21 votes

Not Dead But Gone: How a Concussion Changed My Girlfriend's Personality Forever

6 comments

  1. sublime_aenima Link
    My wife fell off my son's scooter and broke her skull (for the second time in her life) a little over a year ago. My wife went through quite a bit of the same things that Gabrielle went through,...

    My wife fell off my son's scooter and broke her skull (for the second time in her life) a little over a year ago. My wife went through quite a bit of the same things that Gabrielle went through, but her injury was more severe and required a stay in the hospital.

    This is partly because we don’t fully understand just how far the damage spreads beyond the initial site of impact. Understanding of how the brain is damaged during a concussion is a rapidly evolving field of study

    The trauma center where my wife was initially treated is outside our normal insurance group. The neurosurgeon who picked the bone fragments from her head and put her skull back together with metal plates was not the same one we would see for any follow up appointments we had. The first week in the hospital was a bit of a blur for me, and my wife barely remembers any of it. We had amassed a long list of questions for the neurosurgeon and neurologist when we went in for our first follow up appointment, but pretty much the only answer we got was "We don't know, every person is different." It was incredibly frustrating.

    Gabrielle could appear to be frustratingly normal for brief stretches of time, only to completely break down later, when there was only me there to see these things.

    My wife is one of the strongest people I have ever met. She's also one of the most stubborn and unwilling to accept help. When I returned to work, she fired the caretaker I had hired, and cancelled the service. I got her best friend to come over for a few hours a day, until after 4 days my wife figured out what was happening and kicked her friend out. She talked her doctor into allowing her to return back to work part time after 6 weeks, rather than the original 10 weeks they had agreed upon. Everyone she saw throughout the day would remark how if it wasn't for the shaved head, they would have never known she had an accident. Except every afternoon she would collapse into the bath, followed immediately by bed until it was time to get up the next day. My kids and I were walking on eggshells for months, making sure that once she was in bed, everyone was quiet and quick to help her get comfortable if she needed anything. Failure to act quick enough or to wake her from her slumber caused a fit similar to a toddler. I can't say they are gone yet, but they are much fewer and further between now.

    The person I married is no longer here. She has moments where she loses empathy and becomes almost robotic, a far cry from the person who would cry if a "cute" bug died. She sometimes gets confused or forgets words, especially if she is stressed or tired. I still love my wife and she is still a fantastic mother, but she is different now and it takes patience to remember that sometimes.

    15 votes
  2. [5]
    Gaywallet Link
    I'm not sure how many people are aware of how things like this can happen, but brain damage of any sort can have consequences that are difficult if not impossible to predict. There are stories out...

    I'm not sure how many people are aware of how things like this can happen, but brain damage of any sort can have consequences that are difficult if not impossible to predict. There are stories out there of people who didn't just change because of obvious symptoms such as memory loss, inability to empathize, etc. but who have had their entire personality change - extroverts becoming introverted, soft-spoken individuals becoming loud an boisterous, an entire shift of hobbies or priorities in life, and many more possibilities.

    The author makes a good point in that we don't have a way to easily express this kind of grief, but I disagree that we "have no place" for this kind of grief. I think more people experience this kind of grief than the author or others expect - people change over time in similar ways. How many couples got together in late high school or early college, only to break up 5-10 years later? How many marriages end after 20 years where they just "drifted apart"? I think the time scale of these examples makes them much easier to deal with than what the author had to deal with, however.

    10 votes
    1. [4]
      Thrabalen Link Parent
      As someone who's had a minor stroke, I often wonder how much of this is true for me.

      As someone who's had a minor stroke, I often wonder how much of this is true for me.

      5 votes
      1. [3]
        Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
        That's the scary thing for me: if my mental health were ever to deteriorate in any way, I probably wouldn't notice it. I look at my elderly mother, and she has no idea how much she's changed in...

        That's the scary thing for me: if my mental health were ever to deteriorate in any way, I probably wouldn't notice it. I look at my elderly mother, and she has no idea how much she's changed in the past 20 years. She still thinks she's as sharp and on-the-ball and charming and witty as she was back then. But, the medications she has been on for the past couple of decades have dulled her mind and even changed her personality. And now age is catching up with her as well. But she doesn't see it.

        You can't look at yourself and assess your own mental health, because the tool you're using to measure your personal changes is the thing that is itself being changed. You have to rely on other people to give you feedback - but what if you start not trusting your family and friends?

        It's a very scary scenario.

        5 votes