One of the most difficult things about having a concussion is that unless you’re in the club and have had your cranial computer go haywire, it’s not something that’s easily understood. Questionable Bonus: You usually “look normal.“
It’s not like a broken leg, where people see that it must be serious, and they sign the cast as a sign of support. And a broken bone is also common enough that friends and family are familiar with your experience. Well, seeing as I’ve become something of a reluctant expert in this field — four diagnosed brain injuries, likely six in total — I thought I may as well seize this teachable moment and make something good out of it all.
Trying to think and interact with people these days is kind of like trying to concentrate with a head full of squirrels and bees.
Let’s start with the bees.
Imagine that you are standing near a bee hive, close enough to hear and nearly feel the vibration of all those tiny wings. The buzzing is a low hum — not enough to drown out anything, but enough to be distracting. So you have to work extra hard to concentrate on what you’re doing, because that low hum is taking up some of your brain bandwidth. It’s tiring, and you have to work at it, but you can mostly function around it.
The squirrels are a different story.
I quite like squirrels, but not in my head. These pesky cerebellum rodents usually turn up when I’m talking. One of the areas hardest hit in my brain (pun probably intended) is my language centre, so often I say or type one word when I mean another that sort of sounds the same or has a distantly similar meaning. (For example, pictures when I mean worksheets.)
As a result of this ding to the word bank, if I get interrupted when speaking, it’s like I suddenly have squirrels ricocheting off the inside of my skull. Red squirrels! Grey squirrels! Flying squirrels! And I stand there with absolutely no idea of what I was saying, or what I was going to say next. It happens each and every time someone breaks into my communication stream, and then I inevitably feel stupid and frustrated as I try to recover. Intellectually, I know it’s not my fault, but emotionally it’s a hard default to set.
There really isn’t a way to fix the squirrels. You can say “Please don’t interrupt me,” but that attempt at squirrel sedation usually sounds like a reprimand (especially if you’re also trying to talk over the bees), and some people’s communication styles just don’t work that way.
Healing from a concussion (mild traumatic brain injury) is exhausting. Each and every thing a human being does uses some form of brain activity. Taking a shower today knocked me on my butt and I had to sleep for two hours. (Write down each and every motion of your typical shower experience from deciding to take a shower until you are ready to walk out the door and you’ll see what I mean.)
For now, the squirrels and bees are settled down. I’m alone in a quiet room, and so my attention is focused solely on this screen and this keyboard. And it feels good to be writing — a balm for those moments when words pop out of my head like soap bubbles on thistles.