March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. This is my story of TBI recovery, one day in my life.
On April 25, 2011, I was in a roll over car accident. In less than one second, my life was profoundly changed. Since that day, I have undergone many medical tests to identify the severity of my injury and what therapies I need to recover function. My daily activities are focused on recovery activities and living life as it comes.
This is one day in my life.
Today was a “work day.” I currently work three days a week, for a total of 15 hours. I hope to increase my hours to half time by the end of next month, one year post-injury.
The alarm rang at 7:15 a.m. Every night before work, I tell myself that I will get up for a short run in the morning. I have yet to meet that goal. My mind and body was sluggish and fatigued. I re-set my alarm for 8:00 and went back to sleep. I struggle with sleep issues. Since the injury, I have trouble falling asleep. Usually, I am awake until about 1:00 a.m. I may be able to fall into a light doze earlier. However, I tend to wake easily and the sleep isn’t restful. Once awake, I generally have difficulty falling back to sleep, often being awake for several hours. When the alarm rang for the second time, I was still not ready to face the day. I managed to roll out of bed about 8:15 for a fast shower. As I was running late, I wasn’t able to fix breakfast. Good thing I have nutrition bars in the house. Frequently, my breakfast on work days consists of a nutrition bar. I find it is much better to have my clothes picked out the night before. The fewer decisions I need to make in the morning, the better my day goes.
Work was a challenge. I share the office. My co-worker enjoys listening to music. Unfortunately, I find background noises like music distracting. It is difficult for me to concentrate on my tasks. The VA where I work is expanding. We are building a new outpatient clinic and residential substance abuse unit. The vibration from the heavy machinery and building causes some issues with stimulation. The constant vibration and low-level noise causes arousal. Recently, I have shadowed another social worker in seeing patients. In a sense, this is a hard situation to accept. I think I am capable of seeing patients. Yet, I have to shadow another worker. Today, the worker I was shadowing had a radio playing and the overhead fluorescent lights on. I managed to pay attention in the session. However, I felt drained and exhausted afterward, with the beginning tug of another migraine. I lost the thread of conversation several times with the radio playing. One positive development in work is that I will be co-facilitating a new women’s group with two co-workers. The group is for women with health issues who need an additional support network. A major focus of the group is communication and managing issues with health care providers. We will also cover stress management and relaxation techniques. I spent most of today working on the Women Veterans’ Forum. I confirmed one of the speakers and tried to find the final presenter. On work days, I end up tired and drained by the end of my day. Generally, work is my only activity of the day. I don’t run or go to the gym. Some days, I can do some of my cognitive therapy after a nap. Other days, my mind is just too drained.
I came home from work and took a nap with Brigid. The cat enjoys our afternoon siestas. Having a warm body cuddled next to me helps me relax. Brigid is also sensitive to my pain. On days I don’t feel well, she is more affectionate. She will cuddle closer and give “purr therapy.” Brigid also responds to dreams. She has wakened me from several stress dreams or nightmares.
After my nap, I worked on stretching, balance, and fine motor coordination exercises. I completed one puzzle for cognitive therapy.
I recently discovered the Brain Injury Association of America group on Face Book. In reading the posts, I found hope for my own recovery and offered support to others. I have not been a member for a long time. However, I find that connecting with other people recovering from brain injury extremely valuable and rewarding. In one post today, I found that others experience the improvement-pause cycle. That is a frustrating part of my recovery. I have an advancement, then it just seems to stop. The brain is cementing the new pathways and that slows improvement in other areas.
I ate an easily prepared dinner of grilled hamburger meat and salad. Following recipes are still hard. I can manage simple recipes but I have to be able to focus on one task at a time. For example, I can’t cook a hamburger and make pasta at the same time without burning something. But, I can make a salad, then cook a hamburger. I can also put fries in the oven, as long as I set the timer to ring. Otherwise, I will most likely forget the fries until they are crispy critters.
My evening routine started. I cleaned both cat litter boxes. Then, I cleaned the ferret litter boxes, letting them out to play at the same time. After the boxes were cleaned, I washed my hands and then checked everyone’s food and water. I find routines keep me on track with chores and activities. When my parents were visiting, my mother pointed out an accident on the floor. I was in the middle of the ferret litter boxes. I left the task to clean the accident. I forgot to put additional litter in the litter boxes. I noticed the litter was empty when I was putting the girls back for the night.
The ferrets are still playing this evening. My evening was spent playing with the girls, ferrets and kitty. I watched Brigid playing chase with Kaliyah. I trimmed ferret toe nails. Kaliyah is a determined ferret. There is a toy tied to Brigid’s cat tree. The toy’s eyes light up and it chirps when it is shaken. Kaliyah is determined to steal that toy and stash it. Unfortunately for her, the toy is too secure for her to steal. As I watched, she tried pulling it from below, climbing up the tree to try from the top, and jumping off the tree with it in her mouth. Nice tries, no success. But, her determination is a lesson. No matter how many times she “fails,” she keeps trying. Perhaps next time she will succeed. And if she doesn’t, there’s always my running shoes. As I write this post, my shoe is disappearing down the hall in the teeth of a small, furry thief. I wonder where I’ll find it?
As the night winds down, I take my evening medications and try to prepare to sleep. The ferrets will be tucked into their beds for the night. I’ll spend some time meditating. I reflect on the day, focusing on what went well. Sleep. That is the time where the brain heals and makes new connections. When I get up tomorrow, it’s a new day in brain injury recovery.