Saturday, March 12, 2016

Nine months later (No, not a baby!)

My first post for 2016! It's been nine months since I've written something here. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest reason is a car accident that happened six months ago.

Short story: I was t-boned by an oncoming car, directly into my driver's side door. My head broke my driver's side window and I don't have much recollection of what happened, just a few memories of voices and sounds. Fortunately, my chair also broke and I was pushed up onto the middle console. I was still pinned in the car and had to be extracted and taken to the hospital, but it could have been so much worse. Andy was with the girls in the car behind me with the girls, and I am so incredibly thankful no one was in the car with me.

Physically I was in amazing shape for sustaining that kind of impact. But recovery from the head injury has been slow and unexpected. I did not realize that concussion injuries carry with them cognitive, physical, and psychological repercussions.

Brain injuries are bizarre. You look the same on the outside. You can walk, talk, carry on conversations, and it can seem like all is well. The only "external" physical signs are chronic headaches. But inside, things aren't so good, and it is very hard to put a finger on exactly what is happening. I have so much empathy for others who have sustained brain injuries or have chronic hidden health problems and are thought to be crazy or told "it's all in your head." It's not, it's not at all. Even trying to journal privately through this experience has been strange. "I am here, but part of me is not here. And it feels scary, strange, and exhausting."

In many ways I was improving from where I was after the accident but some issues were getting better and it it was a helpless feeling. I still was not able to drive more than a few minutes from my house and couldn't handle the stimulation that came from a houseful of little girls. So, about a month ago I had a five-day intensive at a functional neurologist's office here in Portland. He is one of the best. And from only the physical exam, he could tell what was off in my processing, and where things were getting jumbled up in my frontal lobe and brain stem.

Sidenote: It's amazing what we know about the brain. Also, it's amazing what we DON'T. There is so much to learn!

Once the doctor articulated his theory of what my injuries were, I felt such relief. The depression, anxiety, panic attacks, inability to handle stress, and extreme introversion. The inability to read and comprehend information like before, the light and sound sensitivity, and the way "overwhelm" can take over quickly. The best way I can describe it is to say I feel a shutdown happen from the top of my brain down to the tips of my toes, like someone is turning the lights off room by room, and there is little I can do to stop it.

The intensive was hugely important to my recovery and I feel like I am getting part of me back that was missing these past months. There's still recovery to do, but I'm very optimistic now instead of in despair, wondering if this was the way it would be for the rest of my life.

In many ways, this accident was also catalyst in making some major life changes that have put me on a brand new path that I never would have thought possible. The only huge regret I have is missing out vacation in Italy, which we were to leave for two days after the accident happened. Those ticket vouchers are burning a hole in my inbox!

So, I'm back here to hopefully document a little of the new adventure I'm on and share everything I'm learning.

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