Does TBI Make Me a New Person?
I have read that TBI causes us to become a new person. That is quite a stark statement. It startled me into realizing that I should not expect to be able to do what I used to. I have let go of my expectation, though not my desire, to be present in the same way I used to, to do the same things I used to, live life the same way I used to.
However, I am not a new person. I am the same person I was before I became disabled. My wife and close friends still relate with me similarly. We have not had to begin these relationship anew, as we would if I was a new person. My capacity has changed, but who I am has not.
TBI can cause personality changes. Inappropriate behavior, different reactions to similar situations, memory loss, and sudden, intense, uncontrollable anger can all be part of TBI. These are the changes that I believe have led people to make the statement that TBI causes us to become a different person.
Same Person, Different Capacity
Even in the face of what can be extreme changes, I still believe we are the same person with different capacities due to TBI. God created me as a unique individual with a unique purpose and nothing can change that. Many things can change how I am able to live out my uniqueness. TBI may make me less able to do the things I did before. But I am still the same person God created.
The challenge of integration is to mesh my new, decreased capacities with who I am. This is why it is so important that I view myself as the same person God created. I need someplace stable to begin figuring out what it is I can do. TBI will likely show me things about myself I did not know before, and it may help peal away parts that were never really me (or perhaps the opposite, if I’m creating new defenses against reality!). All of this I need to integrate into my awareness of who I am and what I am capable of.
Less Capacity Leads to Focus
One of the ironies of being disabled is that we have to focus our energies on a few things. We have to prioritize what is truly important and focus only on those things. If we prioritize well we may be able to accomplish more than we ever thought possible or even than did before our disability!
If I was a sandstone arch, I wouldn’t feel much different that I do now.
Rock. Solid and whole.
Time. Water and wind.
Parts of me, gone.
Sorrow. Grief and loss.
Not realizing I’ve been
Sculpted. Shaped and shorn.
Holy now, if not whole.
Gaping holes, gentle curves,
loss is gain,
beauty sculpted out of rock.
Shape me as you do the stone,
Remove what must be to reveal
your beauty — present all along.
— Patrick A. Jones