Neuropsychology and Rehabilitation Psychology Division Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Pat #23

DEAR PAT: Since my brain injury 2 years ago, I have had many problems that will not go away. I feel depressed and angry most of the time. I get very impatient with people. It’s difficult for me to concentrate and I’m often forgetful. I couldn’t keep up at work and I lost my job 6 months ago. Since then, I haven’t felt like being around people much at all. The only people I have to talk to are my children. Even they don’t understand what I’m going through. They keep telling me to “get over it” and find another job. So far, I haven’t been able to do either one of those things. I feel too sad and irritable to even think about working. I finally broke down and told my doctor about how I’ve been feeling lately. She started me on Prozac last month. I feel a little better, but I’m still having a pretty hard time. What else can I do to start feeling better? Are there people out there who will believe that my problems are not imaginary?
---“All in my head” in Hanover

PAT’S RESPONSE: You may be surprised to find out your symptoms are not so unusual. Problems like the ones you describe are quite common after a brain injury in fact. Many people recovering from brain trauma notice changes in their emotions and thinking. You’ve taken good first steps to reach out and find others who do understand what it’s like to survive a brain injury.

From the letter you wrote, your doctor seems to believe that your problems are real and that they deserve treatment. Depression after a brain injury is an all too common difficulty. Reactions to loss and life changes, or changes in brain chemistry, or both may account for post-injury depression. There are many medications for depression and other emotional problems that may be helpful for you. Keep your doctor informed about how the medication is (or is not) helping. Be willing to try different medications if necessary.

If you find that medications aren’t helping enough, you may want to think about other kinds of treatment or support. Many people find individual and group therapy, for example, helps during the short and long-term phases of recovery. Your doctor may know a rehabilitation specialist in your area who provides counseling for people after a brain injury. Joining a group for survivors of brain injury is another great idea. You are likely to find the support, guidance, and advice of other people with similar experiences very helpful.

There is a community of survivors, family members and friends, and treatment professionals that will not dismiss your concerns. The Brain Injury Association of Virginia (804-335-5748 or toll free 1-800-334-8443) is a wonderful organization to contact. They are an excellent source of information about treatment specialists, programs, services, and support groups in your area.

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