Switching off the anxiety channel (concussion recovery)

I know this might sound like a really bad and unbelievable 1970s sitcom plot twist, or something out of a phrenology textbook, but I think when I came off that horse I injured the part of my brain that used to do most of the worrying. Maybe you know the kind of worrying: the constant chattering stream of bad news and scary things on the horizon that was always running in the background, and overflowed its banks sometimes just as I was trying to get to sleep, or when I was trying to make a big decision.



Immediately after my accident I felt kind of calm, untroubled. Things felt simpler than usual. Oh, I didn’t remember the actual fall? OK, that was a concussion symptom and I should ask for help getting to an emergency room. Need to drive home from the Cariboo (with the doctor’s ok, of course)? Better take the slower route where I could make more stops. In a place where it was too bright or too loud? No apologies, just get out as quickly as possible.

I’ve heard that depression is common with concussions, but maybe I landed on the exact right spot that has shielded me so far. I think I’ve been goofily smiling more than usual. And instead of worrying (as I usually would) about all the things I can’t do right now, and if I will ever be able to do them again, it feels really clear to me that I have to focus on getting better, and there’s not much else I can do. (This is not the way my mind usually works. Pre-accident, I was a lot more likely to get overwhelmed by possibilities and paralyzed by guilt than to see a decision as straightforward.)

I told my family doctor that it feels like my anxiety channel has been switched off, and she laughed and said, “That’s because you’re not thinking.” (One of the many things I love about her is that I can count on her to be direct.)

She is probably right. Lately I’ve had a few windows where I can feel my mental processing coming back to the point where I can remember a few technical details of my work, or I get a joke right away. (Jokes have been hard, especially puns. It takes me a few minutes these days.) And last night I woke up at 4 am thinking about a Guy McPherson headline I happened to catch (I’m not putting in a link — if you want to know about him you will need to look him up yourself), and the recent US election — and I lay away for a long time trying to get back that simple stillness I remember from the early days after the concussion.

Maybe if I’m really lucky, just knowing I had it once will help me to get it back.



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