I hit my head, parts 1-3

Today is something way off track from my typical messages & musings.
February 2017, I fell off a hoverboard and landed forward, smashing the right side of my face. I do not remember the fall. I do not remember 30 minutes after the fall.
Short term memory is stored in the temporal lobe – the one right by your ears – and the reason people don’t remember physical trauma like mine is because this lobe gets such a jolt, it shakes those short term memories right out. I got a concussion.
I fell about 18 inches from the corner of a coffee table. The force of my fall was enough to do (more serious) damage. I touched my fragile mortality. I am lucky because I am no longer in the space I have written about.
After the bruises healed, I started certain physical therapy. I got on a stupidly intense regimen of supplements. Then we traveled out of the country. I got off my protocol, my sleep schedule, and back on wine. Europe, you know?
That’s when post-concussive symptoms set in.
I was not prepared, but I weathered through.
​​​​​​​This piece was written after I felt better. I never could have managed it while in the throes of my experience.
I share this with you now –
All of you – at first it was just my list. I got (and am still getting) so many responses from this piece it deserves to be shared on a broader forum.
Raising awareness about traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post concussive syndrome (PCS) has become a pressing priority of mine.
Because I looked fine. I even got compliments on how good I looked, even close to 20 pounds down from my normal weight (also, I did not have twenty pounds to lose). People with TBI & PCS look normal. There’s no blood test to measure this dysfunction, no images. My friend David Dellanave calls TBI “the Lyme disease of physical injury”.
He’s so right.
Hidden. Covert. Crushing. Isolating. Disorienting. A thief.
Concussion is exquisitely common. You, or someone you know, will have one. It may be fine, or not fine. You may not understand what all the fuss is about, or why the person you thought you knew and loved so well is now acting like…well, a weirdo. Not themselves. And maybe can’t articulate WHY.
I wrote this – and share it with you – to help you understand what it’s like.
To those who have undergone a similar experience, or are awash in it now – hear me: I am with you. I may not have answers but I hear you, and I welcome your experience and your notes.
I want to bring this subject more into the light. Brene Brown says something along the lines of “shame cannot survive being spoken” and I can tell you I had a lot of shame around how I felt and acted. We, as a society need to talk about so many things – and today I talk about this.

Here is the trigger warning:

this piece uses a four letter word that starts with an F and ends with a K four times. If you don’t like that, no need to read it. I always get a few messages back when I swear in these emails, so today I am giving you fair warning. Also, I don’t care if you disparage me for the use of this word. Another day I might apologize, but not today. It’s imperative to the style, tone and feel of the piece.
Thank you for reading this. I spent months debating whether I would share something so raw, and had multiple test readers.
I get it may turn those of you off who have only recently found me and don’t know me well, for the others – I’m pulling back the veil on a state I was in for four months. I’m here no longer and have processed it – using writing as a tool for process – and if it makes one person feel understood or gives them hope that they can come back from it, that is worth the entirety. And also, here is my free, downloadable concussion protocol.
Many of you have been asking for that ;)
Thank you
I hit my head, part 1
I was gregarious. I liked to shop and mingle about, chatting with strangers about small details.
Now, Costco.
I am in a terrarium of dusty steel and fluorescent lights, walls heaving and tenting me in. Confronted with the sour expressions of others as if each person has intuited a different failing of mine. There are so many, they play like a movie reel.
The sizzling lights appear to be directly frying my brain, accompanied by hisses and puffs of smoke, jangling me so much I have to wear my enormous sunglasses in the store. The sunglasses provide the added benefit of no one being able to see my eyes and provide a convenient screen I can stand behind in order to avoid interacting with anyone.
Any interaction is so painfully awkward that even the idea of a potential interaction has my skin skittering and my teeth grinding together.
I lurk in the seltzer water aisle – seltzer water, champagne and coffee is all I eat these days – and dart around the corner, rubbing my sternum.
Between the glasses and the rubbing of my chest, I imagine I give the appearance of someone completely whacked out.
I can barely keep it together, fantasizing about being home in the shower looking out the skylight.
It feels like my heart and the great vessels surrounding it are in a leather pouch that’s being slowly, slowly drawn closed. My pulse sputters and I feel my blood pressure rise. Fuck you, Costco.
Oh sweet green earth, do we have to stand in this line? I debate going to the car, but just then a woman approaches me from the master gardeners.
“Jillian! Hey! I loved your presentation, it was one of my favorites! I looked you up on the Internet, you didn’t tell us you wrote a book!”
I stared at her, sunglasses and all, huge boots and spandex hanging off me (I’m down only 10 pounds at this point), rubbing my chest, palm flat to breastbone, completely mortified I have forgotten her name, though I do recognize her face…did she have a special touch for orchids?
The gears in my brain were painfully gnashing as I casted about for what to say. “Hello” I sputtered in a voice I hardly recognized, one that sounded forced and like it came from a Jim Carrey movie.
Internally, I gawked at myself. “Nice to see you,” was all I could string together before sliding away to pretend to look at some coconut snacks, instantly berating myself for my rudeness and extreme weirdness.
Fuck you Costco, why wasn’t I at home?
I was definitely going to take my lavender into the shower.
A few minutes later, Keoni asked, “did you know that woman, Jillian?”
“Um. Yes. Well, sort of.” I replied, not looking at him, sounding annoyed, inspecting some motes of dust high atop the rows of salted nuts.
Did anyone else notice the dust glittering under the fluorescent lights? It sparkled like stars. One broke off – floated in the air – a satellite. Could Keoni see that I was pressing my chest harder?
“she seems a little starstruck, she told me you really helped her.”
“…No. She was in gardening class, not the clinic.” There was a gong going off in my brain. I felt close to tears. I was desperately grateful for my sunglasses, and also desperately self-conscious of them. I had no idea what to say to him.
“And she looked you up, is all. She’s sweet.”
The leather pouch tightened and I imagined reptiles shedding their skin. I couldn’t think of a reply for Keoni, so I stood there stupidly.
Was that a ripple in the floor I detected? Did the floor just move?
Fuck you, Costco, I’m never coming here again.
I could hear the lights buzzing as they hung from cold silver beams. Oh, stars above, help. I must greet the cashier, a friendly Russian woman I know by sight and whom I’ve had multiple pleasant exchanges with.
“Hello,” I bit off, baring all of my teeth at her in what was an attempt at a big smile, but more likely a grimace.
“Hello,” she responded, picking up a 12 pack of paper towels. I scuttled to the other side of the register, cowering behind Keoni. I could see the door to go outside. It felt like one of those dreams where the closer you got, the further away it traveled. That door felt like salvation to me.
Holy fuck, one more person to interact with: the receipt – checker– and – item – counter. Holding the receipt felt like an overwhelming emotional responsibility to me, which is why Keoni handed it over and spoke to the man in his demure, inclusive way.
I stared intently at the tops of my boots, wildly wondering if any trees were harmed in their making.
After an unbelievably large amount of time passed, we marched outside, where I pulled in huge lungfulls of air, trying to expand my rib cage and chest to combat the constriction I felt there, desperately listening for birds, rubbing my chest, nauseated by the smell of car exhaust in the parking lot.
I wonder if I am emotionally resourced enough to help Keoni put our few things in the back of the car. A bag of kiwi, a wheel of brie.
Fuck you, Costco. I’m bringing my lavender and a glass of rosè into the shower.
I hit my head, part 2
When you have anxiety
Your body eats itself
I hit my head, part 3
I am at the complete mercy
of my sensory overstimulation

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