Tuesday, June 19, 2012

It's Been Far Too Long

I’m not sure where to begin. It’s been many months since my last update so here is the short version.

I rode my bike with Chris Horner for a second time. Got dropped on a climb and called him mean.

I rode my third Levi’s GranFondo. Even though I was signed up for the medio route, I stuck with the piccolo and worked at improving my time over the first two times. I was successful.

I started recovering from my severe depression that began in July/August and by December decided that I was going to buy a house. By mid-January I had started the house hunting. I quickly learned that navigating the paperwork and such of buying a home is a daunting task for anyone. As a person with a TBI, I felt at times like I was drowning. I couldn't have done it without the support of friends.

Also in mid-January I met a guy (whom I'll refer to as J) and we’ve been dating since. Things moved quickly which was, again, very overwhelming for me. It wasn’t long before we were shopping for road bikes in his size. J ended up buying one used from someone I know. It had to be shipped from Missouri and as a thank you gift to him for helping me move at the beginning of May, I had the beautiful Cannondale CAAD9 built up for him. We’ve only managed to get out and ride about three times though. He drops me every time. Someday, I'm going to just stop and see how long it takes him to realize I'm not behind him.

Being in a new-to-me home has been a completely rewarding and very scary experience. I’m quickly learning that there are a lot of things that can go wrong even with thorough inspections. Many repair people to wait for, delivery people to wait for, etc. It’s left little time for riding my bike, but when I’m on, I’m feeling good.

Wish I had more to say to everyone aside from asking you to hound me about riding my bike because I have three months to train for Levi’s GranFondo and I need to get off my sofa and in the saddle!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Six (Very Long) Months Later…

Six months ago today, I was in an accident that turned my life upside down.  While it’s been the longest and most difficult six months of my life, I actually don’t remember much of it.  What I do remember is due to my obsessive photo taking and blogging about what’s been going on in my life. 

Simply, I’ve spent the last six months learning how to live with a traumatic brain injury.  This includes relearning how to cope with life’s stresses while desperately trying to hold the good times in my memory.  I’ve made some new friends and had my heart broken by those that I had misread their intentions and/or had mistaken for friends.  I’m still fighting some of the physical symptoms of the TBI and I’m certainly still fighting the emotional issues.  There is very little about the time that has been easy and I still have a long, rough road ahead of me.  It could be years before I return to normal, or at least get used to a new normal. 

Today, that long, rough road was quite literally ahead of me.  I had decided a while ago that on my six-month recovery date, I wanted to do something special.  An “epic” ride or perhaps trying something new and seemingly crazy?  I opted for the ride.

So, bright and early this morning, I headed out with my friend Chris who has been there for me through thick and thin.  We tackled a new route of a little over 30 miles and about 800 ft of climbing.  Now remember that long, rough road I mentioned in the previous paragraph?  Our ride also included a 2-mile stretch of a winding, undulating, gravel road.

Gravel section of 28 Mile Road

 Nothing says "rough road" like a gravel road, but gravel doesn't scare me!

This was definitely one of the most challenging unsupported rides I’ve accomplished.  In fact, the only one that can even compare would be the Turlock Lake Road Race route, but number wise, that one was easier, I just wasn’t in as good of shape back in February.

Not a bad way to celebrate six months of recovery.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Brain Overload

“You mention in your book that you’re sure repeated head injuries where one of the factors that lead to your Parkinson’s disease.  As a cyclist with a recent traumatic brain injury and the daughter of a man with young onset Parkinson’s, I’m curious, do you know of any research that supports this and shows a connection between the two?”

What followed was a long awkward silence as Davis Phinney tried to find the words to answer my loaded question.  When he finally spoke, he said one simple word, “No.”

For five months, I’ve been searching for an answer.  Countless hours have been spent online combing through neurology and sports injury publications to no avail.  That is, until yesterday evening.

Through a post made by Saul Raisin, I discovered brainline.org.  The site is dedicated to those living with traumatic brain injury, their family, and friends.  When I had some free time, I explored the site and found some very interesting information.  Two things in particular stood out to me. 

The first of which was a link to an outside article titled Traumatic brain injury ‘may lead to Parkinson’s’.  Wow, I finally have my answer and it’s certainly not the answer I wanted.  Only time will tell, but knowing this didn’t stop me from reaching a point of overload while reading the article and browsing other parts of brainline.org.  Having spent the last 20 years watching my father’s health deteriorate due to his PD, I’ve become more frightened of being diagnosed with PD than I am of being diagnosed with cancer.  They can cure (many) cancers, there is no cure for PD.

The second piece that stood out was an article called Lost & Found: What Brain Injury Survivors Want You to Know.  It pretty much sums up how I feel and what I’ve wanted to tell people, but I haven't been able to put my feelings into coherent words. 

There are so many times that I feel like I’m giving up because I find that I just can’t work anymore.  By the end of the workweek (or in some cases, the workday), I feel so mentally fatigued and overwhelmed with things I have to finish, that my ability to follow through with tasks evaporates and I shut down completely.  Since the new school year began, I’ve gone from hardly sleeping at all to oversleeping in the morning (I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night though).  As a result of being tired all of the time, my concentration levels are ultra-low, which only serves to make matters worse.

The challenge now is going to be getting my coworkers to understand that if I leave early, I’m not avoiding my work.  If I don’t volunteer for extra duties, it’s not because I’m lazy.  If something isn’t done in time, it’s not because I’m apathetic.  It’s likely because I’m feeling overwhelmed.  Each day is a struggle just to get through my immediate responsibilities with my students.  I simply can’t take on any more responsibilities or pick up their slack as I did prior to my accident.  I’m putting in the 100% effort that I’m capable of at this time.

I just wish I wasn't so uncomfortable that my 100% isn’t the same as it once was.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Recovery at a Glacial Pace

In a way, that last blog post was a bit cathartic.  I got some things off my chest and hope that some can learn from it whether they’re recovering from a traumatic brain injury or know someone that is.  The most important thing you can do as a friend or loved one is to understand that when someone has any type of brain injury, they may not act like themselves.  Instead of getting angry and cutting ties, talk to them and offer support while they’re working towards recovery.  They may not always listen, but it won’t be that way forever.  The last thing they need is to feel alone and abandoned by friends and loved ones.  Both parties will be stronger from the experience.

That being said, I’m slowly recovering from my recent episode of severe depression.  I’m not out of the woods, but I’m no longer wallowing in self-pity on a daily basis.  There are moments of emotional pain throughout the day, but my spirits are more easily lifted and I pull out quickly until the next thing goes wrong.

For the most part, what has been pulling me out this time around is throwing myself back into work.  The moment the first student walked into my classroom a week and a half ago, I lit up.  I felt like a different person – someone who is valued and needed instead of an annoyance to be cast aside.

My job is one of the most important things in my life.  It’s who I am, my identity – I’m a teacher.  The feeling of being appreciated by students and parents is one of the most heartwarming feelings I’ve ever experienced.  My group this year seems to be exceptionally warm and I’m getting word from other teachers that my students absolutely adore me.  The feeling is certainly mutual.  The only thing I can imagine that would rival this would be being deeply in love and being loved in return.  (But then, I have no experience in that department, so I can’t say that for certain.)

I’m still getting in some riding (in fact, I rode yesterday) and I’m probably feeling stronger on the bike than I ever have.  I think those 30 lbs I’ve lost since the accident account for some of that.  I’m supposed to be training for Levi’s GranFondo, the medio route this year, but the set backs I’ve experienced during my recovery are making that seem unlikely.  I suppose I’ll make the call when I get to Occidental after that first climb.

In related news, I’m considering taking yoga or pilates.  The hope is that it’ll help me improve core strength.  Because I’m still experiencing vertigo, I decided that taking a class might also be a good way to retrain my brain in order to regain my balance.  I suspect that a class will also be good to combat my depression and manage stress.  Problem is, I’ve never taken yoga or pilates and have no idea what to expect.  If anybody has an input for me on the subject, it would be much appreciated!