In writing an essay about my experience as a TBI survivor I came across a description and concept that I would like to explore in more detail.
In the essay I wrote (for a website to be published in June) I wrote of how gradual coming out of the coma was for me. The gradual process of coming out of the coma is really only something that I am just realizing (nearly six years after the injury and coma).
What I mean by a gradual waking up is that it took some senses and awareness far longer to wake up after the 3-week coma, for example:
- My Hearing: For the first 3 months after the injury I was deaf and then my hearing started to “wake up” but in a very altered and damaged way. When I came out of the coma a lot of my senses and sensibility took far longer to “wake up” and my hearing was the most prominent sense to awaken gradually. Before the accident I had perfect hearing and now post-TBI and after those first initial three months of deafness I can hear but the range of what I hear is markedly less and heavily distorted. Voices (even my own and even a dog’s bark) are greatly distorted and garbled. My usual description of the distortions now is that voices sound like a bad guy in a movie who is using a voice distorter to disguise their voice. As I have described repeatedly on this blog (visit the TBI and hearing page for more information), music no longer sounds like anything other than “metal on metal” noise. And at all times I have the “whoosh” of white noise constantly playing alongside any sound I may hear. The white noise gets louder and my hearing much worse when I am tired or sick. Once I started to hear sound again my brain played around seven sounds on a continuous loop. I called this my “sound loop” and it existed every moment I was awake. Of the seven sounds playing on a loop there was an ambulance siren and stilettos walking on linoleum. The “sound loop” dropped off after I had a high fever after a bout with the flu. It has been nearly six years since the accident and my hearing is most likely not going to improve anymore. The distorted voices and sounds and white noise are more than likely here to stay. The “metal on metal” noise of music also seems here to stay as my post-TBI brain is unable to process and understand complex and layered sound.
- My Emotions: My emotions and my connection to them are decidedly different after brain injury. It takes a lot for me to be able to cry (and that was never a problem before the TBI). I have now realized that because I am unable to “release” strong emotions (by crying, etc.) that feeling strong emotions can make me feel physically sick (nauseous, shakey, etc.).
- My Memory: I am very lucky, I do know this, that I survived a severe TBI and am living… but also that I’m living and able to operate my brain at a high level. However, in the writing and observing that I am doing in writing my memoir I have noticed major changes in how my brain operates. Now retrieving memories takes a lot of effort and can be physically taxing and hard on me. Like Humpty Dumpty I may have been “put back together again“ but also like Humpty I am more fragile than I ever was. 🥚
- My Reactions to things: Like my emotions, my reactions are different. It took years after injury for me to react to things and now that I do my reactions are much different. I react less subtly and more childlike.
- My personality: I have written about this before (here) about how my personality is changed. Mainly I am the same person but there are changes in how I react, access emotions and memory and grow and change. Overall, it has taken me a long time to realize these changes and even longer to be able to write about them.
In summary, if I could say something to newly injured Laura nearly 6 years ago, I would say that “Yes, you were in a coma but you will probably be ‘coming out of it’ for the rest of your life.”
Memoir Writing Update: A New Schedule and purpose
Earlier I discussed how I was reconfiguring my memoir writing planner to allow for my lack of “progress”/page generation. I am still trudging forward on that new schedule but I need to be easier on myself because I am writing my brain injury story WITH A BRAIN INJURY!
A Selby Sweetie Conclusion
I decided it’s really cute to have Selby chase bubbles while wearing her ladybug costume!