TBI: A Survivor’s Thoughts on His 42nd Anniversary of His Brain Injury
By John Hatten, Rehabilitation Counselor, TBI Survivor
One thing I do every year on the anniversary of my fall (April 18, 1973: I’m doing it today) and TBI is write about some aspect of my recovery. Many years, I have gone over my hospital records and notes from previous years to see where I’ve been: this is both heartening and frightening: I have to face how affected I was. I find that I learn/find something new every rebirthday: I’d like to go over a few of these ‘discoveries’ below.
“I’m beginning to think that my main “state of mind” was a confused one. I remember wandering around, always knowing that I was missing something and waiting for that “shoe to drop”: when I would realize what it was that I missed. My main activity was trying to recall those things before it was too late: before I missed whatever it was. I did make it through, but at the time, it was so maddening and disheartening to know that I was forgetting all these things that I should be remembering and following up with. Always worrying about what I was forgetting and wondering if it was ever going to get any better.
The despair was as bad as the confusion. I was so scared and despondent when 4/18/75 came about: that was 2 years past “The Fall” and I had reached a “permanent and stationary” (Dr. Mongeon’s words) condition! Of course it wasn’t permanent or stationary, but I didn’t know that then. That was one of the bottoms for me. I couldn’t really function cognitively at all: the holes in my attention and focus were huge, and worst of all, I knew it. I was aware enough (and certainly smart enough) to remember who I was; and thinking about this was a constant distraction. The desolation I felt came and went for decades: I’d have to read my bookies to give a more accurate picture of the duration of the gloom.”
4/18/2003: The first thing I wrote for this day was that my neurosurgeon wrote “wrote of moderate impairment of recent memory (!?!). I was finding making up the two classes “rather difficult”: duh. By November my speech had improved. I was recovering from a “very severe cerebral injury”: why didn’t I read this right after my accident: I might have been spared the emotional pain of not knowing what was wrong. And here’s where he says that I should improve for another 18 months to 2 years. So he meant 4/18/75/75 was the day I’d plateau. Ignorant savage! My depression should progressively subside also: what a lie: it got worse.” A psychiatrist I saw said “‘His speech is markedly slurred and has difficulty in thinking of words with which to express himself’. My digit recall was significantly impaired. Also visual-motor coordination was impaired. My memory quotient was 86, which is a big drop for me and this impairment was for visually and orally presented material. My ability to learn new associations was quite poor. My memory functions were found to be WNL, but significantly lower than I probably scored B.F. On the WRAT I did very well (99.9%’ile). My spelling was in the 73rd percentile: much lower.
Severe depression was seen and a mild to moderate suicide risk. “Morbid ruminations and obsessive self-criticisms are suggested along with such symptoms ass confusion, inability to concentrate, inefficiency, compulsive habits, and phobic fearfulness. Markedly vulnerable to insecurities in his social activities, he could become emotionally withdrawn and self-protective. However, his ego-strength would suggest continued work persistence or other areas of compensated functioning despite the severity of his distress. The pictures which Mr. Hatten drew in the DAP portion of the testing were indicative of excessively poor self-concept and severe depression. Psychotherapy is strongly indicated for this patient.“ I asked my mother if anyone ever suggested counseling, psychotherapy or medication: she said no.
Lastly, I noted that on 4/18/93, “I knew that I had grown in some areas that are not related to TBI: e.g., enjoying to dance.”
So I hope this gives you a bit more insight into the thoughts and feelings of one TBI Survivor.