Louise Mathewson - Author & Poet

"A gem is not polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials." Proverb

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3 Hard Things about Brain Injury

Posted on August 11, 2014 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (2)


I was asked in an interview, “What is the hardest thing about a brain injury?”  “An excellent question,” I said.  In eleven years, no one has ever asked me that, at least, as far as I can remember.  In fact, I look and sound so good, most people think I am perfectly normal.  

 

My answer was that people don't see how hard some things are for me, like my family expects I’ll go to big family gatherings like I’ve always done, travel like I've always done.   They don’t realize how all the stimulation affects my nervous system and tires me out, can affect my sleep, and create a mood that is so not fun.  Large gatherings amp up my nervous system, when it’s already amped up way too high.  They can't see inside my brain.  They expect me to do what they are doing, because I look so good and because they all love me.  My answer to "what is the hardest thing" was what came to mind at that moment.   Today or tomorrow my answer might be different.  

 


 

So here I go with three of today’s hardest things about brain injury.

  • Making decisions is so hard for me.  My confidence has shrunk to mostly low tide, with rare high tides because my processor got whacked.  Processing information, remembering and thinking of all the aspects of a decision, is not a strong suit for me any longer. I think back to decisions I have made in the eleven years post-injury and cringe.  “How did I or could I have made that decision,” I wonder to myself silently.  Every decision seems like it could have consequences that I will regret, so I often freeze up or have to ask my husband what he thinks, which makes me feel very dependent, which doesn't feel good at all.   I was used to being able to depend on myself for most things.   For instance, how many times have I gone over this blog post looking for errors, checking if I said what I want to say.  You don't want to know!!
  • Receptive aphasia - yep, big word, but not being able to understand (or misunderstanding) when someone asks a question, not being able to understand movies, TV shows, some issue in the news; having to ask for help in understanding normal English is so horribly embarrassing.
  • Fear - of going outside my circle of comfort. That makes my world much smaller and for someone who likes a little adventure in her life, it’s hard to foresee and then to make preparations to ease any anxiety that may present itself in any situation.

  

So I suppose it depends on the day which thing is more troubling. I try to keep my life simple. Now I have to live different and stretch my circle gently, not take on too much, or stretch my circle too wide. One more thing, oh darn, this is the ending paragraph, so stay tuned for more hard things about #braininjury.

A Life Interrupted: Living with Brain Injury

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Why I Don't Make Resolutions with a Brain Injury

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Personal Blogs

 


 

We are a month into a new year!  I have to confess I made NO resolutions for the new year. Kind of counter-cultural, but I don't celebrate New Year's like the rest of the U.S.   I didn't before my brain was injured, that's another story, but I sure don't now!!   I know as a brain injured person, that conditions inside my brain can change in a moment, and I refuse to set myself up for failure.  I've had enough of that failure stuff with a changed brain.  


Now I'll tell you the story of why I don't make resolutions.


Years ago before my brain injury, early one January, I met a woman from Turkey.  She told our gathering that in Turkey they don't make resolutions at the start of a new year.  Instead, they make wishes for themselves.  


Wow, I thought!  I let the idea of wishes seep down into my heart and wondered what I might wish for myself and how that might feel.  :)   I thought of the possibiility of a life free from disappointment in myself for failing to live up to my resolves.  I thought of the possibility of a life released from shame and failure.   I thought of the possibility of a life where I wished good things for myself, without all the performance junk, which I had lots of growing up as a first child in a dysfunctional family.   I saw that life could be new, free, wonder-full!!


We all know stories of broken resolutions, letting ourselves down, shame, guilt, disappointment, feeling like we've failed or worse, ARE a failure.   Wishing reminds me of making a wish over a birthday cake!   Can you imagine making a wish for yourself, like you would a good friend?!!    Boy, I like the image of a cake with candles for wishes a lot better than broken resolutions, broken promises to self, and a broken heart.   


Now, years later, I know that resolving to do anything when I have a brain injury with the resulting mood ups and downs, tired days, and my Chief Executive Officer in semi-retirement, puts pressure on me and I start the slippery slide downhill into a pit of shame.  Oh, a yucky slide, for sure!!!    


Even though I have some memory issues with my brain injury, I didn't forget the experience of hearing the Turkish woman's story of her country's new year.   And now it is mine!!   


I wish three things for myelf this year:  freedom from housework, more writing time, and freedom from my fears about money.   :D


Ah, a New Year!!   Now I look forward to it!   What do you wish for yourself in this new year?

The Chaos of a City After Brain Injury

Posted on December 5, 2012 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

 


 

A beautiful sunny day in NY, 60 degrees in early December!  I came to visit my children and 2 handsome, wonderful grandsons, 9 and 7 1/2!  As I walked down York Avenue, facing the south, I received a huge dose of sun medicine as it seeped into my pineal gland. Suddenly, I spotted flowers on a corner lot.   I just had to stop to take pictures, to thrill in the garden of colors and shapes that feed my eyes and soul here in the early days of December in New York City!  What a joy!  


      


Nature, so little of it in NYC, and yet I found it on a busy, noisy, stimulating street with walkers, cars, trucks, honks, beeps, running motors, pounding jackhammers, noise, noise, noise!  As I walked, I thought to myself, there is no such thing as silence in NYC.  And yet I crave silence for the deepest part of my being, after a traumtic brain injury.  I couldn’t live here for very long without going a wee bit crazy, without feeling starved for the medicine of nature.  


As my nervous system became over-stimulated by the sites and sounds of NY, I pulled deep into my self, as close to my core as I could.   In the middle of a big city, where I am usually hyper-vigilant as I search for safety, I pulled in to myself to see if there was a message inside below the noise of the city that pounded against my ear drums, that are now so hyper-sensitive.      


What I found was that the stimulation on a NYC street felt like the chaos of a car wreck, with the sound of shattering glass, screeching tires, metal hitting metal, crunching, pounding, honking.   I knew then that I needed to go back to my hotel room.  There I would find quiet, there I could put on my iPod with soft music, there I could close my eyes and get relief from unconscious memories that my body held alone, without the consciousness of my spirit, or a working left brain to tell me that I was now OK.  


The accident was nearly 10 years ago, almost ancient history.   In the breezes of a beautiful day on a noisy NYC street, my body still remembers that chaos nearly stole my life.  Instead, chaos left me with a brain injury, so I had to take a different route in life than I had planned.