Within the first week of being home, I fell. It was silly. Adam had gone to another room for a few minutes while I was sitting on the couch. I’m short and couldn’t reach the floor and have my back against the back of the couch at the same time. I was trying to plant my feet on the ground firmly enough to push myself to the back of the couch when my foot slipped on the living room rug and I was suddenly tumbling off of the couch and onto the floor. When people say that a quick event seemed to happen in slow motion for them, they’re not exaggerating. I remember suddenly becoming very focused on where my fingers were and trying to get both hands to clench so I wouldn’t accidentally break them. I tried to lift my head and tuck my chin to protect my head and face. I didn’t want to land flat on my back and knock the wind out of me, but I also didn’t want to land directly on my shoulder so I landed somewhere in between and immediately curled onto my side for what seemed like forever. It couldn’t have been longer than two seconds. The bedroom door flew open and Adam raced to me. I was already working on sitting up and trying to stifle the laughter that was threatening to erupt from my mouth. I’d fallen off the couch. How clumsy.
Abruptly, the laughter disappeared and became huge sobs. Poor Adam. I felt confused. Why was I crying? I didn’t feel like crying. In fact, I’d always hated crying. It was so inconvenient and would always muss with my contacts or glasses, so I had always found it annoying, uncomfortable and, frankly, awkward. Silly crying. So inconvenient. I let myself finish imitating a water faucet while Adam held me. Then, as quickly as I’d started crying, I stopped. I was still sniffing, of course, but the pesky tears had stopped. I was confused by my tearful outburst. Months later I would find an article about psuedobulbar affect. I was never diagnosed with it and haven’t experienced symptoms of it for months. However, reading that article made my overreactions make sense. It was comforting – as comforting as a thought like, I’m not emotionally unstable. I’m just more brain damaged than I thought, can be.
In the months immediately following the tumbling-off-the-couch episode, I would become irritated when a small chuckle during a physical therapy session would become a full minute of uncontrollable laughter, or when a tiny twinge of sadness would turn into full-fledged tears during a group session at rehab. It was embarrassing, irritating and humiliating. I’m so glad that I grew out of it.
Adam made arrangements to return to work once January rolled around. I spent the weeks leading up to his return to work basically ignoring reality and pretending he wouldn’t be going back. Like ever. I’d had so many things change so quickly over the last two months; couldn’t this one thing just not change?
One night, I don’t remember what set me off, I became extremely frustrated and screamed for Adam to give me just two minutes by myself.
“Fine!” He slammed the bedroom door shut behind him.
I could hear him moving about just outside the door. It was as close to ‘alone’ as I was going to get, but I was alone. For two minutes, I was alone. I was too upset to enjoy it, though. I grabbed my pillow from the head of the bed and screamed into it. Then I lifted my head, took a breath, lowered my head, and screamed into the pillow again (it was really more like the sound of a week old baby lion with a sinus infection learning to roar for the first time). Suddenly I was out of air. I hadn’t timed my breath correctly. I lifted my head but couldn’t lift myself high enough to take a breath in my sudden panic. I still had to think out every single movement and then send the command from my brain to those body parts necessary to executing that one movement. I didn’t have air and didn’t have time to think through the motions necessary to lift my head high enough to get air. I also didn’t have enough strength in my effected side to simply lift myself up.
Panicked, I flung my body onto my right side and let my strong, left, side arrange the pillow. I was scared. I turned my head and let myself scream, into my arm instead of the pillow, twice more before calming myself enough to see Adam again. I had always hated exposing him to ‘unnecessary emotional crap’.
For the time being, we had a couple of weeks before the new year and I wanted to relax and figure out how my new body worked. I just wanted to enjoy hanging out with Adam, figure out how to get comfortable on the couch, and find out which movies I had missed since the stroke. So long as I didn’t have another one, everything would be okay.