Adding Insult to [a Brain] Injury

Life with a brain injury is like walking a tightrope. We’re on shaky ground and never quite know what the next day will bring. The possibilities are endless. Keeping our balance and staying on top of the challenges that brain injury has left us with is a hard and painful full-time job—every moment of every day. No matter how well prepared we may be, when the unexpected happens all the strategies in the world can go out the window. That’s when frustration and exhaustion take over and we can barely think much less cope. Fortunately, there’s always tomorrow—another day, another start, another possibility.

For the most part, life moves along a predictably bumpy track. But on a really tough day, something unexpected can rear its ugly head and seriously throw you off your game.

Recently I discovered just how bad it can get. More than a month ago I was thrown a curve ball: a sudden, bizarre “event“ that landed me flat on my back. I’m used to dealing with certain relentless problems brought on by my brain injury such as balance, vision, and confusion, but this was unprecedented. Something really weird happened to my brain that made everything go kerflooey (if you know what I mean) and threw my entire body into a tailspin.

It landed me in the ER, and after more scans than I can count the doctors decided it was nothing serious; just a disconnect between my wonky vision and my inner ears. Maybe. But a little disconnect goes a long way and that “benign” ordeal threw a wrench in the works. Deficits I thought were long gone—or at least under control—reappeared and new ones came out of hiding. And didn’t go away.

As usual (i.e. in my brain injury mode) I thought I would be back to my normal self in a week or so. Well, guess what? I’m still not back, although I have made a lot of progress.

I suppose that even years after a brain injury we remain particularly vulnerable in so many ways. This sudden, unexpected change affected my entire body and mind, and I wondered if it was a real set-back, leaving me more compromised than before. Probably not. Someone (I can’t remember who) said that when there’s a shock to the system it takes time to re-calibrate itself, sometimes longer than you would ever expect.

After all, everything’s about your brain, isn’t it?


Featured image by Teresa Stokes. One of the Flying Frenchies on tightrope at Broadcasting House, 2007 (detail). CC BY-NC-SA 2.0