Anxiety, Brain Injury, Depression

Triple Whammy

Dealing with depression, anxiety, and a brain injury is confusing and disheartening.

Were my lows this low, before the stroke? Did I always hate crowds this much? Did I overthink things this much? . . . or everything just a little bit worse? I don’t remember so I can’t make an accurate comparison.

I spend a lot of time scrutinizing things like, what to do with my time, who I’ll spend it with, where I’m comfortable being from moment to moment, and how I’ll get there.

I make mistakes, but they’re not as drastic or detrimental as they used to be.

I have no regrets because in each wrongful act I’ve committed, or mistake I’ve made, I’ve learned more about myself and human nature.

As humans, what we want and what’s right, don’t necessarily coincide.

On top of that sentiment, it’s all relative to who you’re surrounded by, what your beliefs are, what takes priority at the given time, what makes you tick, what resources are at your disposal, etc.

That being said, I’d like to strive to be a better person, while minimizing emotional pain across the board.

A few of my goals for this winter are to remain seizure-free and to combat my impending, debilitating depression. That means staying away from stressful, demoralizing situations.

Part of this quest for salvation is having to battle my inner demons and win. It can be done but it’s not easy and it’s a never-ending struggle.

So, after a week of serious thinking, in early December, I decided to try remain to sober.

My neurologist okayed me to have ONE alcoholic beverage per day. However, I can’t ever predict whether I can stop after one.

For instance, on a Wednesday night about a month ago, I thought, “A glass of cabernet sauvignon would pair nicely with a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie,” and it did but . . . Then, I had two more glasses of wine, only one glass of water, and forgot to take the evening dose of my anti-convulsant.

The morning after the “wine and pie fiasco,” I had a seizure.

I was treating the site where I bit down on my cheek during said seizure. It wasn’t healed after a week. This, among other things, solidified my decision to try self-restraint.

I’m really good at justifying things to myself. I never, really, considered sobriety before because I’ve never believed in abstaining from something. I believed that telling yourself, you can’t have something is just . . . cruel. But, in weighing pros and cons, at this moment, allowing myself to drink is more cruel because of the imminent domino effect.

Overall, I need to take better care of myself.

It’s been a solid month of sobriety. The more time passes, the prouder I am of myself. I’ve been treating myself the way I’ve always wanted to.

I figured, if I could just make it through the holidays, the rest would be cake.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wanted to drink within the past month to deal with stress, to make myself comfortably numb, to “fit in,” to not remember, etc. But, I realize that those “coping mechanisms” are temporary, counter-productive, and NOT healthy. Again, one drink would be alright, but I never can tell if I’ll stop after that one. It’s better FOR ME to cut it out completely.

It took a few weeks but, now, I feel better than I have, in a long time.

I’m more in-tune with my body. If I feel “off” I think, “Did I take my meds? Do I need food? Do I need sleep?” There’s no ignoring, or guessing, or forgetting.

For about a year or so, I was afraid to leave my apartment; afraid I’d forget my morning meds, worried I’d have a seizure or a panic attack at the gym or on the bus, stuff like that. Irrational fears, really.

I people say, I’m sharper and my speech has improved. I think it’s true. Even if it’s a placebo effect, I’ll take it!

I’ve been having weird, embarrassing dreams where I slip up and do something stupid. When I realize it’s only a dream, I feel relieved and reminded of what could be or has been and I’m like, “No, thank you.”

I’ve had more energy. I still NEED my naps and I still crap out from general fatigue, but it’s less frequent and doesn’t last as long.

 

It helps that everybody in my life has been so supportive.

They say, “Do you!”

And I say, “Hmmm . . . Okay!”

 

I don’t know. Something just feels right about 2016.

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Confusion, Hunger, Stroke

What is happening?!

When I was at Strong Memorial Hospital for a week, everything was a blur. When I woke up from my craniotomy the left side of my head was so swollen, I couldn’t see out of my left eye. I think I remember my contacts still being in so I left the right one in so I could see while someone fetched my glasses. My right side was completely limp and numb. You know the feeling when a limb falls asleep? Well, that wasn’t it. From the middle of my body out on the right, I felt nothing. I don’t remember when I realized how bad the situation was or when it dawned on me that I had had a stroke. I was so out of it.

A few days in, I went for an angiogram. It was the most conscious I’d been in days but I’d been on a steady dose of morphine and was sedated further for the procedure. I was, essentially, dead weight as I was transferred from my bed to a table. The doctors made an incision in the artery that flows to my groin and injected dye so they could see the blood vessels in my brain. It didn’t hurt because it on my right side. Then, I was alone in this room. I fell into a light sleep. I started dreaming. I don’t what about, exactly, but when the machine started taking picture, the flashing was like a storm in my sleep. When they were finished, they turned the lights on and I woke up and lost it. I was confused. Whatever I dreamt about gave me an overwhelming of loss and despair. And I was really scared.

A pretty good indication of the drive I’d have during my recovery was when I had my first and only swallow test. I noticed my difficulty swallowing right away. Later it would be explained to me that stroke victims often have this problem because it’s all about your brain “forgetting” how to do even the most simple tasks and lacking the coordination to properly perform the function, even if you do figure it out.

Anyway, back to the swallowing. Let me tell you about me and food. I love it. Always have, always will. By the time I was a little more with it, I was HUNGRY. Luckily, I wasn’t so bad off that I needed to be fed through a tube but I could see everyone’s concern about there being a choking hazard. The nurses weaned me into applesauce and pudding and they would suffice for a few days. Then, they brought me breakfast one day. It looked like sausage links and waffles but it wasn’t (it was gel) and, on top of that, it was nasty. The consistency was awful. Blech. So, I needed real food. I remained conscious of what it took to swallow and I took my time, making sure I didn’t choke so when the nurses administered the test, I passed. Nobody gets between this girl and her food.

Visitors came and went. I’m thankful for that because I thrive around people. One thing I didn’t feel was alone.

For the first few weeks, I felt the most vulnerable than, I think, I had in my entire life. My mom made sure I didn’t sleep alone for a month or so. I think she slept on two chairs at Strong. I’m so grateful for her because, like when she was there when I was loaded into the ambulance, her being there calmed me. She is the mother of mothers. I always say, “When I grow up, I want to be just like her.” My work name, Mariah Rose, is a kind-of homage to my mother. Yes, my real first and middle names are Mariah Rose but could have easily gone by something else.  Rosemary is my inspiration. She is the kind of mother I’d want to be. She encouraged me to be creative my whole life. She even gifted me with my first tattoo machines. And, when I had my stroke, she was so stoic and strong. She was careful to not cry in front of me which must have been hard because she’s an emotional person. I didn’t notice her lack of tears at first but I became more aware and less vulnerable, I was grateful for her tact.

My Aunt Perrin was a God-send. She’s a neurologist at UCLA and she flew out to be with my mom and me. She would translate what the neurologists at Strong would say into layman’s terms for my mom and she and my mom are like two peas from a pod so I’d like to think my mom was comforted by her presence.

My brother, Devon, drove all the way from Boston with my brother from another mother, Dan. I’ve said before and I’ll probably say it till the day I die: Devon is my rock. He’s my voice of reason. If I’m feeling blue or ill-at-ease, he knows just what to say to make snap out of it. So, when he showed up, for a split second, all was right with the world.

I’m the oldest of three children. Our sister, Dana, was a little trooper from the get-go. I call her “little” because she’ll always be my munchkin even though she’s taller than me. This experience has got me doing a lot of soul-searching. I’ve had thoughts, some rational and some irrational, and I’m working through them all as we speak. One of those thoughts that I had early on, was that by having a stroke, I was letting everybody down. One of those people was Dana. She’s supposed to be able to look up to me. Now look what I’ve gone and done. How can I be a role model to her from a hospital bed? But I could tell she was just happy to see me. All that other stuff would come later.

Another emotion was that I was a disappointment to my mother. This was another irrational one, of course. I just felt like I haven’t done anything to make her not have to worry about me. I’ve always put myself into stupid situations; whether it be drinking Visine before I knew any better (as a toddler), breaking into an abandoned building with people I barely knew, not acknowledging or trying to hide the fact that I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, etc., etc. Then, there is stuff like the fact I was in the ICU for the first week I was alive because I wasn’t breathing and now this. I wondered, “When is she going to ever catch a break?” But like I said previously, she is a saint and whatever I throw at her she takes it with grace and tries her best help me through because she unconditionally loves me and she knows I’m malicious, just careless and gullible. So, I’ve been learning to get over that and work on making her proud.

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