One Year Later

It’s been just over a year since the cow. I’m still working through post concussion symptoms (PCS) (now with a neuro-optometrist and vision therapist), but I can easily look back and see how far I’ve come. There are many things that I still can’t do (drive for more than 30 min) or don’t want to do (read a magazine) because of my symptoms. But most days I’m able to look ahead with hope and be content with where I am. Most days. 

Some days I still wake in a funk, realize that there really is a pandemic, that my brain still isn’t back to normal and that whatever day it is is going to be just about like the day before. And that sameness of days has been the ugly silver lining of Covid-19 for me. Stores with aisles of items that shout out in colors and words as you walk by are horrible for post concussion brains. Groups of friends all talking and laughing are terribly difficult to navigate. Long car trips make me sick and it’s easier to take my afternoon nap in my own home than elsewhere. I, like the rest of the world, am sick to death of this virus and everything that goes with it, but there is no denying that it has made navigating PCS somewhat easier these last months. I don’t have to feel the blame of canceled vacations fall solely on my shoulders as I would have, we can blame it on the virus. I no longer feel like I’m avoiding friends and parties, blame it on the virus. It’s not just that I can’t go to the store because it will exhaust me, it’s better to order online now anyway. On it goes and the mental burden of PCS becomes easier to bear. The one thing that remains a constant nagging source of regret and frustration is writing.

I used to have this well of words and phrases bubbling over inside me. Paragraphs oozing together in my brain before I could even sit down and write them out. The well is still there but it no longer bubbles over. I can feel the words way down there, but the bucket leaks and the rope is frayed, the crank needs grease and the effort to haul the words to the top and keep them there is immense. Even then, sometimes all that makes it to the surface is half a phrase that flits away the minute I take my eye off it. And so I don’t blog, and I don’t write. 

One day I’ll be able to patch my bucket, replace the rope and grease the mechanisms and it will work smoothly again. One day the words will rise back to the top. I’ll go back to writing stories and I’ll go back to regular blogging. It’s frustrating but it’s going to be okay. Until then my regret is that during this completely insane time of a world pandemic and all that comes with it, I haven’t been writing about it. My memory has always been more like a sieve than a steel trap. I love looking back at years of blog posts and finding one that makes me laugh because I genuinely forgot not only the subject of the post but writing the post itself. PCS has turned my memory into a butterfly net with a hole in it being wielded by a toddler who recently ate an entire bag of M&M’s. I worry that I will forget this year and all that came with it. And maybe that’s a little bit okay. I’m not sure I really want to remember all the details of virtual schooling and days spent hiding in my room like a vampire to keep symptoms at bay.  

But there are things, like the Fourth of July parade the Clara organized for the neighborhood around our family cabin when the giant parade we normally attend was canceled, that I don’t want to lose. It was a wild success and I’ve lost the words of the day already, but I’ve sprinkled the pictures in this post of reflections so that maybe one day, looking back, it jogs a memory that manged to snag on that torn butterfly net along the way.

Edit: I sat down and wrote this just after the year anniversary of the accident -that was well over a month ago. But slow progress is still progress so I’ll take it.

 I have manged to be much more regularly active on my Instagram account behindthewillows come say hello if you are an Instagram user!  

Meditation- It’s Just Not My Thing Either

I’d like to start by saying that I believe you all when you tell me that mediation is a worthy pursuit and something I should not reject out of hand. Similar to yoga, which is also just not my thing, I believe you, I’m just not interested enough in the idea to put forth the amount of work that would be required to truly meditate. But I have been convinced enough in its merits that I have been listening to guided meditation once a day.

You see, since my concussion, I have required at least one nap a day. Some afternoons I still crash onto a flat surface and pass out because my brain is too tired to do anything else. But, thankfully, more and more often I lay down and think of all the things I should get up and go do. Which is great because it means I’m not totally wiped out. However not sleeping still leaves me a headache-y, emotionally raging mess for the rest of the day – nobody around here wants me to skip a nap. At the same time numerous people (I swear you don’t need too as well, I got the message) have told me about the benefits of meditation and because I’ve changed many aspects of my life style to become much healthier (so many veggies, almost no caffeine or alcohol, so much more sleep…) in effort to help heal this broken brain of mine, I thought that perhaps I would try it.

I was already quite certain that listening to something to fall asleep would help quiet my head enough to sleep because I’ve been falling asleep to Anne of Green Gables and the like for months. Now I’m to the point where I’ve just about run out of everything my favorite LibraVox reader has available (Its Karen Savage, she will spoil you for all other readers, you are welcome). So it seemed like it was time to try it. No problem. I would just change what I listened to for my afternoon nap.

As it turns out I was right. I don’t like meditating.

Unsurprisingly, for my husband anyway, I get super argumentative when I don’t like something. And yes, I am happy to argue with a recorded voice.

Voice: “…the full moon is shining down on you and there are thousands of stars in the sky…”

Me: “You can’t see thousands of stars when the moon is full. It’s too bright.”

Voice: ” It’s raining and everyone is happy and sleeping in the rain, …. the chickens are happy and sleeping…”

Me: ” Have you never met a chicken? Chickens hate rain!”

Voice: “There isn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun beats down on your head as you let your worries go.”

Me: ” I’m too hot.”

However, despite all my arguing with the serene voices, they have always distracted me enough to allow me to take my needed nap, often complete with dreams…

Actual nap time dream:

I’m standing at the end of a huge tunnel with a group of people – obviously some sort of resistance fighters from the way they are dressed. A soft voice echos down the tunnel, “let go of your stress… relax… take another deep breath and let it all go…”

“Don’t listen! They are trying to lull you into complacency!” screams the resistance fighter next to me. “Get ready! This is when they come for us!”

Meditation… It’s just not my thing either.

Zen I Am Not

The world is full of people and articles and memes and cute rugs and inspirational posters and sassy bumper stickers that all tell us that we should live in the moment. They proclaim that we should focus on what we are doing and not dwell on the past or dream of the future so that we can enjoy the present fully. I’m here to be argumentative and contradictory and say that’s an absolute horseshit way to live your life.9c0dcd10f1c79da228208860590c6c75

I feel that I have some authority to say that because, despite my best efforts not to follow this advice, my concussion and resulting long recovery has forced me to “live in the moment.” All. The. Time.  Sadly this is not because I’m cherishing the fact that I am still alive or that I’m savoring every moment of my children’s bickering because one day they will be grown and the house will be quiet and I will miss them. No, instead it’s that for many months it has been extremely hard for me to think of anything beyond what I am doing.

Being forced to live in the moment is hard.

If you live fully in the moment you must set time aside to think about the future. As in, stop and think what will be for dinner and how it’s going to be made because you are not capable of thinking of what is for dinner while you change the laundry.  There are many moments that I have been happy to be fully present for. Laundry, however, should be for multi-tasking, wool gathering, dreaming, scheming and planning dinner.  In fact as opposed to living in the present, I want to be more like Anne of Green Gables who dived into beautiful moments with her whole heart and dreamed away all the mundane ones.

“I don’t like picking fowls.” She told Marilla, “but isn’t it fortunate we don’t have to put our souls into what our hands may be doing? I’ve been picking chickens with my hands but in my imagination I’ve been roaming the Milky Way.”

Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery

I continue to recover but as I do I still find multi-tasking extraordinarily challenging.  And yes, many would say that’s a good thing. But please people, I am a mother, I run best on a steady diet of caffeine and multitasking. Now I have minimal amounts of both and I’m making do, but this is not how the world was meant to be. Above and beyond the daily challenges this “living in the moment” brings, I find it terribly hard to write.

B.C. (before cow) an idea would float by while I was walking the dogs. I would let it roll in the back of my mind while I fed the chickens. The idea might percolate back to the surface while making lunch and start arranging itself into paragraphs while I drove to pick up the kids. By the time I found myself in front of the computer, sentences, already lined up in my head from a day of dreaming and multitasking, would flow from my finger tips.

No longer.

I’m living in the moment and that’s a horseshit place to be when you are a dreamer at heart.

Luckily my dreams have been swimming tantalizingly close these days. Stories form in my head only to skitter away when the kids ask a question. Blog posts try to write themselves in the half awake moments of the night. Snippets of phrases pass through and fade away. Trying to catch the idea is like finding a dragon in the clouds only to watch it change and blow away. But I can see the dragon again and that’s a very good sign.

The Therapy

The Therapy

or

Part 4 of Where I’ve Been The Last Four Months

Part 1: The Cow

Part 2: The Omelettes 

Part 3: The Concussion

I needed help but I was unable to read and research anything on my own. We had already learned that most doctors don’t know what to do with concussions and had no idea where to turn for advice. Fortunately, a friend let us know that physical therapists can have concussion training and, even better, my current physical therapist was one of them.

Within the first two weeks I was working with him doing things that should have been painfully easy but were next to impossible for me.

Can you hold your arm out in front of you, look at your thumb, close your eyes, turn your head, open your eyes and still be looking at your thumb? I couldn’t. It’s depressing not to be able to find one of your own body parts and also vindicating. Something really was wrong with me.

From my therapist I learned that my sprained neck muscles were messing with my positional awareness and my inner ear or vestibular system was also out of whack… and my eyes… well they didn’t track quite like they were supposed to either.

I diligently did my therapy. I tracked post it notes with my eyes and worked on word searches that had no words. Everything spiked nausea, dizziness or headaches. I’d wait for symptoms to subside and do it again.

If you’ve been to physical therapy you know how they give you small, evil exercises that are hard and exhaust your muscles. Working my brain was just like that. Instead of burning muscles I had nausea and instead of wobbly fatigue I had headaches. But I kept on. Working until the symptoms would spike. Letting them come back down and doing it again and again until I could find my thumb and track the post it notes. Then of course in true PT fashion no gold stars were awarded. (If you are a physical therapist you really need to consider giving out stickers. I’m telling you a sticker chart would make even adults feel accomplishment.) Instead I was congratulated with another small but deceptively evil task. Eventually I graduated to word searches with words and tracking medicine balls as I moved them around my body.

And slowly.

So slowly.

My brain started getting better.

nanopoblano2019

It’s November and National Blog Writing Month! My team, the Tiny Peppers, is doing things a little differently this year.  Instead of posting every single day we are all aiming for: 10 days of posts, 10 days of reading/commenting, and 10 days of sharing posts through any other platform.  Happy Blogging! 

The Concussion

The Concussion

or

Part 3 of Where I’ve Been The Last Four Months

Part 1: The Cow

Part 2: The Omelettes 

It’s hard to explain what happens when your own brain is injured.

To begin with it’s hard to do a lot of things when your brain is injured, like think straight, much less do all that goes into writing down thoughts in a way others can read. In addition, our brains seem to hide their worst symptoms from us. “I’m fine” has never been so unintentionally and obviously false!

At the same time there is a very real sense that everything wrong with you is just in your head. With the added twist that everything wrong with you is, quite literally, “all in your head”. Even now thinking about that makes my head spin and brings out a reluctance to talk about any of it. But, despite all that, I’d like to try to explain what my concussion has been like.

I’m going to indulge in all the gory and pathetic details in these next few posts in a way I usually never would on this blog.  I’m going to lay it all out there because I (and those around me) had so little idea of what a concussion can actually be like and we were unprepared for what was in store for me. Hopefully these will help someone, sometime, be a bit more prepared than we were.


In those first days and weeks after the accident when things were at their worst they looked like this:

I couldn’t stay awake for more than an hour or two at a time for the first days. After a few days I had about four hours in me before I fell asleep. And not like normal “I think I’m kind of tired,” but stumbling, unable to function, I’m just going to pass out on the floor if I don’t make it to a bed, tired that comes from a brain that is truly out of energy.

When I tried to read, the letters and words swam around instead of holding still like good little words should. This was particularly bad in the middle of a sentence or paragraph where they swam into different lines and became all jumbled up.

I couldn’t visually focus on anything. I could see everything but bringing anything into sharp focus was hard to impossible depending on how tired I was.

Essentially everything made me motion sick. Riding in the car gave me a headache and made me dizzy, driving was out of the question for many reasons, and even walking made me nauseous.

I was light sensitive. Hiding like a vampire on bad days and venturing out in hat and sunglasses on good days.

Anything that provoked symptoms started out by giving me cotton mouth and I was the most hydrated human ever trying to combat it.

Headaches were constant and I started classifying and categorizing them. That’s the one from trying to use a screen. That’s where it hurts if I try to read. That one is from staying awake too long…

My balance was terribly bad, at times I needed to hold on to John’s arm to navigate. And standing on one foot (something I am normally quite good at) was next to impossible.

What I didn’t know at the time is that I spoke slowly and lost the thread of conversation. I knew that sometimes I couldn’t find the right words. I knew I was tired. But it wasn’t until a few weeks later when people told me things like “you sound so much better now that you aren’t all drugged up” (I never took anything but ibuprofen) and “you finally sound like yourself again” that I realized that I hadn’t been sounding like myself.

A week after the accident my main activity, other than sleeping, was coloring while listening to audio books.

I, clearly, needed more medical help.

nanopoblano2019

It’s November and National Blog Writing Month! My team, the Tiny Peppers, is doing things a little differently this year.  Instead of posting every single day we are all aiming for: 10 days of posts, 10 days of reading/commenting, and 10 days of sharing posts through any other platform.  Happy Blogging! 

The Omelettes

The Omelettes

Or

Part 2 of Why I’ve Been Missing for Four Months

Read part 1 here: The Cow

After the cow we called the authorities and we called friends. Kind strangers stopped at the side of the road to help. Kinder friends drove us to the ER and took care of our children. We were bruised and scraped up, shaken and exhausted but most definitely alive and grateful.

In the morning we told the girls what happened and Clara responded by making us the best omelette I’ve ever eaten.  It was stuffed with chorizo and cheese and delivered it to us in bed. As we went through the day it became clear that in addition to the bruises and scrapes, our brains had been addled in the run in with the cow.

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John couldn’t come up with the right words and I couldn’t stay awake for more than an hour. In short, we had concussions. Clara laughed at John’s language slip ups and made us another omelette with fresh garden herbs.

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My mom drove Ivy to her summer camp, Clara fed us omelettes with cherry tomatoes that she picked when she went to collect the eggs with Jane. Friends picked up the girls and took them for the day (but not until Clara made us omelettes with edible flowers as garnish) and dropped off more food. We were extremely well cared for while we rested and recovered.

By the end the of the week, John was more or less back to himself. He could read, he could drive, he tired easily but he was clearly on the mend.

I was not.

And Clara, she expanded her omelette making to include vegetable faces…img_2042.jpg

…and we were all grateful.

nanopoblano2019

It’s November and National Blog Writing Month! My team, the Tiny Peppers, is doing things a little differently this year.  Instead of posting every single day we are all aiming for: 10 days of posts, 10 days of reading/commenting, and 10 days of sharing posts through any other platform.  Happy Blogging!