Category Archives: Insider’s Guide to the Injured Brain

A Peek Inside the Newly Re-injured Brain, Part 2

  

On Monday, I wrote Part One about my newly re-injured brain. If I was keeping count, and included the concussion I got when I was in high school, this is my 6th concussion. Each concussion is different. Each unfolds differently. Read on to see how the events of last week have begun to unfold.

Here is where I left off in my last post… “I thought if I could focus on something else, I could lose the dizziness and, most importantly, I’d realize “it wasn’t that bad.””

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But it was, and by Saturday morning I really knew it. I had managed to make it through my call with Ruth on Thursday, and I thought I was better than I probably was. Ruth knows me well and the fact that I couldn’t understand many of her words was probably an easy tip-off to her that my fall was big. Still, we worked through.

Friday was a blur. I taught my usual 4 classes as it was too late to get a sub. I lost my place, I stuttered, I struggled to keep up in the class conversations, but I managed to work though.  As the day wore on, the fatigue felt heavy, but I made it to the end with the self-promise of sleep when I got home.

By Saturday morning, I couldn’t deny the impact (every pun intended) of my fall. I looked at the dishwasher and tried to figure out the complexities of simply loading the dishes and felt overwhelmed. I felt the tears welling in my eyes. No one else was yet awake and it would have been easy for me to let loose but I feared if I did, I wouldn’t be able to stop. Both dogs were already awake and in full play mode the way puppies do and the noise and activity was all too much, too fast, too loud.  I wanted to scream in anger, but I didn’t know why or at whom? At myself for being foolish and climbing the damn stool? At my brain for failing me? At the dogs? Or at all the sensory input that wouldn’t slow down…that wouldn’t turn off…that wouldn’t let me forget that I couldn’t process it all?

I pushed it down…all the emotions that felt too big. I forced the dishes into the dishwasher, helter-skelter and I sat down with my coffee. The dizziness and the headache were still there. “Rest, “I told myself, “You know the best cure to this is rest.” But rest felt like resignation and acceptance. I struggled against myself and the to-do list that rattled off in my head in no order of priority but as random thoughts that shot through the dark.

Emails…there were damn emails I needed to respond to. That I should have responded to the day before, but I knew I couldn’t, given my fatigue. I booted up my computer and poured another cup of coffee with the hope I could caffeine my way out of my newly re-injured brain. I scanned my inbox for any new emails that needed to be added to my list as well as any that may scold me for my tardiness. Do I confess I have a brain injury, that I fell doing something stupid, that I’m sorry, that the letters jump and words don’t make sense…once again?

Within 10 minutes, I didn’t care. The screen was making me sick. I shot off the most important emails and closed my screen. I had only been up for a few hours and the wave of fatigue was pulling me under like cloud of fog moving across the plains. My husband, who was now up and closely following me, saw the familiar blank look on my face. He told me so, and he took me by the arm. I didn’t want my bed, that would make me feel sick and disconnected. It would also leave me in a room alone with the dizziness and self-pity and above all, anger.  Emotions washed over me unpredictably. I felt like I was a fast swinging pendulum and I didn’t want to be alone with that swing.

He helped me to the couch, propped my pillow, and I quickly fell asleep.  I slept for the bulk of the next two days. Inside my head, the battle waged. Feelings of guilt over the tasks left undone, of being a burden to my family once again, of wasting a weekend and falling behind on the tasks that haven’t even made it to my to-do list mixed with feelings of fear.

What if this one, this brain injury, doesn’t course correct? What if I can’t recapture what happened in the moments before my fall? What if the dizziness doesn’t stop or I can’t read longer than a few minutes without getting sick or I can’t remember how to?

The fears that were all there before, but are there again –even louder –because I know that concussions can have a cumulative effect…fears that could easily suck me into the darkness and hold me there…. fears that will win, if only I allow them to take hold…fears that fill me with frustrations…fears that I must fight against, but the fight makes me oh, so tired.

Thank you for reading.

 

A Peek Inside the Newly Re-injured Brain Part 1

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The one time ladder turned lesson.

On this past Thursday afternoon I climbed a stool to put away a few jars atop one of my cabinets. I knew it was a risky venture even before I began my short climb, but still, with a small jar in one hand and the other anxiously grabbing the nearby door frame for stability, I began to ascend the stool. I don’t remember if I had made it all the way atop the stool, I think I did, before I lost my balance completely and crashed to the cement floor of our sunroom.

I hit hard. Really hard.

I didn’t break my fall. The dresser I slammed the back of my head into broke my fall. I screamed, both from panic and the pain. Glass was shattered everywhere and I had two worried dogs in the room with me. I yelled for them to stay. At the moment I was more concerned about their paws than my head or my back (which took a beating when I landed on my tailbone.)  I couldn’t move to stop them; the pain and dizziness kept me in my place on the floor. Thankfully, they listened and thankfully my daughter was home on spring break.

She ran to me when she heard the commotion. Driven by fear and concern, she wanted to stay by my side but I asked her to go around to the sliding door and get the dogs out of the room. She did, but she quickly came back and so did the dogs, all wanting to check on me. I was still on the floor, unable to move. Fear and nausea were creeping in from the shadows as the reality of what happened took root.  I hit my head hard enough to cause another concussion, barely 2 years after my last one.

I sat without moving, but I don’t know how long I was there on the floor amid the shattered glass. My daughter kept checking on me, but I simply told her to close the door and leave the vacuum by the door. All I cared about was the glass; that stupid glass that lay around me in large shards and tiny slivers, like a physical representation of my brain right there, mocking me.

I don’t know how many times I’ve hit my head in the last two years. Lots, I know that. This hit, though, was different, and I knew it. I kept telling myself I didn’t lose consciousness and that was good—that maybe it wasn’t that bad. Still the nausea, the pain, and the dizziness that held me in place told me something different.  I pushed through. I forced myself to stand, using the dresser that I slammed against to now steady myeslf as I found my footing. I cursed the stool that stood in the same place, not even offering the courtesy of also falling when I fell, and reminding me it was my lack of balance that caused the fall, not the stool’s.

I grabbed the vacuum and turned my focus to the glass. I needed to prepare for the call I had with Ruth in only 2 hours’ time. I needed to shake off the pain and headache. I thought if I could focus on something else, I could lose the dizziness and, most importantly, I’d realize “it wasn’t that bad.”

To be continued…

Please come back Wednesday to read Part 2 of “A Peek Inside the Newly Re-Injured Brain”