Gaining Back My Independence and Personality

Madeline Uretsky Madeline Uretsky

Prior to my injury, I was extremely energetic, bubbly, type A, and constantly talking. In addition to the many invisible symptoms I continue to suffer from such as headaches, noise sensitivity, and light sensitivity, my personality change was a symptom that was not so invisible to those who knew me well. It was a gradual process, but I finally regained my original personality completely almost a year ago. For my family and close friends, it was frightening to see my personality change, knowing there was nothing that they could do.

Often times with head injuries, personality changes occur, and are out of the control of the person suffering, and the people around them. There is nothing anyone can do except adapt to the changes, and wait. For me, I began speaking in a monotone voice without any spirit to it. I never worried about school, organizing things around the house, or doing anything productive. I had absolutely zero energy, and did not speak nearly as quickly, or as often. As I began to leave my house more, have visitors over, and return to school, the old me began to slowly return as well. I am extremely fortunate that I have had an incredible support system around me over the past three years to help keep me positive. I feel lucky that I never had to experience irritability, anger, or depression, because I know these are common amongst teenagers who suffer from brain injuries. Now, I speak with emotion, am type A, and back to my chatty self again!

Because I was not the same person, in a great deal of pain 24/7, and unable to function normally without assistance, I became dependent on others. Gaining back my independence was an even bigger challenge than gaining back my personality. I have had to relearn how to be independent, not rely on others, and do simple things for myself. During the time when I physically could not do most tasks by myself, I was blessed to have a mother who stopped working to take care of me full time. She would sit with me all day, take me to appointments, remind me to do my exercises and take my medicine, cook my meals, help me walk around the house, read to me, and answer my texts for me. Every day, she used to read me articles in the news, play trivia games, and listen to talk shows with me since I could not watch them.

At times, I would forget where things like plates and cups were located in the house, and I could not do tasks in the kitchen because I could not remember how to use anything. My mother would have me help her cook simple meals a few days a week just to get out of bed, and learn to do small tasks again such as follow a recipe, and crack eggs. She trained me to back up, look up, and be cautious when opening the freezer and cabinets so that nothing would fall on my head. I continue to do this with cabinets, lockers, and shelves to this day. Although I do not like to cook, I can prepare meals on my own now. I can also drive, go to the movies, beach, mall, stores, stadiums, and spend full days at school. I do have trouble with some of these, and always have to wear sunglasses and earplugs, but I am able to enjoy them. I love to read, and have built up a tolerance to read for hours at a time now. Since I have finished school for the year, I have already read five books, and am currently on my sixth. I live a mostly normal life now because I manage my symptoms, go to my appointments, do my exercises, and am always careful. I just have to watch my energy levels, headaches, and visual stimulation every day so as not to wear myself out, or get sick due to my weakened immune system. The only things that I still cannot do are physical activity other than walking, drive for long periods of time, and go on amusement park rides. My mother still takes me to all of my appointments because I never know if I am going to be well enough to drive home afterward. I have loved spending all of this time with my mother, and I really value our close relationship.

Now that I have my personality back, and I am able to get through days doing things on my own, I am excited to be well enough to attend and live at Simmons College in the fall.


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