It's easier to write about this now that it's much less of an issue for me personally, but I'll write it anyway in the hopes that it will help someone down the line understand something about brain injury.
It's an analogy I came up with that I hope can help those who think anything in life can be just "powered through."
If my brain was a car, before the accident it got 45 mpg, cruised at 75 mph with no problem and often, could go all day and only needed oil changes at 3500 mile intervals. Maybe with age I needed to keep some extra oil around just in case, or brake fluid, and somedays it could only do 8 hours driving, or was more like 40 mpg some days, or needed some extra sleep or time in the garage, but otherwise, it was in good shape. Normal fluctuations. Maybe some years ago my A-game would have been 55mpg, 90mph, and oil changes every 4500 miles.
In the months right after the accident, I was lucky if it got 5 mpg, went 20 mph at best on a good day, could hardly run more than an hour at a time, and needed an oil change every 50 miles.
To the outside observer, that car can still go, and at any given moment might appear to be running just fine. And maybe it is, well enough & kinda sorta sometimes, for quick errands and short trips. But if you want it to run around town 2-3 days in a row when it hasn't refueled or got that oil change to recover from the first? It's gonna be a problem. Or if you want that car to drive a cross-country road-trip, you're in BIG trouble at worst, rolling some seriously dicey dice at best.
Here the around-town-driving is like every day expectations. The cross-country road trip would be a full time job, plus staying on top of housework, and maintaining a halfway decent social life.
It's just fucking impossible in a car running that badly. You push that car with the oil that low, and you're going to blow the engine. It's going to just plain stop when there's no more gas. There's no telling how much sleep it needs to refuel, or how long it takes to cool the car down and actually rest after you've turned it off.
These days I think I get about 25-30mpg, and can get up to 55 mph on a good day, and keep it going for 6 hours. I think it's about 2/3 of those "cross country drive" requirements. That's more or less my current "A-game." So loads of improvement, but still a ways away from normal.
If you've ever thought of telling someone to "just push through it," whether their obstacle is TBI, depression, anxiety, chronic illness, something else, or some combination of two or more, think about that car, and the repercussions if you push that too far. Do you know what it feels like to be stranded on the highway with a blown engine? I do, both as a driver and as a brain like that car, and I wouldn't wish either on my worst enemy.
So while the hand did really well in the first few days of healing, that's slowed down by a bit. Maybe possibly I popped a stitch or two maybe possibly while oil painting last Friday because maybe possibly using a palette knife maybe possibly puts pressure on that section of hand…
It's fine, and the stitches came out last Saturday, but I'm resigned to watercolors, inks, and acrylics until the healing bits are a bit stronger. Those are still a challenge as I still need to keep the area dry, but also try keep it uncovered and exposed to air. Wooo.
Here's a pic of the current setup, a vinyl glove – with a hair elastic around the wrist to hold it in place. Because otherwise, with just the glove, paint still finds a way to get in there, as seen in the second picture.
There are few things more aggravating than a camera battery dying long before the memory card is filled. Especially when you left the spare battery on the charger. Still had the iPhone as a backup, and took several hundred photos, at least.
That is all. For now.
Had follow-up at urgent care, and my hand gives plenty of evidence of healing fast. It feels almost normal, like barely a scrape. I still have to keep it clean and protected during regular activities, but luckily last time I was oil painting, I started using vinyl gloves, anyway — because holy cow do I make a kindergarten-level mess of myself! I can probably use the gloves for watercolors without fussing about it too much.
Stay tuned, true believers. Some crazy painting stuff is gonna go down, and soon. (KNOCK ON WOOD)
Got some things done today, but not a lot. Mostly preparations for when I can do more. Took a much shorter, more level walk and a bunch more pictures. Got the studio mostly set up. Can't find the power cord to the big computer. Can't wait to have more use of my right hand.
To give you an idea of how right-handed I am: The Urgent Care Clinic let me sign the paperwork with my left hand. First, imagine what it would look like if someone were to write "ASS" during a major earthquake. Now imagine something much, much worse, and you're probably pretty close. When I brush my teeth using my left hand, I end up holding the brush still and moving my head around. I guess it's pretty funny. I mean, you're laughing, right?
Right. So I have to return to the clinic tomorrow (Monday) afternoon, and hopefully the next level of bandages will be less cumbersome. The pain is minimal – it pretty much feels like a scrape. I'm still surprised when I think of all that blood compared to the relatively small amount of pain. I wonder if anybody's noticed the splotches I left behind. I'm extremely curious to see them for myself, but discretion is so far holding out against the urge to walk that trail again.
When I started the day, I imagined the title of this post being "it's all my fault," because of snow last night – I'd hoped that there would be snow when I got here, and it snowed last night, to the lack of delight of most other people.
As I continued the day with a stroll around Weir Pond, I thought I might wax poetic about walking through my paintings, as I recognized locations that I had painted before. Even as I stood up from a moderate slip in the snow, I was considering skipping posting altogether in favor of just getting down to some painting tonight.
It wasn't until I reached into my pocket for the camera to take some more pictures that I realized that I'd done more than just scrape my right hand when I landed on it and used it to steady myself to minimize that slip.
I was bleeding all the fuck everywhere, and pretty damned sure I would need stitches. It was literally dripping. When I raised it over my head, blood ran down my sleeve. I held it in a sort of cupped shape, and the blood kept forming a puddle in my palm. A phone call, a short walk, and a short car ride (as a passenger) to Urgent Care to arrive 5 minutes before they closed later, I was right. Ten stitches, a tetanus booster shot, five days of antibiotics, plus a whole lot of keeping it dry and clean.
I've never had stitches before, outside of when I had my wisdom teeth out ±30 years ago. I guess there's first time for everything. This is definitely not part of the adventure I imagined.
So, ah, I guess I'll be taking more pictures, and maybe some reading or writing, before I get a chance to start painting.
author / artist rambles on about painting, writing, cats, punk rock, vampires, ska-core, mTBI, comics, and life in general.