May 11, 2017
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
Never did I imagine this recovery journey, due to an accident in late-September 2015, would take this long or so much from me. Post-concussion syndrome is best described as an immense case of jet-lag: where your thoughts don’t always link immediately with your words and where your mind / body feel disconnected from one another and from all around you while you struggle with exhaustion and low tolerance levels. As time goes on, with little relief, this creates much irritability and, in my situation with certain movements and emotions, only exacerbates the additional damage to my central nervous system. Learning how to cope is a continual process and dealing with constant pain is a full-time job.
Most of my time has been spent alone so it is a very good thing I like my own company and know how to be solo in the world. At times an amazing day (when I feel so much has been accomplished) is buying a newspaper, going to the post office or a matinee, preparing meals for myself, reading, or visiting a friend, while managing not to escalate the chronic daily head pain or embarrass myself. My rehab forces me to leave home every day and sometimes I dread the prospect of seeing someone I know and having to listen to more unsolicited advice or saying a polite, “Fine, thank you,” to the ubiquitous, “How are you?”
It takes a tremendous amount of energy and planning to do anything in public. I return home depleted and often in tears. Although others try to be understanding, even patient, they don’t understand what is happening for me. How can I expect anyone to see it? When I look in the mirror I don’t see it either. Disabilities have usually been accepted by their visibility and yet for those of us who experience an invisible one, we want you to know, “We are not crazy. We are not lazy. We are not avoiding work or social interactions. This is all we can do right now.”
I am trying to make peace with my limitations.
I am trying to make peace with my limitations, maintain an optimistic outlook, and to understand my relationship with pain so I can stop reacting to it. Through self-inquiry and self-understanding, guided by a counselling psychologist, I am examining the unity of my body with my mind. While living with a much lower level capacity I am learning to pay attention to my personal beliefs and interactions with pain and illness.
As I understand, the principle of cognitive therapy is that by learning to engage with the pain as best as I can, and by identifying any difficulties that influence the experience of pain, perhaps effective solutions may be discovered to bring inner peace and harmony to my situation. For instance, a life-long pattern of suppressing feelings or exploding with emotion, lack of closeness to family, or early childhood traumas, can all lead to very deep wounds whether I am conscious of them or not thus impacting health and recovery. Each of us must face our own life experiences and these injuries have forced me to examine mine.
Last summer, the darker side of healing solitude descended upon me, when I used wine as a coping strategy. Even after one glass I no longer felt anxious and my head pain reduced considerably. I preferred alcohol to prescribed medication as it gave me a sense of control, relaxation, good feelings and peace of mind. Unfortunately, I discovered, it can easily be psychologically addictive, provide only short-term relief and, unlike prescription meds, is not a tax-deductible expense!
I always understood life could change in a moment.
All my life my parents warned of “the rainy day” and I always understood life could change in a moment. That fear made me work hard and steadily, paying mortgage and all debt quickly, spending within means, choosing employment based on entire compensation packages not just salary, and when seeking practitioners ensuring their willingness to advocate in every possible way. When young I also knew that the decisions made in my twenties and thirties would show-up later in life so be prudent in savings, choose friends and lovers wisely, and demonstrate bravery in being authentic to your desired happiness.
At my core, I always knew a balanced life would serve me well and was never one to delay or to think about when I am retired, or when I have more time and money, I will do such-and-such or see this-and-that. Make no mistake, I am absolutely saddened for the loss of what I can no longer do with friends, my love relationship, employment, and a vast array of social and intellectual interests, yet I do not sit alone with regret for what I have not done. I am keenly aware that my life is still tremendously blessed as I seek to understand its new direction.
One aspect of my pre-and post-injury life that has been consistent is my priority to write each day. I have been doing this for over 45 years in beloved journals. The words used to come easier and the passages were longer yet I continue. A frustrating aspect is that my Internal life feels so rich with creativity and thought and the external physical reality is that it takes such effort and time to act upon it. I feel as if I have been catapulted to old age in some regards as exertion of any kind leads to further exhaustion; however, a review of my writings also informs that I can see small incremental improvements to my quality of life and this gives me hope for the future.