Howdy Hydrocephalus

Understanding my unique gyroscope


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Creating My Opportunity

I have had my fair share of people questioning me about my ABI. Those people often only see me for a small amount of time. I expend a great deal of energy to act normal. Okay I know that I am not abnormal, but it takes a large amount of effort to have a conversation with people who I really don’t know especially if Chris is not there to let me know that the person does not want to talk anymore. I have come a long way but the cue reading and may not always be there. Some days I just do not have the energy, patience or gumption to even socialize. I often hole myself up at home and socialize online. 

My fingers type way faster than my trying figure out what I want to say outloud. I have spend the last three months coming up with a great business idea that I feel deep down will work awesome for me. I have applied and been accepted into an Entrepreneurial program for disabled people. I am just waiting to see when I start. I have started putting things on the computer, making my website to the point to where I will need help to finish…long way to go yet; and I have used Airtable to make an amazing spreadsheet to help with Market Analysis. I have the brains…okay I am slower at processing, have attention issues and my science side has been disrupted. This does not affect my overall intelligence. In fact, it has really increased my creative side even more than what it was before all this began. 

Lately I have had some brain function increase (okay I forget what I was going to write, but I was so amazed that some science stuff spewed from my mouth effortlessly like it was locked away and a key was finally found). But then as I improve in some areas, others started to crap out again. My short term memory has been giving me more grief. But oh well…with an ABI you body and brain may function awesome for part of the day and then crap out for the rest. It is that ebb and flow of life long recovery the frustrates others around me. I have to laugh at their frustration because they are only annoyed by little things like stuff I have forgotten. I have to live with it all for my entire life. Do you know how hard it is to maintain that smile, be positive and carry on. To take the continual words of “you must of misunderstood” (often that is the case but not always. Maybe You misunderstood me and I actually know what I am talking about) Or that you can not be productive or worthy…that you are a leach or one of those people wasting our taxpayers money. Or that people only see you for the disability and not see your talents.

I openly speak out about my disability now. I advocate for awareness and inclusion. I write about my struggles so that others who read can gain understanding or support that they are also not alone in this. 

Okay I finally remembered about one part I wanted to share…I recently watched the movie Wreck it Ralph with the kids. I wanted to watch it for two reasons. First, I like animations movies and second it has a great analogy of a brain injury.  The locked secret files (where the evil king hid the games memories that he was not really the leader) in the computer game brain are a great visual of how a brain can be after an ABI or TBI. Where information that has been stored in your brain is all of sudden locked away because the neurotransmitters have lost their connection. This connection may re-wire itself with no help; it may re-wire with lots and lots of rehabilitation or it may never re-wire. It means you may have to re-learn the information again or that you just say screw it I will find a new way to do/think/act…it is apart of the new me and you own it. 

Then the Boys and I watched Finding Dory…okay I only saw about half of it but it was the first time I had seen it. Another great ABI, TBI type of movie. I totally understand and love my boys even more because when the first time the boys saw the movie they kept calling me “Dory” in their little boy loving ways. They are perceptive and accurate and just call it like they see it. They saw me pre-surgery, post surgery in neuro ICU…at home struggling until I could get into in patient Unit 58. They saw all the other residents in Unit 58 in all shapes and capacities. They saw me when I couldn’t drive; when I could drive only to the school and back to now where I can drive to Coleman or Calgary. Next will be my trip with them to Vancouver, BC. It may take me three or so days to get there but we will!

So instead of trying to fit in….I am going to stand out. I am making my own legacy. I am going to make my family proud. I am going to make this business work for me and not just work for a business. This business is not just about money. It is about giving back and to hopefully include people who are often excluded in the workforce. I believe I will be able to help make at least one or two people feel that their lives are meaningful again. Maybe even help more. I am setting my sights high. I am positive that my hard work, persistence and re-learning of who and what I am and what valuable skills that I have to offer over the last five years has cumulated to now where I feel comfortable knowing this is the right move for me. 

I am moving forward with the new me and I really do like her alot.  This is the right time to take the risk, jump in with both feet and just go. I can create a legacy by being stagnant….especially since it is Brain Injury Awareness month and I have been overloaded with the negative news posts and research about how exponential the chances of me acquiring Alzheimer’s are after a severe brain injury. Geeze thanks alot…Hydrocephalus, ABI, Steven Johnson’s Syndrome, Pituitary, Sleep issues, Mental Health issues…hell I am not taking that kick in the pants. I know I have amazing genes on one side of family. I am living as long as my Gran Gran.  So I hope that you can discover and create your own legacy. 


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Volunteering the Next Step

I hope to take big steps in my life for 2016. I am wanting to volunteer at the hospital to help with the recreation department. I know it will be portering and just helping out, but at least I will be able to see what the job entails and how I react in a hospital situation.

I am saying that I can only volunteer five hours max a week and those five hours can not be done in one day. So I am thinking two days a week for 2.5 hours. I know I can handle that…or at least I hope that I can handle that and maintain doing it for a period of time.

I am so excited…..BUT! I had to fill out an online volunteer application. This weirded me out. For example, it asked about me. Now what do I say there…I had no clue. I am human, female, breathing, alive but a little kooky and broken at the same time. So I scrolled down to the next question. Work experience.

Easy Peasy! I listed off that I worked in the environmental industry. Did contract management ranging from tree planting, silviculture, bridge and road engineering. My largest project was 20 million road to help get approved, built and inspected. I worked in compliance and enforcement where we inspected activiities and tried to work out problems without resorting to enforcement. However, I have and written crown council reports and investigation reports. I worked as a website coordinator for a government organization and had a budget for 120,000 for one website and 40,000 for another website. I took photos, worked with film crews and interviewed people. I also taught at MHC for one semester before my surgery as I experienced hydro induced dementia like stuff. (I still feel guilty for not being a good instructor…showing same video like three times) I loved my work. Work was my life that is the green in me coming out. I am a Green/Orange mix with True Colours.

However, after I wrote all that I was like wow…impressive but I am no longer that person. I can’t even pretend to fake who that person was. Although it never looked like I was organized, I was. I was able to problem solve and think on the fly. I could remember legislation and understand it when I read it. I could easily navigate, read maps, GPS, drive long distances, work long long hours and get up early and do it again. I supervised fire fighting crews and even been on nine wildfires as a sector leader. I could remember regular and scientific names of plants, shrubs, trees, soils, rocks etc… I was able to stand up for myself and hold my professional standards & practices even if it meant pissing people off. I was good at that . I would frustrate the bejesus out of contractors and companies because I would take any shit for their short cuts. I was a fierce one and passionate to boot!

Then it asked for education and awards. So I fill out scholarships,, awards, and my degree, diploma and certificates that i have earned. So now I know the meaning of looking good on paper and really sucking in real life. You know the potential hire that had a great resume and interviewed well but when they got into the job, they just plained sucked and you know exaggerated the truth…god I look like one of those people. How embarassing except I am not lying.

I am at a loss. How do I represent myself now? I have no clue. It almost feels like I am lying when I put down my work experience and education because it seems like so long ago. I struggle with so many things that used to come to me instantaneously and now requires time to think about thinks, process, work out, organize steps etc….

When the person interviews me for volunteering, I am really not too sure what to say. I really no idea how I will perform, if I will make it to every volunteer day or anything. It is like a blank slate in my head. I have nothing to go on.

But I need to go through this; it is the next step in my recovery to get back to the “real” world. I will figure it out and find out what the new me can do successfully at this time and find small goals to work for in the future. It is just today I once again realized the truth in what the Docs saying a seven year recovery time. I am almost half way where.

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Acceptance

There is a large tribe if TBI/ABI/PCS (Tramautic/Aquired brain injury, post concussion syndrom) on Twitter. We tend to like online social connecting sites becuase when we are feeling like shit, stuck in bed in a dark room these sites may be our only source of connection to the outside world. I remember, I had relied on social site for four months once. I could barely get out of bed without feeling like I would pass out.

6181aee523d4e4937731bfac6e6b48bcThere was this post “How do you cope with TBI/PCS symptoms?” yesterday. Now this may seem to an easy answer for those that are clinical…look it up on the Net and list off…rest, eat healthy, follow your medicine, blah…blah…blah. However “How do you cope with TBI/PCS symptoms” answer is not so simple. It is really a big whoop ass can of worms.

First off people who are “normal” will just say here is a list just follow it and you will get better. These are innocent, well-meaning people who really have not walked this journey before but instead are taught what to say and do.

f118d7a457ea10f91cc29d9648c1df35When you are knee deep on this new life adventure (so much nicer to write than sucky life-long condition) is to grieve. I mean grieve the loss of who you once wore. Believe me this is not easy at all. I am over three years in and I still grieve.  I still get mad and frustrated at where I am that it often clouds how far I have come.

I mean who wouldn’t want their old life back where everything was easy peasy; thoughts swift & quick; anyltical skills and crital thinking intact; planning & organizing there; coordination; strength; energy to work, look after family, have hobbies & social life at a moments notice and above all live pain free…But I am not that person anymore and I accept that I am not that person most of the time.

cf07f453bef187cb4c57a7e706c33b45So we have our pity party for a bit then I mentally kick myself in the ass & my drill sergeant tencacity kicks in. I mentally say suck it up sunshine; usually something about not quitting and other motivational stuff to get me out of a funk. I take responsibility for getting myself out as no one else can except me.

  1. I read motivational pictures & quotes images
  2. I watch motivational videos. Unbroken or Why do We fall
  3. I read Motivation Facebook Group Bright Side or website Elephant Journal
  4. I focus on anxiety reducing activities such as breathing. (I do alot of this)
  5. I remember I how I have come. The challenges that I have overcome.
  6. I focus on the positive. It really becomes easy after a while. For example, the biggest positive is that I get to become a new me. I am learning what I like and don’t like. I get to experience things for the first time that were old hat for me. Trying foods to see if I like or dislike etc….
  7. I move forward.
  8. But above all I am grateful. I am grateful to re-write my life. I am grateful that I have learned alot about myself with the journey. I am grateful that I am here living. I am grateful that I have found who my true supports are. I am grateful for a new approach to living. I am grateful to explore each day with new perspective (literally & figuratively). I am grateful that my kids are hopefully learning about compassion and empathy (no zombie comments lately – LOL) I am greateful allowing myself to fall & get back up again. I am grateful that I am able to express myself via writing and art (verbally and body language not so much). I am grateful for the opportunity to start fresh each day.

So really to “cope” is not simple there are many emotional and mental steps. There is a lot of time needed. And I didn’t even include all the physical, organization, planning steps that you learn via OT (occupational therapy) that help you function. This is a vast black hole of a subject that just can’t be thrown around in a black & white fashion. It is more of a comfortable grey blanket.

 


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The Call

Yesterday I got a call from a Dr. He phone to touch base with me because he has a conflict in appts. and most likely will not be at my appt. on monday. However, his assistant will be there administering my tests. He then asked me what school I applied for. I told him I hadn’t applied to anything yet. I told him I didn’t know what I want or was capable or suitable for me to do.

He asked if I wanted to attend Medicine Hat College? I said that prior to and during my dementia phase I taught at the college for one semester. I said I had been accepted into a Master of Science program at Royal Roads. I told him that due to a lot of factors I can no longer perform in my old profession as I had once had. He said he reviewed my first neuropsych.

I told him I was looking at online Recreation therapy assistant program, art therapy program or masters of counselling or graphic design. But I am not too sure if I could pass any if I took the courses.

I told him that I could write more freely now. That my typing speed made it easy for my fingers to get the words out without thinking too hard. Not like it used to be when writing (excluding bad days…avoid puter then). That my pain meds made my hand work better. That my eyes could take computer longer.

IMG_1223.GIFI told him that I could read books…lots of books…understand the words. BUT and a big but was that I have a hard time understanding context and following story. Subcontext and underlying meaning…forget it. Just like I have a hard time understanding sarcasm and jokes these days, the higher part of thinking is what I am having trouble with. The critical thinking, analysis and all that jazz.

I told him that I wasn’t wanting to waste money if really there was no way I could improve. I need help in improving what was once so easy for me. I was use to be able to draw inferences and bring together ideas for an arugment easy. Now I read stuff and go WTF.

So after what seemed like 30 minutes of talking on the phone (it was probably less than 10) I hung up with a follow up telephone call appt. the 23.

Tomorrow night, hubby and I head to Calgary for my appt on Monday. The first starts at 9:00am. The second appt of the joyous botox shots at 1300 and if I need more tests, I finish the day with those. Boo Yah…getting to getting the call and hopefully more answers to re-work this unique brain of mine


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I’m Back

Wow this summer has been one wild ride. My pain levels have been managed with my new med mix. This left me with having energy but with a brain with racing thoughts, low attention and a go-go-go never stop type until you drop type of mentality.

So I just let everything go and enjoyed just being able to actually be a apart of life a lot more. I had a fun summer with the boys. We had no routine, schedule or things planned other than our trip to Vancouver Island.

The boys ran crazy; they were a part of their own wild thing type of clan. I have no idea how much they showered (if any); when or what they ate (probably mostly junk food); how many hours of video gaming (The gaming machine did not overheat); how many hours of hockey, football, basketball, swimming or lacrosse (garage door & car dents accounted for). It is all a blur of running boys, inside outside upside down with a trail dirty cups, spilled popcorn, granola bar wrappers, shoes, wet swim suits and piles of dirty laundry and hidden smelly socks in various furniture.

I was unable to sit down and write. I physically could not site still to read, draw, let alone write. I really wanted to share this summer. There were so many obstacles that I have finally overcome. But my TBI brain wouldn’t allow me to focus on intelligent conversation, sustained attention and unjumbled thoughts. I am glad that I let my body adjust to the meds and let things come back to even keel as now it is mid October and I am able to sit still long enough and write. I actually did begin October 2, but I have no idea where my draft went…somewhere floating in some random person’s email probably.

Then my son broke his leg October 3 and we have been adjusting to that. Talk about mess up my morning routine (LOL) I do my best and some days we are on time for school and others we are not. At least I haven’t forgotten a kid yet.

I passed my 3rd year brain surgery September 4 and my first year Steven-Johnson’s Syndrome (SJS) recovery September 5 with some major recovery milestones. Pain mostly controlled. I still feel tingling and fire ants on my right side. My right side aches when I do too much. I can live with that! But I am doing oh so much more. I still require my naps to be functional, but they are not all day naps unless I go hard core non-stop for a bit. I can live with that! I still get headaches and migraines but they have an beginning and a end rather than a continuous pain that doesn’t end. I can live with that!

I still have sensitive skin, itchy skin and rashes still. I am hoping we can get a handle on this as I hate having lots of cuts and scabs on my arms, legs and back. I am looking like a drug addict. The intense itching really bugs me. I am glad that my mouth only gets irritated once or twice month. I can even floss my teeth now. It takes a lot of energy not focus on the itching. At night it is really bad.

Believe me I am ecstatic about all the positive milestones in my recovery and I don’t focus on my annoyances of this recovery, but i still one not to settle. I am beginning to focus on my next milestones. Sustained energy and steady cognitive improvement. I can see work in the future. I have no clue what type of work, but it does seem more obtainable now!

So I am back not only from my break from writing but I AM BACK to land of living instead of sitting on the sidelines. It just makes it easier to live a meaninful life when not in as much pain.


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The Wandering Nerve

kelly dec 2014 234 I had originally been told that I had neurogenic stuttering due to my brain injury. The stuttering began at the end of June in 2012. I guess the increased pressure from my hydrocephalus had damaged my language centres enough for the stuttering to begin. When I was released from rehab, I began speech therapy at the Medicine Hat Hospital. It was there I worked with some great therapists. We worked on speech techniques, word finding, categorization and a variety of other speech related things to do with muscle control and rhythm. I remember that I learned of one the two damaged cranial nerves that was affecting my speech. The Vagus (wandering nerve or tenth cranial nerve) is important for many functions other than speech such as heart rate, sweating, digestion and blood pressure (mmm so many answers are now coming to light).

A damaged vagus nerve can cause issues with muscle control and swallowing in the mouth and neck. I am no expert at any of this but it was explained to me simply that speech comes from the brain figuring out word to diaphragm with the air flow up, to voice box (larynx) where the vocal cords vibrate. From there the sound then is resonated into nose, mouth area. Speech can be disrupted anywhere along the process. I know that I still have trouble swallowing quickly and sometimes choke on water etc…if I drink or eat to quickly. I have noticed this more since I had SJS as my mouth was so beat up and sensitive with blisters, open wounds. It feels like there is a large marble around my adams apple. I am guessing that I have muscle weakness and lack of control on the right side of my neck and mouth that was similar to every where else on my right side. As part of my therapy I had to work on my breathing, hold my hand up on my neck and face to feel certain muscle movements when I said certain words. I know that my stutter comes out with certain letters or letter groupings. It also can come out when stressed, overwhelmed, sick or if I am stuck with the cognitive process of what I wanted to say. Thus I love social media or online interaction more than in person.

kelly dec 2014 118Along with speech therapy, I also attended an Aphasia group at the mall that was run by the speech therapists at the hospital. This was a very good group because we played games and did activities that not only worked on speaking but on word finding, grouping of words and rhythm of having a conversation again.

I had started out with really one word answers of either “fine” or “good” for my conversation depth and breadth. Then I was able to pre-plan a sentence that I would knew would get a person talking so then I wouldn’t have to talk anymore.  From there the amount of pre-planned sentences went up. I would also have a stash of questions to ask. I knew if I asked questions, I would not have to talk much and lessen the chances of me having to stutter. This went on until about mid-way last year.  I stopped going to speech and began going to the Brain Injury Re-Learning Service (BIRS is a part of REDI enterprises), the big red building with paper planes flying. We began cognitive, memory, visual-spatial, awareness and attention rehabilitation. By the end of last year my speech had improved greatly. My stutter was almost non-existent and the biggest thing that no one probably noticed was that I was having conversations that were less and less planned. I was able to be more spontaneous and talk more freely. I had volunteered with the Kindergarten class to help with reading January 2014. I remember reading the Dr. Seus book “Mr. Brown Can moo, Can you?” So everything was going along just perfectly with no verbal glitches. The kids were repeating all the sounds in the book. I was having a great time until and then I got verbally stuck on a word. Here I was stuttering on a stuck word with 16 kindergartners repeating the sounds as they thought it was a part of the book.  Both the teacher and teaching assistant are cracking up at the back of the room and I am now cracking up laughing with my little parrots doing the  same thing. I had tears running down my face as it was so funny and priceless. I loved those kids, they just went with the flow, like I did!

kelly dec 2014 396I think the reasons for my improvement are re-connection of brain pathways due to neuroplasticity, lots of practicing in front of mirror, breathing exercises, word finding exercises, luminosity, word puzzles, boggle, volunteering, helping my kids read, helping my kids with their homework (last year I found some grade two homework hard), speech therapy, Aphasia group, BIRS, becoming slightly more cognitively aware, not giving up, not being afraid of failure, time (as slow as this process is), getting pissed off, frustrated and not settling for a brain injured status quo. I am have also been helped by the wonderful support that I have found on Twitter. There are so many people that I have connected to. Just supporting one another with ideas, suggestions and strategies has been very meaningful for me. Some days my fellow #TBI #ABI tweeters are the only people outside my family I connect with. I was fortunate to meet up with the founder of #ABIchat. This is an online support group on Twitter that I have participated a couple of times to.  I just need to find out when the chats are again (in the brain and out the brain syndrome). I really think healing and recovery of the brain is being re-defined.  Hearing from other high-functioning brain injured people has given me hope that I will find my niche and happy place being a productive member of society again. It really bothers me of the negative stereotypes and judgements that happen when you are labelled disabled and on disability as a form of income. The flippant comments and the poor treatment is often jaw dropping. I know that I shouldn’t let the comments hurt but they do. And it is often just general comments from people who do not even know that I am on disability. I have kept that mostly to my self and immediate family until today. I have to just shake my head and wonder what education level and knowledge where the people with these comments are coming from. I have to remind myself that it is not me but them that is broken.

 


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3-2-1 Blast Off

IMG_0928-0.JPGOn my quest to find more energy and to nip my fatigue into a more manageable piece of my life. I read numerous articles such as Feed Your Body, Feed Your Brain – Nutrition to speed brain recovery. Then I began to read a book about an elimination diet to help your body heal and reduce internal inflammation. This spurred my brain and I remembered about my allergy testing I had done a long long long time ago.

I was having IBS and allergy issues when I lived in Fort Nelson, BC. The doctor there put in a referral to see an allergist. Chris and I drove the six hours to Grand Prairie, Alberta to have allergy tests done. I really wish I kept the list. I had reacted to a whole bunch of things. I was to avoid, eggs, wheat, potatoes, tomatoes and a bunch of other food I can no longer remember. I had also reacted to dust/dust mites and snow mold. I really wish I could remember more. However, I do remember looking at the list and wondering what the heck I could eat there was so many food items on it. The Doctor didn’t have any help for me on that. So I basically said thanks for the info and continued on eating as I normally had always done.

Skip forward 14 years and the options for food choices for people on an elimination diet are amazing. There are meal ideas, recipies, hints, tips and all sort of wonderful stories on the web.
He won’t Know it is paleo blog
The Urban Poser Blog
Gluten Free Goddess Blog
Purusing these blogs and other websites gave me inspiration and the knowledge to be able to test run a 21-day elimination diet. I put word out to friends and found out that Costco carried a gluten-free pancake & waffle mix, cup for cup gluten-free flour mix, organic palm sugar and gluten-free pasta. I went there and stocked up. I already had coconut oil and olive oil and flax seeds.

I began my peanut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free, egg-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and nightshade veggie-free diet. It really does sound very overwhelming but so far it has been pretty good. I fell for one-day and ate refined sugar so I had to set the clock back and start again for that one food category the next day.

I have successfully made home-made blueberry/raspberry gluten-free muffins sweetened with palm sugar. Palm sugar is a low glycemic sugar.
I then made tortillas. They were not round but free-form. I had a turkey wrap with spinach and strawberries and it was divine! Bread for me – Yay!
I have been drinking smoothies with Greens and hemp fibre, coconut/almond milk and lots of fruit for breakfast, lunch or snacks.
I have been having fun exploring and enjoying making dinners the most. Tonight I made a pesto pasta with sautéed beet greens, beans and a bit of chicken.

I am tasting so many amazing natural flavours. Thank goodness for lots of amazing options that I can experiment with. I hope that I will be able to notice changes by the end of three weeks. Here’s to blasting of with energy and increased attention span.

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