Today was the kind of snow day where people start closing and cancelling things the night before. All of a sudden I went from a day filled with appointments to absolutely nothing on my schedule. Instead of rushing from one doctor to the next, I snuggled and read with our kids. We made art together and shoveled. The do nothing day our kids hoped for had arrived and I got to join in.
In the world we’ve created, everything seems so urgent and essential. Then once in a while, through snow or illness or head injury, the Universe lets me know that what is essential is breathing and hope. Everything else is optional.
I live near a school zone so multiple times a day when I am driving to or from home there are bright red flashing letters reminding me to SLOW DOWN. In the midst of recovery, I need this reminder more than ever.
I had no idea it was possible to overdo “recovery” but where there’s a will, there’s a way. So as I zoom from one kind of therapy appointment to the next, making sure to get in quality time with the kids, help with household tasks and (on a good day) squeeze in my exercise regimen, the last thing I’m remembering to do is to slow down enough for the red to stop flashing.
Ironically with concussion recovery, slowing down is exactly what my brain needs for healing. And in the end, SLOW DOWN is probably an appropriate message for most of us in this world.
Here is a post I shared on Facebook. I thought it was worthy enough to share here too:
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.
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.
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.