11: Lights . . . Camera . . . Action!

11: Lights . . . Camera . . . Action!

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries

Lights . . . Camera . . . Action!

No one remains quite what he was when he recognizes himself.

~Thomas Mann

It was as if someone else were performing the role of me. This woman acted like me, yet I did not know her. “She wore that?” I asked when I opened her closet and looked through her clothes. “She ate that?” when I peeked in the fridge and pantry. How odd, this former self was.

As the months passed, as the seasons changed, I struggled with the new me. The reflection in the mirror wasn’t me—or was it? I gradually accepted that the image I viewed was me. I experienced a reluctant reawakening of the senses. Who am I? What am I like? Will I return to who I was before the accident? Did I want to? Did I have to? Endless questions came and went unanswered.

Comments from the public were often heartless or at least unthinking. The cashiers were impatient in response to the confusion caused by my concussion. I didn’t know how to hand over the correct amount of cash. Shopping for groceries was difficult as there were too many choices and overwhelming sensory stimulation. Do I buy one or two cans? Do I like bananas? A concussion cannot be seen from the outside, only experienced from within. The people around me did not understand my journey through concussion recovery.

One day, the concussion fog lifted ever so slightly and a glimpse of my new self emerged. Slowly I felt more awake, more alive. It was a gradual return from the depths of darkness. My sons and their families were a constant support in my life. I clung to this lifeline, as a survivor holds fast to a life raft.

Loss of short-term memory, however frustrating, was actually somewhat funny at times. I laughed at my errant comments. Seeing the reaction on people’s faces was priceless when my response was a little offbeat. Laughing at myself was okay, even encouraged. Humor is a healing element of concussion recovery.

I slowly returned to my job. It was not easy, but then the important things in life never are. Part of what made my return to work so difficult is that it was in the very act of doing my job—delivering mail as an office services worker for a local oil company—that I suffered my TBI. But a steady voice in my head urged me forward even though sometimes I progressed backwards. My doctor assured me that setbacks were a normal part of recovery, so I pushed on. I slowly, reluctantly accepted my new self, discovered new skills and mourned the loss of old ones.

Lights . . . Camera . . . Action! My new life rolled by scene after scene. The credits rolled too, paying tribute to the actor who played my life over the past year. I am that actor. I am a survivor and I love the new me!

~Sandra L. Brown

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