December 26, 2018
Last month marked two years since having the invasive brain surgery. Though this year may seem like a smaller milestone, it was still significant in a couple ways. While the physical challenges still existed, the mental and emotional challenges reared their ugly faces.
While my first year was filled with dramatic changes in physical healing, this year the progress was much slower. The challenge grew mentally and emotionally. My physical issues still persist and the medical personnel have to be truthful. But the answers were, “it could take two years or more”, “you definitely have an issue with *something*, but it isn’t bad enough clinically”, “it’s not all that bad [for a senior citizen] but you shouldn’t be like this at your age”, “That’s perplexing because the surgery should not have affected you in that area, but the nerves all run through there, so it is possible”, “I have given you all the suggestions that I know of, you’ll just need to work on things on your own.”
It is no wonder with so many discouraging answers that statistically at least 30% of people with a Traumatic Brain Injury (including brain surgery) end up with depression or anxiety. It was difficult learning my new “normal” limits physically, cognitively, and emotionally. To compound matters, others still had the same expectations of me. I either ended up pushing myself over those new limits and paying dearly for it or many times I left others upset at me. As a bare minimum, I felt disappointed in myself and useless. I knew my heart’s desire was so far away from my actual ability at that time.
Dealing with the changes were hard enough, but because my brain was messed with, a chemical imbalance compounded the problem. I was absolutely amazed how the chemicals really affected the way I thought. Things that I knew were not true, I could not get passed. It did not matter if I shared those thoughts with someone or learned some kind of cognitive therapy technique; the thoughts would not change until those chemicals were dealt with.
By the middle of winter, I knew I needed outside help for the sake of my family’s sanity. In addition, I also cut out all sugar, exercised more intently, and focused on more rest for over six months. Where I used to function quite well on 7.5 hours of sleep, now I sometimes sleep 10 to 12 hours and then take a nap in the day. Such a lifestyle change is difficult to sustain. It was not easy to watch those with me eating treats, especially on special days. At least for my birthday, I was able to request no cake.
By the time we were home again from our summer travels, I felt so much better in every way. However once we got back to the real life routine this fall, various symptoms crept back again along with some new ones showing up. I must remain diligent in my excercises, diet, rest, and schedule management especially with the Christmas season here. So, please be understanding asking for commitments as I have learned I must have many “no’s”; but I wish I could say, “yes” as well.
Until we meet again,
p.s. The pic was taken at a campground in Maryland one humid afternoon while we were on our travels this summer.