Taking it all in Stride

David Grant: Taking it all in Stride

Over the last few months, things have really changed for me. However, for as much as they have changed, many things remain the same.

Looking back, it was sometime last fall that my ability to sleep in a meaningful way finally returned. Little did I realize how much my lack of sleep was contributing to my brain injury symptoms. As the weeks of improved sleep continued to pass, my memory began to sharpen. I found myself being able to recall events of the day, as well as things that happened the week prior.

Those uninjured might think this is no big deal, but for me, it was huge. There were years that I was hard-pressed to tell you what month it was.

As I continued to ride the sleep train, other challenges began to abate. Word finding became less of an issue, my ability to hold a conversation for more than a few minutes returned, and my confidence grew by leaps and bounds.

I said to my wife, Sarah, on more than one occasion, “Thank God that’s behind us!”

Only through the prism of time can I see that many of my lingering challenges were symptoms of sleep deprivation. The equation was simple: take away the sleep debt, and the symptoms go with it.

If this all sounds great, rest assured, it is. Sarah and I have walked a very difficult path over the last seven years. I am eternally grateful that we are still walking this path together, side-by-side, and that we remain happily married.

But what goes up must come down.

Sometimes unexpected and unrelated medical conditions can exacerbate my traumatic brain injury symptoms. I have known this for years, but have just learned a new lesson about how true this can be.

In mid-January, my back went out again. I have had back challenges for close to forty years, so this is not new to me. However, having a herniated disk is no cakewalk. The pain was off the charts and with the pain came the loss of sleep. You probably know where I am going with this.

Once my meaningful sleep decided to go on a vacation, it opened the door for my brain injury symptoms to make a comeback. They took to the stage as if they had never left. The bank of brain fog came rolling in and brought with it speech challenges and processing speeds that were slower than a snail on a summer’s day.

Moreover, against my will and wishes, I was very abruptly reminded that I am not over this thing. I will forever be a brain injury survivor and live in the reality that I may react differently to health challenges than those who are uninjured.

I have a new perspective these days that informs me that my challenges are only temporary. I continue to learn to take it all in stride. Once my back issues are behind me (pardon the pun), my sleep will resume, and with sleep comes an increase in my quality of life.

These days, I try to be mindful of how I view events in my life. If I view this recent turn of events as a setback, I will get discouraged. However, if I choose to look at this as a lesson, then it becomes a positive experience, one that can help me grow.

I have some uncertainty about the future, now knowing a couple of my vertebrae by name. There may be a back surgery sometime this year. But I’ve learned that I need to simply take it day-by-day and to let tomorrow take care of itself. If I live well today, my tomorrows are something to look forward to, and not to dread. Today I chose to live and to embrace my life. Worry serves no greater good. My days of hiking with a backpack are most likely gone, but that’s okay. I’ll just carry my granddaughter!

Comments (8)

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Thank you very much for taking on the important issue of sleep from a first-hand experience. God bless you and have a wonderful day!

Thank you for your blog. My 22 year old son was hit by a car while he was riding his bike Feb. 18, 2018.

We are still waiting for the swelling to go down, and soon he will be moved to Shepherd Center in Atlanta for rehab. At this point no one has any real anwsers about what the future will be like for him, but has youth on his side.

Your blog gives me hope, even if it is going to be a long road with a lot of work. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

I am glad to have found blogs like this.

I have been injured since 2001 when I wrecked my BMX, no helmet.

I lost the ability to make meaningful decisions, to feel in command of my future. I was angry all the time. I worked in a factory at the time and talk about loud noises being a problem. I went through several years being the angriest person people were likely to meet. Every interaction there was something wrong.

After the accident I never even went to the hospital, my punk friends and I decided to just let me go home and either live or die... I lived. I had a crack that ran from the front of my skull into my nasal and orbital bone, all the way to the sutures at the top of my head.

By 2005 I enrolled in college and was able to complete my BS (slowly). I have a pretty alright life but my terrible emotional control, memory problems, occasional confusion, pains, etc. have never gone away, and the mental flooding and seizure-like panic events had begun to worsen the last couple of years. So I finally decided to start checking my health as us "late thirties types" should, and my brain scans 17 yrs post injury are showing large dilated perivascular spaces.

This fight is not over, but it keeps changing the rules on me.

Acupuncture has worked wonders for my sciatica pain and back pain. I did four years of physical therapy for my back with unsatisfactory improvements. After three acupuncture sessions I had great improvement and by the seventh I was back cycling.

I remain very appreciative of your blog. Thank you so much for writing it and sharing your journey. I really appreciate your writings. I follow your frustration over restorative sleep. I get that sleep is "the keystone habit". I also find restorative sleep such a struggle at times, most times as of late again. Way to turn the twist between discouragement and lessons learned. I am farther in my discouragement depths than I want to be. Not a good place. Keeping my mind on gratitude and what has been accomplished (sometimes more than once) is a strong antidote for my discouragement depths.

Our journeys have been similar, David. From our fondness of Terrace Pines to parallel bicycle accidents and back issues. I had a 2 level spinal fusion with hardware in 2009 - just 2 years before the bicycle accident that caused my TBI. My back was doing so well, too! While my back fared ok in that accident, for some reason it began giving me problems again two years ago and is currently in an "episode" like no other I remember. And it is causing my post concussion symptoms to flare up, too. Things I usually manage quite well (sleep issues, brain fog, anxiety, depression, fatigue) are creeping up on me and challenge the heck out of me. Tinnitus and speech issues, which had all but disappeared, are testing me at odd moments. While I'm sorry that you are faced with this back situation, I appreciated reading your entry because of the validation it gave to the link between my current back-brain status.

What a beautiful testament to what a positive attitude looks and sound like. So glad you have a wonderful wife to walk the path with you.

Hope you research for a REALLY good spine surgeon, I am a nurse and have seen both. Good PT afterward for sure. Sometimes GOOD chiropractic can also help.

How wonderful that good sleep has come to you, may the back pain get better real soon, so the whole YOU can enjoy the fuller scale of life. AJ

I can relate to some of this although my injury happened in 2014. my life changed forever in a blink of an eye.