Woodworking and my Traumatic Brain Injury #2: Learning about "channels"

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Blog entry by Kent posted 08-24-2019 06:47 PM 1358 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Why this blog? Part 2 of Woodworking and my Traumatic Brain Injury series Part 3: Life in the "Fun House" »

When you work hard doing something new, you will get tired. When you get tired, you should rest. This sounds pretty obvious and straight-forward, but for me, it really wasn’t. When your brain is broken, all bets are off.

Firstly, I needed to learn that even though I could remember doing many things the connections in my brain had been damaged in the accident. This meant that, ironically, I could no longer do many things that I could remember doing. Even 2 years after my accident, I hadn’t yet learned that I had lost my 3d vision. Don’t you know that it was quite a revelation when my vision problems were detected and my first pair of prism glasses “turned on” my 3D vision again.

Secondly, as I mentioned in the first part of this blog when vision therapy gets tiring, your brain can’t be stopped. Everything I did seemed to exhaust me mentally. With corrective prisms in my glasses, my brain needed to relearn how to aim my eyes and how to interpret the images from them. It also needed to take this information and use it to update my internal map to literally let me know which way was up. This was exhausting, and I spent 12-16 hours most days either sleeping or resting in bed with my eyes closed. Some days were longer. As luck would have it, whenever I started to feel a little less tired, my vision therapist (a neuroscientist and an ophthalmologist) would write me a new prescription with different prisms and my brain would need to start learning the new arrangement all over again. In total, I had 4 or 5 new prescriptions in a 2-year period. Damn, but I’m glad that part is done.

Thirdly, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is not a normal state of affairs. As such, I would often perceive something but could not relate that perception to my past experience. In other words, I was experiencing things that I could not explain. One noteworthy example was when I could feel an “itch” at a specific location inside my skull. Sometimes this itch would feel like a tickle or some other sensation. The exact location would move from one occurrence to the next. It took me over a year to finally realise that this was my brain’s way of telling me that it was tired of doing something and that it needed a rest. Now I just recognise when I’m tired. Duh!

In the midst of all this, I started to get back to doing some woodworking. My 3d vision was back, but my perception of space was broken. My concentration and my memory were shot, but I wasn’t necessarily aware of it while it was happening so I didn’t let it slow me down.

Since my last prescription change, my vision has improved enough that vision therapy isn’t required any more. And since my brain has had the same prescription for about a year now, it has been able to learn and progress more. But the biggest and most important thing that I’ve learned is that I have “channels”, or “things that I can do”.

When I’ve worked a channel too hard, I need to give it a rest. Sometimes that is just for a couple of hours and sometimes it’s for a few days I’ve also learned that when one channel becomes dead, there are other channels that can still be used. So I do what I can, when I can, for as long as I can, and I’m damned happy about it because I still can. I couldn’t have said that even a few months ago.

In a few days, once this channel is working again, I’ll post some examples of what I am capable of doing and some of what I am not.

-- If I knew then what I know now, I'd have made a completely different set of mistakes.

6 comments so far

View Kent's profile


641 posts in 2912 days

#1 posted 08-24-2019 06:50 PM

Okay, so blame the brain injury. There is no way that I could get this entry to be a continuation of the previous entry.

Okay, so I finally got them linked. Now I’m toast for a few days.

-- If I knew then what I know now, I'd have made a completely different set of mistakes.

View TEK73's profile


334 posts in 823 days

#2 posted 08-24-2019 11:14 PM

Thanks for sharing.
It’s inspiring to see your currage, and reading about your way back is giving a lot of insight in how a brain damage might affect you.

-- It’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. - Ursula K. LeGuin

View robscastle's profile


7948 posts in 3320 days

#3 posted 08-25-2019 09:37 PM

You know Kent yesterday, which was Sunday here for me, I opened the cupboard and pulled out all the banding inlay I had made over the years that I have been learning how to do woodwork.
I was amazed at the amount of inlay banding I had actually made.

However I was also concerned that I could not remember the process I had used to make the same.
I don’t think I have ever suffered any brain injury, well at least not as serious as you that’s for sure.

I read your first post and thought you should test your mallet on the skull of the person who ran over you.
Mainly to see if they appreciated the extent of injuries you have suffered.

Keep up the great progress! even those who have not been subjected to injury have difficulties marshaling processes at times so don’t be too hard on yourself .

-- Regards Rob

View Kent's profile


641 posts in 2912 days

#4 posted 08-26-2019 02:24 AM

Rob, I’m not being hard on myself. A sick, twisted little part of me is enjoying the process of recovery because of all the analysis and introspection. What I don’t like is living with my state of affairs. Fortunately, I am improving. I do laugh at myself sometimes because the other option is to curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself. I prefer to spend my energy moving forward.

The last few days I’ve been spending my energies on moving and shortening this pile of (mostly) hardwood.

I’m using a handsaw to turn all the 8 and 12-foot lengths into 4 and 6-foot lengths

I then transport it to a location where the inspector verifies my work.

Finally, I get to restack everything.

Because most of the work is done standing in one place, I can get a relatively large amount done in one go. I started early this morning so that I could get more done before the light trashed me. When the light gets like this (glare and/or high contrast) I need to quit. The effect on me is so severe that I can barely speak or walk.

On the plus side, I should be able to finish that pile tomorrow if the weather holds. If the weather doesn’t hold, I’ll try to get some shop time in.

-- If I knew then what I know now, I'd have made a completely different set of mistakes.

View BurlyBob's profile


8998 posts in 3381 days

#5 posted 08-26-2019 03:00 AM

Kent, Yours is a very inspiring story. I appreciate your willingness to tell us your struggles thru your recovery. I find it very meaningful and humbling.

Thank you for sharing with us!

View Kent's profile


641 posts in 2912 days

#6 posted 08-28-2019 12:42 AM

Progress was made, although the execution was not strictly in accordance with the plan. I had to work around the availability of my energy and getting the right balance of light, temperature and shade. It all came together around supper time, so I took a little over an hour to finish the last 10 boards.

I’m paying for all this effort today. In the next week or so I’ll do the same thing with the softwood.

I’ll also show some of the SLOOOWWWWW progress with hand tools in the shop.

-- If I knew then what I know now, I'd have made a completely different set of mistakes.

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