About 2.5 years after my car accident I went to see a neurologist. He said: “Jessie, the woman who was just in my office has had a brain injury for four years. She is practically killing herself trying to live her old life, but she can’t. Don’t wait any longer – set up your life so that you can manage what is on your plate.”
I remember feeling like the floor fell away in that moment. I finally got it. I needed to organize my life around ensuring I had time to do the self-care I knew I needed.
Not long after that I wrote this poem. It’s interesting to reflect now and see that I have come such a long way since then. By choosing self-care, mindfulness practices, and other supports I feel so much better! I so want that for you too.
Coming to Grips with the New (Quiet-Requiring) Me
New Year’s Eve
I lay in the bath (for some quiet time before a couple of hours at a loud New Year’s Eve party)
Some words came bubbling up….
I feel like such a fool
I was in a car accident (not my fault) nearly three years ago
I thought I would be better by now but
I am not
I cannot handle too much noise, too much stimulation, too much thinking, too much stress, too little to eat, too little sleep
I have various post-concussive, post-traumatic stress, post-whip lash symptoms, but the main thing is that I get cognitive fatigue
I get foggy-brained just like you do after too much but
I get it nearly every day
There are not many (full) days since the accident that I have not felt it and
I am exhausted
I have good days and good hours (some very good)
I have done some amazing work and have had lots of fun since the accident but
I have many bad days
and many bad hours (the end of the day is the hardest)
I know it is difficult for others to understand my invisible disability, the coming and going of it
Turn up the music much louder than you usually like and shine a bright light right into your eyes. Feel how your body cringes and your face gets tight? That’s what too much noise/stimulation feels like to me once my brain is fried from doing too much.
I need mindfulness. Stillness. Quiet.
I want you to know that I feel like such a fool for finding this hard
I am one of the luckiest people in the world
Not everyone holds their daughter in their arms
or watches her blossom into an (almost) young woman
or has work that fills them up and pays them well
or owns a home in one of the most beautiful places on earth
or has traveled to 54 countries
I feel like such a fool for finding it hard to come to grips with the New Me
The New Me that has to work less
The New Me that has to do less
The New Me that has to pace herself and slow down
The New Me that has to SAY NO when she wants to SAY YES
But guess what?
Yesterday I took a mindful walk to Trout Lake
I took an hour and a half to do what would normally take 40 minutes
I stopped to soak up the glorious Coast Mountains bathed in snow
I bent down to gaze at the frost on a log
I breathed deeply, over and over again, calming my mind and my soul
I walked very slowly down the little wooden path to the lake
and it made me feel high
I was mesmerized by the barren branches of beauty
I felt more present. More content. More alive. More the me I want to be
Than the Old Me often felt
My mindfulness training paying off!
I saw a glimpse of An Other New Me:
One who is calm, not stressed, in the zone, on the pad, one who ‘pays attention’
One who does good work (even if it is half time or less – whatever level it ends up being that she can handle without feeling like crap)
One who has energy at the end of the day for making a yummy dinner
One who has time for long walks, yoga, meditation – being fully in the moment
One who has time to be there for family and friends
One who makes giving smiles a form of activism
One who (mostly) accepts her limitations (and enjoys her quota of loud without pining for more)
on this New Year’s Eve
Is that a year from now I can reflect back and say that I am closer to that
Other New Me
Then I won’t feel like such a fool
Have you come to grips with the New You? I am not asking you to accept this new realty – that feels too much like being forced to be OK with it all. I prefer the word acknowledge. With mindfulness we learn to recognize that this is how things are right now. Fighting it, denying it, only causes us more pain and suffering.
It took me more than a year, but now 6 years on from having written that poem I have (mostly!) come to grips with the New Me, and I continue to get to know this Other New Me. I don’t feel like such a fool anymore. I still get frustrated about my limitations. I still miss the old me who got to say YES more often (and I suffer for it if I say yes too often). But much of the time I feel grateful for the kick-in-the-pants my brain injury gave me. Slowing down and listening to what my body needs feels awesome! It has enriched my life in ways I never would have imagined.
So, what might an Other New You look like?