If you’re like me, you love learning—especially from experience, whether your own or others’.
During this time when I’ve been healing from my concussion, I’ve been learning loads about how the brain works. I thought that today I would share some of these things with you, in case you’re interested.
Before I start, it will probably be helpful to outline which areas of my brain were and were not injured.
Things unaffected by the concussion:
- Long-term memory
- Logic and reasoning
Major areas affected:
- Emotion and self-control
- Sensory input and processing
- Short-term memory
- Spatial reasoning and orientation
Since logic and reasoning were largely unaffected, the experience of receiving and healing from a concussion has included a large element of curiosity and wonder, along with the frustration. As one Occupational Therapist put it, “It’s like the uninjured part of your brain is observing the injured part and saying, ‘Oh! That’s interesting!’”
And now, without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. With no self control, you quickly learn how much you swear inside your head.
Apparently, I swear a lot. I’d always told myself that it was a safety valve for stress, and that it was okay as long as it didn’t come out of my mouth. But now I feel convicted that I should more carefully scrutinize my inner life.
2. You don’t realize how important self-control is until you don’t have it.
Let me tell you: living in my skin was pure torment for a while.
3. It’s interesting to see which things create a greater or lesser mental burden.
When you have a large capacity, you don’t necessarily realize which activities take up mental resources. For instance:
- Reading handwriting is easier on the brain than reading typed material, and reading your own handwriting—perhaps because there’s an element of memory attached—is easiest of all.
- Writing by hand is less of a mental burden than typing new thoughts.
- Using screens within 2 hours of waking up is hard on the brain.
- Which noise and people sounds are easier for the brain to process than music.
- Stress takes up enormous mental resources.
4. Music is everywhere!
It’s in restaurants, malls, grocery stores, doctors’ offices, church, other cars, and so on. You don’t realize its prevalence, or loudness, until you’re limited by it. (I couldn’t handle being exposed to any music whatsoever, for a long time.)
5. People are kind.
When we go to restaurants, I often ask to walk around and find the table where the sound is best-suited to my needs. I can no longer count the number of restaurant staff who (without my asking) have volunteered to turn down the music for the entire restaurant, to help me.
6. Bible memorization is really, really important!
I’d always thought of Bible memorization as a good spiritual discipline—something that allows you to take scriptures with you even if a Bible isn’t handy. However, when you have a brain injury which leaves memory unimpaired but results in being unable to read or listen to anything, Bible memorization takes on a whole new level of meaning. For almost a month, I was unable to read or listen to a Bible. All I had was the verses I’d memorized. Over the years, I’ve memorized 4 complete chapters and several passages of 10+ verses, but I found myself wishing I’d spent less time memorizing a bunch of one-off verses, and more time memorizing longer passages, preferably complete chapters.
In earlier posts, I’ve promised to keep you apprised of how healing is going, so before I close, here are some changes over the past month:
- I’m able to interact with screens much more than before.
- I can use the computer for an hour at a time, or occasionally more.
- Most days, I can watch up to 2 hours of a movie, as long as it’s one I’ve seen before and we use a little speaker that doesn’t have a lot of bass.
- I can watch up to 20 minutes of a television show I’ve not seen before, as long as the characters are familiar. However, for fast-paced shows, I may need to ask Peter to rewind a few seconds 2-3 times, because things start going over my head again.
- Expressing emotion is still a challenge for me. Sometimes, for instance, I come across as angry when tired.
- Hiding emotions is also still difficult. Thankfully, Peter and Julia tell me that they can see some improvement in this area. There’s still a way to go before I’ll be able to navigate Japanese society without endangering relationships.
- Listening to music is still difficult, so I still tend to steer clear of places with loud or bass-heavy music. Still can’t attend a regular church service, but I am now able to listen to (and absorb!) sermons online.
- Sensitivity to light is reduced. These days, I usually only need my sunglasses when looking at a screen (computer, TV, etc.) or outside when it’s bright.
- Short-term memory is still iffy, at best.
Having a concussion has definitely opened my eyes to a slew of capabilities that I never before considered being thankful for. This is a good exercise in gratitude!
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