Thursday, 15 September 2016

Concussion Anniversary Reflections

It has been a year since I hit my head and got a concussion.

Focusing on daily tasks, managing my energy levels in deciding what I should do or what I should sit out on, has made the year go by fast in the sense that it hardly feels like I've done anything at all, even though daily, time is drawn out. The days are long, but months fly by. I've been tired for a year. Sometimes not too tired, but other times bone-weary exhausted and headached to the point where it feels like if I close my eyes for just a moment I might collapse.

I've learned a lot about placing boundaries on myself and saying no, in order to ensure I have the energy to do something later, or to make sure I'm not hiding nausea or confusion at a social event. Or just simply for taking care of myself.

When I first got my concussion, I stubbornly tried to ride my bike to doctor's appointments about my injury, trying to hide my helmet when they informed me of how much rest I needed. I was resting, wasn't I? Even the lowball number I gave them about how much screen time I was having was three times the amount I was allowed (I said 45 minutes, they said 15 max... and I had been online much longer than 45 minutes).

Finally, when I tried desperately to make myself watch Lilo and Stitch on Netflix, and just couldn't even though I had already been lying in bed all day, I started to realize the degree of rest I needed.

Stepping out of the busyness of daily life, where doing dishes became a major accomplishment, I felt as if I had stepped out of a rushing river. Suddenly others' lives swirled around me. They were making plans, doing things, working, they were busy that night, maybe another night, they had to work, they were out of town, and on and on. This is not said in judgement - I was doing the same thing. In fact, it was so hard for me not to do the same thing, that I was actively aggravating a brain injury.

Something as simple as hitting my head on a door frame had the power to shake my sense of self worth in a way that it hadn't before. Each action I did cost me dearly, or would have consequences even a week later if I had tried to get too many errands accomplished. The only choice I had was to make small, daily survival decisions, and to just be my limited self (which was what exactly, if I'm not doing anything, making anything, or working toward something?)

I've always valued free time and rest, and somehow this was still an incredible challenge for me. Conversations became awkward - what have I been up to? Almost literally nothing. "I can't" became a phrase I said often.

As I have been healing, I still have to say that quite frequently.

Balancing rest and work is always difficult. Both are good. Limitations, sometimes, are okay. I'm not sure we realize how busy we are, or what it means to slow down - actually slow down - and just make space for relationships. To know that we are not what we produce. Rest is difficult to achieve. Not guilty rest, anxious rest, or lonely rest. I'm not sure how to do that yet, after a year. I'm getting better, and I hope I don't forget how as I (hopefully) continue healing.