Isolation, Self-Isolation Vs. Compensation Therapy

This portion was written March 27, 2016.

It has been 19 months and 2 days since my 20 foot fall onAugust 24, 2014. October 3,2014, I learned that I can no longer smell. My first reaction was shock. I learned when I whiffed my husband’schest to smell his cologne while we were watching a movie. I learned that it was not there. When we returned home, I picked up every bottle that had a scent: dishwashing detergent, bleach,shampoo,etc. Nothing..It was all gone. A short time later, I told my neurosurgeon about this find, and he replied that if it did not return six months from my accident that it was permanent. There was no warning of danger. There was no emphasis to keep eating and to find a way to enjoy it. Maybe he did not say anything because there is nothing he can do to fix a dead olfactory nerve.

As time passed, I learned I cannot “taste” flavor anymore. I learn that all I have is what my taste buds allow me to have and that flavors are stimulated from smell. This caused me to not want to eat. I would rather other people enjoy food than me “steal” it from them. After all, the enjoyment was and still is gone. Every time smell is mentioned, it has caused me to feel isolated. My response was to cut myself off even more, thinking that would reduce the pain. However, it only causes more pain to be isolated from the world and then to cut myself off from it even more.

My husband, Dan, loves fragrant flowers. He bought some for our new yard last spring. Every time the wind would blow and he could smell their fragrances, he would mention it. It is sad, I will not lie. Then, my granddaughter made remarks, so instead of letting it bring me down, I took her around our yard to smell every blooming bush we had. I did this for her, and I did it for me to help me to raise my head higher and at least for the moment not feel such loss.

This year we had mandevillas die over the winter. I decided to buy jasmine for my husband to give him what he loves: fragrant flowers. Was it difficult to open the store’s door? Yes. It was even more difficult to talk to the representative about my loss and my goal.. and how I cannot begin to sense what might be the most fragrant. I brought the dormant vine back, and we have planted it.

My whole reasoning behind buying this vine is to help me face what I will never gain. Furthermore, it is to give permission to my loved ones to enjoy what they have not lost. I do not have the end of this story yet; however, this seems much healthier than giving in to the natural isolation followed by me causing more isolation. I am the cause of this jasmine being in our yard, and I am the one giving pleasure to my husband. No, I cannot enjoy it as he can. Yet, giving to him beyond what I can personally experience does offer fulfillment. After all, I love him and my children so much that I do not want to keep them from pleasure.

I believe this is a concept that can be used by many, not just anosmics. We all have disabilities or deficiencies. We should not deprive others from what they still have. Furthermore, when we give to them in the ways we cannot appreciate firsthanded shows and gives loves beyond comfort; however, it helps us accept our faults ALONG WITH opens to door to forgiving ourselves of the shortcomings we have in our lives.


This part was written June 4. 2016.

I have given more thought into compensation therapy. I bought a jasmine plant for my husband for his pleasure and the hopes that I could slowly accept my olfactory nerve being dead for life. The thing is there are so many other people who have suffered loss or never functioned with all the senses and body parts as the average healthy human was born having. Writing about smell loss is not enough. Furthermore, this concept has not had enough articulation. Below is a list of losses and ways for each of them to be accepted and even vicarious appreciation that others have what we do not. I will be adding emotional issues onto this. As aforementioned, the array is vast and will take time for me to explore and articulate any conditions and challenges that come to mind to help us all to accept and forgive ourselves for things we cannot help. Furthermore, I will be posting ideas to help social issues, as they are correlated to many brain conditions, not to mention this may be how any one reading might already function without any biological / physiological reason known.

 

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“The New Me” vs. “A Changed Me”

Since my return home in October 2014, I’ve been fighting the idea of “the new me.” It wasn’t until reading the Oliver Sacks’ preface to “An Anthropologist on Mars ” did I learn a new perspective. The concept is that there is “a changed me,” with my body and mind compensating for the changes in me that I have obtained.

The idea of change is more forgiving and accepting than fighting for the old me, whom I will never have again due to mind and body changes.  Mr. Sacks articulated how the mind and body are wondrous, compensating with and even underneath awareness. It’s s losing battle to fight for what cannot return.  I am invigorated to find a substantial view with acceptance instead of pursuing insanity filled with an impossible dream .

A New Perspective for Eating

It has been just shy of eighteen months since my accident, falling twenty feet and obtaining a traumatic brain injurty (TBI) along with anosmia. I hate to admit it, but life in general has become bland. It is ironic how my life was seemingly more flavorful when I could taste and sense flavor versus not being able to smell and having flavors removed from my eating.

 

I have been in and out of searching for answers for myself along with all my fellow anosmics. I feel their pain, whether anosmia is a result of an accident or whether it has been a part of life since birth.

 

Within my search, I have talked to friends, family, chefs, counselors, etc. I have learned smell is the sense linked to emotion and memory the most. To not have that is saddening and filled with much loss. So the question is what do we do about it regarding eating  with the loss of both smell and no flavors? My sister-in-law told me that if I am eating a certain food, remember what it was. Tie the memories and emotions into the food. After all, eating is both bland to the palate and to the emotions, whereas to most eating touches the heart and gives satisfaction to the tongue while filling the stomach.

 

I decided to do this. Before my accident, my husband and I would eat at various restaurants and we had come to order desserts on occasion that often were chocolate with amaretto drizzled on the dessert. Yesterday, I requested this be ordered with our Valentine dinner. Part of me was disappointed.. disappointed because I already knew it would not be the same. The other part kept telling myself to remember.. remember the dinner.. remember the romance.. remember how wonderful it was to eat this dessert together with my husband. The result is it was less bland than it would have been. If I had not tied this memory into what I was eating, it would have been full of grief, sadness, and loss. It would scream everything I had and how it is likely to never return.

 

I know not all anosmics are that way from accidents but from birth instead. However, all of us with cognitive skills and abilities have memories of love and bonds. Most of us have our sense of touch, sight, and hearing. Due to this, even for congenital anosmics, this is still a viable way to eat and make at least some foods more amiable and pleasant… to remember and rexperience the love and bonds we have with our family and friends while eating can help. It may not give our mouths flavor; however, it can minister to our hearts. Thank you, Linda, for your insight. I am glad you mentioned this idea, and I am proud to say it is better to eat this way even if on rare occasion than everything being a fight to eat.

Emotional Repercussions of Anosmia and Other Restrictions

Before my accident and return home from the hospital, I was more complacent and agreeable. Upon my return home, I was told not to lift anything over eight pounds and not bend my back at all so the vertebrae would continue recovering from their fractures as well as proper alignment to the compressed vertebrae. Understand, I have given birth to two children at home. The first of the two, I PURPOSEFULLY AND WILLFULLY was the one to catch her head. So, the words “can’t” and “need help” are rather foreign concepts. Having restrictions from the hospital which my husband enforced with tender loving care was quite an adjustment to which I did not take kindly.

Six days after my return home, I realized I could not smell. Dan invited me to go to a movie. He took a shower followed by picking up a glass bottle from the glass edigiere in the bathroom, spraying cologne on himself, and clinking the bottle back into place. I HEARD THE CLINK, AND I KNEW WHAT IT WAS. I was happy and giddy inside to think of my husband putting on cologne for me. While watching the movie, I nestled into his shoulder pocket and turned my head to my right to whiff the cologne. There was nothing. I tried to smell the scent more than once and I couldn’t. Upon our return home, I hunted the house for things I could possibly smell: dish detergent, laundry detergent, shampoo, soap, etc. Nothing. It was gone… and still is gone.

Cooking for the family changed. I had no gratification through smell that things were cooked well and delicious. A month or two later, I cooked my favorite sauce that Olive Garden uses: it’s with their dish Portabello di Ravioli. The secret ingredient is smoky gouda cheese, and it was always so scrumptious to eat it. I had made it once previously years ago by finding a web page hacking the recipe. Only now, I eat gluten free, so rice was the starch instead of some form or other of pasta. It was that night I learned what else lack of smell causes: lack of most tastes. I was so excited to have prepared this for my family and a late celebration to myself that I was home, and surely home cooked food is better than hospital food. NOT! Not anymore.

I developed a voice per se that I never have had in my life. I was taught that if you have a different opinion and share it, that’s disrespectful and dishonorable. Well, it is between the TBI bringing my emotions more to the surface, as I used to “stuff” all my emotions along with slowly losing one complete sense: smell in addition to most of another sense: taste. My husband compares this experience this way. It’s as if I had one hundred pennies. Then, after returning home, I understand within a week that I lost twenty-five. THEN, I LEARN I lost TWENTY-FIVE MORE. So there is this urge to KEEP FROM LOSING any more from my life! I haven’t even mentioned how my parents reemerged in my life while I was in the hospital and then decided to isolate me once again within two months of returning home… more pennies that I seemed to have gained only feeling that I had lost that amount of pennies and more, as THIS I am sure was the last time my parents will ever be in my life again.

The outcome is to appreciate the pennies I have and to understand NOT ALL PENNIES ARE WORTH THE SAME! For instance, Indian head pennies, are worth more than the ones with Abraham Lincoln on the head of it.

Dan understanding this has helped him be ableto relate to me and remind me of pennies having different worths and reminding himself that there is a battle inside to not lose more, while reminding me of how the things that matter the most, I still have: my husband and family.. and they are worth far more than other husbands and other families.

Living Life Like I am Human

Note: Some of this has been written previously;however, I have added new insight to this post.

As aforementioned, I have been living a life according to my own expectations along with the hopes of others. When one does this, it can be quite robotic. I have always resisted feeling much negativity, whether sadness, anger, depression, etc. However, since my accident, my inhibitions have been lightened and freed. The consequence is that I am more connected  to my deeper emotional side and less inclination to hold onto my old or present luggage. Being that my world is far more emotional, the managing of these feelings is at times quite complex. However, focusing on the present aids the ability to feel weighted and loaded with antiquated drama. There are many parts of my life on which that I could visualize, and it would be stifling to experience the memories. Howbeit, fixing my attention on the present allows me to retire these old memories that torpedo my effervescence. Mindfulness helps avoid emotional debilitation.

Another aspect is learning and creating one’s boundaries to oneself. It has been easy for me to create boundaries for the children; however, I have never outlined to myself what is beyond what I should expect myself to do. For instance, when it comes to doing things that are strenuously arduous, BREATHE and take a break in between one goal and the next. Otherwise, I become quite irritated and grumpy. I have rewritten “These Boots are Made for Walkin’.” The content is my old poor habits followed by me creating ones that allow me to live an emotionally healthier life. For instance, instead of pushing my workload when it is stressful and no more productive than me taking a breather, I have begun to understand my weaknesses to the point of “taking breathers.” This does not mean procrastinate for a nonsensical amount of time. However, taking the time to breathe deeply and settle my emotions from intense task to another makes the next job easier with me in a more amiable disposition than pushing myself to the point I am stressed and more cantankerous.

Overcoming an Obligated Way of Living

When I was a little girl, I remember hearing such things as, “Abi, be nice.” That’s what one is supposed to do, correct? Of course! However, between only hearing positive remarks about my acadmic skills and nothing in regards to my character traits FURTHER MIXED with hearing my father nag my mother on occasion, I felt inferior to who I SHOULD BE. For as long as I remember, I have contemplated a road to take and then mulled if it was acceptable given what I was SUPPOSED TO do and be. Over time, I did not even give thought to this sort of thing. Living a life of obligation to the world became reflexive. Much of my recent changes lately have been indirectly inspired by my husband, Dan. For years, he has told me to remove him from the pedastal upon which I placed him and be his equal. Based on my instinct, this has been quite the challenge . Then I thought of being assertive. However, in my head, I have still had a battle with obligation: what Abi should and should not do. Since I lived a life of prudence and obligation for so long to the point of changing my habits, it has been difficult to even grasp the chains that I seek to remove. I have learned that I have been afraid to take a step away from the impositions I have placed upon myself. After all, there is prudence in the decisions that I make minus the concept that I am a human too. FEAR is an emotion based on an illusion. It is False Evidence Appearing Real. There is one more challenge, and that is being able to look at myself in the mirror and identify my good character traits. The way that I first had a notion I had that I needed to point out my positive character traits to myself was when I was watching  “The Help.” There is a scene near the end of the movie where Abileen says goodbye to Mae after she is fired. Abileen reminds Mae to remember she is special, kind, and important. I’m learning to identify the good in me.For when I do that, the obligated life fades. Furthermore, if there is an area that I still feel I should change, confirming myself on who I am and what I can do is much more fulfilling than constantly saying I could be better in a multitude of ways.

Assertiveness: An Old Word Yet a New Personal Concept

Note: I’ve added to this post thus changed the date of publication.

I was raised that an opinion or feelings communicated to my parents was an act of disrespect. I later married a man who was quite a psychological bully as well. Between these three people, it has never set well with me to be assertive. The solution is typically to become neutral and complacent. Sometimes, complacency is a difficult mode to find. I would say that is even moreso adequate as an effect of the accident that I experienced. My old being knows nothing outside of complacency and submissiveness. However, there is a new improved fighter in me, and that fighter does not always want to be complacent if there is no middle grounds. I want others to be themselves and somehow find a way for me to be myself simultaneously. What then is the answer? Assertion! Interestingly, it seems to almost relate to my spinal injuries as my muscles redevelop, as I must build a backbone. However, these are psychological muscles that have spent an entire life sleeping. Awakening these new muscles and acting upon them may be rejuvenating at times; however, there are moments of lifestyle shock to the point of great displays of emotions. Largely, there has been a notable display of tears. I feel like I am utilizing muscles that have never been used, as if that part of me was paralyzed. The silver lining of this is that exercise is strengthening and enpowering. The details to recognize is for whom are you trying to be assertive?

  • Is it a self-gratifying action?
  • Is there fulfillment for both parties?
  • Is it sacrificial to your fulfillment?
  • If so, is there a long-term objective for which your assertion has a plausible cause?)

If your cause is for one party and not both parties, then there is likely to be pain, especially if you care about the other party as well as yourself, especially if you have a low self image. The goal should be either of equal fulfillment or the hopeful future of it while training yourself to be strong and do something that is not unpleasant for either party. When you have never grown a backbone, it may be enpowering when you do; however, if you are anyone like me, it may be painful at times. However, I have heard of physical “growing pains.” I know that this area in my life is exhibiting growing pains at times as well.

 

One way that I am traveling down this road is to also at times be assertive towards my husband in a sensual way. Even that has been a foreign concept. However, with his desire for us  to appear and be equal versus me having him on a pedastal, this has forced this whole issue now that I am more brazen in life. As stated, some of these experiences have been agonizing; however, having fun and being assertive in a playful way with my husband helps me build these muscles in an amiable way. That way when I am in more serious circumstances when I need to be assertive in order to not be lost in the situation, I have already had practice in a more affable position.

I am going to digress to make a point. You all may have read more about me and know that I have eight children: seven that I birthed. When I had the first child, it is as if I was a pendulum on a grandfather clock and was offset to the left. When I had the second child, I was offset to the right… I slanted in the other direction. That is the same stance I have taken through lack of experience and… ignorance with this new idea of assertiveness.

I must say that being assertive is a new experience for me, and there have been some feelings of lifestyle shock due to grooming from my parents and first husband on how a child and wife should be. My first few experiences seemed caustic to the receiver. In two out of three of the first occurrences, I wanted to have a voice. HOWEVER, I was catty while attempting to have it. (I was not being a pendulum in a neutral environment, rather being offset.) I have a major pet peeve in reference to someone stating what I think or feel as if it is a fact. The flip side of the very same peeve is to state that I am not listening EVEN WHEN my whole focus IS where it should be. When this is done, I feel like a child.

When I began having an idea of what assertive is, I took things too far in my communication and dismissed remaining neutral and even being humble (offset again) to my instructor during a lesson. The way that I have planned is to not get emotional if I am told I am not listening. Instead, refocus and either state my understanding or ask for the content to be repeated. That way, I give my instructor a chance to clarify or me even a chance to show I AM listening but may be misinterpreting the concepts and execution of the lesson.

My latest attempt at assertiveness was excruciating; however, it was centered. I have been trained so long to follow my superiors that standing up for something that bothers me makes me feel as if I am wrong. I had decided due to the decibel level of Packers games that the one the following day I was leaving home to attempt to find sanity by listening to my favorite band on the beach. Every fiber of my being did not want me to leave the house, as I have never done this previously for my own sanity. As I was working through this, the only way I was focused is realizing I was executing what I would advise someone else to do. Nothing in me enjoys “me time”… at least not that I know yet. So leaving my children and husband was extremely painful; however, by leaving, I knew everyone would be happier than I became stressful and maybe even requesting the guys tone down. I am not a believer in the phrase, “If Mommy isn’t happy, no one is.” Furthermore, I will do everything I can within reason to keep that from occurring. Thus, I left even though it broke my heart. After all, the sound of angry screaming would not cause me to remember the life I once lived, as that is often standard for me to experience more than ever.

Even though this procedure was arduous, I feel that I have begun growing muscles in my back to create a backbone that allows me to either say how I feel or act out on how I feel in regards to keeping my sanity versus losing my cool.

Forgiving Myself for Being Human

My  sister, Becky,lived with my parents and me until I was nine. Then after much struggle with learning about retardation, my parents admired her into a center for the mentally challenged/retarded individuals.

When Becky lived with us and throughout my childhood, I always wanted to sit in the front seat when traveling and commuting. My maniacal solution was to elbow and pinch her until she audibly displayed discomfort. My mother would then pull into the outside of the right lane so I could be separated from her by placing more in the front seat. I would gloat with satisfaction.

However, that ended when she was registered and placed in the rehabilitation center. Even the night she was given to the state department, I cried. My cunning act of getting my way plagued my life for over a decade. I would tell oder people how bad I was as a sister and what I did that had me haunted.

Finally, one man told me I was acting life a child while being one. This was very enlightening to hear. My response to this knowledge was forgiving myself. Afterwards, I no longer felt stifled by acting like a child at the young age range of four to nine. As my Love days, “Forgiveness is the willingness to experience something you are unwilling to experience so that you can let it go.”

Silver Linings of My Brain Injury

The beautiful aspect of l ife is that everything has a silver lining if you look closely enough. Furthermore, if you take the time and effort, you can actually experience the beauty and appreciation for those silver linings. For instance, my oldest daughter, who is just shy of 23, asked me if I knew that I have changed. I indicated that I did know and that I was more angry, more appreciative, more emotional, a whole lot more playful and silly when possible, and more affectionate. My view of life itself changed along with experiencing some of my memories I’d put to rest, such as being a playful 7-year-old girl. You see, since she has reawoken, I have not nor will I purposely dismiss her and stick that part of my being back in a file with a label. When I was seven years old, my family lost my autistic and retarded sister from time to time. She would throw a temper tantrum which caused self-inflicted bruises. As a consequence of outsiders knowing only part of the scenario, “concerned” people would inform the state department for children and families of a possible home of abuse. When she was taken from us, Mom would talk to me. I wound up feeling like I should be there for my mother emotionally in the form of her sister or mother. So the girl in me all but died. However, this brain injury has caused her to return, and I am exhilerated to have that part of me an active part of my life.

After my daughter asked me if I knew I had changed, I asked her what she saw that was different. For a moment, she was speechless. However, as soon as she was enlightened, she responded. She said to me, “If someone asked if you had changed and how, I would say, ‘Mommy is more… more angry, more loving, more appreciative, etc.'” What beauty. She talked about my ability to empathize, show affection, be light-hearted, and many more positive attributes than negative ones that have turned into me being “more.” You see, I have a new perspective on life and appreciate some of my old files surfacing as well as welcoming being more proactively alive than ever. The best part is seeing that others are not demeaning  your changes but clebrating life with you more than ever.

As aforementioned, brain injuries take all the files/memories, throw them in the air, and have them strewn on the ground beneath us. ThERE IS a beauty in that. “What is it?,” you may ask. It’s that we have a new chance at closure or relabeling our life’s baggage. I fully believe that everyone in life has this chance; however, we become accustomed to playing the victims that we never become introspective enough to know that the problem is mostly if not completely a personal issue for which we can take the blame AND THEN CHANGE!

There is more than just that. There is also the fact that I fell more in love with my husband, and he fell more in love with me. I have always loved him so much that he hung the sun, moon, and stars. However, my Love placing lip balm on my lips, helping aid me reclining or arising and a plethora of other things performed by him for me has stirred my heart beyond my imagination. My last two and a half weeks of hospitalization, the highlight of my day was his visits. I even mentally paced the floor until he arrived. I even would take two showers per day, one to start the day and be squeaky clean for the handful of rehabilitation (and because I don’t like feeling unclean) and another one taken in anticipation for the arrival of my husband, Dan. The other highlight was after he arrived. When he was present, I could have deep, intelligent conversations. They were so meaningful on a daily basis that it felt in a since that we were dating and learning things about each other that we never knew.

Another silver lining is a greater appreciation for life and loved ones. One month, and eight days after I was released from the hospital was my 44th birthday. A couple weeks prior to the actual date, it was as if the celebration of my life internally began. Here, I was visited when hospitalized by people whom I did not know cared for me. On top of that, I was prouder than ever to have the husband and family that I have. I did not want THINGS for my birthday. THINGS may be used as tools; however, they are not worth what loved ones give you by being themselves, not to mention them pouring themselves into you and helping your well-being. My only birthday wish was to see the ones I love. I received a good portion of that, being my Love and I have four children still living at home full-time. Even though upon my return home, it was stressful, I see a greater love flowing through Dan and our children. I am flattered and honored to have a greater gift in my life than I ever imagined.That’s PLENTY of birthday right there!

Overcoming the Injury’s Victory

Part of last week along with this week, I have been helping  in the recycling of our old woodworking that Dan cut, planed, routed, installed, and sealed in our former home. On THE DAY which caused both my former brain injury, spinal and rib injuries along with a fractured toe in my left foot, I was tossing the remainder of the woodworking that was on the second floor over the banister on the porch. Inertia hit (pun intended), and I happened to fall onto the paved driveway as well.

The interesting issue with working with this beautiful wood now is how haunting it can be… to know that I was trying to save it all within our move. Ironically, it nearly cost me my life. I am pleased to say that I am more neutral about seeing this wood, even though it can still be haunting at times. However, I am proud to state that as an impatient individual in many ways, TIME is a difficult to let pass to reach one’s destination; but I have overcome a good bit of the eeriness that has shadowed my mentality at times as I peer at the piles of woodworking that I pulled from our former abode.  My main focus is to achieve the new goals by helping prepare the wood for its new location as well as occasionally even be the one to install it.