Having lived with ABI (acquired brain injury) for almost three years, learning to pace myself has been one of the most important things I need to be mindful of. As long as I am reasonably mindful of how much I take on, or what emotional loading I expose myself to, life can be manageable. In fact, life can be very enjoyable a majority of the time.
The last while, which includes Christmas and New Years, I have been over taxed. I say “the last while,” but I have lost count. It’s just been too long (I haven’t posted since mid December).
I have been struggling with a plurality of physical challenges. Having dealt with chills, aches and pains while feeling nauseous had me wondering whether I was just simply dealing with a flu. It would seem easier if it was the flu. However, the way the symptoms persisted and varied, I knew it wasn’t the flu.
At other times I was dealing with vertigo, blurred vision, coordination challenges, acute headaches, extreme exhaustion, while unable to sleep. In an other life I would have wondered whether I was experiencing stroke symptoms.
I wasn’t sure what to do. I was urged to see my family doctor. I figured there was no point going to the family doctor, because there just didn’t seem anything concrete enough to expect a helpful diagnosis. Being told to rest and drink plenty of fluids just wasn’t worth making an appointment and getting myself into town.
A couple of days ago I went to my regularly scheduled reflexology appointment. I was feeling good enough to make the 45 minute drive on my own. I gave myself plenty of time so I could pull over for a nap if I needed to.
As my treatment got underway, the reflexologist asked me how I was doing. With Christmas and New Year’s just behind us, she was expecting an upbeat answer.
I first mentioned the various physical challenges I had been experiencing for far too many days. I then mentioned that a dear friend had been killed in a traffic accident on December 21st.
That changed her approach. She recognized the various physical symptoms as a strong indication that my body was in shock. My physical care had been seriously disrupted as had my emotional well being.
The suddenness of the news initially made it seem unreal. The flash back to my own accident was not helpful. And the inability to pace myself while grieving left me very vulnerable.
The funeral service was scheduled nine days after the accident. I usually have a hard time getting through a worship service without a break or two. I did not and could not remove myself from the funeral service. I also wanted to accompany my wife as she had agreed to share some thoughts and memories during the service.
After the funeral service was over my wife asked if I felt up to attending the internment. That wasn’t the question for me. I was focused on the need to attend. I was looking for closure and hoped that participating in the internment would help. The internment was more difficult than I expected. At one point it took all of my will power to not collapse.
Maybe I shouldn’t have attended the internment. It’s hard to make proper decisions in a situation like that. I probably would not have heeded any advice given to me.
Looking for Recovery
Having learned to accept sensory overload as part of living with ABI, I knew I could expect to need up to four days for recovery. That usually allowed for enough time for recovery. That was usually the price I paid for not removing myself from an environment that was causing me sensory overload.
Grieving seems to override any attempt at self-pacing. My physical symptoms persisted as I struggled with the emotional overload. And not surprising, the emotional overload did not end with the internment.
A clear challenge with ABI is having a hard time filtering impressions and emotions. I have gradually experienced some improvements over the past three years. I no longer need to pull over while driving when a touching story is being shared on the radio. I have since had a dental experience without needing four days to recover.
The intensity of losing a friend so suddenly is much more challenging than the other experiences of sensory overload. While grieving the loss of a friend it’s not possible to remove myself from the ‘overload’ environment.
The support and care of friends and family has been most helpful. Knowing that other people, even if they don’t fully understand, showing patience and care, helps keep things from becoming overly complicated or causing a downward spiral.
What is Your Only Comfort in Life and in Death
I was brought up knowing life is finite. I was also raised with the following understanding:
That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; …and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; …
Heidelberg Catechism Lords Day #1
Knowing where to search for comfort helps to forestall hopelessness. Knowing is one thing. Being able to live with what one knows sometimes takes time. Gradually my body is catching up with me.