Moments of Clarity

I suffered Traumatic Brain Injury in 2009 – quad biking like loons with my mates on some bloke’s farm without helmets – and haven’t quite been the same since.

Photo by Mikhael Mayim

Main differences I noticed:

I was less able to hide what I truly felt – it would burst out of my mouth or be written plainly across my face. This led to some awkward moments and a lot of apologising.

I was less able to ‘read people‘. Looking at a person and being able to discern what they want – and quickly be that person – is a special skill of mine. I think it dates back to being younger and wanting to protect myself. If I could size up a potential danger, then I could “fawn” (one of the trauma responses) and charm my way out of getting hurt. Not being able to do that as easily meant that I was really STARING at people when they spoke. I know that “eyes are the windows to the soul” so back then – and to this day – I maintain an uncomfortable amount of eye contact. I literally have to remind myself to “stop staring, JD – it’s weird”.

I’m more analytical with my thinking. I found for quite a few years there, that I was “thinking like a boy”. I would listen to my girlfriends and think “OMG get to the point!” or want to solve the problem and move on. Quickly. I didn’t know how to console or sympathise anymore, I just wanted to quickest route to peace and quiet. It’s helped me understand guys, and I talk a lot less than I used to because of it. I’ve had to re-learn how to listen like a girl. It’s been a tough journey.

Before the brain injury I was a multitasking QUEEN. Yass!!! I could do 50 things at once AND plan a holiday. Now? I can only do ONE THING AT A TIME. TWO THINGS MAXIMUM or I start having a panic attack. If I’m reading for instance, I can’t ‘listen’ to someone talk to me, I have to put the book down. If a tv is on – anywhere – and I can hear it, I find it hard to concentrate on what’s going on because the sound is very distracting. I didn’t have that before. If I’m doing the dishes – that’s ALL I’m doing. I can’t remember to hang the washing out afterwards or that I need to strip the bed and do another load of washing. Nope. I just do the dishes. I have to write a list now of “things to do” and cross them off as I go. I can’t ‘freestyle’ how I used to and I miss that.

I think that’s what I miss most – being able to think clearly and quickly under pressure. I was able to think ahead – weeks ahead at some points – and easily plan for leading worship at Church, leading kids club and running the Youth group alongside my first husband. I knew from start to finish what would happen, and I’D BE FULLY PREPARED FOR ANY EVENTUALITY. I was THAT GOOD at planning.

Now? Now it’s really tough. I will stand in the kitchen all morning debating what to have for breakfast. Before, I could plan 2 weeks in advance what I was going to eat/wear/do/people to see/mates to catch up with/what groceries we’d need…now I wonder if I want toast or cereal and not be able to make my mind up.

In the last 13 years of recovery, God’s gifted me with sudden moments of clarity, though.

When I was in Hospital last October, for instance – I did a grocery shop online for all of Alun’s favourite things; so he’d be well fed and not have to worry about shopping while I was away. I had such clarity – to remember the things he liked most, the drinks he enjoyed (I included a few bottles of Merlot in the shop to surprise and delight him) and the things he’d need (Powerade for instance, because it has vitamins, minerals and an ‘energy boost’ which helps Alun on long 12-hour shifts at the hospital) over that fortnight.

Alun received all the shopping and texted me “OMG thanks, Gorg! Everything I like is here” and I remember being in hospital and smiling away to myself like “Yeah, I’m an AWESOME wife”.

I’ve not had that moment again. I’ve done about 30 online orders and end up with a mish mash of things that caught my eye and nothing seems to go together to make a complete meal.

It’s 13 years after the Quad Biking Accident of ’09 and I’m STILL struggling. This sucks.

11 responses to “Moments of Clarity”

  1. I’m sorry that you have difficulty focusing, and I understand your pain. I did not get any injury doing anything like quadding. I… was just born just a smidge broken. I read people like a girl and want you to get to the point. Yesterday. I am a multitasking queen some days, others, I can only multitask if multitasking involves snoring and breathing. If I’m awake k can do one thing at a time and I can’t even do it well. Just remember, you’re not alone, no matter what you’re going through. We all didn’t get got he same place by the same car, but by golly, here we are. Tell you what, if you hold the match-book, and remind me 85 times WHY I’m holding the twigs, we can share the marshmallows that I ordered when I forgot that I don’t actually really like them after one. Yeah, you can’t always remember what other people like, and can’t always decide what to eat of choices of what you do like. Imagine walking into your kitchen and all there is are ingredients you don’t like. And you live alone. And you bought them because you forgot you don’t like them. I’d rather have too many options and not be able to pick them to stand in the middle of a room full of stuff I don’t like. The weird thing is that it’s not even like I can blame my ex! He didn’t like it either!!! So… there’s legit no reason for me to have purchased half of what is in my kitchen right now. 🤷🏻‍♀️

    It’s my belief that my brain does this to me on purpose. It is overworked and bored all at the same time, so if it sneaks crazy stuff in there, it’s entertained while I sit there holding a 900 pound tub of fluff thinking, “ok, Marla. Funny. But…why would I actually order this???” It snickers and cackles while I scratch my head wondering why on earth I now have an underground bunkers worth of canned blackberries when I don’t like blackberries at all. Legit, as I type this, I’m side eying the FIVE containers of caramel sauce I purchased on my last trip. They were on sale. Apparently, I’m enough of my mother’s daughter that the fact I don’t eat it and actually dislike the flavor, texture, and brand doesn’t matter. There was a sale! I saved 38 cents or something thereabouts on five squirt bottles of this liquid fool’s gold. Yay! I scored huge! Saved 38 cents, on a 20 dollar purchase of something I will never, ever touch.

    Oh, and I solved my own problem with that one! Give it to my sisters to spoil the kiddies. Except… I’ve now forgotten it BOTH times I saw them. The second time, I put it in front of the door so I couldn’t forget… and stepped over it and thought, “that’s a stupid place to store it. I gotta put that away when I get back.” I got here on the pirate ship “crazy time,” how about you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Concerned about how much I relate to you forgetting things, telling yourself “I mustn’t forget” and then forgetting anyway. It’s a bit of a whirlwind just trying to exist sometimes. I feel a lot less alone reading your thoughtful response and I smiled thinking of you surrounded by things you don’t even like to eat. We can blame your ex if you like – I’m 100% “Team Marla” and if that cheers you up, I’m SO IN.

      Thank you for hearing me, Marla. Thank you for letting me know I’m not completely batty and that even if I am, I still have value. You are a treasure.


      1. You have value no matter what. Never doubt or forget that!

        We can’t blame him. Not even a little bit. The reality is that there’s a better chance of me eating it than him and I can’t stand it. Now, if it was something like papaya yogurt dipped cashews, that’s something I wouldn’t touch but was SO HIS FAULT that I got them. Even though it’s 2 years after we broke up 😂 I mean, he just blamed me!!! His gf was like “why the hell did you get 6 cans of black olives and 6 green? Do you even eat these?” He said “no. They’re for Marla.” She was like… “uh… you wanna go run them to her now, or do you want me to do it?” He was confused and she had to remind him that I don’t live there no more. It was hilarious because my dad had gotten home and was munching away on a bag of peanuts and immediately said he wasn’t it and wouldn’t be driving icky olives to me. My ex told him to hush or go upstairs to his room. It then became a tiny thing where my dad told him he didn’t want to and he couldn’t make him and my ex told him he would take away all of the peanuts and throw them in the trash and he’d never get another one ever. The girlfriend had to intervene to stop that nonsense. She called me to tell me they had olives for me and that I had to control one of them and she’d get the other. I laughed and told her that I didn’t ask for olives, but would gladly take them, but my ex and father arguing over who gets last say is NOT my problem and it isn’t hers either. I reminded her to sit down and shut up. Can’t tell a man and his ex’s father how to interact when they’ve known you longer than you’ve even been an adult. Shhh. Sit down. I told her to remind me to bring the caramel. She told me to remind her to give me the olives. In 20 years, the olives will still be in their pantry and the caramel will still be here 🤷🏻‍♀️

        So no, you are most certainly not alone. I forget to tell myself not to forget and then I forgot that I intended to remind myself to not forget what I already forgot I should remember.

        I’ll tell you an amazing cheat that I use. No little bits of paper, or pens that sorta write half the note before drying out and you convincing yourself you’ll totally remember what “shof” meant. If you have a cell phone with a voice assistant on it, use it. Forget Alexa and all that- your phone. It’s always with you. Hey Siri or Yo Google or Alexa WAKE UP BEFORE I SMACK YOU! Whatever works. Tell it to remind you of… and then talk to your heart’s content. I once had Siri remind me of where I parked. I actually told her to remind me tomorrow when I left for work that “I parked outside the side door by Julie’s unit, but two rows back, six cars down closer to the front, and facing outside in.” If anyone else saw that reminder they’d have NO EARTHLY IDEA what it meant. Starting with “who is Julie??” She lived here 12 years back now. The rest of it makes just as much sense to me but to only me. The crazy thing is, I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember Julie’s name when I was thinking about her specifically. Called my ex and he was like “oh, come on Mar. you know who you mean, I’m supposed to guess??” Uh, YES! And guess right. Jerk. He refused to guess and left me to try to figure out her name. Couldn’t do it until I was talking about that particular egress from my building. It’s HER door in my brain and always had been. Think about the woman and nothing. Think about a stupid side door, and BAM! There it is.

        My memory does other wacky things like that too. My ex will call me about a trip we took and some hilarious story he just told his gf and she didn’t believe him. He calls me and asks something like “hey, you remember when we went to Russia and we went to that museum?” “I’ve never been to Russia.” Every single time. I’d bet my life on it. Never been there, not once, not ever. Musta been someone else. “No, it was you, me and your father, Mar. we went to Russia and stayed in the hotel with [fill in some super specific detail that would be the most memorable thing on any given trip but I have literally NO recollection of]. I know you remember that!” “I have never been to Russia. Trying to implant false memories to convince new gf that this crazy story you’re about to try to get me to remember existed isn’t fair to her and it’s manipulative toward both of us. You need to stop pretending we went to Russia together. I was NEVER THERE.”
        “Meat swords.”
        “What? Oh! Yeah. The three long swords with meat cubes on it. You and my dad HAAAAAAD to have the meat swords and complained bitterly that I wanted the steak I wanted and you both hated. Then you both ATE MINE na delft me with your stupid meat swords. You’re both assholes.” And yes. I can remember every detail of every trip I was on if someone tells me one thing I (or someone I was with) ate. Before that moment, there is absolutely no recollection of having ever been to a country, now I can remember the color of the napkins.

        You just have to find your trigger. You just haven’t cracked the code. My ex figured that out when he realized I couldn’t remember anything, ever, but I remembered every meal I ever ate. He decided to trigger me using that. Now I know what my trigger is. I actually have a piece of paper, somewhere (of course I forget where! Ugh). I had every country I’ve been to and one meal I ate there. That’s it. That’s all I needed. If I need a break from reality and I need a vacation, I can relive two weeks in Europe because I remember “pizza instead of gnocchi”. That was Venice, Italy. I wanted gnocchi because I was in Italy for the first time in my life. My father didn’t. He wanted pizza. After a huge battle he acted like a petulant child and stormed away. I yelled after him “good riddance!” And my ex gave me shit that if my dad fell because he slipped and I wasn’t there when he shattered his hip I’d feel bad, we ended up going to get stupid pizza. In Italy. Where he didn’t even get pizza! He got spaghetti Bolognese. Again. Every single meal that trip in Europe was stupid spaghetti bolognese and I tolerated it. The ONE NIGHT IN ITALY… argh. Remembering isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be lol

        But it makes me remember that I did get to go back. With my father and ex, and the rest of my family. My father wanted (shocker!!!) spaghetti bolognese, and the whole family, without me saying a word, said “no” and demanded gnocchi. I am the only one that ate it (at the time, I’ve converted one other), and he tried to stomp off, but we were mainland. If he slipped it wouldn’t be at night and it wouldn’t be on wet stones. Have at it. We all turned as a group and they took me to get gnocchi. Mr whines a lot came too, and guess what! A restaurant that sells gnocchi also seeks spaghetti bolognese. Who would have EVER guessed???

        By the way, they all knew the story because he went home talking about how that was the best spaghetti bolognese he ever had, thus reminding me of it a thousand times over so I could tell them all. Oh, and it wasn’t even close. While he was eating it he said he had better and we should have gotten the gnocchi. I almost stabbed him with the butter smear thing.

        And thank you Janet, for being on my team even though there are no teams and it literally isn’t his fault. I can’t even twist it to be his fault. This time. Next time, if SO is his fault! 😂 and I’m team Janet all the way. You remind me that I’m supposed to blame him tomorrow and I probably will 😝

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My brain injury was in 1995. We didn’t think about brain injuries the way we do now. A quick CAT scan to rule out bleeding and no one ever mentioned it again. The changes weren’t abrupt. They’ve slowly grown over time. More and more hearing loss, more and more double vision (surgery in 2 weeks), harder time formulating thoughts and speech, hard time relating to others. I once asked a neurologist if there was a such thing as adult-onset autism. My Tourette Syndrome symptoms (long dormant) even came back a couple of years after the injury.

    It took me 20+ years to connect my degradation to the brain injury. Still, it’s possible they are unrelated but the symptoms generally line up. I get pretty down about it fairly frequently and my wife reminds me that I’m still alive which looked somewhat unlikely after my accident.

    I’m happy that society has a better understanding of brain injuries now and the long term impacts. My daughter banged heads with someone a couple of days ago playing college rugby. She’s got a badass shiner and couldn’t be more pleased. My wife and I of course spent fifteen minutes on the phone quizzing her about symptoms before we were convinced it was a surface injury. Back in my day, the coach said ‘shake it off’ and sent us back into the game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my days, Jeff! That’s awful that they scanned you for bleeding and then let you out into the world without any further support. That’s absolutely appalling!!! I’m so sorry that happened to you and I’m so sad to hear of all the different illnesses you suffered post-injury 😦 I’m hoping your daughter and her “badass shiner” (made me giggle) is going to be absolutely fine. Sending you big hugs. Please keep an eye out for your mental health – you mean a lot to a lot of people xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, actually, my daughter got checked out by the trainer before last night’s practice and he said yes to a concussion. So now she’s on the injured list and not chancing more damage with further head hits. I can list several times I’ve been knocked out playing sports. We just didn’t care in the 70s and 80s. It’s something boys did.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh gosh, I’m so glad your daughter got checked and won’t be in more games before she’s ready. I don’t like the inequality for boys who are injured 😔 that’s not only unfair, it’s dangerous for boy’s health xx


    1. Haha thanks, Matt 🙂 and to you, too!


  3. Here are the top 5 key points regarding the effects of the traumatic brain injury:

    1. Difficulty in controlling emotions and expression, leading to awkward moments.

    2. Reduced ability to read people and gauge their intention, leading to the need to maintain uncomfortable eye contact to make up for it.

    3. Change in thinking patterns, becoming more analytical and less empathetic, finding it harder to listen and sympathize.

    4. Decreased ability to multitask and concentrate, now only able to focus on one thing at a time, causing stress and anxiety.

    5. Struggle with decision making and planning, now relying on lists and experiencing occasional moments of clarity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, Gavin…only you explained it SO MUCH BETTER than I did! Yours sounds like a magazine article. So well written xx


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