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Living with Brain Injury

Living with Brain Injury: Narrative, Community, and Womens Renegotiation of Identity

J. Eric Stewart
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 255
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  • Book Info
    Living with Brain Injury
    Book Description:

    When Nancy was in her late twenties, she began having blinding headaches, tunnel vision, and dizziness, which led to the discovery of an abnormality on her brain stem. Complications during surgery caused serious brain damage, resulting in partial paralysis of the left side of her body and memory and cognitive problems. Although she was constantly evaluated by her doctors, Nancy's own questions and her distress got little attention in the hospital. Later, despite excellent job performance post-injury, her physical impairments were regarded as an embarrassment to the perfect and beautiful corporate image of her employer.Many conversations about brain injury are deficit-focused: those with disabilities are typically spoken about by others, as being a problem about which something must be done. InLiving with Brain Injury, J. Eric Stewart takes a new approach, offering narratives which highlight those with brain injury as agents of recovery and change in their own lives.Stewart draws on in-depth interviews with ten women with acquired brain injuries to offer an evocative, multi-voiced account of the women's strategies for resisting marginalization and of their process of making sense of new relationships to self, to family and friends, to work, and to community. Bridging psychology, disability studies, and medical sociology,Living with Brain Injuryshowcases how - and on what terms - the women come to re-author identity, community, and meaning post-injury.In theQualitative Studies in PsychologyseriesJ. Eric Stewartis a Clinical-Community Psychologist and Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7022-1
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    When Nancy was in her late twenties she began having blinding headaches, tunnel vision, and dizziness, which led to a diagnosis of a congenital arterial malformation on her brain stem. Surgery was scheduled and she wrapped projects at her job as a financial consultant, assuming she would be back at work in three weeks. The first surgery was unsuccessful, and complications during a second surgery caused serious damage to the right side of her brain, resulting in partial paralysis of the left side of her body and memory and cognitive problems: “I woke up and there were all these deficits...

  5. 1 People and Methodology
    (pp. 25-51)

    The first interviews conducted for this study were with Rose and Cindy, both of whom asked many questions about the study, its aims and methods. Both women also offered specific advice about how I should (and shouldn’t) proceed. Cindy, who had conducted life history research on people with disabilities for her (post-injury) master’s degree, first corrected my notion that people with acquired brain injuries would divide their lives into “before and after” chapters or selves:

    Cindy: There usually—my research, and you can quote me on this [ES: Okay]—there are several turning points. There’s never one. I would advise...

  6. 2 Meeting Post-Injury
    (pp. 52-81)

    There is no universal rehabilitation experience. The site and severity of brain injuries vary greatly, as do the effects those injuries will have in the short and long runs, and these are difficult to predict (Doidge, 2007; Lezak, Howeisen & Loring, 2004). Diversity defines pre-injury, for instance in terms of experience and achievement, geographic and social location, sex/gender, age, cultural background, financial and other resources, and so on—the list is long and its itemization is fraught with all of the traps of categorization and division. It also certainly matters how and in what context the injuries were incurred (such as...

  7. 3 Oneself as Another
    (pp. 82-97)

    I have already drawn attention to ways in which the pre-injury self figures into the women’s accounts and in their experiences in rehabilitation. This presence, and the kinds of opposition or breach it may configure between the post-injury experience and pre-injury self, can play out in varying ways. The pre-injury self may also loom as a desired once and future self—the “nostalgia for a return to prior functionality” that structures the rehabilitation experience (Snyder & Mitchell, 2006). This is a haunting, mournful presence that continually invokes loss, tragedy, and abjection. But the prior self also references a lifetime of experiences...

  8. 4 Fighting
    (pp. 98-136)

    The fight in recovery and rehabilitation is the fight to recover prior functioning. The self or identity that figures prominently is that of the pre-injury person, along with the even more supernatural future fully restored person. What formal rehabilitation often doesn’t offer or support in clear or consistent ways are strategies for living with disability, which is not something that is cured or overcome but that must be incorporated somehow with one’s whole life (Zola, 1994).

    The struggle has to shift from a fight against one’s body and self to a resistance against experiencing oneself as isolated and embarrassed in...

  9. 5 Sense (and Sensibility) of Community
    (pp. 137-174)

    Tobin Siebers (2008) makes the point that “oppressed social locations create identities and perspectives, embodiments and feelings, histories and experiences that stand outside of and offer valuable knowledge about the powerful ideologies that seem to enclose us” (8). The cultural preference for able-bodiedness, along with cultural anxieties about disability, “affects nearly all of our judgments, definitions, and values about human beings, but because it is discriminatory and exclusionary, it creates social locations outside of and critical of its purview, most notably in this case, the perspective of disability” (8). Beginning by referencing her battles with the transit authority, Cindy discusses...

  10. 6 Wrestling with an Angel
    (pp. 175-215)

    Most of the women discussed spiritual or religious commitments, beliefs, and/or communities as important to their identity and their recovery. Tracy was regular churchgoer and believer but didn’t see a connection between that and her injuries; the car accident was “just one of those things.” Beth is the only participant whodisavowed any spiritual or religious beliefs. She describes herself as a Hobbesian materialist, sometimes as a pantheist. To remind the reader, Beth was injured when she was caught in gun crossfire while driving to a conference, about six years prior to this interview. Here, I was asking for her...

  11. Coda
    (pp. 216-224)

    People with brain injury are most often spokenaboutby others, in the terms of others and in relation to the concerns and interests of others. Whether as intention or effect, the perspectives and vocabularies—just the third person-ness—of these representations problematize and exclude those of whom they speak. This book has been, then, a project of “narrative retrieval” to re-present the identities, strategies, and relationships that ten women with brain injury were creating (Garland-Thomson, 2005). If it has been successful, these women were present as agents engaged in social action on a variety of fronts. Rather than things...

  12. APPENDIX: Brief Summary of Participants’ Demographics and Injuries
    (pp. 225-226)
    (pp. 227-238)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 239-246)
    (pp. 247-247)