"Oh no," I think "Not now. Please not now."
I pull my shopping cart to the side of the aisle, close my eyes, and start breathing deep breaths. In the nose, out through pursed lips. In, out, repeat.
With my head hung over the cart, I try to remember what that last item it is I need before I can go home. What is it? The harder I try to remember, the more I'm distracted by the throbbing in my head. A minute ago, it was simply in my temples but now it's spreading as though someone placed a baseball cap on my head and is slowly tightening it.
Milk. I need milk. I push the cart slowly down the aisle to grab my last item before making it to the checkout counter. In, out, repeat. In, out, repeat. I know from experience that I can't easily stave off the nausea building in my stomach this way, but somehow just completing the act makes me feel as though I'm doing something. I place my items on the conveyor belt and try to keep my breathing steady.
"Um, m'am? Are you ok? You're looking...pale?"
I keep my face down as if my wallet has suddenly become very interesting as I assure her that I just need to get home.I make my way to the parking lot in the rain, dump my groceries in the backseat and call my mom. It's amazing how even though I'm married and she's a thousand miles away, I take comfort in hearing my mom tell me everything is going to be ok.
The thing is, I've had some health issues recently and it's been hard to communicate what it's like to people. In fact, sometimes I've forgotten WHO I've talked to and who I haven't. This school year has definitely put a strain on my health - I've had more bouts of the stomach bug than I can remember - but more seriously, several on the job injuries.
The beginning of March, I fell backwards while I was at school and landed on my back, my backside and on the back of my head. After my principal drove me to the ER (and several hours of waiting), I was diagnosed with a concussion. I spent the next few days following doctor's orders.
No lights. No reading. No television. Lots of sleep. Meds. Lots and lots of meds.
In hindsight, I should have taken more time off. When I went back a few days later, I still rocked the neck collar to help my neck out. Being so close to March break, I hoped to work hard at school, come home to crash, repeat and make it until I had a week off to do nothing but sleep. When I followed up with the neurologist, he said all was progressing. Just remember to eat well, sleep a lot and take my meds. More meds. Different meds. But above all, do not get another concussion.
Within 72 hours, I was back in the ER after having my head smashed into a wall at work.
This was worse. Way worse. I had to wait a few days before I could get in to see a neurologist. No lights. No reading. No television. Lots of sleep. Meds. Different meds. And no work. For two months.
I always said that one thing I never wanted to do was leave my class in the middle of the year. I got a job offer at the beginning of Year 3 just 3 weeks into the school year. Even though I was sure it was going to be a rough year, I knew I didn't want to leave my students. When the same job was offered again at Winter Break, I had the same response: I couldn't leave my students in the middle of the year. I was devastated when I got transferred 5 weeks into the year during Year 4 because I had to do what I said I never wanted to do. And now, in Year 6, I found myself having to leave my class to finish out the year with my amazing teammates who stepped up and each absorbed a few additional kids into their classes.
For most of my life, when I've wanted something to happen, I've simply tried harder. SAT scores not high enough? Work harder, take them again. Fundraiser not raise enough money? Work harder, try again. Become a teacher? Work hard, and plan out how to make it happen.
Getting better when you're recovering from a concussion doesn't work that way. Work less. Do less. It's hard to explain to people what it's been like. There's good days, where I feel almost normal except for sleep. I haven't had a solid good night of sleep in almost three months. Then there's the bad days. The days when I hear a ringing in my ear that no one else can. The days when I curl up just a little bit longer in bed with my eyes closed tight to keep the light peeking through the curtains from reaching my eyes. The days when I stand up and immediately reach for the nearest solid object to steady myself. But the worst is the headaches. It seems to be some equation of weather, energy exerted, sound, and sleep that I just haven't figured out.
Although I've been in contact with my doctor throughout, I go back in a few days to learn whether I have the go ahead to go back to work. And for the first time in a while, I'm optimistic. The question is simply at this point, what will that work be? All I know at this point is that my chapter at my current school is over and for the first time in a very long time, there is no plan other than focusing on my family, my friends and my health.