post-concussion syndrome setback and lessons learned

I thought I was “done.” I even told people I felt like I was pretty much back to my old self again. I started volunteering for things again, started writing more, and was cooking dinner almost every night. Life was good!

But, over time I stopped paying attention to what my body was telling me. I didn’t notice the headaches. I knew I was tired, but I “pushed through.” I didn’t realize that my post-concussion syndrome symptoms could come back with such force. (Note to the reader: my alarm reminding me to take a rest just popped up on my computer, I snoozed it for five minutes. If it pops up again, I’ll finish this post later!)

Last week, after a bad night of sleep, I crashed. Suddenly, it seemed, though hindsight says it crept up on me, I couldn’t think straight. As it was right after the crash, thoughts would come into my head but they’d slip away before I could know what they were. I couldn’t figure out what the right order of steps were to prepare dinner. Listening to the radio in the car made it difficult to drive. My brain was much too loud, my eyes weren’t focusing well, and I was beyond exhausted.

It’s been a week and I didn’t do a terrific job returning to an awareness of my symptoms. In the last couple days, though, I took more breaks and noticed when my mind was particularly slippery or foggy. I’ve had a lot of work to do, and a lot of it required high level intellectual thinking, but I did it bit by bit rather than in one massive dive.

Today I feel a lot better. I finished an essay I’d been working on. I’m about to make dinner and the prospect doesn’t feel overwhelming.

It was a rude awakening, though. I’m not as “done” as I thought I was. My speech therapist said she feels confident I’ll get to a point where it doesn’t get *this* bad anymore. I keep focusing on the fact that it’s been months since [pause to take that five minute break, thank you computer reminder system] I had symptoms that couldn’t be resolved by just a few minutes of resting my brain and eyes. I’ve been “back up to speed” in most areas of my life.

As with the rest of the post-concussion syndrome recovery, I’m reminded that my life improves when I take it easy. When I pace myself and don’t overdo it, even without the brain problems caused by post-concussion syndrome, life is better. I’m more present in life and I’m able to enjoy it. So now, after hitting “publish,” being present in my offline life is what I’m going to do.

going too fast

Something that hasn’t yet gotten all the way better as I recover from this concussion is my ability to multi-task. One thing that happens now, that I consider a big improvement, is I notice when things are going too fast and I (usually) have the forethought to pause.

If I look at social media and I’m hit with the #metoo conversations, I might need to do some emotional work not to lapse into the darkness of being a survivor of sexual abuse/assault/harassment. That requires brain space. Then, if a friend texts and I reply = more brain. Add to that the tea kettle is about to squeal and I’ve got to get to work asap before a conference call and I get the overwhelmed sense that everything is going too fast.

When I get this overwhelmed feeling I recognize my brain isn’t like it used to be. Before the concussion, I would easily drop one or two things out of the top level of awareness. I might store something away to consider later, or I might not reply immediately to a text.

Since the concussion, if too much is happening at once, I lose the ability to easily prioritize. My triage skills are still too weak to manage many things at once.

Of course, we know that it’s a myth that multi-tasking is an efficient method of functioning in the world. But it’s also a requirement for functioning in reality.

In my speech therapy at Bayside Neuro Rehab, I will be doing some work to improve my multi-tasking skills. I’m looking forward to that. I also know that it will be to my advantage if I maintain an awareness of when things are going too fast, or are just too much. Even when (if?) I return to being able to manage (juggle) many things at once, it will improve my life if I can remember to regularly pause and breathe and center myself. Pausing is required now if I want my brain to work right, but I think my spiritual health will be stronger if I develop a good habit of going slower when slower is an option.

addendum to my last post (post-concussion syndrome continues)

Feeling so much better, related to my concussion, as I reported in yesterday’s post, today I undertook what in the past would have been a joyful adventure of creation (and $ savings): meal planning and cooking for the week. It took longer than it would have in the past, but, I planned meals for the next week and a half, and I started some of the cooking.

I just found out, however, that after a few hours of this prep work, I’m not able to look at a recipe and know where to start. It’s hard to explain what it’s like, when my brain doesn’t quite work right. I can, if I go slowly, read it and understand it. It would require effort, however, to gather together the background thoughts that make it easy to know what steps come first. For example, as I’m typing this, I can tell you that gathering the ingredients together would be the first step. But it took some thinking to get to that point. Instead of “just knowing” what normally would be nearly intuitive, I have to stop and think and now I’m getting a headache. The post-concussion syndrome symptoms are still affecting my everyday life. It’s frustrating and discouraging.

But, as each of the therapists at the rehab center always emphasized: it’s better than it was. Even just a couple months ago, what I did today wouldn’t have been possible.

I’ll take a break and come back to it after I’ve rested my eyes and brain.