Friday, 1 June 2012

Looking for Realisations

At the risk of seeming self-indulgent (and is blogging generally not a self-indulgent passtime anyway?), I am adding an update with regards to my cognitive state subsequent to events of twelve-weeks-ago-tomorrow.
Recovery, physically, is complete. I can cycle, dance, run, do anything I could before from a physical perspective. (But not drive yet as the medical panel of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority needs to get together and talk about me to be sure I am safe before they allow me to drive again).

Given that many sub-arachnoid haemorrage sufferers are permanently affected (i.e. estimates vary but about 50% die immediately, 20% more in the next couple of days and a significant proportion never fully recover their original cognitive function) I am blessed to come out of it generally unscathed. I suppose on the spectrum of SAHs, mine was at the very-less-severe end, for which I am immensely grateful.

It is in fact, in its way, quite fascinating to observe the modularity of the brain's function. A small impairment in the functioning of the left pre-frontal cortex correlates with an inability to direct one's attention. It also seems to cause problems making decisions. Similarly, it affects motivation and I find myself sitting for long periods just thinking, unable to rouse msyelf to any form of action, even for activities I enjoy.
But most of all, and this causes immense fatigue, any noise or distraction, especially conversation in the immediate vacinity, prevents concentration and brings about a feeling of confusion and distress which subsequently makes me sleep for a couple of hours.
I am told that this will persist for six to twelve months after the initial occurrence. Impatience grows....

Whilst it is annoying not to have full function of my brain, I find the tendency to distraction actually quite liberating. I can daydream and blame it on my "condition". And I do seem to have become significantly more prone to daydreaming, an activity which in recent years  I lamented the absence of.

But what I really wanted to "throw out there" was an attitude I find myself holding that I feel quite guilty for.
Often, when people ask how I am, I try to explain as succinctly and accurately as I can what progress has been made and to outline the residual effects as described above. Now, I have to stress that without exception, everyone has been absolutely lovely these past 12 weeks or so.
But so often, people will say, in an obviously well-meant attempt to imply a sense of normality: "Oh, well, I feel like that all the time!" or "Now you know how the rest of us feel!" (a comment which has an implied compliment in it which makes me cringe with embarrassment)
And guiltily, I suddenly feel incredibly irritated by these responses. Is that wrong? Am I being ungracious?
Oh, the implications and intentions are good. But I am frustrated by the fact my brain cannot do what it used to (albeit temporarily). To be told, jokingly, that this is normal operation for some people, which undoubtedly is not really the case, does not help. Or is that just me being curmudgeonly?

So, twelve eventful weeks have passed. The unbelievable pain, the headaches, the immobility and permanent confusion at the World, have all passed into indistinct memory now. What remains is feeling that something should be learned from events. I just don't know what. To my chagrin, no unavoidable and profound "carpe diem!" revelations leap out to change my world view or provide resolve to "ignore the irrelevent niggles". To derive significance from the experience, I would have to go looking for it and possibly conjure something up from clich├ęs and accepted wisdom.
My attitude remains, it seems, disappointingly unchanged by my experience.

But if anything does stand out, it is this: People have been lovely. As I resume the activities of normal life, shopping, going to the gym, going to work a few hours a week, I am struck by the immense compassion of people. There have been so many who I either bump into or who actively seek me out who tell me, with genuine concern, how shocked they were to hear about what happened and how pleased they are to see me back in circulation. So many people, people I didn't even know were aware of my existence, have come to find me at my desk and expressed the loveliest thoughts and wishes and I am genuinely humbled by their kindness. Some even brought cake!
So, perhaps I take that from it: That I have more friends than I thought and that more people care about me, and hold me in high regard, than I had realised. I guess, up to now, I must have done something right.

So, and I hope this does not sound too trite, maybe, in return, I will show a little more consideration for others, as I and my family have been shown these last few months.


sonia said...

The comments that are niggling you are pretty insensitive, I think. On the surface maybe the commenter thinks s/he's being polite but in reality it's an invalidation of your feelings and thoughts. I would just ignore them... I don't think they know what they're implying.

On a brighter note, so glad you came out of this trauma relatively unscathed and may you recover speedily.

Librarian said...

Like Sonia, I don't think whoever has made such comments meant any harm; they probably never thought their words could come across the way you took them. It is most likely just their way of trying to tell you, look, it could have been a lot worse, and we are glad you are already so close to being back to normal.

Your experience with people being so kind, people you didn't even think knew you, is similar to what happened after Steve's death. People wrote to me and rang, and I will never forget how packed the place was at the funeral - I couldn't believe it when I turned round from my seat in the front row and saw so many had come that some were left standing against the back wall.

Your feeling guilty about your own reaction to some comments is also something I can relate to.
There were some people who kept asking me again and again how I was, which to me seemed (from their tone of voice and facial expression) as if they either didn't believe me when I said I was alright, or were actually waiting for me to break down in front of them, secretly wanting some spectacular "show" from me, in the way sometimes people feel better when they witness someone else going through a hard time, or embarrassing themselves in public.
So, I tried hard to be grateful to them for all the attention they gave me, but couldn't help feeling that there was something a bit insincere about their constant asking, and maybe I am doing them a big injustice by implying this.


A girl I worked with had recurrent, horrendous migraines. She received little sympathy from fellow sufferers, and was often referred to as a hypochondriac. Turns out she has MS. All those years she was possibly in excruciating pain, while colleagues bragged about their superior pain management skills. Not sure what my point is. Maybe that some people will not allow themselves to sympathize without empathy.
To daydream, for me, is luxury. You should continue to enjoy this phase as much as you can. Pretty soon, the dynamic, energetic and perhaps a little impatient you will re-emerge, and you'll have a brain full of creativity to go with it.

You're clearly doing VERY well.