I certainly didn’t see this coming – quite literally – because it hit me from behind. The truck tailgate, that is (don’t ask). I said many words, none of which are fit to be shared on-line.
The doctor observed my speech and movements, did the “watch the moving pen” test, and declared I had a minor concussion. “Get lots of rest, don’t work too hard or too long, be patient. Also, no TV and no computer, the blue light is bad for your brain.”
What? No computer? I live on my computer. How am I supposed to read email? Read the papers? Play Wordle? Revise that manuscript?
“Oh, and by the way,” she said, “it could take about six months to recover.”
What? Six months! Well, two months on, and I must admit, the doctor was right.
The doctor says I have only a “minor” concussion. Minor or not, it had some interesting effects, especially early on in this new journey.
I was not exactly dizzy but my head and body seemed to work in different space-time coordinates, especially if I moved suddenly or something startled me. My poor synapses had to slog through crankcase oil that should have been changed 100,000 km ago. I had very little energy – I no longer ran up and down our stairs – and I had to nap. Nap? I never nap! Never used to, anyway. Now, I had to sleep for at least an hour every afternoon.
And yes, watching TV or doing anything on the computer quickly tired my eyes, which I took to mean my brain was tired, too. I limited myself to five minutes, once a day, on the computer to check for urgent emails that had to be answered. There weren’t many. Now, two months later, I’m up to 15 minutes at a time (like composing this post a few paragraphs at a time) before my brain starts to rebel.
Two months later, my body and head seem to work together, most of the time. But I still have trouble, sometimes, finding a word that I know I know but it just isn’t there. Yeah, yeah, you get to my age and that is normal, but now it seems to be worse than Before Concussion.
I still tire easily, and when I get tired I get cranky, well, even crankier than I used to be when I was tired. Then my brain begins to feel like a bowl of stodgy overcooked porridge. I still have to nap at least an hour every day.
What is really weird, though, is when I am talking, suddenly, for no apparent reason, I stop right in the middle of the sentence. It’s not a case of searching for a word, or trying to remember where I was going with that thought, it’s just suddenly there’s a . . .
. . . pause in my speech, and then I pick up right where I left off.
* * *
Our brain is a most marvelous and yet most mysterious organ. It is the seat of our reasoning, our emotions, our memories, our speech. It receives, processes, sorts through, responds to, transmits, and stores bazillions of stimuli bombarding it from everywhere. Yet, the brain, that organ that receives and interprets pain stimuli from various parts of our body (Yikes! That was hot!), can itself not feel any pain. Go figure!
Kick a bowl of jelly across the floor and watch what happens when it slams into the opposite wall. That’s your brain on concussion.
A concussion is an invisible injury. The brain cannot tell us it is bruised and damaged, or how bad the damage is. We have to rely on proxy symptoms from elsewhere in our body – double vision, dizziness, nausea, mood swings, change of personality, sleep disturbances – to tell us something is seriously wrong “upstairs.”
Even a minor concussion is no laughing matter. But many people have to live with a serious concussion. They endure double vision, constant headaches, a constantly twirling, topsy-turvy world, never-ending brain fog. They may have no idea when they will recover. Some days it must seem they will never recover. They, and their family and friends, may have to spend the rest of their lives living with – or in spite of – an acquired brain injury.
Being an invisible injury, there is no cast, no wound, no stitches to signal to people that this person is living with a brain injury. With no visible sign, they may think the brain-injured person is drunk, or on drugs, or mentally unstable. It can be so unfair.
Fortunately, there are numerous organizations that provide assistance, advice, and support to people with acquired brain injuries and to their families. Emotional support is absolutely vital. Being able to talk with someone who has “been there, done that,” to know that you are not going crazy, that what you are experiencing is normal, that you will get better, that you are not alone in this recovery, is just as important as medical intervention or physiotherapy. Maybe more so.
I’m not suggesting you always wear a hard hat or a crash helmet, although my husband thinks perhaps I should the next time we hitch up the trailer. But do take care of that noggin of yours. It’s the only one you have.
#Concussion #AcquiredBrainInjury #BonkOnTheHead #InvisibleInjury #BrainInjurySupportOrganizations #NonFiction #MargaretGHanna
P.S. What about those manuscript revisions? you ask. Did you abandon them?
Thanks for asking. I had, but a couple of weeks ago I had one of those “Why didn’t I think of this earlier?” moments. I print a chapter, then instead of staring at a computer, I stare at a page and write revisions, by hand, in pencil, in the margins, between the lines, and on the back of the page. How retro can you get? Now, if only I could read my chicken-scratch.