Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Long Way Back

I have been meaning to write this update for quite a while now, but I didn't seem to have the brainpower to get the ball rolling, so I waited for a better time to do it. Waiting is something I have been doing a whole lot of this winter. I have waited to get better, waited to see improvements with my concussion symptoms, waited for my next appointments, waited for this shitty day to be over, waited for the snow to fall so I could go play outside, waited until I recovered from an outing so I can have another one, waited to hear back from a special someone who remained silent... For someone who has always been impatient, I sure have demonstrated a lot of patience in the past months!

This concussion has kicked my ass! I was going full speed towards the life I wanted to live and then I hit a wall - a wall of rocks and water, actually. At the same time as my brain was trying to figure out what happened and the extent of the damage sustained, I was imploding and taking note of all the work I had to do to get back on my feet, both physically and emotionally. It has been quite the journey and I have made many discoveries in the process. The main one being that despite my world collapsing around me, I was OK. I could take care of myself. In the worst of times, there was a will to live in me that pushed me to get help and support, to remain hopeful and to work towards feeling better.

More specifically, I have been doing vision therapy since January. I go to the eye doctor once a week and we do all sorts of stuff to get my eyes working properly again. Vision therapy is hard. The first few weeks were hellish - my headaches increased and my quality of life deteriorated. The eye doctor had said it could happen, so I kept pushing and I went outside in nature as often as I could, because it seemed to be the only time when I was truly calm and balanced. Some exercises she has me do are fun, like the ones when she throws balls at me or I have to put pins on a rotating panel. Some exercises are excruciating: there's one when she has me working my eyes really hard so I can bring an image into focus and it gives me nauseating headaches. Others are just difficult or challenging in one way or another. We have done a mini assessment after 10 sessions and progress was noted. I'm still on for at least another 10-15 sessions, but they are worth my time, money and energy. 

I've also been working with the physiotherapist on the vestibular symptoms. He is having me do all sorts of balancing exercises, some with my eyes open and some with my eyes closed. I can't say that I am seeing much progress there. I still rely heavily on my eyes to know where I am in space and to keep my balance. Eyes closed? I fall to my right side. Too much visual stimulus? I lose my balance. Fatigued? Same thing. I fell a few times on my right side this winter while cross-country skiing, either because I looked to the side, someone skied next to me in the other direction or someone talked to me. Yup! Talking to me while I'm struggling with my balance will make me fall to my right side without fail. How weird is that.

I'm still struggling with light and noise sensitivity. Not much has changed here. A part of me is worried that I will never get back to normal, but I refuse to let myself believe this. I have improved somewhat as I am now better able to isolate sounds so I can follow conversations, but noisy places are still challenging to me, especially if there are a lot of lights and movement around me.

I have more endurance in social situations since I have decided to accept and respect my limitations. I went from crashing after 90 minutes with people to being able to spend 3-5 hours with people depending on the setting of the place where we are meeting. The less people the better, although one on one is harder for me than, say, a group of 3 or 4 people. I think it's because there is less attention on me when there are more people. The best social situations are when I meet people outside and we do something active that doesn't require or allow us to talk too much.

My memory is slowly coming back! I remember more stuff, although I'm still more forgetful than before the concussion. I have come a long way!

I'm working with my therapist on the emotional aspects that are painful in my life, whether they are related to the concussion or not. It's like spring cleaning, really, facing the past hurts so that I can move on. This work is surely as hard as the vision therapy, but like vision therapy, i know it will pay off in the long term.

There is more I could say, but I've been writing for 30 minutes and my head is threatening to explode! Time to go to bed. Night, night!