In my very first post here I mocked myself for being a bit dramatic. But maybe it’s a testament to my slow progress that it took me more than a month to come up with the larger joke in the title of this post. This (probably unoriginal) phrase came to mind this week as I was taking refuge from a boisterous Thanksgiving gathering. It also popped into my head later this weekend as a passenger beside an umm, let’s say enthusiastic driver.
What ‘da hell ‘za matta with me?
I was thinking it and I’m sure some other folks were as well, just probably not as uncharitably as I was. I’m getting much better as the weeks go by but I still get caught unprepared sometimes. I seem fine to most people now and even feel fine a lot of the time until things unexpectedly go downhill. Then I’m not only feeling poorly but I’m also trying to make sense of why things changed for the worse. If I didn’t manage to extract myself quietly enough I wind up catching someone’s look or hear someone’s comment and It. Is. On. Like a reflex I get right down to business taking it out on myself. This is an example of something where I later imagine all sorts of comments, like one of David Letterman’s Top 10 Lists, only not that funny.
Being a distraction makes it worse in my mind. Maybe I do get some attention if someone notices I’m not feeling right but negative attention isn’t very nourishing to my soul. Ooh, look out folks, he just tried to sound profound. “Wait, is he licensed for that in New Jersey?” You know? There’s a narcissism joke in there somewhere. Maybe something like using your mild ‘dramatic’ brain injury to get all that negative attention but not having the cognitive fitness to do anything with it.
There are many places on the web that I’m discovering as I go along this road through dysphoria (to me, that ‘ia’ suffix makes a lot of those terms sound like some tourist destination) and the Brain Injury Network is one I’ve just begun reading this weekend. They started advocating for a better term for this condition that brain injury survivors are in. I agree. Better awareness and understanding with a more widely recognized name could help get rid of the perception of this stuff being merely dramatics. Before PTSD made the scene, there was the term shell shock for those debilitated by the horrors of WWI trench warfare. Then WWII brought about newer terms such as combat fatigue and gross stress reaction. Why those never caught on is still a mystery. Go figure.
The acute phase after a traumatic brain injury (or some other event like an aneurysm or stroke) is much easier to comprehend. It’s a medical event. An accident or some other trauma like a gun shot or explosion. On the other hand the lingering effects of even mild brain injuries are definitely real and they have real consequences for the BI survivor – but very few people understand. Getting a recognizable term that encompasses the range of these problems instead of jibes like dramatic brain injury would be a good start.