It’s been eleven months since I sustained the concussion that started my year. Eleven months since the emergency room doctor sent me home with a warning that I might have a “slight headache” the next day. A slight headache that turned into months of post-concussion syndrome.
Whether they’ve been following the journey from the start or are just getting up to speed, the second question that everyone asks me is always the same:
Are you back to normal?
(The first question, in case you’re wondering, is “what happened?”).
Often, I try to keep the answer simple. “No.”
But that only seems to trigger their need for a timeline:
When will you be back to normal?
How long will it take until you’re recovered?
How long before you’re able to go back to your routine?
I typically deflect the question: I use it as an opening to explain how little doctors understand about the brain. But on the inside, I scream loudly:
NEVER. I AM NEVER GOING BACK TO NORMAL. STOP ASKING STUPID QUESTIONS.
(yes. I feel a little better now :-))
Back. To. Normal.
What does that even mean, anyway?
What is normal?
Was I “normal” before the concussion?
And, even if I was,
Why would I ever want to go back?
From the beginning, I recognized that the concussion—and ensuing post-concussion syndrome—was a gift.
Perhaps that was the first lesson.
In the past, I wasn’t always so attuned to the messages. I didn’t always know how to listen.
The concussion was the third in a series of three big signs I received at the start of the year; a literal “2-by–4 to the head” (well, more accurately it was “head to a 2-by–4”).
It was a significant interruption to my plans.
To my life.
This wasn’t an “accident.” It wasn’t something I could prevent. It didn’t happen because I was careless or not wearing a helmet or some other thing within my control. It was designed by a higher power to interrupt my life because there was something I needed to learn and I wasn’t getting the message.
So I got a louder call: dropped on my head in the middle of the night. Alone, bleeding from my head, with nobody around me to help, I had to give it up to the higher power. Then, the post-concussion syndrome. Learning about what “rest” really means as I spent weeks with limited screen time, forced into presence with myself.
We can’t fool the Divine; a different type of interruption wouldn’t have taken me away from my screens. That’s why my gift was a brain injury and not cancer. We get what we need.
Before the concussion I would never sit still for long enough to learn anything. This got my attention.
The months following the concussion forced me to stop running and doing. In the space created for my healing, I was forced to be present to myself and to re-evaluate my life and my priorities.
Suddenly, I had no choice but to listen.
This event was an interruption. It was not an inconvenience.
Any attempt to get “back to normal” would be to treat this as an inconvenience. It would be disrespectful to the Universe, to God, to the master plan that is far bigger and more powerful than I am.
An event like this can be a catalyst for significant growth, if we allow it. Or, we can try to pretend it didn’t happen. We can try to get “back to normal.”
I don’t know that I was ever “normal” before the concussion. How would I even get back there? And why would I want to?
Back. To. Normal.
Say it out loud. Do you hear how silly it sounds when you say it out loud?
Why would I want to go backward?
Life moves forward.
When we try to travel a path backward, the only thing that comes along for the ride is our suffering.
Thanks, but no thanks.
I have no interest in getting “back to normal,” even if you can tell me what that means.
I am moving forward. Learning the lessons. Expanding my capacity. Teaching others what I’ve learned.
I am creating a new normal.
Until the next new normal.