TBIQ a High IQ TBI

In Brain Injury, High IQ (HIQ), High IQ TBI by Emerson Jane Browne2 Comments

This post was actually part of the post: High IQ is Overrated! I started writing about High IQ out of my own frustration in trying to deal with this fricking brain injury. One of the big drawbacks of being “gifted” is that the brain injury was missed.

3392817_blog(2)_2On my first appointment at CORP-TBI the doc told me that they frequently see people like me: someone who has a brain injury but it was missed for a long while because we “present well”.  

She went on to say that she thinks people with high IQs sometimes suffer the most because they feel the gaping hole of the injury more than someone with a more normal IQ.  

The holes simply can go deeper in someone with a high IQ because there is more “space” to fall through.  Therefore, the holes may be more noticeable and more painful to the patient.

However, even though the caregivers at CORP TBI understand on many levels, I still had the experience yesterday of testing in the high normal level on a few tests that I know I did not do as well on as I would have pre-injury.  I feel the frustration of that even if the cognitive therapist was impressed with the results.

I do not know how to suddenly go from operating at a high level to a normal level. My normal was not normal so normal is foreign and feels less than.  

I am someone who has always striven for perfection (which happens to be one of the traits of high IQ) so to do less than perfect or less than some high standard feels like failure or at least poor and lacking.

The big thing for me is that I distrust myself.  I no longer have the brain stamina to operate at a highly functional level.  Though I can perform well in some areas I burn out easily.

Burning out can have catastrophic results.  I rear-ended someone last week which is the first time I have ever caused an accident.  And I know it was because I had done too much that week so that my brain was fatigued.  Therefore I could not stay on task and pay attention to the traffic.

 I am now terrified to drive in the city – not because the traffic scares me but because I distrust myself.  I had a brain lapse and I fear it can and will happen again.  If I had caused the accident by getting distracted by something legitimate; something that was truly distracting I might not be as upset.  But I simply looked away.  I think it was just that my brain was too tired to stay focused.

3392817_blogThe other thing for me with now having a brain injury is that all my life I have sort of “winged it”.  I have relied on my ability to quickly come up to speed on anything and everything.  

I have jumped careers, jumped industries, (jumped freights too, but that’s another story) and worked in many jobs that required a degree that I did not have (like RN or an engineering degree).  

I never obtained a label; some kind of handle that people could grab onto and know what it means; something I could grab onto to hold me steady or bring me back to myself.  Now I am paying a price for that.  It would be far easier if I had a degree, job title, or identity that I could fall back on; some place to start.

In relation to my brain injury, having a high IQ is a mixed blessing.  It contributed to the situation of the correct diagnosis being missed for a long time. 

It accentuates the sense of what has been lost. 

However, it also enables me to develop successful compensatory behaviors with some modicum of ease and it allows me to “appear normal” or in the doctor’s words “present well”.

Emerson Jane Browne

I am Emerson Jane Browne. I write about Brains, Apps, & Productivity, and many other aspects of Life. I speak to TBI support groups, speak and teach workshops at tech, music, and writer conferences. I consult with organizations on strategic planning and building a strong community.


  • Doc F

    So, it isn’t easy with a degree either. As a physician that fear of having a brain lapse scares me, not because of being sued but by either unintentionally causing harm or missing something. I was a hospitalist. I don’t know if I will ever be able to return to the multi-tasking beeps, patient load, distraction. It’s devestating. You said you didn’t have something to steady you, both a blessing and a curse because to lose that identity with a profession you love…there are no words. I liken it to being plowed a sounder, and rebirthed. I had/have to let go of so many pieces to see what is left.

    • Thanks commenting Doc F. I don’t know how far out you are from your TBI but it does get better; just slowly! Part of it is healing and remapping. But another big part of it is developing very good compensatory skills and tools. I hope you are working with a good SLP/Speech and Language Pathologist.

      I have to wonder if there is not someway you can do your job in a different way; maybe not have exactly all the same duties and stress level, maybe not the same title, but still be able to do what you love and excel at. A good SLP will be able to help you figure out tools you can use and parameters you can set up. Additionally, Cognitive Reserve is pretty amazing and powerful. The fact that you have been a hospitalist for so many years leads me to wonder how strong your cognitive reserve is and how much you can tap into it.

      I know how easy and also important it is to grieve for what has been lost. But when you are able and ready I encourage you to move beyond that stage into what I call “Resigned Creativity”. Resigned creativity is when you begin to have enough acceptance of what is to enable you to start exploring what is possible for the “new you”. I think you will find that it is more than you currently think.

      Wishing you all the best in your exploration and adjustment to the “new” form of you. Ps. I like your email address.