Monday, November 23, 2015

If This is It

*I debated where to post this, but as my friends, fellow writers, and/or readers, it's important that you know*

A couple of things happened this weekend that have me reevaluating my concussion recovery. Saturday, before he left for work, Bryan turned to me and said, “What if where you’re at now is the most you recover? What if this becomes your new normal?”
What if it does? The neurologist told me recovery takes 3 to 6 months. My nurse cousin-in-law told me it takes the brain tissue about 6 months to heal after an injury. I can look back and say I’m far improved from last August, but at the same time I’m frustrated by the symptoms I still have. Such as:
1.       Anxiety. This one has been the worst because it’s new. I’ve never been good in crowds, but now I fight panic at the grocery store. It gets overwhelming really fast—too many people, too many lights, too much noise, etc. Also the stress is making my hair fall out. This happened to me about eight years ago (major personal stressor, not TBI) and my hair started falling out then, too. But I’m older and have a lot less now, so, naturally, that increases my stress.
2.       Brain to mouth disconnect. I think one word and say another. I could just as easily tell my child to bring me an elephant from the cupboard or a cookie. Mostly it’s just annoying, and can be amusing. But when I’m really struggling to get a thought out and can’t it’s frustrating. Or if I’m in a time crunch (say, I have to yell at someone to get out of the way of danger), I could very well say “turkey trot” rather than “look out.”
3.       Constant pain. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I’ve had a headache since August 1, 2015. I take daily medication just to keep the pain at a manageable level. The more I do—tag along for grocery shopping, or do some Christmas shopping, watch an animated show or a computer graphic enhanced movie—the more it hurts. Last night I had to resort to my back up meds because my head hurt so bad (Fri night Brandon took me to the store to get groceries then Sat we watched some TV) just to bring the pain back to a workable level. And if I miss a dose of my daily meds, it takes at least three days to get back on track.
4.       My new physical limitations. I was basically down for 2 and a half months before I started increasing my activity. With any other headache, I’d work through the pain. I’m a mom—this is what moms do. But with a concussion-related headache you risk doing more damage to your brain by pushing it. The pain is a sign of a limitation—you don’t want to push too far beyond that. But, being down means that my muscles have atrophied, I’ve gained weight which makes moving even more difficult, and part of that I can probably blame on my meds. I’ve never had a long term relationship with a pharmaceutical that *doesn’t* have a “can cause weight gain” warning on it. I’ve cut down on what I eat, started eating veggies with much more regularity, and really been more careful about my intake, but my clothes don’t fit.
5.       Hand in hand with #4 is my inability to return to work, church, or other social activities. I haven’t driven since the night I hurt myself. Driving takes a level of concentration and awareness I just don’t have right now. I’m not just staying at home all the time and guessing about these limitations. I’ve been testing myself. I get on my treadmill and try to move more. I go to the store to see if it’s better now than it was last week. I’ve tried twice to go to church for a period of time. It’s been a train wreck every time, with a varying number of casualties. But this is the big issue: If I can’t return to work, then Bryan can’t go to nursing school. He has to get a job that supports the family’s needs. That’s pretty cut and dry. We’ve spent so much time this year unemployed and under employed that there’s a laundry list of issues that cost money we don’t have and they all have to be fixed yesterday. So, again, there’s that fun stress issue.

6.       My writing has suffered. Not only do I struggle to put thoughts into words—even on paper—I feel like part of my vocabulary is missing. Like I don’t remember as many words as I used to. It’s so weird to feel that way, like some thought or important fact is just beyond your reach. In addition to that, I have a limited number of words I can type before my head hurts too much to continue. That number has increased a little, which is great. If it continues to increase maybe I’ll see more recovery in other areas.

So, what if this is my new normal? What if my head just hurts every day for years? One of my friends told me today that she was in a car accident 2 years ago and her TBI symptoms are still there, with only marginal improvement. It’s rare for a head injury to persist past 6 months, but it happens.

I bumped my head on a freaking counter, and it may just have altered my life forever.

The other thing that happened this weekend is that I realized in a week it will be 4 months since my injury. Feels like forever. I’m sick of dealing with it, sick of talking about it, sick of it being an issue in my life. And I’m sure as heck sick of not being able to do normal stuff. I’ve seen improvement. I can bake cookies, if that’s the only thing I do all day. I can spend time on the computer. I can watch regular TV shows. But I can’t drive, go to church, or see a movie with my family. Or even go out to eat (not that we can afford it right now, but you get the idea).

I want to be able to someday look back on this as an experience I had, but moved on from. I’m trying super hard to keep my spirits up, because that plays heavily into my recovery. Some days are easier than others, but I haven’t given up. I do have faith that, whatever happens, it’s God’s plan, and I will try my best to fit into that. Sometimes it’s hard to see the goal from the trenches, but that’s a problem everybody has at one point or another.

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