There is a documentary out called My Beautiful Broken Brain, about a woman learning to communicate again after her brain injury. I keep meaning to watch it. But I just realized I don’t need to watch it — I am living it.
It turns out that I am not as invincible as I once thought. Repairable, yes. Invincible, no. I have permanent brain injury. Brain damage. My brain got jostled about during its two surgeries, and it was even shifted over to one side for a few months, which I am now told is a Bad Thing. Some people don’t recover well from it. I’ve beat worse odds than this before, so I may recover just fine. Neuroplasticity of brains and all. Hard to tell right now though.
My deficits are in communication and problem solving. That’s what I know so far. My neurologist wants me to attend Brain Camp, an intensive rehabilitation program where I get to relearn how to make words happen and hopefully learn how to think better. I, of course, think I think just fine. I like my ways of reasoning. But apparently it makes less sense if you’re not inside my brain.
Do you know the Spoon Theory? It goes like this. You have 12 spoons to spend each day. Only 12. Each thing you do in a day requires spoons. For instance, just taking a shower may require 1 spoon. Driving to the grocery store might require 3 spoons. But you only have 12 of them. How do you determine what you can do that day and what you cannot? Blow all your spoons on a big fight with your beloved and you are toast for the rest of the day. Spoonless toast, I might add.
I totally get the spoon thing now. I think it as Brain Hours. Some days I get more Brain Hours than others. Some things I do add to my Brain Hours, and some things subtract from my Brain Hours. Regular gym-going mostly adds Brain Hours. Eating well keeps them steady; scarfing down plates of waffles drenched in maple syrup (Grade B — the good stuff) generally subtracts. So now I get to practice self-care things like getting up, stretching, and doing 5 minutes of my physical therapy exercises every hour. Going outside to feel the sun on my face and the breeze on my skin. Making sure I eat every few hours. These don’t add to my Brain Hours but they ensure that my time spent at my computer attempting to write doesn’t subtract from them.
For the past month I’ve been using an app called Luminosity. I grit my teeth through its constant manipulations to buy the “premium” version. My thought was to practice things that can help my retrain my brain. So when I remember to, I play my three free little games for the day. Today they sent me an email telling me how I’m doing. They compared me to other people my age. What I didn’t tell them is I lied abut my age. I said I was 40. I am a fair bit older than 40. But compared to other (presumably) non-lying 40-year-olds, I am barely functional. My problem-solving is in the 1st percentile. That means 99% of those non-lying 40-year-olds did better than me. My highest percentile was 17th. My days in MENSA may be over. Once I had 150 IQ. Now I doubt I could hit 100. I wonder who I am anymore, who I am becoming. I am afraid.
I used to be funnier. I used to remember things. I used to write faster. I used to use more words. I used to not have a broken brain.