In this case I am not referring to motherhood (although that did change my life)
For over 12 years I have been living with the consequences of an event that I never gave real credit to and that I rarely think about. My life has been affected in many ways and just now I am finally coming to terms with it all and accepting it.
It was the year 2003. I was young and successful for my age being a Miami executive at the tender age of 22. At the time I had “everything”, good income, my own house, car, a boyfriend, a cat… Except good health; I was underweight, ate like crap and was anemic and hypoglycemic. Everything was fine as long as I remembered to eat every 2 hours or the hypoglycemia monster would rear its ugly face.
It was so bad that I always had glucose pills on me because once the first signs of dizziness would hit, I would have no more than 15 minutes to get something in my system before passing out.
One night I had a small argument with my boyfriend over something so inconsequential that I don’t even remember what it is. I was too upset to eat so I went to bed without snacking. Huge mistake.
A while later I woke up very dizzy and feeling horrible. All I needed to do was elbow my boyfriend to wake him up and he would have gotten me a snack or glucose pill but I didn’t. The moment I tried to stand up I blacked out and landed head first on the tile floor. My life would never again be the same.
I regained consciousness fairly quickly but the rest of the night was a blur. I remember my boyfriend freaking out and insisting on taking me to the hospital. I don’t remember getting in the car or the drive there. I remember the intake nurse asking me inane questions like what is today’s date, count to 10, etc. I thought the questions were stupid but what I have no recollection of and my boyfriend had to tell me later is that I was so out of it that my responses had nothing to do with the questions. I would answer “what is your date of birth” with “I am doing good, how are you?” and “what is today’s date?” with “my insurance card is in my wallet”. I failed the test, was labeled a concussion and quickly sent to the back, no line, no waiting.
I don’t remember much else from that night other than talk of mild brain swelling, being kept for observation and a warning to never ever forget to eat again. I was home later the next day with the biggest headache of my life thinking that life would go back to normal pretty quickly. I was so wrong about that.
What the Neurologist didn’t tell me or my boyfriend that night was that the impact to my head was strong enough to cause permanent damage that would trigger a slew of problems. A lot of them didn’t get diagnosed until years later and it took a while to link their root cause to what happened that night.
After that incident I developed debilitating migraines that used to be as frequent as 3 times a week until I learned to control them years later. They were so bad that I couldn’t drive when they happened and I had to wear sunglasses even in a dark room.
My speech changed, it’s almost as if I got a stutter as I would find myself getting stuck on some words repeating others or thinking one word and saying a different one (for example, I would think I said the word “pillow” but really said “sock”). I still have this problem.
I think I lost some IQ points too. I used to be known for my mental agility but since that night my thinking slowed, I became forgetful, I couldn’t do mental math beyond the bare basics anymore and hearing processing got affected. I started to have to ask people to repeat themselves more than I’d like, not because I couldn’t hear but because I had trouble understanding. By now it’s so frustrating that I sometimes nod along even though I have no clue what the person said. Sometimes I think I understood what they said and later find out I was wrong. It’s very frustrating.
The retina on my left eye suffered a tear that thankfully occurred in a spot where pressure keeps it from tearing more and making me blind but still needs to be kept and eye on. That is my good eye! My right eye’s prescription changed for the worse after that night, that is my lazy eye so it didn’t seem like a big deal at first. I needed new glasses and now if I were to close my left eye my vision would be super blurry. I have to be very careful to avoid future injury because the retina in my good eye could detach with the slightest provocation.
The Neurologist that attempted to treat my migraines diagnosed me with “TBI” (Traumatic Brain Injury). I guess I never really accepted that “label” as I never even thought to mention it when filling out a medical history questionnaire. But now I realize that I had been providing an incomplete picture because this is not something to be ignored. 12 years of denying this is enough. This post is my first time EVER accepting that I am living with this “invisible illness”.
The neurologist said that new “glitches” could pop up years after the injury and that things may get interesting when I am older; and here I thought I was done with the surprises! After several years with nothing new, last year I started to suffer from a new disturbing trend. If I laugh too hard I will involuntarily and spontaneously start to cry inconsolably. It is so annoying that I am scared of laughing, apparently this is common on people with brain injuries but I had no idea it was a thing until it happened to me.
Now I wonder if my increasing levels of anxiety and inability to handle stress like I used to are also related, I guess I’ll never know for sure.
One small positive from the bucketload of negative effects is that the concussion opened my psychic eye. Before then I sucked at anything psychic. I read books, took classes, all with no results. After that it was effortless and accurate, it did usher a very profitable career as a psychic for a few years.
I am glad that my hypoglycemia is much better now that I am older. Breastfeeding helps with blood sugar regulation so I have been able to go longer than 2 hours without eating, I am able to experience hunger without fear of hitting the ground. I hope that lasts.
Accepting the label doesn’t define me, it doesn’t change who I am. What it does is allow me to accept myself and embrace this instead of constantly fighting it.
Take care of your brain, it’s the only one you have and brain injuries are no fun.