Well, that was the longest five-day period I’ve put in since I did my leaving cert all those years ago. The days seemed to drag interminably and my brain was doing weird things. I’ve not had a concussion before. I thought I was grand when the CT scan was clear, so I just did what I’d usually do. A comment on my last blog post telling me that I shouldn’t be writing or reading or engaging with screens of any kind threw me a little. But hey, sure I was grand.
When I woke Thursday, the world had tilted a little. Ever so slightly. But it made walking in a straight line somewhat difficult. It didn’t help that I had collected my new glasses that morning. I couldn’t tell the difference between concussed teetering and varifocal wavering. Truth be told, I felt a little drunk.
Lesson No. 1 – Do not try to get used to a new prescription while concussed.
I took the tram over to the Medical Center and lodged my litany of complaints: nausea, headache, dizzyness. She told me that I’d received a nasty bang and was more than mildly concussed – I’d been upgraded to moderate. I was to go to bed and sleep as much as I could. I wasn’tto read, write, watch TV, or drive. No computers, phones, laptops, or kindles. I wouldn’t feel like eating but I was to drink 3 litres of water a day and take my painkillers every 4 hours.
Lesson No. 2 – When you’re concussed, all you can do is sleep.
The trouble was that the bed I wanted to be in was 200 km away and the only way to get there was by train. I set my alarm to go off 15 minutes before I was due to arrive and fell asleep not two minutes later. When the train arrived, I felt much better so decided to go grocery shopping. Usually, I’m quite systematic about this. I know what I need and can do the circuit in 10-15 minutes. No dithering. But my brain was confused. I was addled. And as I bounced around the aisles, nothing would come into focus. Did I need or didn’t I became questions of magnanimous proportions. I bought stuff I usually avoided and didn’t get what I needed.
Lesson No. 3 – When you’re concussed, avoid making decisions as they make your head hurt even more.
When we got to the house, I made a vain attempt to put away the groceries. I reached for the biscuit tin and found two lone chocolate chip cookies languishing inside. I popped one into my mouth, telling myself I needed the sugar. Apparently, when you’re concussed, your brain uses up all the glucose in your body as it needs the energy. I emptied the packet of larger bickies into the tin, shut it, and put it back. Two minutes later, I had a crisis of conscious that scared me senseless. I had visions of that lone chocolate chip being set upon by the bigger cranberry-and-white-chocolate bullies. I saw him being shunned, ignored, and even smothered. I took a breath and reasoned: perhaps they were nice bickies who would see he was different to them and be curious, welcoming, and nurturing. But I’ve turned cynical lately. I’ve seen too much sidelining and discrimination. I did what I had to do. I opened the tin, picked him out, and ate him. I told myself it was for his own good. Life in this detail was too much to deal with so I went to bed.
Lesson No. 4 – Concussion does mad things to your thoughts – but it’s temporary.
I slept for 17 hours straight that night, with all sorts of weird dreams. In one, Elon Musk was holding open auditions. He was on a mission to find new talent and then sponsor their career to stardom. He was looking for his next protegé. The talented Mark D was in the line-up. He was to conduct a symphony he’d written: Tesla Roadster in 7th Gear. Everyone else was milling around, anxious to get on with it, dressed to the nines in tuxedos and ball-gowns when in walks Mark D, seven hours late, and dressed, as Musk said himself, as if he were about to give a tutorial in an Oxford study. The whole thing was being staged in a farmyard. The neighbour donkey woke me before I found out what happened.
In another, I was working with a novelist, a married man, father of two, who was living in a closet in a hotel room. He’d hang his kids up at night while he and his wife folded themselves into their separate drawers. The room’s occupants didn’t seem at all put out by this. When we met in the ensuite bathroom, he told me that he wanted to retain the rights to veto the casting, were his book ever made into a movie. He wanted to be sure that Freddie Mercury played the role of the nun who singlehandedly saved a species of spider from annihilation. I have a vague memory of debating whether or not I should tell him that Freddie was dead.
In a third, I was on a cruise with the Pope and his entourage. It was an all-singing, all-dancing Vatican romp with a new single about to be launched. I had a press pass, there to specifically cover the lyrics as claims had been made that they were simply a modern-day rendition of an old Robbie Burns poem.
There were lots more – including showing up for a job as second-in-command to Barron Hilton in my PJs and then ruining the interview by insisting that he was Ronan Keating trying to pull a fast one.
Lesson No. 5 – When you’re concussed, dreams will be more vivid than usual.
I stayed off the screens – didn’t use my laptop, or my kindle, or my phone. It was like stepping off the world for a few days. Himself read me my messages and replied to those that needed replying to for me. When I wasn’t sleeping, I made some jam, cleaned the kitchen, and did some laundry. I had to do something. But I had to be careful of sudden movements. I moved in slow motion, got incredibly frustrated, and tired easily. I’m back online today but just for a couple of hours. Then a couple of hours more tomorrow. And so through the end of the week.
Lesson No. 6 – Recovery is a slow process that all the wishing in the world won’t hasten.
I’ve heard stories of those who haven’t had a scan after a blow to the head – be it a fall or a bang or whatever. And weeks or months later, when the undiagnosed brain bleeds come to light, it’s touch and go. My scan was clear. I’m adjusting to the new glasses. I can handle the bright sunlight outside. And am finally back reading. One chapter at a time.
Thank you for your thoughts, concerns, and good wishes. I’m very grateful.