I’m going to tell you about something that very few people know. Not even my mom knows, because she is very ill and I don’t want to stress her. I didn’t even tell my own children or DH, but the kids noticed something wasn’t right. I finally told them what happened, but I downplayed it. They’re all adults and involved in their own lives even living at home, and I can leave for 2-3 hours without them noticing, if I time it right, though I usually let them know if I leave the house. Mainly because I expect the same courtesy. That night I didn’t. I didn’t want to worry anyone.
Several weeks ago, the temperatures had dropped into the negatives, then warmed up to the forties, then dropped again all within a week. Snow melted and froze. Within that week, it also rained. The result was a few inches of ice all over the ground and snow. I had to walk in the 12+ inches of snow to avoid the paths we had shoveled. None of my boots would grip the sheets of ice. For a couple of days, driving was a bit of a challenge.
The backyard has a gradual slope downwards from the house to the middle of the yard. The walk-out basement door leads right into the kennel. You have to walk through the kennel to get to the rest of the yard. The path I walked from the basement door to the kennel door, which is about 20 feet, was ice. The ice made walking to do anything quite a pain in the butt.
Several times I did my own rendition of Ice Capades just trying to get out of the kennel. It was quite interesting if I was carrying water for goats or chickens. The dogs would run out the basement door into the kennel and slide right into the chain link sides. Even the Husky, who was built for this weather, would lose his footing.
They were never hurt, but they learned to take it easy when leaving the house. I learned to walk along the edges of the fencing where it wasn’t as icy. However, the area around the kennel door was the worst. The ice was thick and slick, and there wasn’t a way around it. I had to hold the kennel and walk carefully. I tried chipping it up, but since my arm and back were still sore I couldn’t do much.
I didn’t think about how high the ice had gotten by that day. I didn’t think to duck under the kennel door crossbar. I was too busy running the list of things I needed to accomplish that day through my head. I was used to just walking under the bar. After all, it was 6′ tall and I am 5’7″. I had clearance. Until inches of snow and ice had formed.
Nearing the kennel door, I opened it and slid a bit. I grabbed the chain link. I remember the pain across the front top of my head. I had been watching my feet and didn’t see the bar. Letting go of the fence I was using to steady myself, I put my hand to the area that was hurting as I tried to not spill the chicken water I had in my other hand.
I remember stepping outside of the kennel on to the slipperiest (is that even a word?) part of the yard still rubbing the area of my head that hit the bar. I remember my feet going out from under me. It went fast, but it happened so slow. It kind of reminds me of a scene from Home Alone.
I can still see the waterer falling like it was in slow motion. I remember thinking how lucky I was it landed without spilling, and how odd that it was moving so slow. I felt pain on the side of my head as it hit the outside corner of the kennel. I hit the ground and my head hit the ice. I remember a blinding white flash and pain through my back.
I had to open my eyes. Did I pass out? I don’t know. My head hurt. My back hurt. My first thought was Well, that was a dumb move. The only thing I could think as I carefully leveraged myself off the ground was that I had to get the animals taken care of, because I knew their water was frozen and they needed it replaced, they needed to be let out and fed. No one was awake yet, and I figured by the time I woke anyone up and managed to get them out of bed, I could be done with it all. Other than DH, we are not morning people.
The pain in my head lessened a bit as I took care of everyone, went inside, fed the dogs and made coffee. I was a bit dizzy, but it wasn’t too bad. After about 45 minutes, it still hurt enough to be distracting. I took a couple of pain relievers, which I later discovered may not have been a good idea, and went on with my day. By dinner, the pain was quite strong and holding my head up became difficult despite the pain relievers I’d been taking. I’ve only had maybe 2 migraines my entire life and it felt like one.
I remember typing to someone that my head was killing me, something wasn’t right and I was going to the ER. I have no idea who I typed that to. I can’t find any evidence that I typed it. I can find no response to it like you would expect someone might send asking if I was okay or whatever. I have a list of accounts and passwords for my family in case anything happens to me, so they can pay bills, cancel my personal accounts, etc.
I checked the list for email accounts to make sure I hadn’t missed one, I checked Facebook and couldn’t find anything, but in my own head I remember typing it. Unless I have a hidden account somewhere I don’t remember, it seems that I never typed it to anyone. I distinctly remember typing it. I remember how the brightness of the screen hurt my eyes. But I can’t find it. Every day I wonder if I really typed it or did my mind play a trick on me?
Anyhow, I didn’t think a concussion would be a big deal. My youngest son had a minor one this past summer and was fine. How bad could one be?
Fast forward to now:
My recurring headaches seem to have finally stopped. The ringing in my ears still happens randomly. The sore spots on my skull are gone except for the back of my head, but it’s better. I can clean my hair without cringing. It only hurts if I push hard. However, things aren’t quite right.
When I first realized I had to search for certain memories, I panicked a bit. I kept thinking What else is wrong? An emotional disconnection, which I’m told happens and will most likely “heal” – maybe, surfaced when I realized my mother told me her heart is leaking and I didn’t feel anything. No sadness, anger, nothing. I knew that wasn’t right. Sometimes extreme emotional responses can happen when a brain injury occurs, but I went the opposite way.
Videos that I know made me tear up no longer do that. I deliberately watched a movie that always makes me cry yet it didn’t. Things the kids do that annoy me, like not washing their dishes, have no effect – most of the time. Every once in a while I will feel something like I used to, but a lot of the time there is nothing. My eldest son called me “Spock” the other day.
I was writing a story and knew the main characters inside and out. I could feel their emotions and responses in my head. I knew how each one would react to a situation. I knew the ending scene would be heartrending. When I started writing it, I knew where it came from and where it was going.
Now I have no idea who the characters are or what drives them. I have no idea how the important character in the final scene feels. I know what I knew before, but I don’t feel it at all. I can’t write. I looked at another story and it’s the same problem. The connection to the characters is completely gone.
I know when I was little something happened within my mom’s family that divided it. It’s a big family. She is the youngest out of 13 children. At that time, 11 were living. The family was split in half. It was bad enough that she moved to another state with my brother and I. I know I knew what happened, but now I don’t. I can’t ask or she’ll know something is wrong.
I know when I was a teenager, I ran away to California with a girl friend. But now I can’t recall anything that happened from the time my friend and I hitched a ride with a trucker until I was picked up and sent home. Days are just gone.
There is a shadowy figure in my memory. I don’t know who it is, but when I focus on it, I’m overcome by such sadness and a feeling of longing. I have no idea why. It’s one of the few times I feel something. It feels like I’ve lost something important, but the memory isn’t there. If I try to make myself remember things, my head starts hurting again. It’s like reaching into a black hole.
Every once in a while I will wonder if I’m forgetting anything else. Is there something important I’m missing and I don’t realize it?
Sometimes the kids will refer to something and I have to think about it for a bit to remember. If they question me, I just joke about getting older. I don’t want my family to worry about me. I also don’t want to be treated like I’m “broken” or something. But two of them noticed I was “off” and they have asked me a couple of times if I’m okay. I finally had to tell them that I slipped and hit my head, but I was okay and trying to figure some things out. They assumed I was referring to their father, and I didn’t correct it.
It’s weird. When I hear the words “traumatic brain injury”, I think of people who have to learn to walk again, people who have to learn to talk, read, relearn their lives, recover memories… I do not think “me”. It was a simple fall. No car accident. No tree landing on me. No war injuries. No drowning in icy waters. Nothing I’d consider major. I’ve fallen and hit my head before without a problem other than a headache. It was just a stupid fall on the ice.
The recommendation is to give it time. I’m not to force myself to try to remember anything, but let my head and mind heal at its own rate. It has been suggested that maybe there is a reason I’ve forgotten certain things and it’s best to let them alone. It is also recommended that I not make major decisions that I’m not absolutely sure of and can remember why I am making them. For now, I get monitored, but I’ll probably stop that. No point in it if I’m not going to get worse.
I’m grateful it wasn’t worse and all I have are a few “blind spots”. I’m grateful I wasn’t knocked out for an extended period, because I probably would’ve frozen to death before anyone woke up. I’m glad I didn’t have to spend days or weeks in the hospital.
Want to know what’s funny? DH still ticks me off. Being lied to still ticks me off. I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing.