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The Full Trauma of Traumatic Brain Injury

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is life-altering business, and the trauma far exceeds the physical injury. I received an email from a woman the other day, and I’d like to share her story.

Tammy’s Tale

“Tammy” is 60. She’d been diagnosed with basilar artery migraines, and has a hole in her heart. Ten years ago, upon a physician’s recommendation, Tammy began taking sumatriptan (Imitrex), a sulfa drug used in the treatment of migraine and cluster headaches.

According to Tammy, sumatriptan is contraindicated in the presence of her medical circumstances. She obviously wasn’t aware of that. And though it can’t be substantiated, one of the neurologists she’s seen believes sumatriptan was the cause of her TBI.

Tammy had been a self-employed management consultant. Fortunately, she had medical and income protection insurance. But her medical insurance provider ultimately dropped her.

So where is Tammy neurologically?

According to her assessment results, she sustained a diffuse brain injury. That means a large portion of Tammy’s brain was impacted – most prominently the left frontal cortex and right temporal lobe. The injury has also manifested in her cerebellum and vestibular system (the workings of the inner ear).

Bottom-line – after treatment by assorted neurologists, neuropsychologists, and occupational therapists; Tammy now endures poor visual memory, has difficulty maintaining attention; and has spatial, balance, and coordination issues.

Fascinatingly, Tammy shared that she did so well detailing her story only because she’s rehearsed its telling so many times.

The Emotional & Environmental Carnage

Tammy’s trauma far exceeds the physical. As she attempts to move on with her life, one of the greatest issues she deals with is the perception she’s functioning “normally.” Since she doesn’t appear “ill,” people assume she can do any number of things that she, in fact, cannot.

The impact has been profound. It cost Tammy a marriage because her husband was in denial about her situation and wouldn’t assist her when she asked for help. I might add, her TBI-generated judgment issues had much to do with marrying the man in the first place.

And she’s been taken advantage of in a variety of ways because of her neuro deficits, which include at times not knowing where she is.

Tammy also shared she has great difficulty feeling safe, and managing her reactions when she doesn’t. And this frequently occurs because she has problems coming to grips with the fact that she can’t juggle all aspects of a situation, coming to a true understanding of what’s occurring.

Naturally – panic, anxiety, avoidance, confidence issues, and low self-esteem have become major problems.

So the reality of Tammy’s TBI saga is a tale of two traumas – the initial injury and the physical, emotional, and environmental fallout.

The Close

I love it when readers email me out of nowhere, as did Tammy. First of all, I enjoy being there for them and providing assistance. And, secondly, it provides such a great learning opportunity for all of us.

I’ll be doing some resource digging for Tammy and will continue to communicate with her. If you have any experience with situations like Tammy’s, why not drop me a line?

For a list of the 70-some chipur articles on the biology of the mood and anxiety disorders, just click here