Adventures Are on Hold for Awhile

by mathhbratt

For a time, my blog will be about healing from a traumatic brain injury. I am certain everyone I know is probably sick to death of hearing about it. My attorney told me to keep a log of symptoms. I’m not sure how he proposes I do that, since I forget things five minutes after they happen. I’m going to do my best to try to remember to blog each night before I go to bed with the few things I manage to remember from the day.

To get us caught up, here is what I was able to piece together through tweets and text messages over the last several weeks…

For the first few weeks after the accident, I had uncontrollable bouts of crying. This wasn’t just getting teary-eyed. It was full on, body-heaving, loudly sobbing, bawling. It would happen several times per day with no warning nor reason. (I sobbed over waffles!) I also slept many more hours than I was awake.

I really do not remember much of June at all. I just remember lots of crying and lots of sleeping.

July 2 While at a very quiet intersection in Box Elder, SD while visiting my daughter, I had what I later thought was a hallucination. I saw a semi truck barreling through the 4-way stop (even though we were in a subdivision neighborhood) and about to t-bone our car. I threw my hands over my eyes, gasped, and braced myself for the crash. When the crash did not happen at the time I expected, I looked up and realized there was never a truck there. When sharing this with my doctor at a later date, she didn’t think it was a hallucination. She believed the brain injury is causing my eyes and brain to delay in communication and my brain is filling in the blanks incorrectly.

July 12, Despite being a high school math teacher who could (before the accident) solve complex calculus problems in my head and was wicked fast at calculations, I could not do 13 minus 7. I reminded myself what I tell my students, “If you can’t recall an answer you should automatically know, use the methods you’ve been taught to find it.” So I thought, “I can count backwards.” I counted, “13, 12, 11…” and got stuck. I continued to try super hard to figure it out. I couldn’t do it. After at least a minute or two of trying, I finally asked Siri for the answer. When reflecting on this while sharing my concern with my doctor, it dawned on me that at no time did it ever occur to me to try counting on my fingers.

July 13, Despite having been there before and using the web page and gps correctly, I went to the complete wrong location to see one of my doctors. I had planned my route the night before, and even in the morning when my brain was fresh I didn’t catch that I wasn’t even on the correct web page when trying to find the address to gps. At no time did my brain click to remember to just pull it from my gps history like I normally would have done before the brain injury.

July 13, while trying to drive to the doctor’s office, I was sitting at a red light. I saw the light turn green, and I began to creep forward (too afraid of trusting others paying attention to traffic to proceed at a normal speed). A pickup truck barreled through what should have been his red light and then another did the same. Horns were honking. I looked up just in time to see my light was red. Logic dictates my light never turned green, but I saw it turn green. After this incident is when my doctor told me the thing about my brain filing in the blanks incorrectly.

I make doughnuts for our restaurant 6 days per week. I use the same doughnut recipe every time (the glazes vary, but the doughnuts are the same). After the accident, I started making major mistakes in trying to scale the recipe to desire number of batches (something I could previously do without any effort at all, something that would come naturally to my brain). I finally sat down and wrote out recipes for the four desired numbers of batches I choose from when making the doughnuts. I had to quintuple check all of the math and found several errors in the process. Also after the accident, I started forgetting important ingredients, even though the recipe was in front of me, and even though I used to be able to make these doughnuts from memory. I had to take my new batched out recipe and put check box bullet points next to ingredients, print out several copies, and start marking off each ingredient as I add it, because if I wait until after two ingredients, I won’t remember if I used it or not. If it is an ingredient that isn’t visible once added, I have to start over. So far, the checklist seems to be working. I never had to do any of this before the accident.

I have missed at least three appointments that I did not put into my calendar. Two of the most recent ones that I can still remember I didn’t put in my calendar, because I had initiated the plans to meet just six hours prior to when we’d meet. I ended up completely spacing it and didn’t even remember much later until I received a text message about it. It seems that many things get lost from my memory in as little as ten minutes, but thankfully, that is not the case with everything…far more things than I care for, but at least not all of it.

Ongoing, I forget sentences in the middle of them. Everything feels like a dream and not real. I am never fully present for anything. Processing information is far more difficult than it ever was.

Personality change, despite previously loving wearing lots of eye make up every day, I have not worn any makeup since the accident. I don’t seem to care about it or how I look at all. I’m not showering as often and am rewearing dirty clothes more often. I am tired and napping WAY more than I ever did. I am also far more emotional than I used to be.

Despite previously having a dry eye condition, my eyes now water almost all the time. It isn’t in the inner corners near my nose like with cold or allergies, it is the outside corners of my eyes like from wind, but it’s all the time.

Before the accident, I had trouble sleeping. Now I have trouble staying awake. I spend most of my time feeling like I just woke up from a nap and disoriented about where I am, what day it is, what I am supposed to be doing, etc.

Despite normally being very reserved in certain vocabulary, I am suddenly without a filter. I teach in a Christian school that reminds us of the importance of being role models to our students, and I am suddenly using words I should never use in front of them, but the words are coming out before I realize it when I hear it after I said it.

Friends and family continue to express concern over seeming depressed, overly tired, and being confused all the time.

 

7/31/17

I forgot this file I was trying to keep for my attorney was a thing. Every day is like a dream. I keep forgetting things I never used to forget. I know several concerning things happened since I last wrote this, but I didn’t write them down and don’t remember them. I hear myself say things out loud I would normally never say.

When I was blow-drying my hair, I kept feeling somebody’s presence and worrying somebody was going to storm into the room to harm me.

When I was at church last night, I suddenly found myself thinking I maybe actually died in that car accident, and I am stuck in some kind of alternative reality. I normally never think this way.

I have to put alarms in my phone for every little thing or I forget them. I forget what I am doing while I am doing it.

I get headaches when I try to figure things out like directions to my home or math problems or when trying to remember a word I can’t think of in a sentence.

At church, the lyrics to a song we were singing were on the board. I saw the word “advice.” “Advice” made the opposite of sense, so I kept looking at it and seeing “advice.” Eventually, I could see the word was “desire.” The font size was fine. My glasses were on. I was not having trouble reading. I just keep seeing things incorrectly.

I’ve been getting weird pain in my head beside the headaches. It’s sometimes like a hot probe going in diagonally down from the top left of my head and other times like a corkscrew going in horizontally from the left above my ear.

I often feel like I am in a haze. I fall asleep often. When this happens, I can end up staying asleep for up to 4 hours and then still go to bed at my normal time.

 

8/2/17

I have had my debit card number memorized for years. I type it and say it out loud quite often, as I do most of my shopping online. Yesterday, I couldn’t remember more than 8 digits no matter how hard I tried. I finally had to go look at the card to enter it.

I had an eye exam yesterday. The ophthalmologist said he saw floaters. Since I’ve never had these before, he believed they could be due to the car accident.

I still cannot stay awake for a normal day.

My eye exam gave me a headache. This does not normally happen. When I quit trying to read and answer questions about the images I was shown, the headache went away.

8/9/17

A few days ago, I was using the kitchen sink. To turn off the water, I tried closing the cabinet door up above the sink. When the water would not shut off, I continued trying to push the door closed harder and harder, growing in frustration over the water not turning off. After far too long, I figured out what I was doing wrong, and I successfully turned off the water.

A friend came over and noticed my oven was on. I had left it on all late afternoon and evening while out with her.

When I was making doughnuts, I went to reach for a doughnut in the fryer oil with my bare hand. Just centimeters from the oil, my brain sensed something was wrong. Ever since the “red light/green light” incident, if I sense something is wrong, I freeze and try to figure it out. I froze there with my hand dangerously close to very hot oil trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Once I eventually figured it out, I quickly removed my hand, thanking God I had not gone any further in trying to remove that frying doughnut from the oil.

Yesterday I tried to train a new server at our restaurant. Back in May, I worked our Mother’s Day rush (the Saturday before Mother’s Day) by myself. I ran the incredibly crowded dining room with a long waiting list of people wanting to get in like a boss! Yesterday, about a third of our tables were full, and after an hour, my brain shut off, and I was useless. I was forgetting to enter orders into the system (I used to not even have to write orders down, but now I can’t even remember from the table to the kitchen what I am supposed to do). The employee, on his first day of work, was out performing me, and he didn’t even know where things were! It was his FIRST day! A woman called to place a to-go order while I was making iced tea. I told her it would be just a moment before I could take her order. I put the phone into my apron pocket and continued to work on the tea. At this moment, I cannot remember if I ever finished making and serving that tea. I ended up having my husband cover for me and to call in another server, because I was making huge mistakes. After probably 20-30 minutes, I reached into my apron for something and discovered the phone off the hook in my pocket. I hung it up, and the woman immediately called back to state she had been on hold for a very long time but still wanted to place an order. I got lucky she was so determined to have our food! Several mistakes like this happened during my second hour at the restaurant. My head started to hurt, and I was incredibly frustrated trying to think and not being able to.

On Monday I ended up having to give away 2.5 dozen doughnuts due to mistakes, even though I make doughnuts every day. All week this week, my doughnuts have not been the normal awesome, and I cannot figure out what I am doing wrong. There must have been something in my technique not written in my recipe that I am forgetting, and I have tried during “fresh brain” periods to try to figure it out but can’t.

Today I am going to go talk to my principal about finding me a long-term sub. There is no way I can try to teach math classes like this! I am nervous about this meeting that she is just going to replace me, because I cannot guess for how long I am going to need this sub. I am also worried about money, because I don’t remember how many sick days I’ve accrued, and if she fires me, I can’t really use them anyway. If she doesn’t fire me, I don’t know how long those sick days will last until I don’t get any more paychecks. My attorney says it could take up to a year to settle this claim, so I really don’t know how we are going to make rent and car payments. This all sucks so bad!

If you normally read my blog for humor and levity, there probably isn’t going to be a lot of that for awhile. I’m sorry. Don’t unsubscribe. I’ll try to be enjoyable again at some point…

 

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