FIFTY SHADES OF GREY MATTER

OR … The One Where My Head Explodes

Today is an anniversary of sorts for me. It marks one year since I was sent to hospital and life would change for me forever. So I figured, what better time to relaunch my blog. However, this time around things will be somewhat different. They have no choice but to be.

For starters, I thought I’d just give you a run-down of what the last year has entailed for me in a health sense. But this isn’t going to be a blog solely about illness. It’s a blog about life and experiences … the good, bad, and incredibly frustrating. Illness wasn’t the only thing I experienced during that year. There was a bizarre break-up, some shady friendships, and inappropriate advances; but also amusing moments in day-to-day life, like my accidentally-created new fitness craze of Angry Walking, , and my frequent dealings with my new nemeses – pigeons. You’ll get to read about those in coming weeks.

SO HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED …

Short answer … I got sick, really sick.

Longer answer … I’d felt off colour for weeks leading up to the hospitalisation. I’d just dismissed it as the flu. But there were some massive warning signs starting to flash like crazy.

For one, my hair started falling out. A lot! I thought it was a sign that I had coloured it one too many times over the years, and resolved to be more careful and use heating appliances sparingly.

My eyesight also changed dramatically. I dismissed any obvious symptoms, and just figured I needed glasses. So, I went and got reading glasses. This alleviated the issue a little … but not really enough. I shrugged it off, as me just needing to get used to the glasses.

It was only after I experienced paralysis of my left side, that I decided it was a good idea to go to the doctor. I looked very different physically by this stage, and ill symptoms had become the norm of day to day life for me.

A few minutes into my doctor’s visit, I was rushed to hospital emergency. No time to duck home for lip gloss or a book to read, I was ordered to go straight there. As the doctor put it, failure to do so may result in my death. I scoffed at him for being overly dramatic, but he assured me he wasn’t.

 

By the time I arrived in emergency, I was displaying the following symptoms:

  Left side paralysis

  Constant headache

  Very blurred vision

  Slurred speech

  Difficulty drinking

  Hair Loss

  Consistent Fatigue

  Unsteady walk

  Coordination and balance issues

  Loss of concentration

  Inability to multi-task

  Flu-like symptoms

  Lack of desire to read or look at anything too detailed

  Photosensitivity

  Earache

  Ringing in ears

  Inability to focus

  Mind fog

  Forgetfulness

  Confusion

  Memory Loss

 

That’s quite the laundry list of symptoms to deny. Yes, I was a fool.

It was suspected that I had suffered a stroke and seizure, and my blood pressure was dangerously out of control. Also, many of the symptoms I was experiencing … paralysis, vision disturbances, fatigue, headaches, etc. are common with a traumatic brain injury. As a result of my denial of these onset symptoms, my body was experiencing a rather serious health crisis.

Being in the acute stroke ward was a great big eye-opener. Whilst being subjected to hourly around-the-clock testing, I had a lot of time on my hands to think.

And I did just that. I thought about what happened, and what could have happened. I thought about what was going to happen next. I thought about what I would change. And, I thought about just how much I had put myself through ignoring the signs of illness.

Thankfully it wasn’t a stroke. However the seizure was pretty much a certainty. It was discovered that there was some highly suspicious activity occupying real estate on my brain. Whatever mysterious illness I was experiencing was creating a seriously angry tenant.

After being released from the hospital, I was sent home with strict orders for recovery and stacks more testing to be done on my brain and spine. I was ordered to months of recovery, and instructed to rest and do not much of anything else. This sounded like torture to me, and I pushed against it for the most part. But some days it wore me down and I wasn’t capable of much at all.

Brain injuries do not heal like other injuries. No two brain injuries are alike and the consequences of two similar injuries may be very different. Some symptoms may return, new ones can crop up days, weeks, or even months later. Some things may return to normal, and others may never be the same again.

Sounds pretty bleak, but I was determined to bust through this.

Still, I was recurrently panicked with the idea that I was never going to be able to exist like I once did. I scared myself with thoughts of things getting worse and my memory deteriorating to mush. This led to constant memory tests and retraining, which left me exhausted and frustrated. But a positive attitude saw me through, and consistency started to pay off.

My mind figured that because I wasn’t an extreme case, I was fine. I always played down to everyone what happened in the hospital, my tests, my results, my recovery, symptoms, and the way I was feeling. It just seemed easier to do that. I felt damaged and defective, and I sure as hell didn’t want anyone else to view me in that way. I became more introverted, and tried to steer clear of social media and interaction when feeling low (Bad Brain Days), but attempted to maintain a publicly perky persona.

I was lucky. Very lucky. Things sure could have been a whole lot worse. It just helps me to stay mindful and grateful for all that I have in my life each and every day.

So this blog is kind of my way of fighting back. Against the inability to write (it’s taken me a year to write again), against the ongoing symptoms of my injury, and against the pain and angst that ebbs and flows like the waves. As it’s still a very confusing and mysterious time for me, I understand that it is also the same for those around me. So, perhaps this will shed some light on my experiences, and also give other brain injury sufferers something they can relate to. This is me, illustrating and attempting to write myself back to life, one blog post at a time.

It won’t always be pretty, but it will never be boring. I hope you stick around on the journey!

PS: In order to become consistent and accountable, I intend to post every Tuesday. I’ll see you then!