It is 4 am and I am full of energy. I don’t know what to do with all of it. Extra. I haven’t had extra energy in 17 months and 14 days. Do healthy people have this level of energy all of the time? It is mind boggling.
My mind isn’t racing, but I am thinking one thought after another without difficultly. Part of my mind is going “la la la la la” continually, splashing around in the beautiful abundance of chi. My body has a poised feeling – readiness, an internal vibration signaling energy available for use. It is a feast for a starving person, pure clean water after wandering the desert, or perhaps like winning the lottery after living on food stamps and not-quite-making-it financially for months. A gift. A blessing. A miracle.
<imagine wavy lines across the screen as we go back to a different time>
Two weeks ago.
I sit on the couch with Mary and talk about my head injury. Again. Another talk, about another set of scary possibilities that make up this endless saga.
This time, it is about work. What happens is I can’t work full time? What if when I run out of FMLA in two months they deny my ADA accommodation request? How will we make the payments on the house? Will I lose my job? Do I have any bit of savings, any little scrap of money set aside that I haven’t already drained to scrape by these last 17 months?
I feel a headache settle over my brain, a wet blanket muffling my intelligence – a combination of a busy day and emotionally distressing thoughts. My eyes start to glaze. My ability to see hope, to see the possibility that everything will turn out okay in the end dims.
Then, magically, Mary refocuses us. She says, “you know, we haven’t really tried anything new for your head injury in a long time”.
She’s right. We have both gotten into a rut in dealing with my physical and mental limitations these last six or so months. I see the chiropractor, get cranial-sacral work, give myself Reiki, visit a massage therapist, take regular breaks during work, and we both wait wait and wait for my head to heal. And I am still healing, slowly. Painfully slow.
Yet, although this brain injury makes every day a challenge, what new things have we done lately to try to make this reality different? Nothing. We’ve been maintaining the status quo. Unfortunately, the status quo sucks and is about to expire. My FMLA runs out at the end of August, and with it goes my ability to work part-time. At that juncture, I either have to work 40 hrs/wk, or 0 hrs/wk. No in-between.
Now is a good time for a different approach.
I pull out Coping with Concussion and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide to Living with the Challenges Associated with Post Concussion Syndrome and Brain Trauma. I am just starting to appreciate that it is a great book. It has a lot of good information about scientifically proven treatments for brain injury symptoms. Ironically, I couldn’t read it for the first year of my mTBI. It was too complex, too dense, too incomprehensible to my damaged mind.
Now that my brain is mostly functional again, I can read about suggested treatments for fatigue and headaches. The book covers conventional treatments, complementary treatments, and alternative treatments. Basically, the doctor treatments with pills and machines, other treatments that have been proven by science to help, and miscellaneous things that might help but haven’t been proven by science.
The non-conventional standout? Acupuncture. I’ve done it before, but my… nerve? my pain tolerance? left me with my head injury and I could not conceive of dealing with the (mild, temporary) discomfort of needles in my body. The healthy don’t realize it, but dealing with any sort of pain takes energy – both emotional nerve and physical tolerance. Before my injury, I loved nothing more than hitting women on skates with all of my might and being covered with bruises every single day. After head impact, it became inconceivable that I could find energy to deal with, face, the pain. Luckily, I have healed. Many are not so lucky. That healing means that now I can handle a little bit of pain deliberately experienced.
As I talked the options out with Mary that night, I decided I’d give acupuncture 2 months to do what it could do. If that doesn’t “fix” me all the way, or doesn’t work, I’ll do homeopathy. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try a shaman. If that doesn’t work…? I expect I’ll find some other alternative paradigm to pursue.
The important thing is to try, and keep trying… to set aside energy in my life to make that happen. Crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I might be unhinged at times, but I am definitely not crazy.
Enter my first appointment at Green Mountain Acupuncture, this past Monday (yes, really, only three days ago). Kiki listened to my symptoms, checked my pulses, looked at my tongue, and decided I had insufficient spleen chi – a dampness in my body caused by water separating from my blood during head trauma. I don’t know anything about Chinese medicine, but I am happy to do whatever she thinks is a good idea.. She puts five needles in my ear, one above my belly button, and one each below both knees and in my feet. By the time she gets ready to put needles in my wrists, I had reached my “handling it okay” limit and baulked. Instead, she taped a seed (yes, a seed, like a plant zygote) to the same point on each wrist. Through the whole treatment, I could feel my body buzzing, the energy moving.
When we talked after the treatment, she said she expected that I would make a full recovery. She felt that a small treatment series – 4 to 6 visits – would make a huge difference. I felt hopeful for the first time in months. Hopeful that I could have my life back. Hopeful that I could be healed.
That feeling of hope made several things clear.
The first thing I thought when I felt that hope in my body was “I could be on skates in two weeks”. Derby has been off the table for months. I had given up hope that I could ever return. When Mary reads this, I expect she’ll be pissed off that I am even thinking about it. And, that moment of genuine belief that I could get back on skates and play the rough and ready game of roller derby filled me with such a pure joy that I knew it was my truth – regardless of other’s judgments.
The second thing I realized was how limited my life has been. I have pushed it out of my mind over and over, and the truth is that my life has been less than it was before. I have been less than I have been before. I lost something with my energy that I had no way of compensating for in my life.
The third thing I saw was how I have constructed a reality around my impaired condition to make it tolerable. That is what the mind does, that is one of its functions – creating a story that makes life livable or, preferably, positive and gives meaning to our days. Because of my physical and mental limitations, my story changed drastically. Making that story work meant digging up peripheral interests and making them central to who I am now. It involved letting go of a lot of who I have been, a lot of my nature this lifetime, and building something, someone, who could thrive in my new body and mind. I resisted for a long long time. Eventually, though, I got tired of looking back at what was and chose to look forward. Survival. Adaption. Human nature.
So, all of these things were instantly clear to me, in that moment of hope. I have carried that hope forward with me, through that Monday’s late afternoon where after a full day of work and a new medical visit, I only laid down for 20 minutes of rest. I carried it through Tuesday where I didn’t need a nap at all but just kept going all evening. Into Wednesday when I had a second acupuncture treatment, the entire day without a brain injury headache, and that evening when I started to not know what to do with myself because I had so much energy. To this morning at 4 am where I woke up ready to go and still have plenty of energy to spend.
What if this improvement is only temporary? What if it fades with time, or falls apart, or only heals to a certain point and no further? Hope is scary. Hope is exciting. Hope is living in a world full of possibilities. It is possible that, soon, I will be composing a story about what personal lessons I learned while recovering from my head injury. Because it will be in the past. Because I will be healed, completely, from this long and frustrating chapter in my life. Because I will have already moved on to a full and beautiful future of health, pleasure, and joy.