Two and a half years ago I wrote The High IQ TBI post. It is still one of my most read posts and the post that has (to date) the most active discussion. The comments are touching and heart wrenching. It is time to write an update. To say “Hang in there. You will get through this.” To tell you that there is sunlight on the other side. I know there is, because I am ahead of you. What I am doing here is taking some of the sunlight and shining it back to help light your way.
It gets better.
I wish with all my heart that I could tell you that you will get “All Better”. I wish that I could tell you that you will get yourself back; the same self you had pre-brain injury. But that would not be the truth. You will get better. You will get much of yourself back. But you will always be different from who you were pre-brain injury.
The Gift of High IQ
At the beginning of the The High IQ TBI, I speak to the fact that the majority of people with high IQs may not even know their IQ is above normal because it is human nature to think that everyone else thinks like we do. But once a TBI happens a bright person feels very acutely what has been lost. Or, in the words of one of my doctors “The brain holes can go deeper in you.” I ended The High IQ TBI with a quote from an email I wrote to a TBI friend:
Though the brain holes can go deeper, there is also a great deal on the positive side to having high IQs when dealing with a TBI. We are tremendously capable of developing good compensatory skills. We are tremendously capable of using the attributes of our high IQ to help us heal, and develop a life that works.
That is so true, but that does not mean that the adjustment to the new me has been easy. Nor do I feel I am even fully adjusted to the changes. I still sometimes wonder who this person is that lives in my body.
It’s a Delicate Balance
Recovery is a delicate balance between working your brain to repair and create new neuronal pathways, but not overdoing it so you give your brain the restorative time it requires. That is more tricky than it sounds – finding that balance – because the more you use your brain, the more you rebuild it; but with a brain injury it is easy to overtax yourself and cause a back slide. Additionally it is a delicate balance of pushing ourselves to achieve more while also being compassionate and gentle with ourselves around the slow process of brain recovery. Have patience. You are getting better daily whether you see it or not.
Things do come back
Because the changes are slow, sometimes you will not notice your progress until Poof! some skill comes back. For instance, I was suddenly surprised when I realized I was able to remember the item number on a bulk bin long enough to write it on the twist tie. Then I noticed I was able to remember a phone number long enough to dial it. Math is also coming back. Actually, I am not sure if it is coming back or if I am relearning it. I completely lost my ability to multiply and divide, and even addition and subtraction were very difficult and slow. It is now becoming easier and I am getting faster. Another big change was the return of my project management skills. I was volunteering on a large nonprofit project and suddenly, like a light switch had been flipped, my project management skills were back. In that case, I have to wonder if I repaired or remapped a specific broken section and suddenly the whole pathway or brain area was reconnected. That is what it felt like! Like when you replace the burned out bulb in a string of Christmas lights and suddenly the whole string lights up! There are so many other little and big things that have come back! But the interesting thing is, I would have to go back and read old posts to remember all of the things that were missing. That is a good! I think it is an indication of my improvement. Question: What has been your experience so far in your recovery? Please add a comment below. Dancer & Dancer 2 are drawing is by Henrik Moses and is used with permission. To see more of Henrik’s amazing work go to: http://www.artility.nl/ Thank you again, Henrik.