Like so many who now live a life defined by traumatic brain injury, I often refer to the “old” David and the “new” David. It’s hard not to. So much of my life has changed since my brain injury occurred back in 2010. My relationships have changed, with many who knew the old me stepping into the background of my life. There are many new post-TBI friends who now add meaning to my life. Relationships at home and in my professional life are still in the process of being rebuilt. Brain injury changes just about everything.
A big part of living life as David 2.0 requires that I honor my new post-TBI limitations. For several years after my accident, I tried, oh how I tried, to get up, brush myself off, and continue to live my life like I did before my accident.
That worked about as well as a cat at a kennel.
Day after day I’d resolve to do as much, and to be exactly the way I was before my cycling accident.
And nightfall would find me frustrated, inhumanly exhausted, and often ready to cash in my chips.
Learning to live again takes time, a long time. Forged between the hammer and anvil of pain, I slowly learned that pacing myself and really being in tune with my new-found limitations could be a game-changer.
And so life began its inevitable march toward a smaller, less complicated life.
Part of ‘life reduction’ was easy. When your earning potential drops like a rock, you simply can’t afford to do as much. With smaller social circles that define life after brain injury, there are fewer relationships to juggle. Our lives downsized by circumstance and not by choice or virtue.
For the most part, I make choices that I know are in my best interest, largely because I pay a very heavy price if I do otherwise.
Though I don’t sleep like I used to, I try to have my head hit the pillow by 10:00 p.m. When sleep escapes me, I consciously remind myself that even when I’m awake and doing nothing, I’m resting this weary cranium. Daily exercise and cardio remain a must for me. Many years ago, a medical professional let me know that there was data out there that showed that highly oxygenated blood passing through my grey matter speeds recovery.
I am doing much better than more than a couple of well-credentialed doctors predicted. Is it the exercise? While I’ll never know for certain, it can’t hurt.
I try to make sure my basics are covered. But there are times when that is easier said than done, when life, as it so often does, has other plans.
Life recently unfolded with many stressors hitting at the same time. My wife Sarah was out of town on another business trip. I struggle more than she knows when I am home alone. At about the same time, my mom went in for surgery, and both of my parents were experiencing health issues that impacted the quality of their lives. The added day-to-day stress that comes from living with a brain injury resulted in complete exhaustion for me. I found myself crashing hard.
I learned years ago that exhaustion pushes TBI challenges into overdrive. Some days I lost count of how many times I’d broken down into tears. My ability to retain any continuity of thought was gone. I simply couldn’t hold thoughts in my head.
Ever have that happen to you?
Now you think it, now you...wait…what was I thinking? I was going to.... I don’t remember. What was I just doing? Oh yeah, I was going to make lunch. Wait, it’s 3:00 p.m. and it was just noon five minutes ago. I need to go into our room to tell Sarah something. Wait, she’s been gone all week. What was I doing? Scattered thinking like this makes regular A.D.D. look like time in a monastery.
Simply put, life and circumstance had pulled the regularity rug out from under me, and I lost my “life balance” a bit.
The blessing here is that I have been living as a brain injury survivor for many years now. I am able to put a finger on the cause for my TBI symptom flare-ups. Better still, I know that life will again circle back to the new normal that I now live.
And just knowing those tougher days will pass, well, that alone makes it more bearable.