My personal experience with apathy, and seeing it repeated in many other ABI survivors has made me think of apathy as an impairment with which you feel like if someone had stolen your internal engine. You plan activities. In your head there is activity and desire to do things, but suddenly your body does not respond and accompany you in this activity. Passivity takes control of him. There is a difficulty starting activities.
You feel that the couch is calling you, and when you sit down it seems that there is a layer of super strong Loctite glue that makes it difficult for you to get out of it. And you yourself do not understand anything, and those around you do not understand either. You do not recognize yourself in that passive person.
And many times, we believe that this apathy is due to an emotional symptom, a lack of motivation, a low mood. And of course, all this can be due to the complicated acceptance or adaptation to changes after an ABI. But this apathy is an organic symptom consequent to brain damage. And it is important to understand it. Because interpreting this symptom as a consequent symptom of the brain injury that we have for whatever reason will help us to focus and work for its rehabilitation.
As a clinical psychologist, I insist on not losing sight of these organic symptoms, which are very similar to emotional symptoms but have another cause. And also, a different treatment and evolution.
The other day a patient participating in CEADAC’s psychological support group commented that she felt worried because she felt discouraged, since before she didn’t miss any plan with her friends and now, she didn’t feel like going out. She felt that she was more still and it was difficult for her to become active. She linked it to her mood, although when we asked her about her mood in other spheres, we saw that it was stable and good. I told her that apathy, which I know first-hand, was a symptom caused by her stroke and explained similar things that happen to many ABI survivors. She told me that my explanation helped her a lot and that now she understood many things. And that she really wasn’t depressed, and that she had to learn to live with this in what she didn’t recognize herself.
I am sure that many of the people who read the blog could tell us about their experience with apathy. And it would be great if you share it. Even specialist professionals can provide us with more information to read about apathy as an organic symptom.
It is true that when we have a low mood or we are depressed, all these organic symptoms are exacerbated. But let’s not forget that they are organic symptoms. Let’s not attribute these symptoms to ourselves as if they were psychological. If we do that, we have a double bad time.
Apathy on many occasions prevents you from getting up and getting going, even if you want to. It’s like you feel that you need a person who works as an external motor, who pulls you, who helps you start and implement the plans that are in your head. Knowing where this symptom comes from, it is easier to start thinking about tools that serve as an external engine in a creative way, with the help of the family or through professionals.
I know it’s not easy. Every year I keep asking the Three Wise Men to bring me an internal motor. But now I am helped by many custom tools that force me to start when I need to. How do you get it?