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I Still Cry About My Brain Injury, Despite My Progress This Year

As my 18-month brain injury anniversary recently came and went, I found myself feeling quite melancholy. My husband and I went to a local restaurant to enjoy a glass of wine, and I had to fight back the tears at how intensely the loud crowd irritated my brain despite wearing earplugs, how awfully bright were the lights despite wearing UV and blue-light-blocking glasses, and how difficult it was to follow what he was saying with so many distractions. I couldn’t help feeling pity for myself and wondering: Is this as good as it’s going to get?

Although I am still struggling with various symptoms (like mild headaches, anxiety, brain fatigue, light and noise sensitivity) and I don’t have the mental stamina I used to, life is actually manageable when I’m willing to admit it. I couldn’t say that six months ago. When I look back on my blog post from my one year anniversary, it surprises me to realize just how little stimulation I could tolerate and how much of a “normal” life I still could not do then. (Oh, how that first year sucked!) In the same way that I struggle to grasp the reality that I grew a tiny human being inside of me and, eight years ago, gave birth to a little person who has grown into a compassionate, sensitive, witty and saucy young lady, it blows my mind to recall the first couple of months after my brain injury when I could barely tolerate a whisper, when I could not figure out how to open a box, and when I could not be left at home alone. Who was that person?!

Six months ago, I had set 2019 brain goals of going back to work part-time, tapering off Ambien, increasing my cardiovascular exercise, and publishing one of my blog articles on a popular news and media website. I have somehow managed to accomplish all of those goals in a short time despite my disabilities. Furthermore, I’m getting ready to increase my hours and go back to work full-time. (Yikes!) Not only did I stop taking Ambien, but I also stopped taking gabapentin and I’ve dropped my Trazadone dose to almost nothing. I’m running around the block and even doing power yoga, inversions and all, again. And, at the time of writing, The Mighty is getting ready to publish my second article soon! Looking back, I have made leaps and bounds in my progress in the last six months.

Yes, there are still many things I miss doing, and many more that I miss doing with ease — things I know I will never get to do again. But I’m finally in a place where I can find gratitude in small things each day and sincerely appreciate the life changes that my brain injury has forced upon me. Of course, I’d like to go to a restaurant without wearing special glasses and earplugs, but at least I can go to a restaurant again. I’d really like to go back to the gym and take an exercise class, but at least I can exercise outdoors or at home again. I’d love to be able to stay out after dark (not to mention driving at night) without causing a stabbing headache, but at least I’m venturing out of the house in the evening again. And it would be nice to have access to the extensive vocabulary I used to have, to be able to find complex words during a conversation, but at least I’m able to pull up the correct simple words now (well, most of the time).

Sometimes I still cry with frustration over my everlasting symptoms. Sometimes I still cry, for seemingly no reason, when my brain is tired and overstimulated. Sometimes I cry when I see blinding headlights, with their halos and trails, and I can’t recall what they are supposed to look like. Sometimes I cry when I am listening to a really good song by The Black Keys because I remember when I couldn’t listen to any music at all, when it seemed I would never again enjoy a melody. Sometimes I cry when I watch my daughter dance in front of an audience because I know all of the shows I’ve missed. Sometimes I cry when I look back on the 18 months and recall with clarity all of the intense physical pain and deep emotional suffering I endured, when I think of how hard this time has been on my family. And sometimes I cry when my mind rests upon the beautiful transformation in all of us that has resulted from my brain injury.

With 18 months of time and strife behind me, am I coming to accept this new way of life? If this really is where the road is taking me, then with a small hint of sorrow, I’ll say goodbye to my old life and the old me. I’ll keep forging ahead, but maybe I’ll stop looking back.

“The road’s long and it ain’t always smooth.” – “Every Little Thing” by The Black Keys.

A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog.

Photo by David Werbrouck on Unsplash