A Knot in My Stomach But Joy In My Heart-TBI Stories
22nd Nov 2010 | Posted in: PTSD 0

Reflections this Thanksgiving Week-

I share stories of my own experience with being a severe traumatic brain injury survivor as a way of educating others what TBI looks like in a life.  Not all survivors will have the exact same challenges as I do, but there will be varying degrees of them in most.  TBI is a very personal injury.  After all, it is our brain, the core of our being and we know that no two brains are exactly alike!  I want to share with you what it takes for me to get through a shopping trip to the grocery store. Add the holiday shopping to it and we have quite a challenging situation.

I spent the past week making a grocery list. I read the recipes, reviewed items in the pantry, looked at the ad of my favorite store (no switching stores, way too much confusion for me), matched coupons and made a list.  I have to divide my list by the way the store is laid out to avoid looking like a ping pong ball as I go from aisle 3 to aisle 8 back to 2, then on to 11.  This is how my mind works. It feels like a ping- pong game of thoughts are happening in my head most of the time!  This process takes hours and hours.

So, list in hand, I head to the store. In car, ready to leave….. oh wait! List and coupons in house!  I smile at myself for remembering before I got to the store!!  On my way now and upon entering the store, I am immediately taken aback by the number of people shopping.  Woops!  Forgot it was Sunday.  I never shop on a weekend!  But, onward and upward, you can get through this, Pam!  I love Thanksgiving, that keeps me motivated!  The family comes over on Wednesday and we prepare a lot of the food for the next day.  We have such a blast together, I almost like the day before more than Thanksgiving!!

The TBI nausea and headache are starting to hit me before I get to the produce department.  I have had the “flu” for ten years.  That is the best way to describe the almost always present feeling of nausea and headache I have. It comes over me unannounced like an unwelcome holiday guest!  This is not dissimilar to others with TBI.  I started to pick out the olives, green, black, kalamata, all of my family favorites! I am so nauseous I can’t even look at the label because visualization makes my symptoms worse. I love olives!  But, right then, my stomach was retaliating!

The strange thing with my nausea, is that I get a ravenous hunger during my episodes!  So, I am nauseous, but I am craving large amounts of food. I am talking about 8000 calories daily!  Not every day, thank goodness, but on days that I am episodic, I graze constantly or I couldn’t make it through the day.  So, here I am in a grocery store with this hunger, so staying focused on my list is not working!  Pasta, I want pasta.  I want candy, chips, where is the junkfood????  Focus, Pam, Focus!!

All the time and effort I put into a list that follows the store pattern is not panning out so well. I am looking at a list that starts to look jumbled because the headache is distorting my visual ability.  Not to mention, that there are 400 people in one aisle alone!  Okay, slight exaggeration, but it seems that way to me!  I consider leaving my cart and walking out, but I really have to get this done and if I leave, I will feel like I gave in! 

I have learned to give myself a lot of pep talks since my injuries.  I believe that my positive self-talk was instrumental in me recovering as well as I have.  The controlled Pam giving the pep talk to the scattered, nauseous, flustered Pam was winning!  I started to calm down a bit and slowed my pace even though the world around me in that store was breezing by.  One small step at a time, Pam.  If you have to stay in an aisle for 15 minutes to be sure you have everything on your list from that aisle, do it.  Don’t worry that people are looking at you like you are totally lost.

About an hour and a half later, I am at the checkout and headed to my car.  I give myself a virtual pat on the back for not giving up and staying on course.  One of the best outcomes from my injury is the depth of gratitude I have for all situations.  Whether they could be labeled good or bad, I accept them for what they are, take the learning and move on.  This has given me an amazing gift of patience and fortitude. 

I am grateful to be alive.  I am grateful to be given a second chance at life.  I am grateful that I feel, sometimes I may feel nauseous and pain, but I FEEL, I am alive which is a gift!  I am grateful to have many days that I feel much younger than my years and a spirt of  joy that permeates all I do, all that I am!

I am blessed beyond words and I know that most traumatic brain injury survivors feel that once they reach that acceptance in their life and can move from extreme adversity to joyful renewal. 

I sure hope my nausea goes away for Thursday, but boy, oh boy, that ravenous hunger sure would come in handy!!  

 God bless you all and a Happy Thanksgiving!

Pam Hays Founder/President

The Arms Forces

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