“You look fine”

How would you define trauma?

Oxford states it’s “1) a deeply distressing or disturbing experience and 2) physical injury.” We could all agree that experiencing trauma is part of our existence. For some it’s due to accidents. Sometimes our trauma may be “self-inflicting”. Perhaps you, (like me), made a choice that caused distress and trauma during certain times of your life.

If you read my essay, “Shake it Off”, you might remember I took a few hits on the head. But today I want to share the physical, emotional, and psychological impacts resulting from a brain injury.

A trip to the E.R over five years ago, after a moment of unconsciousness, was the beginning of what I call my “assessment” period. As an educator, I had been THE tester~THE one who evaluates. It was my job to teach the kids exactly where they were. I never expected them to perform to standards that just weren’t possible for their development. Or for all of the students to grow at the same rate. Small people had to succumb to hours of questions and prodding of their little minds. Schools today still expect kids to read, write, solve problems, socialize with others, eat, follow norms, and even pick their nose on GRADE LEVEL. Yep, everything is judged on what is “expected” for a child’s “date of manufacture”. Don’t get me wrong~national standardization has its place at times, but it’s NOT the ONE indicator for success. I need to not digress into schools and assessments. Oh boy. Rant over. Now where was I?

What do you call “grade level” for a 45 year old? My brain, at approximately 3 lbs, would hopefully be completely normal and functioning CLOSE to what’s expected at middle age. I do know a “child’s brain forms more than 1 million new neural connections every second”. Also, “our brain changes more than any other part of our body.” (medicalnewstoday.com, 2017). Surely, I’m still forming tons of connections.

Evaluations revealed the brain injury~and lack of oxygen at times~decided to leave its mark. It was in the form of memory loss, depth perception/balance (physical), and processing speed. I’m not going to tell you what the official IQ score was…..I don’t care. Anymore.

The testing documents, every da*$ hospital bill, the tear stains on past school contracts, the diagnostic evaluation, speech/physical therapy notes, and many other paper reminders, including divorce papers and other “here I go again” papers DO NOT MEASURE MY WORTH OR SUCCESS. 🤍

The most odd revelation to appear during what I call, the “rounding of my records” was a gene mutation diagnosis. Its name is so fitting~MTHFR mutation-and I pronounce it just as it looks. It has been the center of my health “target” that is riddled with darts. For those that know what this is~or worse, deal with its outcomes~you’re probably aware that the same characteristics, at times, can mirror the same symptoms of a T.B.I. Its impact on the blood resulted in my anemia. This, along with the TBI from a wreck ( & arthritis, neck injury) and diabetes, created a “trio of trauma”. It was armed with boxing gloves that landed several left hooks. You’d think I’d just lay on the floor for the count. After a few knock-outs, it might be the wisest thing to do. There was one time I didn’t think I’d get up~I didn’t even want to. But I refuse to stay down or just exit the ring altogether.

Are you like me?

Through all of these injuries and the lasting effects, I cling tight to my faith. When I throw on my flannel shirt and take a hike, I know the risks. My friends know sometimes I need a hand. If you REALLY know me, you’ll know that I crave alone and quiet time, and that by 6 p.m., I experience brain fatigue, too much background noise (unless it’s music) disrupts me, I experience frequent headaches and dizziness, I lose things all the time, I forget to take my supplements or even eat, I’ll lose my train of thought when speaking, my face has a funny look when I’m trying to process things so it appears I’m “overthinking” (which I used to do all the time anyway), I prefer physical exhaustion (as long as I’m protecting injuries) over mental exhaustion, my moods can swing, I don’t always make sound decisions if overwhelmed~I might be faster than you up a mountain, but I’ll take my time if you pose a question or need me to think about something, and I have to have a routine~the simpler, the better (isn’t that for all of us?). I can become so frustrated with myself!

Some of you reading this may think all of this is just the aging process. And that is a true statement. With that in mind, what will YOU DO to preserve the sound mind you have? How will you nourish your mind and body with good nutrition? In what ways will you add peace and simplicity to your life? How can you protect yourself from injury while still enjoying the risks of living life to the fullest?

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Recently, I bumped into a friend from my school days. The first thing she said to me was, “You look great!” (how kind~she had no idea I was struggling that day). She shared a story about me that I had completely forgotten. At first, I thought it was about someone else. Tears came to my eyes~and to her’s. For a moment, I traveled to the exact spot she shared and pictured myself in that scene with her. It was overwhelming.

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All of us have struggles. This post has taken more than three hours. I had to find my “health folder” to even remember specifics. Brain fog has set in because of the weather. My neck hurts from sitting; although I have stretched many times. But I know someone will read this. SOMEONE WILL and I pray it helps you in some way.

If you suffer from an “invisible disease” here are a few bullets that help my daily game plan. Not to sound judgy, but these are “no-brainers”. 😏

  • REST-is #1 for all of us
  • Morning Meditation-beginning my day with truth and peace
  • Get out~nature is my best medicine (depression, anxiety, and wanting to “isolate” are common. We need quiet and alone time~but don’t isolate yourself from healthy gatherings and sunlight which we ALL NEED)
  • Listen to music, color, and learn something new (I didn’t know I could play a few more instruments, knit, create things, etc….our brains need to learn daily!)
  • Avoid too many processed foods/carbohydrates
  • Hydrate (I’m trying to get better at this)
  • Enjoy small meals and healthy snacks (Walnuts are a great brain food)
  • Relish in your routine~just don’t forget to explore and have days where you can just be “free to fly” when you need!
  • Be honest with people in your limitations~if you can’t do it, it’s OK.
  • Avoid stress (seriously? This could be a year of blogging ideas….)
  • Smile and laugh as often as possible
  • Keep a journal to record thoughts and feelings
  • Use your phone to set timers and reminders
  • Ask for help
  • Make lists ( I love crossing off the things I accomplish~Just don’t try to eat the whole elephant in one day. 🙂

Even if you look “fine”, you may be struggling. Those that love you should understand and be happy to assist. It can be awkward for those closest to you to fully understand your situation. Encourage your friends and loved ones to learn along with you. If you saw a loved one using a cane, wouldn’t you automatically assist? We assume, if the injury can’t be “seen” that all is well. Give grace and be a learner. Pay attention to others who may look “just fine”, but suffer inside. You may be the only Jesus they ever know.

Have faith.💚

The most comfort I receive is when I “rest” in the loving and peaceful spirit of Christ. I imagine myself crawling onto his lap and experiencing his hugs of grace and compassion. In HIS eyes, I’m healed and I look just fine. And I am…….just fine.

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📣If you have a loved one suffering from a brain injury here is a great link. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cfglaw.co.uk/blog/brain-injury-brooke/10-things-you-should-never-say-to-a-person-with-a-brain-injury%3fhs_amp=true