There’s part of me that needs to write this. Part of me that needs to do it for myself. Part of me that needs to do it for the loved ones in my life, so they’ll understand better. Although, as the picture says, “You have to have been through it, in order to understand it.” Ultimately, that’s so true.
…I had a stroke. A blood clot blew up in my brain, and my brain was injured. I am brain-damaged.
I look and seem much the same on the outside. Physically, I am improving daily, and will likely continue to do so…. but don’t go just by what you see on the outside. The inside is different. My brain was changed and altered. Rewired and fused. Changed forever.
It’s taken me some time to accept that. And I’m still not all together settled with the new me. But it does help me to mourn and let go of the old me (which is also part of what writing this is about).
It’s such a struggle to explain the inner changes to others. I know I seem the same. Mostly. Oh, yes, I know you all see small differences from the outside looking in. For the most part it seems I’m doing well and on the road to recovery. But remember, my perspective is from the inside looking out. How I think and process things has shifted entirely. I’m not the same person you knew. Kinda I am. But not really.
So many things overwhelm me now. Social situations. Big stores. New restaurants. Too much noise. Too much activity. Too many people for too long. All these are very very draining. Yes, I need these things. And I do them. But they take all my effort at times, especially when I’m physically tired.
And I’m always tired now. Even on the days when I’ve slept well. I’m learning, feeling exhausted all the time is par for the course with a brain injury. It will get better, yes. But most people I’ve talked to or read about say that even many years later after their stroke they still tire more quickly, and have to be cautious about getting over-tired.
So many of the things I considered “me” on the inside are gone now. Shifted. Diminished. Juggled and flip-flopped.
Organizing used to come easy. Now, not so much. I have absolutely no multi-tasking ability now. I used to joke about not being able to multi-task. Well, it’s not a joke for me anymore. It’s reality now. To have to plan anything with more than a couple steps is hard. I do okay if I do it slowly or have someone to talk it through with, but otherwise forget it. It ain’t happenin’. The organizer/planner part of me is gone.
I used to rather like my quick-thinking-able-to-puzzle-things-out mind, but my mind is sloooow now… like thinking through molasses, is how I’ve described it to myself. Someone has said brain injury is like living your life suspended in jello… and that’s just exactly the feeling, if you can imagine such. (Lime jello, of course. With fruit cocktail in it. Lol. 😉 )
I can’t take in too much at one time. I only track about half of what people are talking to me about. I used to love deep thoughts and long, think-about-it kinds of conversations, but I can’t process long and involved anything anymore. And when I do, it wears me out. To the point where I sometimes grab my head, because it takes so much effort to just think, even tho’ there’s no physical pain involved. It’s another thing I know I need, and so push myself, but isn’t near as easy on the inside as it may look on the outside.
Email or Messenger is the easiest for me for such things. I do enjoy writing, and I do believe it’s helped me re-train my brain a little since the stroke. Messaging gives me time to process, whereas conversation or phone calls are more immediate. But even then, in writing, if there’s a lot of back and forth too quickly, I get overwhelmed. So, if we’re talking back and forth via Email or Messenger and I seem to back away and/or drop out for a time, that’s why. And as for texting.. it’s best to keep it short when possible.
I used to think in a straight line, but not anymore. I look at my infant grandson, and see his level of attention and how easily he’s distracted– and, oh how much I relate to that now! If I’m talking and something interrupts, I struggle to stay on track. Sometimes this makes me seem irritated, but it’s me that I’m irritated with. If you ask me to repeat what I just said, it’s the same; I may seem irritated at you, but it’s not that… I truly can’t go back. My short term memory doesn’t work so well anymore. (So…. the moral of the story is make sure you’re paying attention the first time when I talk. Just say ‘Yes, mom’ 😉 ).
Other things have changed too. It’s now hard to do money at the market. Yep, I’ve been eating crow for all the times I made fun of teens who couldn’t count change. Lol. That’s now me. 😛 Computer work, like designing labels and ordering, for the business is harder too. It’s harder for me to make decisions. I need to. I do. But it takes so much longer to think things through, and I usually need help arriving at a conclusion. Another thing that’s different on the inside is my balance. I look steady on the outside, but feel wobbly on the inside. That too is worse when I’m physically tired.
There’s other stuff, but I think this is enough for now to give you the idea. (That, and I’m pooped from thinking so much 😛 ).
To sum it up, I’m still me, but I’m not the same me that you knew. A lot more fragile. A lot more dependent. A lot more needy. A lot more slow. A lot more easily overwhelmed.
…A lot more humbled.
I may seem the same, but I’m not.
I mourn the loss of so much of what and who I was. Yet, long ago, I gave my life into the hands of the Creator of the universe. I trust Him. And I look forward to seeing how His re-design of me turns out.
Hey check out: http://www.tbihope.com/ . It’s an awesome website with lots of insightful stuff about what folks with brain injuries are thinking, feeling, and going through.