In the moment dance
Soul shining through joyful love
Accept life and live
It has not been a good week. I am at the end of my stamina and hope. Honestly, for the first time, I am seriously debating exploring a medical retirement from the VA. Ever since the accident, I have been a liability to my team. I don’t produce at the same level. I make stupid mistakes trying to find out information. Maybe it’s time to give up. Even marathons end eventually.
I started this post with the goal of writing about something funny. Well, what brings a smile to anyone’s face more than ferrets?
Those kiddos had plenty of toys. What gets their undivided attention? The toilet plunger! Each ferret took turns sticking his/ her head in the plunger. Then, Taliesin decided it was a wonderful addition to his stash and tried to drag it down the hall. How many ferrets does it take to plunge a toilet? Who knows, the plunger is missing.
Ferrets are curiosity and play incarnate. They are not the neatest companion to have. They love to dig, pull, and push. In one sense, they do help you keep organized. If a ferret can reach it, that object has become a toy. It is now theirs. If a ferret can climb on a couch, jump on a table, and steal it, you didn’t put it away properly. Little brats.
They can help with chores….
Other times, they add to the mess…
Some of the best times with ferrets are watching them play….
All that play and stealing, time for food…
Oh, ferrets climb. Who need ornaments on the tree? Obviously, toys! For the ferrets!
When all is said and done, nothing beats a nap…
Why keep them around? They’re just too cute…
Cave blackness press down
Lost in the dark blindness pain
Hug from hell surrounds
A Cold burning hopeless embrace
Broken useless brain
It never gets better really. You just learn to deal,with brokenness. Until, at some point, it gets shoved enough in your face that you realize it’s a stupid game, trying to act normal. I’ll never be who I was before. 1LT Hales was killed. The body survived and the sad remnant left behind tries to fake out a normal life. But, it can’t work. I don’t deal with emotional stimulation well. I need time to modulate. It’s constant drama at work. It doesn’t matter. Maybe I should just give up and medically retire. Get a part time job as a Wal!art Greeter until the pain causes me to snap.
I really wish the car accident had just killed me. It’s to hard to keep trying to act normal and pick up the pieces. I wish I could hide in my house with Kaliyah, Brigid, and Bobby. They ask for so little but give so much love, so much laughter. If I could live, never leaving my house except to run, I might be slightly happy. Surrounded by undemanding love.
To a novice runner, ten miles is a long distance. Perhaps it even seems insurmountable. To a marathon runner, ten miles is a “short” training run. As the runner gains fitness and experience, longer distances become easier to complete. The challenge then may shift to running faster or running even longer. At this point in my TBI recovery, 1 mile is a short run. I found out today that “short” is a matter of perspective.
It started as a routine run; my favorite park, a familiar five mile loop. The weather was nice for late winter. It was a warm day, about 56 degrees, and overcast. It was a nice break from temperatures below freezing with brisk breezes biting at any exposed skin. All went well, I enjoyed seeing the creek, flooded and muddy with early spring runoff. The birds were singing for mates and defending territory. It was quiet and peaceful. Until the wheels came off with a mile left.
It started as a sparkly flashing light in my vision. It was actually almost pretty, if it weren’t that I knew what it meant. It was an aura. I was about to be visited by the migraine fairy. Fairy? Maybe ogre is a better choice of words. I had a decision to make. And, no matter what I decided, I was in for a painful experience.
It takes me about 9 minutes to run a mile, depending on hills, weather, and what type of workout I am doing. Some runs call for a faster pace. Walking, I can cover the distance in around 15-18 minutes. After an aura sets in, I have about 15-20 minutes until the onset of pain. The choice: do I run in an attempt to get to my car, and more importantly, the Maxalt in the car before the pain hits? It’s a gamble. Physical activity makes migraines worse. Being an Idiot (seriously, I am part of the Idiots Running Club), I chose to run. However, I did slow my pace slightly.
It wasn’t the right choice. The migraine hit with a vengeance about two minutes after my aura started. It was a new record! My pain has never arrived so fast! At least I set some sort of record today. The pain was like a heated ice pick being driven into my left eye and temple, throbbing with every strike of the “hammer.” And every strike of my foot on the trail. I came to an abrupt stop in the trail, clamping my hand to my head in a useless attempt to stave off the pain. I dropped to my knees and gave my breakfast back to the earth. That wasn’t a good sign. I slowly get to my feet and walk toward the car.
Now, I have the same decision again. I have a little over a half-mile to get to the car. Do I run or walk? Can I run? Being a true Idiot, and a slow learner, I again try to run. Notice, if you will, the word “try.” Every step, my brain throbs, my stomach heaves, my had clamps uselessly on my head, trying to hold my brain in my skull. After a shambling run, I stop again. I physically cannot run. So, walking it is.
I slowly plow along, stopping briefly to offer some nutrition to the plants on the side of the trail. The sound of rapidly flowing water I so enjoyed on the way out was now a torturous din, triggering the migraine to new depths of agony. Maybe I should crawl?
After what seems an eternity of suffering, I see my car. Oh yeah. Sweet relief in sight. Maxalt is such a helpful drug for my migraines. I finally reach my car and dig into my “emergency kit” that holds my rescue inhaler, Maxalt, some Dramamine, and an anti-nausea medication. Fortunately, the Maxalt is a “melt-away,” no water needed. I dry swallow the anti-nausea medication.
Now, another decision. It takes about 30 minutes for the Maxalt to work. Do I drive in this amount of pain? I wanted to get home, to my quiet bed and an ice pack, more than anything. I pry my hand away from my head. I can’t see out of my left eye. Well, no. I shouldn’t drive. I climb in my car, crack the windows to allow some airflow. I take my dark, “blackout” sunglasses from their holder and pop them on. I recline my seat and close my eyes, waiting to ride out the worst of the pain.
Thirty minutes later, my watch alarm rings- an obnoxiously loud chirp. I crack my eyes open. I can see but the throbbing is still there. Good enough. I bring the seat up and head for home. I made it safely. First thing, more Maxalt, some hydrocodone, another anti-nausea pill, taken with a few swigs of Gatorade. I climbed into bed with my ice pack. Brigid curled up next to me, purring softly. I fell into a deep sleep. When I woke almost four hours later, the pain had retreated. It was still there, a shadow ready to strike again, but there was no throbbing.
I never knew a mile was so long. This purgatory made the last exhausting mile of a marathon seem like a walk in the park. Yes, life is all about perspective.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI make a fantastically diabolic couple. They feed each other, a straight diet of anxiety, stimulation, and avoidance. They share many symptoms, overlapping and feeding off each other. In my previous blog entries, I haven’t discussed my experiences with PTSD much.
Symptoms of PTSD are generally broken into three categories: intrusive memories, avoidance and emotional numbing, and anxiety and increased emotional arousal. Examples of intrusive memories are nightmares, flashbacks, and not being able to stop thinking about the trauma and its aftereffects. Avoidance is a major factor in PTSD and treatment. People avoid locations, emotions, activities that remind them of the trauma. Some people may have amnesia regarding parts of the trauma. Talking to a therapist about the trauma is NOT high on the list of chosen activities. Emotional numbing symptoms include: withdrawal from relationships and activities, inability to feel joy or happiness, hopelessness about the future, difficulties concentrating, difficulties maintaining close relationships. Finally, hyperarousal/ anxiety symptoms include: increased startle response, hypervigilance, irritability or anger, difficulties sleeping, substance use or abuse, and overwhelming guilt or shame.
Every brain injury is different. This is my experience of recovery from a moderate TBI. Some patients may not develop the same symptoms I experience. After the acute stages of Traumatic Brain Injury, the brain is slowly healing. Many of the initial symptoms have resolved.
For many people, there are no remaining symptoms. Other survivors continue to experience problems.
Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms
Change in consciousness (usually loss)
Change in cognition
Change in pupillary response
Light and/or sound sensitivity
Poor coordination, paralysis, muscle weakness
How the Terrible Two Interact
My brain has healed physically but I am among the survivors who have continued issues. I have PTSD from an unrelated trauma.
One problem I experience is sensory overload; loud sounds, bright lights, motion. My brain doesn’t modulate input effectively. It is like being knocked over by a wave and dragged into the undertow. It also triggers migraines. One thing that happens when I am overloaded is anxiety. Out in public, my hypervigilance interacts with the anxiety, boosting it higher. I avoid places like WalMart. Irritability is also a common symptom. Am I irritable due to PTSD or because I just don’t feel right that day? Is one feeding the other?
Life goes on. I continue to progress in my recovery journey from both. Some days are better than others.