Thoughts on having an ongoing invisible injury

Four months later, I’ve learned some interesting things about what it’s like to have a persistent, or long-term injury, especially one that people don’t even really know about and can’t see.

If I had broken my arm in my car accident instead of my brain, I think I would have had a much easier time. I would have been able to cross train, I would have had a visible injury that people could visualize, could process, could understand, and I would have some rough timetable for recovery.

Unfortunately brain recovery has no timetable. It is its own timetable, it’s even its own table and its own time. It is everything. One of the funny things about human nature is that we like to defend ourselves with illogical and false security blankets of specialness, like oh, that thing that’s scary? That happens to Other People. That couldn’t happen to me, right, because that’s too scary to think about. So instead of think about it, we often create little tricky ways in which we discount the scary bad thing, or blame the victim in small, insidious ways.

I even find myself doing this when I find out about others who have post concussion problems and then they either don’t get better or it takes a long time (well, he or she must have had xyz additional problem, or maybe it became in their mind, or maybe maybe maybe) to distance myself from my greatest fear: That I WON’T get all the way better.

I don’t truly believe that. Deep down I believe I will recover like most people do. I know it may just take a long time. But that is still my ultimate fear, the worst case scenario that hovers in the darkness behind my best efforts at thinking positively, out of reach of my best fighting and dedication to get better. I also have this fear when it comes to my neck injury — the past week I was happy to find that my concussion was tolerating some really light strength stuff, like a few pushups, bicep curls with four pound weights (gotta start somewhere) but then bummed to find it was making some of the nerve tingling come back and that later on after doing those new things I would feel weak in my right hand. I’m really scared of any kind of intervention so I’m just hoping with more time my neck will heal all the way, too.

But it’s that short of all the way, that possible future limitations on what I can do, or what I FEEL I can do- that’s where I go blank, that’s where I can’t cope. I don’t know if I ever will be able to, if it comes to that.

But because some things that are truly scary, like the idea that you could have such long-lasting problems from a minor car crash or a minor hit or fall or whatever, I think it’s human nature to want to think maybe it’s not true on some level, or for it to be unbelievable in some way. That’s just a long way of saying that people kind of don’t want to hear about long-term confusing problems.

So I don’t post about this on Facebook, and people who know me don’t ask, and I don’t tell. I vent to my family and my blog and I talk to people who’ve been through this via email or Twitter or wherever I can find them. This is for sure one of those crazy life experiences that you almost can’t understand unless you understand because it happened to you. Even doctors by and large don’t understand, even the ones who are supposed to treat this. Not that there IS any treatment for it, besides hoping for the best and letting time pass.

This is kind of a depressing post but it’s a true snapshot along my recovery. I’m half tempted to spruce it up and add a veneer of happiness to it, but that wouldn’t be quite right. And there is more in my life than my injury and my recovery, and I’m spending a lot of time focusing on my children and really being in the moment at every moment I can. This is the season of my life right now, it’s quiet, and slow and it’s a return to health. I’m also painfully but pleasurably aware that these days of my life with my kids as babies is numbered, like all other days, numbered and not stopping. I registered my daughter for kindergarten last week. If all I can do is just be aware of this time in my life for better and for worse, and appreciate it on its own terms, I will be that much happier.

I can’t control when I will get better. I hope it will be soon. I can just try to be happy now. And I’m mostly doing it, but there are many moments when it’s hard, and that’s mostly when a symptom rears its ugly head and reminds me that I can’t do normal things like take my kids to the playground, or go for a walk or sit at the computer and write for a bit without getting dizzy, or my vision going blurry. I’m not recovered yet. Yet is the word I’m hanging onto, though. I’m really really really hanging onto it.




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2 Responses to Thoughts on having an ongoing invisible injury

  1. Jackie – I read all of your posts and think about you often. Your experience has definitely changed the way I parent in terms of exercising even more caution. I was having a tough week last week and remembered your post about having bones of a phoenix and it put a smile on my face. Keep on keepin’ on!

  2. admin

    Thank you Tara! It feels nice to think people are out there cheering me on to my eventual triumphant recovery :)

    I think about our conversation about change, and committing to personal growth to and I apply your insights to so much.

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