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2016 January 28
by Rachel Turiel

Two weeks ago I got a concussion after losing my footing at the ice rink and falling on my head. I know. Highly cautious middle-aged mothers are not the typical profile for concussions. (And, not the first concussion in our fam). I’m still a little baffled, but there’s a small slice of time that has been blotted from my memory files.

The EMT who rode with me in the ambulance reported: “that young girl – was that your daughter? – gave us a very detailed account of what happened.” I can already see that since Dan’s memory is skewed towards events like “5 elk seen at Columbine wallow in 2009” and Col’s towards “WWII airplane design,” that Rose may turn out to be the family historian.

The healing has been slow, steady, and completely non-linear. The hardest part has been when the kids are both needing something different but simultaneously, and it requires all my mental skills to chip away at the avalanche of words and emotions and get to the heart of their request. Okay, so you’re offended, Col, because Rose has been blowing her nose in the top bunk? And Rose, you love pears, but Daddy ruined the oatmeal by adding pear sauce? I mean, it’s mind-bending enough without a bruised brain. Sometimes I walk into the already-brewing chaos and ask, “How can I help?” and Dan says, “Go hide in our room.”

On a really challenging day, nauseated, dizzy, and weak, Dan called the ER nurse who asked if I had been playing any contact sports. “Just parenting,” he answered.

Of course the kids have also been my greatest medicine. Our friends have generously stepped in to invite the kids on playdates, and having just one kid at home is like having Mother Theresa come by with art supplies and comfort. Because I haven’t been able to homeschool, nag, worry, evaluate, or any of my usual parenting activities, I’m kind of like a friendly, slightly confused, noise-sensitive auntie who’s moved in. I join the family for meals, smiling benevolently at the children, even if I’m sometimes sitting at the table with my eyes closed and my hands over my ears.


With Mother Theresa (Col) I invent Pokemon characters and he draws them.


Also, if your mom is in bed, you don’t need to check with her first before receiving a haircut from a friend!

Because complete brain rest is crucial for healing, reading is sadly forbidden (my mom even texted me at one point to say: “no thinking!”), so I began listening to podcasts. For many days I stayed mostly in bed listening to podcasts from the live radio show The Moth (in which incredible storytellers tell mesmerizing stories) while the kids drifted in and out of my room.

(Recommended: Anything by herThis one about a free ride service for the GLBT community in Oakland, CA. Also this one about an exorcism for depression caused by evil spirits in rural Africa. Masterful storytelling about a wedding toast gone awry by Malcolm Gladwell.)

(Note: beloved local writer/performer Sarah Syverson is bringing The Raven Narratives, a live storytelling show—like The Moth but with Southwest flair—to Durango. More here).

I really don’t understand exactly what happens to the brain during a concussion, but it seems like some mental armor that leans towards busyness and self-protection gets stripped away. It was like some intellectual part of my brain checked out, exposing something more primitive. What was left was raw emotion, heightened physical sensation, and a bewildering appetite for food and, well, my hot husband.

So, for days, I laid in bed listening to The Moth Live Radio podcasts, crying and laughing and falling in love with all the storytellers. And then I’d ambush Dan, who may have just been innocently checking on me, though always willing to oblige. After it seemed that a pattern was being established, Dan mused in his grateful but unattached way, “I guess this must be part of your healing.”


Col’s lego narwhal, which in my highly emotional state, had me convinced it was OK that he doesn’t always start written sentences with capital letters. If he can build a lego narwhal from scratch, he can do anything!  

Last night, upon my mom’s recommendation, we put on Mozart, for its brain-organizing benefits, while playing Ticket to Ride (our current collective favorite board game). Between my turns, I tended dinner; Col whistled and tapped the table; Rose smuggled the rat to the table via her hair and then shrieked when the rat scratched her neck. Which is to say, it was ordinary family life, requiring highest brain function and tolerance; and it all felt reassuringly normal.

15 Responses leave one →
  1. January 28, 2016

    LOVE the moth. Been listening to it for years. Recommend it all the time. Find the one by Teri Garr called Wake Up Call. One of my favorites. Or Man and Beast by Alan Rabinowitz, which made me sob in a car while driving. Glad you are recovering, and given the husband healing, I’m thinking I might need a bump on the head, lol.

  2. Melissa permalink
    January 28, 2016

    Oh Rachel. I’m glad you are okay. Injuries are so humbling but also such amazing teachers. Sending lots of love from the bay. Xoxo

  3. Becky permalink
    January 28, 2016

    so very glad that you are recovering – I guess I never realized how serious concussions are – I will have to look them up also. Love the haircut, Rose’s attention to the details of life and no you don’t even have to worry about a sentence starting with a capital letter. Oh yeah! yeah for Dan’s side benefit of your fall. Stay warm! Becky in cold NC

  4. Andrea permalink
    January 28, 2016

    Oh no, sister. You didn’t.

    And here I was feeling sorry for myself that I’ve got the pukes. And btw, there are absolutely no side benifits to the pukes.

  5. Caraway permalink
    January 28, 2016

    Thanks for this account, Rachel! We are sending lots of healing vibes and love your way. Glad you’re resting up. xoxoxox

  6. judith ann henry permalink
    January 28, 2016

    Take deep and gentle care dear Rachel,,,,and enjoy yourself unfolding in many different ways….

    after a severe TBI I have slowly made my way back to watching one movie every two months,,,
    the reading came back much faster after 5 years,,, SO thankfull….and sequences of “performance” were a struggle….just as you listen to both children and others….so hard to
    sort through…yes you are now the beautiful Auntie….all is humbling and slowing down was my
    best Medicine ….we are amazing humans and our brains quite fragile in many areas.

    My heart listens for your recoverying and struggles and also your triumphs….do less more often
    and savour even the skewed moments others know nothing about….

    much love and care from the hills down here

  7. Amy Ginn permalink
    January 28, 2016

    Mozart AND dark chocolate together help the brain even more. :)

  8. Susan S permalink
    January 28, 2016

    This is me (whispering) strong words of support and encouragement and healing and soul boosting your way. :-)

  9. January 28, 2016

    Yikes!!! Giant hugs and beaming positive healing vibes your way. I was thinking it had been too long since we’d heard from you. Mend soon, Rachel!

  10. Melissa permalink
    January 28, 2016

    Oh, take care! Concussions can be quite terrible and like any injury quite illuminating. I slipped and hit my head on ice a couple of years ago and spent a year recovering.

    A few things that worked for me and might work for you:
    – Sleep (lots of it) with an eye mask. I am still more sensitive to light and interruptions than I used to be.
    – Acupuncture– amazing for interrupting and relieving the cycle of daily headaches and sensory/stress overload
    – Physio– to help with vestibular rehabilitation (if you are having issues with balance, coordination or eye tracking)
    – Eye exercises – from the optometrist or physio
    – Avoiding multi-tasking, grocery shopping, stress overload with kids (yikes! that is hard. I struggled with work and three kids)
    – Fresh air and moderate exercise.

    Wishing you swift and full healing and patience as you take care of yourself.

    All the best,

  11. Michelle Ellis permalink
    January 29, 2016

    I don’t know what it is but I’ve had numerous friends who have had concussions lately also and I never realized it was such a process to get back to normal. Hang in there girl!
    And Dan……….well, enjoy it while you can!

  12. Jo Hadley permalink
    January 29, 2016

    Sounds like a slow healing is underway and I totally agree– that narwhal is AWESOME!!! (So is the dragon). What an artist!

  13. Julia permalink
    January 29, 2016

    Get off the computer!
    I love you.

  14. Ellie permalink
    February 3, 2016

    Rachel, I don’t know why it took me so long to read this post, and I’m trying not to laugh so loud as to wake up the children. It’s not that your concussion is funny. I really do hope that you recover fully and very soon. It’s just that the way you describe everything makes the world seem brighter. Funkier. Funnier. Thank you. Get well soon.

  15. Chi-An permalink
    February 4, 2016

    Sorry to be late to the party! Glad you are on the mend, it sounds like a frustrating kind of injury to have. No reading?!?

    And can I just say- Pokemon, lego narwhal, Ticket to Ride- Col needs to meet Miranda!

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