Monday, 27 August 2012

Overdoing it

I don't want to dwell on matters neurological but my journey back to health continues on its lurching rollercoaster path and it was suggested to me that writing it down at each stage might be helpful. I confess that the linear act of committing complex happenings into a narrative is very therapeutic for me and helps me make sense of what is going on in my still below par brain. So, I shall continue to document it and should you find it tedious, other content will soon appear which might be more interesting. Or not. Either way, I will point to that in the final paragraph, so if you are still reading and even mildly interested, but the find the rest of the rambling tedious, you could always skip to there.

So, after such a lovely two weeks' holiday with all the attendant joys of music and revelry and absolutely no intellectual activity at all, it came as rather a shock to go back to work. Opening my inbox to find 1496 unread messages as initially unsurprising, but once I had knocked off the easy corporate-spam, the  remaining 972 suddenly seemed quite overwhelming.
The nature of email is such that multiple threads of conversation can arise from a single initial question, copied to many people who then respond with their contributions to various different distribution lists. The result is a tangled mess of communication of varying relevance and currency. In fact I wonder how I ever managed it, or anyone does in fact!

Anyway, my brain crashed. Like a PC with too many windows open and too little memory for the new operating environment, the hourglass popped up and the whole thing ground to a halt. I sat there looking like I had been hit with a mallet.
Then the phone rang and I was "invited" to attend a meeting in Dusseldorf for which I would have had to have left at 4 a.m. tomorrow morning. My requests to change the date were rejected and my confidence and mental coherence crumbled into abject distress. In a state of agitation, I was forced to call Occupational Health and gibbered incoherently down the phone for half an hour until the nice lady calmed me down a little.
What followed was several days where The headache returned and I had to resort to painkillers to get some relief and eventually sleep.

And it becomes clear to me: The neurologist had said to me "You will make a full recovery, but it will take six to twelve months before you are back to normal. In the meantime, executive function will remain impaired. You can go back to work, but you will be disappointed."
He explained about cellular debris and what the pre-frontal cortex does and some of the effects I would continue to experience.

I did go back to work and I am disappointed.

Physical injury is no stranger to me. Over the course of my life, I have partaken in various daft activities and occasionally a hare-brained scheme would leave me with some injury or other. In each case, the doctor would say "Six weeks..." and I would think "Four weeks then.." and usually, I was right. The medical profession is by necessity somewhat pessimistic.

So when the learned fellow said "six to twelve months" I heard "Four months".
But I was grossly mistaken. Brains don't work that way. Ok, you see here a coherent thread issuing forth from a "working" brain. But what I hadn't anticipated was the subtle but profound problems associated with the remaining impairment. Categorising and comprehending information, and then adding it to an existing context is still incredibly difficult and this is pathological - something was damaged and needs to be repaired. It's quite fascinating in its way.

Each email I read contains information which swims before me like a myriad of tiny fishes, slipping out of my grasp and taunting me by darting away before I can even see what shape they are. It frustrates me beyond belief and must be a nightmare for those around me who merely want a straight answer to what seems a simple question. I just can't get it together (yet).

But it will get better. The necessary neural pathways just need to be built and reinforced. It will take patience and practise.

So, what can one do? Well, I was advised to attempt cryptic crosswords. I tried. It felt like writers cramp in the forefront of my brain. And anyway, there are too many conventions in each newspaper for me to know what is expected.
Then there is the Roald Dahl approach of puzzles and suchlike to challenge the brain. This was a helpful suggestion I received here (thank you Kay) which I am still researching and which shows promise.

But a friend suggested, as I lamented the dearth of plums this year, that I write down my wine recipes and methods. I do, though I say so myself, make excellent home made wine. My ginger had caused trained wine tasters to exult loudly and call for rich fruit cake as a worthy accompaniment and my damson has caused long minutes of silence with its richness and velvety gorgeousness. (The secret with the ginger wine is to put a couple of bananas in the must. But more of that elsewhere)
Last year's pink plum wine. Cheers!

The thinking is, and it seems sound to me, that by putting the recipes and techniques into writing, I can take complex information and organise it, thereby getting the hang of the whole logical sequential approach thing originating from an amorphous cloud of knowledge and information. I think it might help.
I had been meaning to write a book on this for some time and had started my sister blog in preparation for this very purpose. But it rather fell into disrepair. Well, perhaps now it is time to put it all together. So that's what I shall do!
But if anyone has any idea how to get better at cryptic crosswords, I would be very grateful!


Jenny Woolf said...

I found this most interesting. Would it be possible for you to get some more time off work? I suppose the case against that is that you need to get back into the flow, and the best way might well be to jump in.

THe wine idea sounds a very good one. I shall go over to your sister blog and take a look.

PerlNumquist said...

It has been suggested that I either go back to three days a week or "have an easier job". Neither appeals as I really do want to do MY job, like I did before. I will, but it's just going to take longer than I thought it would. And I need to do those things, in a controlled way, that I struggle with still. I have hope. Plus, if i learn to do that, what else can I learn to do? It's quite exciting really!

Librarian said...

Although I have never been in a situation as dramatic as yours where my own health is concerned, with any illness (and there weren't many) or difficult times (such as when I sent Husband No. 1 packing, or when Husband No. 2 died) in my life I have found it helpful to get back into normal routine as soon as possible - without putting myself under too much pressure. And thankfully, my colleagues and bosses were always understanding and didn't ask more of me than what I was able to do.
Maybe in your case more was expected because the damage you suffered earlier this year is not visible, and to those around you, you probably seem as good as fully recovered already, so that they forget that you are still convalescent.

Kay G. said...

I cannot help you with cryptic crosswords, but I can certainly help you take care of that pink plum wine.
I am so pleased that you looked up that info on Roald Dahl! It would be even better if it helps you.
Take heart! You are getting better every day! Don't forget to get out into nature and fresh air, that is my advice to you.

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