Traumatic brain injury is strange. In my younger life, I was a ballet dancer for 20 years, and also did theater and musical theater in high school. This means that before the crash, I had better than average balance, and a very high tolerance for spinning. While my therapists think this has probably helped my recovery significantly, it also makes it exceedingly frustrating to have ongoing balance deficits. Throughout my life, I have loved any and all kinds of dancing – ballet, tap, jazz, country, swing, salsa, blues, and even belly dancing. With dance, comes a love of music. Prior to the crash I was always listening to music and incessantly singing. I sang in the shower, in the car, in the kitchen, and everywhere else. Growing up, my brothers were always annoyed with my singing. As a little kid I would get in trouble at school for singing. Most of the time I wouldn’t even realize I WAS singing. It just happened. When I played Annie in high school, my little brother was subjected to me singing “The sun will come out tomorrow…” over and over and over for months. Even as an adult, I can make him nuts just singing the first word of that song. And in case you are wondering, yes that was my real hair. I loved it red.
Josh was the one that pointed it out to me a few weeks ago; I don’t sing anymore. Ever since the crash, all those songs that constantly filled my head are gone. In fact, I don’t even listen to music. There are times that I try to listen, but I don’t really enjoy it. Most music is too complicated, and makes me feel like my head will explode. As far as dancing goes, the thought of being surrounded by music and other people dancing is completely overwhelming.
I’ve had some people tell me that this blog is inspirational, that it is amazing I am out there running long distances. While I’m happy that people are finding inspiration in my writing, that really wasn’t my intention with this blog. For me, the goal is to educate people about mild traumatic brain injury. It is a condition that doesn’t make any sense to most people, and for good reason. I’m living it, and it still doesn’t make sense.
I think it is easier to grasp severe brain injury. If someone is in a serious accident and they are hospitalized in a coma, with months or years of rehabilitation to learn to walk and talk, it is easy to grasp why this person would struggle with daily activities. But here I am, 10 months after a seemingly minor crash, where I left the hospital after 45 minutes with “no serious injuries”. This past Saturday, I ran 25 miles. Then on Tuesday, after physical therapy, I was feeling pretty good so I stopped at a little market to get eggs and yogurt on my way home. It took me 30 minutes, and three store employees came to ask if I needed help because I was just standing there like an idiot. Since it is a small market, and I was the only customer in there at the time, it was fairly noticeable. Of course I didn’t say “YES I need help”, because how do you explain that you can’t find the eggs and yogurt even though you are standing right in front of them. It is crazy that I can run down a trail for hours, but the second I walk into an environment like that my brain function stops. This is why I’m writing this blog. I want people to know that it is possible for someone to look totally normal, and even to run long distances, and still have significant cognitive deficits. Unless you spend a lot of time with that person, you might never know they were struggling.
My doctor says that my recovery will more than likely continue to be very slow, but I should continue to improve with time. Tomorrow I’ll be able to drive down the highway. Tomorrow I’ll be able to do the grocery shopping. Tomorrow I’ll be able to sing and dance again. But for today, I will be thankful I can run, and I will keep reminding myself – the sun will come out tomorrow, so you gotta hang on til tomorrow, come what may.