I miss a good, old fashioned sick day.
I’m not talking about the kind of sick day that Ferris Bueller had.
Rather, I’m talking about the kind of day where you (really) feel just bad enough to stay home from work. You sleep in, pop some Dayquil, and spend the rest of the day dozing off and on while the TV plays a crappy assortment of daytime shows. You recover in one, maybe two days and go back to work or whatever you normally do. And admit it, while you don’t love being sick, somewhere inside, you even felt a tad bit grateful at the opportunity to spend a couple of days just breathing and taking a break from life.
It’s ironic, because I’m currently approaching almost two months of recovering. Absolutely no part of this process has been relaxing or a welcome break from my normal life. In fact, as it turns out, not only did my speech disorder rob me of the ability to communicate that I used to take for granted, but my TBI in general robbed me of the things that made me who I AM.
In a way, all the things that I loved to do, the things I did for myself and for my marriage, even the things that I didn’t necessarily love to do but had to be done anyway…that shaped me as a person – my role – were gone. And I had to figure out how to adjust, how to get them back and modify them, anything to help me feel like a normal person again – not just someone who is injured and recovering.
In truth, first you have to figure out your role (and really, let’s say roles) and the various layers that represent what you do and ARE.
There are things that you do – and these are important.
Then, there are things that you NEED – your hobbies, your passions, the things and activities that make you feel whole.
I think sometimes that other people get too wrapped up in the actual injuries – and yes, it’s important. But we’ve sustained more than just a TBI, a stroke, a infection, whatever – we’re also reeling from the loss of things that made us who we were. Having this type of major disability can make a person feel awfully unsure of where she belongs.
At least for me, I felt like I was finally starting to figure out where the puzzle pieces belonged in my life. My TBI and speech disorder swept the puzzle pieces up and thew them back into the box. Time to start over.
It’s more than just the loss of “things.” In many cases, it can mean a total loss of independence (sometimes temporary and sometimes not).
When I first came home, I couldn’t speak. Couldn’t write a text without having my husband proofread it. Couldn’t bathe alone. Couldn’t even walk up and down stairs alone. Damn, I couldn’t even vacuum the rug (and it drove me CRAZY! – yes, our house tends to have a lot of fur on the floor at any given time).
I’m lucky – I’ve been regaining my independence over the past two months. I can now drive, do things I used to do around the house without Paul worrying – yes, that includes vacuuming the rug. My language and speech is improving, though I always want more.
No, I can’t ride yet until my second surgery (an intact skull is sort of important). But, I can drive to the barn and just spend time with my horse. That means the world to me. It’s MY time, and I desperately needed that sense of normalcy.
So what was your role? What things do you value? What makes you who you are?
Most importantly, how can you get back to doing those things? Maybe you need some modifications, but I am willing to bet you can still make it happen. Later on, I’ll post a few ideas on the Resources page.
No, recovery isn’t a simple process. But, since we have to do it, take it. Mold it. Make it your own. Maybe that way, we can all find our way back to being who we are.