This installment of #TBIthursday combines a reflection on bad habits and trauma and a pop culture recommendation.
Truthfully the topic of bad habits and trauma could go a lot of different ways. In this case I am going to discuss the bad habits I had before my coma and severe Traumatic Brain Injury and what happened to them after my TBI.
Ever since I can remember I bit my fingernails. It probably started as a nervous habit born out of my shyness and just grew into a 30+ year habit! I’m happy to say that now I am a recovering nail biter. I still have relapses when the world gets too much and I don’t notice that I am biting my fingernails! However, the reason I was able to stop was my TBI. Stay with me, I’ll explain.
Before the TBI, I suffered from a whole host of maladies that have gone dormant in the face of my TBI. I suffered from migraines for so long they became chronic and daily. I then suffered from Fibromyalgia because my headache pain had been unmanaged successfully and taught my body constant pain was normal. Then after years of dealing with all of that I was starting to experience anxiety and panic attacks. I honestly felt that the anxiety and panic attacks were related to the chronic pain (this is just my guess). And then I experienced the coma and severe TBI as a result of an accident. And I honestly feel like my brain was “rebooted” and all the “glitches” like chronic daily migraines. Fibromyalgia and anxiety were lost in the reboot. I often feel both lucky and unlucky. Lucky because I survived. Lucky because I lived. And lucky because I am no longer riddled with the pain that was threatening to overtake my life. Unlucky because I was in an almost fatal accident that rendered me disabled and forever physically and mentally changed. Unlucky because the chronic daily migraines were replaced by headaches far more severe (even though they are less frequent).
It’s a bit of the luck mixed with discipline that leads me back to the topic of this post: bad habits and specifically nail biting. The luck part is that the tragedy of my accident has been followed with a time when I am not working a stressful job. Since my accident I have been on disability. And the further I am from a stressful work environment, the easier it is to not bite my nails because of stress or nervousness. So that’s what I mean when I say my TBI helped me kick my nail biting habit. And I am not the only one to experience such a thing. I know someone who was in a medically-induced coma and ended up being able to stop a long-term habit of smoking cigarettes. I suppose that’s the one benefit of a coma?! (It’s okay, I can make coma jokes because I was in one and the person who kicked the smoking habit while in a medically-induced coma is doing well today).
While I feel pretty confident about my nail biting habit being kicked, I will say it wasn’t an immediate result of my TBI. It’s something that I have worked on and will continue to have to work on. I have a memory of being in the hospital after my accident and a hospital volunteer (who was young, probably in high school) came and painted my fingernails. This was a new experience for me because my nails were usually far too short and scruffy looking to ever be painted. However, since I had been in a coma for three weeks and was still not quite myself (after another month in the hospital) I hadn’t started up the bad habit of biting my nails. A few days after my fingernails were painted I started to chip away at the nail polish and bite my nails. So the bad habit came back (I’ve since kicked it). I commented to my Mom that it was back and she said she had noticed and she was glad because that meant I was on my way back to being me.
After several more months of being a nail biter, I decided to try really hard to stop. That’s another piece of the bad habit and TBI puzzle: discipline. I feel like I am more disciplined (writing 12 short stories in a year and writing weekly blogs and writing over 66,000 words of a memoir are three examples of the discipline). It probably comes from the incredible sense of determination that I did and still do have to heal in the face of my trauma.
I have learned and continue to learn that living with a TBI is something that changes and has permanently changed me. There are bad changes (of course) but it’s times like now when I focus on just one tiny bit of the accident aftermath that I realize they were good changes too.
Pop Culture Recommendation: The “Baking Championship” Series on Food Network
My Mom and I have gotten into a pattern of watching baking shows on TV. We are watching past seasons of “The Great British Bake-Off” on Netflix (we haven’t gotten to the seasons when the hosts change and Mary Berry is replaced by different judges). However, we really first started to get into baking shows in 2017/2018 on the Food Network (here in the U.S.). And the best of the Food Network Baking shows (in my opinion) is the series “____ (Halloween/Holiday/Kid’s/Spring) Baking Championship.” Food Network realized there were whole hosts of people who loved watching others bake (probably thanks in part to “The Great British Bake-Off”) and created this series that runs pretty much year-round on Monday nights. They change the hosts, contestants and judges for each iteration but the recipe (pun intended) is pretty much the same for each. Currently airing in October is “Halloween Baking Championship.” And I love everything about it except for the fact that the bakers sometimes make gross looking treats (think Halloween blood, guts, and gore). However, the real selling point of this installment of the show is that the judges dress up in fantastic Halloween costumes to judge the final treats each episode. And they spare no expense in the makeup, wigs and costumes. It’s truly a treat (pun intended again) to see what the costumes will be.