Six months ago I was in the intensive care unit (ICU) with sepsis. When I came out, my brain was significantly impaired. I couldn’t read, write or speak fluently. I’m in my 40s and suddenly everything I depended on about myself in terms of being able to communicate both personally and professionally had become enormously dysfunctional. I worried I’d never be the same.
When the neurologist and my physician visited my hospital room, I expressed how frightened I was that my brain was going to be changed forever. Immediately, the physician put my fears to rest.
“Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine,” he said. “If you were younger – if you were a child – we’d have more to be concerned about. The brain continues its original development up to the age of twenty-five. If this trauma to your brain had happened during that timeframe we wouldn’t be able to guarantee anything. But you’re old enough so that your neural networks have fully developed. All of your regular neural functions should come back within six months.”
He was right. Slowly, all of my reading, writing and speaking skills have returned. But what happens to people traumatized at a younger age? New research about childhood bullying further proves that the impact of what happens during those crucial years of brain development can last well into adulthood.