Brain Injured & Bereft

Bereft (biˈreft), adj. not having something or feeling great loss*

Last night, as I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes my back started to feel tense. It always does—reaching out, leaning in, pulling back, while trying my hardest to find a comfortable position.

I’d seen my physical therapist Matt that morning for the second time since the city shut down in March. I’ve been going once a week for the past few years to help mitigate the effects of my brain injury: pain, balance problems, confusion and the struggle to concentrate. Using Feldenkrais and tai chi methods Matt has been training my brain to lead my body—kinesthetic mindfulness as he calls it—turning my focus inward and sensing the space around me.

My training has been long, intense and fruitful. Learning to balance on one foot was amazing, but more important was the realization that I was in control and had the power to heal myself. My brain started to internalize an awareness of my physical “self”—strong and grounded in the world around me. That brain-body connection brought a sense of harmony I believed would last—that is, until COVID. Little did I know how ephemeral it could be. 

Fast forward 5 months. I’ve been isolated for far too long and have barely practiced Feldenkrais or tai chi since March. When I returned to P.T. I was shocked by how much I’d lost during that time. Even there, I could not let go of the tension that dogged me. When I told Matt about the “kitchen sink” problem, he didn’t give me concrete suggestions or exercises. Instead, he said (more or less), “Just feel the ground; the energy coming up through your heels, legs, spine, to the crown of your head and down again. Slowly let your skeleton carry your body and release the tension you’re holding.” 

I understand that somehow, I must regain my hard-earned sense of mindfulness and brain-body connection. But I can’t even remember how it felt much less how to get back there. So tonight, when I stood at the kitchen sink, I tried. I took a moment to feel the ground, my skeleton, and let the muscles relax. But no go. It feels like I’m back to square one, but I really, really hope not. 

I am bereft of what is missing. 
Will I be able to make up for lost time?

*Cambridge English Dictionary