Getting Organized (again)

I’m getting involved in organizing a couple of things at church right now. Michael and I share an office and a desk at home which for the most part, works. I’m not good at sharing a computer and he really isn’t either – although he’s better at it than I am! It just doesn’t make sense for us to have two separate offices at home though so we make do

DeskThis picture is of our desk. As you can see, it is strewed with various notebooks, papers and sundry items. Most of the mess is mine for Michael simply puts things in little piles in the corner of the desk. He does have a lot of notebooks around the computer, though but for the most part, this works for us. A few months ago, I purchased some office supplies to help me get organized but I never followed through on it.

One of the ways I deal with memory issues is by leaving papers out so that I’m reminded they are there. This doesn’t work well with both of us sharing the desk. The part of my brain responsible for organizing is damaged. I never liked organizing things anyway and the desk in my office at the church I served was always a mess. However, I knew what I needed and remembered where it was. This is no longer the case so having a messy desk is unbearable for me when I need to get things finished.

My plan was to organize my desk this morning but it didn’t work out that way. It seems I can always find something to do so I can put off organizing! However, if I want to be involved in things I HAVE to be organized or I can’t function. It’s hard to explain but with chaotic surroundings, I feel stressed inside. I can’t find anything and then I get upset because I don’t know where things are.  When I am stressed, I don’t think, making it impossible to function.

Years ago, brain injury specialists told me I was doing too many things so when I moved here to Asheville, I dropped out of everything. This worked for a while but then, I got bored so I began adding things in a careful manner. I’m still trying to find the balance between doing too much and not doing enough.

I must say again that everyone who has a brain injury functions differently. I am able to do more things than other brain injury survivors which doesn’t make me a better person. It only presents some unique challenges.

If you have a brain injury, do you find you have to organize your life better than before? When you don’t do this or try to accomplish too many things, do you get tired as I do? Have you found a way to balance this? If so, how?

A Simple Sweatshirt

It is cold this morning. I knew I needed to find a sweatshirt to wear when walking Sparky this morning so I pulled out this white one. The routine is to take Sparky for a walk, pick him up about two houses away and then put on his muzzle. I then give him a bath which he hates which is why I have this routine.

sweatshirtAbout this sweatshirt. When I sustained my TBI on August 26, 1996. I was serving as an Associate Pastor at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA. On that fated day, my husband Michael Galovic and I had decided to get some frozen yogurt. We lived off a busy street in North Atlanta which meant making a left turn on our street to get home. Unfortunately, Michael was driving a manual transmission and was in the wrong gear when he made the turn so we didn’t make it and were hit by an oncoming car. I was in the passenger seat and got the brunt of it although Michael was hurt as well.

I was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition and put into an induced coma to help keep my brain from swelling. Michael was taken to another hospital. I have no memory of this although my body remembers. For quite a while, I was unable to ride in the passenger seat because it was too frightening for me. Even when I finally was able to sit there, I would jump at everything that even resembled the crash. The term is called “exaggerated startle” and it drove Michael insane because I would scream at the littlest provocation. Fortunately I worked on this until my screams became little grunts with me now simply pressing my hand on the arm rest while taking a deep breath. I rarely do this now but I am extremely sensitive when someone else is driving and I’m sitting in that seat so it does happen at times.

Back to the sweatshirt. When I was in rehab, at one of the youth group’s meetings they made this shirt for me. It says, “Someone from Mount Vernon Loves You.” Each person then signed their names. The children decorated a flower pot with their names and delivered it to me. I was pretty “out-of-it” those first couple of years. I thought I’d be able to work there again but as time went on, I realized that wasn’t going to be possible. They did continue paying me my salary and for this I’m grateful. Michael and I had married three months earlier and he didn’t have a steady, full-time job yet so we needed the money. I know stories of people who are not so fortunate and must try to get by until their disability kicks in.

It’s amazing what memories return after seeing a simple sweatshirt!

On Putting Myself Down

It’s second nature for me to always put myself down. I try not to for I know I have quite a few things to offer the world but I do it anyway. Someone once asked me if I put myself down now more after my brain injury than before. I wanted to answer “yes” because it seems to take so much more time and energy for me to do anything now but I had to be honest. Putting myself down is a life-long habit I want to break. I do get better every year so perhaps by the time I’m 60, I will have stopped.

I thought about this a couple of weeks ago when Kristy Farber preached at Grace Covenant Presbyterian. Her sermon was on Mark 16:1-8 but it especially addressed verse 8 where Mark describes the women fleeing the tomb “in terror and amazement.” It was a good sermon about how we live between these two poles each day.

Kristy’s sermons have improved these past few years. I love that she now tells more stories in them and I enjoy reading her sources. However, when I watch her I sometimes become sad and think, “What if my accident had never happened? Where would I be now?” I imagine myself being a pastor somewhere in an urban setting. After 20 years, my preaching, pastoral and administrative skills would have improved. Who knows what I would be doing?

1796477_10152164945718444_14085413_nAfter indulging in these thoughts for a while though, I always come out it. Yes, it is important for me to grieve for what could have been but I don’t want to get stuck there. If I stay on that pole I’ll miss seeing all I’ve gained from the other one. I do like who I’ve become although I’m never going to stop growing – and I’m NEVER going to believe everything I think!

Xanax?

I had an appointment with Dr LeMauviel, my primary care physician, yesterday for a blood test to make sure the thyroid medication I’m taking is the correct strength. The appointment usually takes all of 10 minutes but this time she wanted to talk to me. To my chagrin, I waited for an hour for she was running late. I couldn’t help asking myself, “Who does she think she is, keeping me waiting like this?”

Migraine Medication

Migraine Medication

However, I gave her the benefit of the doubt because I like her immensely. Years ago in Atlanta I had tried many migraine preventatives for my post-traumatic migraines which are common after brain injury. The side effects were unbearable until my neurologist there suggested an unconventional preventative which worked. A couple of years ago, Dr. LeMauviel pointed out that this preventative medication was raising my heart rate and wasn’t good for my body. She suggested I try alternative therapies which I did and they worked.

So at my appointment yesterday, the first thing she said to me was, “I didn’t get your records from your hospitalization in Canada.” “Oops,” I thought. “She remembered.” I had told her about the hospitalization when I had my physical back in the fall and she asked me to have them send her my records. The truth is, there wasn’t anything in the records since it was a brain injury meltdown although folks there didn’t know that. They ran two cat scans and both were normal.

LeMauviel is a good doctor. In spite of being behind schedule, she took the time to listen to me and then suggested I have some medication on hand in case I ever get into another situation like that. I balked at this but she wrote me a prescription for Alprazolam anyway which I planned not to fill.

However, the person checking me out wanted to set up an appointment in one month so LeMauviel could check to see how the medication worked. She told me I could always cancel it which I had every intention of doing. However, this afternoon I took out my husband Michael’s copy of the DR guide to Prescription Drugs to check it out.. It turns out it is generic for Xanax which is a fairly strong tranquilizer used for short term relief of anxiety.

As much as I dislike taking medication and am very aware we live in a pill popping society, I’m going to try it. If I decide to keep some on hand I will use it very sparingly in the hopes I don’t go through my Canadian experience again. One thing I have learned about this world of brain injury is, I have to try many different things for each person is different and nothing works for everyone. It’s a good thing I’m creative and willing to try new things!