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Frightened by My Own Shadow – A Reminder from My Injured Brain

by Linda W. Arms

One evening recently I was walking through my house and was frightened by my own shadow.    It was a big reminder of my earlier years after my brain injury when I was often frightened by things.    Often I think I could not process things quickly enough to understand what it was I was seeing.    Part of it also was that I was often hyper-vigilant as a result of PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome).    Whatever the cause, these responses of fear are a bit unnerving and zap some energy from my brain.   It even affects my physical energy for a few moments; there is a wave of physical weakness.

In the last weeks I’ve had many things on my mind and I am less aware of my surroundings.   A few days ago, I walked around the back of my house and saw the reflection from the water in a tiny pond that’s been there for the last 20 years.   When I first saw the reflection I was frightened because I didn’t know what it was.   It didn’t fit in with the rest of what I saw like grass, trees, and plants.   I don’t think it was a PTSD thing this time.    I think my brain could not process the visual input fast enough to tell me “it’s OK, it’s just light reflecting on the water”.

How many of you have had these experiences after your brain injury?   I remember some of my rather strange reactions that now I can even laugh about.    A couple of years after my accident, I moved my car out of the garage and parked it in the driveway.   I wanted to sweep the garage.    After sweeping for a few minutes, I looked up and saw a car in the driveway.   It frightened me because I thought “who is parking there, what do they want?”    A few moments later I realized it was my car that I had moved out there less than 10 minutes ago.

Another time I was walking through a home goods store and I suddenly saw something that really scared me and I even made some sound.   Again, a few moments later, I recognized that it was steam coming from a room humidifier that was on display.    It sounds crazy and I felt embarrassed by my reaction since there were other people around.    The incident caused me to have more difficulties getting through the store.   The scare zapped that fragile brain energy.

I’m not sure what causes these responses; only the brain fairy knows for sure.    I think in the earlier years, PTSD played a role in my moments of being frightened by something.    Today I think it’s mostly that my brain still can’t attend to too many things at once.      If my brain is busy thinking about a problem then it can’t also be processing a lot of visual input or other things it should be doing.   I have to say I’m rather disappointed that I have had this response so frequently in the last weeks but I realize it will get better.    It makes me realize I have to be extra careful doing things that require a lot of attention.   I have to remind myself to stop thinking about the problems, put them aside, and focus on what I have to do at the moment.



8 Responses to “Frightened by My Own Shadow – A Reminder from My Injured Brain

  1. Pingback: Daniel Beaulieu

  2. Linda

    I just had that today in a sporting goods store. While walking all the objects, colors, lights scared me so bad I was lost in time, space and how to escape it all. It is funny how your articles seem to pop up when needed the most. Best of luck to the brain fairy.

  3. I know exactly what you mean. I think the most disturbing part is the moments when what you see does not make sense. I sometimes find myself staring at things and wondering what they are. The scariest was when I saw something out of the corner of my eye while I was watching tv. I looked at it and thought “What is that?” It was my own thumb.

    • Yup, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve gotten better but when I’m overloaded by other things I still see things that don’t make sense right away. I’ve spent a lot of time laughing or shaking my head at myself.

  4. Manya Pungowiyi

    I find that i frequently have hallucinagenic type things happen when I’m tired or see things out of the corner of my eye.It is esp.noticable when I’m driving, and It seems that going over a hill there will be a drop off on the other side etc. It’s really scary!

  5. Russ

    I know the feeling. I get those every night. I get up to use the bathroom, and think I see things. Now, I have to turn on all the lights when this happens. Never happened before I had my brain injury

  6. Ken Collins

    Fight or flight may also have something to do with this because the mid-brain is located by the brain stem. The Limbic System needs to heal too.

  7. I am also a TBI and a Chiropractor as well. This is a very common reaction following a brain injury. Like you said, some processes work differently after the brain is scarred. One crucial factor in getting rid of these images and other disturbing phenomena is Upper Cervical Chiropractic. This is not “regular” Chiropractic at all, but it is a focus on healing the connection between the brain and spinal cord. (Just figure, when you traumatize the brain, the neck vertebrae are going to be impacted, too.) Check out this website for a doctor near you to consult and for some additional info:

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