At 31, I may be learning patience. 31 years is a long time to live feeling constantly on edge, ready to move, terrified of falling ….
I have a brain injury. My brain is injured. Traumatically. I have a traumatic brain injury. It sounds too intense and severe and yet ‘concussion’ sounds like something that you get over in a week like the flu.
Neither really captures the subtle things. The instant fight or flight response at any sign of stress. The weird head tingling that a book says is a type of headache. The inability to remember little things – words, what I was saying, where the fuck I put my purple hoodie coat from Brooklyn Industries. I’ve even misplaced my book ON concussions. Oh irony … you saucy minx.
All the books … well the ones written by people who have actually studied mild traumatic brain inuries say the same thing: rest, do what you can, but there’s really nothing you can do. In other words, have patience.
As a teenager, when someone would tell me to be patient, I’d tell them that ‘patience was not a virtue I possess..’ It probably should have been. But I was young and foolish and liked who I was then. Adulthood and sexism and stress and chronic pain hadn’t ruined me yet.
Ah. But here is another creeping, subtle symptom. The emotional ones. Depression, anxiety, irritability. True, I had all of these things before but now they are … heightened, like the tide before the storm.
It’s also the isolation. We can meet and talk and I seem just fine! I’m fine! Or everyone wants me to be fine. Or, at least, fixable. It turns out it’s actually others who lack patience. Who knew?
Because I’ll probably be fine eventually. Unless I take conventional wisdom and just ‘push through.’ My mom says I’m ‘milking’ it. It’s lonely over here trapped in a mind that betrays you in sneaky ways.
Before — when I was stressed and overwhelmed and in pain – I’d sometimes wish for something like this. Some reason or excuse to take a break. I should say that I was stupid to say that, but I don’t think I was. This is my wake up call, my excuse to take care of myself. The anxiety and ADD make that extra hard sometimes … but truth be told, the distractions of my pre-concussion life weren’t any fucking rose garden. I still believe that — that what I was going through silently and without the even mild outside awarreness of what I “have” now was just as bad. It just didn’t break free of the “shoulds” in the way that this injury – with its NIH studies and Mayo Clinic page — does.
So really patience has been the easy part. In fact, I have been waiting for this for 15 years. What I didn’t expect, though, was that I’d still feel so alone.