I’ve never really like crowds. But now, unlike in my pre-bloody brain life, I can’t tolerate them. I can’t process high volumes of information in a timely fashion. All data comes in with equal value, whether it is a loud shriek or a soft murmur. All colors seem garish, blinding, and all tactile input is harsh to the touch. Everything is a blur, without shape, chaotic. I can’t make order out of the chaos. I have nothing to anchor me and my incoherent thoughts. My brain lacks the ability to file information away under recognizable labels.
- Summer Weather:
I can tolerate dry heat, to a large extent. The dry heat in Colorado is fine(ish), but my body never acclimated to the combination of heat and humidity, so prevalent during the Pittsburgh summer. Since the onset of the bloody brain, my lousy ability to tolerate such weather dropped even further. Growing up in Israel, despite the hot summer weather, I only suffered two bouts of significant heat exhaustion. Now, in the aftermath of my brain injury, I am much more prone to heat exhaustion.
When I visited my daughter in Florida in August, I felt physically ill. I kept my time outside to a minimum. Only air conditioning or immersing myself in water make it bearable for me.
- Mashed Bananas:
During my childhood, whenever I had some sort of stomach bug, Dad fed me mashed bananas. He claimed that mashing the bananas oxidized them more effectively, which rendered them more beneficial. To this day, I gag at the mere thought of overly ripe bananas. And the sight of a bowl of mashed bananas, glistening in their slime causes me to dry heave. Needless to say, the first time I baked banana bread was also the last.
Red tape is a fundamental part of the Israeli way of life, whether at the post office, dealing with utility companies, the army, the education system, or the rabbinical court (there is no separation between state and religion).
Though the bureaucracy in the US isn’t as bad, it can also be frustrating. I dread applying for passport renewals and handling anything to do with health insurance or utilities. I loathe going through the process of buying or selling a major item, such as car or large electrical appliances.
Ever since I was a child I’ve had to contend with excruciating headaches, mostly migraines. Unfortunately since the onset of the bloody brain, they occur frequently, are more intense, and last longer. The bad headaches incapacitate me, preventing me from functioning at a basic level, restricting me to a darkened room.
- Dizziness and Vertigo:
Until the onset of the bloody brain, I had no trouble with vertigo. But since the brain bleeds, I’ve experience vertigo, especially when I’m tired. Fortunately, the bouts of vertigo are usually brief, a mere inconvenience. After my first COVID-19 vaccine, I suffered four weeks of continual torturous vertigo. After the second shot it lasted almost three weeks. I felt as if no matter what I did, whenever I moved, my brain couldn’t keep up with my body. I was constantly disoriented. Motion-sickness was an ever present companion. Stairs and walks were challenging, and car-rides were nightmarish.
- Gefilte Fish:
The only way to allow gefilte fish to make close contact with my taste buds, is to smother it with horseradish sauce. Otherwise, as with mashed bananas, I gag.
I used to love apples. Honey Crisps were my favorite. I salivated the mere thought of biting into one, anticipating the crunch, the aromatic juices bursting in my mouth. Now, my difficulties with sensory overload get in the way. The sound of the crunch as my teeth burst through the skin jangles my nervous system. The mere thought of the flesh scraping my teeth and makes me shudder. It’s to the point that the sight of an apple causes me to cringe. I shrink into myself when I see someone about to bite into an apple. I still like pears, and I love cherries.
- Anti-seizure Meds:
My anti-seizure meds taste vile. To swallow them without gagging, I have to place them very carefully in my mouth—not too close to the tip of my tongue nor too far to the back. The amount of water I use to help the meds go down is also crucial—if it’s too little, the pills get stuck in the back of my throat, and if it’s too much the bitterness spreads throughout my mouth.
I also feel that by taking the pills, I am poisoning my body. I gather from many other people who’ve been on anti-seizure meds that getting off them is akin to donning new glasses—the clarity makes you realize just how poor your vision was while wearing the old glasses. I have not experienced the good fortune of stopping the anti-seizure meds—I can only speculate how bad my brain fog is, how much clearer my thinking would be were I not to take the meds. But I do take them—I’d rather not experience seizures.
- The Bloody Brain:
Neuro-fatigue and blinding headaches limit my ability to be function. I can’t spend as much time writing as I would like to. Social engagement are, at the very least, challenging. Multi-tasking is not an option. I can’t run more than two errands on a good day, more than one on a fair day. On bad days, merely stepping out of the house is too much. The bloody brain has also brought on severe depression. I have undergone several suicidal patches. Luckily, my depression is currently well managed with therapy and meds.
Though in my mind, the gains incurred by the bloody brain far outweigh the losses, the losses are significant, and they do make my life quite a bit harder.
No matter how many things I dislike, there are more that I like. Also, in general, the likes are far more intense than the dislikes. Life is good. No—life is great.