TBI, Depression, and Memory
My Adventure With Traumatic Brain Injury
After my car accident almost three years ago, the term TBI was tossed around by my doctors for a while. And other terms that were kicked around at appointments were depression and emotional lability. I had no idea at the time what emotional lability really meant, until the first time I exploded over nothing. Emotional lability is defined as exaggerated changes in mood, including strong feelings like uncontrollable laughing or crying, or heightened irritability or temper. I don't have problems with the uncontrollable laughter, and very rarely have uncontrollable crying, although I cry often, and sometimes for long periods of time. What I mostly suffer from is heightened irritability or temper. My temper since the accident has been outrageous. Little things that never used to bother me can send me into a fit of rage, and that eventually turns into crying (I've always been the kind of person who, when angry enough, will cry). It's unfortunate because it means that the part of my brain that controls emotion is damaged. The doctors never really told me whether there was a chance that my brain could rewire neural pathways that could potentially take the place of that part of my brain, but oftentimes with brain damage, the brain learns to cope without that part and rewires other parts of your brain to help out. Or so I've heard.
Literature on brain injuries says that brain injuries can linger for decades and cause problems many years after the initial injury. But other sources say that new brain cells can replace old, damaged cells. So the science community is pretty split on that. But the one thing they do agree on is the fact that emotional lability can be a problem for people in everyday life. My life had definitely changed for the worse in the time since my accident. I'm quicker to fly off the handle and get angry, and I'm a more volatile person in general. My family has to put up with that, and the only thing I can do to change it is take mood-altering anti-depressants that have other more... unsavory... side effects on my body. One of the medications that I'm on take me from feelings and emotions to essentially a robot with no feelings and no sex drive. Now I'm a young newly-wed, so I'm sure you can see the problem there. But that's not the only trouble with medications. Eventually, with many of the anti-depressant drugs out there, your body can build up an immunity to it, and then it stops working.
I'm currently on two medications, one of which helps with the anxiety that also presented after the accident, and the other helps with the emotional lability and depression. The one that helps with the anxiety only does so much now, because I'm at the max dose, and my body is getting used to the medication. Eventually, it will no longer do anything for me, and then it remains to be seen what will help me next.
I won't say that life has been all bad since the accident, but it sure hasn't been a picnic either.
Someone could look at me in the wrong way, and whether I want to or not, my brain will go into full-on temper mode, flying off the handle, when really there was nothing to get worked up about. I've blown my top at my husband, my sister, and a few other close family members. All of it over things that shouldn't have been a problem. At the very least, my brain doesn't function properly when it comes to my emotions, but that's not the only thing impacted by the TBI. My concentration, attention span, multitasking, memory, and listening ability have been severely impacted. I can no longer focus on more than one thing at once. And when I can focus on something, it's only for a certain amount of time before my brain gets distracted. But the thing that I've really struggled with is my memory, both my short-term and long-term memory. I'm missing many of my memories from before the accident, and from my childhood. But I also have trouble with short-term remembering. Remembering dates and times of appointments is hard for me, and remembering the name of a new doctor that I'm supposed to be seeing is even harder.
I'd always been good with remembering numbers and word sequences, but now I'm lucky if I can remember half of it. Phone numbers are easier, because most of the phone numbers I need to remember had already been wired into my brain, in a part of my brain that obviously wasn't impacted by the brain damage. But remembering website passwords and my wifi password is hopeless. It's the little things that you take for granted when you don't think you'll lose them.