Ho ho ho, here we are in mid-December, although it hasn’t really looked like December around here. Waking up today to a skiff of snow for our Thursday morning hill workout was a little reminder that it is in fact winter.
With cookies made (and eaten), and Christmas shopping almost finished (I’m starting tomorrow), I am so far surviving December. As I’ve mentioned before, this blog is a much for me as it is for my readers. Being able to look back at previous posts as a sort of online journal is highly valuable to me. Today I looked back at my post last year about the holidays. While the Christmas season is still not as enjoyable as it used to be, this year has been easier than the previous two holiday seasons. I find myself not dreading social interaction, and I’ve even enjoyed listening to some Christmas music. As much as I have improved, my symptoms are not gone, and I still hate all the bright Christmas lights. I also still deal with brain fatigue, anxiety, disorientation, light and sound sensitivity. Most people will never recognize it, and probably think I look completely normal. However, there are a couple people in my life that can take one look at me and know if I’m having a good day or a bad day- my grandmother, and my husband. I don’t have to say a thing about how I’m feeling, but neither of them will hesitate to tell me when I need a nap, and they are always right.
Six weeks ago, at the suggestion of a friend, I looked into the use of CBD oil, also known as hemp oil. I was able to find several original research articles on the use of CBD for brain injury as well as for migraines. The acronym “CBD” is short for cannabidiol, which is a component of the marijuana plant, but it isn’t the psychoactive THC part. CBD has been used to treat epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and many neurologic conditions. Figuring it was worth a try, I went over to Lucky’s Market, a local grocery store, and picked up my first bottle. Now first off, CBD oil is not cheap, but I decided that one bottle was a reasonable investment, and if I experienced no benefit I wouldn’t purchase another. I won’t go into dosing because there really is no published “correct” dose. Very simply, I started with the bottle labeled dose and have increased a bit from there. The question you will be wondering is of course – has it worked for me? Being of a scientific mind, I won’t say yes, because I don’t have proof. However, I will say that in six weeks I have had only two migraines, which is an incredibly significant improvement from the recent 4-6 migraines a week. In fact, two migraines in six weeks are fewer than I have had for years, even before my brain injury! Does that prove the CBD oil works? No, it doesn’t. Does it mean I will keep taking it? Absolutely.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference in my symptoms overall with the CBD oil. For the last week, I’ve been feeling much better, but November was a pretty rough month for me. I’m not sure if it is the change in weather or my significant drop in running mileage as we move into the off-season, but the last three years, November has been one of my worst months. In general, wind and storms trigger many symptoms for me, including vertigo and brain fog. This seems to be a common experience among many of my TBI friends. Running has been a mainstay of my therapy, and the longer I run the better I feel. It would make sense to me that when I start running less, I wouldn’t feel as good. Lately, I have been running closer to 40 miles a week, which is a big drop from peak summer season at 70+ miles per week. My guess is that my annual November “blahs” are a combination of the weather plus the drop in mileage. I’m currently getting back at it though, setting some small goals for myself, and looking at the 2018 race calendar. I went ahead and registered for the Black Hills 50 miler in June, which will also be Josh’s first 50, but that is all I’ve committed to so far. Unless you count my commitment to NOT do another 100 next year. Yes, I realize I said that last year, but this time I mean it. Seriously.
Frequently I am reminded that recovery is a long slow process. In your own recovery, there will be those people that think you are fine, even close family or friends. There will be people that think you are making it up. They won’t understand how your symptoms seem to suddenly come out of nowhere, but you know the truth is that you had been feeling terrible for hours and your brain finally reached the point that it could no longer function. The realities of brain injury don’t make sense to most people. I have frequently been asked by TBI friends, “How do I make my family understand and respect my needs?” To that I say, you can’t. There are some people that will never understand what you are going through. All you can do is respect yourself enough to honor your own needs, and try to surround yourself with people that are supportive. Let this be your Christmas present to yourself…and maybe a bottle of CBD oil to top it off…and some cookies.
For more tips on surviving the holidays, check out this post from Brainline.