I’ve written and rewritten this post in my head several times, and it may be one of the hardest posts I’ve written. But a wise friend advised me to “proclaim boldly of God’s strength and humbly of your own weakness” as I draft my thesis, and I hope to do the same with this post.
Ivan and I have written about my traumatic brain injury (TBI) deficits a few times over the years. We spelled them out explicitly at first, then mentioned them less frequently as time passed and my symptoms plateaued. They include irrational anxiety, fear, and sometimes anger, and typically surface in open-ended situations or overstimulating environments.
Put a different way, part of my brain is like a severed telephone wire: The logic parts of my brain stop “talking” to the emotion parts when I’m stressed. As you might imagine, this disconnect can put a strain on Ivan’s and my relationship, and I’m thankful for grace he extends when I panic during a “TBI episode.”
During my initial recovery, we’d developed strategies to work around these deficits and have coped reasonably well for the past five years. But this year I grew more volatile and less resilient, and even took multiple blogging breaks as my TBI episodes began interfering with my ability to handle everyday life. These episodes were no longer the brief anxiety flare ups Ivan and I were used to navigating. Now I felt hopeless and worthless every day, in addition to panicking when things went wrong. I assumed my mood would lift with prayer and Bible reading, but the “broken connection” between my knowledge and emotions meant I continued to get worse.
I lost weight and hair. In October, I started running away from home every day without knowing why. Then came the voices and visions inside my head.
Mental illness is a sensitive issue and the current healthcare model prioritizes treating symptoms instead over the diagnosis, so I’ll summarize by saying that I’ve undergone two multi-day hospitalizations in the past six weeks. At first doctors were puzzled since my symptoms are serious and I have no history of mental illness, but they finally traced them back to an imbalance caused by my traumatic brain injury.
The past few months have been a lot to absorb, but I’m grateful for a clinical answer – and treatment – for a constellation of symptoms that have been an added burden for an entire year. This treatment will be ongoing for the foreseeable future, but the outlook is positive, and I’m blessed to have a team of healthcare providers I trust. I’d like to close with a passage from Psalm 139 that I memorized during my first hospital stay. It’s given me hope during my worst moments and continues to bring me joy every morning:
“I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me,
and the light around me to become night –
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.”