Much like the Simon and Garfunkel song…well, back to that in a minute.
So I have always been proud of my muti-tasking abilities throughout my life. Being able to focus in many directions at once and deal with any level of noise without issues. In fact, when I was much younger I used to go dancing and I loved bopping away and really enjoyed the techno beat of the music. I used to be in marching band years ago, Jazz Band, Choir, Show Choir (kinda like Glee for those who have never heard of it) and let me tell you….you just get used to moving, spinning, dancing, and lots of noise. I have always been a lover of music in almost all forms and preferred to listen to music almost all the time.
I loved going to football games, sporting events, and Pep Rally’s are an amazing memory. As I grew into an older adult some of my music interests changed, yet I still held on to that love of music (which my parents would have probably argued on some days was noise to them). When I worked in Emergency Medicine, I love the sound of the sirens, the pager going off, the squelch on the CB or radios, the multiple directions and decisions that had to be made to save a life. I knew by their sounds whether it was “go time” or not.
When I met my husband I loved that he played the guitar. My dad used to play all the time and we were a musical family growing up and I was quite ecstatic that I didn’t lose that with marriage. When I became a mother I loved the sounds of my children. All their sounds. From that first cry, to their first words, to their first debate/argument (yes – abhorred and loved at the same time too). I was pretty good about being able to sort and filter out what I wanted to hear and didn’t want to hear merely by choosing…then remembering to finish what it was I was working on (which seemed to be everything all at once). I could talk to more than one kid at a time, answer the phone, stir the dinner I was cooking, with music playing in the background….though admittedly it was often more than one type of music from more than one kid at a time as they listened to their “stuff”. I loved my jobs. I loved working and the business of it all and the multiple directions needed. I was always felt I flourished in tight deadline and crisis situations in the workplace. A lot of times, admittedly – in my younger years, my colleagues found me to be a little “too happy and cheerful”. I heard that a lot. What can I say……I really loved doing whatever it was I was doing at that time.
There was also nothing more spectacular than going to a movie theater with the whole family and listening to the loud blaring beginning of that giant picture on the screen with each thunderous sound from one scene to another. Now that is relaxing!
That is…..until the wreck.
I came out of that wreck different in a lot of ways I still continue to discover. Some things about my personality became enhanced, some disappeared altogether, some new things cropped up that I have been unable to explain. Some things about my tolerance, patience, general mood, ability to withstand hearing things in the same way and do things in the same way changed dramatically. The way I thought about things, processed things, felt things, literally EVERYTHING became like I was experiencing them for the first time……or even worse, not at all. I do not dance anymore. I do not multi-task like I used to, and I do not hear like I used to.
I honestly could not stand noise in any form for a while. Literally, nothing. Just the sound of the nurse’s feet walking in the room and the scuffing of their shoes was overwhelming. The door opening and closing, the beeping and whirring sound of the blood pressure cuff, the constant talking in the hallway, the toilet flushing, people always asking me questions I couldn’t understand or I would answer quickly in the hopes they would soon just be quiet. My memories of the hospital are in and out. I remember voices and feelings more than I remember faces, names, or the day to day stuff that went on. I remember pain. Lots of pain. I was dizzy, head a constant headache, and nope….no music thank you. I also noticed I had a problem with how horribly bright it was everywhere. When they would turn down the lights it was delicious and relieving. Even the red lights from the monitor would hurt my eyes. Those little night lights built into the wall at hospitals….nope, not my friend.
Then I went home. Things were so different. The house looked different as we pulled in the driveway. The sound of the van door shutting, the leaves blowing, the clunk of the wheelchair, the shushing of the adults to the kids as I made my way inside. The days that followed brought lots of appointments and a constant assault on my head, my eyes, and my ears. On top of it all I could “hear” the crunching of my shattered scapula moving with each therapeutic effort. I could hear a high pitch tone that never seemed to go away for the longest time. It almost sounded like a dog whistle or a fine squealing. It was awful. I noticed that while I had this going on, it sounded kind of muffled at the same time and it became difficult for me to focus on words, sounds, and more than one noise, or more than one person talking at a time was enough to send me into tears.
As time passed I noticed it helped if I read people’s lips to understand what they were saying. Sometimes still I will see lips moving, know they are talking, yet understand NOTHING. I have learned to ask for repetition a lot. Sometimes I just act like I know what they said….nod….and smile. I learned little tricks, like wearing earplugs, sunglasses, carrying a blanket to cover my head with, lots of those types of things to cocoon myself from the auditory assaults of whatever environment I was in.
Eventually it just became easier to be at home where it was supposed to be peaceful. However, we are a big noisy family. So that was not to be for me. My family tried….hard in fact, to keep things quiet. It seemed unfair to them. However I was grateful for their attempts to cater to my newfound love of absolute quiet. My bedroom became my safe zone.
Time has passed. Things keep changing. Some though remain the same. Things are a bit better now. I can stand being in outside more often than not. I can handle the lights in the grocery store on most days. I do notice that my intolerance for noise seems to increase along with my intolerance for light. I startle quite easily some days, not so much on others….which causes ridiculous amounts of anxiety which can trigger some really unique reactions.
Nowadays, I am listening to music more often. I still am not able to listen to it every day and some days not at all as it is too much to process if I am doing something else….like ohhhh sayyyyy….driving! Just this week I was travelling down the highway and it was nice out so I thought I would roll down my window. Just the sound of that gush of wind was too much for my brain to handle. I couldn’t roll up the window fast enough. Other days I can have it down without incident.
I notice that when I am feeling flooded or overwhelmed or in the throws of a very neuro fatiguing day or situation (driving can be very neuro fatiguing by the way) – just having the window down and the wind in my ear seems like it is TOO MUCH. Those are the days I just cannot seem to wait to get home.
Now 3.5 years later here I am. Hearing loss in my left ear due to the damage from the traumatic brain injury. Progressing with my vision therapy which has helped in more ways than I can begin to mention here. Still reading lips, and an overcast day is a breath of fresh air for my eyes as it is not so bright. Though I try to avoid driving too much at night as there are more lights than I remember being aware of before….there are a few things that everyone who knows me well….knows for sure – talk to me one person at a time; one task at a time; if I didn’t answer you chances are I didn’t hear you; if I tell you I need quiet and I cannot take any more I really mean that; and if I am having a rough brain day and need that beautiful bit of immediate solitude….
Ah yes, where I started this post from; like the lines from that Simon and Garfunkel song …..”No one dare disturb the Sound of Silence”
One thought on “Sound of Silence”
Wow! Neuro-fatigue is very real. Relating to what you wrote. I am trying hard to socialize, but some days, being at the Senior Center, is all – – – too much. If I weren’t careful, I would become a hermit. Thank you for sharing personal insights. It makes me realize that I am, maybe, not so weird. Although I haven’t experienced a poly-trauma, I am a stranger, on some days, even to myself since getting out of the hospital. I love you! I truly understand what you are explaining.
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