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Mirror mirror on the wall.....


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It occurred to me to start this new thread after reading something Kris (kpaggett) wrote in the ‘You’re looking well’ thread.

Kris says that she found it hard after the SAH to reconcile the way she felt with the way she looked in the mirror. I know that people at Headway have said that they did not recognise themselves in the mirror after their brain injuries.

I remember a similar thing. When I looked in the mirror after my SAH, I felt a big disconnection to the image staring back. I knew it was ‘me’ but it didn’t feel like ‘me.’

I would spend long periods staring at myself in the mirror, (not out of vanity I can assure you!) trying to figure out who I was. It was like looking in the mirror and seeing a different face.

I have spent years thinking this through. This is my theory, which I do not hold to be accurate!

To recognise ourselves in the mirror is a process of the brain and it is not one we are born with. Psychologists created the ‘blush test’ to better understand self-awareness. A selection of babies ranging from 15-17 months and another older group aged 18-24 months were used in an experiment. Psychologists put blusher on the noses of the babies and they were put to play before a big mirror. The younger babies tried to remove the blusher from the image in the mirror. The older babies rubbed the blusher of their noses, thus proving that they recognised themselves in the mirror.

So, if recognising ourselves in the mirror is a process of the brain; and a brain injury is an injury to the processes of the brain, could this explain the unfamiliarity felt when looking at ourselves in the mirror?

A psychologist at Headway explained the phenomenon as a reaction to shock; but those of us with brain injuries explained that we had experienced other shocking events, but not once did it follow that we did not recognise ourselves in the mirror after those events. Some people in the group outlined previous harrowing events in their lives (really high level stuff), but it was only the brain injury itself that led them to not recognising themselves in the mirror.

Any thoughts on this?

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Hey there

I think that sounds like a very plausible theory. It would be interesting to know if those of you that feel/felt this way had your SAH in the same part of the brain.

My SAH was near the emotional sensors apparently - which would account for me crying at the daftest things and laughing hysterically at things that were only remotely funny!

But yes, a very plausible explanation.

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That sounds like a very plausible theory.

As far as I remember, it wasn't that I didn't recognise my face in the mirror, it was that my face looked weird - different somehow. But then again I did lose 16lbs in 18 days so no doubt my face genuinely did look quite different.

For me, it was my flat that I did not recognise and it lasted for some time. There were solid walls where I remembered doors or windows being. I thought that the front door was made of solid wood and was confused by the top-to-toe glass. I would lie awake at night feeling like I was in a strange place. Andy tells me that our friend had popped in that morning to do some housework so that he could concentrate solely on getting me home. She'd put the vacuum away in the wrong place and Andy said that I sobbed and sobbed over it.

I wonder if the recognition process might apply to any type of recognition then? Does brain injury change what we perceive even if it should be very familiar?

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Odd thread. Years ago before SAH I was in a department store and there was a mirror and I did not reconzied myself..many good laughs at that. I was like OH MY this cannot be good! But one thing for me maybe it is the neuro part of fibro etc is I am always suprised at how I look. It is not the OH my GOSH I am so old looking just I do not look like the person I think I look like in my head.

I certainly do not feel like the same person at all.

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My SAH was in the hind brain area.

I also laugh and cry at the 'daftest' of things. I even laugh at that word 'daft' in this context as we NEVER say this in the US. We might say the dumbest or the weirdest or craziest.

Back on topic...I tried explaining this to a professional once and they totally didn't get it at all about our self image. I don't think it is like I wasn't self aware though, as I would have and still do rub off a mark on my face. It is however like an internal/external thing and my brain not recognizing that this is indeed me as evidenced by the mark on my face.

~Kris

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