You Are Not Your Brain

I am thinking of renaming this blog “Scrambled Brains and Twisted Flippers.”  I quite like that idea, as it encompasses in a slightly irreverent way my two invisible disabilities.

But I have learned that when one is recovering from a serious concussion, what seems like a brilliant idea can sometimes just be one’s brain firing off in all directions.  Making decisions with a broken decision-maker can have mixed results.

And so I wait — as I have been waiting for more than two months now — for the neural pathways to rewire themselves, to be able to walk without a list to starboard, to be able to look down and then up without falling over, to see who Karen 3.0 will turn out to be …

My sense of humour is still intact.  I am amused by the irony of the situation.  This past spring, I was awarded an arts grant to write a memoir about recovering from a serious brain injury I sustained in 2012, but my writing it has come to a screeching halt, due to the Serious Brain Injury of 2023.  Perhaps this is the Universe’s way of reminding me of all the little aspects of post-concussion life I might have forgotten a decade later?

In a way, I’m glad that this is familiar territory.  In 2012, I had no idea that the thoughts in my head might or might not really be me.  The voice in my head sounds the same, after all.  But this time I’m aware of the need to sit back, to see if the Good Ideas still feel like good ideas in a week or so.

Brain injury affects your personality.  It lowers (or eradicates) your inhibitions and sense of social graces.  Dealing with a scrambled brain is kind of like having an out of body experience as your own evil twin.

It’s hard to share what I’m experiencing without sounding like a steaming pile of self-pity: Can’t work; can’t spit out the right words in the right order; can’t handle computer screens; can’t handle too much sensory information; can’t drive; can’t be a passenger; can’t take a shower without that overwhelming brain fatigue that normally follows a weekend of doing income taxes; can’t focus; can’t regulate emotions or reactions; can’t trust myself …

A doorknob.  That’s what did this to me.  That, and the cumulative history of brain injuries, big and little, since I was 17 years old.  The doorknob I slammed off the top of my head when I bent over to pick up something in late September was Concussion No. 10.

So … I wait.

And take notes.

And pat myself on the back for somehow managing to post this via my phone.

I am not my brain.

My brain is broken.

I am not.

I am discouraged, and lonely, and dizzy, and cranky, and broke.

But not broken.

This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge. Slice of Life Writing Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions this week via the comments here.



An Ecstatic Announcement

Eleven years ago today, I stepped off a curb and into a crosswalk. I was hit by a car, bounced into a truck, and sustained a complex and serious brain injury that took years to settle to the point I could manage it, and by which I am still affected to this day.

This morning, eleven years to the day later, I learned that I will receive a $25,000 Canada Council for the Arts grant to write Crossing the Street — the memoir born in that life-changing moment. And this grant will, fittingly, be life-changing for me.

I am beyond grateful to the Canada Council for this opportunity and eager to focus on this project and see it to fruition. At a point in my life where I’m too functional to be disabled, and too dysfunctional to be “able”, there is no way I have been able to work on this book while trying to be employed AND manage my illness. This is the only way this book could possibly be written, and my emotions are still super-bouncing all over the place, landing on “gratitude” and “awe” most often.

For every person who sits on the side of the bed, trying to figure out what’s wrong, when they can’t put their pants on after their shoes, or hears the wrong words come out of their own mouth, or feels dizzy and nauseated at the grocery store because the lights, the sounds of the carts, and the number of colours and letters in the soup aisle are just Too Much At Once… This book is for you. This book is for the thousands of people who sustain traumatic brain injuries every year.

I am writing the book I wish someone could have handed to me and Doug eleven years ago, with the reassuring words, “No, Karen, you aren’t going crazy,” and “Doug, this is what the world looks like to Karen right now.”
Brain injury is something you don’t “get” until you get one. I’m going to show you what it’s like without you having to incur the pain.

Thank you to everyone who has been, and continues to be, in my corner. I’m going to make you proud.

And now, for the first time … drum roll please …

* I acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts! *

A Timely Reminder

Scrolling through Facebook, I see those memory posts pop up.  Sometimes they make me smile.  Sometimes they make me wistful. 

This one stopped me in my tracks.

I still remember that neurocognitive assessment — the first one I’d ever had. Two days of putting my injured brain through its paces, having to push it to the point of failure so we would know what was impaired, and to what extent.

It was as difficult emotionally as it was mentally. But even on the drive home — feeling nauseous, dizzy, and with the left side of my head pulsing like it was visibly “breathing” — I was hopeful. So, so hopeful that the rehab centre was going to help me.

And they did.

Hey, Brain. Sometimes I only notice the continued deficits. But this Facebook Memory reminded me: You’ve come a long way, baby.  ❤️

This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.