A Bitter-Sweet Story
March 20th 2015 was a day that changed my life as I knew it in a split second. I was just about to open my car door to go to work, when boom, our double garage door suddenly came crashing down from the ceiling and onto my head. (Please check the installation of your garage door, ours wasn’t secured to the rafters properly). This resulted in a Traumatic Brain Injury https://synapse.org.au/fact-sheet/traumatic-brain-injury/ and lead to a fulltime rehabilitation program to re-wire my brain. This was a very exhausting and emotionally wearing process. I experienced loneliness, frustration, defeat, grief, confusion, pain. My brain was continually overwhelmed, overstimulated, overworked, aching, slow, drained. I felt dizzy, nauseous, unsteady. My vision, fine motor skills and speech weren’t working properly.
One of the issues was that there was no end date to this healing process and consequently rehabilitation program. You can’t speed up the healing of the brain. But with the support of my wonderful husband, my neurologist, neuro and vestibular physios, and the rehab team at the Epworth Concussion Clinic I started seeing hope and slowly “transitioned” to a new and very different version of me over a four year process.
Five Years Later
Five years on and I have been “discharged” from my rehabilitation program. That doesn’t mean I no longer have a concussion or brain injury, but it does mean I have a “toolkit” of self-help techniques to understand my brain’s needs and to manage on-going symptoms and issues. I no longer work or drive, so I am still quite dependent on others. But I have found my voice to ask and accept help from others – a very humbling experience. I am slowly participating in social activities again with the help of noise-cancelling ear buds, tinted glasses, sun-visor and walking stick (or friendly near-by arm). I need to carefully manage what I participate in, how long for and when. I then most importantly need to schedule daily down time and rest …. Otherwise the dreaded and debilitating neurofatigue https://www.braininjury-explanation.com/consequences/invisible-consequences/neurofatigue kicks in and can hang around for ages.
I’m not sharing this for sympathy, I have moved on. I am sharing this so that you can get a small insight into the impact chronic conditions have on individuals and the efforts that are often required to appear “normal” to others, to go to the shops and do things we often take for granted. I appreciate the patience of others when suddenly my brain gets overwhelmed and I have lost my thoughts, can’t find my words, lose my balance etc. The difference is, I kind of expect it to happen and through mindfulness techniques I don’t get as distressed when the “rug is pulled from beneath me”.
I have been able to get through this with the very loving, caring and patient support of my husband, who I would like to dedicate this first blog to. He took me to all of my multi-weekly appointments, cooked all my meals, comforted me, helped with my home exercise program and massaged my neck and shoulders constantly.
The Start to Painting
So the “sweet” bit of this story is that after two years I started to dabble in painting. Friends would drop off old canvasses for me to paint over, family bought me brushes and paints and I just started covering those canvasses. Painting initially helped to "unlock" my inner-self, thoughts and feelings that I found hard to express. I often used these with my neuro-psychologist to help me discuss insights.
- Through my continued recovery, painting has become a love and passion – and more – it really was a life saver for me. I found a creative avenue to unwind and release some very dark moments; to pass time; to get used to being by myself. The canvas became my safe friend – no judgements, no rules, no need for conversation or noise. I could come and go as I felt, I could paint over the canvas again and again. Slowly this became an avenue for conversations and then people started asking me to paint for them. To these people I am so grateful for their belief in me.
- I hesitatingly started to exhibit my works and sell paintings. And now here I am starting my very own selling platform. Well that’s how this started.
- 10% of all my sales go to Brain Injury Australia https://www.braininjuryaustralia.org.au/ to support their work.
One of my first paintings - this was symbolic of trying to "go along" with my injury rather than fighting it. To let other's guide me, to re-learn that I am safe.