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Post Concussion Month Six

I haven’t updated my blog in a long while, mostly because I didn’t feel like it. Not sure why.

I’m still not 100% recovered. I was doing a lot better, then had a setback from getting bumped in the head on an airplane then felt better and then this week I feel bad again (dizzy) for no discernible reason. You can see the pattern which is just frustrating randomness.

Had a great non-dizzy week last week. Got on my road bike three times so far. Did 10, 15, and 18 miles in the park which amazingly didn’t make me dizzy. Strolls around the neighborhood of as little as one mile still make me dizzy for a day. No doctor thinks I should run yet. Graduated physical therapy for my neck. Started eye vision therapy. Otherwise known as dress like a pirate day.

 

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I’ve been in a good mental place with everything although I still stalk my ex-boyfriend running and I still read his Facebook and cry when I see things that remind me of him, like winter, spring, summer, fall, morning, afternoon, night, cold, warm, coffee and being alive.

It’s too early to say if the vision therapy will help. I’m happy I can lift weight normally. Some days I don’t feel dizzy and some days I do. Today I’m dizzy and I’ve been since Monday morning. I have no idea why anymore. I’m just used to it. If I can string a few non dizzy days together I want to try a one mile run to see what happens.

I have some advice for everyone. Don’t get a fucking concussion. Also, if you see my ex-boyfriend running tell him his new girlfriend is a whore and I still love him.

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disjointed thoughts from a dis joint ed person

Today the head physical therapist gave me a compliment. He said I was handling things so well, that most people would have given up and stopped trying when faced with the multitude of symptoms and problems I’ve had since my accident. That’s nice, and when people say things like how they are proud of how I’ve been, my positive energy and things like that I really do appreciate it. It makes me feel good to think people are viewing me that way, when I’m viewing myself going through it in a way that’s often not admirable, with lots of crying, mad ugly crying yo, lots of self-pity and down moments and days and weeks. But that’s mostly hidden, and others generally see me determined to get better, to find answers and not give up. So it’s nice. But it’s kind of weird, because anyone would do the same thing, I think.

I mean, what’s the alternative? Lay down on my floor and hope to wake up next year? Dress in black and listen to Joy Division on repeat (I did that from 1995 until 1997 and it didn’t really help me out too much then, either.) I am Mother and On Must I March, dizzily from doctor to doctor, to more and more doctors and even to my rehabs and my therapies and even when I just want to be normal and when I feel like there isn’t too much in my life that is enjoyable right now, when it all feels like a surreal parade of medical events and crap.

Anyone who has to, does what they have to do. I mean, who really gives up? What would giving up mean? Going to a bar at opening afternoon hour and not leaving until you pass out and get carried home? That sounds pretty good right now except A) I can’t drink and B) I don’t have a babysitter.

Plus, as everyone’s no-nonsense grandmother would remind them in moments like this, It could be way worse, like I’m alive, I have limbs and sight and hearing and hale and hearty children and home over my head and many more square meals than I even need. Lest we ever forget that. It’s powerful and it’s a cliche cause it’s true.

It’s kind of another one of those weird psychological distancing things people do to others who go through tough times or events. “I could never do/be/say/handle/cope/manage + NOUN the way you are!” Sounds like a nice thought, right? Yet there’s something odd and menacing lurking on the lowdown side of that nicety, something that’s making the afflicted out to be special, in a complimentary way, yes, but again, it’s that illusion of OTHERNESS. The person going through something is special, because the regular old person couldn’t handle it, because it wouldn’t happen to them.

These things only happen to Other People. Interestingly enough, March is Brain Injury Awareness Month ands one of the slogans of the campaign is: Brain Injuries Don’t Just Happen to Other People.

Because the truth is, anyone will handle what gets tossed their way, and tossed it goes, like a pile of steaming poop. You do what you have to do, because what’s the alternative?

Cat Power sang it pretty well. “We all do what we can/ So we can do just One More Thing.”

Yup can’t stop-won’t-stop deliberately dramatic capitalizations. SO SORRY NOT SORRY. I had one of those bad days yesterday, when my daughter bonked heads with me which made me dizzy. I feel like my life is kind of a Dantean riddle, a special level of hell where the utmost commend is don’t bump your head, or you won’t get better, but at the same time here, please take care of these two children for twelve hours a day every day by yourself and don’t let a 17-month old boy ever tap a toy into your temple or knock into you in any way, because, oh, that’s impossible. NEVERMIND. Oh, and here’s a boulder, please push it up this hill for eternity:

 

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And then the reality of my first day at vision therapy the day before sunk in: The doctor recommended I don’t go for walks because they make me dizzy. Yesterday was the first day of spring, and finally warm. I had been living on the future promise of At least I can walk soon, even if I can’t run or go to the gym, at least I can walk every day. 100 year olds walk every day.

When it’s warm, I walk with my kids everywhere. We walk to school, to the park, to the playground, to town, for recreation, for fun, we walk the dog, I walk Henry for naps, I walk for fresh air and a nice activity. Can’t walk? That put me over the edge. That was more than I could bear, truly too much. I walked anyway yesterday. I don’t think I can follow this directive. I guess I will limit walking and we can drive to the park and other outdoor places but I cried all day, thinking four months after my accident I was told by a doctor not to go for walks. I cried so much my eyelids swelled up and I had to take my contacts out of my eyes. I cried so much and so freakishly Henry kept trundling over to give me exaggerated kisses and yell MAMAMAMA!

I’m hoping to get some more medical opinions on how bad walking is, I mean I get dizzy at the supermarket but the doctor didn’t send me home with a note to get take out every night (why not?!) I never imagined at the age of 33, I’d be defying Doctor’s Orders to go for a leisurely stroll around town. Maybe at 93, but not at 33. Vision therapy is predicted to take MONTHS, so months without walking? I can’t. Please no. I don’t even get the full prescription for therapy until next week. I have to go back for another hour of testing. She did say I’m not such a severe case and my problems respond well to therapy. So that’s keeping me going now. HOPE HOPE HOPE HOPE HOPE

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Oh, and today Henry poked me straight into the eyeball. Now my eye is blurry and I’m off to the eye doctor to see if I need some kind of sexy pirate patch. Pics to follow but rest assured I will handle it, as only a regular old human being could handle it. By alternately being brave and being a ninny, by crying and laughing, by despairing and hoping in equal measure.

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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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I should probably update my blog

Since a lot happened.

I went to the University of Buffalo concussion clinic. I did a bunch of tests, like walking on an inclined treadmill with a bunch of people watching me and my heart rate and commenting that it was really high which made it even higher and basically gave me an anxiety attack of heart rate self-consciousness, and pointed laser lights attached to my head at dots on the wall with my eyes closed, and a few other things. I learned:

  • I have a neck injury (knew that) that may be contributing to a bulk of my post concussion symptoms (suspected that, but not to the extent the Buffalo experts believe.)
  • I passed all the balance tests, meaning nothing is majorly wrong with my inner ear vestibular system (pretty much knew that).
  • I failed the vision vestibular / ocular motor tests, meaning something is wrong with how my brain is processing images, which could also explain a lot of symptoms, like Target Intolerance ™ eye twitching, blurry vision and brain fog. This could be from my neck, my brain or a combination thereof.
  • I passed the treadmill test! Meaning I don’t have what the clinic considers physiologic post concussion syndrome, meaning it’s okay to get my heart rate up, meaning I can work out!
  • I still shouldn’t run or lift weights in their opinion, maybe after 6-8 more weeks of neck PT and when I can do cardio on the bike without it exacerbating my symptoms too much.

It all feels still kind of untrue, like yesterday I did 30 minutes on the recumbent bike in a normal aerobic heart rate, like 150s, and I felt like I was getting away with something illegal, like I shoplifted. I’ve had so many false starts and stops, it’s hard to believe it’s still not “bad” and going to hurt my recovery. I did get a little dizzy that night, but Buffalo docs say it’s okay, and it’s from my neck + vision and I should work out anyway. It’s confusing because that’s so different from what other docs have said but at this point I don’t actually have a doctor who can tell me ANYTHING anyway. I have no real guidance about what the best thing to do is, so I’m going to trust the docs at Buffalo and do what they recommend. They are the experts on piecing apart post concussion syndrome and seeing what comes from what, so people know what treatments to pursue.

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Almost…getting…mildly…warm

They told me to go to vestibular therapy, and during the consult the therapist found I passed all the balance stuff fine, but badly failed something called a binocular vision test. I was seeing double when I shouldn’t have been. My brain may be working overtime to put images together (convergence ) which could totally explain a lot about how I feel although I’m not sure why it gets worse after exercise, maybe because I’m taxing my body’s ability to sense where it is in space because it’s also connected to my neck proprioceptors. It’s all kind of complex and confusing and doctors don’t even understand it.

Now I have to go to a special optometrist called a behavioral or developmental optometrist to do vision therapy to fix my vision issue. Supposedly they can help it. I hope so. It’s scary to think something like that got messed up in my brain from the accident.

But I’m happy to have some answers and a plan. Now I just have to go forward and do it. Much better than doing nothing and waiting, yet not knowing what I was waiting for…

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Vitamins! and Vacation! To Buffalo in February!

Why the hell I am flying to Buffalo and back next Monday:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20051730

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140127164557.htm?utm_source=hootsuite

Those are clinical trials, if you don’t speak Google self-doctor. And they are giving me hope as I struggle out of this setback.

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Shit! The doctors are inside.

One strange synergistic detail here is that for someone who can’t even go to a single damn supermarket without two children in tow I’ve somehow managed to go away on trips by myself three Februaries in a row. Two years ago I went to triathlon camp in Florida. Last year I went on a press junket to a five star luxury hotel and spa with gourmet meals and oceanfront suites and a massage. This year I’m going to Buffalo, New York to see a doctor. Do you see a meaning here?!?!?

And in more fun self-doctoring, I apparently overdosed on blood thinning vitamins in my attempts to take every supplement ever speculated to help concussion recovery. I got a nose bleed, a broken blood vessel in my eye and then a microscopic cut on my chin was like profusely bleeding for no reason. So the moral of the story is don’t take lots of fish pills AND turmeric AND Choline CDP because they all interact to essentially become a prescription blood thinner I never needed. So I stopped all vitamins. I can be pretty dumb sometimes. Vitamins!

My plan to correct my over-correction is to drink a lot of kale smoothies. What could go wrong? Last night in an attempt to assuage my panic (it’s hard being a borderline hypochondriac) I microwaved an entire family-sized bag of spinach, threw some salt and pepper and butter on it, and ate it. I actually brought it upstairs and shoveled it in my gullet as we put the kids to bed, so I was eating a half warm trough of spinach at 9 p.m. off of my daughter’s pink plaid comforter. My husband didn’t even say “I told you so,” with words, he just SMIZED IT AT ME.

He was the original voice of reason when I started my supplement regime. Pshaw, right? Then to make everything exponentially weirder, Henry trundled over and requested a bite of my bitter medicinal meal. I figured he would spit it out, right? He’s 16 months old and all. But, no. He helped me finish that shit right off.

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It remains to be seen whether I will survive my next menstrual period. Stay tuned.

 

 

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Once I Wanted I To Be The Greatest

I don’t know if anyone still reads my blog. I’m aware that it’s an endless series of posts about my injury and recovery but that’s what it is. That’s my life right now, a circular looping in, back around forward and back again, all around This Thing That Happened To Me.

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It’s not quite linear. It’s not November Accident —> Today. It’s more woven and convoluted. I don’t know if it will ever be like, this happened, and now it’s over.

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So I was feeling pretty snazzy and doing my twenty minute University of Buffalo plan, and was even into the 140 heart rate. No symptoms were coming back, so I was happy.

Then I was buckling my daughter into her car seat in front of the library, and I stood up, and somehow lightly tapped my forehead into a small tree. I know, it seems weird, like how did it work like that, but somehow there was a tiny tree right next to the curb and I’m not completely used to the height of my new car. It was so light of a bump that it didn’t even hurt so I didn’t think too much of it, yet driving home I noticed my right eyelid was twitching a little again, like it did weeks earlier ever since the original accident. Then then rest of that day I went into a fun concussion brain fog, blurry vision, and symptoms. Even dizziness came back the next day. I couldn’t comprehend the possibility that a light tap could bring my symptoms back and tried to figure out if maybe I had done something else, too much in physical therapy, anything. But as the week went on it was clear I was back into concussion brain and I called the doc I had seen who said he sees it all the time in patients who aren’t totally healed. A minor bump sets them back, for a short period.

I didn’t really think of it as a re-injury, more of a re-aggravation of my original injury. Like if you had a bad wound, it had just recently scabbed over, and then you brushed it across a rough blanket and it bled again. It’s not like the blanket re-cut you, more that the recent fragile scabbing got compromised a bit. Because, honestly, thinking that I had a new, second injury was way too depressing.

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It stayed kind of bad for a week or so, but not anywhere near like my original concussion brain situation. Then this past Sunday I had a Much Better Day, and it’s been improving steadily. But this put the brakes on my exercise recovery plan. I will start it again when I feel asymptomatic again. Hopefully soon! I feel mostly okay, but for instance, going to Target felt like someone slipped me a roophie. So I know I’m not all the better yet from my setback.

Having a setback when you’ve been making such great progress is discouraging, as an understatement. But I’m refusing to freak out. Somehow. Also, my neck started bugging me and some of the tingling reappeared in my finger but it’s going away again. I think part of my problem has been the concussion preventing me from really getting into the gym in PT and doing all the strengthening of the posture and neck muscles I need to recover.

I really don’t want to end up needing medication or anything and I’m lucky in that my neck is annoying sometimes but it’s not what I would call bad pain in any way. I’m optimistic it’s going to keep improving. I am seeing a spine specialist tomorrow though to see what he says. I’m also doing a lot of chin tucks and McKenzie exercises because I’m nothing if not a believer in exercise cures.

the feels

Yesterday was the three month anniversary of the car accident. I have a lot of feels about it. In fact I have all the feels. But I’d rather focus on the next three months, and the good I have today, like finally feeling better since my set back and my neck feeling better and a snow day that means I’m in my pajamas right now.

SO IMMA KEEP GOING. In my pajamas.

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The Hardest Workout I’ve Ever Done

No, it’s not what you think.

The hardest workouts I’ve ever done only last twenty minutes, and I don’t even break a sweat. I don’t breathe hard, I don’t even get warm in my extremities. My heart rate has to stay in a specific, low zone. Last week I was in the 130s. This week I am in the 140s.

This is the hardest workout mentally and emotionally. To go to the gym, seeing all the people doing all the things I want to do, I used to do, I CAN DO, I miss doing. To have no one know why you’re pedaling at a gear three on the recumbent bike with your hair down. To make the effort to drag the kids to the daycare, with puffy coats and logistics, so I can “work out” without even any endorphin rush, without any training effect on my body.

Why am I doing this? Why am I undergoing this difficulty of self-control and disciple? Because this is my best shot at getting better.

At being able to exercise normally.

If everything goes WELL, I can increase my heart rate by ten beats per minute each week. And at some point down the line, I can double up on my twenty minute sessions, doing two a day at the target heart rate. So if I don’t get any symptoms back during this, I am looking at best case scenario of eight weeks. No weight training. Just this.

I cried a lot when I saw the reality of this. I mean, I am happy to have a plan. I am happy that it seems to be working. I am excited that maybe in a couple of weeks I will be able to sloooowly jog. Once I get into the 160s heart rate zone I think I can jog. (I have a very high heart rate in general) But it seemed daunting, it seemed like a sad mountain to climb, after I just got down conquering a mountain, the peak of staying positive and not surviving two and a half months of total rest but THRIVING during it.

I’ve done so well! I did all my homework and then some. I am a Better Person. I am Humble. I Learned My Lesson! Do I get my reward yet?

But of course it doesn’t work out that way. Or not quite. I am very sure, however, that I will carry these lessons on with me permanently. I see so many errors in the ways I used to think. I was always judging people. I never stopped to think,

maybe they had a story. Maybe they deserved benefit of the doubt. Compassion.

I forgot to be grateful. I don’t mean I didn’t appreciate what I had/have/will have. I forgot to be Endlessly Grateful. I mean, truly, truly grateful. I always knew doing the things I loved, like running and exercising, was a gift, but I didn’t know it was also a responsibility. I’m not sure what that really means, right now. Good thing I have more down time to find out.

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Thoughts On Recovery, and Trauma

I’ve passed the two month mark since my accident, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about trauma, and recovery.

I feel a little uncomfortable calling what happened to me “trauma,” as it seems that word should be reserved for Bigger, Badder things, like war or death or cancer. But trauma is trauma, small or large, and it has the same type of effects on a body and a mind. In my recovery process I’ve been reading and researching non-stop (shocker) and I’ve come across fascinating modalities for recovery from injuries and traumas.

One interesting one is called Trauma Release Exercises (or TREs) and they are basically movements designed to elicit neurological shaking in the body’s muscles to help the body recover from past tensions and traumas. Imagine a zebra shaking off an attempted attack by a lion…animals will shudder and tremble and then off they go, good as new.

Humans are a problematic animal, and we keep things locked down and hidden and then our past traumas and hurts and injuries become pathological, and hurt us, maybe as PTSD, maybe as anger or anxiety, or maybe as injuries that linger. The man who developed this as a patented method works with all sorts of traumatized people, like veterans and civilians who are recovering from something that overwhelmed their coping mechanisms. That’s actually a working definition of trauma: Something that overwhelmed your coping mechanism. A stress that broke the old stressometer.

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I haven’t tried the techniques yet. I’m nervous about anything aggravating my concussion recovery. Right now, I am totally asymptomatic at rest (yay!) but I get symptoms back with any elevation of my heart rate (boo!). I took two entire weeks off from all exercise –I just meditated and walked a bit– and felt great, completely normal. I was hopeful that was all I needed to get to a place in my recovery where I could exercise, but a one mile run brought stuff back. Basically I get a little headache when I work out, and then afterward I’m dizzy, my vision is blurry, my right eyelid twitches like crazy (blepharospasm) and I feel kind of foggy brained and overwhelmed by stimuli like lights and crowded places. Jut basically how I felt all the time in the weeks after my accident. Then it slowly subsides again in a day or two after the exercise.

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So to try to recover from this (technically called physiological post concussion syndrome) I have to try to retrain my brain to handle increased pressure (aka heart rate exertion) by working out a level below what elicits symptoms. I’ve finally found a spot that is safe, 20 minutes of light recumbent biking with my heart rate in the 120s. I have a naturally high heart rate, so 20 minutes at 120 is not enough for me to even break a sweat. I sort of feel remotely warm by the end. On a scale of perceived exertion, it’s roughly between a 95-year-old aquacizing at the YCMA and the first post-partum trip to the hospital bathroom for your first post-birth pee pee.

new yers 2014 521

But, strangely enough, I’m at peace with all of this. This is my job now, this is the path I am necessarily on, this is my quest. Nothing that’s ever worth anything in the end is easy.

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hole in the head

Evidently, getting a knock to the brain means I am suddenly becoming spiritual. I’ve always been very rational, science-minded, skeptical and a kind of ethical humanist rationalist. And now here I am reading about chakras.

Yeah. Please stop me before I tell you what color your aura is. (Beige, with a hint of chartreuse.)

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This all just proves to me that the very religious and the very mystical are just people with different brain chemistry. “Different.” You see where I’m going with this.

But to be fair, I’m not really averse to the idea that spirituality and a search for deeper meaning is a good thing, maybe even a thing I need. I find myself researching all types of alternative health treatments and practices, yes I am looking for a magic bullet to completely fix my brain and neck so I can get back to doing all the things I want to do, but I’m also kind of exploring the idea that while I can’t magically instantly cure myself, I can help myself along by finding better, more healing ways of thinking, being, and experiencing the world.

I blame acupuncture. Acupuncture is the gateway drug of the alternate health world. One minute you’re prostate with Lana, a soft-spoken Ukrainian woman, sticking you with needles, staring at a popcorn ceiling that begins to inspire Really Deep Thoughts, and the next you’re ready to Google hands-on health healers, prolotherapy, cupping on Long Island, New York gyroscope therapies.

Do you think Lana will enter into a platonic three-person marriage with me? I might ask her.

—”let me reinsert” she purrs, “this is hard point, good point,” she murmurs, “are you okay?”—

Today I can’t exercise but I’m planning a raging meditation session. I might converse with the ocean next week. Has anyone ever told you you have a magnificent aura?

But seriously. I am planning to turn this into a story of course, an essay or a piece of journalism. I think having a moderately skeptical rationalist guinea pig try out new types of health treatments is of interest and value to people like me: Someone looking for new types of treatments for a health issue who is also skeptical of quackery, of charlatans, of hooha shucksterism but who is also open to the idea that maybe conventional medicine doesn’t know everything. I know, shocking, right? That’s the operative word:

Open.

I’m open to new possibilities. I’m open to alternative pathways to healing. I don’t know everything (just most things-just kidding.)  I’m not going to turn over my hard-earned cash to Scientology, but I just might use no fault insurance to have someone wave their hands over my crown chakra.

That’s my head, for you unenlightened slobs out there. What do you think? What would you try, have you tried?

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post traumatic growth

This is me right now.

post traumatic growth

In a bad way, yes, and also in the best possible way.

I don’t really believe that “bad things happen for a reason,” or that the universe sent me a sign and I’m supposed to learn something from my accident and injuries. But that isn’t mutually exclusive with the idea that I can still learn something from it, that something good can come from something shitty and without meaning.

I am trying to stay positive and focus on my blessings, yes they are manifold, but I tend to creep back into that “this is so UNFAIR” line of thinking. Like, all I want is free rein to exercise without limitations, to use my body and my life to the fullest and there they are: People who can exercise but just choose not to. It’s so unfair, right? But then the realization swings all the way around, 360 degrees to hit me right back in the face.

It’s not fair. Nothing was ever meant to be fair, said to fair, or expected to be fair. A quadriplegic coming back from Afghanistan, no it’s not fair that he can’t do what he wants with his body, just as someone else takes a perfectly healthy human form and trashes it into oblivion with drugs or who knows what else.

No one ever said this was fair.

Or meaningful. It’s up to us to find the meaning, to weave the story, to fight against a crapload of disjointed stimuli to make a narrative, positive, redemptive, stubbornly optimistic, and yes frail, and yes negative, and maybe even self-defeating with worry and sadness, it’s all part of this story but at least I have a story.

Today is seven weeks since my car accident and I am not fully healed from my concussion and what is FUBARed in my neck but I’m hopeful I will be soon. I am grateful for the way this injury has rebuilt some of my brain synapses, because they’ve regrown this time around programmed with some humility, some spirituality, some hunger for a bigger, better life that I’m hoping will ultimately leave me better than before, when all is said and done, when all nerves stop shuddering and fraying, when my brain calms into its next iteration.

I just might have needed that knock on the head. I needed it like a hole in the head, like a gap in my life that is forcing me to look for what to fill in the vacuum. Was it right or healthy to have so much of my quality of life and mood and happiness resting on the ability to exercise to voluntary maximum exhaustion? Sure, I think it’s okay, that’s my hobby, that’s one of my life’s loves, a major coping mechanism. But maybe I need to be forced to re-evaluate the quality of my life in other ways. Maybe I need to strengthen other muscles while this one necessarily atrophies. Ligaments and tendons, social networks, friendships, family ties, meaningful vocation, sleeping at night, my marriage, my children, and spiritual meaning. They are all that’s bolstering me, the net under me and my worry, my inability to access that endorphin medicine, my anxiety over when will I get well? I don’t know.

And I have to be okay with not knowing. And if that’s the “lesson,” that’s okay. I accept it. I accept looking into a yawning unknown and not flinching, not turning away from a cold wind, not hesitating,

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2014.

Thank you, 2013 for the pleasure and the pain.

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