Remembering What Happened To Me (And You)

There are many reasons we consciously forget about an injuries we sustained when younger. But to heal we have to remember them to some extent, even just a little. Remembering what happened to me included having to realise the accidents that didn't seem serious actually were.

“Have you had a head injury?” Jonathan, my Contact Care practitioner asked.

“Me? No, never broken a bone.” I said proudly.

But as he released the tension locks in my feet, a memory started to bubble up to the surface. I started to remember what happened to me.

I was 7 or 8. It was after a piano lesson, which I hated. Eww piano. Give me singing lessons any day.

It was dark, I was waiting for mum. She was chatting nearby, a shadow in the background. I am focused on playing. Not the piano, but a game I had just invented.

There was a concrete footpath, about 1.5 meters wide. On each side was a metal railing. Under the railing were bricks. Two rows of bricks on each side supporting the railing. And I was dashing between the two.

Standing up the bricks, hold onto the railing. Pause. Step down. Flow down across the concrete footpath and up the other side. Down, flow, up. Down, flow, up.

Down. Flow. Up.

I was enjoying the swoosh of my dress as I flew across the path. The reach of my legs as I stepped up and the pull on my arms as I grabbed the railing.

I enjoyed the inner beat, of feeling my body in this rhythmic pattern. Maybe I went a little faster, maybe I lost focus.

Down, down, down, crunch.

My chin landed on the edge of the opposite bricks. My head wrenched back. The next thing I remember is being in the car on the way home, feeling weird and queasy from touching the muscle hanging out of my chin.

Then I remember laying in bad, begging mum not to take me to the hospital to get stitches. And Dad being there. And a very pink bedroom. Very pink. (Was it really THAT pink?)

Mum pushed the muscle back in and steri-stripped over the wound, and along went life. The scar remains.

I doubt a trip to the hospital would have lead to a diagnosis of concussion. Back then unless you blacked out it wasn’t “real” concussion. And no one ever said the words “head injury” to describe what happened. I just fell and hit my chin.

Concussion is defined (by my incredibly short google search) as:

  • “A brain injury caused by a blow to the head or a violent shaking of the head and body.
  • This occurs from a mild blow to the head, either with or without loss of consciousness, and can lead to temporary cognitive symptoms.
  • Symptoms may include headache, confusion, lack of coordination, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, ringing in the ears, sleepiness and excessive fatigue.”

As I look back I see I have had plenty of head injuries that could classify as concussion: the blow to the forehead by a frisbee at speed when playing ultimate frisbee, the falling backwards onto hard snow (more than once) when snowboarding.

I am sure there are more but now my memory fails me.

It’s no surprise (now) that at 15 I developed horrible neck pain and struggled to sleep most nights. An X-ray at 27 (12 years later for an entirely unrelated issue) revealed my C5/C6 vertebrae doing weird things and my neck being at a “less than ideal” angle.

Then at 29, due to a combination of overwhelming stress and, most likely, the after affects of multiple head injuries, my brain started working differently.

The detailed database was now a void.

Like I had lost direct access to my memory. It was there, but not there.

What was once a precise rolodex, categorising and organising memories in a visual way, a mind capable of organising vast quantities of data while I watched, was now…blank. Still there, but behind a cloud.

Today we might call it brain fog. We might call it something else.

But I have no idea what I know or don’t know until information pops up. I have to wait for it.

On the one hand that has meant learning to trust my instincts, intuition and my body a lot more. But on the other, it’s embarrassing to forget the simplest things. To have to ask for instructions to be written down for me. Because unless it’s a process where I can trust myself in the moment, I simply won’t remember what needs to be done. And the order of things, of the details, will become muddled.

And while I still struggle with this everyday, it was also the day that I finally paid attention to what was happening.

I stopped denying that I was in constant pain from the eczema, that I had Season Effectiveness Disorder, that I was an insomniac. That I finally left denial and accepted that I desperately needed help.

And for that I am thankful.

It often takes loosing the thing we thought we valued more than anything else, in order to commit to the path for change. For some that’s their health, for others that’s their relationships, but there is always a moment of waking up to reality and the need for change.

Until the one thing I valued, left me. Until I lost the one thing I valued more than anything else.

I am not saying my priorities were in the right order, but sometimes we get stuck. Stuck denying what is right in front of us, because we fear accepting the reality, accepting the truth of it.

And yet, every time I have finally accepted the truth, the ‘what is’ of the moment, the reality of a situation, everything has gotten better. My body relaxed, I breathed out.

And so in that treatment room, I turn to Jonathan and say, “well actually, I think I might have.”