With my severe traumatic brain injury I damaged all four lobes of my brain. My frontal, temporal and occipital lobes took most of the beating though. I suffered a diffuse axonal injury as well. This is caused by shaking or strong rotation of the head or by rotational forces, such a car wreck. Because of this I have extensive tearing of nerve tissue throughout my brain. This has caused brain chemicals to be released, causing additional injury to my brain. This type of tearing of the nerve tissue disrupts the brain’s regular communication and chemical processes. Because of my injuries it is extremely hard for me to filter through information or adjust to certain stimuli. Because of this I get sensory overload.
What is Sensory overload?
Sensory overload is something I deal with everyday. To some it may seem ridiculous but it is very real to me. My brain can now get overloaded just by you asking me a multiple choice question and giving me options A, B, C, and D. That will literally put my brain into a tailspin and cause me to start shutting down. It’s just too much information for my brain to filter through at one time. I know it sounds crazy because there are only four options but that is my truth now..unfortunately. My responses to things now may be extreme. For example sounds.. The hair on my neck will stand up and I am in instant fear if I hear sounds like clanking silverware, sudden high pitched noises, car horns, metallic noises, loud bass tones, the list goes on and on. To some those seem completely harmless but to me I am instantly scared and in my fight or flight mode. The PTSD “monster” within is ready to lash out in these moments.
I’m also very weary of crowds or standing in close proximity of someone I don’t know. Even if I do know you I will still be a little weary of being too close. I also try my best to avoid contact. I try to avoid hugs and I fear surprise contact. Im not big on touch anymore. I need my personal space and if someone broaches the boundary the “monster” is ready. Please don’t take offense if I have avoided a hug or some sort of contact.. Or even if I did hug you but I seemed stiff it’s not anything personal. This is just the stuff I have to deal with now due to my brain injury and PTSD. I don’t even like to be touched or hugged by my own parents or family. I sincerely want to be around people but I need my safety blanket. I have to have someone familiar with me that I trust so I know I will be ok because I have them.
I have to prepare for so much now. A simple dinner at a restaurant or a trip to the mall or grocery store all seem harmless but for me I have to mentally prepare myself before I go. I need to make sure I am ready to encounter surprise noises or being to close to people. I may become panicking and want to escape these instances but I just have to bite the bullet and do it.. It’s part of being a normal human right?
My first movie & public panic attack:
I’m going to tell you about the first time I went to a movie after my wreck. It was a year after the wreck I think and I went to go see the new twilight movie. Yes I know not the best first movie but it was one that my mother and family friend wanted to see and I was way too worried about how I was going to handle the movie to truly care what we were going to see. I mean twilight that seems harmless enough right? Well that’s what I thought but I was proven wrong. I ended up in between my seat and row in front of me on the floor squeezing my head and frozen in fear. The sound and light was way too much. I instantly started having flashbacks of my wreck and hearing metal crunching and remembering the chaos before everything went black. I wanted to get up and leave but it was crowded and I was frozen. I stayed hunched on the floor, were I seemed “safe”, squeezing my head just hoping the movie would end quickly.
That’s just one example of me panicking and having sensory overload. I tell you all of this because there are so many people like me or people who walk around with invisible injuries or struggles. Try your best not to judge anyone if you haven’t spent a minute in their shoes and don’t mock a pain you haven’t had to endure. Don’t be fooled by people’s exteriors. There are some injuries you can never see but I promise they are still there and more threatening than some visible injuries. If you could see my struggle and injuries you wouldn’t recognize me. But to the visible eye I look “normal”.