So most of you know that things are going really well for me after my TBI and back injuries...But...
Physically, I'm beyond frustrated. I am a high-performance athlete - not only do I ride and train three-day event horses (something very physically demanding in of itself), but I also run competitively and dabble in triathlons. In peak shape, I ride 12-15 times and run about 50 miles per week, in addition to barn chores, walking around campus, and everything else that I do. Over the past year, I was still riding as much as I normally do, but had backed off on running quite a bit due to time constraints with school, and over the summer I stopped running altogether. Then the fall happened and I lost EVERYTHING. Coming back from any injury is hard, but I had already lost significant muscle mass beforehand, and then the brain injury. Brain injuries are different - it doesn't matter how amazing your cardio base is, you lose it. Muscle tone and strength - gone. Coordination, endurance, balance - all gone. And that all happens just in an instant. Then spend 2+ months on complete physical restriction, and it's a mess. And that's just the brain injury....No one has actually been able to tell me what's wrong with my spine or why it causes me so much grief, but it frequently gets in the way of my rehab. And the more active I get, the more I notice physical deficits from the head injury - running, biking, and stretching showed more significant, yet subtle balance and coordination problems, and once I got back in the pool and started weight training again I realized how weak and uncoordinated my right side is compared to my left, especially considering that I am right-hand dominant. So I've been relying on my left side more and am now running into overuse injuries in the elbow and shoulder (awesome for swimming, right?) and because my spine and pelvis are so out of alignment, they've aggravated an old knee injury and are stressing other foot and leg structures. Riding (only on the flat and tiny crossrails right now) jack up my pelvis, spine, and shoulders and shows how I have absolutely NO core strength...Don't get me wrong - I've made a remarkable recovery thus far. I mean, I ran my first road race yesterday morning - 5.2 miles on solid hills in 49:44. I can tolerate an hour-long lesson and in a lot of ways I feel back to my old self, but in so many ways I'm not. Most of the time I feel like I'm 80 years old. It hurts to bend down, to twist, to squat, to do pretty much anything. I just want to be fit like I was, but the rehab process is so slow after the head injury anyway, and now these other minor injuries are just adding to the frustrations.
Mentally I'm also doing very well, but now I'm at the point where a lot of the deficits I still have are going to be permanent, or at least a long time in coming back. This is more frustrating than the physical issues. To put things quite simply, before the injury I was a genius. IQ around 150, the ability to do anything I wanted, whenever and wherever and however I wanted, by myself. Now I'm a student in the Disability Access Services and I have trouble doing simple, mundane things. Yet to anyone who doesn't know me or know about my injury, the disabilities are not immediately apparent. Again, the severity of my injury considered, I'm doing remarkably well in this area of rehab as well and my speech-language pathologist is quite pleased with my progress. But now, things are coming back so slow that it's just infuriating.
But I think the most frustrating, infuriating, maddening, and discouraging thing to deal with is the attitude of other people. I have a few close friends who understand the severity of my physical and mental disabilities and how they affect my life and what it means to me, but most people do not, including my family. My parents were amazing during the first few weeks and got me to see the specialists I needed, and I specifically asked those who were "in the know" to not discuss things with others, but now....I wish people did know. I wish they knew how hard it is for me to make it through each day. I wish they knew that I'm not who I used to be. It's like they expect me to be 100% because they can't *see* anything that's wrong, and therefore I must be that same superhuman girl I was on September 10. But that's the farthest thing from the truth. They expect me to do everything I once did and act surprised when I say no or when I talk about anything relating to my fall or disability. They think it's just this scary episode that happened a few months back and everything is over now.
But on the other hand, I never told them about it for a reason - I don't want to be treated like a cripple or like someone who is severely mentally disabled. So few people know what a traumatic brain injury really is and what it means, so they fall back to stereotypes and they can be really, really hurtful. But so can the issues I'm dealing with now.
I guess I'm just hitting one of those low spots. I try to be positive all of the time because I believe that positivism and optimism and a true sense of happiness and meaning in life are more powerful and healing than any other medicine, but it's hard to be 100% positive 100% of the time through 100% of circumstances. There's been some really hard things lately, and I just don't know how much longer I can keep pretending that things are so amazing when on so many levels I feel like they're still falling apart. It's like my life is this big mirror and in the accident it was broken into a million pieces. I've been putting everything back together very well, but now there's this piece that's missing, but I don't what that piece is. I don't know if it's one piece or a thousand pieces. I don't know what it looks like or where it is. I don't even know if I can find it again.
I dunno guys. Like I said, things are going so well for me, but there's just something inside me saying life isn't complete. And I don't know why.
"The FEI is often in error, but never in doubt." - Jim Wofford
"You do not find the happy life. You make it." - Camilla Eyring Kimball
Focus on the positive. What you can do, what you have accomplished, pat yourself on the back. Don't worry what others think or even have to say. Set short term goals that you can accomplish and that will help you towards your long term goals. It can be done.
Windward Farm, Washougal, WA- our work in progress, our money pit, our home!
We are hardest on ourselves, aren't we? You were an amazing athlete. You will be again. The in-between will suck, and you will have to construct a new reality. I was no where near what you are, but the last 9 months have been hard for me, as well. Rehab is a necessary evil. For the truly athletic the loss of what once came so easily is worse than those of us who were just plunking along in life .
Good luck. Sometimes, just coming on here and posting somewhat anonymously is so helpful! We are a supportive, kind, firm group who will listen and respond without judging you. Keep it up!
Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!
Vegas Sky, you are young and clearly very fit before the accident - these 2 factors alone are enormously favorable for a good recovery. Give yourself time to heal - it`s been less than 3 months, no? No amount of overachieving will rush the healing process - on the contrary, it may even slow things down. ( ever picked at a scab to get it to heal faster? )
I broke my pelvis, in a riding accident in April, and had a mild concussion - not my first concussion. I had to spend 2 months lying in bed to heal the pelvic fracture, and during that time lost all my muscle mass. I was weak as a baby kitten once I was allowed out of bed. It`s taken me almost 8 months to get back to where I was, more or less, before the accident. I`m older than you, but my Orthopod said for every week off, it takes about 2-3 weeks to recover. The younger (and fitter) you are, the faster the recovery time - all things being equal - which they never are! Multiple injuries and head trauma obviously lengthens the healing process.
The deficits from multiple head traumas are real, but also not entirely irreversible. A good healing formula would include lots of rest & sleep, puzzles ( though with your academic load, there`s plenty of brain exercise there! ), and super nutrition with generous helpings of Omega 3`s. The brain can take much longer to recover, or compensate for any weakness, than muscle or bone, and it has it`s own mysterious timetable. 3 months is way too soon to throw in the towel and assume any current deficit is now permanent!
Rest as much as you can, sleep is the ultimate restorer. Did you know the body only heals while you`re sleeping? So sleep as much as you can. You know the rest, cut back on superfluous demands, eat well, watch funny movies. Do some crafts or paint, something quiet and creative that you normally didn`t have time for. Avoid toxic people like the plague. ( I have found that since my accident, my mood affects my physical well being much more than before. So I do my best to chill as much as possible, and let DH deal with things, or people, I find aggravating.)
Share your difficulties with those you are surrounded by as much as you feel necessary for them to `get it`. ( To the extent that they can. Unless they`ve *Been There Done That*, it`s very difficult to relate - especially when you look OK. ) Unless they`ve been through a lengthy recovery, or close to someone who has, they assume after a couple of weeks you`re good to go. So then it`s up to you how much energy to spend educating people who are not in your core group of family and friends who truly care and wish to be supportive. Remember your energy is finite - treat it like money and spend it where it has the potential of being a good investment in your recovery and life.
Keep going to the specialists to ensure that you are healing well. Back pain or spinal pain needs to be investigated and monitored.
Vent your frustrations where you know you will get support - like here - and try to be patient. Your recovery will take more time. Congratulate yourself on any progress you`re making - consider how far you`ve come since Day One. The journey is far from over!
Last edited by TrueGrit; Nov. 29, 2010 at 08:15 PM.
“Your appearance should reflect the care you take in every aspect of your horsemanship... feeding, grooming... everything you do, from the barn to the show ring. Class, people, class…" George Morris
Ok, first of all, you guys are amazing. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I would not be where I am today without your support and encouragement.
Zu Zu and Diane, you're right. I think part of the missing piece is acceptance of the new me and giving myself a break. I haven't been doing that - haven't been able to do that because of school. But as soon as finals are over at the end of next week, I will become my first priority again. I'll have three weeks to spend as I please, and I plan to do a lot of introspection and exploration of the new me, whether it's while I'm running, cycling, or finally finally finally back on my training horses!
Calvin - I don't presume to know anyone's situation, so I certainly don't presume to say that mine is harder than yours. I think it's different for everyone, but it can be especially hard for horse people, as we tend to be extraordinarily stubborn and yes, very hard on ourselves. and you hit it on the head - it's the loss of something that was so easy and natural, and now we have to work hard for every bit we get - that's the hardest thing to deal with.
True Grit - I wish people would understand the deficits of head trauma. My brother and I are both training for a marathon in June. My brother is superhumanly athletic. They measured his cardiopulmonary output while he was on crew team for OSU and it was so off the charts that they thought the machine was malfunctioning. It wasn't. So he expects me to be able to train pretty much as hard as he does, but doesn't understand that building fitness after a head injury is not like building fitness after a torn ACL. It's just not the same. Been there and done them both. I would gladly take 50 knee injuries over just one more concussion. And I know it's too early to call anything permanent, but it sure feels like the cognitive deficits are permanent because they are progressing so slowly. School has been fantastic for my recovery and so has speech therapy, but I'm still learning a whole new system of learning. I'm learning a whole new system of athletic training, of riding...I'm learning a whole new lifestyle. And in a lot of ways, that's really scary. But you're right. When I look back to where I was when I first got home, the progress is phenomenal, especially considering that was only 12 weeks ago. But I still have so far to go.
Thanks again guys. Times are tough, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going. If you ever have a moment, listen to the song "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons. It's on youtube. I find it very inspirational and encouraging. It's become the theme song of my recovery. My new life motto from that song: Find strength in pain.
I've realized that I can't change everyone's opinion and mindset, but I can educate a few of them as I go along, so that's what I'll do. I'll explain my situation to my family, friends, and associates who need to know. I'll tell them the truth about my disability. Whether they accept that or act in a responsible way given that information is beyond my control. I can only give them facts and hope they do the right thing.
But I can change my future. I'm standing at the beginning of the rest of my life. And I must live this life with the effects of the fall. But I can live as a disabled person or a person with a disability. I don't want to be defined by my disability, someone who always thinks of that first and lets it determine my actions. I want to be a person with a disability. A person first - one who will make the most of this life, not being bound down by anything, but always aware of myself and what I need to do to stay healthy.
You guys are awesome.
"The FEI is often in error, but never in doubt." - Jim Wofford
"You do not find the happy life. You make it." - Camilla Eyring Kimball