Hang Onto Your Butts…it’s a Rambler

So it’s now 3 weeks to the day that I saw my neurologist. The appointment finally came over a month after my accident. Yay, free health care! (I’m kidding…free health care is GREAT!)

All joking aside, I was worried. The week before my appointment, my doctor cleared me “conditionally” (a ton of conditions) to “attempt” a return to work, PENDING the neurologist’s approval. So … I was worried.

We went through all the tests, he made a bunch of dad jokes (which were funny, to be honest…I’m reaching that age, I guess). Then we sat down and discussed the realities of my situation.

I got medical approval to be an asshole

I was diagnosed with all the hallmarks of Post-Concussion Syndrome. It’s not fun…along with the obvious physical issues (headaches, insomnia, sensitivity to light and noise, and tinnitus), I’m struggling with psychological factors as well (irritability, anxiety, depression, mood swings, aggression…yes, all of them). There’s also the loss of concentration, focus and short term memory issues. So reeeeeeally a textbook case.

Now everyone I know insists that going back to work was foolish, and that I need to rest and recuperate. I agree. I do. But having been at home for 3 weeks last month drove me absolutely bonkers. If you know me, “resting” is not something I’m accustomed to doing for long periods. (I’m the kind of person that blesses every Friday, but by Saturday evening can’t wait for the arrival of Monday.)

So yes, there’s a lesson in here about self-care, and not pushing myself, and listening to my brain and my body — all of which I fully intend to (try to) do.

But that’s not the point of my post today. The neurologist said something interesting to me that I have pondered since. He said as long as I was good to myself and didn’t push TOO hard, going back to work would be good for me. He told me he’d had many patients in the past who stayed off for as long as they had symptoms of PCS, (which can often last months to years depending on the severity of the injury)…and many of them never went back. Not because they didn’t get better, but because it became easier to become a “victim of the injury”.

I’m not much for permanent holidays

It was an interesting reminder of how we cannot let our circumstances dictate our outlook on life, or the choices we make… about how we can very easily fall victim to what is happening now, forgetting all that has happened before; forgetting our own resilience and strength.

I can TOTALLY see how someone in my situation would allow the depression to take hold (I’m still fighting it every day), shut themselves off from the people around them (I can’t tell you how often I want to just shut myself in a dark room and not talk to people), give in to the pervasive thoughts that I’m different now, I’m not me, I can’t do the things I used to do…that life sucks.

That’s really why I went back to work…because I needed to take control back of my life and my circumstances. I needed to feel like I had this, it didn’t have me.

It’s so easy to fall victim to our circumstances; to see the dark clouds and not the silver lining. It’s so easy to feel despair (it’s a helluva lot easier than hope sometimes). It’s so easy to define yourself by what has happened to you, and what you are going through.

My biggest struggle right now (aside from physical symptoms) is the fact that my information processing has slowed down considerably. I define myself in large part by my intelligence. Always have. I’m the “smart kid”. Nowadays it takes me twice as long to understand what I’m reading, and twice as long to respond to people who talk to me. I blank, I stare, I forget. It’s not me. It’s been enormously frustrating and the source of many tears over the last two months. And I’ll be honest, I’ve felt more sorry for myself than I probably should. (Just today I saw a note I left myself on Friday …and have no recollection of writing it, nor of writing the 3 slideshows for my classes this week…last weekend I even forgot what my car looked like.)

The big, beautiful brain

But the truth is, it’s just another experience. It’s an opportunity for me to be grateful for the thing none of us really pay much attention to until it’s compromised…and that is my brain. It really is a wondrous thing. And the injury has spurred me to want to use it more. If this is only a tiny little taste of what it’s like to lose your faculties, then I’m petrified.

I’m resolved now to use my brain to learn new things, read new books, draw more, paint more, laugh more. I have to build new neural pathways so it’s a great opportunity to build ones that lead to happier things. Less dumb social media, less dumb stories. More things that are beautiful.

We all get to choose what we do every day, how we feel, what we believe…particularly about ourselves. Take in only that which makes you stronger. Take in only that which fills your heart with joy and peace. Fight the dark thoughts and the feeling that you are out of control of those thoughts. You’re not. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. You get to decide what you think. So think well.

Love.

Sarah xo

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