Thank you for emails of encouragement. Your comments, suggestions and questions are greatly appreciated. This post is in repsonse to a question that many of you have been emailing me about - what is ABI? I hope that this address your question and if you know someone with an ABI that it helps you to better understand what they are going through.
What is ABI?
ABI – is the result of either a traumatic injury due to an accident or non-traumatic injury due to stroke or substance abuse. Often when people hear “brain injury” the first thing that comes to their mind is intellectual disability. The truth is most people with ABI retain their intellectual abilities, but the brain injury may affect thought processing, making it difficult for a person to express themselves.
How does ABI affect the brain?
Our brain enables us to think, move, and feel. In a person with ABI their cognitive processing may be affected, as well as their physical activity and social functioning.
What does it look like?
There is no one specific thing or “style” indentifying people with an ABI, nor are any two people with ABI identical. Many persons with ABI work extensively with various therapists to learn coping mechanisms for their particular situation. Be it behavioral management due to frustration, and/or speech due to thought processing or memory related.
What is like for someone with ABI?
Wow, where do I begin? As, I mentioned ABI affects everyone differently. For me personally - In the beginning my speech was like that of a child and the words that were in my head usually were not the words that came out when I spoke. It was and continues to be very frustrating to be aware of a deficiency in your speech –pitch, vocabulary, speaking style – and not be able to correct it. The energy that it takes to focus, concentrate and try to communicate effectively is most of the times overwhelming; leaving me exhausted and frustrated.
Loud areas, multiple people conversing, and excessive background noise make it nearly impossible to remain composed. My head starts spinning like an out of balance machine, on spin cycle with no off button. I have to remove myself from these situations (something that took me a long time to realize - these were triggers for other things, but thats a post for another time). Sometimes I push myself to participate in social activities – like when we went to watch a Raptor game recently - Mr. G was so excited to have Platinum tickets and was so looking forward to taking me. Not wanting to disappoint him, I agreed to attend. As soon as we entered the ACC – the excitement from the fans in the concession areas started to overpower me, I had to retreat to our seats and remove myself from the area, leaving Mr. G in the jersey shop. During the game, the cheering and booing from the fans and the activity of the game kept me on pins and needles. I managed to get through the game and seeing Mr. G happy that we shared this moment together, was worth the anxiety I felt inside and next two days of bed rest.
My attention span is at times is very limited, and I am easily distracted. This became more apparent of a problem when Mr. G started finding pots at the “boiled dry” state on the stove; while me without a care or thought was chatting on the phone; or outside with one of our doggies. Now, I only use the stove when someone is around. Uggg …. More loss of independence. Being easily distracted affects many areas of life and needing someone (usually Mr. G.) to remind me about simple everyday things like eating, grooming and at times choices in dressing.
The challenges that affect persons with ABI – are not always visible. We may look exactly like you – and often we do - we are stylish, and on really good days and in quiet environments we can manage to stay focused.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my friends and family, who even when I’m stumbling to get my words out, or when I talk in circles, trying to mask that I have forgotten what we were speaking about – don’t call me on it, and patiently wait or try to get me back on topic discreetly. And i would liketo thank God - for giving me the courage to write this and hopefuly by me sharing my situation it will help someone to know they are not alone and to not give up!