Finding a ‘new normal’ after brain surgery
A wise friend kindly mentioned to me one day, about three months after my brain surgery for my benign brain tumor, that I might need to consider finding a new normal.
I was struggling with heavy fatigue, my short term memory was a challenge and in general my body felt like it had been through a mine field and I was struggling to make my way through it. She could see my dominant personality struggling against the tide of physical barriers my body and brain were being presented with. She, herself, had her own neurological health challenges so she knew, from experience, about the brain and its path of healing.
At first, I was taken aback by her comment. I was not in the headspace to accept this way of thinking. I wanted to be 100% back to normal, not a ‘new normal’. I only wanted things to be exactly back to the way they were before – surely this would be possible?
Picture of me after my surgery with beanie on and ’rounded’ face from steroid medication.
As I continued my recovery, these words rested in the back of my mind. ‘Finding a new normal’ – what exactly did this mean? I did not want a new normal, I wanted the old normal; the old Claire who could put her mind and body to pretty much anything and achieve it.
But in the early months post-brain surgery, I could not get through the days without napping, my short-term memory was shot and fatigue crippled every fibre of my body. I moved from day to day, literally measured by the footsteps I was able to walk to the end of our road.
Eventually those words became louder in my mind and ‘finding a new normal’ started to make more sense to me as I began to realize and accept a few things.
Firstly, I had survived. This was amazing! Secondly, although my body was in very poor shape, I did not have any post-operative issues that would interfere with my recovery in a negative way – this was hugely positive. So, I decided it was now time to set about trying to find this ‘new normal’ in the hopes that it would balance out my body’s capabilities with my mind’s abilities.
Along this path of discovering my ‘new normal’, I found I had a few new boundaries in my life. For some this may sound negative, but for me it was more about becoming in tune with my body and brain to know their new minimum and maximum speed levels and comfort zones. I had to figure out my best cruising speed!
During this discovery process, I started to realize that finding a ‘new normal’ was more about finding the ‘new me’. This was exciting, and daunting at the same time.
This journey involved some grieving of a few of the things I was not be able to do to the same extent anymore and laying those to rest. But it was mostly a journey that was far more enriching and rewarding. It was a ‘new normal, better normal’.
What did I learn during ‘finding a new normal’ after brain surgery?
– I have learnt more about my brain and body over the past five years that I could ever have thought possible.
– I have the utmost respect for my brain and body and what they do for me each and every day, even on my ‘off days’. This makes me even more grateful for the good days.
– I have learnt the lesson of gratitude to a level where I feel and see the colours of the leaves on the trees brighter that before, I breathe in the sea air a little deeper than I used to, and hug my loved ones a little tighter than before.
– I have also realized that while my life may not be perfect, it has so many perfect moments!
– And that living in the present is the best gift I can give myself and those around me
So for me, being given those sound words of advice of ‘finding a new normal’ almost three years ago has helped me find my ‘new normal, better normal’ – ‘new me’.
I am so very grateful to my friend for passing on her words of wisdom to me – and so I dedicate Chapter Twelve in my book, Two Steps Forward – Embracing life with a brain tumor, to her.
Three years post surgery and I am so markedly improved. Most people would not even believe I went through my journey. But I still hold firm on reminding myself of the ‘new me’ as I know it is a ‘better me’. The lessons I have learnt have rounded me out and polished me up. My body and brain still need the respect I owe them when I push too hard and this little phrase, ‘finding a new normal’ reminds me to keep to my cruising speed – ‘new me – better me’!
Is there an area in your life where you think you could find a new normal, better normal?
Watch my video blog on ‘finding the new normal’.