Warning: This story contains nudity.
This week has had some new brain related oddities happen. Earlier this week I was taking my shower and I experienced an event that was new to me since my injury. You have likely noticed that a new time line now exists, Before My Injury (BMI) and Since My Injury (SMI), just observations. Taking a shower SMI is a big production now, I find I have become aware of every step involved, from retrieving my towel to wiping down the stall, it’s a lot.
Let me paint you an image of me in the shower. In the corner on the edge of the tub sits two bottles, one conditioner, the other shampoo, both are clear bottles with blue liquid in side. Did I have you worried, not the image you thought might be coming, I could describe the soap dish too but it’s not really relevant to the story. The last several times I was in the shower the shampoo was on the left and had more in it then the conditioner.
This time I noticed the bottle on the left had less in it than I remembered from the last time I had a shower. This is how I justified the change, someone added a second shampoo bottle because this one was running out, somehow I ignored the conditioner being there. I wet my hair and pumped out shampoo from the left bottle after checking the label and confirming it was shampoo. I applied the blue liquid to my hair and it didn’t foam up, I decided the reason was my hair wasn’t wet enough, so under the shower again. I reached down for the bottle once again and looked at the label, I read it as shampoo. The print on the label is fairly small and I have vision issues SMI, I was sure I read shampoo on the label. Another pump from the bottle and again applying the blue liquid to my hair and no foam. I have had balance issues SMI and I become more unstable when my eyes are closed. When I wash my hair with my eyes closed, I need to have contact with the shower wall so I don’t feel like I am going to fall. Here is an image, a man 6 feet tall, 300 plus pounds, grey hair and beard, washing his hair with one hand the other holding onto the wall for support. Nobody wants to have to rescue naked Santa that has fallen to the shower floor. For the third time I reach for the bottle and read the label, this time it says conditioner, hmm. I checked the bottle to the right, it says shampoo, I gave that one a pump and tried to wash my hair again. Now my biceps are getting sore, I have had cramping in the muscles SMI, so now I lean against the wall so I can use both hands and the shampoo foams up, finally.
I have a strict pattern for how I do things in the shower, wash hair first, then my body starting with left arm and ending with my face. I do this in hopes of not forgetting something. I have forgotten to wash my face in the past and realized after I rinsed the face cloth off, I had to soap up the cloth again so I can wash my face. While washing my face I was struck with a memory of just doing it moments ago. I almost never use conditioner and when I do, I usually forget to rinse it out, extra steps often mess me up. This day was an exception, I conditioned my hair twice before shampooing, wow, was my hair soft.
Even wiping down the shower has a set starting point, there is a hand rail on the shower door that I place the facecloth on so that I see it on the way out. On this day, I put the cloth on the soap shelf and stepped out of the shower without it. Big production.
I read this week that a brain injury will occur in Canada every 3 minutes, in America every 21 seconds. That could be a stroke, motor vehicle accident, suicide, fall, disease, sports injury or in my case, an electrocution, that accounts for a brain trauma related injury every 21 seconds. It is estimated that over 69,000,000 brain injuries will occur this year worldwide. Last year over 69M people and their families, that’s mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sisters and brothers were all impacted by brain injuries. This year 69M more will learn about the struggles of life with a brain injury and next year there will be 69M more. Survivors are left to navigate through headaches, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive and processing challenges, anxiety and depression, anger and mood swings, physical limitations and memory loss.
Often brain injuries and related symptoms will go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Brain injuries can be very complicated and may not show up on a MRI or X-ray, making a diagnosis difficult. Survivors have to push their medical support for answers, this is challenging when you don’t understand what is happening to you or what questions to ask. Many brain injury survivors are left untreated or give up the struggle.
I lost a 3-4 years chunk of memory and that chunk has slowly been getting bigger and I have difficulty retaining memories SMI. Memories from before my injury are becoming more difficult to retrieve and are requiring more concentration. The more I have to concentrate on a memory, the worse my headaches get. My memory loss also affects my sense of taste, I no longer remember what anything tastes like. Once I taste the food it is familiar but before that and soon after I have no memory of it’s taste again. With this comes a lack of cravings, I don’t miss what I don’t remember.
Having memory loss can be disorienting and isolating. I have stepped into the shower and not known why I was there. I have stood at the bathroom counter with my toothpaste in my hand and not known what the next step was or looked in the cupboard for my toothbrush that sat in its charger on the counter for over a year. What happens today won’t stay in my memory long, I won’t remember writing this article in a few weeks. I will look back on it, my name will be on it and I’ll know I wrote it but I won’t remember writing it.
I play a couple of puzzle games on my phone that are supposed to help keep your brain active and can help with memory. One that I use is a kind of Tetris game, you piece together blocks into lines or blocks of nine. I can see where to fit the pieces, what I missing is how to complete the lines and blocks of nine. I am not able to see the patterns to complete the puzzles.
It has been brought to my attention that my memory issues could just be an age thing. I would have to agree it is an age thing, but before my injury I didn’t experience these symptoms, only since my injury have I had them. So, yes it is an age thing that started SMI, that’s how old my symptoms are. On more then one occasion I have been given advice on how to treat my brain injury. Advice by people stating,” if they were in my place they would….”. Advice on how best to recover from an unrecoverable injury. Until you have walked in my shoes.
There is a loneliness to memory loss, for me I feel like I am standing in a room and everything I need is just out of my reach and I can not quite make out what it is I am looking at.