This is a commentary about the slow lane, about the slowing of time since I suffered a severe brain injury while skateboarding with my dog. This is a blog about recovery; about our '82 VW Westfalia. It's about writing, surfing, camping, married life, bleeding ulcers that make you feel old at 32; about family, friends, and my dog Artie; it's about cruising in fourth gear, getting passed by every car and learning to appreciate every second of it.
Tomorrow will mark three years since I last posted anything on this blog. During that time I've done my best to get out of my head and reach a new normal. I'd say I've done, with help from my wife Aimee, a pretty decent job at it. We bought a house in San Diego, I have continued to work as a journalist, and, the biggest of all, our son Huxley was born on January 9, 2014. Most recently, however, I published a short book on my injury. For readers of this here blog, there's nothing new. For the book, I took the story I wrote for the San Diego Reader and added posts I wrote for this blog. And even though much of what is in there was written long ago, finishing the book was no easy task. Between taking care of Huxley, trying to hold down a job, maintaining a marriage, and dealing with a shortened attention span, increased frustration, and heightened depression, writing it proved much harder than expected. I did it, though.
Through it all, I can't help but to think how close I was to not only dying but not being able to do any of these things. I don't mean that as some silly attempt at pity. For most of my life, especially since the fall, I have had a tendency to focus on the negative. The book for me represents a new chapter, so to speak. It will allow me to move forward with a satisfaction that I at least did my best to tell my story in hopes that it will prevent something similar from happening to another person. Or, at the very minimum, help those who have had similar injuries see that what they are going through is normal and to do their best to accept the deficits with the knowledge that things will improve.
So, here's a link to my book. Thanks for reading. Thanks for all of your support. Be swell.
Hello friends. It's been a long time since visiting this website; a much needed break from what seemed like posting my every complaint.
That said, I'm ready to be get back to spilling my guts again very soon. I will start with a quick update:
A lot has happened over the past months. We have traveled, been working, I spoke to a family member who I'd had a falling out with shortly after my accident, and been trying to move forward and live a proper life.
Things are better, however, they started improving shortly after I started taking my second anti-depressant. As sad as it is to say, I believe I have found my cocktail of choice. I say it is sad because I've never taken prescription meds before, probably wouldn't have hurt, but never thought it was a priority.
I started back on the Lexapro, in addition to Wellbutrin, a few months back. Things weren't going so well for me before doing so. I found myself withdrawing even more than before. I wouldn't return calls. Everything was a chore, a chore that I didn't want to take on. I grew sick of daily fights with fatigue. Those things, plus my temper began to grow as well. Good news about that was most times I would be able to focus my rage on myself and not by yelling at others, or punching walls or other inanimate objects.
The most disturbing thing, looking back, was the depression wasn't a good depression. I wasn't sitting around listening to sad music and writing like I had done before. This depression was void of emotion, void of thought. It was too powerful to get through, and too strong to push passed.
Since being on the two happy pills, these issues have pretty much disappeared, thus the contact with some of my family and thus the decision to click on this blog again.
I'm just now starting to feel normal again, though still hope the day comes when I no longer fear being off medication. One thing I do know if that time is not know. For now, those pills are the only things that are keeping my head above water.
I hope this blog will help just like it always has in the past!
I've been sweating for a week straight. The sweat is one part nerves and the other from the hot and humid wind that has blown since Aimee and I landed in Florida.
It's been nice to see old friends (see picture of dead rat in the Ron Jon's fountain) and visit with Aimee's family.
But, (cue the complaints) it has also been completely exhausting, as is most everything I do.
I viewed this trip as another chance, an opportunity to return, not only to my former home but to my former self.
I packed my journal, the one I haven't used in more than six months. I envisioned myself writing on the plane, possibly regain the desire to take another stab at writing fiction or at least trying to rewrite that poor attempt at a novel I finished a few years back. Most of all, I hoped to delete the thoughts in my head that play over and over again, the ones that focus on an old injury, the thoughts that prompt the excuses, the shitty reactions, the clenched fist at my jaw; all those familiar outbursts.
Today, I made the drive from Indialantic to Gainesville to see an old friend. And, tonight I will visit some of the places, most likely a bar that I frequented in the past, back when I worked so hard at trying to become a writer, or, at least, what I thought a writer should be. Until today the journal and the computer have had a home in my bag. Of course, I'm not surprised but am a bit disappointed.
It's funny, seven years after moving from here I return with a shaved head from male-pattern baldness and a large scar tracing the right side of my head, with the same objective that I had as a 26-year-old wannabe writer. I hope this attempt turns out better than the first.
For years Aimee and my mom have joked about the round, slice-of-bologna-looking spot on the top of my head. I shrugged it off. No way was I balding, I said. My brothers, 7 and 6 years my elder, have full thickets of brown hair. Hell, my grandfather died when he was in his eighties with a full head of hair.
It wasn't until I had my skull put back on-- damn that phrase can never get old-- and had my head shaved did I finally accept that my hair was thinning. But it was nothing that a little strategic combing wouldn't solve.
The thinning didn't seem to get any worse. I grew my hair back.
Then, a few weeks ago I began to notice Aimee playing with the back of my hair before leaving the house. Armed with a bottle of hair spray she would spend a few minutes making sure the whiteness from my head didn't show through.
A week ago I decided to get a second mirror. I held it behind my head. The bologna slice had fused and there was no way of getting around it. A few days later, Aimee shaved my head.
And whether I link my accelerated hair loss to a side-effect from Wellbutrin, or blame it on post-traumatic stress from the fall, or say it is a result of stress, it doesn't really matter.
But the bologna-patch got me to thinking, what do other men do when as they learn to accept baldness. I went online and found a website, thebaldtruth.com for men who are coping with hair loss. I wish I had discovered it before because it is pretty damn comical. For example, read the introduction to the site:
If you’re a young guy reading this article, it’s important that you know you are not alone.
Losing your hair can drastically change the way you perceive yourself and it can change the way others react to you in all aspects of life. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.
Because of this fact, it’s reasonable to have feelings of confusion and despair. This is nothing to be ashamed of. There will be women who reject you because of your hair loss. There will be situations in which people will openly make less than polite comments and observations about your receding hairline. These are just the facts.
At first it will be difficult to deal with, but I am here, as someone who was once a severely depressed hair loss sufferer, to tell you that there is life after hair loss.
I wonder if they have a forum for guys who are losing their hair with huge scars on one side of their head as a result of a skateboarding accident. I'll keep searching. In the meantime, with head shaved, scar showing, bulge bulging, I have no other choice than to embrace the bologna slice.
I have been wanting to see the movie The Descendants since I read the premise. I like George Clooney and all, and liked the movie Sideways but my desire to see the movie was deeper than just some glowing reviews. I didn't admit it at the time but deep down I wanted to see it for a whole different reason; to see what it was like for Aimee and my family while I was unconscious. I wanted to fill in gaps but now know that the gaps will take some time and effort to fill.
There was one problem that I hadn't anticipated and that was Aimee. I had told her about the movie briefly a few weeks back. She didn't say much at the time and I didn't think much of it after the fact, at least not until the opening scene when Clooney's character promises his wife, who lays motionless in a coma with tubes inserted into her throat, that he will change if and when she comes to.
I failed to realize how hard it would be for me to imagine myself with that same absent look on my face, with the same colored tubes in my throat. I found it hard to see my family staring at me while machines pumped air into my lungs, and fed nutrients in my veins.
Afterwards, on our way home, I told Aimee how I thought seeing the movie could help. I tried to laugh and asked her to do the same; to show progress. It was asking a lot, too much. Shortly after I realized how little all of us, whether that is my estranged family members, my wife and best friend, have dealt with it all. I now realize that coming to terms with everything is much more than measuring recovery in months and years.
My doctor asked me today if I was under a lot of stress. I told her I didn't think so. I followed that by saying that work is difficult with an abbreviated attention span. I mentioned that my relationship with my family is strained. I told her I am extremely irritable and can't really differentiate between good or bad moods.
"Yeah, I guess I might be a bit stressed out," I told her.
"It sounds like you may be suppressing things," she said.
She told me stress could be the reason for the fatigue, my overall despair, and the desire to escape. She followed that by saying that those things could also be a result of low-testosterone levels, or just the injury to the brain.
Whatever the reason these past two months have been difficult. I have been erratic, unable to concentrate on work, irritable, and fatigued. Two weeks ago, I decided to get back on Wellbutrin. Not much has changed. But, what do I expect? I can't even admit to having a little bit of stress.
Progress and recovery are measured in such strange ways. Whether it be a blown knee, a broken heart, or a head injury, the small steps months, years, and decades later are the true signs of progress.
I noticed a few signs of progress the other night, the night before my birthday and two nights before Halloween. A friend rented a party bus to go to a nearby bowling alley for Karaoke -- yeah, I said it, a party bus and a bowling alley, those are signs right there of improvement. The nights leading up, and the day of, I had my normal desires to stay at home, turn off the lights and escape into some action thriller or lame reality show. I knew that wasn't possible. Aimee was way too excited to dress up as Mindy to my Mork.
Despite my reservations, I felt good, I even felt all right driving Aimee's car dressed in a red jumpsuit with a silver upside triangle on my chest. We arrived at our friend's house. I had a few beers. The party bus pulled up and we get in. The driver turns the volume up on the stereo. It was loud dance music. I drank and laughed. The sounds weren't piercing, my head wasn't pounding. Progress.
I made it through the entire night, without incident, without having to go outside, or leave because the noise was too intense, or because I felt overwhelmed from the day's events.
So that's progress, at least a sign of it.
In the early months after the fall, I didn't know what recovery would look like. I doubted myself. I wrote of fears that I would turn into some aggressive, temper-filled person, ready to cry or smack my head against the wall at moments notice. One thing is for sure, I never thought recovery would look like a party bus, Halloween karaoke at a local bowling alley, and I sure as hell never thought I would be dressed as Mork for it either.