Tommy McHugh’s amazing brain is a brain

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Why? Now, there’s a pretty popular yet unsettling question: why? Why are some people artsy and some people science-y? Why are some people worried and inhibited and some people carefree and uninhibited? Maybe there isn’t a solid answer. And yet, people have observed for a long, long, long time that sometimes an injury to the brain changes your personality and what you do.

I have a fabulous disorder called dysexecutive syndrome caused by too much banging up of the front of the brain. It’s hard to spell, but it’s not hard for me to explain thanks to the fact that sometimes I can’t stop speaking. Ask one question, and I will follow you around the rest of the day answering that one plus twenty more you never would have asked. I mean never. It’s not that I do this to get attention. I don’t know I’m doing it until later when, say, someone is staring blankly at a wall. So yeah, if you want to know something about dysexecutive syndrome, the constant talking is one part. So is sudden laughter at the wrong time, making my mind up and being hugely unable to change it, picking fights over nothing, leaving the house without shoes and at the wrong time, making to-do lists and not knowing where they are or when they were supposed to get done, and a host of other things I work desperately to hide from others. (Some things I can’t hide because I will try and then tell you what I’m hiding from you.) And I also starting making films, writing stand-up comedy, and making more friends. I have lost all of my previous life fears except maybe the one about bridges. It’s one thing to be uninhibited (carefree and without restraint) and quite another to be disinhibited in the ways I mentioned here. It’s not like I choose to throw caution to the wind. I don’t even know I’m standing outside and it’s windy or that I should ever even be cautious.

Here’s this guy, Tommy McHugh. He got super disinhibited after a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage. He became a sudden artist, thought in rhymes, and saw images in his head all the time. His perceptions and experiences are hugely different from mine. In fact, thanks to plenty of smashing in the back of my head three years ago, I can hardly see much of anything in my mind’s eye. So, different injuries to different brains, but a similar result: a changed personality and a sense of unleashing of things we did not know were there.

Were they not ever there before? Or were they always there but hidden under decades of life experience and conditioning?

Look at Tommy’s work on his website: You can read a nice little article in the New Scientist magazine online called “Stroke turned ex-con into rhyming painter.” You can also learn more about him and others in a number of documentaries. I’m not listing them here since I have not watched any of them just yet. I get a little worried that it could be a lot of talking about people as medical mysteries instead of as people, so I might not watch them. If you do, and you like them, drop a comment in here to let us know.

I will happily turn your attention to the documentary “Brain Injury Dialogues” and Dr. Mark Sherry, who is also a proud owner of a disinhibited brain. In fact, Mark talks about disinhibition in a positive light in “Brain Injury Dialogues.” His section in the film was my introduction to Brain Injury Pride! So let’s enjoy some pride and some art and not worry too much about the amazing, beautiful, strange, bizarre, “damaged” brain behind it.