Something is wrong, and I want to know why. I went out with a new friend for dinner tonight, and by the time I got home – now – something broke, something is no longer right with my brain. I have a pounding, full fledged headache, the type I manage to avoid most of the time. Fog, fatigue, and confusion have settled over me, stifling my evening conversation with Mary. I try to pass it off as a little thing, that I am just a bit out of it… but that isn’t true, and Mary knows it.
Mostly, it is my words giving me away. Or, more specifically, my stuttering. Stuttering has been one of those less than pleasant outcomes of experiencing a concussion. A problem that I never had before, but now seems to be here to stay. I can go days – weeks even – without stuttering once. Or, if I feel like I am going to stutter, I can pause and choose a different word. Something that doesn’t start with a “W” or a “C”. Something that still gets my point across.
But tonight, for whatever reason, it is bad. Worse than the fog and fatigue would imply. I have trouble speaking, repeatedly. I stutter even on the most routine phrases. Some words I am not able to get out at all, and it frustrates me. I heave a great sigh, then soldier on. It is what it is. I accept that whatever I will say tonight will be inelegant, choppy, and weird-sounding. After more unclear, disjointed words – sentences seem beyond me tonight – I give up. Nothing life-threatening needs to be conveyed at the moment… it can wait until I am more coherent. I’d rather listen to Mary’s stories of her day, anyway.
During these times of true fucked-up-dom, these times when my ability plummets and my symptoms are really bad, it only bothers me a bit. I mean, as long as I don’t have anything planned, or anything pressing that needs to be done. I just relax into the reality of my limitations, confident (hopeful? expectant?) that things will be better tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep. It is evening, now, and I have done all that I have planned for myself today. Nothing else is required of me. My brain melting into a puddle? Meh. Not great, but not the end of the world.
I know it upsets Mary much more than it does me. Usually she hides it, but this time she said it right out. “It upsets me when you do that” – that being stutter, saying unrelated words in an incoherent manner, and being unable to carry on a conversation. I wonder if it is her fear that these impairments will come back to stay, or if it is frustration at not having someone competent to come home to, or anger that I have these problems at all. I don’t know. In truth, it doesn’t matter how she feels. Tonight, there is nothing I can say to make it better, to make it different for her. Hell, there is nothing I can coherently say to comfort her.
My lady is a problem solver, though. And a damn good one. So, of course, we inevitably move on to sleuthing. Why? Why am I this way, tonight, right now?
These stupid symptom, these irritating impairments seem to have popped out of nowhere. And, they might have. But likely, there is a reason or reasons my abilities have fallen so abruptly to way below my new normal. Mary and I have been doing this a while, so we consider everything. What might have caused these symptoms?
- Sugary desert? I had about four bites of a sugary treat at the end of dinner. I don’t usually eat a sugar bomb like that, and maybe that caused short-term inflammation in my brain and decreased my functioning.
- Salty soup? I had some sort of egg drop soup for dinner, and it had a strong flavor. Perhaps it was full of salt and dehydrated me, causing the headache.
- Doing too much? I was kind of tired today. Not deeply fatigued, but a more general overarching feeling of tiredness. Perhaps with that high baseline of fatigue already, I overdid it driving to and from btown in traffic and having dinner out. Maybe that pushed me over some invisible edge, and now I am descending into the darkness and pain of overdoing it.
- Menstruating? I started menstruating today. That always gives me a day or two of noticeable low energy. Plus, I’m taking ibupropen for bad cramps, which has a history of dehydrating me, too.
- Poor sleep? Is this just the outcome of a few days with only mediocre sleep? I keep waking up at night for some reason, and my sleep has not been as restful as usual. Perhaps this worsening of symptoms is from that.
- Overstimulation? The place I went to eat had music in the background, just loud enough to be particularly annoying. Once other people started filling the restaurant, I was no longer able to hear my companion. Perhaps all of that stimulation pushed me over the edge of functioning?
- Slouching? I slouched through dinner. The chairs were uncomfortable to lean back in and I was trying to engage my dinner guest, so I leaned forward onto the table. Perhaps an hour or so of that tightened my shoulder and neck muscles enough to give me the headache and the poor brain functioning.
It could be any of these things. It could be none of these things. It might be several of these things. Did I mention it might have been none of these things?
That is the frustration with brain injury symptoms. They come and go, and sometimes it seems completely random. They come and go, and somethings there is a reason or reasons that can be fixed. It is hard to know, in each situation, what is actually going on. Perhaps my headache is from the half moon shining tonight, and the brain fog is from eating swiss chard yesterday. Absurd, I know, but possible. It all feels absurd on some level – this injury, these symptoms, the long arch of my healing, the continued impairment. How fucking absurd.
I rested in a darkened room with my eyes covered for quite a while,
I drank glass upon glass of water,
I did the stretch the PT recommended to help with my headaches, the one that relaxes my shoulder and neck muscles,
I took my first CBD pill to combat any potential brain inflammation and to combat tight muscles,
I chose an electronics fast – no tv, no phone, no computer, and
I went to bed an hour early.
I sleep well enough. I wake at 4 am feeling dry so I guzzle a pint of water. I wake at 8 am, and drink another pint as I am still thirsty. Thankfully, by this morning my headache is just a dull tension headache now. My mind is clear and my functioning within my current normal range. The crazy night of impairment has passed, with no lasting effects.
Why did it even happen? I have no idea. I will probably never know exactly what caused it. But with Mary’s encouragement I trotted out all my solutions, knowing one or more of them would help make things better. And look, here I am. Healed for now. Writing. Functioning. It is a good day.