We all have those thoughts that we like to keep to ourselves don’t we. Have you ever lied when a female friend says “Does my hair suit me now I’ve had it cut?” Now you might think that your friend looks like the Hayley Cropper the transexual in Coronation Street but you’d never say that (I hope) because you don’t want to hurt her feelings
But what stops us? It’s our inhibitions! They are like a nightclub bouncer that stands at the bottom of our brain acting as a filter that the thoughts must go through before they reach our mouth.
This ‘brain bouncer’ will probably let the thought past that gives someone a compliment. They might however, say “not tonight mate!” to the thought about slapping the sarcastic supermarket checkout girl. When we drink we can lose our inhibitions temporarily or at least until the effects of the alcohol wear off, look at it as giving the bouncer the night off work. Having a brain injury can cause you to lose your inhibitions on a more permanent basis, think of this like handing the bouncer his p45, giving him time off indefinitely. Of course every brain injury is truly unique and this affects different people in different ways ranging from mildly to extremely badly!
A story I know of was when a guy with a traumatic brain injury was unsupervised and ended up in a pretty busy shopping centre. Now just like me he battled with fatigue and would usually go to bed for a bit of a siesta at that time. He was getting really fatigued so when he saw a very comfy looking bed he decided to lay down on it to have his siesta there. Now everyone has been in that situation haven’t they, where you are tired and find that a bed in a department store looks very tempting. Your inhibitions however stop you from actually getting in the bed. Only this guy had a severe brain injury, he had no filter to stop him so he proceeded to treat it like his own. The problem was that in his own bed he slept naked! He stripped off and got in, he continued to act as if he was at home and did what he often did in his own bed to try and relax as he err…. I’m trying to think of a nice way to say that he started masturbating without actually using the word masturbating but I’ve said it now… twice! So anyway THAT! Oh I did I forget to mention that the bed was in the shop window in this shopping centre at lunchtime! The police were called and he was escorted back home to his family. Afterwards he was left unaware of any wrongdoing, there is a part of your brain that sees this as wrong and if this part wasn’t working then why would he?
Now before you start I must stress that this is not an autobiography but this is an extreme version of what can happen when a person loses their inhibitions. He acted the way he did because he was tired and he saw a bed therefore did what he would do if it was his own bed. There was no filtration system to tell him that he wasn’t at home and so should act accordingly!
I luckily have never had such extreme reactions to my brain injury but I can often relate to those who have been much more seriously affected and this is one example of me losing my inhibitions:
Firstly, during my rehabilitation I had a second support worker Tim. He who used to take me training at the gym, help me eat a healthy diet and we’d hang out. Principally though he provided that much needed lads conversation that had been missing from my life. You see up until then I had been under the care of only professional’s and an excellent but all female team of Occupational Therapists. Tim and I were a great match and despite looking quite different physically (he’s 6’4” I’m 5’7”) we shared a very similar sense of humour. He was someone that I could say pretty much anything to without it phasing him. Now when I first told Tim this we were walking and it caused him to stop dead in his path and turn his head slowly to look at me eyes and mouth wide open. It was then that I knew it was quite bad and this is what I told him:
It was in the summer of 2009, I was unable to socialize very much, women disappeared from my life and I became quite lonely. Tim ever helpful set me up an account on a website called Plenty Of Fish (an online dating site not somewhere to choose what to eat with chips!) and before long I had arranged to meet a girl called Barbara… my God is it obvious I have changed her name?
So anyway me and Babs (sounds better than Barbara!) went for a walk and a chat and we got on pretty well. Before long we stopped for a drink and sat facing one another across a table. Every so often I caught a whiff of bad breath, was it her I thought? Anyway I let it slide and the date finished with a hug.
Date 2: We went for a meal a few days later and my suspicions were confirmed! I tactically took her for an ice cream and the second date ended with an ice creamy snog!
I was concerned with solving this problem and I figured that if it was me then I would rather know. So on date 3 she picked me up and after I kissing her and finding the problem was not resolved I told her! Straight to her face with no attempt to sugarcoat. I gave her the pack of Wrigley’s Extra gum id bought for her, when she took a piece and handed it back I told her that the whole pack was hers! When we parted she dropped me off, I kissed her chewing gum freshened mouth and said something like “there that’s better now next time make sure your breaths not minging, call me in the week! Bye! (That was the part that stopped Tim in his tracks!).
Now I thought I had done her a genuine favour and I remember being a bit upset that she hadn’t bothered to thank me! Its almost as if that part of my brain, the bit concerned with empathy and understanding, had been switched off. I am not sure if there’s any link but I just tend not to feel as scared anymore like I once would have. I will easily stand up and speak in front of a hundred people, I just don’t mind! I would never have done that as a kid because I was always quite shy. I often lay in bed at night regretting things that I may have said or done that day. I don’t react or process information very fast, as those cogs in the workings in my brain don’t turn very well. I regret with hindsight but not at the time!
A person with a brain injury may appear rude but often it is unlikely that they mean to be, they are just speaking the unfiltered truth. If you want an honest answer they are great to be around! If however you are quite sensitive and like people to sugarcoat their opinions then maybe stay away!
8 years on I am learning to be more sympathetic to peoples feelings. I cannot tell lies even white ones, which is not necessarily a bad thing as long as you’re not afraid of the truth! I’m not there yet and maybe never will be but I’ve learned not to jump in as much with my opinions but to take a second to think. It is as if the bouncer on my brain has had a few years off and is now rehired on a part time basis as a temp. The fact I am aware of my mistakes shows that I have developed good awareness of my condition and even though I cringe at times I am thankful because I know that others never get to the level of recovery that I have. Quite often since acquiring my brain injury I have felt helpless and weak and I have found it very important to try to look on the bright side of everything. Now although it may be a pretty harrowing experience to look back on, I bet you Babs has excellent oral hygiene these days. I’ll let you know if she ever calls me back!