Leftovers & Epiphanies

So my resources tell me that after a year of recovery, you have to live with what deficits you have left.  Which for me means these things:

1. Occasional problems with speaking, which only happens on my off days.

2. That crazy tickle I get inside my head that I spoke of in a previous blog, which I affectionately call the Shivers.  It hasn’t happened lately, but it always takes me by surprise when it does.

3. Weird Doppler/flange effect in my ears, the sound racing from the right ear to the left.

4. Minor balance issues. I usually have to pause and touch a wall or something solid for reassurance before I turn a corner or go down some stairs.

5. Occasional confusion with sentence structure, either spoken or in emails.

6.  Occasional gaps in memory, long and short-term.

7.  Unsettling anxiety when I enter a Meijer’s or Costco, or sometimes even my office due to the overhead lights.  I adjust after a few minutes, and maybe it will go away eventually.

Again, nothing serious though I’m going to keep an eye on the Shivers and the ear thing.  But at this point I’ve decided to accept these things and deal with them the best I can.  Fortunately,  I have people to help me through this, and after admitting to myself that I needed help, they’re not who I expected them to be. The key was admitting that I needed help in the first place, which was difficult but ultimately rewarding.

I address Item #1

A mentorship program recently began at work, and I decided to participate because I’ve finally decided to take my career seriously and just throw myself into new work -related experiences.  Also, it’s a fine break from the more mundane aspects of my job, and a rare opportunity to focus on myself. I’m worth it,right?

The goals of the mentorship program were left completely up to the mentees, but general guidelines were offered.  Basically I had to come up with what I wanted to get out of it, and I decided that one of my goals was to speak better.  My mentor, who had also experienced a TBI ironically about a month before mine, was well chosen because she of all people there would understand my plight.  I already felt comfortable talking to her, though our paths rarely crossed at work.  Towards the end of our first session, she suggested I think of a group of people I felt safe asking for guidance and support, then email them about it. It was a good plan. I felt hopeful, but then admitted I would find it difficult to ask for this help, for all kinds of reasons.

“Then mention that in the email,”she said.  “Say that it’s hard for you to ask but you’re asking anyway.”  Well, who could say no to that?  They’d have to be soulless zombies to refuse my plea for help.

So I did, reworking a lengthy first draft into something less pathetic and brief.  I literally forced myself to click “Send”, wincing ever so, then awaited their responses.  Some were honored, one person was surprised but all were happy to help me with my problem. Individual meetings as well as unscheduled conversations followed; I had chosen my safe group wisely.  One of many life-changing events that have happened in the last two weeks, but here’s the lesson I learned from this one:  Never be afraid to ask for help.

As for the other items – well, I’ll just deal with them as they happen. If some things get worse then I’ll address them with my neuro, but they’re mostly just bothersome things that remind me of the special club I’m in.  I think family and work have forgotten already, and who can blame them when I appear so normal on the outside?

Meanwhile, I’ve been SO busy I haven’t had time to start the second rough draft of my book!  Between work,music, and family it’s been very hard to find the time to write anything.  This is the first opportunity I’ve had for me time, and believe me, I’m grateful for it.  I’m sure my copy editor (Ooh, I love saying that!) is wondering “Where the hell is that first chapter?  It’s been a month since we met!”  But I have to give myself a break because it is the most I’ve ever written about one subject in my life, and I’ve never actually written a book before.  Writing is hard!  However, I did just see a good article in Quiet Revolution about finding someone to pair up with for accountability, and I messaged my BFF to ask if she wanted to do it.  She has since agreed to, so more work for me to get it going.

And now…more life-changing events!

My mom had a laminectomy recently, and I’ve been taking turns caring for her during her recovery with my older brother and his family.  This has become a new chapter in my adulthood, and it probably happens to everyone at some point of their lives as time continues its relentless march.  It’s very, very hard to see the woman who used to run after me with a slipper in pain or needing to be coaxed through physical therapy.

She’s been recovering in what they call an adult rehabilitation center, where there is much disorganization and many senior citizens in varying stages of old and helpless.  Not as sad as where my grandfather was, but every time I walk past the dining room or accompany her to physical therapy I vow to myself to stay active while I’m youngish and able, and eat smarter.  I want to be one of those 80-year-olds still of sound mind and body, publishing my next book or doing Tai Chi on a mountain top.  It’s not as bad as that scene in Requiem for a Dream where the indifferent aides push food into a barely coherent Ellen Burstyn’s maw, but I always think of that when I glance into rooms on  the way to my mom’s.

My realization that I was entering this new chapter of adulthood was confirmed when I took her to get her staples removed.  She asked the nurse if it would hurt, and the nurse said,”No, it shouldn’t. Not too much.”  I was behind my mom, studying the many tiny staples holding her suture together, and sensed her tensing for incredible discomfort.

“Do you want to hold my hand?” I offered.

Without hesitation she said “Yes!” and I took her hand while the nurse went to work.  As I held it, waiting for a firmer squeeze when the pain would come (it never did), I thought, wow, she never did this for me when I was in similar situations, of which there were many.  What the heck just happened?

A new part of of my story, that’s what.  And you know, it’s not that bad.  In fact, I’m quite enjoying this bonding time that we never really had while I was growing up.  She’s teaching me Tagalog and telling me stories from her life, and we’re talking like adult friends to each other.  Life is just full of unexpected, wonderful things.