April 27 – Mindless Retreat

by Debra Dolan

Sitting at the back of the bus reading The World Has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker, little did I know that my mine was about to in significant ways.  I saw nothing and it all happened so quickly. Passengers informed after impact that my head hit hard against the exit barrier as the driver stopped suddenly to avert collision with a truck.

It is so difficult to explain “foggy brain” and the feeling of “not being right”. It all started so slowly; the erosion piece-by-piece of a simple and uncomplicated life filled with interesting activities and people, Saturday morning breakfasts on “the drive” with friends, volunteering as Strata Council President, walking 185 stairs from the street entrance to the office doors upon arrival, noon hour jaunts in a vibrant downtown core, participating with my writing group and book club, attending weekly Weight Watchers meetings, date nights with my darling, and a dedicated 90 minute morning practice of reading and sharing thoughts in a trusted journal.

One by one, each week, something left my life until I realized that all my personal time was spent recovering from one day in the office till the next. Evenings and weekends were spent in seclusion due to the challenges of noise, irritability, crowds and light. I struggled to hide my diminished abilities and raw emotions. Once I could no longer work I had to surrender fully to acknowledging the situation. Acceptance took much longer. Today is the day I transition from sick leave to long-term disability benefits.

As I continue to recover from post-concussion syndrome and whiplash injuries, I find myself remaining on a retreat in my own home and neighbourhood. Unlike the many I have participated in where you search for mindfulness, and think of the present in appreciation, this one finds me journeying into mindlessness where it is best to remain empty-headed so not to provoke yet another headache.

Resting the brain in order for it to restore and heal is an extremely task. I am encouraged to be in nature, meditate, take long hot baths, sit quiet in soft light while doing home-rehab program, all with the intention to gradually return cognitive, physical and social activities into routine. There is little joy as pain dominates. Concussions and their consequences are nasty business.

It is very difficult to have so much time and not the energy, focus or ability to engage in life’s many offerings. I am learning once again that life is full of messy circumstances which encourage patience and understanding from us and others. In my personal haven I complete a ritual of silence, stillness and rehabilitation aimed at reconnecting to wellness. One of the most frustrating elements of concussion recovery is how fast the days pass when you do nothing and have nothing to show for them. As the days drift you can’t help but feel adrift. I feel worn out by living with an intense tension of not knowing when my beloved life will come back.

Debra Dolan lives on the west coast of Canada, a long time (45+ years) private journal writer, and an avid reader of women’s memoir. A member of SCN since 2009.

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5 responses to “April 27 – Mindless Retreat

  1. I can empathize as I have been dealing with retirement and for physical limitations and some depression not able to be as engaged with life as I once was

  2. I too can sympathize. Anxiety sometimes has kept me housebound over the years, and it’s not the way I want to live. The mobility issues of aging add to it, but I keep fighting to push the circle outward.

  3. Debra, thank you for sharing this powerful part of your retreat into recovery.

  4. Rest well and feel better soon.
    Writer Advice Managing Editor, http://www.writeradvice.com
    Author of YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers & Author of TALENT
    blynngoodwin.com

  5. I am packing to go to BC to visit my sister (a plane ride I would have enjoyed in my old life) and just stumbled upon this article cut out for me by a friend – While I read, I couldn’t help but think…This is me!…Debra so eloquently described living with the after effects of concussion – I have had constant head pressure in varying degrees, for over 7 years as a result of multiple concussions – but I wanted to share, that my best medicines did not ever come in the form of “medication”. In addition to what Debra described, osteopathy, cranial sacral therapy and swimming (preferably for me, in a cool pool) have played a huge role in being able to cope with this new “me”. Music (although for the first several months, I couldn’t tolerate it), but eventually, singing in harmony with our singing group felt so very healing – mostly the soul. I can not stay for the socializing that follows. I am still exhausted after a practice, but the balance of keeping your soul healthy is so important. I hope this can help others who are struggling.(those who can tolerate looking at a computer screen – that is also difficult )

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