Denial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt

Nope, I’m fine. I’ll be okay in a few days. Yeah, I need bubble wrap, ha ha ha…

By the time you’re 50 years old, your body starts to look and feel like a ten-year-old car. You’re still running, and you still have a lot of places to go, but you’re definitely showing your miles and any scratches and dents from along the way. I’m no different. Follow this blog and you’ll probably get a good sense of what and where those dents are over time.

On February 22, 2012, I was crossing a street when I got by a car and bounced into a truck. I sustained a complex traumatic brain injury that required lots of time, patience, rehab, humour, and professional assistance to come out the other side. It was my second officially diagnosed concussion.

Recovery wasn’t pretty: I wasn’t always my best self; I trusted the wrong people; my critical thinking was muddy; and I didn’t always make the same decisions I would have made pre-TBI. In short, 2012-2016 was probably the worst period of my life, and I’m still making peace with it.

So when I fainted last Thursday evening, bouncing my head off the hardwood floor and knocking myself out for somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds, the third thing I was desperate to establish — after Where am I? and What just happened? — was that I was okay.

(The faint was probably caused by dehydration; it’s been unusually hot and humid here, and I likely wasn’t getting enough water. That happens every so often, but I normally just get light-headed enough to remind me to grab some water.)

So I spent the next few days cracking self-deprecating jokes, insisting I would be fine in a few days, watching as the goose egg went down and the contact zone turned greenish-brown to yellow. But all the while I had a headache, occasional nausea, and constant dizziness any time I moved or sat/stood up too fast.

This morning the veil of denial fell; I realized no matter how badly I was trying to will “fineness” into being, it just wasn’t happening. So I got myself on my doctor’s cancellation list for today and waited. And as the minutes ticked by, the anxiety grew.

I DO NOT want to go back to 2012 was running through my head like a highly-caffeinated hamster on a well-greased wheel. I know I’m not as bad as I was then — I can read and write on this screen, for example, and my reflexes are still excellent, as evidenced by catching the bottle of Tylenol tumbling out of the medicine cabinet — but I definitely have done some damage. And so no matter how rational I’m trying to be about it, the anxiety has the better ammo.

But it’s not my first rodeo. I will be fine, but maybe not right away. If this were life-threatening, I’d probably already be hospitalized. I haven’t gone to the ER, not just because of the initial denial, but because it’s been my experience that unless it is life-threatening, the ER isn’t all that great with head injuries. (The day of the car incident, they didn’t even check my pupils for dilation, and I was walking around with an undiagnosed brain injury for two weeks.)

Besides, there’s not a lot that can be done. They could do a CT-scan, but really there’s nothing to actually do with the information. I’m nowhere near bad enough to need brain surgery. I just need rest and time. (And patience. Ohhhhh, so much patience.)

So hopefully I’ll get in to see my doctor tomorrow, we can document this in my chart, I’ll get some advice on the dizziness (likely “rest” and “time”), and we’ll keep following up until I’m back to who I was before Thursday evening.

In the meantime, I look forward to watching my hockey team tonight for the first time in months. (GO LEAFS!)

Note: This post is not intended as medical advice, and I am not a medical professional. (I am just well-acquainted with my own personal noggin.) If you sustain a whack — or even just a hard shake — to the head, seek swift medical assistance.

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Karen J. McLean

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1 Comment

  • Invisible illnesses and injuries are so hard for people to understand because, like you said, they can’t see them. I actually took a picture of the big bruise in my hairline because I was so glad it was visible!