Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color

Blanket Forts

Lying in bed, still a tad groggy, I glance at the clock and contemplate starting my day, and the tears well up. The thought of facing people, noise, colors is more than I can handle. The mere thought of processing all that sensory input is causing overload.
Hyper-sensitized, the noise from the street starts to overwhelm me, the distant sound of cars going by, the muffled sound of car doors slamming, gravel crunching under wheels. Even the softest of noises grates—the hushed sound of the humidifier, the sporadic drip from the faucet in the bathroom.
I can’t deal with it. Not today. I need a break.
I am tired of being strong, of getting through another normal day, of getting through any kind of day. I just want to stay in bed, with my ear plugs in, my eyes closed, dozing, fading in and out of consciousness.
As somebody wrote on Facebook, “I can’t face adulting today.” Another quote resonated with me, “I want to hide in my blanket fort with my coloring book.”
But I can’t take the day off—I have responsibilities and there’s work to be done.
I’ve heard it all, “You can’t keep using the bloody brain as an excuse any more.” and “It’s time to move on,” or, the worst of the lost, “You look fine.”
As anyone with an an invisible disability would tell you, I am not fine. I have a disability. Recovery from a severe brain injury is a work in progress. We improve over time, but it doesn’t go away.  there are always residual deficits we will always live with.
Everything is so much harder since the brain surgeries. Even now, more than eight years later, getting through many a day is often exhausting. Everything takes more effort, thinking, organizing, remembering. My rewired brain has to work harder than my old brain did to do even the simplest of things.
Most days are good brain days. On such days, I don’t have to think about the sequence of actions involved in taking a shower. Most days, I just go in to the classroom and start teaching without pause for thought.
But today isn’t going to be one of those days. Today I will need to focus throughout, making an effort to be mindful of every little thing I do. Otherwise I will not be able to function even at the basic level.
Just thinking about it overwhelms me. I have to start my day. I have to work through this.
Writing usually helps, but the thought of getting up, turning on the computer, opening a new folder, setting up the format… I just can’t. It’s too complex for my tired brain right now.
A nap. A nap would probably help. But I just woke up. I shouldn’t need rest. I slept for nine hours. I should feel refreshed.
Even thinking about a nap is hard. There’s too much data pouring in.
I’ll read. It’ll distract me from the flood of sensory input. But the thought of reading… Which book should I read? Some light reading. A murder mystery? I’ll have trouble keeping track of the plot and the characters. A children’s book? I’m not in the mood. Short stories? Comedy?
It’s all too much.
My brain slows down and I drift off into sleep.
My eyes pop open. I glance at the clock, mere minutes have passed, five, maybe ten.
I have to start my day.
I am a grown up, and the blanket fort isn’t always there for the hiding.