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“Loss of Self” and The Stranger With-in.

Understanding The Damages Caused By Traumatic Brain injury

brain injury-loss of self


While survivors of traumatic brain injury commonly report loss of self, as a long-term effect of their injury, there is no standard legal definition for it.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “loss” as “ failure to keep or to continue to have something.”: “the experience of having something taken from you or destroyed.”

The same dictionary defines “self” as: the personality or character that makes a person different from other people: the union of elements (as body, emotions, thoughts, and sensations) that constitute the individuality and identity of a person

The brain is responsible for sending messages to the rest of the body for all physical, emotional, psychological, cognitive and mental processes. Even a seemingly minor car accident can result in brain injury and significant functional areas of impairment including:

  • Speech
  • Comprehension
  • Problem solving and sequencing
  • Word association
  • Emotional control
  • Memory
  • Motor control
  • Walking
  • Gait problems
  • Breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Focusing
  • Balance
  • Physical coordination
  • Social interaction
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • PTSD

Our memories help us connect with who we are, but what if you had no memories, or they were completely delusional? Depending on the part of the brain that is damaged, there may be  “delusions of identity” or the person does not remember the events of the accident or anything about life before the accident. This can leave the brain-injured victim feeling, surrounded by strangers, with no recollection of his past and no ability to recognize the people who love him.

Many brain-injured survivors remember what they were physically able to do before their brain injury. They negatively compare their post morbid abilities with their previous state. In many cases the person has lost his job, due to inability to work to the required standard, or if at all. Loss of physical ability, job loss and loss of income leads to loss of work friendships. So much of our time is spent at our work, that we may create a whole identity and sense of purpose through it. All of this is lost for some one who suddenly is no longer able to work.

People who were once quite social, may find themselves avoiding social interaction. They often feel overwhelmed in a crowd and seek out quiet one on one conversation. It is not unusual for people with brain injury to misread emotions and get angry or express inappropriate emotions in social settings. They feel frustrated when they don’t understand things, forget things or lose focus in activities and conversation. They struggle to manage conflicting emotions and thoughts. For many depression and anxiety are cruel companions.

It is stressful to keep negatively comparing past and present abilities. In an attempt to avoid overwhelming emotions of loss and sadness, it is common for survivors of brain injury to deny loss or change of functional ability. They tell themselves their skills and abilities are the same as ever and they are perfectly able to do things like, drive the car. This can cause safety issues while setting up constant battles with family and friends.

Parents juggling busy family and social calendars may be too fatigued to keep up their activities. A normal pre-injury day might consist of a full 8 hours at work, then home to make supper, take the children to swimming class, then off to an 8 o’clock squash game. Post injury, many of our brain injury clients would be exhausted after only two hours at work or any one of those after work activities.

Canadian law allows for innocent people who have suffered serious car accident injuries to be compensated for their losses. Yet, society promotes value based on the job you do, the service you provide and the way you contribute to society. Many people feel guilty because not only are they injured and unable to work, they suddenly need the help and support of family and friends. Survivors of brain injury feel guilty because they are not working and earning an income. They feel guilty because they need financial support and they do not feel able to contribute.

It is common for brain injury survivors to feel as if they do not fit in anywhere. Relationships at work, at home and with friends have all changed. They even feel different inside their own body and mind. Many brain injury survivors report that they do not know who they are, post injury. They feel as if a stranger has taken them over and they have lost their own self.

It is not a legal definition for loss of self, but many people with brain injury have a sense, that the union of elements that constitutes their individuality and identity has been taken from them or destroyed.

The personal injury lawyers at the Kahler Law Firm specialize in  representing those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Our Toronto based lawyers are highly educated on the complex and far reaching damages caused by a traumatic brain injury. We offer our clients access to leading neurologists, medical specialists and brain injury rehabilitation experts. We pride ourselves on delivering exceptional legal representation combined with dedication and responsive service.

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