Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Time to Heal

I want to take some time and document my current brain function, status post traumatic brain injury 2 years ago. I had an epiphany a couple days ago. I had been slightly frustrated with the fact that these days I seem to always be tired, and I hate adding on any activity to my day. This puzzled me, because I used to live a very busy life, and I never felt excessively tired to the point where I didn't want to do anything ever. For example, the fall semester of my senior year at BYU, I got up at 4am every morning, left the apartment by 4:30am to get to my part-time job as a custodian, then had classes from 8am-12pm, then went to my athletic training internship with the football team from 12pm-6:30pm (where, mind you, I was running around with an awkwardly full fanny pack dragging a 10 gallon cooler of water on wheels around), then ate dinner, did a couple hours of homework, then was in bed by 10pm. In addition to the hectic schedule, I was also applying to PT school and finalizing things for my internship in Italy. So needless to say, I was booked out to the max. Yet I wasn't super tired. Sure I took naps, who wouldn't? But I was never scared or anxious if some other activity came up, like hanging out with friends or some church activity. But now, all I do is work an 8 hour day, and attempt to go to the gym for a measly 30 min workout (which I dread every day, despite being an avid gym goer for years). If anyone even suggests adding in some extra event, I freak out and think of a million excuses not to go, because I don't have any extra energy to spare, and my only priority in life is getting to bed on time.

Having said that, I was pondering such unusual circumstance when I realized something. My brain still hasn't completely healed. It's still in the process. And healing takes energy. So of course I'll be extra tired. It's okay. It's normal. And it won't last forever. I need to be okay with not being perfect at this time, with being a little weak. I need to let my body heal.

It's only just recently I've been able to understand most of the ways my brain is different after the accident. Maybe I always knew the differences, but it's only just now that I am beginning to accept them. I definitely have lost my ability to focus as well as I did before. I get distracted a lot more easily. I used to have a photographic short term memory, and I've realized I've lost it. Not because I can't memorize, but because I can't focus enough to let my brain imprint the information. When I really want it, I can still memorize quickly like no other, but if even one little distraction comes up it becomes impossible. It takes me a lot longer to process complex information and make sense of what people are saying (but my processing speed for simple tasks is 99% better than the rest of the nation without brain damage, says my post injury neuropysch assessment). I can’t visualize abstract concepts as well (though my own imagination of tangible things is still working off-the-charts-amazing). My taste buds are finally healing, which has been a joyous discovery. And my sleeping patterns are getting better, and I’m mostly not having disturbing dreams anymore.

Sometimes I still feel though that things are a little foggy, kind of like trying to walk through sand. It’s hard to explain to people, because I don’t have any loss of function, and there is nothing obvious that is wrong, but it just doesn’t fell right. Though I’ve definitely come to accept any weaknesses I have now, and I am not bothered by it in and of itself, I still can’t escape the feeling that so much in life is a competition, and that other people will only like me or accept me if I’m the best at everything. And since I can’t explain that things aren’t quite right, I feel like everyone just assumes I’m not good enough and that’s that. It’s especially hard in the atmosphere of Palo Alto and Stanford sometimes. People here compete just to get their kids in the best preschools, and it’s a pretty cutthroat competition. So of course the rest of their lives seemed to be focused on being the best. Even though most of the people I know well aren’t from this area, I still feel like it rubs off on people sometimes. Everyone is always concerned with success.

Recently I’ve become addicted to the TV show “Community”. I love it because it is a bunch of failures who go to school at a community college. Despite all of their ridiculous problems and the lack of a stellar future, they are happy anyway. I wish people in general were more like that. Brain damage isn’t so daunting when I’m not expected to be “perfect”, a feat I couldn’t have accomplished sans brain damage anyway. I guess I just need to learn better how to rid the sense of competition from my life.


  1. Carly, you are amazing and truly a walking miracle in recovering from brain injury. I admire you and all you've been through! And here's a quote that helps me when I'm feeling like I don't measure up to people around me.

    "Don't bother to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors; try to be better than yourself." --William Faulkner

    Love, Colleen

  2. Carly I'm so sorry. I understand some of what you are saying from recovering from the cancer, and all I can say, you already know, Heavenly Father knows it all, and like the story of the currant bush, He knows what He wants you to be. Hang in there! It's totally worth it in the end!