Head injury survivor,
and Hotline Sponsor,
Dawn Mallory, owner of
Specialty Haircare Products
|Family & Child
Head injury survivor,
Sponsor, D. Morts,
|A Few Good Doctors
The loss of self is often the real tragedy of traumatic brain injury.
It is seldom addressed by medical profession yet it is a loss so
profound that many never recover from it. Brain injury strips away a lifetime
of learning, of personal identity, and personal power. The loss is
a soul shattering experience, intense and intimate. It is so intimate that
society as a whole averts its eyes and closes its ears to the pain, and
despair of such a naked soul. It is a soul bedeviled by infantile demons,
the very stuff from which neurosis and psychosis is made.
Still In The
Our society does not revere individuals who display
the psychological symptoms of traumatic brain injury. It does not accord
them positions of honor as oracles, seers, wise men, visionaries or tribal
medicine men. Instead, we subject them to modern forms of exorcism to rid
them of their demons. We apply strange and frightening medical procedures
and torturous treatment plans in vain attempts to effect a cure. We strip
them of the last vestige of self-respect by offering them substandard employment,
housing, and lifestyles. And, when they do not show appropriate gratitude,
we lock them up in mental hospitals or prisons, allow them to hide in the
dark corners of our communities.
Our prisons are overflowing with rehabilitation
failures. We call it "recidivism" and execute the very worst of the lot.
A recent panel of New York University psychiatrists studied a group of
inmates awaiting execution and found that many of them were victims of
sever neurological problems in addition to their psychiatric problems.
All of the inmates in the group had suffered at least one "major" head
injury before their crime; yet this information was not brought up at their
trial even though it could have played a role in sentencing.
The news media, and television specials,
depict our mental hospitals as crowded prisons of another sort. Under the
guise of "protection" and "treatment", they subject inmates to a series
of physically and psychologically brutalizing experiences which can only
be designed to drive out any remaining scrap of individuality, and render
the person stark raving mad.
Brain injury: a mark of disgrace. The psychological
climate in this country is distinguished by the words it chooses to describe
brain injury. In current use are words from the dark ages which demean
and debase human worth. They are born of ignorance and fear, and they have
tremendous power to destroy the frail spark of individuality struggling
to free itself from the debilitating effects of brain injury. The fourth
edition of Roget's International Thesaurus lists pages of synonyms for
brain damage. A few of them are listed below:
insaneness, lunacy, madness, craziness, dementedness, dementia, brain sickness,
mind sickness, mental sickness, mental illness, mental disease. Loss of
touch or contact with reality, loss of mind or reason, mental derangement
or disorder, unbalance, unsoundness, mental instability, troubled or clouded
mind, shattered mind, mind overthrown or unhinged, darkened mind, possession.
Abnormality, daftness, oddness, strangeness, mania, queerness, rabidness,
furor, alienation, aberration, mental distance, derangement. Distraction,
disorientation, disturbed, witlessness, senselessness, reasonlessness,
irrationality, mental deficiency.
Mature, high level functioning adults
who suffer debilitating emotional trauma as a result of closed head injury
seldom receive counseling until they are well into denial and it has devastated
their lives. In addition, the therapist frequently does not have enough
specific knowledge of the brain and its functioning to properly treat such
patients. Brain injury may produce symptoms such as altered states of consciousness,
and other subtle impairments which closely mimic mental illness.
Might Get You
Treatment for the effects
of closed head injury is frequently influenced by the presence of an unseen,
third party. When the individual referred for therapy is involved in a
disability claim or civil litigation, or is an insurance or welfare recipient,
the therapist may be under some pressure to make a quick diagnosis. The
diagnosis will usually determine whether the client meets qualifications
for personal injury, disability or other insurance benefits. In a number
of circumstances, the type as well as the length of treatment is decided
by individuals outside of the actual treatment situation.
Too frequently, the uninformed medical or psychiatric
professional called upon to provide services forms an inaccurate diagnosis.
This diagnosis leads to inappropriate treatment and rehabilitation plans,
and in cases which involve injury claims or litigation, an inadequate financial
Pre-morbid personality is a term used to describe
the extent and the manner in which you fulfilled the established age-appropriate
and sex-appropriate demands of society prior to your head injury. It is
the yardstick used by health professionals to predict how well you will
adjust to the impairments caused by brain injury. It is based on antiquated,
unrealistic social standards that do not reflect the reality of modern
times and is both opinionated and judgmental.
The most commonly used measure of pre-morbid
adjustment is based on social competence. Such measurements incorporate
factors such as education, intelligence, employment, social history, marital
status and age at the onset of injury. Education and intelligence are presumed
to reflect both intellectual ability and the special application of that
ability to school demands. A person who completes high school is judged
to have met social demands better than a person of equal intelligence who
leaves before graduating.
Employment is rated in terms of salaries, prestige and
type of work. In our culture, success is usually associated with white-collar,
managerial positions with high salaries. Such jobs are seen as indicators
of a person's work skills and ability to deal with people. Poor work skills
or an inability to get along with people usually result in unemployment
or underemployment. A long history of frequent jobs of short duration reflects
an inability to meet either work or interpersonal demands.
Marital status, is another time worn measure of one’s
ability to get along with others of diverse interests and needs. It is
a yardstick that is old and worn and somewhat inadequate for today’s mores
and habits. Medicine has been slow to adjust to the changing social climate
It is generally presumed that the older an individual
is when an illness or injury occurs, except for extreme old age, the better
the chance of handling it due to years of experience in successfully handling
And The New
Traditional psychotherapies focus on childhood trauma.
Doctors use pre-morbid personality indicators as a basis for making diagnosis
and prognosis regarding the patient's anticipated level of recovery. This
practice can destroy a mortally wounded identity. It uses an arbitrary
and old fashioned yardstick to measure individual worth.
Contemporary, eclectic therapies, focus on the here
and now. They are generally more creative and more effective. Such treatments
combine elements of behavior modification, massage, exercise, bio-feedback,
common sense, and/or medication. In so doing, they foster skills in their
patients that help them to regain control of their lives.
Can You Trust?
Psychotherapy is always painful. It involves
dropping your mask and exposing your soul. Many times it is dangerous.
Too often, therapists cling to their own masks and retreat into their own
realities. Frequently, they are biased by their belief systems, and never
really see you as a singular, unique human being. If you sense that your
therapist is unwilling or unable to hear you and does not appear to appreciate
you as a significant person, run as fast as you can. You are in very grave
There are many human instincts which have been
finely tuned over the centuries. They revolve around man's desire to know
himself and to cherish his values. They do not depend on mental acuity
or sophisticated social systems for they deal with the part of our consciousness
which is not exclusively interested in, or satisfied by mere survival.
Instead, they are concerned with needs and desires which exist within each
of us, in addition to, and in spite of the disabled condition in which
we find ourselves.
Your instincts are still intact, perhaps buried under
denial and incapacitated by fear. Ultimately you will have to rely heavily
on them to guide you. The following section is designed to shed light on
subjects that are either taken for granted, or never mentioned in connection
with the relentless sequelae of brain injury. With knowledge, understanding
and self-acceptance you can begin to trust in your basic instincts again
and find the courage to build and shape a new reality.
Head Injury Losses Chart, below will help you identify some of
your losses, examine your reactions to them, and focus on what you need
to do to cope more effectively with them.