by Debra Dolan
Never did I imagine this recovery journey would take this long or so much from me. Post-concussion syndrome feels like an immense case of jet-lag: where your thoughts don’t always link immediately with your words and where your mind and body feel disconnected from one another and from all around you while you struggle with exhaustion. As time goes on, with little relief, this creates much irritability. Learning how to cope is a continual process and dealing with constant head pain is a full-time job.
My rehab forces me to leave home every day and sometimes I dread the prospect of seeing someone I know and having to listen to more unsolicited advice or saying a polite, “Fine, thank you”, to the ubiquitous, “How are you?”.
It takes a tremendous amount of energy and planning to do anything in public. I return home depleted, often in tears. Although others try to be understanding, even patient, they don’t understand what is happening for me. How can I expect anyone to see it? When I look in the mirror I don’t see it either. Disabilities have usually been accepted by their visibility yet for those of us who experience an invisible one, we want you to know, “We are not crazy. We are not lazy. We are not avoiding work or social interactions. This is all we can do right now.”
I am trying to make peace with my limitations, maintain an optimistic outlook, and to understand my relationship with pain so I can stop reacting to it. Through self-inquiry and self-understanding, guided by a counselling psychologist, I am examining the unity of my body with my mind. While living with a much lower level capacity I am learning to pay attention to my personal beliefs and interactions with pain and illness so that I can function more fully.
At my core, I always knew a balanced life would serve me well and was never one to delay or to think about when I am retired, or when I have more time and money, I will do such-and-such or see this-and-that. Make no mistake, I am absolutely saddened for the loss of what I can no longer do with friends, my love relationship, employment, and a vast array of social and intellectual interests, yet I do not sit alone with regret for what I have not done: my life is still tremendously blessed as I seek to understand its new direction.
One aspect of my pre-and post-injury life that has been consistent is my priority to write each day. The words used to come easier and the passages were longer yet I continue. A frustrating aspect is that my Internal life feels so rich with creativity and thought and the external physical reality is that it takes such effort and time to act upon it. A review of my writings, however, informs that there have been small incremental improvements to my quality of life and this gives me hope for the future.
Debra Dolan lives on the west coast of Canada, is a long time (45+ years) private journal writer, and an avid reader of women’s memoir. She has been a member of Story Circle Network since 2009.