Sit down for a night of TV and you will be treated to a seemingly endless march through commercials proclaiming to cure everything from baldness to dark facial spots to dry mouth and athlete’s foot. Go into any drug store or grocery store and you can have your pick from literally rows and rows of vitamins and supplements. You can look on-line and find which food to eat, which supplement to take, which vitamin to boost…in order to cure or relieve whatever ails you.
Grab your credit card and a phone and order any number of workout systems designed to slim your belly, improve your shoulder muscles, tighten that butt. Order that book that details how to makeover your heart, your shape, your messy closet.
Change your life, improve your life, turn back that clock!
Well, when that clock doesn’t seem to turn back as many years as we had hoped, we come to understand that life comes with its challenges. We do what we can. We treat the symptoms. We try to eat better. Work out more. Cut down on sugar, salt. When that fails, we can buy slimming undergarments. The more wealthy among us might choose a little nip here. A tuck there. Smooth the wrinkles. Tack back the sags.
Some cut off too many years and simply look ridiculous. Some tan themselves into orange/brown-wrapped leather furniture. Some give up and buy the elastic waistbands.
We’re all just doing the best we can here.
I wear reading glasses now. I take Glucosamine/Chondroitin for achy, arthritic hands. I’ll take my fish oil and my multi, grab an extra E here and there, maybe a CoQ10. I’ll drink my green tea and I’ll take garlic caps.
My friends and I will get on the phone and we cannot believe we’ve become our mothers, talking about the newest thing that ails us.
We tend to lament how everything seems to be falling apart when, in reality, we’re simply experiencing the symptoms of life. Of living. What a great day for Kale!!! Ha.
So many of us who suffer brain injury struggle so mightily with our symptoms and the endless seeking of a cure for them. A return to then. A Mulligan.
The truth is, those symptoms, after a couple of years, whatever’s left, are probably here to stay. And we have to choose the time when we realize that they are simply symptoms of living. Symptoms of our lives. No cures. Just finding tools to quiet them long enough to resume our lives, redesign our lives. Get back on track. Back to living and dreaming and moving forward.
In the last ten years, from the time I was 37 til now, all sorts of shit has happened to my body. Laughing here. Some of it my fault, yes. Some of it my Mom’s fault, surely. Ha. Some of it simply the symptoms of my body’s age.
My one brother, the Optometrist, is very bright. We were discussing age-related eye symptoms and he was telling me how so many people suffer similar sight problems at roughly the same age. He mentioned something that I thought was interesting. He said, “Kara, our ancestors weren’t built to live to be 85 years old. They lived to be 35 or 40. So maybe around that time, our bodies are starting to sputter a bit.”
That made so much sense to me. Today we are kept alive by the antibiotics, high blood pressure and high cholesterol pills, the now-standard procedures, the advances in dental care…that our ancestors did not enjoy. But it doesn’t change the fact that the same equipment is being asked to go that much further.
So it fails some. The eyes need a little help reading those menus and phone numbers. Our skin sags or sinks. It acquires tags and brown spots and boasts shiny scars from a lifetime of falls off our bikes, birthing babies and untimely appendix explosions.
Our skin isn’t as soft anymore. Our hair isn’t as full and shiny. Our eyes and teeth are not quite as bright white. Our butts start climbing up our backs and our boobs start climbing down our fronts.
The symptoms of life.
So, when those of us who are brain injured are so frustrated by the symptoms we cannot make leave, I offer up the simple option to consider them no different than that extra chin that didn’t used to be there or that aching sciatica or the evil facial whiskers…
Consider them symptoms of life. Signs that you are living. Testaments to your survival. Chapters in your life’s story.
Treat them as best you can.
Just as I will grab my reading glasses when I need to read a menu now, I will also take a nap late in the day when my brain is fatigued. Just as I will shop for fish oil supplements or protein powder or vitamin C boosters, I will use my cane to assist my balance.
My brain injury symptoms are no different to me. Considering my brain injury in my daily life and what it might require is no different than considering the foods I need to eat, the behaviors I need to avoid or the supplements I need to take to deal with my other symptoms of living.
For most of us, we did not improve in a lot of things after we were hurt. Just as, for most of us, aging is not improving our eyesight, hearing, flexibility, skin, hair…..
But, even as our brains are broken, we can improve our minds. Even as our hearts are broken, we can improve what they feel.
I am the proud bearer of lousy balance, rotten memory, and the inability to handle chaos and stimuli. I am also the proud bearer of sagging spotty skin and thinning hair and failing nearsightedness.
I am alive.
I am living.
I am enjoying the heck out of writing this story of mine, complete with all its flaws and warts and imperfections.
And that includes brain injury.
We can’t go into a store and find a vitamin to cure brain injury. But we can make it better through strategic choices. Smart choices. Knowing our selves and our injuries and creating environments in which they will thrive.
Symptoms of living.
Everyone’s doing the best they can here. We’re all fighting different versions of the same fight. We’re all waking up every morning and looking in the mirror and noticing changes we cannot believe are happening.
But the beauty of it is that we’re waking up in the morning.
Another glorious day to suffer the symptoms of living.
I hope this thing called life is chronic. That we will all suffer it every day for many, many a year to come.
Enjoy your day. Enjoy your life. Embrace the symptoms of living and treat them with heavy doses of love, laughter and joy.
I’m cheering for you.