That whole balance thing is proving to be harder than I first thought. My house is back to being a mess, and I'm starting to get that overwhelming feeling of I can't breath again. I make lists, but a simple "to do" list doesn't cut it for me. Unlike most people, I cannot simply put "clean kitchen" on my list. My list looks more like this:
- Unload dishwasher
- Reload dishwasher
- Hand wash dishes
- Wipe down counters
- Wipe off stove top
- Sweep Floor
In December 1976 my brother's elementary school hosted a Lunch with Santa. My mother, being a chronic volunteer, had signed up to work it. I was two years old. My brother was just shy of his eighth birthday. My mother dressed us up in our pretty clothes and off we went to whisper all of our special wants into Santa's ear.
Hosting an entire elementary school to share a meal with the jolly old fella can be quite an undertaking. My mom was ever the busy bee and she left my brother to keep an eye on me. I found my way out of the cafeteria and out to the steps at the end of corridor. I had mastered the steps in our home almost a full year prior so as long as my brother was right next to me to steady me if I wobbled, what harm there be, right?
No one would expect me to fit between the rungs on the banister. I mean really, what eight year old would think of that? In all honesty, not many parents would even think of that. That wouldn't even be a flicker on even the most helpicopterish parent's radar. Except that's exactly what happened next.
My brother and I were two and a half flights above the ground floor of the school and before he could even register what happened, my little patent leather Mary Jane was dangling through the gap in the banister and my small body slipped through right behind it.
I was free falling and all my big brother could do was watch me fall. And then he screamed. I hit the banister of the flight beneath us and then I slid through those and kept falling. I landed on the ground floor face down. Blood began to pool around my tiny little body.
Everyone came running out to the stairs and somehow my mother made it down to where I lay, motionless. An ambulance was called and we were on our way to the hospital. I regained consciousness as we pulled up to the ER. I tried to stir and was crying out for my Mommy.
The doctors cleaned me up and everyone was astonished to realize that I didn't have a single cut on my body. I had lots of bruises, however. The blood had come from that small piece of skin that attaches your upper lip to your gums. I had severed it. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, I was held in the hospital for a few days of observation and then I was sent home with a clean bill of health.
My guradian angel was truly with me that day.
Not much thought has been given to my accident over the last 30+ years. It comes up occasionally as we're telling family stories, like my brother's state track meet or the fact that my dad had to repack the car five times in order to fit all of my stuff in when I left for college. My accident is just a part of our history.
A few months ago, some research was brought to my attention concerning traumatic brain injury. In reading this, it was like a lightbulb exploded in my head. In 1976 very little was known about the lasting effects of a head injury. I had only lost consciousness for a short while and I wasn't showing any immediate signs of brain damage so it was assumed all was well.
It's since been shown that brain injury survivors often live lives of complete disarray. Inabilitly to organize, attention deficits, short term memory loss, depression, obesity, frequent headaches, mood swings and other cognitive impairments are just a few of the symptoms associated with TBI.
It was if someone had written an entire book on my life. I'm still reeling from all of this information. When I was first confronted with it I spent several days grieving the life that I could have had. My life dream was to be a lawyer but I couldn't stay organized enough to even graduate from college. I'd always pictured myself having five kids but I could barely manage life with just two. I love homeschooling my children but it takes nearly all of the energy and focus that I can muster to simply write out a lesson plan for one week.
My entire life I've been known as the "loud friend." I've always been a littl "kooky" and my brother often introduces me as his "crazy sister" (I'm his only sister). It's always been a part of who I am and I can't help but wonder now, if it's more a part of what happened.
I'll never know these answers for sure, but I'm finding that at least having this knowledge has eased some of the pressure I put on myself. I always berated myself in my head. "Why are you so lazy?" "Just clean the freakin' kitchen already." "Why is life so hard for me?" "Why do all of these things come so naturally to everyone else except me?" "What's wrong with me?"
Has this information made my life any easier? Has it made organization and time management come more naturally to me? Of course not, but it's given me hope that there is, actually, something physicall wrong with me and that given the right tools, it's a disability that I can overcome.
My doctor referred me to a therapist that specializes in TBI survivors. I've had this person's phone number for about two months now have I called her yet? Of course not, because I lost the phone number for about a month, then I hung it on my fridge and vowed to "call her tomorrow" and tomorrow just never comes. Maybe for this type of appointment the patient's number should be given to the doctor instead of the other way around? I wonder how many of us are out there with all of the information we need to get help, but we just never get around to it.
Never get around to it. That seems to be the story of my life. This is where that changes. This is the year that I find balance. I just didn't realize it would be so hard.