Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Could This Be "Widda Brain" ....

                                                                         picture from here

.... or am I just a moron?

I'd like to think it's Widda Brain.
But how long can I claim that?

I mean, my life is forever changed because I've been widowed .... it will never be the same.  Ever.
So .... I should be able to claim "incapacitation due to Widda Brain".
It should be an accepted medical term.
I wonder if it's an accepted mental health term?

Anyway .... I'll tell you what happened (I can NOT believe I'm telling you what happened!).

I had sinus surgery in December.
Since then I've had to "rinse out my sinuses"on a daily basis.
Yes, that does bring to mind horrifying pictures, I know.
Try having to do it.
It's a bit like trying to intentionally drown yourself, which goes against every fiber of your being.
So does drowning your sinuses with so much water that it pours out of your nose.  In one nostril and out the other.
Without going up past your sinuses.  Into your brain.

I've been ordered to do this daily, several times a day.
It's become easier and easier and it really does make one's sinuses feel better.

So last week I took this thing:

why, yes .... it does look like some sort of medieval torture device, doesn't t?

You fill that thing up with the water and stuff that you're supposed to spray up (and out) your nose.
I filled the first nostril.
And I instantly felt a burning, searing pain in my head.
No kidding, I thought I was dying.  I didn't know what was going on.
I hadn't rinsed in several days so I thought maybe I had to get used to it all over again (or was paying the price for not doing it).
Funny thing though, I don't remember feeling like a psychopath was inside my brain with a machete the first time I tried it.  But I guess I forgot about that.

Kind of like how one forgets about the pain of labor until she gets ready to have that second kid.
Which would explain why I have 6.
I didn't forget after 6.

But I digress.
So ..... I shook my head around, yes, kind of like a dog when you spray water up its nose, or in its ears ... or just at it.
And then I thought, "Now I have to do the other nostril."
I thought maybe this whole brain-killing event was just a fluke.  There's no way it would happen again.

I shot the water up the other nostril and the pain was worse that time.  I fell to my knees and grabbed my head.  I just knew that I must've irritated some brain aneurysim and it was now exploding in my brain.
Death was imminent.

Not so much.
It took me about 2 seconds to realize what had happened.
I had put 8 ounces of distilled water into the bottle and then screwed the lid on tightly.
Then I sprayed it up my nose.
Only .... and this is a BIG only .... I had left out one crucial step:  I had failed to add the packet of powdered saline rinse to the water.
The powdered rinse neutralizes the water and turns it a fluid that soothes and clears out your sinuses.
Distilled water, all by itself, burns the hell out of your brain.
Trust me.
And never try this at home.

So yes, I did this.
Not just once .... but twice.
How much more moronic can you get?!

Why do I tell you .... ALL of you .... this story?

Two reason, really.
First, to show you that we can have humor on this blog .... even in our grief and our "after".

And two, to prove that grief causes a person to lose her/his memory, forget words she's/he's recently uttered .... forget whole conversations that supposedly have occured.  "Widda brain".

But I'm sure you all know that.  In fact, you've probably experienced that.
But do you know what else grief can trigger?
(Here's where the humor takes a break.)

The stress of grieving a loved one can trigger:
1. Anxiety
2. Depression (duh!)
3. Bronchitis
4. Nausea
5. Intestinal cramps and problems
6. Headaches/Migraines
7. Rheumatoid arthritis
8.  Asthma
9.  Crohn's Disease
10. High blood pressure
11. Irregular heartbeat
12. Heart disease
13. Compromised immune system
14. Cancer

These are some of the things I've discovered that grief can trigger.  There seem to be a lot more out there.
And I know that I've experienced many of them.

I know that my body changed chemically after Jim died.  And since then it's been one thing after another.
The stress of grieving is a real thing.
A real physical thing.

So take good care of your body.
Try to listen to it when it complains.
Like you, it's been through a lot.
And it has to keep working right.
For you. For your kids/the people who love you.

But try not to freak out when you can't remember things.
Because grief definitely gives you "Widda Brain".

And yes, that's my excuse.
Even after 4 years.

Because I sincerely hope that I have not chemically been turned into a moron.
The good news?  I probably won't remember this happened in a month.


  1. The physical stress of grief was one of the biggest surprises for me. I knew that I would be sad if someone I loved died. I didn't know that I'd have bronchitis for the next four months and ache so badly that I could barely move. It was a surprise when my arthritis came out of remission, and when my memory failed. :-) And now... I just have to say... I'm glad you wrote this because it shows that what happened to me wasn't an isolated incident. Thanks!

  2. "I probably won't remember this happened in a month." GOOD ONE !!! I am still laughing...

  3. Oh Janine! I'm sorry but I have to laugh! I did a similar thing almost a year ago.

    I used to wear contact lenses many years ago, but having a child and life in general changed my reason to wear them. I recently tried again but soft contacts are no longer 'effective' for my eyes, and if I wanted to wear contacts I would have to try RGP lenses. (Rigid Gas Permeable). These however are NOTHING like soft contacts. It's like intentionally inserting a shard of glass into you eye and is uncomfortable as hell. The trick is that over time your eyes apparently get used to it.

    After a while I went out and purchased some drops to help with the dryness. One evening I put the drops in only to be met with instant searing, blinding (literally blinding) pain in my eye. I realized immediately that I'd picked up the bottle with the cleaning solution! (Same bottle, but has a red lid - as it should, instead of a white lid.)

    I thought I'd blinded myself and was in incredible pain. To make matters worse, removing the RGP lenses is a difficult process on a good day - nevermind when you've just poured a caustic fluid into your eye! It was a bad night - and I was alone of course.

    The next day I went to my eye doctor to see if I'd done any serious damage. Thankfully the lens likely protected the important area of my eye. However the doctor did ask me if I'd only put it in the one eye or both. I said, 'Who the hell would do it to both eyes?!!!" She said, 'You'd be surprised.'

    And so Janine, I give you credit for perserving and inserting that stuff into both your nostrils!

    For the record, I eventually gave up on inserting the shards of glass into my eyes and so wasted over $350. Looks like I'm stuck with glasses. (I looked into laser eye surgery and I'm not a candidate.)

    As for widow brain - I've used this term before with my friends (all non-widows) and they look at me like I've got two heads. (I don't expect them to get it.) However I truly believe that it's a real phenomena. I think our brain actually rewires itself as a survival coping mechanism and some stuff gets changed or lost in the process.

    And I also believe that grief and stress in general can most definitely cause illness.

    Thanks for the laugh Janine! Hope your sinuses are no worse for the wear!

  4. I'd like to blame "Widda brain" on pouring Mr Clean soap into the skillet with the chicken as it was cooking...I needed more olive oil to brown it, not soap to clean it. Had to dump the entire meal in trash.

  5. Wow! Yes, I get this.
    I am finishing up ( I hope) yet another virus. This one has been terrible and everyday some new thing gets added to the list. I spent two weeks on the sofa. Two whole weeks of laying there feeling like your going to die but of course you don't.
    Then just to torture myself I started to think "what happens if I get sicker. Really sick, like he did. Cancer sick?!" and no one will be here to take care of me. . . so then on top of feeling horrid I started to cry imagining being as sick as he was and being alone. Then I got scared and thought of what it took to care for him at home and realized my kids probably couldn't do it (they had me) and I will probably die in a hospital.
    So while hacking up a lung, dealing with a razor blade throat, infected eyes and body aches and high temperature I managed to make myself feel even worse than I had already been feeling.
    I have no doubt grieving has made me much more vulnerable physically. I have no doubt that my life will probably be shorter because of it.
    But I am determined for the time I have to keep myself as well as possible.
    Which is why I am going to bed earlier and sleeping longer.

    Thanks for the laugh Janine.
    be well.

  6. No, you are not a moron, Janine, my guess is it's "widda brain". I, too, suffer from it, I put ear drops in my eye, had to flush with water for 15 minutes at the suggestion of 1-800 poison #, that was fun.

    I definitely agree that grieving can cause physical aliments, after 2 years of grieving the list is getting longer for me, and I have always been healthy. I love your photo with the ...I can't think of the word (there goes the widda brain again) sticky notes, I have them all over my home office. Just after my husband died, I made multiple to do lists, categorizing things into those that had to be done soon, versus just things to be done. I still have ongoing lists after 2 years, and think that they are never ending, which makes me sad. I no longer want to be the keeper of all that has to be done, but no one else is, so it's up to me. Thanks for sharing how your widda brain works, helps to know the excuse I can use!

    1. Good post. It's definitely a bona fide condition. Illness and/or grief are almost beyond what a human being can tolerate. When my husband passed after a long and hideously sad series of illnesses, I felt like my brain exploded, and has been very slow in repairing itself. Memory loss, apathy, dissociation, loss of appetite and sleep, etc. No wonder people get sick. In the spirit of sharing stories here, when my husband was seriously ill and the stress was seriously high, I once sent a credit card company a check for over six hundred dollars to pay a sixty dollar charge. Then I spent a month wondering where my money went, until I got the next bill and saw I had a big credit balance. God only knows what else I did/said. I don't know if I'll ever get back to 100%, I doubt it.