Not quite better yet.

Note to self: Don’t get up quickly. Don’t blow nose while standing up.  Don’t be surprised if you fall over after doing both of these things simultaneously.

Thankfully, there was a couch handy.

June 18: Motivation

I normally like lists. They help keep me optimally productive.  Post-TBI, I NEED lists.  Today, I didn’t write a list, so I didn’t do anything.  There was one thing on my calendar, and that was all I took care of.  It’s lovely to listen to music and surf the web once in a while, but 5 hours of it is completely ridiculous. I’m just tired of sitting here, but that’s all I care to do at the moment.

I should make a list for tomorrow. I’ll…get right on that.

June 17: Issues with Time

My perception of time is really strange these days. Sometimes I’m so hyper-aware of a certain time – e.g. a scheduled phone call – that I check the clock every minute or two. For an hour. Mostly time passes without my notice at all, and hours can pass without me being aware of what’s happening.  I looked at the clock this afternoon and thought oh, good, it’s still 2-something.  Then I realized I had the hands on the clock switched; it was actually 4:10 pm.

One of the strangest issues is that I remember things that I am supposed to do by the day, not the date.  This means I am often certain there’s “something” to do on (for example) Thursday, but have nothing on my calendar.  That probably means there was something happening the previous Thursday or the next Thursday, but my concept of time is now tied to the day of the week vs. the actual weeks as they pass.  This gets confusing, obviously.

Dealing With Complexity

What my days feel likeOne of the most defining issues of my brain injury has been a new difficulty in processing complex information.  At first this was most obvious in my vision and speech; it was hard to watch moving objects, especially in bright light, and I certainly couldn’t safely drive.  My speech patterns were affected more than I realized, and it was incredibly difficult to follow spoken language on unfamiliar subjects. As I started to recover some, I realized that any kind of complexity affected my headache and confusion.

This seems to be a common issue for sufferers of TBI.  It’s hard to follow a conversation in a room where a lot of people are talking or there is lots of activity.  Attention and focus are much more difficult than before the TBI – I’m noticeably more distractable than I used to be. Even simple ideas are harder to remember and understand.  Multilayered & sophisticated music is not nearly as appealing right now; some of my favorite albums on my iPod are entirely off-limits as they sound like noise rather than the music I used to enjoy.  Additionally, as I try to get through my days with help from very specific task lists, I get really flustered if things go in ways I did not expect.  I try to ensure that my tasks are simple and straightforward, but if something is not resolved in a way that I expect it to I literally don’t know what to do.  I’m now at the point that I can write a couple of paragraphs on the same topic, but it takes some serious focus and a lot of rewriting. Even so, I’m sure any English prof would be rather appalled at my current writing abilities.

Trying to make sense of the complexity of this situation after a TBI can be very difficult without assistance.  Here’s a couple of resources I have found that might help:

June 15

Headache Puppy

Today is a new experience in discomfort. I have two headaches, simultaneously. Headaches are a normal part of my recovery process, but over time they have gotten less frequent and less intense.  This morning, I woke up with a huge headache that was clearly split into two different parts of my head with two different pain styles.

The front half of my head feels pinched. Do you know the feeling of getting water in your sinus cavity? Yeah, that, except it extends to my entire face & over both temples. The back half of my head seems to be attached to an internal vacuum cleaner, putting pressure on the inside of my skull. None of this negates the feeling of intense pain arcing over the top of my head that shows up when I do to much physical exertion. Tomorrow will be a better day?

Paperwork

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There’s an incredible amount of work to be done after a TBI.  Due to the nature of my injury, it included lots of police reports & visits to the station – on top of the medical appointments, bills, unemployment application, insurance issues, and ongoing therapies. One of the most useful things I could have had through this process is someone who could have acted as an advocate and resource to help me sort the scheduling and paperwork.

When I was diagnosed, one of the first things I was told was to take an entire week off of work and get rest.  I was told not to do anything strenuous, including reading or watching TV! These are things I would normally do when I rest, but the mental strain of following a story & using your eyes can actually give a TBI sufferer a major headache and other physical symptoms. Paperwork that would normally seem only arduous can turn into a physically hazardous activity.

Someone dealing with a brain injury may also need some help limiting the amount of work & effort they do in a given day.  In a medical emergency it seems that everything is very urgent and important, but some things may need to be delayed because of the nature of the injury. Remember to prioritize and figure out how many things are feasible, including paperwork.

Starting in the middle

It’s been five weeks since my life changed drastically, but this is the first time I’ve been able to start writing down my experiences.  Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, also known as post-concussive syndrome, has been in the public eye only occasionally.  When a celebrity suffers a head injury from an accident or there is a rash of wounded soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan with brain trauma, there is often a bit of news coverage.  However, it doesn’t seem that there’s a general awareness of what Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) really means to the people who suffer or how many different ways it can affect the brain.

Hopefully I’ll be able to answer some questions about TBI from my own personal perspective as I work through my own recovery.  Please let me know if you have questions or would like me to suggest resources.