Last week, I treated myself to a couple of hours at the hairdresser’s, getting my hair primped while we gossiped and laughed. No Rob Ford talk though this time! To compensate for the extra energy use, I cut my usual walking distance when out and about in half, thinking I was being smart in balancing out the energy outflow. Yeah, right. I should have cut it down more, but I made a deliberate decision to put my mental health over the physical repercussions, wanting the de-stressing effects of walking more — easy to do when the repercussions don’t hit till the next day.
You wake up the next morning feeling like a Mack truck has run you over, flaying your muscles, burning your skin with a dry flame, and coming to rest on your chest. Fun times, brain injury or fibromyalgia style. I had the latter before I had my brain injury and can tell you the repercussions are similar, except with brain injury it’s been far, far worse.
After my brain injury, for years my mental exhaustion matched my physical when I crashed like that, and so couch time was not intensely boring as my mind would have no thoughts in it anyway. For the last year though, I haven’t had that kind of blankness. I’m not talking when your mind blanks out and you can’t think what it is you want to say. I’m talking no one home. Whistle in the empty cave, and you don’t even get an echo. You have nothing to say, think, feel, no indication your mind is blank until the day you recognize what that state is and oftentimes come to welcome it because it means a break, a rest from the constant barrage of stimuli and effort of very slow processing of them, something normal people don’t need to do because their brains know how to process and can recognize and understand the stimuli instantly.
But since I began gamma brainwave biofeedback in mid-2012, those blank states became shorter and fewer until this year they disappeared altogether. And so this latest crash was intensely painful as for the first time my mind was alert the whole time while my body was exhausted, in pain, and unable to function properly. The disconnect is the only downside of almost-normal cognitive functioning while still living with the effects of brain injury, still needing to recover normal physical functioning and emotions, and to deal with memories emerging and unpredictable memory encoding. It makes rest torture.
After the three crash days where I battled exhaustion with restlessness, I felt wiped, like one does the day after an intensely emotional event. I’m not exactly sure what the event was — the emotional fallout of crashing, a revelation that hit me during it, or the idea I can’t just enjoy a day at the hairdresser’s without paying for it or, what I should have done, rested up before it. Another problem with improvement: you forget the rules of energy conservation and limitation still apply. Sigh.