Most days, I’m a perfectly happy 39-year-old Wonder-mother, wife, author, friend, daughter, and free-thinker. But just when I let my guard down and think that my post-concussion syndrome may finally be considering me in its rear-view mirror, the shit hits the fan. One thing’s for certain: recovery’s a pain in the ass.
Six months after passing the kidney stone that rendered me unconscious before hitting the floor, thus delivering the mother of all concussions and post-concussion disorder, here’s a laundry list of minutiae still plaguing me:
- Two broken molars. They’ve presented themselves in the most painful, least convenient times possible, damn it. The first one required a crown; the second one broke while we were out-of-town for Christmas, and I had to go to an emergency dentist for a temporary filling … in the two weeks since, I’ve had two permanent fillings done to fix it. I can stand to glance my toothbrush off of it now, but the sensitive gum underneath can’t take any pressure—so no biting or chewing on it. Hopefully, that’ll resolve itself before it seems that a root canal and crown are necessary. But, seriously, I’d rather just have the payment than the pain.
- Forgetfulness. What was I saying … ? Oh, yeah, bad memory strikes when I’m least expecting it, like when I was trying to show my son something at Fresh Market last week. I was pushing the basket and he was walking next to me, but when I stopped to show him something he kept walking. So I said, “shh,” and he said, “what?” I said, “I meant ‘stop’.” Dumb stuff like that. I have a gap in my memory from the summer. It’s like we got back from our trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona in May, and then our son was starting high school in September. I rented Men In Black III last week, totally excited to finally see it, but the boys told me we rented it the weekend it came out on DVD. In November. When I realize my simple mistake now, I don’t tear up or cry. Mostly. Sigh …
- Movie dizziness. Man, I LOVE going to the movies. It was our treat when I was a kid, and the same celebratory feeling has transferred to adulthood. But when I went to the movies in September, I had to close my eyes through half of it, be led down the steps and out of the theatre, and hold on to the arm of my husband or son for the rest of the day for balance. Those things cost too much money to miss half of it, so with my continued bouts of dizziness in the everyday mundane shit I come across, we’ve all decided that DVD is the way to go for the immediate future. PS: don’t even get me started on looking up … talk about dizzy.
- Racquetball disorientation. Damn those stark white walls that blend into the white ceiling with no visible seam! Damn the concentrated power of the overhead gymnasium lights beaming down into the racquetball courts like a sun ray laser. About a month ago, my son said, “let’s try the racquetball court!” Since we love to play, and I was happy to give him something to do at the Y, I said okay. As soon as the glass door closed behind me I knew it was a mistake. The boy said, “you’ll be okay mom! Here, try to hit this one.” And he lobbed it to me gently, knowing I wouldn’t be speedy. It felt like I was tracking in slow-motion, swiping through peanut butter air. Three times he tried before I felt like my head was spinning like a whirling dervish. I had to close my eyes and let him lead me out of that hellish room to a bench, where I sat for a good half hour before getting my land-legs back. Again, the disorientation and headache lasted until I could sleep it off. Lesson learned there, too: I’m still not ready for racquetball. Rats.
- Occasional agoraphobia (for lack of a better term). This one’s totally new to me, but the best I can figure is that the additional stimulus of peripheral vision hits me in strange, inconsistent places. Like, when we’re hiking, I’m normally okay–but now that the leaves have fallen off the trees I can see farther beyond the path. I think the added dimension of the forest makes me really dizzy. I find when this occurs, it’s best to shift my gaze downward and narrow the field I’m looking at. I tend to do a little better when there’s not so much visual stimuli.
- Concentration. This one is the absolute worst. In my career, I have written thousands of articles, blog posts, grants, white papers, press releases, books, and the like. I’m quick—I’m an immediate satisfaction kind of gal, so I tend to focus with laser-intensity on a project until I finish so I can get the thoughts out of my head and move on to the next story needing to be told. Not now. Now I’m lucky if I can write four pages in a day. I hate … hate … hate … down time, and not being able to get these thoughts out of my head. I’m working through it, though, and have set some challenging goals for myself this first and second quarter. I can feel my mind getting stronger, and the words come a little easier with everything I type.
Those are the biggies, though in terms of “biggies,” mine are manageable. Most of my gaffe’s fall into those categories, but I can tell you that none of us had any expectation that this concussion and its effects would linger this long. I read an article in the News & Observer a couple of months ago by Katie Bowler (@kebowler) that struck home, and I cut it out to paste into my notebook: Reverberations from my head injuries. Her struggle really spoke to me, and while I’m sorry to know she’s experiencing the things she notes, it is nice to know my issues aren’t unheard of.
I love Hillary Clinton, and I’ve been troubled reading about her recent concussion and subsequent blood clot. I’m sending her vibes of strength and solidarity, just as I send them to Katie Bowler.