Every once in a while the fog starts to disperse, the pressure decreases, and the mental fatigue improves. I call these “optimistic days.” Unfortunately, a day later or maybe only a few hours later, the darkness returns like a burlap sack slipping over my head – and it lasts for weeks and sometimes months at a time. I know I will experience another optimistic day, but I don’t know when and I don’t know for how long. I merely hope that my optimistic days last longer and the periods of darkness begin to decrease.
My brain injury occurred eighteen months ago, and everything in my life turned upside down. Having a type A personality and because I was massively invested in being seen as a “hard worker,” I tried to push through my symptoms. As the first few days past, my symptoms became steadily worse until I ended up sitting in my closet crying not knowing what day it was or what to wear. I took a week off and tried to return to work. My memory was poor, I couldn’t read or follow conversations and I felt like I had crushed a bottle of Whiskey the night before. I took a month off of work and returned. I didn’t feel any better, but I was convinced I could deal with my symptoms. I worked long hours for 6 weeks, but was getting worse with each day. My family life was in tatters and I was undermining my own career. Nearly four months after my injury, I finally realized I was not going to get better without slowing down. It was becoming increasingly clear that my injury would have a profound effect on my family life, career, personal interests and quality of life.
Time off work was a major adjustment. I had no sense of purpose, became overwhelmed easily, battled extreme mental fatigue, had intense pressure and fog in my head, struggled with emotional control and just couldn’t get my brain to be quiet. Recovery was not measurable as I often felt worse than I did the previous month. I struggled to know what to do. I made countless appointments with doctors, chiropractors, physiotherapists, osteopaths, naturopaths and nothing improved. I researched at nauseam for an answer – all I found was confusion and frustration. There were many dark days. I was scared and alone.
The worst part of my injury was the toll it took on my children. I prided myself on being a very involved father. I had a great relationship with my children and loved spending time with them. I saw my kids behaviour change as a result of my inability to play with them, or tolerate their loudness. It was heart-wrenching. I have slowly learned how to structure my day so I can give the best of myself to my kids. While I am not the father I was before, I feel my injury is no longer having a detrimental effect.
Those who have been through a brain injury know how bad it can be and they also know that their life may never be the same. The turning point in my injury was the acceptance that I cannot control how fast my brain heals and that I may not ever be “better.” I have no control. What I can control is my mindset. I vowed to be positive, to focus on what I can do and to search for modifications for what I had lost. I am going to reinvent myself. It’s hard and setbacks are daily, but I won’t sit around and wait to get better any longer. I have to live life.
I have a long way to go in my recovery. When I have bad days, it can be like a punch to the gut. I have grieved for the loss of my career and accepted that I may not be able to return to my leadership position. I have to remind myself multiple times a day to think of all that I have. I can walk and I can talk and I can slowly move throughout my day with some effectiveness. I can contribute to society, I can be a positive role model for my children and I can have a quality of life.