Daily Relfection

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways-either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.” Dalai Lama 

Tragedies are defined by someone’s experiences and view points.  What is tragic for one won’t be for another.  Like PTSD, people can experience the same stressor but respond differently.  

My injury was a tragedy for me.  My life changed totally and I have problems I never thought I’d have.  I see myself in both parts of the quote.  I lose hope- too often.  I want to give up.  Nothing matters.  I self destruct with suicidal thoughts, withdrawal, dietary changes.  In many ways, my activity becomes dangerous- running at two in the morning, not taking rest days.  Yet, my activity also is a big part of coping.  

Depression tips the scales.  When that monster jumps on my back, I spiral into hopelessness and negativity. 

People can’t choose not to be depressed.  It is a journey of healing.  Some people go on to recover over time- others will struggle for life.  Many times people improve but have episodes of depression that returns.  I don’t choose to be depressed.  This is another challenge.  

Ok, Universe, I’m challenged enough!  Knock it off already!

I choose to find inner strength.  It’s a daily action: a conscious choice.  And it’s a climb up the side of a mountain.  I fall.  I slide down the mountain.   At times, I lay on my face, not moving at all. The clouds of depression and despair roll over me. Eventually,  I manage to continue the climb- sometimes I crawl for a distance, other times, I get to my feet.  

Other times, it’s a brief trip and fall and I get up immediately.

We still can choose to stay in despair or try to find the inner strength to meet the challenges.  

What do you choose? 

A Glimmer of Gold or a Fool?

This week I had yet another round of tests for the brain injury.  Again.  More tests.  I am a freaking lab rat.  Tested and tested.  It seemed not a lot of imformation came from all those tests.   That’s the thing about brain injury.  Every one is different and it is a challenge to figure out what is going on.  For me, it means frustration followed by more tests.

It’s crazy.  You start doubting if it’s for real or are you just messed up mentally and emotionally?  Maybe all three? Since my injury, I had doctors tell me it was nothing but the pain medication (while I had unequal pupils).  Two neuropsychs: one stating I’m depressed and scoring low because of it; the other diagnosing ADD and slightly lower mental functioning than baseline.  Right.  I scored an IQ of 90. My pre injury IQ was 140.  Then, there was one who thought I was malingering.  Others who just had no idea what was going on.

And tests kept coming back normal.  A CT scan, two MRIs, a normal EEG and an unusual EEG.  But, it was inconclusive on what it meant. (I was eventually diagnosed with a seizure disorder)

So, treat the symptoms.  I had so much physical, vestibular, speech therapy. And an employer who told me that I can do my job if I just tried harder.  I worked  my ass off in therapies, on my own, at work and felt like crap and totally exhausted all of the time.  I hit the ceiling of improvement and was just trying to hold on.

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I kept thinking it was just in my head and was getting more and more frustrated, angry, anxious, afraid that I just couldn’t be like I was before.  I was crazy. I could be normal again if I really wanted it.

Im lucky to have a good friend who knows something about brain injury who advocated for me.  I also have a great neuorologist who referred for the bemoaned testing to try to get a handle on what was happening.  And a primary care doctor who knew something was wrong.

Last year, my neurologist ordered- you guessed it- tests and referred me to see a neuorologist in Spokane specializing in seizures and migraines. As part of that round of testing, I had another sleep deprived EEG, one of the two neuropsychs, and a weighted MRI.  At this point, I figured nothing would show up because, with the exception of the unusual EEG, nothing ever did.

It was a twisted sort of relief that the weighted MRI showed areas of damage.  It bloody is in my brain!  I have brain damage! Uh, that isn’t a good thing….. But, it was something I could see.   And the specialist confirmed the diagnosis of complex partial and absence seizures.  Those weren’t in my head either.

This year, my neurologist found out about a program in Portland specializing in brain injury rehabilitation.  Oh, fuck! Another round of testing- again.  Every time one is ordered, my anxiety goes up.  I still question if my symptoms are real or I’m just not trying hard enough.  Or they are in my head.  I really didn’t want this but was pushed into it.

the testing was brutal.  It was a bit different this time.  They weren’t trying to diagnose anything in a way.  It was a given that there was actually a brain injury.  This was about identifying problem areas to work on an what strengths I have already.

Head Pain concept

Head Pain concept

We did my staffing today. I was scared shitless.  It’s frightening not knowing.  Do I want to know?  I was so scared they wouldn’t find anything.  That would mean it’s in my head.   It was a strange experience to have a group of professionals outside my neurologist recognizing the ongoing issues.  There are issues.  I like what they have to say. I was really worried that it would come back that all my issues were mental: depression and anxiety.  They’re normal and not what is causing my issues.

Heres the stupid thing.  A few years ago, I would have been all over this program.  Now, I’m not sure. Why bother?  I’ve already lost almost everything that I loved to do.  My best effort for four years didn’t fix it.  What’s going to be different now?  I’ll never get thosr things back. Theyre gone. I’m finally comfortable and feeling safe in my routine and home.  My cat, my ferrets….  I don’t want to feel unsafe again.   I don’t like being outside my comfort zone.   How do I keep myself safe surrounded by strangers away from the town I know?

not to mention: what do I do with Brigid and Kaliyah?

Nope.  I just don’t really see the point.  Too late.

Is it a chance for gold?  Or just another fool attempt?

would I be a fool for going?  Or for staying away?  I’d be a fool to hope.

 

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Word of the day Two

Humility: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble.

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For me, humilty is treating someone with respect, no matter their job, religion, or other factors.  I still struggle with this concept, especially around issues of religion.  It’s fine to disagree but remain respectful.  My beliefs are not superior to anyone.  What abilities I have don’t make me better than anyone.  I might run faster than other people but that doesn’t give me the right to critize someone who is overweight or not in shape.  My education doesn’t make me better than the person working in fast food.

Everything we have, we can lose.  All that remains are ethics and morals.

What is humility for you?

Anxiety 

  
Pretty much how it is.  Anxiety digs it claws into you.  It never shuts up- the fear messages in your head.  Its grip may loosen at times but you’re never totally free.  It’s always in the background.

It’s misunderstood.  Telling me to “relax” won’t help.  I can’t snap my fingers and not be anxious.  I wish I could.  

  
It rides,your back. You carry it because there is no real choice.  Carry the pack or give up.  Make it look easy so no one knows there’s something wrong with you.  Keep going.

It’s exhausting.  I can do more than before with less anxiety.  But sometimes, it just kicks my ass.  

There is a Lesson here.  But I am not sure what.  Maybe that I am stronger than I think.

Why the Sadness?

I was trying to figure out why I feel so incomplete and a total failure.  I gained some insight finally. There are different deaths. Only one is physical. 

My Army Reserve unit deployed within a year of my injury.  I busted my ass in rehab with the goal of going with my unit.  I didn’t.  So many people say, “That’s good.  You didn’t have to go.” No, it isn’t good.  It sucks.  Although my unit came home safely and I know they didn’t deploy short handed, I still think I let them down somehow.  There’s a feeling of unfinished business.  That was my damn job and duty and I didn’t do it.  It’s not logical.  I didn’t choose it.  My injury made it impossible.  And, hell no, I wouldn’t choose this my life now ever. Unfinished business.

Ironically, while I feel sad about having to retire from the VA, it’s the loss of the Reserves and not deploying that hurts more. Unfinished business.   Maybe I should have taken the active duty commission?  Not really.  I loved working with the veterans.  Things just don’t work out the way you want them sometimes. Is go back to my life before injury in a heartbeat. 

  I wanted this blog to be a positive place. Maybe give someone some hope.  It’s more a place where I whine.  Maybe this can still help.  We all have different journeys but many people live with the after affects of brain injury.  Some heal completely, some don’t.  Sometimes, it makes no sense why one fully recovers and another doesn’t.  We’re all different.  However, we share some parts of the journey.  The struggle, the pain, the loss…. And the joy and in a way, pride, in seeing improvement as a result of the rehab.

I still hope some day I’ll be able to practice social work again in some way.  It’s a great field of work.  Until then, I need to find something else I can do to contribute to the community.