A few nights ago I sat outside a middle school gym waiting for my older daughter’s volleyball practice to end. I started making small talk with one of the other moms. “Which team was your daughter on last year,” I asked her. She looked at me a little funny before answering. “Your daughter’s! They have been together for a while.” I looked a little more closely and drew a blank. Nope, I just didn’t remember her or her daughter.
I find this happens a lot as I move around in my life-after-concussion world. For instance, I didn’t remember that my other daughter’s current basketball coach was her coach two years ago — around the same time I got the first concussion. I had no recollection of going for a follow-up sonogram even after the tech told me she was the one who performed it. (That sono came right after the second concussion.) It’s scary, really. I don’t remember a lof of the people I met or conversations I had during the first 18 months or so of my ordeal. And while I can forgive myself for not remembering those things, and I’m grateful that my current memory processing is back on track, the loss of 18 months makes me sad.
It’s like a chunk of my life never happened. Yes, I remember big things — first days of school, last days of school, birthday parties, holidays, the first not-so-successful times I went out socially post-concussion. I remember all the medical tests. The trips to the emergency room when I was having crazy palpitations. The utter fear and despondency I felt on an almost daily basis. I remember huge, life-changing events that happened to me during that time, which seemed to make things worse. I remember going to see the doctor at the Headache Institute in Manhattan, who gave me medicine that gave me more of my life back. But the little things? Not so much.
And yet I wonder if some of that is nature protecting me. You know how people say you forget the pain of childbirth? Well, maybe this is like that. I’m forgetting all those long, lonely, painful, sad days when I wondered if I would ever get out of bed or feel normal again. I’m forgetting (sort of) the days where the world spun around and my head felt like it was splitting in two. I’m forgetting all the hours and hours I spend at physical therapy, vestibular therapy, doctors offices, MRI facilities, chiropractor offices and hospitals. All the hours I spent walking in my house, turning my head from side-to-side and doing exercises that were designed to re-teach my vestibular system how to work. I’m also forgetting the friends, activities and life changes. I’m forgetting the people I have lost and the activities I can no longer do — for now, anyway. I’m also forgetting the stupid things I probably said and did. (TBI strips away filters and common sense sometimes.)
The forgetfulness came to a head recently when I joined a Facebook group for caregivers and sufferers of TBIs. Reading the posts jostles my memory a bit. Many of the people are much earlier in recovery than I am. When they post about a problem or issue they are having, it makes me remember when I went through the same stages. It makes me realize how bad it was and how hard I fought to regain what I lost. I may not be 100 percent there yet, but I am hopeful, and that’s really all I can ask for. That, and the ability to do a headstand. Baby steps…