Category Archives: Debra Dolan

July 7 – Post-Injury Recovery

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.

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April 6 – Hidden Gems

by Debra Dolan

On a rainy winter afternoon, feeling particularly unenergetic and alone, I flicked the TV remote in search of company, discovering When Harry Met Sally was about to begin.   Even though I had viewed this movie gem many-many times I was about to experience valued insight.  A month previous I had received the huge collection of the writer’s work, compiled by her son Jacob after her death, The Most of Nora Ephron, as a birthday gift from Mike. He knew that Nora’s writing resonated with me; the brilliant takes on life with humor and raw emotional honesty intertwined.  Knowing that the screenplay had been included in the publication I convinced myself to read along with the actors on-screen.  After a significant amount of hunting on many shelves I found the hefty volume, opening its cover to the first page, and discovered the inscription.  It was from my lover; the man who rarely has purchased me a card in all our years together.

Suddenly, with every fibre of my being, I realized what an immature, unrealistic partner I had been for feeling utterly disappointed that he wouldn’t visit Hallmark and write sentiments of love at special occasions.  I had spent angst filled evenings with friends uttering my disbelief and sadness over this romantic condition that I had imposed onto our relationship.  “I don’t do cards on demand,” he would say.   I would sob.

That day I realized that love language comes in many forms and I had blinded myself by only accepting my contrasting desired expression.  Each partner needs to be able to comfortably share their feelings in their own authentic natural way for love not to be blocked.  Given I had always thought that there was simply nothing sexier, or more joyful, than reading with ‘your darling’ he had indeed been expressing love and friendship by honouring our shared experiences since 2002, with books.  As I moved through my apartment it was revealed each one had been intimately inscribed with a hand-written message that often was a narrative of their own.  I discovered, together sequentially, they are a love letter.

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.

January 23 – Joyful Misery

by Debra Dolan

spain-4After six years of dating we tested our emotional and physical strength when we embarked on an adventure in Northern Spain, walking from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela. We covered all 800 kilometres by foot, including hiking five mountain passes, carrying backpacks which held necessary items. Over 36 days the excursion would take us between six to nine hours daily dependent on the terrain, weather, the previous night’s sleep, and allowing time to explore quaint villages with magnificent churches along the way. After finding a bed for the night in one of the multitude of alberques (dormitories), and washing our clothes, we would nurse our tired and aching bodies by enjoying the fabulous Menu Del Dias. Any pilgrim on this roman road will tell you that those all-inclusive meals (bottle of wine, soup or salad, main course, desert) sustained you from one day to the next. The late afternoons and early evenings found you in the quiet solitude of your thoughts or journal writing, communicating by letter to friends back home, or in conversation with others from throughout the world. What we all shared during the siesta was utter exhaustion and sheer pain of middle-aged bodies undertaking such a journey. Lights out at 8 pm with anywhere from six to 140 people sleeping closely, dependent on the facility, where the symphony of coughing, snoring, farting, and stumbling about in the dark to find the toilets would commence.

spain-6Anyone who says the Camino is easy is either deceiving themselves or delusional. It is one tough pilgrimage and best described as “joyful misery”; each-and-every day there was something glorious (interacting with fellow travellers, the remarkable landscape, warm and gracious people, architectural splendors, tracing the steps of history) and each-and-every day there was something miserable that provided reason to give up (bed bugs, cold showers, missing route signs, blisters, heat exhaustion, inflamed tendons). Luckily Mike and I were never experiencing the challenging difficult times at the same moment so that we could support one another. We also learned very quickly to forgive one another for what was said in pain and kiss goodnight.

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.

August 22 – Beginnings

by Debra Dolan

Twenty nine years ago today I married. It was the beginning of a dream I thought I wanted; such a man was interested in me. For all accounts and first impressions–handsome, successful, fun, charming . . . I was swept off my feet. Never knowing what that was or meant until he smiled at me in that beer line-up–the fundraiser for Meares Island. I remember looking behind me as I could not believe it had been intended to land on my insecure lonely soul. What was that expression made famous years later?–“He had me at hello.” Well, Glen always had me with that smile.

Twenty nine years ago today I married in a beautiful garden that my young love had nurtured for many years. We had our ceremony and reception in his mothers’ back yard filled with plant material that my landscaper fiance had rescued since his youth from abandoned properties or turn-of-the-century homes about to be abolished. Apples fell from the trees, birds sang freely & naturally and bees buzzed in harmony to the harpist as we shared our vows. It was our legal formal beginning. Never had I felt more beautiful or energized. It was glorious and etched in my mind forever as clearly as if it took place this week; remaining a favorite day of my life.

Twenty nine years ago today I married. It was the beginning of disappointment, betrayal, financial ruin and emotional pain that took me years to recover from.  The heart broke wide open when the public declaration of 1987 soon became a public humiliation by 1992. As I did not rush for premature closure on reflection that time was also the catalyst for real change in my life and for that I am enormously thankful. I had lost the desire of knowing what I really wanted in this world and in my life. I discovered that a vast treasure chest was offered to me in unexpected ways that did not include being Mrs. Minaker. I continue to discover myself independent of the approval or permission of a masculine influence.

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.

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.