Covid-19, brain injury and me: diary of an ABI survivor - Part two
Covid-19 notes from a small English island
How do you cope through Covid-19 when you’re alone on a small English island, living life with a brain injury?
It is uncertain times for brain injury survivor, Anne Ricketts as each new day dawns in the coronavirus pandemic.
But the Krysalis team are in close contact with her – and her loveable Labrador, Summer – as she reports on her progress from her island home via her new ‘live’ blog series, here.
Part 2: grace and angels
When I woke this morning, I felt a little disoriented and confused – mostly because I couldn’t work out what day it was.
I know! You’d think I would look at my mobile phone or switch on the morning news, but the thing is, when you are living with the effects of a brain injury, the obvious is often way off over the horizon.
I knew I had promised to go to the farm shop to get some chicken for my granddaughter, but something was holding me back. What was it?
Since catching up with the news earlier in the week and becoming aware of the crisis happening in the world around me, one day was blurring into the next.
I’d been going out and about, trying to find non-perishable food because, ironically, I had cleared out my store cupboard so I’d have less to pack and move when eventually I do sell my house.
I had also almost eaten my way through my homegrown veg and homemade soup in the freezer. This Grannie’s cupboards were as bare as the shelves in the food stores!
Stress and disorientation
Having more to think about can increase stress levels for any of us, and for those living with the effects of a brain injury, it can quickly increase confusion and disorientation.
While it is important to try to remain as independent as possible, for the sake of ourselves and others, it is also essential to try to remember to turn to organisational tools such as lists and calendars to help us manage.
I had clearly missed that bus this morning! It didn’t occur to me to check my planner because I didn’t know what day it was!
It is like a needle getting stuck in a vinyl record; if your daily routine doesn’t bump it, then it stays where it is.
Without rigorous coping strategies in place and a tremendous amount of brain energy and discipline, I would never be able to be where others expect me to be or to do what I have been asked.
Having too much to think about overloads my conscious thinking space and the overflow starts to mutate into inconceivable chaos with a life of its own.
I have to stop; I have to pause. I have to allow my brain to switch to slow down mode without it actually switching off.
If my brain shuts down, it can be like trying to crank an engine without the starter handle to get it up and running again.
Living with a brain injury requires balance in all things, and there are minuscule lines between coping and total fall out.
Having woken this morning, not knowing what to do with myself, I came upstairs to my home office and switched on my computer. By now, I had forgotten about worrying what day it was.
Still, something was bugging me!
I had a strong feeling I had missed something, but because I couldn’t remember what it was, I allowed myself to drift instead and began pottering around, not achieving anything practical at all.
I was in wait mode – waiting for my brain to remember what I was supposed to do today so that I could begin organising myself.
Had I not been so disoriented, I would have checked my weekly planner in the kitchen and that would have set a whole series of awarenesses running.
Angel No. 1 steps in!
It turns out I was right to listen to and humour my ‘wait mode’ feeling. Had I ignored it and gone out to get the chicken, I would have missed the call from my friend, Jim.
Jim is 79 and doesn’t have a mobile phone and, because of this, only uses my landline number.
He’d been in the hospital all this week having daily doses of radiotherapy to shrink a lump. I’d promised to pick him up from the boat.
Without me, he would have had a laborious and long journey home on several buses. From how he looked when I picked him up, I think the bus journey would have killed him.
Jim is a spiritual healer and has dedicated decades of his life to helping others. He never charges people and, however poorly or weak he feels with his work-related cancer, he still makes time for people.
His belief is that healing heals the healer. In many ways, we all need to think about the flow of life right now. Giving kindness fills us with feelings of kindness.
When Jim said to me today, ‘I know there is no point in offering you petrol money’, I replied, ‘No. Let’s swap grace instead, Jim!’
Herald angel No 2!
Because Jim didn’t know what time boat he would be on, he called me just before boarding. I knew that I would need the roads to be completely clear to make it to him on time and was mindful of him waiting around in the cold and worrying, as he does.
Very often, when I feel disoriented as I did this morning, I stay in my pyjamas until I decide what I am going to do.
Highly unusually for me, I was washed and dressed and my phone was charged, and so when Jim called I was ready to leave straight away.
Three angel delights!
I set off immediately and just managed to squeeze my car past some men cutting down trees in the tiny lane. As I reached the other end of it, they were putting up the road closed signs! Perfect timing!
All the traffic lights on the way turned green as I approached them and just as I joined another road, into a stream of traffic trailing a tractor, the tractor turned off.
And one more makes four!
I was concerned after my adventures and experiences of empty shops this week that I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere with basic supplies, such as bread and milk, for Jim to take home.
But we managed to get everything he needed, save toilet rolls and eggs, and although I could have gone to more shops I could tell that I needed to get Jim home and to bed. I can get those over the next day or two and drop them in.
That we managed to get everything else without too many stops or problems made me really wonder about the spirit-guide Jim says watches over him. I think enough happened today for me to believe!
And so it is that I am left this evening thinking about how things can, and often do, fall into place of their own accord when we are trying the least.
I know these are tumultuous and scary times, but as Jim said, ‘The government aren’t going to let us starve, and if people continue to be greedy, they will give out ration books!” Well, he is old enough to know all about that!
My thought is that calm is always better than panic.
As we drove the last part of the journey to Jim’s home over the downs, with beautiful views in every direction, he sighed and said, “It’s good to be home.”
Read the next part of Anne’s Covid-19 notes from a small English island here:
Read another series from Anne here:
Anne Ricketts is the founder of Global Brain Injury Awareness (GBIA); a not-for-profit community interest company she launched after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in July 2000. GBIA aims to inform and support people in need after brain injury. More here: https://www.globalbia.org/
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