My appointment with the neurosurgeon went about as expected, lots of doom and gloom. Dr. Vansickle is incredibly empathetic, but clearly he is very concerned that he not give me false hope. Staying positive today has been a challenge. My last visit with this doctor was pretty devastating. His best-case scenario was my worst-case scenario. I felt like a burden to my family and had thoughts that they would be better off without me. The secret to managing post-concussive symptoms is knowing that they pass. I worked hard to get to a better place in my head and about that same time had significant improvement that left me better able to contribute to my family’s needs.
I had been attempting to clean up and organize the house everyday for over two months with little success. One load of dishes and laundry left me as exhausted as on my busiest gardening day with nothing to show for it. It took me a month to pay the bills, doing it all by telephone as I couldn’t manage my online accounts. Even Thank You notes were challenging as I lost track of who I had and hadn’t thanked for gifts of food, rides, help with the house and yard and notes of support. There was nothing I did well.
My father and stepmother were coming to stay with us so I was focused on the house with no idea how it would be guest-ready in time. Everyday I tried and failed to make real progress but I never considered giving up. My breakthrough occurred one sleepless night when I chose not to take a sleeping pill, but rather to try to use my anxiety to get something done. I was very slow, but I kept working towards my goal until miraculously I had one room clean and organized. My satisfaction came from observing that the quality of my work looked the same as if I had accomplished it before the accident. It just required a rather large time commitment, a shocking number of breaks and getting back to see the physical therapist for pain management. I still struggle with the bills, but on one good day I was able to make a list of monthly payments and their due dates, a tool that I can use on bad days rather than relying on my memory and late notices.
When I was finally able to focus enough to read, (although I still don’t retain much) I opened a book that someone had recommended for me called SuperBetter. From the author, I learned that my symptoms weren’t unique and that everyone with a TBI hears a little voice inside their head telling them that they should kill themselves. This person had experienced all my worst symptoms and had recovered enough to write a book explaining her process. I wished I had been given that kind of information before I left the hospital, but better late than never. The book offered a novel approach to recovery as well, the author having created a game out of getting better. While taking a gameful approach to recovery doesn’t come naturally to me, just knowing that my doctor might not have all the answers and that progress could come about through unexpected channels gave me a lot of hope. I’m sure that the SuperBetter message paved the way for me to believe that there were benefits to be had from making lunch for my kids
As I predicted, I was looking for a distraction post-appointment today and found it in a never-used Harry Potter chocolate mold. I had sushi rice leftover from the hearts, so I decided to make a more boy-friendly soccer snack. I used our chocolate frog mold from Amazon to mold amphibians from rice mixed with three squirts of green food coloring and a good shake of rice vinegar. I filled the bottom half our the kids’ bento boxes with nori rice crackers and a dried Japanese squid snack. I added a few rainbow goldfish for good measure. I placed three molded frogs on top and made a fishing pole out of a Chili Salad Pretz and a thin piece of squid.
So the rice wasn’t wasted and the boys got to have more of their crazy squid snack. (FYI, most of our Japanese snack foods come from Amazon as my husband doesn’t have time to take me to an Asian grocery store. The kids enjoy trying these unique snack items and it is one more way to liven up lunch.) More importantly, I kept the focus off of what I can’t do and entertained myself with kitchen toys.
Making bento boxes for my kids today helped to relieve post-concussive symptoms of depression and impulse control. Re-creating sushi hearts that I had made when the kids were small played on fond memories and my new creation aimed at the boys rewarded their patience with pink. Instead of spending the day caught up in my head, I gave my kids attention. Wonder at the healing power of sushi rice.