Apparently, I Don’t Know How to Rest
In the wake of my fainting spell that resulted in my blow to the head and trip to the emergency room on Saturday, I have been trying to take it easy this week. I’ve been working from home, trying to rest while also catching up on emails and writing. Even in the quiet, relaxed atmosphere of my apartment, I have found myself getting lightheaded and dizzy after a couple of hours of writing or working.
I have no appetite. I’ve had difficulty focusing and remembering things. I put some sweet potatoes in the oven to roast, and remembered them only when I smelled the scent of caramelized sweet potato burning on the sheet pan.
I’m not an alarmist – it took me 15 hours to get to the emergency room in the first place – but when the follow-up nurse called to check on me, I thought it might be wise to report my symptoms.
She referred me to NYU’s Concussion Center and told me to call them immediately. Thanks to a last-minute cancellation, I was able to get an appointment today.
The Concussion Center
As I headed to midtown, I realized that this was the first time this week that I’ve been out on the street beyond the one block between my building and the gym. The moment I started walking toward Union Square, I could feel that I wasn’t myself. The throngs of people were an assault to my peripheral vision; it was a challenge to navigate them.
My visit with the doctor was enlightening. Apparently, I was naive to think that I’d be able to simply be “back to normal” only a few days after fainting and falling so hard that my head was bleeding. The laceration on my scalp is only a surface wound. The bigger mystery is what is going on inside.
I suppose that the gap between being an alarmist and pushing through is bigger than I had thought.
So, again, first things first: I’m grateful that I discovered on Friday night that my head was bleeding. If not for the blood, I might not have realized, in that moment in the middle of the night, that I hit my head.
Cleared for Exercise – Yay!!
The neurologist echoed the ER doctor’s approval of my fitness routine, provided I keep it light and easy. I have been back to my fitness routine since Sunday morning. I actually feel at my best during my workouts. Some mornings, I feel like perhaps I can push harder, but I want to be cautious and not overdo it. Other mornings, I am amazed at how hard it feels to walk at a pace that I typically consider to be painfully slow.
He also showed me my CT scan of my brain and indulged my interest in learning more about what the films showed. The brain is fascinating.
Apparently, the headaches, extreme fatigue, inability to concentrate and other symptoms are all “normal” after-effects of a mild concussion. The doctor informed me that rest is crucial – especially in the first 2–4 weeks after a brain injury.
I thought this was going to require only a few days of taking it easy at home. 2–4 weeks is a different scenario. It was jarring.
But not quite as shocking as the next piece of news. I thought I was resting by staying at home. I’ve been writing, reading, catching up on email a little at a time, editing photos from my trip, organizing files on my computer and catching up with friends on social media.
That’s resting, right?
Apparently, these activities are not “rest.”
The Rest Plan:
The doctor instructed to limit my “screen time” to 15–20 minutes of every hour.
15–20 minutes ON.
40–45 minutes OFF.
The “on” time includes:
– web surfing
– working in apps
– social media
– watching television
Pretty much any screen time.
Also included in “screen time” is reading books. Even analog books (you know, the paper kind).
The NYU Concussion Center sent me an email (yes, really) with further instructions on this. According to those directives, I am supposed to eliminate these activities entirely. Yes, this includes reading the very email with the instructions. The email suggests that I ask someone to read it to me. Of course, I live alone, so that’s not happening.
On one hand, I understand this. These are the activities that are causing me to have headaches and that make me so tired I need to take a nap at the most random and inopportune moments.
But still: what am I supposed to do for 45 minutes of every hour?
The doctor suggested that I meet up with people for coffee or lunch or some other in-person activity. As he put it, “go old-school.” He also said that I need to learn to close my eyes and simply rest.
I’m willing to wager big money that this will be easier said than done.
I typically average about 5 hours of sleep per night. I go from one thing to another without breaks or downtime. As much as I often try to schedule “margin” time, it typically doesn’t happen. “Rest” for me typically looks like relaxing on the couch while checking email and social media or journaling. My life is lived in front of a screen.
Every activity that I do when resting is forbidden on The Rest Plan.
The concept is so far out of my comfort zone that I have yet to fully grasp it. But this is my brain, and I need to recover, so I have no choice.
I must learn how to rest.