The last couple of weeks have been good weeks. For close to two weeks, I’ve been able to coexist peacefully with my brain injury. That does not mean that there haven’t been challenges. I tire more easily than I did before my brain injury. Speech problems come at times both unexpected and inopportune. My tinnitus chimes on like a one-note orchestra set to repeat ad-infinitum, but it’s been an okay couple of weeks.
But I don’t kid myself for one moment. A couple of weeks with a respite from the worst of brain injury symptoms does not mean that I am abruptly recovering. It simply means that I’ve been able to string together a decent number of tolerable days.
I am now well into year seven living as a brain injury survivor. Every year that passes, in fact, every day that passes, I gain a better understanding of how all-encompassing brain injury is. Today, I have the benefit of time.
Unlike early recovery when most every day brought unexpected surprises, these days I know what I’ve got. Brain injury is a lifelong condition that some days will kick my backside, while on other days, it lies in wait, ever-present, waiting for an opportunity to creep back to the forefront and again remind me that I am compromised.
It’s a bit like riding a pendulum. On one side of the arc, life is okay and at times actually enjoyable. Hours go by, and I don’t even think about my injury. But like pendulums do, without fail, so begins the inevitable swing in the other direction. Sometimes, I feel it coming like a slow-motion wave of neuro-fatigue washing over me. At other times, the change is abrupt as vertigo instantly strikes, promptly removing my stability and at times making my “invisible disability” visible to those close to me.
I was recently out with a few friends on a bad TBI day. Many were acquaintances who I’ve known for years, most being post-injury friends. Like I do so often, I tried to hide how much I was hurting. I pushed through the hour spent with a few close friends. I thought I did a respectable job of keeping it all together until one of my friends called me the next morning.
“David, how are you doing? You weren’t yourself last night. Is everything alright?” he asked with a degree of concern that I found a bit disconcerting.
“Just a bit tired, that’s all,” I said in reply, not wanting to bring brain injury into the conversation. It wasn’t really a lie. It was more like a relationship preserver. Not everyone wants to hear about brain injury.
The night prior, the pendulum crashed fast in the wrong direction. You can never prepare yourself for the swing, it just happens.
But I see it now for what it is – just part of daily life with a brain injury. I really enjoy the days when my brain injury challenges seem less intrusive into my day-to-day life. And I’m getting much better at letting the tough days simply pass. And on those days, when the pendulum is buried deeply on the wrong side of the arc, I have faith that it will eventually swing back. And in that knowing, I realize that all will be well.