Sometimes a dark mood moves through my life. Times when things seem hopeless. Times where I feel worthless, self-destructive, a fool. Times when I look and look yet no path shines with hopeful, gentle light.
During these dark times, I find myself tired all of the time. My body and bones ache. Nothing is fun or interesting; even activities I use to love to do seem dull and sour. If I am not careful, negative self-talk and a dark mood make me that cranky complainer no one likes to spend time around.
Eventually, I am miserable enough to institute a solution. My feelings are no longer a reliable guide to what is best for me, so I resort to a rigid guideline.
The Rule: When given the choice between doing something, and not doing something – always choose to do something. Even if tired, even if not interested, do the activity.
Chat with that vaguely irritating coworker, go to that social gathering, make time to journal and garden. None of it at the time feels fulfilling or meaningful, but I keep at it until one day – life is fun again. Something has shifted. Action is a sure path out of depression.
So that is one of my truths.
Enter brain injury. My body is in pain. My mind works fitfully. I am unable to do almost every thing I love to do – read, have an intelligent conversation, play roller derby, exercise, travel, hike, garden. My life screeches to a halt.
The solution to my injury? Rest. Rest rest rest rest rest rest rest. Don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t. It was… is enough to drive me insane. If I feel tired, I should rest. If my headache gets worse, I should stop what I am doing and remove myself from the situation. If the light bothers me, I should stop and turn off the light or put on dark glasses. If I am not sure whether I have the energy for something, stop and don’t do it. If my head throbs when my heart rate reaches 120 bpm (and once it did), stop and organize my life so it stays below that threshold. If driving makes me nauseous, stop and have someone else drive. Rest. Rest rest rest rest rest.
My life suddenly was defined by not doing, instead of doing. Avoiding, instead of facing difficulties head-on. Hiding, instead of pushing myself daily to stretch outside of my comfort zone. Waiting, instead of knowing now was the only moment to act.
Yes, I understand why I should stop when my symptoms worsen. Once the brain is overloaded, only rest or a reduction in stimuli will allow the symptoms to lessen. Yes, I know why rest is necessary. When I choose to go forward when I’m overdrawn, I take energy away from my brain healing. Yes, I know all that.
Time passes. I can do more now. Live a limited life. Have a hobby, work a bit, read for pleasure. Yet I am still blocked at every turn by Don’t. I will know I have healed from this injury, completely, when my life is no longer defined by what I cannot do.