Setbacks probably look different for everyone. I compared the overwhelmed state of the healing brain in my last post to the feeling of a confused mouse in a maze. That was really just my way of making light of a tough situation. For anyone supporting a person with a such an invisible injury, the signs of setbacks can be very subtle. I see them in myself as either confusion (like forgetting what I was going to do or say) or when I have really done too much, my brain seems to just freeze up. Socially, a person with a brain injury might be able to fake it by laughing off confusions, forgetting a name etc. but if you live with someone who has a brain injury, since you can’t see or feel what they’re experiencing, (you can’t see that mouse running all over the place) you can watch for subtle signs that will indicate a setback and a need to slow down. Sometimes people with head injuries are not the best at monitoring their own healing.
Let me explain:
I did too much yesterday. I used to love to write, and I still want to be able to do this, but I asked too much of the language area of my brain yesterday. It’s ok to end a day with a headache, but when I start to mix things up well into the next day, I know I’ve set myself back in the wrong direction. The subtle signs of setbacks usually appear in little confusions. I’ll find I have left-right confusion when I have a jar of peanut butter in one hand, a coffee in the other, and I go to sip the peanut butter. It’s laughable, but a good warning that shouldn’t be ignored. When you think you’re making progress toward healing from a head injury, it doesn’t mean you can start to do things the way you used to. In my experience, there seem to be a couple of steps backward for every step forward in a healing brain. I guess I was feeling pretty good about embracing my artistic side yesterday, and forgot to pay attention to my own advice.
So, don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll wake up one morning to feel better again, the way you do when you get over the flu. In fact, I’m not sure the forward direction will be the one you expect. Tip for today: Get used to your new normal. I think it helps to accept the change to your brain, just as you would a bad knee or ankle that you might have to watch. Your injured brain is going to react to stimulus the way any injured tissue does. It’s ok, it will heal, but give it time.