In some ways having a brain injury isn’t so different from any other injury. It’s about the long game. It’s about keeping up the spirits so you can give your body the time it needs to heal without going completely insane in the process. It’s about figuring out how to meet your basic life needs while dealing with new restrictions. It’s about finding the things you CAN do to distract yourself from the things you can’t do.
That being said, it has been three months and I still can’t work on fiction. That this state of affairs does not make me happy is an understatement. I ignore it as much as I can because of the importance of the long game, but it chafes. A writer writes. I am not writing. This state of affairs feels wrong. I keep grasping at it and coming back with empty hands.
I also cannot dance, and I cannot play most board games. I can’t do anything that requires large amounts of concentration or that is particularly mentally taxing. I am very tired most of the time and I have to take naps most days. I don’t deal with stressful situations as well as usual, and I try to avoid them when I can. I am supposed to experiment with activities, but if I miscalculate, I have relapses that last several days and are fairly miserable.
But. I can drive again, which is huge, and I can read the majority of the time, which is even better. I can keep the practical aspects of my life going indefinitely at the capacity I now have, which is a big relief. I can get out of the house. I have plenty of lovely social time. I can take care of Nala. Sometimes I feel pretty okay.
I have a lot of time, although not as much as you might think, given all the time I must spend sleeping and napping and resting and deliberately not focusing too much on any given thing. So maybe it’s not as much that I have a lot of time as that life is moving at a different pace, and it is much slower than what I am used to. I can only do a few things per day so I must choose carefully.
Sometimes I feel upset about my limitations. I want to be a better friend, a better writer, a better human being. I think, why can’t I just do this? Why can’t I just handle that? But I try to think as little as possible about this as well. I am doing the best I can, and that’s what I try to think about instead. My focus has to be primarily on me, whether I like it or not.
I thought I’d be all better by now. I am not, but I am better enough to look back at how I was doing before and feel appalled. In August, I’d reach for my brain and it was as if there were a wall preventing me from accessing it. I’d batter myself against the wall, frantically trying to break it down, to no avail. I tried to keep up as good a front as I could, but I don’t know that I’ve ever been so lost.
I can reach for my brain now and it is there. Even on bad days. There is no longer a wall. Even though I’m tired, even though I’m not writing, even though my life revolves around being careful. I appreciate my brain so much.
It is an ongoing process, this convalescence. It is boring and frustrating and uncomfortable. It is also humbling.
But every day there’s at least one bright spot. A book, a show, a doggie snuggle, a message, quality time with someone I like. It’s about the long game, and these precious things remain.