Posted on March 26, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Elizabeth

Frontal Lobe Complaints: Elizabeth Part Eight

As I have often said on TBI Voices and elsewhere “We learn to become adults in our frontal lobes.” With that being true, if frontal lobes are damaged, much of adult maturity, adult behaviors may be lost or changed. Elizabeth sees these frontal lobe complaints in herself, although in a context a little bit different than I have discussed it before in other stories. She begins by denying that she is generally disorganized and organization is not one of her frontal lobe complaints, but then adds:

Most, most of the time I, I’m pretty good at it (organization). I can handle stuff and then the problem is if I don’t get it and I don’t understand something, I can, I can be talking great with you right now and if someone would come running through the door and ask a question about anything I can look at them and it, I cannot understand it. Those are the things that can kind of make me snap. I get crabby kind of real fast at them. I get scared. I don’t understand it. I get frustrated at myself for not understanding it and those, that’s the damage.

She describes herself as being “like an eighth grade” because of her frontal lobe complaints.  Why do you think an eighth grader?

Because with all the tests after my second injury, all the tests that I had done from the doctors writing tests, reading, taking all the tests, they pretty said I’ve gone downhill and I understand and know as much as an eighth grader.

For me able to understand things, I can ask over and over again but that’s good until I get it, until it sticks and that’s like my mom has been fighting cancer for years and she had another surgery in June and for me to drive there and stay with her I was more worried about helping her than trying to figure anything else out which is good that you’re able to worry about other people and help them out instead of worrying about yourself or afraid you’re not going to understand it and kind of blow it off or whatever.

And that’s the one thing with families, with my husband and my mother-in-law had surgery now to fight cancer and she came home yesterday and it’s going to be good to be able to see her Monday, but to write things down so I can understand. Cancer’s cancer and it’s different for everybody else too. And so to write it down and so it’s ovarian cancer. I can say the word but I can’t spell them. I can try to look it up in a dictionary and I still don’t, I still don’t get the word right, spelling, but understanding what it is that works.

Much of the frontal lobe complaints she describes are typically thought of as more pure cognitive than frontal lobe dysfunction, but the frontal lobes play a huge role in all cognitive tasks and frontal lobe complaints. And while her reference to being like an eighth grader was meant in terms of working knowledge, it is clear that it also applies to the issues of her capacity to live independently with her frontal lobe complaints.

Her husband is a better source on frontal lobe complaints. He explains that she has problems with deciding what to wear, sometimes taking hours.

You know, is this right for the occasion, you know? She constantly asks me that. I’ve let her do it on her own a few times, you know, should I wear this, you know, when she does have a problem. She doesn’t have, always have a problem, but when she does have a problem, I’ve let her go, it’ll take her an hour at least.

While routine tasks typically get done when they should, he says:

For the most part she knows when to do laundry or when to do, you know, her dishes. I help her as much as I can, but I work a swing shift so it’s different hours all the time, and for the most part she does pretty good. I’m, I would say two or three times a week I got, I will reminder her to, you know, this has to be done or that has to be done, but, and she’ll go oh yeah, okay, you know?

He says that she can be disorganized as a frontal lobe complaint.

She gets too much going at one time for her to handle, and she don’t realize that. Like around the holidays, birthdays. She just tries to do too much at once, you know, or if I’ve got something going on, and she knows I can’t, normally that’s my job, then she’ll try and do that and do what she wants to do, then she gets frustrated and doesn’t get usually either one done. She’ll get them half done, but that’ll be about the extent of it.

Sometimes she has difficulty completing even the simplest of tasks with her frontal lobe complaints.

Just even picking up after herself sometimes. She’ll just forget, you know. She’ll get ready for bed and her clothes will drop on the floor, but she won’t pick them up, and some days she will, and I wonder why that is, that she don’t, you know, it’s, to me it’s like opening your eyes in the morning, you know? If you take your clothes off, put them away. But there are days she don’t, and I don’t get mad at her for it, I just take it for what it is.

The hardest thing I would say would be if I say I’m going to do something at a certain time, and I don’t get to it at that time, she gets very upset about that.

He is asked about whether her eighth grader analogy is accurate about her frontal lobe complaints.

At times, at times a bit smarter. I mean it’s, it’s kind of a give and take. Yeah, intellectual. I mean as far as maturity, I would say eighth grade is pretty accurate, because – her temper. I mean some things that you would think would only make a person of that age mad makes her mad, where to me it doesn’t bother me.

She can see two people talking and she’ll think they’re, they’re talking about her, where me it doesn’t bother me, is the biggest issue. She, self-esteem is a big issue with her.

One problem often seen with frontal lobe problems and frontal lobe complaints, is not making your loved one feel appreciated. He says she doesn’t have that.

She tells me every day that she loves me, and matter of fact she tells me more times than I care to hear it sometimes, you know? She’s always saying thank you, thank you, thank you. And that’s probably why I keep going.

Next Part Nine – Mood and Social Challenges.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447