I’m sure that I’ve written before about my extraordinarily cool helmet-toque.¹ I used to wear it sporadically, mostly in the weeks after a concussion, when my husband and I were particularly on edge, leading us to put safety measures in place that—yes—we should have followed at all times, not just during these periods of heightened anxiety.
Shortly after beginning my neuro rehab program, I had a conversation with my occupational therapist about my helmet-toque-wearing practices. She suggested, very gently, that my helmet-toque, though better than nothing, might not be offering me enough protection, so I should a) get an “actual” helmet, which I should b) don more consistently, especially in the evening and when home alone.
Intelligently, she framed this as an independence issue. If I were better about ensconcing my head in a hard shell of whatever helmets are made of, it would be safer for me to spend longer stretches of time unsupervised. In turn, my husband would feel more comfortable leaving me by myself. Ah, the magical “I” word, “independence”: she knew how to get me. Sure enough, I quickly agreed that it made total sense to get a more protective helmet and wear it each and every evening, when I’m most at risk. (Looking at this statement in writing and considering it in light of how often I’ve fallen and hit my head in the past, say, year, even I‘m able to admit that I shouldn’t have taken as much convincing as I did, but hey, obstinance can be a positive, right?) As soon as she saw that I was on board, she said that she’d have the PT show me some options.
A few days later, my physiotherapist brought me to a storage room full of mobility and safety devices. When we reached a shelf holding a motley gang of helmets, she went over the pros and cons of several models. I listened halfheartedly, paying attention as best I could and accepting that there was no way out of this acquisition-of-an-extreme-helmet situation but not wanting to think about it more than I absolutely had to. What did the fact that I was about to be the owner of a helmet that I was supposed to wear around the apartment on a regular basis mean about me? A helmet-toque was one thing—I could tell myself that it was more toque than helmet, its safety aspects more incidental than anything. With this new headgear, there’d be no pretending.
I had done myself the favour of telling my husband before my helmet-trying-on session that I’d be, um, trying on helmets; I know myself well enough to have anticipated that once it felt a little more real, I’d be tempted to try to weasel my way out of acquiring a new helmet, despite understanding that getting one was the right thing to do, etc. etc. I am, after all, a thirty-something-year-old woman, and a few shreds of vanity remain somewhere amidst my habitual sweatpants-wearing and hairbrush-ignoring. He was thus prepared: when I got home from rehab that day, he asked if I’d found a winner. I showed him the printouts that my PT had given me of the three we’d narrowed it down to, and he and I went online almost immediately and bought the top-rated model. In aubergine/purple for epilepsy awareness, but mostly because it was one of the few styles on sale.
Once the helmet arrived, I tried it on and stared at myself in the bathroom mirror. Not bad, I thought, deciding that I looked like I belonged somewhere I’ve never been, like on a skateboard. Maybe this helmet’ll make me cooler, not like more of a dork, as I assumed it would. Sure, it’s a bit awkward wearing a “street sport helmet” while sitting on the couch watching The Great British Bake Off and fantasizing about a torte that I’m never going to make, but if I’m going to do it, I might as well search for a silver lining—like the fact that I can now feel and appear sporty without engaging in any physical activity.
And if I’m going to own a hardcore helmet, I might as well be as hardcore as possible about consistently protecting my brain against the combined dangers of unpredictable seizures and the hard floor. My husband and I therefore struck a deal: when my medication alarm goes off in the evening, I put my helmet on. No whining, no negotiating. For the first few nights post–helmet arrival, my husband wore my helmet-toque in a gesture of solidarity—spouses who wear protective headgear together, avoid traumatic brain injuries together, as they say. Now, it’s just me who puts on a helmet, fastens the chin strap, and, as a result, is able to relax a little more than I otherwise would with the knowledge that I’m sacrificing a bit of (misplaced) pride for a decreased risk of future concussions. That, my friends, is a trade worth making.
¹However, I can’t locate the post in order to link to it, so maybe I didn’t. I’m going to go ahead and blame epilepsy.