car in parking lot with man standing in front of it looking down

I’ve been doing a serious investigation, during the past week, into this important question: Why the heck can’t I drive? Before my concussion setback, which was more than 2.5 months ago, I was able to drive to the drugstore and back. But after months of trying to get that back, I’m only able to drive down the nearby cul-de-sac and back. What gives?

I asked my doctor. He said, it’s anxiety; you don’t think you can do it. I knew that was wrong. I was perhaps apprehensive and cautious while driving, but relaxed and expecting to succeed.

So I asked my PT. He said, try doing six lunges, and work up from there. I did the six lunges, and it gave me a concussion headache that lasted all day.

Apparently, lunges are beyond my ability right now, through I used to be able to do them before my concussion setback. This I said to my PT. He said, try doing your old head-spinny exercises. Before my concussion setback, I was able to turn my head rapidly back and forth for 2 minutes. I tried it, could do only 18 seconds, and that gave me a concussion headache that lasted all day.

I talked to a different PT. She said, try doing less of your head-spinny exercises, plus turn your head back and forth and up and down a few times. I tried it, and it gave me a concussion headache that lasted all day.

WTF?! I used to be able to do all of this stuff!! I passed out of all of these exercises, long ago!!

Then last night, I was talking with a dear loved one who has also had a concussion. Talking things through with her gave me a breakthrough realization:

I can’t drive because I didn’t slowly work up to it, in an exponential way, after my concussion setback.

I know, from long experience with my arm injury, that when you have a setback from an injury, it takes 2-3 weeks to work back up to where you were. And the working back up is exponential. Or, actually, it’s, I think, a mathematical curve that looks like a stretched-out ‘S’. During the first 1 – 1.5 weeks, you have to progress extremely slowly. For example, with my arms, my computer use progression might look like this:

DAY 1: 0 hours
DAY 2: 0 hours
DAY 3: .25 hours
DAY 4: .37 hours
DAY 5: .5 hours
DAY 6: .75 hours
DAY 7: 1.12 hours
DAY 8: 1.6 hours

Each day, you see, is 50% more than the day before. So while I would only be able to increase by .12 hours (7 minutes) between days 3 and 4, I could increase by .48 hours (28 minutes—four times as much!) between days 7 and 8.

In the second half of the recovery from the setback, the rate of progress seems to slow exponentially in the other direction. Or actually, it seems to morph back to a more linear progression, or rather, back to the broader exponential growth of your entire progression of recovering from the original injury.

So anyway, after my setback, I followed this S-shaped progression with my reading, computer work, and watching of screens and fast-motion videos. But it didn’t occur to me that I needed to follow the same progression with my head-turning! Turning your head, and having your head move around in space, is of course integral to being able to drive. Duh!

And so there is a progression. Start by slowly turning the head in different directions. Progress to moving the head faster, for longer periods. Progress to moving the head while walking. Progress to squats and lunges, and moving the head while squatting and lunging. And then progress to driving.

All of this took me months to progress through originally. Now, theoretically, it should take me only two or three weeks to move back through this progression, to get back to where I was.

But I need to start at the beginning, and progress very slowly during the first 1 – 1.5 weeks.

Honestly, over the past week, I have had the thought, several times, that I should give up and use public transportation for the rest of my life.

But, no. I’m going to try this out. I’ll let you know how it goes.

And, thus and therefore, here is a key piece of wisdom for you:

Talking through problems with loved ones can lead to breakthrough realizations.

Talk to people! It’s so important.

And here’s another key piece of wisdom:

Algebra really does have real-life applications, just as your math teacher said.

Mathematics! It’s so amazing!

Anyway. Much love. Think of me while you’re driving to the dreaded grocery store, struggling to breathe through your mask.

Are you having a big life problem? Who among your loved ones is a good listener, and can help you talk it through? Might you hit upon a solution together?

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