It’s really slow.
It’s so slow sometimes it feels like I am never really going to get better.
And at other times — brief moments here and there — I’m starting to imagine that I’m better already.
But mostly, it’s slow.
These days I occasionally feel that my symptoms are not totally new and different, but on a continuum with the way I used to be. I used to get exhausted at the end of the day sometimes, and then once I was home again I would get too emotional about something that didn’t matter — and now that still happens, but a lot sooner. I used to struggle sometimes with learning the new technical aspects of my job — and I still do, but at a much much earlier stage. (Although the truth is I haven’t been learning new technical skills lately. Mostly I’ve been working at recovering the skills I had before.)
One thing that is new is the sensory overload. I really did used to be the girl who could study in the middle of a band practice, sitting on the floor between the bass amp and the drums. Now in an office the low-volume humming of fans I had never noticed before distracts me and makes me anxious. And when I hear people talking in the next room it feels exhausting to me, as if I’m trying to decipher a conversation in a language I don’t know, or have to solve a hard math problem by hand.
Listening to music is tiring in exactly the same way. It demands attention and mental processing — it’s not something that can be enjoyed or tuned out. That means I still haven’t been able to listen to my favourite albums, or even songs. They’re too loud, too busy, too complicated. (Not by any reasonable standards of music categorisation, mind you, just according to my over-reacting brain.) Actually playing music again feels very far away; I haven’t been out to see a live band, or plugged my guitar into an amplifier, in six months.
And it’s not just sounds. Bright sunlight makes me want to put a thick blanket over my head. If anything flashes or blinks in my line of vision I have to turn away or switch it off immediately. This afternoon I got disoriented in the freezer aisle of a store in my neighbourhood, from the way the lights reflected in the tall glass doors on both sides of me. The other day I was about to walk a short distance from the library where I work to another building, when I saw the crowd of people moving between me and the entrance I was heading to. I had to turn back, overwhelmed just at the sight of so many individuals, as if every one of those people needed some kind of mental attention.
Sensory overload: loud socks and rug.
These things are gradually getting better. (Very gradually — see those first few lines.) I’ve been able to listen to the oldies radio station in the car again for a song or two at a time — or until they play something odious. (One downside to the returning music tolerance is the reappearance of persistent earworms. For some reason the stickiest ones so far have been ’70s songs I heard by accident: “Two Tickets to Paradise,” “I Was Made for Loving You,” and a song I won’t name by a band I can’t bear, The Eagles. I was relieved a couple of days ago when my brain lurched ahead a decade and got stuck on Split Enz for a while.)
Well, there is one piece of new, good news I can report. After months of trying, I finally managed to write some song lyrics last weekend. They might be dreadful, but it’s the first actual creative work I’ve done since the end of August.