I wake, wishing I hadn’t. The sludge is still there.
“Do you feel wasted all of the time?” the head trauma doctor had asked me.
“Yes,” I replied, “I feel like I’m way too stoned and seriously hung over all day, every day, without a single moment of normalcy.”
“That’s because of the vascular damage. Basically, all the toxins stored in the fatty tissue of your brain are leaking into your blood stream causing you to feel intoxicated.”
“How long will it last?”
“Recovery from head trauma varies greatly.”
“Meaning?” I pressed, tired of the constant hedging by doctors about what to expect here.
“It could last anywhere from 4 days to 4 years” was his very useful response.
Well, on day 44 (January 15, 2017), the mind is still a heavy, hazy fog. I drag myself from the bed, plea for the world to just disappear, then fight off tears as I woman up for the day. (Read “SLAM! The Story of Hitting My Head“)
I move with unsteady caution, terrified that the furniture or floor may shift unexpectedly at any moment. Arms out, taking tentative steps.
My husband has made lunches and ensured that the children are decent enough for school.
I manage to pull on sweats and a sweater, skipping the bra, and plaster a crazed smile on my face.
“Come on kids, time to go,” I prod with no passion as I shluff towards the car.
The drive and drop off are a blur. I focus all my desire to making it back to the house, now empty, so I can crawl to my bedroom and under covers for another round of sleep.
45 minutes later, an alarm brings me back to my depressing reality. The pressure behind my eyes falsely indicates a raucous night out. The world swirls as I push myself up into a sitting position.
I stumble around a bit; folding, washing, straightening, pretending to make a go at something that slightly resembles responsibility.
Then, lunch and another dive under the fabulous covers. I push away the demanding voice telling me I should do more, that I have to earn my keep and make myself get back into bed.
Sleep is solid and easy until the next buzzer sounds. My eyes open to discover the daylight burning my dulled senses and my heavy limbs beg to succumb to the pull to go back under.
However, there is a world with people in it that need me. I force myself up, shoes one, snacks packed, and it’s time to go pick up the kids from school.
There is silence as I drive. Both inside and out. Music causes too much tension in the body, and the voice from a book on tape would just aggravate me to the point of possible violence. Thinking will only pump more blood to my delicate brain.
I make my way back to the school parking lot and prepare for the worst part of the day: the 3 hours I am the sole caregiver for my children. I wish I lived in a world where I was comfortable enough to say to another parent, “Can you watch my kids play on the playground while I sleep in my car?”
For that matter, I wish I could have tea or a meal at someone’s house and then ask to take a nap before I drive home.
I put on the my best smile as their bright faces come bouncing out of classrooms and into my arms. I wonder why they are always so happy to see me. Especially the way I’ve been lately.
Another mom asks, “How are you doing?”
“Awful,” I confess. “My pain level is close to 7 or 8 all the time. I only want to sleep. I can’t seem to get anything done. I’m mean to the kids and I just feel really overwhelmed and scared.”
“Well, you’re looking better,” replies the other mom as she takes her kid’s hand and walks off.
I watch her go and wonder if I respond the same way to those who tell me about their rough times.
I call to my kids who have started goofing off with friends. “Boys, it’s time to go.”
They ignore me.
“Come on. Mommy’s not feeling good.”
Still no response as they start walking with friends to explore some cool thing on the playground.
I go over and grab their arms, rougher than I intend to, and say, “We have to go now. Why can’t you listen to me? I need you to come. I wish this wasn’t so hard. I’m in a lot of pain, and it’s like you guys don’t even care about me.” On and on I berate all the way to the car.
We get in, and I buckle up with shaky hands. Now I’ve done it; I got emotional. The pain level and fear of sudden death from stroke spike up quickly. The pulse of the throbbing increases in my already –full-of-dark-matter head. Tension spreads down my neck, to my shoulders and chest. The pounding of my heart throws blasts of blood back up to my brain.
Small tears make their way down my cheeks while I silently beg God and the Universe to just let me get the kids home safely. Gripping the steering wheel, hunched back, using all my might to focus my attention and eyes on the road ahead.
By the graces, we make it home. I tell the kids to do whatever they want a long as it’s not too loud, and I breathe slowly and deeply as I move with deliberate intention to complete the task of making dinner.
The moment my husband walks through the door, relief washes over me like a long lost lover. I made it!
We embrace as if the world depends on it. He skillfully avoids asking me how I am and thankfully turns his attention to our neglected children.
Having the steady hands of dad now at the helm, I climb back into bed. Wishing that by some miracle, tonight’s sleep will restore me, and I will wake refreshed in the morning. But, I don’t hold my breath.
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Read about my new normal in “When the Doctor says ‘New Normal’: Life After TBI”.
“I write to open up space for my heart and head to tumble, stumble, bounce, and roll. I write to explore the magic of our world and the power of words. I write to expose the tragic truth of life as well as the authentic abundance and joy. The stories are meant to inspire all of us facing the challenge of knowing and honoring our authentic self in a world of commands and demands.” – Jessica Sabatini