An open letter to anyone who doesn’t understand concussions:
Last week, I experienced sharp ringing in my right ear. It happens all the time, more often in my left ear.
I also had an episode of kaleidoscope vision, whereby a wave of multi-colored objects rendered me blind in my left eye for 15-20 minutes. It’s happened before, many times.
As I type this sentence, vision in my left eye is blurred and watery. When you see two people, I sometimes see four.
Often when I’m lying on my loveseat watching TV or a movie, I get lightheaded and the room begins to spin.
I cannot stand up without supporting myself on a piece of furniture, for fear I’ll fall.
I very seldom open my blinds, even though I have an ocean view from my home. Too much light is uncomfortable. It’s the same reason I mostly walk in the shadows when outdoors, to avoid direct sunlight.
Most times when the phone rings, I don’t pick up. Too much of a challenge to talk to people. Even friends.
When I’m on a sidewalk, I often list badly to the left, sometimes coming dangerously close to stumbling onto the street and into traffic. Accidentally bumping into another pedestrian due to a sudden bout of imbalance is not uncommon. I walked into a wall at home last week.
I cannot take one step walking heel-to-toe without falling.
Ice pick headaches are a painful reminder that not all is right above the shoulders and between the ears.
So is my short-term memory, which basically doesn’t exist. When I was at the grocery store last week, I forgot why I was there. I had to fight off tears because, as I stood in an aisle looking in all directions but recognizing nothing, I was overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness and fear.
I never leave home without anxiety as a companion. The moment I towel off after a shower, it consumes me.
Results from my most-recent CT scan and MRI indicate significant softening of brain tissue.
Right now, I feel as if I’m about to fall off my chair. My head is swimming.
I’ll be stepping out of doors later today to visit one of my doctors, and I only hope I get from Point A to Point B without a wave of lightheadedness sending me to the ground. I’ve been fortunate lately. I haven’t taken a nasty tumble on the street since September 2016, when I hit the deck while walking downtown with my daughter Ashley. It was embarrassing as hell, but we both giggled once it was determined that only my pride had been wounded. Mind you, I’m guessing that some onlookers thought the sight of an old lady performing a faceplant to be quite comical, if they were into Three Stooges type of humor.
This is how I live. Every day. It’s what multiple concussions (10 of them) can do to you.
So if you know, or hear of, someone who has suffered blunt force trauma to the head, don’t presume to know the darkness we live in. You don’t have the right to tell us how we should conduct our daily lives. How we should interact with others. When we should pick up the phone and how quickly we should respond to email and text messages. Or how often we should smile and how loudly we should laugh.
If you see me, chances are I’ll be smiling and laughing. It’s what I do. But you won’t know what’s going on below the surface.
You just don’t know.