Aggression and frustration in ICU from TBI - Headway


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Aggression and frustration in ICU from TBI

kandy0616 profile image

Hey guys, I’m 22 years old and my boyfriend had a terrible motorcycle accident in early December last year. He’s been in ICU since, was in a coma for 6 weeks and has a spinal injury aswell as a TBI. I’m really struggling with him as he’s starting to become really abusive and rude calling me names telling me I’m useless (he can’t talk, this is what I was understanding from lip reading, he’s still on a tracistomy) and it’s breaking my heart. He’s getting annoyed with me because he thinks I don’t want to take him home, as much as I would love too, but I tried to explain to him why he’s there and why he can’t come home just now. Has anyone had to deal with abuse before? Has anyone got any tips? I feel so lost right now any advice would be nice

18 Replies

I wasn't abusive or aggressive, but I apparently had no problem telling staff how 'filthy' the hospital ceilings were (in high tech, pristine ICU) and shocked my family with bad language and endless fantastic stories ; I even sleepwalked ......all totally out of character. But staff assured my son & daughter that confabulation, swearing and aggression were commonplace after brain injury, especially when first gaining awareness.

Your boyfriend's brain will be struggling to make sense of everything whilst, at the same time, trying to heal and reconfigure. And it's always those closest (& often the most caring) who take the brunt of frustration ; hence you are a target.

He might be desperate to convey his fear and discomfort and this may be his confused and clumsy cry for help from someone close. It's really sad for loved ones when all they want is to help but often the patient is blaming them subconsciously for not making everything better.

It's hard for sure, but try to keep reassuring your partner whilst ignoring his hurtful remarks. Even at this early stage he can learn from your demeanour that his insults aren't getting the desired reaction.

I hope he will be calmer once he can fully grasp why he is where he is, and when he can communicate more easily. Meanwhile hang in there m'love, look after yourself and keep calling in here .....any time. Cat x

I was never abusive or aggressive towards my family really but I made the odd comment out of frustration due to what had happened to me and the situation I found myself in unexpectedly, but I know I couldn’t have made the improvements I have to this day without the love and support of my family and once your boyfriend starts to understand what has happened to him better, he will love and cherish you even more for sticking by him through this different situation.

If you ever need to talk or want advice just let me know


kandy0616 profile image
kandy0616 in reply to Tom94

Awwh I hope so! I guess your right, once he fully understands what’s just happened and what’s going to happen next it will process, because when I see him the day after he’s been rude or verbally abusive he says he don’t remember saying those things so I guess it’s a bit of a blur for him too, but boy do I remember

My partner was horrible to me for weeks. Accusing me of affairs, selling our house etc. He was mainly cross that I wouldn’t help him escape from hospital - he spent all day plotting! He had delirium, was confabulation etc. It was tough but it passed and the staff were helpful. Take breaks from him

That’s exactly the same as my partner! He has in his head that I don’t want to help him escape and as his girlfriend I should be helping him take him home and he’s so convinced he can sit up and walk out the door with my help and I’m trying to tell him dont start giving it all that u know I want to take u home but it’s in ur best interest that u are here. I guess it’s gunna take a while from what I’m hearing but I’m greatful for the advice it’s really nice to talk to someone who’s been through it or is the loved one of someone going through it. Thank you x

P’s confusion was funny at times but mostly very wearing and upsetting. Every day I had to pretend I’d forgotten his shoes and wallet. Luckily he didn’t remember I said it every day! He invented the most amazing schemes He did escape once and had to be recovered by police. But that’s another story about staffing .,,

Nooo way!!! He managed to escape??? That’s crazy awwwh at least u can have a little laugh about it now& same thing with A everyday he asks me to bring his trousers and trainers and he tells me to go get the car we need it, I don’t own a car! It’s really frustrating because of communication he’s only mouthing his words because he’s on the tracstomy so when he shouts at me it’s actually mute. The same with A he dosnt really remember when it’s a new day

P wanted me to get the pink sparkly car from the 10th floor car park. No 10th floor, no car park, no car and def no pink sparkly one! It will pass.

Awww bless! I hope so. I saw him today but he was sleeping from the pain relief and with the pandemic I can only see him for a hour. If u don’t mind me asking how is p now

4 years on he is doing well To others he looks like he functions normally but he struggles with fatigue, sensory overload and cognition issues especially when tired. He’s not the same but we are lucky to have him with us and we are learning about the new P

awwh im glad to hear that! I mean what more can we loved ones do but learn as we go and just appreciate some of him is still there. Im so sorry you had to go through something like this its so hard but youve both made it and seem ok about it i mean it could be worse right? i hope and wish u two the best! honestly you taking the timw to reply to me means soo much!e Ive understood that full recovery will take years so ive prepared myself that its going to be a longgg journey, i just hope we pass this confusing time and maybe when he starts rehab he'll understand more of whats really happened and cut me some slack lol.

Thanks At the time, I didn’t understand how long a journey it was and it took me a while to understand the experience changes everyone involved not just the patient. My new P is better in some ways which is weird but good! Probably your partner will have no memory of this time. P doesn’t remember a single day in hospital and can’t believe he was so mean to me! Look after yourself too - another thing I didn’t understand

Hi. I know this doesn't make it better, but this is relatively common in respect of head/brain injuries. It is as if someone has scrambled the harddrive of a computer, and is attempting to reboot. I know it is difficult , but try to not take it to heart. Your boyfriend will link all his confusion and frustration to anyone he associate's to be a constant in his understanding. For the time being you need to be like the ducks back, allow his abuse to flow over you, and not take it personally, easier said than done I know.

Remember you have experienced a trauma yourself, maybe not the physical effects, but certainly the emotional. Be kind to yourself, you are allow yourself time to grieve for what has happened. Don't pressure yourself to be there every waking hour. You need to be able to decompress from the stress. You are not a walking notice board, or message service for everyone. Ask friends and family to support you, to share the load where possible. With the current situation with the pandemic this adds to the stress. Don't feel guilty if you need to take a break. You need to take care of yourself to maintain your resilience. Be realistic, this is a long road you and your boyfriend are embarking on.

Contact Headway for support, their contact details are pinned to this page.

Welcome to the forum, no one arrives here out of choice, but it is a safe place to ask anything big or small, to rant, or just ramble. Everyone as lived experience from on angle or another. I wish you both well 🍀

Thank you for that, you’ve explained it much better than the nurses have! It does make more sense now I see it like how you’ve explained it. It makes it a little more better than before so thank you for taking the time to explain!

Just to thank you Benmoulai for your lovely response to my reply. I only received the first couple of lines on my email alert but it hasn't appeared here on the forum. (weird) But thought I'd let you know ; maybe a Headway blip ?... Cat x

I had Sepsis and have few memories of the before time in hospital but when I was woken up, initially I was pleased to still be here because people told me how ill I had been and how hard the hospital had to work to keep me alive but it didn't take long to realise that I wasn't myself as my behaviour seemed to have changed - I was rude , I swore something I never did before the TBI but most of all the biggest problem I had didn't happen at that time but 7 years later, when everyone takes a look at me and don't see the difficulties and I am now told, by family that some of my behaviour is a mental illness rather than brain damage, the other invisible problems, not being able to write anymore, tie ribbon, when I lost my words, problems with time and routine and difficulties with money and that I rely on my husband for everything and so the people that criticise me say how wonderful he is and that I should behave better like I have a choice.

I hope your boyfriend recovers but take every thing slowly, he won't be the same, but he knows you and they say that we always hurt the ones we love and TBI can make that a daily issue. Let him wake up slowly , remind him how much you love him even right now when he is being difficult because he might not know how to be anything else with the confusion in his brain and speak of the plans you share for the future but be strong because this will be a long journey and I wish you well

kandy0616 profile image
kandy0616 in reply to FiHut

im so sorry about the difficulties, i cant imagine what you've been through! And people have no right to criticise something they know nothing about! You have no choice and people should just be as grateful as you are to still be here despite the difficulties. Thank you for the advice and the time you took to type to me, i try to still be affectionate and lovey dovey as i was before the accident maybe a bit more now because of where he is and some days he does mouth get in the bed with me, or hold me and the i love yous and some days its verbal abuse, but since being on here, im learning from survivors such as yourself. i will start to remind him of the plans we had for the future that might be encouraging

Sorry to hear about your boyfriend, my husband had a freak accident and suffered a TBI in July last year, he was in a coma for 3 weeks and then a further 6 weeks in hospital. Thankfully he was never been abusive or aggressive, however he was very confused but most of the time it was all medical as his recovery in the beginning was very slow, it was only when transferred to the trauma rehab ward he started to understand if not remembering what happened because he doesn’t remember anything about being in hospital which we kept telling him was a good thing, it was all very surreal and frightening for all of us, but me like you thought it was all down to me to be there 24/7 and I’m the one to make things right, however due to his slow recovery these mood swings were then forgotten. R went through many changes of personality but like Paddington said I got a different R and to be hones t a more caring though R and I thought he was perfect before lol like P he has lots of moments some funny some repetitive but my smile is real as at one point we really didn’t know whether he’d come home or not, but he did his recovery came on massive leaps and bounds and we are so very proud of him, this is what we tell him when he’s feeling down or fed up. The situation with him at the moment is frustration as he has achieved so much in a short space of time but is still wanting to do more drive and go back to work, unfortunately these won’t happen just yet, keep smiling be grateful everyday and take time out for yourself, it took me a long time to do that as I felt guilty for not worrying or thinking about him for an hour or so, but a wine with my sister a big dog walk or a lovely ride out on my horse and even mucking out was a distraction. It has all been a massive learning curve and still is but he’ll get there it’s just a time thing I know that a cliche but it’s true and at the end of the day he’s got the love and care of a good woman. Remember time for you.

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