I started writing this post by hand about six weeks ago. Sharing the things I’m struggling with as I recover from a serious concussion is difficult. My hope is that doing so will help someone else. – Jillian
I’m So Stupid!
Mac and cheese. Everyone loves it. Last night I was making my version from scratch. Elbow noodles bubbled and swirled in a large pot of boiling water. Cheese sauce simmered in a small pan next to the pasta pot. I’d already added shredded cheddar and cream cheese. Now, finished cubing the last kind, I slid the cheese off the cutting board into the pot. Then I helped my mom with the spinach salad. I added raisins and sunflower seeds to each bowl.
After putting them back in the cupboard and the extra tomatoes and celery back in the fridge I checked on the sauce. Where’s the cheese? I wondered. I stirred the sauce; there wasn’t a single remnant of the cheese cubes. This is a slow melting kind and there should have been fairly big pieces still. Weird.
I grabbed a spoon to stir the pasta and looked in. Cheese cubes floated in the boiling water! “I’m so stupid!” I muttered, tears blurring my eyes. How could I have done this? What was I thinking? “You weren’t,” a voice answered accusingly.
I got more cheese from the fridge and set it on the counter. Despite my efforts to hold myself together tears ran down my cheeks. I peered in the pot again and panicked. I don’t know how to fix it! I wrecked dinner! What’s wrong with me? I’m so dumb, so stupid! I ranted silently.
Embarrassed and upset, I put my hands on the counter, laid my head on my hands and bawled like a toddler. I hate crying and the weakness it shows, but this time I was helpless to stop the emotions rushing up from my soul. Feelings I hadn’t even known I’d been struggling with overwhelmed me.
My mom begged me not to cry. “It’s okay,” she said. “I should have helped you more. It’s okay.” She pulled me off the counter and wrapped me in her arms. I put my head on her shoulder and continued to cry. Tears, snot, choked sobs, the whole deal. She kept telling me it would be okay. Not to worry. We had more cheese. Dinner could be fixed.
After I’d calmed down a little she sent me to my room to lay down and went to get my dad to help her. Head hanging, still crying, I went downstairs, fell on my bed and hugged our dog, Molly. I couldn’t stop the tears. “What is wrong with me? Why is this happening? I’m so dumb! I can’t even do something so easy I used to be able to do it without thinking. I want to be me again! Where did I go? God, where did I go?” I asked Molly. She didn’t have an answer but she did kiss me and snuggle with me, offering comfort and love. I tried to concentrate on her and not on the fact that I no longer felt like myself.
It took me a long time to quit crying and calm down. As I did it became clear to me that embarrassment, frustration, and anger about my problems were controlling my emotions. I’d never known or understood that before, especially the embarrassment part of it.
My brain moves in slow motion. Things that should be easy are very hard. I don’t know how to be myself anymore. I’m lost.
I’m under the care of a doctor and a neurologist. I’ve been in physical therapy for my neck and shoulder and recently switched to treatment for balance problems. According to them, when I close my eyes, like when I wash my hair, or even with them open and turn my head, my brain loses track of where I am in space causing me to loose my balance or get dizzy or feel wobbly. This also happens when I’m in an enclosed space like a stairway.
It can happen randomly as well. I was outside trying to potty Molly. Golden colored leaves had been falling for a couple of days. She stomped happily through them, enjoying the crinkly fun. As I turned to follow her–my eyes were focused on the ground because Molly is tiny–the leaves swirled against the dark ground. Dizziness swamped me, I started to fall, stumbled and grabbed the picnic table. If not for it, I would have fallen again.
The end of July, I was in the kitchen helping make dinner when the vision in the outside corner of my right eye went dark and blurry and in the center of my vision I saw bright white explosions. I immediately felt sick and dizzy. My dad took me to the E.R. Thank God it wasn’t a stroke. Just post-concussion syndrome stuff is what the ER doctor told me after a specialist studied my cat scan to confirm what had caused the episode. I get how lucky I was not to have had a stroke. On the other hand, this was just one more, new, not fun problem caused by my fall.
I’m also seeing a speech therapist. She’s helping me with short-term memory, word retrieval, and problem-solving skills. I’m a writer who can’t think of words and when I am able to write, can’t remember what I wrote twenty minutes ago.
What Happened To Me
A week after the cheese incident I began working with a neuropsychologist. I had no idea what to expect, I was nervous and scared. I still am.
Will I ever be me again?!
It’s been nine months since I got tangled in our dog Meg’s lead, got pulled off my feet, and landed with my full body weight on the back right side of my head–on concrete.
I barely remember the incident. I have a clear memory of right up to looking down at my feet and thinking I needed to get untangled. Then I woke up on the cement looking at a dark and starry sky. My mom is adamant this happened in the afternoon. Because of the Looney Toons cartoons I always thought seeing stars meant three of them circling your head. It’s so bizarre that the entire sky was star filled. I only know what day it happened because I was super excited about the Super Bowl in two days, my favorite team was playing. The rest of February and half of March are a vague blur. Right after–excuse me.
I’m back now. The phone rang–a wrong number. And now I’ve forgotten what I was going to say and where I was going with this post.
This really happened. I was on the phone for at most two minutes. Unable to remember what I wanted to say, I didn’t write anymore that day. Or for the next several, even though I tried. – Jillian
It’s been almost a week. I still can’t remember what I’d been planning on telling you. I have no clue how I’d planned to finish that sentence. 🙁 It’s things like this that have delayed my book publishing schedule by several months. My original plan had been to publish it in June and get a second book ready for Christmas.
I did a lot of thinking while I tried to figure out how to finish this post. As summer turned into fall, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with my lack of progress back toward normal. More and more often, I would say, “I’m so dumb” or “I’m so stupid” or “What’s wrong with me?” or “I’m never going to be normal again” and several other variations. The more impatient and annoyed I got with myself, the more I said those awful things about myself–out loud and in my thoughts.
I’m A Bully!
Talk about a shocking revelation, I mean, I hate bullies! They build themselves up by making others feel small, vulnerable, and unworthy of acceptance and respect. And yet, looking at how I’ve treated myself over the last few months, I know it’s true. I’m guilty of bullying myself.
It’s sad that instead of loving, encouraging, and being patient with myself, I tore myself down. I’d so beaten myself up that the best days I ever had, only made it to the level of blah. I should have been accepting of where I currently am and of the journey I’m on to get well. I should be able to count on myself to believe in me!
And yet, I’d failed myself and sabotaged my ability to recover. I don’t know why I started tearing myself down. I’ve never been a bully. It makes no sense that I would become one now. The scary part is, now that I know I’m doing it, can I stop?
Gut Check Time
Life is complicated. When I made goals for the year I didn’t make them knowing I would fall and end up with a severe concussion that would affect almost every part of my life. I made them based on the normal amount of work I usually complete. For months I kept trying to go on like normal. I thought that if I kept trying to do what I did prior to the concussion things would fall back into place.
For a few weeks I did feel better. But I still struggled to write and do normal everyday things. I knew I was making progress but I was impatient. I wanted to be normal–now!
Not accepting my new limitations is most likely what caused me to start bullying myself. I kept comparing my broken self to who I’d been before the fall. Even when I tried to ease up it didn’t help. Cutting my goals by more than half hurt. Especially when I had to acknowledge I still might not be able to finish what little was left. I felt like all the nay-sayers in life were right and I began pushing myself to do better.
Good intentions aside, the pushing quickly became bullying. I made it clear how disappointed in myself I was with each belittling comment. I believed the bully and things got significantly worse.
According to the neuropsychologist, I had made things more difficult emotionally and set myself back physically and mentally. I can’t even describe how the doctor’s words made me feel, my emotions swirled like a storm.
Looking back I know she was right. I’d become afraid.
Nothing has been easy. Every day I work at being nicer and accepting myself the way I am. I try to write. I try to do my normal chores. I try to move in a positive direction. It’s slow. It’s hard. It’s happening though and for that I’m thankful.
If you are going through big life changes please be patient with yourself. Love yourself and don’t give up. Stay positive. Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of fear and depression. If you’ve gone through something similar I’d love to hear any advice you have. Please take a minute to share your thoughts in the comments.