brain injury survivors. Every book brought something valuable for my recovery. When I read the book called The Ghost In My Brain by Dr. Clark Elliott. His journey rang true to me in multiple ways, and I wondered if I too had sensory deficits that could be corrected through the unique Neuro Optometry skills of Dr. Deborah Zelinsky at the Mind Eye Institute in Chicago. Since working with Dr. Zelinsky in 2017, I slowly began to recover from my short-term memory problems and my communication skills improved significantly!I feel so grateful for Dr. Clark Elliott and his story of survival and recovery. I believe God put me in front of many integrative health professionals who had extraordinary gifts in helping others to heal. I am so thankful for their talents, care and ground-breaking insights towards improving the brain after traumatic brain injury. My recovery is amazing!
For me, hope after brain injury came from never giving up and reading the stories from other survivors and those medical professionals who helped to improve their lives.