Normalcy

Originally Published 3/8/2014 in The Goodmen Project   http://goodmenproject.com/ 

I run. I am a runner. I NEED to run.

I am not running because it's a pleasure. I actually feel ungraceful, it hurts. I am weighted to the ground. 

But my mind is free. My brain stops hurting. My endless list of worries, fears, insecurities are tamed...My rigid thought processes are replaced by simple counting-for the 30 to 85 minutes I am pushing myself along the ground and for 2 to 3 hours after I am free.  

In October of 2013 I had a minor injury. Really. Minor to most people. I reached up to a cabinet in the bedroom and absentmindedly grabbed the knob of the door and swung it open. I was too close. I was struck in the eye with a 45 lb triangular door. The point of that triangle, 3/4 of an inch thick with a perfect point, struck me just to the outside of my right iris. Over the next several weeks my head began to hurt, my vision began to get worse and I became irritable and began with nightmares.

I had caused a lift and flap of my cornea, the upper layer of your eye. I needed emergency surgery to repair it. The surgery went as expected and the doctors were happy. My vision was 20/20 or better. But it was wrong. I really couldn't explain it to them, but it was wrong. Over the next few months more changes happened.. Sleepless nights, vivid dreams. My thoughts started getting confusing, I had sudden impulses to do crazy things. I started to cry for no reason.Am I crying because I have a headache or I'm upset about my eye, or because I'm not sleeping, or because I listen to music or see a cute puppy, or the light of an oncoming car flashes in my eye? I started forgetting minor things. Names. Passwords. Where I am going. What I am doing. Entire sentences as I say them. Simple words.

Over the next several days and weeks I had more trouble with simple tasks. Adding up the checks to deposit at the bank became excruciating. Literally a pain in my head. I cried frequently, suddenly. I went to several concerts, cried during all of them. Music just moves me (totally in denial now). My friends were talking about a change in my behavior. I started writing down these strange thoughts I was having. My handwriting didn't look like my handwriting. I'm just upset about my eye. I'm not sleeping. 

I went to another concert. It had a laser light show. Every time the lasers came on I cried. When we got home I cried for 3 hours straight. I HAD to contact one of my friends. I HAD to tell him what a terrible friend I had been. I CRIED, SOBBED. IT WON"T STOP. I'm not sad. I'm not angry. I want to stop crying. Bang. Done...

There's something wrong.

I'm crazy.

I go to my primary care doctor and tell her my tale. She listened intently, Wrote it all down. 

Then she told me, "You have a concussion". What? I only hit my eye?

She went on to relate her experience from the previous year. She had all the same symptoms. Still had them. I'm not crazy. But why did this happen? Bells go off.

Head banging. Seriously.

From the time I could move until about the age of 13, every night in my sleep, i would rock and slam my head into my headboard. Every night I woke the entire house up with the activity. My father would come into my room and move me down the bed and wake me up. The pediatrician told them to remove the headboard, So I hit the wall, Move the bed to the center of the room, so I got out of bed and hit the door. When I was a preteen I was bullied. My head was slammed into the ground more times than I can remember. I have frequently hit my head on many objects just being clumsy. My friends joke about it because it is so frequent. And in the past year I had knocked myself out twice in my own house.

Concurrent concussion with Pseudobulbar Affect. Post Concussion Syndrome. The same injury as football players and veterans returning from the war. You have crushing headaches, thought processes that are difficult to control, vivid, movie quality nightmares, mood swings, personality changes. . The Pseudobulbar affect includes laughter or crying with no connection to events or emotion. I suddenly HAVE to cry, like a switch is thrown. It can last seconds or hours. I'm not attached to it. I'm not sad, I just can't stop.It is light or sobbing. It comes up like a sneeze, you can feel it rise just seconds before it hits. It is exhausting when it happens and it can happen many, many times a day. There's also difficulty with memory and functional ability. In my case the symptoms took 2 weeks to start and gradually increased til I couldn't hide them or ignore them anymore.

My eye injury was the trigger for what I had set myself up for many years ongoing.

I accidentally came across running as a treatment. I have always run, on and off since I was a kid. The most I had ever run was in college. Two 5 mile runs a day. That was always my limit. I have exercise induced asthma.5 miles would trigger my asthma and I'd have to stop. During the period after my surgery, I needed to do SOMETHING to get my mind to shut off. I was struggling with 3 miles a run. It killed me. I started a routine. 7 minutes. Just under a mile. I'm fast, but not long distance. Gradually I increased my time and distance, then split into two runs a day. 5 miles twice a day. Between the medication for the emotional component and the antidepressant for the other symptoms and the running for my thought processes, I'm stable. Functioning adequately.

My headaches stop within the first quarter mile of my runs and the effect will last for up to 2 hours after the run. If I skip 2 days in a row, I become surly and I cry easily.

I'm not the person I was in 2013. My personality has shifted a bit. Not unpleasant, just noticeably different. I'm more open. Talk more freely. Tell people I love them more. I have less hang-ups about telling people what I think. More sexual and uninhibited. My writing is physically different and disturbing to me. It's a small thing, but I notice it. I can flash to anger without being aware I've done it. I will say things that are rude or odd and my brain doesn't tell me until a short time later. I've had to call several people and apologize because that little voice in my head has told me I was a jerk. I still can't remember words, people, events, and if they happened between the injury and January 2014, I can't be sure if some of the things I remember are true. I get lost going places I've been to several times. I have bone crushing headaches everyday that don't respond to medication. They move around my head, not necessarily staying in any one place very long, but if they linger on the right side of my head I will cry more easily. Light shined into my right eye immediately triggers crying. My vision is still wrong. I am aware I see differently. Two images that don't quite line up. I can't look at my phone straight on. It has to be off to one side of my vision and angled away from my face. I can't read quickly. I have to stop and weigh letters to decide if I see them.

It's been a strange an interesting journey. Because I'm not involved is sports or on a team, the care available to the general public is lacking. I had 8 referrals go unanswered or I was told I couldn't be helped. The bizarre nature of the injury added to this frustrating lack of care available to me. But when I get out an run I have a short period of normalcy, a respite from the discomfort and the symptoms.

I run to not feel crazy.

I run to not be in pain.

I run to feel normal. Even if it's temporary.

Matt