"Brain Injury Is ..." Brain Injury Defined By People Who Are Living With It

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Brain Injury Is...

Brain Injury defined by the people who are living with it ...

BrainLine asked our online community to share their personal definitions of traumatic brain injury, and the list below captures some of the many responses so generously provided by people with TBI.

Every individual’s experience with traumatic brain injury is unique, but there are many common symptoms and emotions. Anger, fear, sadness, and anxiety may be accompanied by difficulties with memory, pain, and the challenges of maintaining relationships.

We encourage you to add your own definitions in the comments section below, and to join the BrainLine community on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest.

A puzzle … all the pieces are there but in the wrong order.
—Barbara

When the cursor disappears from your mental computer screen.
—Dave

Brain fog, confusion, difficulty learning new things, being able to be “high-functioning” but being very slow at it.
—Mary

An invisible thief.
—Lisa

Devastating. Exhausting. Widely misunderstood.
—Jules

Scary. I look the same but I feel like someone else.
—Ann-Michel

MIA or AWOL … Missing in Action or Away Without Leaving!
—Trish

An invisible memory-taker, mood-changer, life-changer!
—Meg

Like being under a constant waterfall and I’m just trying to catch my breath and not drown!
—Angie

Thinking with speed bumps.
—John

Like an earthquake in my brain that knocked down bridges and damaged highways and knocked out some —but not all —lines of communication. Some of these things get rebuilt more quickly than others, and some are easily re-damaged.
—Alison

Like having everything in your life suspended in Jell-O, and just when you reach out for something, the Jell-O gets blended.
—Indy

A family affair … when a family member has one, it affects everyone.
—Stephanie

A constant struggle for the rest of your life … you know how you used to be and you want your life back … but it won't happen … it's like living in thick fog.
—Christy

Scrambled egg between my ears.
—Graham

The absolute hardest thing that you can imagine going through!! Unbelievably frustrating and isolating.
—Chelsea

Learning to live in a brain that sometimes feels like it belongs to a stranger.
—Sharon

Forgetfulness and a total personality change.
—Dana

Scary. Frustrating. Annoying. Funny at times … sometimes I feel rather than get frustrated about one of my deficits. It’s better just to laugh about it.
—Sonia

Limiting, difficult, having to “relearn” things you thought you already knew.
—Justin

Unpredictable and extremely misunderstood.
—Ronda

Like having the flu all day, every day … for the rest of your life.
—Nathalie

Trying to catch clouds in a windstorm.
—Mary

Posted on BrainLine August 19, 2013.

Comments (385)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

Like being on sloww dial up and everyone around you is on High Speed internet

My brain has become like a mobile phone. Still clever, but the batteries drain quickly and when the last bar disappears my brainpower goes in one second to zero. Then just stop talking to me please, I can't accept your talking anymore and this annoys me greatly.

Yes 100% best explanation! I often describe it as being on really slow dial-up when everyone around me is on High-speed internet. My DSL up is extremely slow or it just bumps me offline totally

Like living in fear 24 / 7 and no one understand

I agree

U just want to go back to being u; but ur gone. Everything is scary cause it requires thought. Nothing is automatic anymore. Confusion leads to anxiety. Which leads to fear. Which leads to being alone.

WOW Dennylee You said Exactly what I have wanted to say for YEARS and couldn't bring it to words. THANK YOU

It is like living with a demon in your head, being forever careful to contain the enemy within, while it destroys your memories and sense of who you are.

My life now is just snap shots. My wife misses who I was. Me too.

How do I explain to someone I now have dizzy spells panic attacks anxiety memory loss that I'm slower and things are harder for me when I can't even understand how why this happened or who I am anymore.?!?

Jennifer, you took the words right out of my mouth! My brain surgery didn’t leave me so out of whack that it would be easy for all to see. It left me just off enough that I no longer feel or sometimes think like the way I use to. For me it’s like my “flow” of life was taken.

After my surgery, no one talked to me about the mental health issues I could have after. Nor did we get any paperwork. So “looking fine” on the outside, therefore, left everyone thinking I was ok on the inside. No one believed me. I was told it was just anxiety and to get over it. Thanks, people, not very helpful.

I struggled and searched for answers for four years before I was acknowledged as having brain trauma and that I wasn’t making all this stuff up. My husband threatened divorce as extra added STRESS! Ya, how do you tell someone what is going on in your head, when you can’t even figure it out. All I know is I don’t feel like the same person I was before the surgery. I’m still having a problem with the oh so much SLOWER pace that I have to be at for my brain not to get tangled up in knots, and go crying into the next room.

People tell me to go to a support group. Ok, which one? Brain injury, stress, anxiety, depression, memory impairment, ADHD, bipolar, marriage counseling or possible divorce.

Wow Exactly how I FEEL

You can explain but unless you are us; they don't get it. I have people I care about go here on Brainline. If they care, they will take the time and read. If they won't or don't; no need to explain anything

I feel like an economy car in a race against super cars

Feeling like I don't belong anywhere.
Wondering if death would have been easier.
I look in the mirror and see the same face but then I open my mouth and hear a stranger. Loneliness.

I am so sorry you feel this way. I understand because I felt the very same way and on occasions I still feel that way. Please give a call to someone, anyone when u feel this way. Connect online with me and I will talk with you as well

I look into the mirror and see someone who looks similar to me, but it's not me.

The real me is gone.

In the beginning I remember looking so different i actually looked in the mirror and thought who are you? I now look normal mostly but I'm still trying to figure out who I am now.

Erika, this is the first time I have heard anyone mention looking in the mirror. I have the same experience. I see my face, but I don't "see" me. I also feel like I don't belong anywhere, even in my own home. A lot of people (family and friends) get frustrated with all of the behavioral changes, especially since, like most, I look the same on the outside. I have started meditating. Not easy to keep my mind "still", but I am finding that it is helping.

Joni I am sorry, I replied to you and started it off by calling you Erika (I guess I saw you say it and it stuck) Sorry

Erika I feel the Same, I thought about Meditating or Yoga, However I can not get my head to stop long enough to finish a thought, or an activity. UGHHH Best of luck, and God Bless

Michelle, no apologies (referring to your second comment). I understand completely. Meditating is tough. My brain wants to keep going and going, so I try to concentrate just on my breathing. Sometimes this works. I am registered for a TBI yoga class that is starting in few weeks and I am terrified. I wish you the best and God Bless you too.

My experience, Post-TBI (and viewed in the most positive way), has been like starting your life all over again. Most obvious to me is that, after the injury, I cannot attend elementary, middle, or high-school again. If anyone can understand that without that educational foundation, attending college (because that is where you find adults) in order to further one's education, could be equated to someone learning to swim by being dropped-off in the ocean not knowing which way to go.

I am not suggesting that recovery (learning to swim) is impossible (depending on the extent of the damage), but the path is littered with hills and valleys. Depending on the Day, those "hills" can be mountains and some of those "valleys" may as well be cliffs.

Imagine an 8 inch funnel full of water with your finger plugging the outlet. Now sprinkle glitter into the water. Imagine that each piece of glitter is a thought or idea. Remove your finger from the bottom of the funnel and then realize that you have no control over which thought or idea will come out next. . . . Welcome to my experience.

I have found humor (as well as truthfulness) in the following quote credited to an unknown author: "Better it is for you to think me a fool, than for me to open my mouth and remove all doubt."

My mTBI happened on July 11 this year from a fall onto rocks. Four and a half months later it still feels frustrating as hell - like I am a stranger even to myself some days. You do things and misunderstand people in a way that you would never have done pre-mTBI when your cognition was at its best. You can no longer control your temper and lose it saying horrible things to the people that care about you most - and feel awful when the emotional launch is over. I struggle to cope with bright and artificial light - not ideal when you have to close your eyes in the car as a passenger and realise driving is not on the horizon anytime soon. I also struggle with noise - not good when you are a teacher! I am still not back at work yet due to the driving I do as a Resource Teacher and my work colleagues do not seem to understand just how crippling the fatigue actually is - it could be deadly if I was back at work. I am also trying to finish a Post Grad paper - retention of detail and the ability to locate the words I want to use in my assignments used to be easy but not now.

My biggest discovery to date and something that took some work to get my head around is that recovery from mTBI is not linear and, even though I look fine on the outside, it is still pretty mucked up on the inside.

I describe my BI as if my mental filing cabinet was shaken and the files were all put back in a complete random mess. I've spent the last 18 years reorganizing the filing cabinet and amazed to still find misplaced files. Speech is still difficult.

Feels like you are always on the outside looking in. And that you can only change yourself for one day because in the morning your not the same person you were yesterday

I feel like nobody understands and as if they think I'm pretending to have the symptoms .

I feel exactly the same way. I look the same on the outside but have such extreme difficulty dealing with my day and nights. My brain injury is from a 2nd concussion and people do not understand why 11 weeks after, that I am still having issues and not back at work. It's not like I had a stroke or have been in a major car accident.

Brain Injury is...

Looking down at your hands, and not recognizing them as your own.
When you speak, and your voice sounds unfamiliar.
Being unable to have a simple conversation because your mind becomes emptier than ever before after only 5 minutes.

Brain Injury is learning to live a life that doesn’t feel like your own. It’s an ongoing battle of feeling like somebody else is driving and you’re just along for the ride.

I can't think of a better way to sum it up than Christy:

"A constant struggle for the rest of your life … you know how you used to be and you want your life back … but it won't happen … it's like living in thick fog."

I've used the "fog" analogy many times. You can see what's immediately around you, but trying to think beyond the fog takes enormous effort and is ultimately impossible. And that can be immensely frustrating and brings up feelings of resentment and anger.

Was in a fog for a long time maybe 3 or 4 months. I was an engineer and used complicated computer programs, including Autocad. Lost all knowledge of them never to return. After seven months I became an out of control angry person. The doctor prescribed Celexa (an off label prescription). It worked wonders. I've been taking it 20 years. Tried stopping it twice but uncontrollable anger returned after 3 or 4 days. The left side of my brain is damaged about 15%. Problem spelling and higher math functions.

Friends often realize that you are not quite the same and sometimes find you strangely off key. I'm often misunderstood and lonely.

Sympathized. People just don't know how this thing works -- worse, no one really does -- and ancient misperceptions are the norm. And that it's such a personal experience doesn't help either...

I had brain cancer, about 20 years ago glioblastoma , which I was suppose die in 18 months. but nobody told me and so I keep living and thank God, I had six kids and now I feel like the child. With the way my kids treat me. I feel like they are always talking about me they don't trust me to hold the babies which are my grandchildren. After about five years after my one daughter had her children. She comes in for Thanksgiving and she lets her kids stay overnight at my house. Maybe it's because I got married again. I try helping my brain get stronger by playing brain games on the computer, I have a of trouble with my spelling and my math. Sometimes I wish I didn't survive this cancer, but then I did and now I just live with it. I have wonderful husband who accept me for me. I can't ask for much more I would love My children to visit me more, can't do anything about that either. life throws you a lot of curve balls I got too many.

I know how people feel with brain cancer as I've had 3 0perations for the glioma coming back followed by a stroke and partial blindness all cause of epilepsy and I worked fulltime I feel I should have not had surgery as I feel my brain altering it's pathways which scares me it's coming back

I had brain cancer and I forget how to spell and have trouble retaining things all of the time. I feel like I am now the child and I had six children. They don't all understand how I feel how it's not fault, it was something that happen to me.

2015, I died in my mind. Now I have no idea who I am. I knew what I was. But she is gone. I see the face but the brain is off. MIA Missing In Accident!!!!!! I have changed 180 degrees. I hate the new me. My voice, foods, smells, lights, noise, music. I hate who I am now!!!!!!!!

Waiting for people to be quiet without telling them to shutup so you can
continue with what you were doing, but wanting to tell them to shutup.

This is me. + I used to be such a social person. Now I am a homebody.

Totally relate to this - you feel so bad inside when it is your husband and children.

Isolation, emotional roller coaster, suicidal, invisible, a different person, over react, angry at doctor's lack of understanding, miss normal interactions and activities

Eternal "on-hold" (the music stops, you think someone is going to answer, then the crappy, old music starts again)

Some days I feel like I am wading through waist high mud, trying to complete tasks that used to come so easily to me, I never gave them any thought, and it doesn’t matter if I’m told I’m doing a good job, I still feel like I’m doing everything in the slowest gear and I can’t verbalize how worthless I feel.

I had brain injury and life has so changed for me. It is very frustrating that I am slower . My memory is not good and for no reason at all I am filled with either sadness, fear or anxiety. These emotions i feel daily. I just want to thank god for the support i have from family and friends.

My most recent concussion (probably number 10 overall) has been by far the worst. I had a seizure of some sort and hit my head on a steel tubular window frame as I went down. A doctor was present when it happened and performed CPR as she couldn't find a pulse. I awoke with severe tunnel vision and, loud ringing in my ears (ringing is still there constantly) and obviously a bad headache. Over the next month things actually deteriorated to the point where I couldn't even speak a complete sentence without stuttering and slurring my words. My body had trouble regulating my temperature as I was always freezing even when it was 95 outside. My actual body temp was constantly running between 95.4 and 96 for about 4 wks. I developed an eye twitch in my right eye which makes my whole field of vision shakey. Although things have improved most symptoms return with any physical activity or even if I just get tired. I get confused even just walking the aisles at the grocery store. The sound of the vacuum cleaner or someone coughing makes my brain feel like it's seizing up. I start vestibular therapy this week. At this point just hoping for a little relief.

Vestibular therapy really, really helped me be able to tell where my body is in space. I’m more coordinated. It’s a relief.
Good luck to you, it’s a struggle to live with brain trauma, I know. Hang in there.

TBI is like you’re screaming at the top of your lungs but no one hears you. Your struggling to say “I’m In here, give me some time to gather my thoughts “

I am a survivor of nearly 38 years. The day I received my "Blessing" was 7/17/82 from a high speed mva. I was in a coma for10 days

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