As some insight to myself after my brain injury returned, I started to notice that some of my senses seemed different. Once you have got over the elation of being alive, and returning home, many start to feel the changes.
With a brain injury it takes time to see your senses are different.
First I had to accept my sense of balance was off kilter. I was clumsy, and would fall over easily. Muscle weakness on my left side did nothing to help this. Through specific exercises I have been able to improve my strength, but my balance still isn’t good. So I have to be careful. When going up and down the stairs I make sure I hold on to the hand rail to steady myself. Sounds obvious, but I used to just run up the stairs. I didn’t give a second thought to grabbing the rail for safety.
Next I realised my sense of touch was affected. I couldn’t identify things that touched my left side. Instead my leg had altered sensation, and would report pain. My left leg would be in agony as cold or unexpected items touched it. A sharp, painful, stabbing sensation would hit me. But this may have been nerve damage rather than my brain injury as such. But even if I stoked the cat with my left hand I could only sense pressure, not the texture of his fur. That was so disappointing for me.
Smells started to affect me, and I would suddenly be hit by really offensive odours. But as I didn’t as ways shout “something stinks“, I didn’t know I was the only one smelling them. So it did take time to realise that: at best I was over sensitive, at worst I was imagining it.
My sense of taste was affected for while too. I had always had a pretty plain palate, but suddenly I wanted spicy food. Otherwise things didn’t seem to have any flavour. The idea of forcing myself to eat tasteless food was uninviting, particularly as my appetite was already diminished. My partner James would buy lots of different things to try to encourage me to eat more. (Now though, as my taste has returned I eat far too much. I’m such a little piggy!)
Realising my sight was affected by my brain injury was the most difficult and upsetting. I would see double, which when you can’t balance well spells disaster. Effectively I couldn’t do anything. My coordination was rubbish, but when you can’t be sure where the thing you are looking at is, it’s virtually impossible.
People are the real challenge when you are struggling with your senses.
When I could walk well enough to ditch my crutch I was proud of myself. But I still limped badly, and was very slow. However losing the crutch symbolised progress for me, so I was pleased to be rid of it. What I hadn’t appreciated is, a crutch is something visual, and told strangers not to expect too much of me. So when I started going out without it, the fast paced, impatient modern world virtually knocked me over.
The world is always being told to be assertive. That seems to have evolved into a mildly aggressive population, who just walk at you, not round you. I feel like I’m a pin trying to cheat a bowling ball. The conundrum is people need to stop rushing me, but I don’t want to be labelled as disabled.
So perhaps that means I still have some way to go to accept my current position. Or perhaps that is fighting spirit. It depends on your perspective, but prefer the latter. I still like to believe I will continue to better myself. My brain injury makes me hampered, but I am still able.