Life with a brain injury 

Here is a post I shared on Facebook. I thought it was worthy enough to share here too:

Dear Facebookland,
 I have received a huge gift in the form of a brain injury. Since my fall in May, I have developed a deep understanding of folks with sensory integration disorder/autism. While I want to be in public and participate fully in life, loud noises, movements, strong lights, screens, reading and visual chaos cause sometimes debilitating pain, deep irritation, nausea and anxiety. 
When I choose to be out and about for short periods of time, I must also plan for a long nap or quiet space afterward. Using tools such as noise cancelling headphones, prescription sunglasses, a brimmed hat and a weighted compression vest, make life more accessible but do not solve it all. 
Simple things like checking Facebook or email have become pleasures I will no longer take for granted (for example, this post took three days and several naps to write).
Meditation, cranial sacral therapy, talk therapy, physical therapy and vision therapy have been a saving grace, teaching my brain to process outside stimuli without the trauma response.
The support of my family, friends, faith community and colleagues also play a key role in a healing journey I could never have imagined.
We all walk this world as a product of our past and current stories in bodies that have their own agenda. Before the gift of brain injury, I chose to judge myself and others based on outward appearance and an arbitrary set of standards for living, healing and interacting. Now I know judgement heals nothing. It is through compassion and acceptance of what is, that transformation occurs.
I share this experience not for pity or attention but in the hope of developing more compassion for ourselves and the people we meet each day.

Love,

Lydia

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You can be yourself here

I’ve been going to an incredible vision therapist for help with my concussion. One thing I’ve learned is that to survive the world these days I need to be geared up with high tech noise canceling headphones, prescription sunglasses and a hat with a good brim. On hard days, I double up the noise canceling headphones and tune out most of the sound that the world has to offer. 
At my recent appointment, I had on on my gear including my hat balancing over the double dose of ear protection. The receptionist asked if the lights were too bright. I said yes but I’m used to accommodating to it and I am geared up and prepared. 

She said you don’t have to do that here. We can just make it comfortable for you. Then she proceeded to get up and turn off the lights. In the therapy room the windows were covered, the lights turned off and my doctor blocked the strong reflection on a mirror with her hand as we walked by it.

While this isn’t a realistic expectation when going to Target or picking up the kids from school, it sure is nice to have little islands in my day where I don’t have to accommodate for the environment. The environment is accommodated for me. It will be a long time before I take that for granted again.

Finding the right fit

While our daughter and I share many attributes, our shared foot width was apparent from her birth. So when she got a pair of shoes in the mail she said, ” oh I love them and they do squeeze a little bit but my feet are too wide so I’ll just have to deal.”
 After living through many years of squeezy shoes (and uncomfortable feet), I cringed at the comment and couldn’t help but turn it into a conversation.
“Hey kiddo!” I said, “You don’t need to squeeze into shoes that are too tight. Your feet are just the right size. We just need to find shoes that match your feet.”
“Really?” She replied. “OK, I would like that.”
What if we gave ourselves permission to find the right fit, from shoes and clothes to friends, careers, vacations and religious practice?

Stay on the path 

At the zoo today one sign after another reminded us to stay on the path. Nobody told us what to look at or how fast to go on the paved route past the wildlife. There were no indications as to when to take a break on the countless benches, simply to stay on the path. It was a true reminder of my journey through healing: Stay on the path; all the other decisions will come in their own time.

Love is love. Loss is loss.

My grandmother was a Methodist missionary in Alaska before it was a state. At 84 she was still up for adventure and asked for me to plan one that we could share together. We headed to Costa Rica from my dorm room in college and found ourselves in well loved Catholic church in downtown San Jose. My grandfather had died 10 years before and my heart was raw with my first major break up. 
Together we lit little candles with long matches in honor of our loss. I had a deep sense that my grandmother honored my pain in the same way I honored her’s. Love is love. Loss is loss. Bringing light into the world helps.

The undervalued hammock

Some people have hammocks. I don’t usually see people in them. One time I remember seeing our neighbor sitting in his hammock and thinking, “Ha, how odd that someone is actually using their hammock.”. 
Three weeks into recovering from a concussion, I’ve been enjoying our hammock for the first time. There’s really not much else I can do. Reading is out of the question. Significant screen time makes my head pound even more. But sitting in the hammock? I can do that. I can watch the trees dance and hear the birds sing. I can see the Cottonwood pollen floating through the air like a soft snow on a summer’s day.

So here’s my advice to you. Don’t wait for a concussion to sit in a Hammock. They really are a wonderful invention, so under appreciated yet  an incredible tool for learning how to enjoy the act of being.

Muscle memory 

I keep going to the physical therapist to get the adhesions broken down holding down the nerves in my leg each time the physical therapist breaks down some of the same adhesions he worked on last time. 
As teachers and parents we are also held down in familiar patterns by adhesions. We often know it would be beneficial to approach fractions or bedtime routines in a new way. We succeed in trying something new. It is establishing that new pattern that gets painful.

My body is trying to heal but habits have been formed and starting a new pattern takes time, pain and courage.