keep bumping into things with my head concussion

Keeping balance can be a real struggle at times

Somebody found their way to this site with this search string the other day. Needless to say, they’re not alone. Balance is a big issue for me. It’s been this way for a long time, to the point where I sometimes hardly notice it anymore. It’s just always there, to some extent or another.

The times when I do notice it are when I’m really tired or I have an ear infection, and it’s worse than usual. When I’m really tired, I tend to not only get off balance, but also get distracted when I’m moving around. So, I don’t see the things right in front of me, and even when I do notice them, I sometimes have a hard time adjusting my balance to go around them. There’s not much I can do about the balance problems when they’re happening, but I’ve noticed that if I get more rest, my issues ease up after a few days. It’s never an easy fix — I need to pay attention to when and under what conditions I’m having issues, and then take appropriate steps.

For example, if I’m having trouble with balance alone, I probably just need to get more sleep. But if I’m having trouble with balance and light-headedness/vertigo, then I may have a slight ear infection. Either I’ve gotten water in my ear while swimming, or I’ve been eating too much sugar and junk food, which really throws me off. (Note to self – I have been eating too much sugar junk food, lately, to keep myself going, and I’ve gained about 10 lbs that make me feel sluggish and lard-like. I’m not worried about my looks, just how I feel, and I don’t feel that great.)

But no matter what I do, the balance issues always seem to come back — or at least, never leave completely. They’re a part of my life, like headaches and pain tend to be. I just take them all in stride, when I’m feeling good and strong. When I’m feeling down, it does bother me, and I tend to go into a funk (which causes me to eat more junk food). But for the most part, if I can stay rested and involved in my life and focused on the future, I can handle it.

One way things have gotten better is how I respond to my issues. I now recognize them for what they are. Time was, I was so caught up in just keeping going, I never stopped to take a look at what was driving me. Anxiety and agitation and constant restlessness had a hold of me, and I didn’t fully understand how or why. And my reactions to losing my balance or being light-headed were pretty intense at times. I used to flip out over feeling dizzy, when someone was trying to talk to me. I would get disoriented and anxious and I would snap at them. Sometimes, it was all but impossible for anyone to talk to me, it was that bad.

But since I’ve come to realize what the source of my issues is — that lightheadedness, that vertigo, that sense of losing my balance, that loss of balance — I can better manage my reactions to it, and I don’t have to snap and have a full-blown temper tantrum at the people around me who are just trying to talk to me.

I take a deep breath and count to five before I say or do anything. And that helps. It helps a lot.

Another thing that’s helping me is doing physical balance exercises in the morning. While I’m waiting for my coffee water to boil, I do leg lefts, and when I can, I don’t hold onto anything while I do them. When I first started doing the leg lifts, I couldn’t manage without holding onto something. But now — about a year later — I can tell I’m physically stronger and more balanced. I am able to stand in the middle of my kitchen and do those same leg lifts without any external help. When I’m healthy, that is. When I’m tired and/or have an infection, I need to hold one. I don’t beat myself up — I just notice what is going on with me, and I hold onto something. And I make necessary changes to my diet and daily routine, so I can catch up with myself.

More and more, those changes are involving added rest. For many, many years, I was driven by an almost overwhelming drive to DO.  To achieve. To experience. To make things happen. I was always on the go, and nothing could hold me back. Unfortunately, I spent a ton of time wasting energy and effort because I was so busy running from one thing to the next. I couldn’t seem to make much progress. D’oh – I wasn’t consistent with my activities, and I often gave up just before I was about to succeed.

Looking back now, I can see how so much of that was driven by anxiety and agitation — which were not only fueled by my balance issues, but they also fueled the balance issues. It was a self-perpetuating cycle that kept me going, and making no progress. I was so busy fighting those invisible demons that were creations of my own behavior and habits, that I never gave myself a chance to get ahead. Now, I’ve addressed the old behavior and habits, so there’s less fuel for that driven-ness. And I can relax. And I can rest.

Amazing. Relaxation and rest actually feel good.  Who woulda thunk it? Most of my life, I treated rest and relaxation as necessary evils that kept me from doing the things I wanted to do. Now, they’re activities I enjoy in their own right — just last night, I had trouble getting back to sleep after waking up at 3 a.m., but when I lay down and just let myself relax enjoy the sensation, I drifted right off to sleep. The funny thing was, I wasn’t even focused on going to sleep, rather on enjoying the feeling of relaxing and resting. I was caught up in the experience itself, and the result followed.

That approach seems to work well for keeping my balance, too — both physical and mental. When I focus on the process of moving from Point A to Point B, I can keep my balance much better.  It’s when I am focused on reaching the goal in the fastest way possible, that I find myself in trouble. Falling over. Bumping into things. Getting turned around and flustered. Granted, it takes longer to get from Point A to Point B, but I enjoy myself more. And in the end, I want that. Even more than I want the achievement of Point B.

To those who are suddenly bumping into things after their head concussion, take it easy. Rest and relax. And pay attention to what you’re doing, while you’re doing it. The ride can take longer, but you may find you enjoy it all the more.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

One thought on “keep bumping into things with my head concussion”

  1. Have you ever come across or practised a skill called mindfulness? It has its roots in eastern meditation philosophy, but the western world has started using the principles for pain management, stress management, awareness of mood and response, anxiety and depression management and a number of other areas. Very useful skill. More practice oriented than knowledge based. Some of the principles that you write of here remind me of the practice. Having read some of your entries and with experience of having used it to manage pain, anxiety and depression symptoms, I wonder whether this awareness-based skill would be something that you would find suits you well.


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