A lot of people ask me how I’ve been doing. I know that it’s a question asked out of concern and compassion. I appreciate it. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for asking it. I usually answer by saying, “I’m getting better. Day by day. I’m steadily improving. Good days and bad days.” It may not be the exact response I give, but it’s something like that.
Overall, that is true. What is also true is how exhausting and lonely this process really is. It’s exhausting because I’m constantly trying to figure out a vocabulary to precisely communicate what is going on with me. The problem with this is that our vocabularies are very experiential. If you’ve never been truly lonely, then the word only has a dictionary-based definition to you. Only once you’ve felt it can you properly understand what someone means by saying it. It’s been said that head injuries are unique to each individual. Due to this, it’s truly impossible to properly express my experiences and feelings. For this same reason, it’s a lonely process. I have a wonderful family. My wife and daughters have been truly amazing. Everyone else in my family has also been supportive. This is not a moment for anyone to feel pity or sorrow for me. That’s not the point of what I’m writing.
I think maybe just to process how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking and perhaps someone out there needs it as well…because many of us likely feel totally alone in our situations…but the truth is that we are not.
Every morning, I wake up and go straight into the bathroom to start my morning routine of getting ready for my day. When I turn on the light, there is the initial shock that sends my brain into immediate panic. I don’t adjust to light as well as I use to. When the light comes on, there is a reflex inside of me that wants to curl up in a ball and hide. Weird. I know. After the “fear of light” passes, I look in the mirror…and there it is…the demonic smile-shaped scar atop my head…laughing at me…grinning at what it’s done to me. For that brief walk to the bathroom…perhaps 5-10 seconds…I have not thought about it. Then when light hits the room…the mirror reminds me of everything that has happened in the last several months. I shrug it off…shake it off…and keep going.
Anytime I look in a mirror, I’m reminded of what happened. Anytime my head hurts, I’m reminded of what caused it. Anytime my scalp smarts…and I rub it…and I feel the scar…the tight skin…I’m reminded of a terrible moment…and sometimes it’s jarring. Sometimes, when I look in a mirror or feel my head, I have a flash of vague memory about this incredible, sledge hammer-like impact on my skull. At times, it will produce a bit of anxiety…and I tell myself, “this will all get better with time…”
The pain isn’t really the issue. I can deal with it. The issue is and always has been this thing that I wish I could really communicate. At the same time, I’m glad I cannot. If I could, then that would mean that someone had had the same experience. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Anyway…the thing I’m referring to is that I “lose myself.” No…that’s not it…let’s see…HOW ON EARTH DO I EXPLAIN THIS?!?! If I woke up right now and my life for the last several months had been a dreamlike state while in a coma, then things would make more sense to me. I often feel like I’m dreaming…and there are times when I can’t distinguish between a memory and a past dream. I feel so insecure about sharing this because it makes me sound insane…well…perhaps more insane that I may have already been (wink, wink). I want my thoughts to slow down. I want to be able to be in a noisy environment and be able to block out non-essential information. Instead, I hear everything at once. I hear every conversation around me and process every sound. It’s maddening. It’s exhausting. It’s inexplicable.
Brain injuries are weird because the brain is still so mysterious. For example, I get headaches at times deep inside…like in the middle of my brain…but there are no pain receptors there…so how am I feeling pain there? “They” don’t know. My docs and therapists explain what they can and don’t make up answers about what they don’t understand. For that, I’m really grateful.
This has been a true test of faith. I wish I could say what I’ve heard so many people say during or after traumatic events. I’ve heard people say that in those dark times, God was more “real” to them than ever before. They “felt His presence,” or, “Heard His voice.” (Honestly, if I hear voices at this point, I’m going to the doctor.)
Perhaps others have experienced incredible moments with God during such times in their lives. I won’t say I haven’t had any. I will say that those whom have said that their greatest time of suffering turned out to be their biggest time of blessing…well…I just can’t totally connect with that.
And then…I’m reminded of the essence of faith. It’s going forward with something you are unsure of. It’s deciding to follow when doubt is all that remains. It’s following when you aren’t sure what to believe.
Sometimes, life hits hard. How we respond determines what we truly believe…
Image taken from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonkoh/3433315527