Howdy Hydrocephalus

Understanding my unique gyroscope


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Growth

At the end of 2011 and through 2012 until I was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus was heartbreaking, confusing, as I lost my facilties with reversible dementia, my body strength with my right side going numb, fluid coming out my ears at night and nose during TKD and running. The initial lack of support from people due to the fact that everyone thought it was just a mid life crisis or was faking with my right arm not working properly and right leg dragging; fatigue; memory isues and neurgentic stutter.

After diagnosis there was relief that I was not losing my mind. I look back now and there was a cognitive break in awareness and understanding the severity of my brain and body. I had no fear of surgery and was hell bent on getting out of neuro icu and home that I was the wandering patient. Determined to pass all test to go home.

Then there was optimism of recovery at the Brain Injury Clinic. Being told not to drive….pshhh…whatever. I drove until my Brain Dr. called to let me know there was space for inpatient in Foothills. She gave me crap for driving. I thought she was crazy…I could drive no problem. I only had energy to go up and down the hill to drop my kids off at school anyway…my new visual world was almost like a surrealist painting, swirling, motion and blurs in a constant movement on hyper drive volume.

Inpatient was amazing. I recieve physical, recreational, cognitive, speech and life skill re-training.  Had to re-wire the zombie. I was alive but my ability to communicate was limited. There I found out that I had minimal Affect…thus no driving…if my Dr. had only explained that.

During the first three years, My hubby and I were in denial that there would be a full recovery. It through both of us for a loop as we slowly realized that no not a full recovery to the old me but a continual recovery for the new me. Let me tell you…yes there is a fulll on grieving process for this. You question your being…burden…useful/useless…where do you go when your entire being has been smushed in that damn brain. Well you can roll over and say fuck it – off yourself…drink…smoke meth or other drugs…run away and become invisible or try to pull up your big girl pants while saying suck it up sunshine and move on.

The moving on process is the most frigging frustrating. It is not like you will just get healthy, come to a finish line and say Hey I am done with a pat on the back and participation ribbon. Hell no. This is uncharted territory and you better be in it for the long haul. There are many hill climbs…some are easy….some you are stuck on a ledge for a long time…there are rockslides and tumbles down to the bottom…only to start over again. Then there is success you reach the peak, plant your flag only to look forward to see endless more mountain peaks. So you decided do I go back down and start the new climb or stay put and be happy/angry/miserable/positive/content/pissed…the choice yours to make.

I have learned to keep going even when hanging on by a thread, dead dog tired and feeling alone. Sometimes is for me, somtimes it is my pure red-headed viking stubborness, sometimes it is my family, sometimes it is for friends, but I stumble forward, backward, upside down, or sideways but I move and often it clicks together. The recovery process is not a straight line….it is a wacked out angry scribble drawing that doesn’t make sense at the time but when you pull it out later you see what makes sense in it.

I have found a new me. I am not completely new, there is some old me still mixed in with my wacky and wild new me. Most days I embrace and accept my quirks…hell there is no on this earth like me. I have found new meaning, direction, tribe and currently working on building my community.

I have been giving an opportunity run a volunteer peer art expressions group. We had our first meeting last Wednesday. I am enjoying the creative sharing and strategy sharing for all your challenges we have been faced with. I think with our digital age, we tend to minimize sharing and connecting and supporting a people who are needing help. Often people put the blinders on and ignore the fact that we are broken crayons but we all can still colour. This happens so much for work. Company’s mostly hire full time. I will never be able to do that. I think my energy levels and my time requirements to keep my body working will allow me only minimum part time at the most.  I am super excited to share my experiences and hope to bring  support to others who are at different stages of their chaotic life changing journey. So my Community growth so far for this year is being involved with this. I am so grateful For Medicine Hat Alberta Health Recreation Services for coming up with the idea and allowing me to participate.

I have gained strength mentally and spiritually. My physical side of me was still lacking. Since December 2017, I made it a priority to get my physical me into alignment. It has been a challenge for me not to push too hard. I still had days where I thought I could be like who I used to be and had to recover, but not as many as previous attempts. So my big growth and accomplishment physically so far in 2018 is me running the 3km Rattler Run. It was the 2012 3k where I came 3rd when my entire right-crapped out and went lazy, funky and irradict because of the pressure in my brain. Not a stroke, but pressure related damage That I have worked hard to minimze. If I don’t do my rehab exercises my brain will get lazy and then my arm and leg gets lazy again. Now it really only comes out when overwhelmed or overtired.

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The Rattler Run theme this is year is so appropriate. I am running for me! Whether you are on a health journey too or just an average joe happy, sad, going through other chaotic life events….I challenge you all to challenge yourselves. Let me know what you are doing.

Cheers,

Kelly

 

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2017 is Ending Thank God!

dec2017feeling

I knew that I hadn’t blogged in a bit, but wow three months. This year has been a complete lack of writing therapy. Maybe that is why at the end of 2017 I feel so disconnected, blah and like I am a trainwreck going steadily downhill without any brakes and picking up speed with no end in site. It is not a good feeling.

I try so hard to get things done. Great business idea, get stuck, can’t connect the dots. Ask for help and then the REDI people are not computer knowledgeable. Feel like I am left standing in the dark trying to do this by myself so I give up. Don’t get a phone call or text for a month. When I do…I am feeling frustrated, angry and directionless. Yes I need help but why should I ask…when I will be told that no one has the skills to help me there. I get confused when they ask what i need help with and my goals, direction. We had a list of stuff of helping me connect the dots, figure out priorities and all that stuff. Then they left me to work independently…well that worked like shite. Where can I go? What can I do? I don’t have a clue and do I trust these people again? I have no idea. So I have shelved my business idea until 2018. I decided to work on my Etsy store. That has been good and very time consuming. I make lots of stuff but then I don’t remember where things are or my passwords and takes lots of time try to get around that.

Hockey has been a time consumer. It takes so much energy out of me.

Been trying to figure out why my fingers and wrists hurt so much since January. I have gotten weaker and weaker.  First set of Blood tests don’t show anything. Need to get more done and then a nerve conductivity test. It is hard to keep upbeat and positive when you feel like you are mentally and physically deteriorating.

I am so glad christmas break is coming up and we are not doing a thing. No christmas dinner, no big events. I need to sleep and just recover and do some self care. I will be climbing back into my cave and not coming out until the Pee Wee Hockey tournament January 5.

Oh yes there is little in my bucket today for positive LOA, mindfullness and go team rah rah rah. Usually I am upbeat and all that jazz but to turn my frown upside down will require more energy than what I have at the moment. I have a list of things that I need to get done but I think I will be heading back to bed. Maybe it is the wind that aiding to create this ominous veil over me. I didn’t ask for this crappy TBI, Hydcrocephalus and the shitload of other ailments that are all invisible. I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone. Somedays it really does just suck! To be high functioning computer literate person in a community where supports do not have the skills required to help you makes you fall through the cracks and feel that maybe you do not need help but to only fall flat on your face again. Come on I need help getting up this fucking mountain. I just don’t know what or how to do it.

Signing Off

A walking grinch like zombie who is optimistic that 2018 will be better!

 


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Warning Evil Villain Neurological Strikes Again!

images (6)I was all prepared to wait another week then give you a great update on my personal chaos but then something important came up and I am utilizing my high dis-tractability to write about this or else I will then overthink about it and it will consume me all day until I get it out.  So here goes…this is what has been on my mind and in my heart creating me to grief since yesterday.

My youngest son wanted to play ice hockey this year. It is his first time and we had player evaluations yesterday. My oldest son’s coach from last year son was in the same evaluation group. This made my youngest son happy to sort of know a couple boys on the ice. We were looking forward to the usual casual catching up about summers etc….

However, when the Mr. S and his family walked in, I noticed the gait, constricted body movement,  grimace of pain and slight facial difference. I said “it looks like you are in pain…did you hurt yourself?” Mr. S responded “I lost a battle with a mosquito.”

All I could think was Whaaaattttttt….the……F. This is a load of crap. He is so young to be hit so bad. He is a good guy…his family is good people. Why can’t this shit happen to bad people like the asshole who stole a truck last week, caused two different high speed accidents in two different intersections and takes an innocent 18 year old’s life; then decides he wants to try to take the Police Officer’s gun in the hospital. Those are the assholes that deserve this shit not a person who works, volunteers his time and is decent. I always shake my head as to why this happens.

So apparently Mr. S is one of three people who contracted West Nile this year in Alberta. And of the three “fortunate” people who were bit by the special mosquitoes, he of course he drew the lucky wild card and was hit extremely hard with both severe physical and neurological effects.  Everyone is hopeful that the effects are temporary and not long lasting or permanent. I know I am hoping there is not long term effects. But when anything affects the central nervous system you never know what will happen. I know neurological re-wiring does happen and continues to happen with me but it is a very slow and I admit frustrating process.

images (22)I think it hits too close to home and I know the enormous amount of grief, guilt and loss person that is happening to Mr. S. I still don’t understand the family perspective entirely. But I can see the pain, sadness, uncertainty, trying to hold it together without breaking down and trying to be positive in Mrs. S eyes. I can see that the kids will grieve, be angry at times and frustrated, but the love will always be there. I see the fear, uncertainty and the ominous overbearing unknowing that lay ahead. I see the hope for continued recovery.

images (3)I also wonder if they are provided with all the resources the community has. I know we weren’t. We were not giving all the other stuff other than prescriptions, occupational or physical therapy. There is more out there but information seems to always get left behind.

  1. Get into a chronic pain management clinic rather than just Neuro or GP
  2. Occupational therapy runs out…Brain Injury Clinic can help with memory, distraction, daily activities with both an one on one sessions at BIRS and workers who can come into your home.
  3.  Mental Health in Provincial Building has people you can talk to. By yourself, couple, kids and family sessions available. This is a big stressor event and we are never taught how to hand it. Everyone assumes we can “Just Deal”. When you lose your identity quickly depression and anxiety crop up and almost go hand and hand.
  4. Medicine Hat Hospital Recreation programs are amazing and help you explore new or adapted leisure and recreations options. They have great programs such as walking, art, and others but I forget what.
  5. The Healthy Living program that is run in a building near the hospital is a great program. It was a safe place to work on building coordination, strength, and fitness.
  6. The YMCA program has an adapted fitness coordinator
  7. Community Futures Disability Entrepreneurship Program for those who are finding new career directions in life.
  8. MH Adaptive Sport is here in Med Hat with amazing people. It is for people of all abilities not just wheelchairs which I thought.images (8)

That is all I can think of for now but I am sure I have missed some very important groups that I have used and continue to use.

But one of the biggest things that have made a positive impact in my life has and is laughter.  Humour and joking is one way to break the ice with those who are uncomfortable when they see you for first time in a while, as well as with family on a daily basis. Humour and laughter just naturally cycled in being positivity in our lives. From that it spurred gratitude and mindfulness…of course I am continually working on the the mindfulness.  But as a dear friend of mine who is a two time cancer survivor and now officially conquered the big C always says “Any day I am turfside up is a great day” This so true for all of us as we take the crazy journey through life. We all often get wrapped up in the fast pace and stress of getting it all done we never really take a look around to appreciate the simple things.

images (2)I have always hated mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies and horse flies especially when working in a black spruce stand where you are basically a free diner with a neon sign that says open for business…free blood. You have to walk around looking like an alien in a bug suit because Deet is just an appetizer for those hunger little buggers. So I had to look up what West Nile was again because it has been a while and my mind of course is a sieve. So West Nile is a mosquito borne disease that usually doesn’t cause and symptoms or some very mild flu-like symptoms. More information can be found here. But the virus can spread to your Central Nervous System and create long-term havoc. There are aggressive treatments but there are still no stats on recovery rates which really sucks. Prevention is wearing bug spray and screens…limited which is even more suckier. I hate wearing bug spray and screens are only as effective as the amount of doors opening and closing or how many cat claw holes you have. I know we can not live in a bubble but really it just not enough.

Well thanks for letting me ramble with the keyboard. Hope everyone has a wonderful day! Remember take time to slow down, breath, feel the breeze and sun on your face and cre8te something for you!

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March is Brain Injury Awareness in The United States

It has been a very active Brain Injury Awareness month. I have read so many wonderful tweets from fellow survivors and bloggers. I was even asked by Lyrysa Smith about Hydrocephalus. She is a journalist, book author and caregiver to her sister’s ABI after carbon monoxide poisoning.  She read my blog and then messaged me some questions. What an amazing person.

It is always meet such positive advocates. People with TBI and ABI need positive advocates. We also need to have more up to date resources in smaller centres.

I hate how I have to explain what my condition is, what an ETV is and now have to explain that my hydrocephalus gets worse when something is affecting my body to ER doctors. I will voice stronger rather than be put off like I am over reacting. I have a reason to be concerned. When my Hydrocephalus symptoms increase…head pain, pressure, more right side fire ants/tingling; I begin to walk funny again. My right side grasping and coordination start to fail…I can accidentally drop or throw items in my right hand. I also have a hard time understanding people especially when on the phone. My cognitive gets worse too. My short term memory is really bad normally and it takes and extreme amount of effort and time to move items from short term to working memory to long term memory even gets worse. My perception begins to change and the world can begin to get all swirly again and off balance again. 

These symptoms are the only symptoms I have to go on if there is issues with my Hydrocephalus. I do not know when I go into the ER if my ETV hole is partially plugged and flow is disrupted or anything other. I am told to go the the ER by all my Doctors in Calgary when I experience these symptoms. But When go to the ER here in Medicine Hat. I am shoved off into the cubicle B of less serious cold, flu & malingerer section and made to wait. (I don’t mind waiting as I know people come in with serious conditions but my can go sideways quickly and being blown off all the time is not cool). By the way the same one where I sat with Stephens Johnson’s Syndrome all blistered, bloodied mouth and peeling skin) as triage didn’t think I was serious when in fact I was being poisoned by my Meds and burning from the inside out. (PPL make mistakes and that nurse made a huge one. I still have rash and skin issues to date). 

I dislike that when you have a life-long condition and that you are made to feel you are wasting the medical system, hospital system, tax payers money when I go into the ER. No my condition never gave me a huge fever and my blood pressure would always read 120/80 (which is high for me but they always ignore that with a polite tight lipped sneer of someone who fully believes they are more qualified to know my body better than me) even before my brain surgery and definitely not after. Only once was my blood pressure at 170 or higher and they stick couldn’t figure out what was going on…infection…partial blockage. No on really knows…most likely me panicking because I couldn’t stand. 

 It is not like I go in on a whim. By the time I voice my conditions to my hubby I have thought long and hard if they are serious, is it just me over reacting etc….By the time I mention to my hubby, he will usually say it is better to waste your time in the ER and find out rather than sit and wait and maybe have things get worse quickly. He always asks if we should drive to Calgary and get the on-call neurologist. I always say no, that it is too much of a drive.  I dislike that knowledge level is not that good here. I dislike that I am going to explain more and more at the hospital. And then for them to say…it is not the hydrocephalus…it is my sinuses, anxiety, in my head, i am faking. Why put me on the defensive. Do you realize how much that hurts to me mentally especially when I am so much in pain and on the last rungs of hope. But when in fact they symptoms are my Hydrocephalus increasing because my body is fighting something. My neurosurgeon explained that Hydrocephalus symptoms will increase when there is something going on in my body. That my hydrocephalus baseline should return once what ever is going wrong in my body has been addressed.

So far I am three months of feeling off and I am not any better. The regular doctor gave me nose spray, I am taking allergy pills and I am now debating to go back to my Dr. Office and be a stronger advocate. The last time, the Dr. I saw thought I was a little aggressive. Hell yes! I am sick of not being heard. Sick of no solutions. Sick that they experts keep pawning me off saying not me…and saying I need to see someone else but no indication that a referral has been made. I am sick of the same cycle of treatment I had before my surgery five years ago. It is like they want you to fall through the cracks.

Why don’t  the Doctors and nurses just say…well your hydrocephalus symptoms are worse and that is an indicator that something is wrong in your body. Let’s figure it out so you can feel better. But no none of that. Oh hell no…no patient care…more like lets see if we can get her to go away. Truly our system is broken when you have to be a broken wheel, act like you are in severe traumatic pain (I don’t I get quieter and quieter as I focus on mindful meditative breathing and imagery) to be seen quicker and to be taken more seriously.

Thank goodness I have an appointment with the brain injury clinic in Calgary in April.  I know my Doctor there will listen to me. I am counting the days to actually be heard. Why is it that the brain injury clinic, endocrinology clinics and neurology clinics in Calgary take the time to really listen and find solutions. Why is there no out of the box thinking here in Med Hat? suggestions…the “let’s try this” type of approach. I mean really it does not take that much time to sit down and brain storm ideas. To verbally communicate, visually communicate with pictures from the computer. To take a risk and try something new.  


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Pieces of a Puzzle

I had been meaning to go to my GP doctor since September, but that all fell by the wayside as we scrambled to deal with cast boy, then holidays and of course I forgot. Finally last week I went to the doctor. Ever since being in the hospital with SJS, my skin has been so sensitive, very itchy and has had a slow healing rash that has been present on my back, shoulders, arms, fingers, and ankle. These were getting to be annoying as I had finished my cream that somewhat kept everything at bay. I had mentioned symptoms to my specialist since June, but she seemed distracted and didn’t think it was anything.

I show him the rash and get a new batch of cream prescribed. Then I tell him about my disrupted days and nights by having to pee all the time. I mean all the time if I am hydrated and not so bad when I dehydrate myself. I told him that the dry mouth and this I thought were side effects of my meds, but I wasn’t too sure but this has been going on since June and I have had enough. I know I live in a perpetual dehydrated state…or at least it feels like it for me.

So today I went for my MRI for the hydro clinic then had blood and urine testing as well. We are trying to figure out what my body is doing. Right now the symptoms are:

itchy skin, round blistery rash that doesn’t go away, cuts take forever to heal, peeing every 15 minutes, hair falling out and always a dry mouth that makes me thirsty.

My hubby had stated that my symptoms could be diabetes. I went to my computer and followed up with Dr. Google with these common symptoms they all point to Cancer (LOL) nope it was Diabetes. Unfortunately, I do not have the profile of  someone who is a type 2 diabetic. I am not obese; do not have high blood pressure (low); do not have high cholesteral or hypertension.

I did know that there was a risk of diabetes inspidus and other endocrine disorders after brain surgery and with a new TBI/ABI. I did not know that they still can potentially occur long after initial brain injury. So now I wait for results so we can put the pieces of the puzzle together.

 

 

 


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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.