My name is Liz Emmens and I survived a traumatic brain injury that occurred on May 8, 2016 not far from my home in Denver, Colorado.
I'm going to share the details of the event in my first blog story. So check that out. Shortly afterwards I moved to and now live in Santa Fe, New Mexico with my husband Cory and our three dogs, Isabel, Olivia and Justice. I can't say that moving within 5 months of a brain injury is a good idea. In fact, don't do it unless you absolutely have to. Not good. I'll get to the "why" of that in my one of my posts too. So hold tight.
Let's talk a little about traumatic brain injuries first. You'll hear me refer to them as TBI's.
Traumatic brain injuries are also known as concussions or closed head trauma and are rarely talked about from an individual's personal vulnerable, perspective. I've found a lot of books where folks shared their experiences. But - for me - they left me really frustrated and wanting. I have been trying to find someone, anyone who shared how gut wrenching the impact a TBI has on their lives and how they managed their symptoms and emotions. They all lacked sharing about the underbelly of raw emotions one goes through when your life has been up-ended. Some people clearly have visible and serious injuries after a brain injury. They might have to learn to speak or walk again. They may have been in a coma for God knows how long and come out of it with no memories. Zero. Completely gone. Or any number of combination of visible clues that something bad happened.
But what happens when Looking Fine is NOT Being Fine?
There are millions of people in the US and throughout the world who have suffered brain injuries. Stats share that the numbers are massively under-reported and go untreated. TBI's don't happen just by playing football or soccer. Car accidents - sure. Contact sports - sure. Military - absolutely. What about domestic violence victims? What happens when a person is punched, kicked, slammed in the head once or repeatedly? Ever wonder why a woman keeps going back to her abuser? There's a high likelihood that a brain injury is impacting her actions and decision making. A TBI happens and no one notices unless the injury is visible. Some studies state that 25% to 87% of inmates report a history of TBIs. And if they don't have one when they go into prison, they gain a history of TBI after being in prison.
TBIs typically have common cognitive and behavioral difficulties such as cognitive deficits - problems with information processing, memory, comprehension and judgment and behavioral problems such as impulsivity, disinhibition and aggression. Is it any wonder having a TBI disposes one to a higher risk of arrest and/or incarceration? Ever feel like killing someone holding up a line at the grocery store? Now imagine how a melt down could happen for someone with a TBI overstimulated, exhausted and with impulse control issues. I'll be sharing my own persona story about that, later.
My neurology team advised me that I was diagnosed with a closed head TBI or a "mild concussion". That doesn't mean the impact was mild. There's been nothing mild about my TBI. In fact, I've come to learn that mild concussions/closed head TBIs are the most complicated to treat. The injured areas of the brain are not readily seen on an MRI or a CAT Scan or a SPECT scan or PET scan.
So if a doctor doesn't have much experience with TBIs, it's really easy to miss the significance of the symptoms as they develop.
Uneducated and inexperienced doctors are a person with a TBI, worst nightmare. Doctors and therapists who lack of empathy only compound the struggles one goes through.
I've been working on pulling this blog together for the past five, freaking years. Once you get to know me more, that number will impress upon you how long that really is for me.
I have to work slowly and use special equipment like a bluetooth voice to text headset to write because my typing skills can no longer keep up with my brain's inner dialog, as well as that I think I'm hitting keys that I'm actually not. Typing words I'm actually not. Not mistakes. Completely different words from intended. See? There's one of those unseen issues that can complicate one's life. When one stacks up, layer upon layer, suddenly functioning daily with tasks everyone else takes for granted, is very difficult.
I'm going to put out a disclaimer here. I'm stubborn, so I'm resistive to asking my husband to proof read everything I write. I hope what I share comes across in a coherent, easy to understand manner. My apologies if it doesn't always do that. I've never been a savvy word smith. Verbally - much better, at least I used to be. Written - not so much. I'm more interested in meeting my goals of sharing openly with you in hopes you find something useful or even comforting in what I share.
I want you to know that I am by no means a medical expert. So take the information I share as simply information for you or a loved one can then go dive into and see if any of it works for you.
The thing is, that there's a lot of stigma around brain health and there's so much that is unknown about the brain. And it only gets more complicated for women. Of Course!! That's simply because no one has been especially interested in studying women's brains. And I believe that's because women's brains are more complicated. Yes - truth. 100%. Ask a neurologist. Women have 40% more electrical connectivity within our brains than men. Then we have the complication of complicated hormonal structures. Hormones matter. They are not separate from our brains. It all matters. So, is it any wonder the men who have been dominating the medical arena forever, have not been all that interested in the complexity of the female brain? Thankfully that's beginning to change.
Guys reading this - please, please don't go away thinking I'm hating on men. I am not. In fact, if you hang with me, I think that you'll find all of the information that I share can be helpful to men and women.
There is no place for hate here. The world is filled with enough assholes. I'm not going to contribute to any fellow TBI sufferer's pain and frustration if I can help it. I've been on the receiving end of ignorant, and even down right mean people's cruelty relating to my TBI. It's really hard to stick up for yourself when your brain processing is slow.
Okay - so I hope you have a little or even more understanding of TBI and what I mean to accomplish here.
I'm grateful you are here. I'm going to get a lot out of this process of sharing with you. I get it. It's trite to feign gratitude to strangers. Makes me want to vomit, actually.
Know this about me: I'm not into being phony or withholding because I'm afraid of what others think of me. But I am as affected as anyone else by unkindness. I've got a tough outer shell but a soft underbelly. I'm also not insincere. I really am glad you're here.