Faiza Siddiqui, who recently wrote the article My sex life after injury, tell us about how her new found disability has been both negative and positive.
“The frontal lobes,” my consultant explained, “are what make humans human”. When the car crashed, they were the part of my brain that what was damaged. “That is where the personality resides, the part of the brain used to make finer judgements.” My heart sank as I sat there listening to his words.
It was a massive achievement, apparently, for someone who’d sustained the injury that I had, just to even be sitting there. It had been about 2 years since the car crash and I was getting sick of being told “well done” whenever I was able to complete a task similar to one that a small child had mastered. Should I be proud of these ‘achievements’?
No, not yet. First I had to understand what all this meant, why I found simple things difficult and why my brain was now the way that it is. And learning and understanding something new wasn’t really helped by the fact that all I had to help me make sense of all this was a battered brain!
What I discovered was that the part of the brain just behind the forehead is the bit that does what is called executive function, i.e. planning and making fine judgements. Without executive functioning, I was told, getting by in the world would be tremendously difficult.
It’s never said, but I am a different person since the accident. Not noticeably at first, but the old me died in the car that day. So, do I miss her? Of course, she was kind and caring and had no problem making the little judgments that helped her care for the people she loved.
But, do I wish that I had ‘executive functioning’ again like a normal person does? Well, no, not exactly. That executive functioning had me locked up in society’s little world of logic and rules.
However, although it has been quite freeing, I can’t deny that has been the hardest part of all this. Just at a time when my emotional judgement is most affected, I’m also having to explain these weird ideas I have and the changes I feel to everyone around me.
I’m having rebuild all of my relationships. Rebuild the relationships I have with my husband, my friends, my parents and, as though it wasn’t difficult enough when I did have executive functioning at my disposal, the relationship with my in-laws!
To make it even harder, the therapists told me that people like me are dis-inhibited, that damage to the frontal lobes make it hard for people to exhibit self-control.
Maybe that’s why it’s seen as a taboo saying that I don’t regret crashing the car. The car crash made me who I am. But, still, everyone seems to feel the need to hold my hand in sympathy when I tell them that I’m now disabled.
But, no, don’t be sorry: I’ve been freed from the executive functioning shackles that everyone’s has over their frontal lobes. My brain is free to roam about and create whatever it pleases. Don’t feel sorry for me.
By Faiza Siddiqui