Brain Injury Stress: Part Ten of Angela’s Story
One of the hard lessons Angela learned in her efforts to return to work was how much brain injury stress interacted with her other cognitive challenges, to make everything work worse. In a controlled environment, an impaired attentional capacity may not create severe disability. But each additional distraction, interruption will create additional demands on memory and the ability to attend. Add stress to that equation and the cognitive failure is predictable.
Think of each cognitive function, memory, planning, concentration, as being a separate program, requiring a modest amount of the brain’s RAM (randon access memory) to work, rarely taxing an uninjured brain. But brain injury stress essentially reduces the amount of RAM available to each task. Now memory may take a third, planning a third, concentration a third. The amount of the brain’s attentional capacities which are required for stress, are infinitely greater. Thus, add brain injury stress to any cognitive load, and just like your computer will crash, so will the brain.
“I thought I had control of it but something happened that shifted the control all of a sudden the stress was on, because what I thought was done was not done. I almost had a nervous breakdown over this thing. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t remember anything about what I was doing or remember anything about what I should be doing. I was almost like paralyzed by this shift, by this change.”
It has now been, as of January of 2011, well over three years since her accident and she is better now than three years ago. But how well she does function with brain injury stress is largely related to the environment that she is in. Multiple conversations, as they would rapidly overwhelm even the best court reporter, cause her serious problems. For example:
“Well an environment, like a restaurant, where you have the table you are at. Even the table you are at, if you have a table of six, you may have three conversations going on. On top of that, you may have a kitchen, music overhead, you have a table behind you, having a totally different conversation, you have a baby over in the corner screaming, and you are trying, I am trying in those moments pay attention to the conversations that are going on at my table and contribute to the conversation in some way that is positive.”</p>