I can’t say I’m glad I got a concussion. Disappearing from my regular life activities for nearly 2 months was less than ideal. Trying to maintain a blog and podcast, not to mention meet a looming book deadline, all while needing to avoid screens . . . nearly impossible. Providing quality therapy and managing a busy practice when I could barely communicate and needed to nap every 2 hours . . . hardly effective.
And yet, like all of life, alongside the difficulties of the concussion came a few advantages.
First, I had an excuse every time I couldn’t think of a word or got confused.
Second, I had an excuse every time I didn’t want to be around people . . . “sorry, my concussion’s acting up, I better go lay down.”
Third, I HAD to take naps every couple of hours.
Fourth, my family understood that I had to reserve my brain power for those activities which helped provide money for food and shelter. Because they understood this, I had countless hours alone in my bedroom. I repeat . . . . ALONE. Happy sigh.
But, beyond these, the best part of my concussion has been my increased understanding of life as a person with twice exceptionalities.
All those forgotten words and delayed responses from me . . . that’s what my daughter and others like her experience daily. I finally understood how language can simply get lost. Sure, I’ve had momentary lapses where I’ve forgotten words or names, but the slow decline of your communicating power as your brain becomes more and more tired? This was a new experience for me. I get why my daughter screeches or talks her baby talk now. Sometimes it is all her brain can muster. It is a bizarre feeling to have your mind completely slowed. Part of you understands that someone just asked you a question. Part of you knows what answer you want to give. But most of you just sits there stunned. You kinda know what you’re supposed to (or want to) do, but somehow you just can’t do it.
Not only is this bizarre, but as a gifted person, it’s incredibly frustrating. I knew that I was capable of more. I knew that I could be much more eloquent and on my game. Typically, I can hold on to multiple points or thoughts that I want to return to during a therapy session, but temporarily 2e me? Not a chance. Sometimes I could remember that I wanted to remember something, but sometimes I was simply blank. A very frustrating feeling, indeed, when accustomed to being able to think sharply and hold multiple trains of thought simultaneously. No wonder my daughter and others like her can struggle with such intense rages. They have to tolerate being frustrated constantly. Of course their regulatory resources run dry at some point.
And then there were the times of complete brain overstimulation. The way to recover from a concussion is to rest your brain – which means doing nothing. NOTHING. I wasn’t so good at that, but I tried. So, therefore, it makes sense that the most harmful things for a concussed brain would be to overstimulate it. What I didn’t realize was just HOW overstimulating common every day tasks can be.
I now understand why my daughter melts down after certain activities. It took about 5 minutes of walking through a big box store before I could barely walk, talk, or see clearly. I literally came home from an hour at church every Sunday and needed to sleep until dinner. I could only manage to see 1-2 clients at a time before I was overloaded and needed a rest. That’s the same timeframe we’ve noticed that my daughter can last . . . we know that about 2 hours of social interaction is all she can handle if we want to avoid a meltdown.
When you don’t experience this overloading, it’s easy to underestimate just how much brain power it takes to go through these simple daily tasks. But, our 2e friends and kids don’t have that luxury. As my daughter repeatedly reminded me, “Yeah, mom. It’s hard for you, but this is my EVERY day. It’s all my life.”
And while taking frequent napping sounds like a fantastic mandate, truthfully, only being able to function for a couple of hours at a time hampers productivity and lifestyle just a bit. I had to very intentionally choose how I was going to use my limited hours of brain power. This meant that socializing, home management, leisure, hobbies, writing, all had to take a back seat to the money-makers of my jobs. And even many aspects of my typical work had to be set aside until full recovery.
I’m a natural procrastinator, so having a legitimate excuse to postpone some things was handy, but generally, I had to completely re-envision my own expectations of a full life. Being so intentional with my energy was frustrating. Oftentimes I wanted to keep going at a particular activity or project. I wanted to call my friend or go out to eat, but my brain simply didn’t have the reserves to make that happen. And this was very frustrating.
But, I knew there would be an end. I knew that I would one day regain my full faculties. I knew that one day I would be able to resume a more typical schedule. For our 2e friends and family, they do not have that reality. And that doesn’t mean that there’s no hope, or life will always be doom and gloom for them. I learned how to adapt my schedule and find a workable lifestyle. My life was still full and joyous even with the frustrations. I continued to have meaningful connections, relationships, and activities. And 2e people certainly do these things every day. But, it’s important to remember just how much extra effort they need to exert in order to have these things. And those moments when their exceptionalities eek out a little, we need to remember that we’re only glimpsing a small portion of what they are dealing with all – the – time.
So, my biggest lesson as temporarily 2e? Extra patience, extra understanding, and an added dose of compassion. Always compassion.