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Know that you can get your life back after a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

By Cathy Grochowski, May 2019

Brain injury can lead to a real roller coaster of emotions. As one of Dr. Markus' many clients who sought out her expertise following having read The Ghost in My Brain book by Dr. Clark Elliott, I was asked to share my story, some thoughts, and potential steps that might come in handy for you or your loved one moving forward.

My mild traumatic brain injury/concussion took the better part of two years to resolve. It was indeed a long journey, and I commend you and your loved ones for seeking as much knowledge as you can to do your best to beat TBI. TBI survivors are a strong bunch, and they need to be their own best advocates.

NEVER GIVE UP, you have the neuroplasticity of the brain on your side! According to medicinenet.com, neuroplasticity is "the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment." If one provider fails to encourage healing, whatever the techniques and tools used, move on to other alternatives. During the first year of my journey, I learned it took a village to heal my hurting brain.

A concussion, even a mild one, is a traumatic brain injury. I wince every time I hear someone state "Oh, it's just a concussion, she'll be fine. I had many concussions and they are no big deal." Argh! Here's a little-known stat to ponder. Approximately 80% of concussions will resolve within the usual suggested timeframe of 4-8+ weeks. That's great news! However, that leaves 20% of us (a whopping 500,000 people annually in the U.S. alone) whose symptoms may not fully resolve so quickly or easily. For these individuals, quite often things get worse in the weeks following the initial insult to the head.

The following is a list of head injury symptoms I endured either immediately or soon after sustaining my injury. Yes, it's a lengthy list, and no, not every symptom was present from day one. That's a key understanding that all should be aware of, symptoms come and go and quite often they arrive well beyond the initial date of injury. I think in my own case, part of my not noticing certain symptoms immediately was that I had other stronger symptoms that took my complete undivided attention. In hindsight, I'd say I was "putting out fires" symptom by symptom as I sought relief.

While the symptom list below is lengthy, you won't necessarily experience all of the same symptoms. Use the list as a starting point to enable you to identify some of your own concerns/struggles. Know that you can get your life back. Be patient and kind to yourself. Thanks to doctors like Dr. Markus and others, I experienced a full recovery and you can too!

  • Head Injury Symptoms:
  • Nausea
  • Vertigo or dizziness; loss of balance
  • Sound sensitivity (hyperacusis)
  • Light sensitivity, especially to fluorescent lighting
  • Feeling overloaded/overwhelmed
  • Difficulty with emergency vehicle lights and sound
  • Problems walking in wide open areas; on shiny floors; on "busy" rugs/carpeting; in crowds
  • Blurred vision/Double vision
  • Constant fatigue, long naps, sleep difficulties at night
  • Failure to initiate movement
  • Depression; mood swings; low motivation
  • Anxiety, frustration, anger
  • Hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response
  • Limited attention or concentration
  • Inability to follow directions
  • Poor reading comprehension (rereading the same paragraphs); memory loss; short attention span
  • Poor spatial judgement
  • Impaired depth perception
  • "super market syndrome" (difficulty walking down the isles in a supermarket or other store)
  • "Unsteady-non-specific spatial disorientation"
  • Feeling of "walking in my own silent movie" (a phrase often used to describe the disconnect between the individual and the environment)
  • Inability to watch TV – any fast movement leads to head pain
  • Cannot watch commercials (scenes are switched quickly)
  • Word-finding difficulties
  • Inability to multi-task or work in transition
  • A feeling of "Electrical storms" in the brain
  • Poor adaptation to visually complex environments (patterns on the floor, high ceilings)
  • Post-injury amnesia (no recollection of specific events/activities not connected to original injury)

Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation

Responses to the Designs For Strong Minds (DSM) treatment ranged from participants who could document personal behavior change to others who perceived change in their thinking styles. (memory, concentration, focus) Participants exhibited improvements in their communication and decision making skills.

DSM puzzles and the DSM mediation technique are vital tools to rehabilitate adolescent and adults with mild or moderate post-traumatic head injuries