Living an Unfiltered Life

Living an Unfiltered Life

Some things you just can’t see coming—like a traumatic brain injury. Never did I envision the life that I have today. It’s only natural to look forward in your life when you are younger. Some people yearn to become doctors, race car drivers, or even astronauts, but no one wants to grow up to be a brain injury survivor.

Brain injury is the last thing you think about until it’s the only thing you think about. And so it was for our family. At forty-nine years old, my professional career was in full swing. I had just married the girl of my dreams. There was a healthy and fun rhythm to our lives; days were long and the sun shined upon us.

Until that fated day in 2010 when everything changed. And I do mean everything.

For many who share our fate as a survivor family, they remember “the call” or the knock on the door. If you live a life defined by traumatic brain injury, you most likely have memories of “that day.” Perhaps there was a car crash or a fall. Domestic abuse brings some into this new TBI life. There are seemingly endless causes with one shared result—a traumatic brain injury.

Learning to live with a brain injury is a bit like learning to drive a new car. The controls are off a bit. Everything that was familiar is now unfamiliar. It takes time to get used to the new normal of life after TBI. In my case, it took many years.

And the changes were so unexpected and so surreal. However, not everything that defines the new normal of life after brain injury is a bad thing.

For example, since my brain injury, I’ve developed an instant love for seafood. I spent close to half a century avoiding all things aquatic that end up on a dinner plate. No longer! Truth-be-told, my new life has become a bit of a Food Channel type of adventure. A recent trip to Louisiana found me sampling local fare like crawdads and frog legs—foods I never would have tried in my old life. I find the new culinary adventures quite wonderful. My wife Sarah doesn’t seem to mind.

Changes in my tastes and personality transcend just about every aspect of my life. Today I live an unfiltered life as my brain injury has essentially wiped away my emotional and verbal filters. No longer does anyone say, “So David, can you tell me how you really feel?

These days, I am learning, often the hard way, to say less. My emotional and sometimes verbal filter departs at the most inopportune times.

“Mr. Spock, the shields are down, increase verbal output to warp factor five.”

Get in front of me in the twelve items or less aisle in the grocery store with thirteen (or more) items in your basket, and you might just see me behind you in line struggling to call you out on it. This alone is growth. In my first year or so as a survivor, there was no struggle as I’d simply call you out on it.

But the loss of my emotional filter has proven to be one of my hidden TBI blessings. I can freely and without worry or concern share what’s on my mind. It’s not uncommon now for me to tell my aging dad that I love him. The first few times he heard me say that, you could hear a bit of awkwardness creep in, but no longer. We are both new Englanders and have been trained for generations not to wear emotions in public. No longer. I can thank my brain injury for this new freedom.

I openly and often let those close to me know that I appreciate their presence in my life. If I have an opinion, I share it these days. Those close to me know that subtlety is not part of the new David. Better still, as the years pass, I seem to be able to put the brakes on when I need to, when tact or decorum are required.

Time passes, and my old life seems like that of someone else. Memories that dwell within me belong to someone who once was. Such is the everlasting surrealism and unending reality of life after TBI.

But today, just today mind you, that is okay.

Comments (16)

Thank you for a well written article. Both my brother and brother in law were traumatically brain injured in separate accidents a few years apart. It was a major adjustment for all. The most frustrating things people would say was that my brother looked normal, therefore he must be fine! Once you receive a TBI, it is for life, you heal but there will be some deficits to deal with such as word finding or lack of filter, poor executive functioning and planning etc. Various therapies help tremendously in recovery. So glad to read this upbeat article! Thank you!

God bless you with every step!!! My TBI was also in 2010. It's coming up on June 13th. My husband divorced me after 20 years of marriage. He also kicked me out with my youngest daughter. Every day continues with ups and downs. I give you strong support with all that you continue to endure. Peace with love!!!

That was nicely stated, and I can definitely feel it. I have had to put a lot of time and effort into speaking filtered. It's hard, and almost impossible to explain in most circumstances! Peace & Love!☀🌻

I was born with a very small filter! During my brain surgery - they must have removed what was left of it. I also cry at the drop of a hat, say for instance when I have to reverse my car. A totally understandable reason to cry! lol

TBI ... you only know it if you live it

I lost my filter too after my TBI. I get teary eyed at commercials sometimes! I've learned to control my verbal outbursts though, as you do, for the sake of loved ones.

David, I believe the need to be honest about your feelings is derived from the fact you reached the edge, metaphorically speaking...a wake up call on the "meaning of life." You cherish what you once had and see how careless you were with the gift of life. A deeper understanding has been gifted to you. The speed of life slows down and you learn to savor it like fine wine...and this fine vintage continues to grow as you grow deeper in your understanding an appreciation of what your TBI has enabled you to see!!!

Arthur Cortis

I love how your words describe the essence of the gift..

Very good article! We are a surviving tbi family.

My mother tell me I was born without a filter. I have probably spent most of the last 30 years trying to learn to be more tactful, after bringing a loved one to tears with a nasty remark made in anger. But I then realized that this was creating a whole new set of problems, as I spent so much time 2nd guessing myself & censoring myself, that I was no longer capable of  being open & honest in my conversations with those I cared about most. One thing I've noticed since my TBI (the result of a car accident 7 years ago), is that I have much less patience with myself in this regard. I need to be able to be clear, open & honest with those I love, family & friends. We never know when the end will come; we need to live fully, honestly. Life is not a video game, we don't get a "do over" if we screw up. Love like you've never been hurt & dance like no one is looking.

David, I have lost MY 'filter' from my TBI, also! I think, All Three of us, are twins or related!!

I'm 6 &1/2 yrs out and still cry at the drop of a hat... does it ever get better?

Great article.  I relate 100%.

Right on target! This made me laugh and I'll take all the laughter I can get.

If ya ever wondered if ya had a twin survivor David. You wrote my thoughts clearly,& succinctly. ;)

My son, Tyler, seemed to have the same "no filter" TBI.  He acquired left frontal lobe damage from his injury.