Love Your (My) Brain

In 2015 I began a connection with the LoveYourBrain Foundation after meeting, and becoming connected to, the founder, Kevin Pearce, through yoga at a camp I volunteer at every summer. The organization provides support and education for TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivors along with their friends and family. Over the past 8 years I’ve learned a lot about brain injuries. Some are quite severe ranging from loss of vision, hearing, memory, and even personality changes. Some are moderate, and one might have headaches, fogginess, ringing in the ears, and sensitivity to sounds and lights. And then there are even milder cases where someone gets bonked in the noggin and just feels “off”. To boot, some folks may feel ALLLLLLLL of these symptoms and then some! Needless to say, it’s a confusing and literal mind-blowing injury that affects individuals in a variety of ways, and there is no “cure”. The best way to recover from a blow to the head resulting in a concussion, is to REST…rest…rest…

In my job I teach people to love themselves–to honor their mind, body, and spirit. I encourage my yoga students, and personal training clients to care for themselves, and to “listen” to their bodies. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you need to take a break, take one. If you’re feeling “off” don’t push yourself. All of which I wholeheartedly believe, and support. Until (I have found) it comes to me. Allow me to explain…

Almost two weeks ago, without much explanation, I passed out in my bathroom in the middle of the night. Apparently, I came to for a brief moment, and then blacked out again remaining unconscious for approximately 30-45 seconds. (*note: I’ve been thoroughly checked out, and all seems to be well with me) I do not remember anything other than waking up to my tender and sweet husband leaning over me saying my name over and over again while seeing tears streaming down his cheeks. In my fall, I smacked my chin, lip, and nose on either the doorknob or bathroom sink, and most likely hit the back of my head, as well. Aside from some blood, and a really sore neck (whiplash) I was certain I was ok. Fast forward…

There is really no way to officially diagnose the severity of a concussion other than recognizing one’s symptoms. I thought I was fine, and would be able to just tough my way through the next couple of days, and chalk it all up to a fluke accident that would just set me back a day or so. I even worked a little the day after the accident. I kept thinking, “You’re fine, Amy. You can do this. It’s not that big of a deal. Nothing is broken. You’re just tired from lack of sleep. Just push through.” Turns out that’s not a thing. My friend said it best, “It’s not the flu sis. You effin rocked your BRAIN. It needs time to heal. You basically got in a car accident in your bathroom.” Spot. On.

For anyone that knows me, I’m sure they would tell you I’m a mover. I can’t sit still for more than an hour. I LOVE to dance, walk, do yoga, work outside, workout (well I don’t exactly LOVE to workout, but you feel where I’m going with this) In fact, I might have a sliiiiight addiction to “busyness”. I have always pushed through illness, injury, and fatigue. I feel like (and I do not like admitting this) that laziness is a sign of weakness, and there ain’t no time for that! Yet, when it comes to (see above paragraph No. 2) my job and what I honestly do believe, preach, and teach–we MUST REST and refill our cup in order to heal ourselves, and serve others.

I learned a term that the LYB foundation has coined for brain injuries. It’s the “unseen injury”. For our yoga events that I sponsored in order to raise money and awareness for the organization, we put colored bandages on our face, head, or neck as a reminder that people dealing with TBIs often look “normal”, even though they’ve sustained an injury. Now that this has happened to me I’m FLOORED by it’s relevance. It would be much easier on my people pleasing tendencies to have a physical injury that folks could see…be it a broken arm, stitches on my face, even bruising. That way I wouldn’t feel the need to explain myself in order to “prove” (so to speak) that I’m not doing well. But aside from a couple of cuts to my chin and lip, I got nothin. Therefore, I am finding myself describing, not only to others, but to MYSELF, that I have an unseen injury. My brain is bruised, swollen, and it is hurt. Yet, I still feel almost like a poser, or a wimp, or a faker. It’s kind of like telling a person with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, “well… ya LOOK fine. What’s your problem??” I seem to be the “classic” case. Ears ringing, random headaches, fogginess, depressed affect, ears throbbing, can’t watch too much TV, irritable (more than normal bless it), even nightmares. And I’m like, ” YOU CAN’T EVEN SEE ANYTHING IS WRONG WITH ME! GET IT TOGETHER AMY!”

I know! I’ll try a couple of things to get out of the house. That will help. Surely, I can do a few simple errands. Car wash: Bad idea. Who knew the sprayers were actually jack hammers and the lights are super sonic strobe lights? Hyvee for bananas and kale: Wow! These florescent lights in here are so bright I should’ve worn sunscreen. Drop off the donations in the back of my car to Goodwill that have been in there for weeks: SHUT UP! Keep your voice down and stop yelling at me parking lot attendant dude! And did you know that the disclaimer before certain shows and movies “the following content contains flashing lights with strobe light effects that may be sensitive to viewers” IT IS ACTUALLY true!

Guess I’ll just stare at the damn walls…

I am NOT a napper. It’s just not something I do. I don’t like the groggy feeling of waking up after a snooze. I have FOMO–not from necessarily missing out on activities per say, but a fear of not being or doing enough. I am naturally restless, as I mentioned earlier. The things that nurture my soul, and keep me from bouts of depression are (ironically enough) the things I cannot do right now. Feeling antsy? I know! I’ll go workout. Nope. Feeling anxious? How bout working in the yard? Nada. Feeling blue? How about a horseback ride. Not a chance. All of these things (and even downdog–my favorite yoga pose) are on the back burner. Even spending time with friends wears me out. I feel guilty for not working. I feel selfish for “being lazy”. I feel useless, and in the beginning I felt helpless. Folks have said, “Oh man! I’d kill to have some down time to just lay around and take naps all day!” (insert “wrong answer” gameshow buzzer sound here) Well meaning friends have responded, “Use this time to rest and breathe” (again, insert buzzer). Family members: “The Lord is trying to tell you to SLOW DOWN” (I get it but I think the Lord also kinda made me this way sooooooo…) I am listening, and I do hear and appreciate all of the kind, heartfelt, and genuine well wishes, advice, and offerings that people are giving. I really do. I just. Don’t. Like. This. It is challenging me in ways I have not really ever known. Sooooooo….I’m finding new things to keep my little brain safely busy. Jigsaw puzzles, paint by numbers, walking (lots of walking), gentle yoga, cooking, utilizing my hot tub frequently, remembering to wear my reading glasses more (and more), and trying very hard to find quiet time without my phone are a few of the activities that are soothing and not too overstimulating for me.

I share my story for a variety of reasons. Perhaps if you’re reading this you can relate. Maybe you’ve had a concussion, or a stroke, or a brain bleed, or another form of a TBI. Chances are if you have not had the pleasure of enduring one, I’m certain you know someone who has, or will definitely come in contact with someone who will. Mostly, I am reminded of the phrase that is on the homepages of my website and instagram: “Be kinder than necessary to ALL you meet because EVERYONE is fighting some kind of battle”.

We cannot possibly see or know what is going in people’s hearts, minds, and souls. And many folks aren’t comfortable, nor do they find it necessary to “air their dirty laundry” or share their woes aloud. Just because someone seems happy, stays to themselves, and/or refrains from emotionally vomiting their feelings, doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting, dealing with physical, or emotional pain, having an off day, internally suffering, or struggling from a TBI. I’m not looking for y’all to feel sorry for me (although I do admit, the flowers, cookies, cards, small gifts, and frequent check-ins have made me feel EXTREMELY loved and cared for) I’m asking ALL of us (especially me!) to slow down. Smile. Check in on your loved ones. Forgive. Be thankful. Pray. Express gratitude. Have an open heart. Support a cause. Breathe deep. Practice kindness. Stay calm. Be patient. Give as much love as you can…to yourself…

Be well, my friends, and take care of your precious thinker.

*Disclaimer: No concussed party was injured during the writing of this post albeit took me 5+ days to write due to the fact that my normal attention span of 13.5 minutes and 17 seconds was shorter per said concussion 🙂

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