I recently sustained a concussion in what one would term a "household accident." We were visiting my mom's house and my daughter asked for something to drink. As I was leaning into the fridge to see what mom had, unbeknownst to me my daughter opened the freezer door above.
When I went to stand up -- bam! Contact. There were stars. I had to hold on to the kitchen counter to remain upright. Minutes later, sitting in a chair with an ice pack, my head throbbing in pain, I knew I had a concussion. I struggled to remain awake. My speech was slurred. I felt as if I were under water. And the nausea!
A visit to the ER ruled out a skull fracture and bleeding in the brain. Diagnosis: Grade 2 concussion. My discharge orders were for bed rest and what the doctor termed, "complete brain rest." No reading, writing, or looking at a screen of any kind. Nothing that would tax my brain beyond its most basic functioning. Driving was out of the question.
The doctor asked if I needed a note for work, and I explained I am a freelance writer. "Well," he replied, "You're going to be giving yourself some time off." Was I ever. I was aware concussions are serious, but truly had no concept until I was recovering from one.
The experience has me looking at some commonly used platitudes in a whole new light:
1. Accidents can happen any time, anywhere.
Sure, I am aware there are potential dangers lurking in any home. But the scenario that played out in my mom's kitchen was not one I had ever considered. And while she and my husband were there when it happened, I was very grateful we have taught our young daughter how to recognize an emergency and respond appropriately. If she and I had been alone, it would have been critical.
2. Control is an illusion.
I had a scintilla of control over my recovery in that if I followed the doctor's orders carefully my recovery should go more smoothly. In theory. But as I slept up to 18 hours a day following my injury and struggled to do the most basic of things, I felt very much out of control. I had no choice but to surrender and rely on others. Give up any illusion I could control my recovery. My brain was going to heal on its own timeline, not mine.
3. If you don't have your health, you don't have anything.
At one point after taking a blow to the head, I could neither feel nor move the right side of my body. I tried desperately to wiggle to toes on my right foot but couldn't. It was terrifying. But thankfully, temporary. Yet I could not stop thinking, "What if?!" What if something worse had happened? I felt so fortunate, but also wanted to return to health as quickly as possible.
4. You have to take care of yourself first.
I have been told this no fewer than 8,000 times since I became a mother. But in the time since my concussion I realized how very true these words are. I had to let others know when I needed rest -- and help. I had to put my recovery above everything else. Because if I didn't get better, I could not care for my family. It was liberating and easier than I expected. But sad it took a traumatic brain injury for me to give myself permission to do it.
5. You are never too old...
I'm going to finish this one up with "to need your Mommy." My mom was by my side in the ER. She got my prescriptions from the pharmacy. She went grocery shopping for my family. She provided meals and childcare when my husband had to return to work. I could not have gotten through it without her. At 45 years old, I needed my mommy. And was so glad she was there. Thanks, Mom!
Another thing I learned is that the world will go on without me. That was both a sobering and satisfying thought. In the beginning, I worried a great deal about what I would miss. Work deadlines. My daughter's school Valentine's Day party. The Olympics. Life updates from friends and family on Facebook.
I went from being always connected to completely isolated. And it was okay. Early on, my husband would sit next to me in bed and read my emails out loud to me. He would scan my Facebook feed and share updates he thought I would like to hear.
By the third day, when he asked if I wanted him to do so, I declined. I preferred to spend the time I was awake and aware with my family. If not actively involved, then at least present and enjoying them.
I'm getting back to social media slowly. And oh my goodness do I need to write! But I gained a new perspective from this experience. A jolt to the brain, both literally and in the best of ways.