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Thursday, September 1, 2011

8 Weeks: Where I'm At

A sunflower photographed during a sunset visit
to my family's patch at a community garden
Yesterday marked the 8-week anniversary since I whacked my head on the stair rail and I'm ecstatic to report that there finally has been some material progress. I estimate that I'm at roughly 65-75% of where I was before the concussion. Most of this progress came after the 6th week mark, and just in time, since I was starting to struggle with some serious depression. I've been able to decrease my hours in bed and increase my hours of activity, and while I'm still extremely vulnerable to getting overwhelmed, I was even able to leave the house for a non-medical reason the other day without suffering negative consequences! Not only that, but I got some great photos for my effort. So this is all very good news. I also have sufficient stamina to watch movies now, provided they are of the quiet kind, and although it was a bit of a stretch, I was able to look after the Ancient Kitty--an eighteen and a half year-old cat that I've been cat-sitting for years--for a weekend. It was definitely hard at
Me & the Ancient Kitty:
we're friends.
first to walk that block from my house to his, especially during the day when it was hot out. I'd become much better at handling the heat in recent weeks, but being in full sun was another thing entirely. Still, it was nice to be out of the house with my camera again, especially as I got a little stronger, and the Ancient Kitty is not difficult to look after: my primary job is to sit on the floor and pet him! He, of course, appreciates this service immensely and his gratitude makes up for the fact that being skin and bones, he's not all that pleasant handle anymore.

Once I started feeling a little better, I ran into my usual trouble of having no setting between "off" and "high." I had a bit of a hypo-manic spell that had me feeling driven to create and while these phases can be effective in terms of productivity, it wasn't truly necessary to finally open my second Etsy store in the middle of my head injury recovery! It's an idea that has been in the works for months and suddenly I was in the mental mode where I can easily write descriptions for Etsy listings, so after putting up some new Mouse listings, as I reported in an earlier post, I went ahead and wrote up eighteen listings for a new shop as well. That bit of brain-on-fire has passed, thank goodness, and I'm working very hard to take it easy, which is much harder work for me than working!

Abbey in her comforter
nest next to my bed
The dog, of course, is always helpful when it comes to relaxation. She's been sleeping in my room with me at night, something previously not allowed, but when she was in care-taking mode and I was sleeping with my door open because I was overheating in the night, there was no way she was about to sleep in her crate as usual! I have my door closed again, but haven't felt up to the effort it will take to retrain her to sleep in her crate, so it's a slumber party in my room every night. She's been sleeping on my kicked-off comforter next to my bed and is happy as can be. I have to say, it's rather nice to have such deeply satisfied company around! She also loves to sprawl on our back deck, ideally in a patch of sun, and so hanging out in the backyard with her has been a good do-nothing activity for me, too.

Taking it easy with Abbey.

One of the recent developments I'm most thankful for has been the renewed effectiveness of Midrin. It's the only acute migraine drug that has brought me relief  and I have to have it specially made by a compounding pharmacy in Louisiana because it is no longer on the market, so I was really devastated when initially didn't help after the concussion. It's back in business, though, and it's so nice to have a drug that helps with the headaches!

Sunglasses frames vs.
light-sensitivity glasses frames
So things are not perfect. I am still more noise sensitive than usual (I keep Abbey's collar off because I can't tolerate the jingling of her tags, for example) and my eyes are still pretty sensitive and tire easily. (I am glad to report, though, that I've been able to go back to my regular light-sensitivity glasses instead my dark glasses most of the time! I had developed sores on the backs of my ears from the thicker ear pieces on my sunglasses and it was getting quite excruciating to wear them, so being able to finally tolerate the light as seen through my super-lightweight glasses with the red lenses was a huge relief.) The migraine pain is still more frequent and much stronger than it was before the concussion. I have less energy and smaller reserves. But these downsides are being tempered by some upsides. My appetite is returning and I've been able to eat at least one regular sort of meal a day. Sometimes my stomach rebels if I try to eat something too fancy, but I've been able to regain a lot of the weight that I lost during the weeks of terrible nausea. My degree of illness also
Attempting to look
stylish in an X-ray
garment isn't easy!
prompted my parents to make another effort to silence the noisy dogs next door and our neighbors were kind enough to put bark collars on their dogs at our suggestion, which have been very effective! They also got me a blackout blind for my bedroom that doesn't allow any light to enter, so I'm able to sleep longer and as well as fall back to sleep more easily if I wake up in the early morning. Not only that, but I got a lead X-ray apron! It'll take a whole post on its own to explain in detail why a nine-pound apron might be helpful, but the short explanation is that weight helps to quiet my entire overactive nervous system and that's been extremely helpful during this concussion recovery period. And last but not least, two weeks ago I received notice from Social Security that my disability application had been approved! Let me tell you, that went a long way toward clearing up my case of the concussion blues! It took just ten months from start to finish for my case to be approved, which is amazing, especially for something as subjective as headaches, so it felt like I was getting a piece of good luck for once when it came to the migraines! It's an enormous relief that I won't have to wait for a hearing, a process that usually takes two or three years of waiting.

So overall, the news is good. I had a follow-up appointment with my neurologist yesterday and from a strictly neurological standpoint, I'm doing great. It'll just take more time for things to slowly make their way back to my version of normal. It's not always easy to be as quiet as I need to be, but the amount of progress I've made in the last couple of weeks is extremely heartening!

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