Versions of self after TBI #MoreThanMyBrainInjury

The theme for Brain Injury Awareness Month (in March) this year is “More Than My Brain Injury.” My TBI has given me as many things as it’s taken away. For example, my brain injury took my independence, creativity and drive so I have found many new ways (besides just writing) to express myself. The result? As many survivors of accidents and trauma know, survival often results in many different versions of self. I don’t mean personality disorder but I do mean personality change after survival.

I have always felt that my personality is markedly different after the TBI. I decided to get a little scientific this week and gave myself a Meyers-Briggs personality test (from the Internet, probably not super accurate) and I took it twice 1) answering as myself NOW, post-TBI and 2) answering as myself IN THE PAST, pre-TBI. The results are what I would like to talk about because I may be more than my brain injury but I most certainly am NOT more than my brain!

A graphic I made showing my personality type (both times) is ENFJ-T.

Over the last 5 years I have gone about educating myself about various areas related to hearing loss (as that is my most prominent symptom post-TBI) especially technology (see my post on smart phone apps for hearing loss). I still have a lot to learn so I thought I would use this weekly post to research and investigate closed captions since March is Brain Injury Awareness Month (as declared by the Brain Injury Association of America) and since I am certainly #MoreThanMyBrainInjury I am most definitely #MoreThanMyHearingLoss.

This topic of personality change after TBI was prompted by the thought that I have always presented as one way on this blog and I thought that after nearly 5 years of blogging I should really introduce you to the many versions of me that were created after my accident. Because not only am I #OneBrainInjurySurvivor, but I am many. What I mean by that is that I am the same person as before the brain injury but I really feel like since the brain injury caused severe damage to my cerebellum the injury has caused a few personality traits from childhood (specifically that time pre-adolescence) to reappear (nothing like a blow to the head to dislodge some eccentricities from childhood). Up until now this has really only been a theory of mine that my personality is different.

For Brain Injury Awareness Month I decided to do more scientific poking on that theory. Therefore I took a personality test twice from https://www.16personalities.com and answered the questions first as CURRENT ME, POST-TBI and then as PAST ME, PRE-TBI. I expected that the two times with different answers would give me different results. It didn’t. I tested exactly the same as the exact same personality type both times. Why, when I FEEL like I am pretty different did the test not show that? Despite the obvious that it’s a “scammy” personality test online and that I actually took it twice right in a row instead of before and after Brain Injury.

There are 3 reasons I think my Internet test results could be accurate: 1) my psychologist liked this experiment and validated the results being the same and how he wasn’t surprised; 2) my friends and family think I’m different but they don’t think I am THAT different; 3) my social security number is the same (and clearly so is my silly sense of humor). My injury was to the cerebellum and since they know more about brains in this century there is plenty of data that only certain types of brain injury to certain areas of the brain result in personality changes. My psychologist told me about a famous case of a man named Phineas Gage who was the first case of brain injury where doctors were able to pinpoint personality changes because of WHERE IN THE BRAIN the injury occurred. Needless to say that my injury was not the same to the same location so a real defined personality change wasn’t expected.

Nevertheless she persisted. I really wanted to see if and how I was different so I took the online Meyers-Briggs test. And the results I got showed my personality really isn’t that different as I got the same results each time: ENFJ-T on the Meyers-Briggs test. I have some good company too, see below for famous ENFJ-T people.

My identical results.

But the question still remained, isn’t my personality different? I ended up finding a great article that talked about that very thing.

If your brain has dysregulated neurovascular coupling, that means some regions of your brain regions are hypoactive (not doing their fair share) and some are hyperactive (trying to do too much or burning more resources than they should for the tasks they’re completing). Either way, your brain has to work overtime to do what it’s supposed to do. That makes it very easy for you to be overstimulated: Overwhelmed by sensory inputs like light and noise and cognitive inputs like a conversation, reading, or work. That overstimulation can be the culprit behind many emotional symptoms.

https://www.cognitivefxusa.com/blog/personality-changes-after-a-brain-injury-or-concussion#emotional-symptoms

According to this article personality changes can originate from two sources following TBI: physiological changes to the brain and emotional reactions to the changes in your life post injury. The article goes on to talk about anger and irritability, anxiety, depression and even “emotional lability (uncontrollable tears or laughter at inconvenient times). Apparently head injuries can affect impulse control too…

Leo, that isn’t a good look!

Honestly I could write endlessly about this topic and I most likely will in my memoir and probably in most everything I write from now on (because my TBI has become such a prevalent part of my life). However, I think today I realized by answering these personality questions that there is only a part of my personality that is different and typically it’s related to emotions, anger and impulsivity. And for me that is similar to how I was as a kid. So the question is will I eventually mature out of this more emotional brain response like I did in adolescence? Hard to say. I am more in control of my responses than I was just 6 months ago. So hopefully the changes and progress continues.

If you’d like to learn more about why personality changes are happening post-TBI and what you can do about it, keep reading. This article I found covers the following points:

Note: I have written about this topic before and yet the topic came up again for Brain Injury Awareness Month (read my first post on this topic from April 2021). In my first blog about “many versions of self after Brain Injury” I wrote about how the brain injury fractured who I was and split itself off in order to survive.

5 Great Moments in Closed Captioning.

On a somewhat unrelated topic but still related to my TBI, I did some research on closed captions because up until the injury I only used them when accents were hard to understand and now they’re a way of life! This article is where I found these incredible bullet points.

  • Thank you Julia Child: Captions on The French Chef were viewable to everyone who watched, which was great for members of the deaf and hard of hearing community, but somewhat distracting for other viewers. So the Caption Center and its partners began developing technology that would display captions only for viewers with a certain device.
  • Your One-Stop Answer to Captions: The technology, which converts human-generated captions into electronic code that is inserted into a part of the television signal not normally seen, was refined through demonstrations and experiments funded in part by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In 1979, the Federal Communications Commission formed the National Captioning Institute (NCI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and providing access to closed captioning. The first closed-captioned programs were broadcast on March 16, 1980, by ABC, NBC, and PBS. CBS, which wanted to use its own captioning system called teletext, was the target of protests before agreeing to join its network brethren in using closed captioning a few years later.
  • In 1990, a law—the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990—was passed mandating that all televisions 13 inches or larger manufactured for sale in the U.S. contain caption decoders. Sixteen years later, the FCC ruled that all broadcast and cable television programs must include captioning, with some exceptions. The exceptions include ads that run less than five minutes and programs air between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. According to captions.com, nearly all of the commercials that aired during this year’s Super Bowl XLIX were captioned (the cost of captioning a 30-second spot is about $200, which is just a fraction of the approximately $4 million it costs to buy the ad space).
  • Real-time captioning, which was introduced in 1982, provides a means for the deaf and hard of hearing community to enjoy live press conferences, local news, and sporting events on television as they happen. Real-time captioning is typically done by court reporters or similarly trained professionals who can type accurately at speeds of up to 250 words per minute. While captioners for prerecorded programs typically use standard keyboards, a real-time captioner requires a steno machine. A steno machine contains 22 keys and uses a code based on phonetics for every word, enabling skilled stenographers to occasionally reach typing speeds of more than 300 words per minute. Words and phrases may be captured by pressing multiple keys at the same time, and with varying force, a process known as chording. Real-time captioners, or stenocaptioners, regularly update their phonetic dictionaries, which translate their phonetic codes into words that are then encoded into the video signal to form closed captions.
  • Stenocaptioners can make more than $100,000 a year, but the work is stressful. In 2007, Kathy DiLorezno, former president of the National Court Reporters Association, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the job is akin to “writing naked, because a million people are reading your words. You can’t make a mistake.”
  • While a faulty decoder or poor signal can produce captioning errors, more often than not they are the result of human error, particularly during live programming. Though stenocaptioners prepare for broadcasts by updating their phonetic dictionaries with phonetic symbols for names and places that they expect to hear, even the most prepared and accurate stenocaptioner can make a mistake from time to time. For instance, all it takes is a single incorrect keystroke to type the phonetic codes for two completely different words. Mistakes aren’t limited to words, either. In 2005, American Idol displayed the wrong phone number to vote for contestants in the closed captioning of its broadcast. Media companies are experimenting with automatic error-correcting features, voice-to-text technology, and innovative ways to provide captions for multimedia on the Internet. Though captioning continues to become cheaper, faster, and more prevalent than it is today, the occasional mistake will likely always remain.

Monthly Focus: Discussion of the Week- Write Second Half of Memoir

Note: If you’re new to my blog, I am working on writing a memoir about recovering from a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and coma that I experienced in September 2016. Each Monday (or really just each week) I focus on a different area of writing my memoir in a weekly blog post I call “#MemoirMonday.” You can read more about my memoir on my dedicated Memoir Monday page.

New Memoir Title: “Notes on Survival: When a chronic pain patient suffers a Traumatic Brain Injury the only person who can teach her how to survive is herself.” By Laura Hagemann.

In my weekly memoir class several of us shared small selections of our memoirs in progress. We then got feedback from the others in the group. This feedback and reading others work was exactly what I needed. It was energizing and thought provoking and certainly inspiring. The two other people who read their work write in such a different style than me and I have spent a bulk of this week going through and writing and revising the areas my group critiqued.

The chief comment was that I was tethering between the two Laura’s (pre-TBI and post-TBI) and that was confusing for the reader. I agreed and certainly wanted to write more as just pre-TBI Laura and spent a large chunk of time this week writing out (by hand) a very detailed account of a panic attack I had pre-TBI. It was surprisingly easy to write about in detail.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. To find out more about Brain Injury and specifically Brain Injury in the United States, visit the Brain Injury Association of America website and more specifically the campaign page for the 2021-2023 “#MoreThanMyBrainInjury” campaign. Why I care about Brain Injury Awareness Month and why I write about brain injury: In September 2016 I was in a near fatal car accident where I suffered a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that resulted in a 3-week coma. Ever since I have been living a very changed life changed by the disabilities I now have. In the process of recovering and healing I rediscovered my voice as a writer and love of writing and have been working on a memoir where I am writing my brain injury story. I hope to complete my memoir this year (2022) and pursue getting it published. I write about my brain injury and pursuits in writing my memoir every week in a post on this blog called #MemoirMonday (check out my MemoirMonday page to read more on that and check out my About page to read more about me).

Weekly Feature of the Week: Essay

This post is long enough so I will forgo the essay.

A graphic I made with imagery from BIAA.
Does this hat make me look short?

8 thoughts on “Versions of self after TBI #MoreThanMyBrainInjury

  1. This is a great post, Laura. In my memoir, I talk about my son’s “essence” that his brain tumor did not destroy. It sounds like it’s the same for you. And the closed captioning info was fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good way to describe it: essence. I think my family would agree. And the closed caption research has been on my “to research” list for a while, glad you liked it!

      Like

    1. In my personal experience it can, probably more my emotional responses. My memoir is a long ways off (still writing) but thank you for your encouragement. Much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

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