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  • HeatherJoy Bagnall

Brain Injury - Cognitive Dysfunction & Guillotines

Updated: Sep 28

Friday: I woke up this morning thinking it was Wednesday. My son was kind enough to tell me I had again slept for 36 hours. I was awake long enough to chat with my mom for a few minutes, and then I was out again.


I blame this (with love) on my occupational therapist, who ordered more visual processing tests. She was hoping for some sign of improvement. The test was exhausting, frustrating, and absolutely maddening. She complimented me on my character, my perseverance, and determination. Then I sat on my back deck and sobbed myself to sleep from the pain in the heat of the sun. Later, I awoke, drank water, and went to bed.


This is the first time I have written since I bounced my head off the pavement a couple of months ago. I can see things, but I can’t process them. Meaning my visual processing is in Wonkadoodle Land. I have broken every water glass we owned, poured cat food on the cat instead of in her bowl, made the lawn look like a drunkard mowed it, and so many more exciting moments! When I am awake, I have plenty of thoughts, and I am working on my dissertation. I am writing this to practice using my Kurtzweil3000 program. It is both a blessing and well, it is going to take some time to get used to it.


Today my OT & I chatted about the test results from the other day and the fact that with vengeance, my dyslexia and dysgraphia have returned. The cognitive challenge of using words that have nothing to do with the conversation is also an issue. One that, if this Kurzweil program had eyes, would make them roll frequently- Random Replacements. They make life interesting. I am more of a character out of a Dahl book than ever.


My OT asked me before therapy today about how I felt and what I needed. I said a jar to store my brain in, like in the cartoons- just until it is more cooperative or a guillotine, or a brain transplant. Maybe Abby Normal would like a chance to be bodied again! The pain and confusion are confusing and painful. She asked if I remember to give myself any grace.


Our thoughts are likened to file cabinets in our heads. Imagine an office building in an earthquake. The drawers and papers burst all over when shaken. When my head played ball with the pavement, this was the case with my file cabinets. I explained it to my OT this way; it is as if when my head bounced and the glass jar that neatly held my entire past, shattered. For weeks I have relived episodes of love and trauma I had cared for and buried. She was incredibly kind and poignant in her response, and I loved it.


She asked me to channel surf. I have indeed shattered the jar and broken all of the file cabinets open, the papers are strewn about in mad disarray. But, I did deal with almost everything when I needed to or at some point in my past. Thus, I do not need to resort and relive every love, loss, and trauma by refiling them one at a time. I can acknowledge them and place them, not resorted to filing cabinets for now but to a new basket, and change the channel. It is okay to bundle these past experiences instead of re-living and re-filing each one individually.


Imagine. This is such a simple, caring, self-acknowledging, and loving statement. I see this event in my life, and I acknowledge this event. Now I am changing the station to find a different one that takes me from anxiety, trauma, or depression back to the joy and kindness I choose. If I am channel surfing and several of these events are playing, I can acknowledge them all, wrap a bow around them and place them in the new basket.


The exhaustion was not my OT’s fault. It is part of the healing process. A healing process I acknowledge, and I give myself the grace to rest. How often in this world do we stop and say, I am human, I need grace- to rest, heal, recuperate.


I couldn’t see straight to write earlier and my words were not coming out of my mouth in a scholarly order, then the Kurzweil program crashed- dissertating was out. I sat at my piano with tears in my eyes. I knew I could not play anything I had to see the keys for. I closed my eyes and I went back to the basics, Czerny, scales, feel the keys, hear the balance between the left hand and the right nahd. Encourage the left and the right brain to mesh again. Bach, sounded as if I were 6 again. The frustration was building. Fur Elise, (memorized in 6th grade) but today it was missing entire sections. Mozart, the right hand, the left hand, hands together, some measures were okay some were rough. I could hear it and find it on the keyboard. This was middle school piano playing. Moonlight Sonata, (memorized in 9th grade) high school piano playing, but very rough. As the frustration grew, I did not bother to pull the college level pieces I still love to play. Playing and singing at the same time, some easy pop and Broadway pieces, they are okay at best. I am human, I need to give myself grace- to rest, heal, recuperate.


I know I won’t be who I was before this brain injury. We are never who we were before any learning experience or traumatic injury. The truth is we don’t know who we will be tomorrow. We don’t know what experience will change our lives today or tomorrow. I am human, I need to gift to myself grace- to rest, heal, recuperate.






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