Last week, I woke up from my afternoon nap and my second thought was; “this is just like being on a plane”. As I always struggle with titles, this seemed like a somewhat acceptable title. Now I guess the resemblance between waking up and being on a plane, might elude you. So, allow me to explain.
If you have ever been on a plane you probably know the feeling of your ears popping during take-off and landing. It’s only afterwards, when the air pressure in the inner ear equals that of your surroundings and you hear clearly again, that you realize that everything was muted before.
That moment, in which you suddenly realize that you didn’t even notice that your experiences deviated from what you consider to be normal, happened last week. But instead of being on a plane, I had just woken up and instead of a better hearing, my mind had suddenly cleared. It felt like someone had opened up the curtains in my mind and that awareness could flood in.
A moment of clarity
In that moment of clarity, the past four week suddenly made sense to me. Why I had been sleeping longer and longer. Why I kept feeling of balance, not only literally, but also emotionally. And why I had been struggling with negative thoughts.
That was not my new normal. No, I’d overshoot my limits and then kept on breaking them. So much so, that it had taken me a whole month of scraping by and sleeping a ridiculous amount of time, to recharge my battery.
Even worse, I hadn’t even noticed that this was happening. There wasn’t a single moment in those four weeks where I took a step back. Not one moment of thinking that maybe my body was telling me something. Nope. I just went ahead with work, meeting friends and even trying out new things. All while ignoring the fact that I suddenly slept twice as much and didn’t feel like myself.
It was like I needed to reach some kind of threshold, of having rested enough, for my brain to work again. To be able to take a step back, to connect the dots and to really see what was happening.
Sleeping more and more
And yes, that is partly the reason why it took me so long to write a new blog. I couldn’t get myself motivated enough to write something down.
Also when I wasn’t working, I spend my time predominately asleep. What was once a one hour nap at most, had turned into a two to three hours-being-completely-of-this word nap. Days off meant that I went to bed trice a day and coffee became a necessity. Though none of it made me feel even remotely awake.
Last week it suddenly clicked. How I’d been feeling was not my normal. I’d been running on empty and rather than allowing myself to recharge, I just kept on pushing. It was only when my battery was recharged enough, when the supply and demand of energy was a little bit more equal, that I realized what was happening.
So many questions
In hindsight, this is what irritates me the most. The fact that I only noticed what was going on, once it was over. That not feeling exhausted would be the thing that got my attention. As now the second guessing has kicked off. What was the tipping point? What signals have I ignored? If I’d decided to call in sick and sleep for two days, could I have avoided these four weeks of muddling through? Why didn’t I step back earlier? Will there be other consequences? Did I stress my brain to the point where long term effects are the result?
Looking back, I still don’t know what caused it all. If there even was a single cause. Maybe it was an accumulation of multiple smaller things that tipped the scale. That not knowing is something I always struggle with. I’m never sure if something is the result of my brain injury or not. Am I tired because I went to bed late or because my brain has had enough and needs a break? I could write pages of these kind of questions that go through my mind almost daily and require decisions. Is it my brain injury? Then I need to apply the things I learned in rehabilitation. Is it something else? Well, maybe we can continue on at a slower pace.
What I can do
Nevertheless, it is what it is. Nothing is certain. So maybe I can focus on what I do know. Maybe I can use the duration of those afternoon naps as an indicator on how tired my brain really is. To know when I need to take a step back. And maybe I should give meditation another try. If someone has any tips on how to make that a habit, I’d love to hear them!