So I had this thought that I might write a section on this site to refer people to who "know" me, in hopes of perhaps gaining some understanding or insight into who they are dealing with. Since the whole site is about me this 'about me' section is really for those who know me well. And who, may not realize or know that I am brain injured. The reason I had this thought is because of some of the troubles I experience related to brain injury and the frequency of me feeling like I don't handle people very well. I don't want to be thought of as grumpy old man, or a jerk. I don’t feel like I need to make an excuse for myself but in dealing with this for my entire adult life I have said to myself it would be easier if I had a guidebook I could hand to people or a t-shirt to wear so people weren’t thinking I was just being rude or whatever. I know, siliness right? But really, if you care to take a moment please read on:
There is a medical term for what is known as face-blindness. It’s big and complicated and sounds funny but so you can google it – it’s called prosopagnosia. Like many of my disabilities now, I have always had this problem but on a much smaller scale than brain surgeries have created it to become. It doesn’t mean that I cannot see someone’s face but that I don’t recognize faces like I should. I’ve written more on this site about it but here I’ll just touch on the finer points.
If you see me somewhere outside of where we know one another It’s likely that I have no idea who you are. So if you smile and say Hey it is likely I will just say hey and move on. I won’t try to have a conversation because I don’t know you and I don’t know who I spoke to about this or that and it’s possible that in my mind I created a completely different person. Because of my problem it is difficult for me to remember information about people because I basically have no reference. I’ve heard it said – It’s nice to finally have a face to go along with whatever the case may be when two people finally meet and I don’t know if that’s a real thing or not. To be honest, if you are someone I deal with quite frequently I may stare at you looking for signs or flaws even. Well not flaws but something different I can use to identify you by. I typically recognize people by their mannerisms or by their voices, or by their walk or gait. Sometimes I know who someone is from a pretty good distance by these things, well before a face is in view. I often think I know someone that I don’t and that can be embarrassing, so unless I am certain I typically won’t approach someone and speak to them. Sometimes I’ll look the other way and say their name loudly enough for them to hear and then try to glance and see if they looked to see who is calling their name. But that can backfire too because someone might look to try and figure out why I am just calling out a random name.
- Touch Aversion
Some things like my sense of taste and smell have been heightened. So has my sense of touch. I have always had a problem with people touching me. Again like the face blindness it was on a much smaller scale before the brain injuries and unless I was hit or bumped pretty hard and unexpectedly I could deal with it. But these days I cannot stand it. I will almost shudder or shake or even freeze if someone slaps me on the shoulder unexpectedly. I have been known to push back like I’ve been hit by someone. It can turn on an instant rage just being bumped into or brushed by someone as they pass by. A lot of times people who know me well, might put a hand on my shoulder or even try to hug and I struggle with it greatly. I do my best to not react but even with my little ones I cannot stand them putting their hand on my legs. Sometimes my daughter, in an attempt to show affection, will try to lightly stroke my arm and I just can’t handle it. She loves to sit in my chair with me but she touches my arm or just moves around too much and makes little noises too much and so unless I am well rested and not too stressed she’s not allowed to sit with me. I cannot stand little bumps from people as they walk by like at a restaurant or on an airplane. Sometimes it feels so deliberate and I could just lose my mind if it happens too much. So please, don’t slap me on the shoulder, shake my hand, or try to hug me. I might run away from you or worse slap you back just as hard as I perceived your slap to be.
When I first heard the word and looked it up it was much worse than it is now. Now though, instead of not understanding a word you’re saying or that I am reading, it’s more that I struggle to find the right word or words. It can be exhausting to us both to try and have a conversation. Trying to sell something door to door? Good luck… On a good day I might ask you to come back when my wife is home, on a bad day I will simply smile at you and close the door and not feel the least bit badly about it. It’s possible that I might feel bad, kids selling something for school for instance, so I’ll just stand there. You might think I am listening to your schpeil but believe me, more than likely I am glossing over and not hearing a word.
As a result of my irradiation therapy I have lost the hearing in my right ear. If you approach me from the right side it is likely you will be ignored. At least, it will appear that way. It’s a 100% loss. Because it is, I have what’s they refer to as tinnitus - being described as the perception of noise or ringing in the ear. It screams and screeches in my right ear so loud sometimes that I will often confuse which ear I can’t or can hear from. They say perceived noise because it is actually noise created by the brain because the brain knows there is an ear there and it wants to hear something from it. It’s often described as the phantom limb effect but in this case maybe the phantom ear? Even though the limb is gone the brain thinks it can still feel pain from it. Weird stuff.
I have severe trouble sleeping at night. As a result I am always tired, my ear rings even louder and it makes me short tempered and grumpy. So pay no attention to grumpy old Mr. Vaughn. At least, don’t take his grumpiness too personally. I know I have chased away more than one of my daughter’s friends because of my short fuse and I am sorry.
Otherwise known as a lack of filter - occasionally I say the first thing that pops into my head despite it's content or context. Sometimes I'll realize it's inappropriate-ness as it's spewing from my mouth and so I try to cover that by adding that I am kidding. As a result I say things about people within earshot and embarrass those I am with and/or anger those I am speaking about or to. I think I have made great improvements in this area but I am sure some would disagree. You know all those things you think but wouldn't never say out loud? Well, I've said them all.
Being a stay-at-home dad because of these things and much much more makes me feel sorry for my kids and I often wonder how they will turn out having been raised by a grumpy brain-injured dad. I hope one day they will understand why dad needs it quiet, and clean, and all the other stuff that sometimes takes the fun out of being a kid. Luckily they have a wonderful mother who does a great job of taking care of all of us.