how long does recovery take ?

This is a hard question, and there are many ways to answer it. 

Physically,I’ve recovered nicely.  Other than losing vision in my left eye, and having some numbness in my face and tenderness in my scalp, I’ve got no complaints.  That’s so much better than I think anyone expected last July.  I’m getting ready to try to run my first marathon since the accident, much more quickly than I’d imagined.  I’m swimming just a notch more slowly than before, but close enough to believe I’ll get there.

Cognitively things are going well too.  I notice some differences in my ability to remember things like names.  But I’m not feeling ‘limited’ cognitively.  Work can be pretty intellectually engaging.  I read a bunch.  I’m playing lots of Scrabble, some bridge, and I do crossword puzzles and play KenKen regularly.  Although I know my brain has had to form some new neural pathways, and that I’ve had to adapt to some cognitive changes, I’m okay here. 

Cognitive therapies have felt pretty unsettling.  Brains are complicated beasts, and we do not really maintain granular baselines for ourselves and our capabilities in "normal" life.  Even when you’re in perfect health, doing cognitive assessment is a very sophisticated science.  Following a Traumatic Brain Injury, much focus is placed on assessing the patient’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses.  When you’re the subject being examined, it’s normal to feel apprehension about what the therapists are finding out about you.  Even as I was being told that I was able to function at a pretty high-level cognitively, I remained concerned that something would surface that would be difficult to overcome or adapt to. 

So – although physically and cognitively I have done well, emotionally I’m still processing what happened.  A therapist described my situation (as well as the family’s) as possibly being a bit "post-traumatic".  I’d not really thought of myself in those terms, but it’s worth some consideration.

There are times when I am surprised at my emotional responses.  Sometimes when I try to talk about how grateful I feel for all of the love and support I’ve benefited from, I choke up.  On several occasions, when encouraging my kids to try things they don’t feel confident about, it has brought tears to my eyes.  The surprising part to me is how quickly these emotional responses can overtake me.

Related to this, I’ve had apprehensions about whether or not I’ll be able to do things at work, run as fast as I did before, or deal with parts of life that prove challenging.  I’ve had to test my own confidence a bunch, and it isn’t easy.  To some degree we should always push out from our ordinary comfort zones.  This is how we grow.  The complicating factor for me is how little time I’ve been able to spend in my comfort zone since the accident.  It’s not been ordinary life life by any measure, for me or for my family.   

More than anything else I want to prove to myself and everyone else that I can still do anything I set out to do.  Sometimes this surfaces as impatience or stubborn-ness, with myself or others.  This is a side-effect of determination, but it’s important to remember to give yourself and others room to breathe.

My family is still processing all of this too.  I’m not going to speak for them, other than to say that Kris and the kids show this in different ways.  It can be difficult to recognize this in the moment.  That’s not intended as a complaint.  It’s just where we are right now.  We’re still trying to work through all that’s happened.

So the answer seems to be that true recovery takes a long time.  It’s important to remember that recovery encompasses the emotional side of things too.

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