Having a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in August automatically turned my normal into too much. It turned interesting new information into too much information (TMI). For a language teacher/researcher/writer, that has been revolutionary.
I Tend to Push Myself Too Hard
I had been pushing. Pushing through the hardest season of my life. With or without Covid, the stretch of days and nights since spring has been my greatest crucible yet. Which, if you know me and my story, you know that is saying something.
Through it all, I was pushing to grow. Pushing to grieve and heal. Pushing to stop surviving and start living wise with grace AND truth. Pushing to write. Pushing to research (one way I cope with the difficult is to read book after book to understand it better). Pushing to teach. Pushing to be the best I could be and to stay strong. Pushing to take care of my kids. Pushing to set and keep boundaries I’ve long since foregone. Pushing to keep my head above water.
It Was All Too Much
All that pushing on top of the grief, loss, and emotional trauma I was experiencing was just way too much. August 7, my tender Heavenly Father whispered to me at night as I opened John 13 to read after a very long day,
Child you need to stop pushing yourself. You need to just let yourself be.”
I had only begun scratching the surface of how my talk to myself about those lists of expectations I place on myself reaching to the clouds. Rather than planning them out on a calendar, they all loomed with urgency, like bills marked “Due upon receipt.” I hadn’t realized that I didn’t know how to “let myself be,” but it made sense.
I just didn’t know how to change that on my own. God knew just how to help. Like the story of why this blog is named Sip Life Slowly, I have seen the God of grace use the very hard of my life to accomplish vital growth.
The Gift of TBI
Two days after God’s gentle wisdom, on August 9, I hit my head. If you know me, you know I have a clumsy edge. Hypermobile and tall, I’m the kind of person who falls up the stairs. So, of course, I’m the kind of person who now can say I’ve had two concussions in the dangerous sport of….drumroll please….swimming.
Elijah had invited our family to join him in a pool talent show. I went last, taking some time to decide and then finally determining I could showcase my ability to swim underwater a long time. After declaring I was going to swim the length of the pool underwater, I got to the other side and had more air. So, I turned, adding a second length to my “presentation.”
When I came up, I came up hard. And then I heard and felt the clank of the railing just above the water, out of view from my underwater goggle vision. I thought- “Well, I’m glad I didn’t hit it too hard,” as I recalled all I’d been learning through my recent marathon sprint through the book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. I had gotten to the point in which I completely believed that my most precious organ was the consistency of soft butter and could easily incur damage that could revolutionize your life- in a not-so-preferable way. I thought my hit wasn’t hard, but I soon learned otherwise.
I quickly started walking like I was off balance somehow and couldn’t find the floor with one foot. I started talking with slurs, stutters, mispronunciations, and flat out wrong words mixed in. For a language teacher, the absolute worst of it was slurring my speech, switching words spoken and written, misspelling, mispronouncing, and completely being unable to find names and words. When I looked in the mirror later at home and discovered one pupil was definitively larger than the other, Adam drove me to the ER (because, of course, it was a Sunday night and that was my only option). I got my paperwork from the ER where a bleed was ruled out, went to bed, and woke up to just another day. I had gone to two yearly appointments Monday before I took a break and read that paperwork I’d gotten the night before.
And I laughed out loud.
I Was Forbidden From Focusing
How many times do parents encourage their kids to focus during the day? Yet here I was forbidden from many things, including:
- learning new things
- playing games
- looking at screens
- thinking (or anything requiring focus)!
Thinking?! Focusing?! I’m a homeschool mom who teaches and writes and, and, and…. How can I not think? I got into my doctor, who has a good understanding of concussions from experience, and he prescribed me a heavy dose of complete neurological rest.
What Does Neurological Rest Entail?
- lie down in a quiet, dark room
- listen to silence or soothing classical/instrumental music
- think about nothing
My doctor knew me well enough to warn me that though I’m used to pushing through hard, if I push through this I will damage my brain and slow or inhibit my recovery.
And in the middle of everything else going on, God has been walking me down a road of learning to take care of myself out of necessity (because I just couldn’t give myself enough slack to do that well otherwise). I was like a boat out in the middle of a deep sea storm which suddenly experienced its engine cutting off.
Everything Ground To A Halt
Teaching stopped for a while. Writing stopped. My series on Love Styles is still on hold (sorry if you are waiting on the last ones… I do plan to finish it). Homeschooling stopped for a time. So much ground to a halt.
I have spent so much of my life depending on my empathy, genuine love for others, hard work, and caretaking to somehow, hopefully, land me in a place of love and belonging. But now- now I truly have had nothing to give. Like a swimmer sinking underwater with bubbles rising to the surface, I’ve been in need of significant help.
Though I’ve spent a lot of time the last couple years trying to learn to ask for help when I need it, I still stink at doing it. I still wrestle that guilt from childhood messages of “Work hard and don’t be a taker” ringing through my soul when I need to receive but have nothing to give. I have excellent counselors working to help me believe truth instead, but it’s still hard. Now I have the added benefit of thinking I need to ask, realizing I shouldn’t look at a screen, and quickly forgetting to ask altogether.
And yet, God is so faithful. He is faithful to revolutionize my life in the ways I most need and don’t know how to ask for. He is faithful to care for me and to breathe His love through His people. My dear friend Sara dropped everything in the middle of a pandemic and drove a couple of states from home to watch my kids so I could do compete neurological rest for a few days. My homeschool coop, to which I was completely new, set up a meal train that carried me through more weeks than they even realized (since I froze and saved some to pull out later). To the many of you who have carried me through this season one meal, one afternoon with the boys at a time- I thank you. You are the hands of Jesus in my life, pouring His love and healing into my current desert.
Improvement and Need
Over three months later, I see a lot of improvement. Yet, I still struggle with words and memory. I can still type, but I see a lot of red, spelling words like “home” phonetically as “howm.” I still often know what I want to say and feel the meaning of a word, but it remains illusive in my speech. I’m often exhausted. My head still feels numb. For someone with as many TBIs as I’ve had, this could easily take 6 months to a year or longer. And I see God’s faithfulness through it all. I am learning more about what it means to stop pushing myself (though I have so far to go).
God is walking with me through this, as I am certain He is walking you through the tumultuous of your life (whether you notice Him walking beside you or not). He is revolutionizing my life for the better through this big small aspect of the big picture of my life right now. He is supporting me with the love of His people. He is mending me with His presence. And He is doing a lot of that through you. To each of you in all my circles of friends who have helped me in some tangible way and/or prayed for me- thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.
And if you are one of those sweet people on earth that know and care about me personally but didn’t know about this, don’t feel bad at all. Part of not thinking and not being on a screen means I’ve been pretty limited in my communication. Just take this as an update on how to pray and know that I still love you and care about how you are doing, even though I haven’t reached out in a while.
Sip Life Slowly And Enjoy It
This blog exists as a connection between you and me and between us and God. It’s here to encourage us to take life one day at a time, delighting in the macro and minutia of life, engaging in the relationships and activities that matter most to us and for the Kingdom. I pray this one finds you in a place of seeking and trusting God through whatever you might be facing.
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