“Traumatic Brain Injury” or “TBI” has been in the news a lot recently, especially in the context of Afghanistan and the unfortunate event of the staff sergeant who mercilessly killed innocent civilians in a murderous rampage (I won’t mention that the suspect is unfortunately from my hometown as well). The staff sergeant claimed he blacked out right before the tragic events occurred. That is an unfortunate reality for those that suffer from “TBI” (although in no way excuses the crime). When I was first out of the hospital after the initial surgery, Stacemom found a story online of a 11 year survivor named “Kio” who had the same diagnosis as me and got in contact with him. Leaving the hospital I was feeling positive because, other than feeling a bit tired and slightly irritable, I pretty much felt like the same Alex. I was excited to talk to Kio because in the story he posted online he had mentioned how he went back to work as a police officer 9 months after his surgery and was living a pretty normal life these days. We finally got on the phone together and we asked each other questions and had a pretty long and productive conversation. What I found out from him, bummed me out a little. Although Kio seemed pretty with it on the phone, he did forget some things that I had just told him and I found out that he wasn’t working anymore because his fatigue had actually gotten worse over time. He was fully aware of his limitations though. He told me that the one thing that helped him early on was that he looked up the symptoms of “TBI” and tried to do things to alleviate those symptoms. He mentioned that that is something that most Brain Cancer survivors don’t think about and he encouraged me to do the same. The first obvious thing he said for me to do would be to talk to a mental health expert that specializes in things like “TBI” and “PTSD”. I have yet to do that because I’ve been finding myself feeling so encouraged, hopeful, and positive (and also distracted), and I think that I’ve also been in denial about the stigma I probably feel subconsciously about seeing a “shrink”. When TBI goes untreated, it can lead to anti-social behaviors and even severe mental problems. Recently though I’m finding myself finally feeling some of the symptoms on a more regular basis like “being easily irritable, sensitivity to light or sound, memory or concentration problems, and mood swings”. None of those things have been very magnified or unbearable though. The hardest thing about a brain injury is that it not only effects your physical health but it deeply effects your mental health as well. I’m to a place now where I think it’s time for me to get over the “stigma” of seeking out a mental health specialist and deal with the core of the problem (before it becomes a big problem), which is mostly a physiological one.
As I’ve done some research on TBI, one of the things that they say is important from a emotional standpoint is to allow yourself to “grieve” the hardship of the injury and the potential loss of a “normal life”. I’ve mentioned before how I’ve discovered the importance of “catharsis” during this journey, but as I’ve thought about it recently, I’ve only opened that spicket (if you will) a few times since this all started. For the most part, I’ve tried to stay positive and hopeful and just “grin and bear it” as I’ve approached each stage of recovery and when the few times that my mind and body have tried to open the “spicket” of “grieving and/or catharsis” (it usually happens when Amy and I are watching “The Voice” or “The Biggest Loser” : ) I’ve immediately closed it off (mostly because I can’t be caught crying due to “emotionally manipulative” reality shows, you feel me?). The other day while I was getting acupuncture and I allowed myself to let go and just let myself cry, and it felt amazing. Ruthmom, Amy, and I came to the conclusion yesterday that it would be really freeing for me to have more moments like that. I’ve always been a pretty tender hearted guy so I really don’t know what makes it so hard for me to do such a seemingly easy and harmless thing like letting myself feel and cry. It’s become my hope now that with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit and a mental health specialist, I’ll be able to go through the proper grieving process to get to a place where my mind and brain (they’re two different things by the way) are fully restored and healed.
I’m starting my 4th cycle of Chemo and speaking at that UCLA brain tumor conference this weekend so I ask for prayer for clarity of mind and a peaceful spirit as I continue to embark on this journey of recovery. Thank you ahead of time for your prayers and good thoughts.
Link to Info on Conference: http://www.neurooncology.ucla.edu/BTC/Conference.aspx