Updated: May 24, 2019
"I will carry this memory with me for the rest of my life, just like the person who will never forget about the flavor of a lemon once they have tasted it."
In the workshop, The Lost Self: Traumatic Brain Injury/Trauma and Identity at 2019 American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama (ASGPP) conference in Manchester, NH, I volunteered to play the role of the brain suffering from post-traumatic stress (the PTS Brain), sitting alongside with the brain suffering from the traumatic brain injury (the TBI Brain) and the brain of a neuro-typical person (the Healthy Brain).
We, the three brains, watched how a healthy middle-aged person with a mastery of their life and high self-esteem was turned upside down due to a bike accident. Their friend kept a distance because she felt guilty for not able to prevent the accident as they biked together; their spouse felt overwhelmed and kids felt scared and confused; their employer, fortunately, was kind and supportive, yet struggled with their finance, policy, and morality…
We, the PTS brain and TBI brain overwrote the Healthy Brain. I was screaming over every tiny little thing. I made the person frozen just thinking about the idea of going outside again. Yes, I watched out for the person 24/7, not only them but the whole family. Well, a lot of the time, my buddy, the TBI brain did an even greater job than me. My buddy made the person tired all the time. They forgot what they were doing only in thirty seconds. They self-criticized. They felt dizzy and weak. They felt alienated from their own body. They felt depressed and lost their identity, hope, and motivation. I felt restless and energetic, but the TBI brain was the opposite.
We thought we were going to balance the person’s life in this way forever until the outside help came in. The doctor prescribed the best possible medical treatment for the TBI Brain. The therapist and support group shown that they knew the needs of the family better than I did, which made me feel that I did not need to look after the person every moment anymore. Gradually, I began to feel tired and I could take a nap from time to time. I no longer needed to be alert to all the crazy little things 24/7. These people also reached over the Healthy Brain and were able to make it step out more. But I am still going to watch out for the dangers that all of these people couldn’t detect.
It’s great to talk to you all and share a bit about me. Now I don’t detect any danger. Therefore, I am going to take a nap. See you in danger!
Before I go, here is an illustration of me and my buddy, the TBI Brain, which was made based on the scientific study of us. What do you think about PTS and TBI? Please feel free to share your thoughts and experience below!
Reference: Stein MB, McCallister TW (2009). Exploring the convergence of post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury. Am J Psychiatry; 166:766-776.
The facilitators of the workshop, Deborah Karner (MSS, LCSW, EMDR II, CP/PAT) and Colleen Baratka (TEP), not only implemented various action-based techniques and the neurobiological aspect of the subject, but also shared their own experiences, to educate the participants about post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury in an experiential way, which was profound and empowering! The sharing within the group and the usage of sociodrama showed that the issues related to PTS and TBI are not individual, rather a social and systematic issue that we shall face and solve together as a community!