I wake, still for a minute. I slowly stretch and turn my head on the pillow, all in drowsy gratitude. Suddenly my head is struck with pain faster than a cobra’s attack. Eyes pop open, my neck stiffens and the whole right side of my head tightens. There’s nothing like a postcraniotomy headache. It will be a bad head day.
On a bad head day, my brain feels raw inside my skull as if there’s no padding between my brain and skull. Nature provides padding through cerebrospinal fluid that flows around the brain and spinal cord, but on a bad head day I feel like I’m running on empty.
After taking a few slow breaths, I slowly ease out of bed, placing my feet firmly on the floor, raising my head and body in slow motion. I sit for a minute and breathe steadily. In slow, deliberate steps, I stand, wait for my balance to adjust to the new day, and slowly head to the bathroom. Moving too fast will freeze my brain in a lock that stops all movement. Most people are familiar with that frozen brain feeling when you drink something cold too fast, times ten. I have learned to live with what is called “Wonky Head” by acoustic neuroma patients.
Like a drunkard, I head to the bathroom, feeling like I have an incredible hangover. Surgery destroyed my balance system, atrophying my right cerebellum, requiring my brain to re-calibrate itself in the morning. Between the bed and bathroom, like pinball in slow motion, I touch my dresser to the left, the wall to the right and then stop, gripping the bathroom door jamb with both hands. Touching things makes me feel more grounded.
Weather changes could be one reason for such a bad head day. I am quite sure the doctors inserted a barometer in my skull after they opened it with their fancy diamond drill bit. I hold my head, as if it would help.
Eventually I drag myself to the shower. Hot water relaxes my head so I empty the hot water heater.
I slowly dress without bending or allowing my head to drop below my heart. The resulting head pain would send me back to bed for at least a half hour. If I drop my hairbrush on the floor, I stare at it like it was a hundred miles away. It isn’t worth bending for. I reach for another brush. The first brush could stay on the floor until a better day.
Eventually, I feel my head relaxing. I never take it for granted as I feel together enough to take on the rest of my day. For my brain’s sake, I always hope to avoid sneezing and coughing that will cause an immediate setback.
The next morning it begins again. I awaken and cautiously move, hoping for a better day. Perhaps I would feel up to picking up that hairbrush today.