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.



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Karen J. McLean

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  • You are not your brain. Your brain is hurting, not broken, and you are giving it time to repair. Love you!

  • This is very moving. In case you are wondering how your “decisions with a broken decision-maker” are working out. (GREAT line.) You weave humor throughout but by the end i could really see how serious this is. I hope your experience of healing and coming back before gives you confidence and patience. But of course, every experience does change us, hence wondering what “Karen 3.0” will be like. I imagine even better, and when you write about brain injury you will be(unfortunately) uniquely informed. With humor, seriousness, honesty, authenticity, you are the person to do it.

  • Karen, I’m glad you were able to share this — thank you! I’m sorry your recovery is taking so long, but I’m taking this post as a positive sign, even if it’s a small one.