Marcus

Age at interview: 54
Outline:

Marcus suffered a brain injury when he was mugged and beaten while walking home from work one evening in 2005. He was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome while in recovery and struggles with symptoms ranging from headaches and blurry vision to vertigo. Since suffering his injury Marcus has overcome bouts of depression and substance abuse. To cope with his condition, he goes to weekly therapy sessions, uses a cane to help with his balance, and has learned to identify the onset of a headache or vertigo so he can take medication or lay down.

Background:

Military branch: Navy

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Marcus served in the US Navy from 1981 to 1984. After leaving the military he took labor and construction jobs before becoming an administrator for an area insurance company. One evening in 2005 while walking home from work, Marcus was “accosted by two gentlemen who proceeded to rob me. There was a fight, there was a struggle. I was hit in the head with a brick more than a couple times. I was kicked and beaten about my head, so that’s when the injury occurred.” The culprits were eventually apprehended and charged with the crime but Marcus was never able to fully recover.

Marcus says he has suffered with brain injury symptoms pretty much since the incident happened. “I was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome but my conditions range from blurry vision to balance issues. There are always headaches, there’s nausea, and it doesn’t necessarily happen in any particular way. One day the headaches could be so bad that I am basically unable to do anything. I also have issues where I fall, balance issues. I have fallen down before.”

For Marcus, the hardest part of his condition is how it limits him physically, whether that be exercising, playing sports, or being able to take jobs that require standing, movement, and strength. “I was always a physical person, an active type person before that happened and all that has changed. I’m limited as to what I can do. I can’t walk too far. I can’t do activities that are too strenuous. There’s a lot of things that I can’t do physically that affect me.”

Limited by his condition and struggling with the symptoms, Marcus felt hopeless and now says his injury was “the onset of a lot of other things - depression, I had issues with alcohol. For me being inactive I developed a poor diet, you know type II diabetes. From that one moment, so much has happened and it’s a bit, I try to keep upbeat about it but it’s really frustrating.”

Marcus works to keep a positive outlook by focusing on his family and the love he has and by reminding himself, “there are some people you know who are a lot worse off than I am.” To those struggling with a similar condition, Marcus says “what’s working for me now is trying to work on the things that I might be able to change or that I’ve had the most success with right now, and in the last year I have had more success with my mental health certainly than my physical part. Any change in the positive is something you want to grasp and hold on to.”

 

Marcus sustained a concussion after being mugged and beaten by two men as he was coming home from work.

Marcus sustained a concussion after being mugged and beaten by two men as he was coming home from work.

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I was coming home from work, I was pretty close to my residence, and I was accosted by two gentlemen who proceeded to rob me. There was a fight, there was a struggle, I was hit in the head with a brick, more than a couple of times. I was kicked and beaten about my head, so that’s where that injury occurred. I was, I’m sure I lost consciousness, but I was in such a state of shock or whatever, you know there is just so much I don’t remember and so much I do remember, but…eventually they were apprehended and they were charged with the crime.

 

After struggling at work, Marcus realized he needed to look for jobs that required less of him.

After struggling at work, Marcus realized he needed to look for jobs that required less of him.

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What happened was, after my injury - I tried to convince - I was trying my best to convince myself that it was something that, even though I didn’t know what it was, that it was something I could overcome. I was at jobs where I couldn’t do all the stuff that I was doing before but I would try, and then what would happen was I would come up with excuses or I would have to miss time from work. And that became apparent too, going from job to job and missing time from work because I just really couldn’t work. Or people would notice, you know “what’s wrong with you?,” because I’m in so much pain and I’m having headaches, I’m walking real slow, I just can’t really move too quickly because at that time I wasn’t, I believed that if I just keep trying harder it’s gonna get better and I’m going to be alright. I never wanted to accept that it was a life changing condition. So, I went through jobs, I went through a lot of jobs like that, from job to job to job. And then I tried to find jobs that required less of me, like security jobs maybe where you were just sitting down somewhere, and that necessarily didn’t work too because with the post-concussive, it just never, I never know when I’m going to have a really bad day.

 

For Marcus, the hardest thing about his injury is the pain that it has caused his family.

For Marcus, the hardest thing about his injury is the pain that it has caused his family.

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I imagine a lot would be different. You know I could have purchased that home that I was trying to purchase. I certainly wouldn’t have had to go through some of the mental struggles that I had to go through. My children and my wife wouldn’t have had to see me go through that because not only was it pain inflicted upon me, it was pain they had to, they had to share all that pain too. They had to see me when I was down and out. So, if I could change a lot of stuff I think that would probably be the most important thing, just that they wouldn’t have to experience that pain and see me kind of like lose it and struggle to build myself back together again. I think because, like I said, they went through that struggle with me.

 

Before his injury Marcus was very active, but he is now more “apprehensive” about playing sports.

Before his injury Marcus was very active, but he is now more “apprehensive” about playing sports.

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I think the hardest thing is the physical part, like I was always a physical person, an active type person, before that happened and all that has changed. I’m limited as to what I can do. I guess in a sense what it’s like is, certainly not as devastating but for someone who becomes paralyzed and they no longer have the use of their limbs or can’t do certain things, well that’s basically what happened to me. I can’t walk too far, I can’t do activities that are too strenuous. There’s a lot of things that I can’t do physically that affect me.

I: Can you say more about that, like some of the things you used to like to do that -

Of course, I was always, I played sports, always sports. I loved to hike, I loved to, you know just play basketball with the guys, football, I played flag football in the olden days, just being, deciding when I wanted to do anything at any time, you know what I mean. And now I have to be apprehensive about that, and I struggled with that for a long time because I was determined, in the very beginning, I was determined that this was something that I was going to beat. And I just kept trying and trying, falling down and having these issues, and it just, it’s something hard to swallow, to accept it, it’s just nothing is changing and now, 2005, that’s, years later I’m still the same. There’s so much that I had to learn to accept. And that’s what I’m attempting to do these days, accept it.

 

Marcus wonders why it is so hard for some people to accept the seriousness of the effects of brain injury.

Marcus wonders why it is so hard for some people to accept the seriousness of the effects of brain injury.

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One thing that I experienced is why is it so hard to prove or so hard for some people to accept, because one thing I experience a lot it people just kind of, sometimes in regard to my denials from social security you know, some of the wording is like we see where your condition is a little bit bothersome for you but we really don’t think it could affect - you know how can a person say that this brain injury that you experienced that changed your whole life is just a bit bothersome, how can you say that to me? And I just get a little bit upset about that and I wish that I could have them see my whole life, what happened from that point on to this point, and then you could see. I just think - and these are the professionals - even what I experienced with the specialist I see, sometimes they’ll like tell me what’s going on and it’s like…recently, just recently - and that another reason I switched over from Johns Hopkins, my last visit to my neurologist was the worst experience that I had because she brought somebody in the room and I don’t who this guy was but, you know doctors bring people the room all the time, and this guy went through this whole gamut of telling me why I shouldn’t be, why he doesn’t believe I’m suffering, and how could you be suffering for that long, and you should do this, you know he told me you need to go to physical therapy and I said I go to physical therapy. I done all that stuff. I think it’s a bit frustrating and I don’t understand why some people - why it’s so hard for some people to understand that traumatic brain injuries - just because you’re not walking with a, or not paralyzed, you know you know how some injuries you can just tell that person, just because, there are other symptoms that I have, that people have, and just because you don’t see them and you don’t recognize them, I don’t think you should doubt the severity of their condition.

 

Marcus said depression is the biggest thing he has to learn how to treat.

Marcus said depression is the biggest thing he has to learn how to treat.

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But from that moment on when I was indulging in those behaviors my depression was just becoming more profound, so I’ve always been dealing with depression, and not, I was not always getting the proper care for depression because I just didn’t seek out any help, I just kind of accepted that I was depressed. So now - specifically in the last three years really - I’m specifically treating my depression. But for all those years before, I just, my depression was just there, it got worse and it got worse. There were points in my life, there were some good points, still some good things happened, but depression is the biggest thing that I continue to, that’s like the biggest thing that I have to learn how to treat because how I feel reflects on what I would do or what I might not do. So, if I can figure out how to at least continue that treatment on my feelings and the depression, then I think I could experience some levels of success in spite of my physical limitations. But I think just getting my mental state, treating that, constantly treating that could be helpful, has been helpful.

I just went to a psychiatrist and I just talked about exactly what happened to me and how it affected me and I think that was the biggest thing was just realizing that I couldn’t continue to hold all that stuff in. Even though I might have thought I was dealing with it, or coping with it in my own way. I had to get to the point where I could let it go or talk about it, because talking about it was letting it go and that was my therapy. Anyway, so certainly in the past year but really more in the past six months is when I’ve really reached this point, in the last six months, where I’m making progress. I wasn’t always making progress and I was just stagnant. So really in the last six months I’m treating the depression, I’m talking about it, I see a therapist every week, I take medication. Along with my other medication that’s supposed to - I only take one kind of medication that’s related to my post-concussive syndrome. That a medication called Topiramate just for headaches. That’s the only medication I’m taking in that sense. So, it was really, I could live the rest of my - if I’m 53 years old now and I don’t figure out how to deal with this better, I don’t think I’ll ever accept it, but if I don’t learn how to deal with it better I’ll keep having those ups and those downs and then one of those downs may just stay down, and then I would have to relive all that all over again, and I think that’s a big fear for me to have to relive that again, those really dark days.

 

Marcus has tried a few different medications – some of which weren’t doing anything - but has had success with Wellbutrin.

Marcus has tried a few different medications – some of which weren’t doing anything - but has had success with Wellbutrin.

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Hmm, these medication names. How do I pronounce, Wellbutrin?

I: Wellbutrin?

Yes

I: And have you found that one helpful?

Yeah because I started with, I started…I tried Cymbalta. Whatever those ones… I basically tried all of them. Cymbalta, there was another one that I tried, I just can’t remember it. That’s another thing that I have, the memory issues. I can’t, there’s some stuff that happened, things that happened, my email, sometimes with talk about it with the kids and my family…I can’t even remember it. So, there’s long term memory issue and then there’s even short term memory issues like, I can’t remember these medications. I do remember Cymbalta cause I took different doses, but there were two more before that and I can’t remember. But I do remember there was, I tried three or four of them before the one I am currently taking.

I: Are there things that it makes better, the Wellbutrin? Are there specific things that you can point to that are easier?

I think because it’s a different kind, if I understand correctly, it’s a different kind of medication, it’s in a different class or something, it works different than the rest of those, and I think that’s it, the fact that it works differently. You know I’m taking, I started out at 150 milligrams and I am taking 300 milligrams now, my dose was increased to 300 milligrams. I think the other stuff just, you know, the other stuff just really…I’m still experiencing, what happened with me is for the last six months I been doing going, but for this last year, the six months prior I was just stuck, I just wasn’t feeling good mentally so, and I was trying those medications and they just weren’t doing anything so I was kind of like, I was almost feeling like I was going to topple back down again so this medication here has sort of like brought me back to here, instead of being down there (hand motions down) I want to be there (hand motions up), but I’ll settle for this right now because anything else is just too bad.

 

Marcus is thankful every day for his wife who stuck with him and continues to be supportive.

Marcus is thankful every day for his wife who stuck with him and continues to be supportive.

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I’m thankful every day for her because she’s an amazing woman because she stuck with me. We had moments we were apart because she couldn’t, I think it was just a bit too much for her and I think the main thing she was attempting to do, she had even greater responsibility to take care of the children. When I couldn’t take care of myself no more, couldn’t take care of her no more, and my issues with those behaviors, those not so good behaviors, she certainly had to make a decision, you know, maybe I just need to leave him alone for a while. She didn’t know what to do. There were times when we were separated, and it was no more than about three months or so, it certainly wasn’t years. And even during those brief times of separation we stayed in contact with each other. So she was always hoping and wishing for the best and she was always supportive and she continues to be supportive to this day.