Life In The Slow Lane...
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San Diego, CA, United States
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.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Two Sense Short: Wet Dogs and Farts

"You're lucky you can't smell because it smells like wet dogs and farts in here," my friend said after we hopped into his truck.

It was raining outside, the three dogs in the back seat had been couped up for days. To add to the multi-layered shit cake, it was the day after a night of drinking and he was losing an internal battle with his stomach.

He rolled his window down and I just sat there, sense-less.

Normanosmics (read: people that can smell) often say there are both positive and negative aspects to not smelling. But, I'm starting to miss even the most horrible and putrid of odors.

Sure, at times it's good to be Anosmic (read: technical term). For example, it's great that I no longer pick up the aromas in public restrooms, or that I can't smell dog shit as I scoop it up from my yard, or the damned stench from the cat box.

But when you don't smell anything, you eventually begin to miss all scents, even the aroma of dried-up cat turds.

It seems odd to say that I wish I could have known what it smelled like in the truck the other day. It just seems odd that I can be inhaling the worst combination of odors, wet dogs and farts, while sitting with an oblivious smile on my face.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Sentence Streams

“It would have been better if you would have died.”

Flying into Denver on my layover, returning from visiting the in-laws in Georgia, the familiar voice streams in my mind. I rubbed the bulge on the side of my head to try and get it out. It wasn’t going anywhere. It wasn’t loud. It didn't need to be.

As his voice plays on a continuous loop, the anti-depressants numb the emotions. At times there’s this intense rush of sadness. Tears come to my eyes and blood floods to my brain. But nothing happens and all that remains is his deep, raspy smoker's voice.

Steinbeck wrote that the best way to get things out of your head is not to force the thought or memory out but to dwell on it until it disappears. That doesn't work and for eight months that sentence, the tone, has been there.

I told my doctor. She says the non-stop streaming is similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder but instead of actions I get hung up on thoughts and memories.

It makes me think of a man that I interviewed for work. He was diagnosed as “schizophrenic effective.” He said he hears voices in his head, though is capable of not acting on them. I’m the same way but I wish I could act on the voice in order to shut it up for good.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Headbanger's ball


My neurologist nodded her head as she read my medical report.

"You were a difficult one," she said.

The doctor pointed to a picture of a brain and showed Aimee and I where the hemorrhages occurred. She pointed to the right front side of her head to show me where the two contusions were located.

She explained the injury and then started asking me questions.

"Many patients tell me that they have unusual, violent thoughts. Do you?

"Yes."

I told her about certain impulses I get when I'm fatigued and frustrated. Most include me banging my head against the wall or floor.

We talked about my emotional outbursts. She turned to Aimee and asked how she was doing. Aimee started to cry.

"Have you thought you might have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Have you thought about seeing a counselor?"

I looked at Aimee and fought the tears back. I've done my best to appreciate her and what she went through this year. I tell her I love her everyday and how much I appreciate her but the fact is I am unable to grasp the pain and the hurt that she experienced. Her pain isn't just seeing me with half of my skull missing, a hole in my throat, and violent outbursts but also comes from remorse about my family, and a sickness in her own family.

Seeing her on the chair crying, and hearing the doctor say "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," might be one of the toughest things that I have seen or felt in this past year.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scripps Mercy, Mercy, Me

Yesterday, I went back to Scripps Mercy Hospital to get my health records. Before walking in, I passed the valet area where people sat in wheelchairs waiting for their rides. I thought about the first time I arrived at Scripps by ambulance and not having a single memory of it. I don't remember medics rolling me in. I don't remember talking to nurses and doctors. Everything has been wiped clean.

Ten minutes later, with records in hand, I sat down in the lobby and read the initial reports of my injury. Doctors described me as combative but alert. They questioned whether anything happened. There were no signs of injury. I was only complaining about a minor headache. An hour later, doctors said my condition was deteriorating. And that's when they put me out.

I couldn't make it through the entire report. I wasn't emotional. I was curious. I imagined seeing Aimee and my family walk through the doors on their way to visit me. I imagined my father, near a nervous breakdown, standing at the piano singing Frank Sinatra. I thought about my mom praying in the chapel, despite the fact that she is not religious. I imagined the rest of my family witnessing it all. And, I pictured Aimee on her way to the ICU with bloodshot eyes, holding her journal and a cup of coffee.

It hurts because most of my family no longer speaks to me; my dad, my mom, or my brother.

My neurologist and my doctor both say I need to step away and concentrate on recovery, but it's hard when the brain's filter allows emotions to run wild.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Two Sense Short: Old Spice and Body Odor



"Hey does this shirt smell?" I asked her before throwing the shirt at her face.

She grabbed the shirt and sniffed the area around the arm. Then she made that face, the one where she closes her eyes while trying to cover both nostrils with her upper lip.

She didn't need to say anything. But then again, why wouldn't she? It gives her joy.

"Yeah, it smells. It smells like you rubbed Old Spice on the shirt, trying to cover up the body odor. Nasty."

I laughed. What else is there to do? I laughed not only because Aimee acts as my personal odor-picker-upper, but also because I will be tossing shirts, moldy towels, and shoving rotting food in her nose to see if it is safe to eat, for the rest of our lives. Why this woman stays with me, I have no idea.

As for old Sniffalufugus at thedailysmell.com, turns out after an operation to attach her deviated septum she lost her smell for a few days and couldn't smell her couch which she knew stunk of wet dog.

I know the feeling. Sometimes when I pick up Artie's shit on our walks I fear that some pooh touched my hand, though all I can do is wipe my hands on my pants and then have Aimee smell them later.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Lab Rat


I've mentioned my affinity for pleasing people in previous blog posts. I've always beern quick to make plans with both friends and acquaintances. But now that my filter allows things to slide through with ease, my schedule is full, my weekends busy.

After days and weeks of running around, I become overwhelmed and tired. The fatigue is cognitive before it turns physical. The bulge on the side of my head where coiled tendons gathered begins to swell. It's the first sign of a crash. And while not nearly as bad as before, the crashes force me to the chair with blurry and teary eyes and a numb mind.

My neurologist suggested that I not agree to anything on the spot. She told me to respond by telling people that I need to look at my calendar, or, need to think more about it more before agreeing to anything.

She asked me to keep track of all of the plans and commitments that are asked of me. She said for me to write down what the invitation was, my response, and the outcome.

I started last week. It's kind of funny; I feel like a laboratory researcher and the lab rat at the same time. Judging by my commitment chart, this rat is a slow learner.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Carburetor Conundrum

The other day I was driving to go to a meeting for work. I turned right as cars across the road were turning left. As I pulled up to the stop light I looked in my rear view mirror. The driver behind me was middle-aged with a long Grey beard. I saw him raise his hands and mouth the word "asshole." Apparently, he thought I had cut him off.

I snapped. I turned around and started yelling. I gave him the finger. I yelled the entire time the light was red. He told me to 'fuck off' and gave me the finger and then watched as I yelled inside the van. He reached down and started dialing a number on his phone. The light turned green. I drove slow so that he would pass me and I would have another opportunity to freak out once again. He stayed behind me and got off at the next exit.

This is my rage. A few seconds later, depression takes over.

I brought this up to my neurologist. I told her that my temper seemed to be getting worse. That the new anti-depressant wasn't controlling it. I asked her why this rage was still around and if it was normal.

She said it was. She told me that the frontal lobes control the outlet of emotions. She compared my injury to a carburetor in a car. She said my carburetor was "idling" fast and was not regulating the stream of emotions. It's an analogy I have not heard yet but it makes sense.

In so many ways, I'm not a new person. Many of the traits and emotions were here prior to the fall. Before, I would fly off the handle. Back then, I went out of my way to please people, I made plans when I probably shouldn't have, and I became excitable in social settings.

But now, all of that comes much quicker and easier. It's crazy to see the person you are, without all of the safeguards in place. It's disturbing. I hate it. I never realized how much we depend on those filters. I never realized how bad of a person I was without it.

I am having a hard time keeping it together.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Two Sense Short--Bag O' Shit


Seven junior high students stood next to me at the front of the class. I had finished my final presentation. The kids all seemed to be interested and kind. One of them asked what was the best skate trick that I had landed. I told him it wasn't the one where I avoid the cracks in the sidewalk while my dog pulls me.

Another kid came up to me. He was a short, mexican dude, his hair spiked with what must have been a bottle or two of hair gel.

"So, when you say you can't smell, like, does that mean you can put like dog shit up to your nose and you wouldn't even know?"

I looked around to make sure the kid didn't have a pile of shit in his hands before I answered.

"Yeah, that's what it means."

"Have you tried it?" He asked.

"Yeah, everyday I put a few turds up to my nose just to see if I can smell it or not."

He laughed. I did too.

As for my nosy nemesis at thedailysmell.com, her latest post has me pondering whether if I should ramp up the wi-fi war. Here's a little excerpt from one of her recent posts:

"I’ve noticed that my armpits stink like the stews I’ve been savoring, despite my use of deodorant. When you can smell yourself, it’s not good."

Is this supposed to make me feel sorry for the human bloodhound; her pits smell like a savory soup?

So, does that mean it's good when you can't smell yourself; when others have to let you in on the fact that you reek, or that there is a rotting carcass at your feet? Does that mean it's good to not ever know if you have a bag of dog shit in front of your nose?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Picture Story...

On Friday, I go and speak to students at a school in Escondido. The teacher contacted me in June, a few months after the article came out. She said one of her students died from a head injury. Shortly after, her students began reading my story in class and she asked if I would be willing to go and speak to them, about my injury, and about my recovery. I said that I couldn't. I told her that I was overwhelmed and run-down. I also said I was nervous about speaking in an auditorium to the entire school. She told me that she understood.

Weeks passed and the teacher contacted me again. Her students had written letters and made cards. She came by my house and dropped them off. I couldn't get through more than ten of them before choking up.

The other day I received another email from the teacher, asking if I would be able to come and speak. This time, instead of packing all of the kids in an auditorium, she said that I could speak to 60 at a time in a classroom. I agreed.

This will be the first time that it will be only be me speaking. When I'm not writing, I try and plan out my presentation. It's hard. The emotions that accompany this injury are overwhelming. Having to explain the injury, the isolation from family, the temper, and impulsiveness, is difficult. And, looking completely normal while doing it makes it harder.

I thought about bringing in pictures to show the kids what it was like. What Aimee and my family saw in the hospital, what I looked like weeks and months after; a picture story of what my family and I went through. Here are just a few that I picked out.









That's as far as I could make it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another Installment of Two Sense Short: SOLID MOLD

"It smells so good," Aimee said as we walked to the store. "It smells like," her eyes grew wide. "It smells like fried chicken."

"Thanks," I said. "You know, I really miss the smell of fried chicken."

I do, despite the fact that I don't even eat the damn bird. And even if I did, I couldn't tell the difference between fried chicken and fried dog puke.

It got me thinking how most of the smells I miss are associated with taste. I don't miss aromas all that much unless they are associated with taste, like fried chicken, bacon, and sour cream. I know that last one sounds weird but I miss it and I don't know why.

As for smell, in some cases, it's a good thing I no longer have the sense.

The other day I went to see a lady for an article I am writing. The woman has a terminal illness. She smokes two packs a day and drinks nothing but coffee. The carpet was stained. The table was sticky. The walls were stained yellow.

And there I sat, unaffected. A few times I wondered just how bad it was. I forgot shortly after, and remained in the dirty, liquid-stained chair, next to coffee tins full of cigarette butts.

I guess it's a blessing and a curse.

On to a different topic:

Lately, I've been noticing that my towels have gone missing. I'll see it hanging throughout the day. When I go to take a shower it will be gone.

I confronted Aimee. I asked why she keeps using my damn towels. I tell her that I never notice until after I shower. And then I have to run around the house stark naked for a new towel.

I was expecting an apology from her.

Instead, she admitted to taking my towels. She said she has to take them because they start smelling of mold.

What would I do without her?

Probably smell like a big piece of mold.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Human Experiment




Last time I saw my doctor, a few weeks back, he told me that we would have to experiment until we find the right anti-depressant for me. He recommended putting aside the Lexapro for Wellbutrin.

For me, Lexapro, or Lexapoo as I call it, had me in a constant somber state, like a zombie who didn't need to infect. Never high and never low, just middle of the road. It did help in some ways; I didn't obsess as much, and I didn't have as many fits of rage. But, then again, I didn't feel much of anything.

Now, two weeks on Wellbutrin, I see the power of these medications. Today, was the third day that dizzy spells hit each time I turned my head. The spells are something I have never felt before. They feel like I am inside a tire, rolling down a hill. They are quick and overwhelming. They seem to end just before I feel that my legs might give.

The dizzy spells weren't all. Today, rage ruled the day. Whether it was grinning my teeth as Artie pulled on his leash during our walk, punching myself in the face and hitting the walls because the computer was freezing up, it was there, stronger than ever, and more manic than I could imagine.

I'm not sure why I told Aimee about my temper tantrums when she got home, but I did. Her response, like anyone else: "Why didn't you just take a deep breath and leave the room?"

My response: "Because I can't pull myself away. I know what I am doing but I can't stop. The thoughts are there but the action is not."

So, tomorrow comes another doctor's visit, and another thirty minutes of explaining the side effects of a new drug. It might turn out like most visits, where the dosage changes, or a new drug is prescribed. Either way, the human experiment continues.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Weekly Installment of Two Sense Short

The other day, my friend, I mean my archenemy at thedailysmell.com wrote a piece about smelling a fart from her neighbor's dog..."I grinned as I caught whiff of a fart just let out by the dog next door that drifted over our eight-foot tall fence. She needs to go for a walk and ate too many peanut butter cookies last night," wrote Sniffaluffagus.

The passage reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend over beers. I hadn't seen her since my accident. After wondering why I chose the cheap domestic beer over the wall of high-brow brews, I told her that I had lost my sense of smell and taste.

Her response: "Do you miss the smell of your own farts?"

It was the first time that someone else had brought up the fact that I can no longer smell my own farts, though, it wasn't the first time I had thought about it.

The subject was broached a while back when I noticed Aimee on the couch nearly gagging after I had unassumingly let one rip, maybe I had too many peanut butter cookies that day. As Aimee squinted her eyes and clamped her mouth shut on the couch that night, I told her how I missed the smell of my own farts. She didn't feel sorry for me, still doesn't.

Now, because I no longer can whiff my own wind, I have become un-sensitized and unabashed about letting them go, whether that's in front of Aimee or just walking around in public.

I get how horrible it must sound but give it a thought; if you lose a sense when comes the point that the sense is erased from the mind?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Head Shrink

"This sounds ridiculous but I wish people could see the injury more," I told my neurologist.

"It doesn't sound ridiculous," she said. "You're not the only person that has told me that."

During my visit, I told my doctor about my condition. I told her about my impulsion. I told her about the time I picked up the skateboard to entertain my friend's toddler. I told her, after my buddy told me to put a helmet on, how I would run into the car headfirst trying to get a laugh out of the little guy. I told my neurologist that I didn't know what I was doing, that it took a change of scenery until I realized how crazy I was acting.

I then went into the time I made Aimee wait outside for two hours while at benefit attended by local journalists. I told my doctor that I had no idea of the outside world while I was inside the bar.

I asked her whether I was using the injury as an excuse, or, if my behavior was a result of my injury.

She said the latter, telling me that the behavior occurs often in frontal lobe injuries. She said I can get caught up in the stimulus and am unable to tear myself away.

I asked her when recovery will end and normalcy begins.

"You're only one year out," she said. "You are at that middle stage of recovery. You still have some time to go."

I left feeling better about my condition. I felt good I wasn't making it up.

It's nice to know more recovery will continue, not nice that it has to be so slow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekly Installment: Two Sense Short




Today, my "archnemesis" from thedailysmell.com wrote about traipsing through the coffee aisle at the local health food store for a quick rush of "nose candy." The supersniffer opened one bin and took a whiff and the strong scent of skunk filled her canine-like chemosensory system.

It reminded me of my recent run-in with a skunk, though, my experience was a bit different than the great "odor-picker-upper's."

Not long ago, Aimee woke me in the middle of the night. Our dog Artie was at the door and needed to go out. Aimee got up and opened the door. The dog ran out, the ridge on his back standing straight up. Just then Aimee said she saw Artie go nose to nose with a skunk. A few moments later Artie was rubbing his nose and eyes on the ground and with his paws.

I ran into the office and looked up what to use when skunks attack. I came back with some rags and a bubbling vinegar concoction. Aimee took the items and started scrubbing Artie's face. I stood above them and watched.

"You can't smell, shouldn't you be the one doing this?" She asked, her eyes watering and nose running.

I stood there unaffected by the odor.

Later, after Aimee got out of the shower she asked me again why I wasn't more help.

"Because, I wouldn't know when the skunk's scent was gone," I told her.

"What do you mean? You'd take a shower just like I did and wash it off."

"Yeah, and how would I know if it was gone? Would I come out and have you smell me and return to the shower if it wasn't off? That could go on all night, all week!"

Here's a quick bonus installment:

A few days ago, I went up to Aimee to give her a kiss. Just as our lips touched, Aimee pulled back, her face all contorted.

"Honey, you're moustache stinks kinda like dried snot."

These are the things that happen when you can't pick up a scent, even when it's a few centimeters from your nose.

Your move thedailysmell.com.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Good Times Are Killing Me!

A few weeks after I left the hospital I ran into a neighbor on my way to the grocery store. He rode alongside of me in his electric scooter. We talked about our health; I asked him about his recent knee surgery and he asked me about my head. He told me that I had finally become an adult, or, in his words, I had reached manhood. He said it happened to him during the Korean War.

I didn't think much about that statement, not then or in the year since my fall. All that changed when I received this message the other day on Facebook from a young skater:

"I came across your story a few weeks ago. I used to board a lot without my helmet before I read your article. Shortly after I read it, I went out boarding with some friends but I grabbed my helmet. That day I ended up getting speed wobbles near the bottom of the hill and I wiped out. my head hit the ground first, hard. I was confused at first and my head was pounding. I quickly crawled out of the road way and on to a patch of grass. After about 30 seconds or so I realized I fell. I checked myself over and all I had were little scrapes and a mild headache. My helmet on the other hand was cracked. If I had not come across your story I truly believe that I would have not been wearing my helmet that day. I just wanted to thank you and let you know that some good has came from your misfortune."

After reading it, I started thinking about my neighbor's statement. It started to make sense. Before bashing my head in, it would have been difficult to find someone that thought that I had made a difference; actually, it wouldn't have been difficult, it would have been impossible. But after I read this message, for the first time since my fall, I felt like I had done something good. I realized that my neighbor was right that day on our walk together. That maybe it took this traumatic experience, a horribly bad experience, for me to do something good.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two Sense Short




Yesterday, a fellow journalist, and new friend, alerted me to a local writer's blog, thedailysmell.com. The blog chronicles one lady's experience with having a strong sense of smell. From what I read, her strong sense came shortly after suffering some kind of liver ailment.

When I first learned of thedailysmell.com I thought about transforming this blog into one about losing my sense of smell. My idea, akin to hers; I would choose one thing during the day that I wanted to smell most but, of course, was unable to.

'What if we were to become archenemies in the blogosphere?' The super-sniffer and I, vying for the most hits on the olfactory front. Her kryptonite; her weak liver. Mine; my weak and damaged frontal lobes.

And so once a week I will pick the thing I wanted to smell most and write how big of bummer it is to not smell it. I will accompany it with a funny story about missing the sense of smell, just so I don't get everyone down.

The first installment of what I like to call, "Two Sense Short":

Today, it rained. I was talking to my neighbor. He told me how much he liked the rain; after all, there's not much of it in Southern California. He said he liked how it made him feel. He liked the nourishing quality of it. Most of all, he liked that "fresh air smell."

After our talk, I thought about the smell of rain, the smell of fresh air. I tried to take deep breaths through my nose and only felt air entering my nasal cavity. I remembered enjoying that smell too, it reminded me of living in Florida, when rain was an escape to the awful heat and humidity.

Moving on to the second part of "Two Sense Short":

The other night I accompanied Aimee to a work party. There was quite a bit of booze there. I had my fair share of it. Towards the end of the night, I waited in line for the pisser. A few minutes passed before the door opened and out came one of Aimee's co-workers. She is also Aimee's close friend. She looked at me while passing.

"I'm glad it was you that was next in line."

I went into the bathroom. It took me a few seconds until I let out a loud chuckle. She was glad because she knew that I had severed my olfactory nerves.

Now top that dailysmell.com!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

All In My Head




"I just feel sometimes you make it into a big bad injury," she said.

I didn't say a word but my thoughts ran rampant. I was angry. I believed it was another example of someone close to me not understanding the difficulties that I go through. I started listing my deficits; the lack of focus, the impulsion, the irritability, the fatigue, the loss of two senses.

I also had a few other thoughts. Was she right? Do I focus too much on this injury? Has it consumed me? Does it define me?

After a few seconds I responded.

"I can't believe you just said that. It's just another example that no one could ever understand what I am going through. It hurts that I am all alone in this."

The next day Aimee and I went to see my doctor. As we talked, she told him that I am quick to tell people about my injury, about my deficiencies.

He said part of it may have to do with the impulsion that accompanies frontal lobe damage. He also said that it is common that people are unable to move on, incapable of looking at the positive and not the negative, and unwilling to accept the shortcomings.

After my consultation, I walked outside. Aimee was there by my side. I knew that what she had said the day before while walking Artie came partly out of frustration and partly out of necessity.

I focused on the negative before the fall and am doing the same now. Instead of allowing the injury to take over, I need to move on. This blog will change. I'm hoping that my mindset will follow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Strong Soul

A few posts back I wrote about Gabe, who fell from his skateboard while bombing a hill in San Pedro. Gabe was wearing a helmet but still sustained some major head trauma. Doctors removed a piece of his skull, he was in a coma, a story so similar to mine.

Gabe's accident was only a few months ago. He found my story, and then my blog and decided to write about his own experience, recovering and redefining the person that he is.

The kid is strong, smart, and a good writer. His blog is:

http://lectoretemergo.blogspot.com

Thanks for sharing, Gabe.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Chink In The Armor

Last night I, along with thirty other writers, attended a fundraiser for Liberia. The name of the event was "Stump the Press." On my trivia team was a funny, and lively lady who writes for the other weekly here in San Diego. We started talking. Naturally, I started talking about myself and about my brain. She wasn't aware of my article and didn't ask too many questions. Today I received a message from her. She had found my article and was crying her way through it. She wrote later telling me that she would have never known what I had been through. It was a nice and kind compliment.

Therein lies the struggle. The fact that people can't see my injury. What my fellow journalists didn't see was Aimee waiting outside for me. What they didn't know was that I became so caught up in the event that I never stopped to think about anyone else.

I came out two hours late. Aimee was upset. An argument ensued. I blamed my injury for not being able to switch tasks.

I know the excuse is wearing thin on Aimee. It's wore thin on everyone but myself. At times, even I wonder if I am making this whole thing up. Am I just inconsiderate? Am I not letting go and reluctant to move on? Or, am I incapable of doing so? Is it all about attention and my need for it? Is it that I have not yet processed the incident and get stuck replaying it over in my head?

There are no easy answers. I go on websites and read how these symptoms appear in most survivors of brain injuries. But then you look at me, and talk to me, and you read my words, and you become convinced that nothing is wrong.

I'm sick of this and I'm worried. I read that during the first year of recovery comes the most noticeable improvements. After that first year recovery slows and improvements aren't obvious. It stresses me out that this is it. That this condition, of being stuck with a list of questions, is all that I will be left with. I'm worried that everything I do and everywhere I go, will revolve around this damn injury, the fleeting thoughts in my head. I'm troubled to think that it might be me making all of it up. I'm troubled.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Friend Request

A few days ago I logged onto Facebook, something that I do rarely. I can't really get into the whole Facebook thing, it might be due to the fact that I have little to say, or when I do have something to say, I say it in 500 words or more. Not only that, but who really wants to read brief updates about some guy recovering from a brain injury, anyways? My posts would read something like this...

"I had a fit of rage today. I started punching the wall. Crazy." Or, "I lost focus today a few times. What's up with that?"

So, I'm not a Facebook junky like so many others. But, it does serve some purpose. I went on there the other day and saw that I had a friend request from someone named Gabe. Gabe's picture was of him, with a bandage wrapped around his head. He was stretched out on a hospital bed. I clicked on the friend request and saw that he left a message.

Turns out Gabe read my story, after suffering a brain injury in early August. Gabe was in a coma, doctors removed a portion of his skull; basically a story very similar to mine, at least as similar as these types of stories can be. He thanked me for sharing my story and gave me an update on his condition, which considering he was bombing a hill on a longboard and fell, cracking his helmet and head, seemed to be pretty good.

I read his message and responded, thanking him for writing. I gave him a link to this blog. He wrote back later that day saying that he also wanted to start a blog and write about his injury, and recovery.

Instead of calling him a copycat which was my initial reaction (I kid), I urged him to start one.

I write this because it makes me happy. It makes me feel that I can help someone that is going through the same, or similar, not only with the new conditions, but understanding what is a very hard, and confusing recovery.

I didn't know the single thing about this injury when I started this blog and I'm glad that someone going through it can read it and be more aware and prepared. I'll pass on the link when I get it. Thanks, Gabe.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Surprise!




I heard a car pull in the driveway. I hoped it was Aimee. I wanted to give her the two, five dollar gifts that I bought for her for our three-year anniversary. The gifts were small, one a belt buckle with RV's on it and the other a fake vintage watch. A while back we agreed not buy anything for each other and instead put it towards traveling, put it towards the Westy and future road trips.

A minute later, I heard her putting her key in the front door. I went over to greet her. She opened the door and told me to close my eyes. She led me down the driveway and told me to open my eyes. I did. Leaning against the house was a brand new custom surfboard. My jaw dropped.

I said I only got her a few cheap trinkets from a second hand store. She said that she didn't spend any money.

And that's where the true surprise comes. The board was a gift from someone I have never met, nor spoke to. The board was from a local shaper, Ryan Siegel, who read my story back in April and read that I surfed and wanted to do something nice for me, to give support.

During the next few months, Aimee and Ryan got the dimensions down. They asked my friend Nick McPherson if he could draw something up for the board.

This is something that I will never forget. In a time when most of my family no longer speaks to me, in a time when I have never felt so alone and so frustrated, this happens. It makes me happy to know that these people are out there, not only for what they've done for me but what they will do for others.

Thanks Ryan, thanks Nick, and thank you Aimee. I am fighting back the tears.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brainiacs

Aimee and I filled out our name tags and took a seat in the back of the room. We were a few minutes late and introductions had already begun. People took turns introducing themselves. Some were recovering from strokes, cerebral palsy; others from accidents and aneurysms. One man said a cement statue became lodged into his head in a car crash. Then it was my turn...

"My name is Dorian. Four days from today will be one year since I fell from a skateboard and landed in a 19 day coma and damaged my frontal lobe. I've spent this year trying to recover the person that I was. I'm ready to learn more about this. It's my first meeting.."

"Welcome to the family," said one man from the back of the room.

The next hour was spent listening to a speaker give helpful strategies to increase attention spans, retention, and memory while reading. She gave us a list of books to help us better understand our injuries, conditions.

Halfway through the presentation, a woman from the San Diego Brain Injury Foundation approached me and asked if I was the person on the cover. I said I was. She said I looked great and she would never be able to tell. I said thanks.

When the meeting ended Aimee and I walked home. I felt better to know that the shortcomings, the symptoms that seem inescapable aren't all a figment of my imagination. Unfortunately, with this injury it takes being around others with similar injuries to know that all is normal, or as normal as it can be.

Walking on the foot bridge back to our house, Aimee and I held hands. It felt good to know that Aimee was there to help me through it all.

Our three year wedding anniversary is tomorrow. It will be one year since what has been the worst day of my life and three years since the best.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It was great knowing me...

Twenty days from now marks my third wedding anniversary and my first anniversary of living with a damaged brain.It's pretty obvious that this year, this date, will represent so much not only for me but for Aimee, and my family, even those that no longer speak to me.

The year was filled with confusion, fatigue, fits of rage, apathy, and tears. A year after the fall, I now realize that I am a new person, that the damage inflicted has changed the person I am and will be. It sounds dramatic though it's true.

Every once in a while I visit brain injury websites to help me understand. For the most part, I have spent this year trying to convince myself and others that nothing major has happened. Reading the data, things become clear, the haze, the wonder whether the drugs are to blame, or the injury, or my own internal weaknesses all fade and things suddenly make sense.

One example at a time, the first that pops into my head is apathy.

"Patients who have suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) often develop apathy. In TBI, the apathy syndrome is characterized by disinterest in day-to-day activities, lack of future goals, poor participation in rehabilitation activities, and limited ability to appreciate recovery made after TBI," reads one psych study.

I never really knew what apathy was until now. And while no one can notice it, and while I am able to put a happy face on when I need to, it's there. I go through the day on an even keel. The joy that I used to have surfing, playing music, listening to music, going to shows, writing, has vanished. The laughs, the jokes that I used to find funny I no longer can laugh at.

I don't write this in search of symptoms. I write it because I hope that it will force me to accept the person that this has turned me into. That way, when September 22 comes, I might be one step closer to knowing the new me, even if that is a somber soul, who spends his days unfulfilled though not unhappy, not by choice but because of injury.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Senseless...

Last week I interviewed this man for work. He is old and weak, maybe from the alcohol, or maybe due to his disability, or both. He is also a friendly, kind man who happens to be a hoarder.

Recently he was told that he needed to move all of his belongings out of his house for repairs. He needed help. He needed things moved from inside the house into his dilapidated shed outside. After our interview I offered to help him.

I returned to his house today and started cleaning the old shed, removing the old reel to reel tape players, and antique, rusted clothes irons that were thrown into the shed along with thousands of other items. After twenty minutes of reorganizing the dark and dingy shed, I swept the floor.

He came in shortly after.

"What died?" He asked before covering his nose with his wrinkled bicep.

"Huh," I said, unsure.

"You don't smell that. It smells like a dead rat."

"No," I said. "I lost the sense of smell."

"Oh, well consider yourself lucky."

I started to sweep again. As I did I looked more closely at the pile of dust, lead-paint chips, and dead weeds. In the midst of the pile was the rotting carcass of a squirrel. I swept it up with the dustpan and went back to the task at hand.

I laughed on my way home. I could have a dead squirrel in my pocket and I would never know. I could take a bite of rotten food and not have a clue.

When I got home I told my neighbor. He asked if I had been wearing gloves while helping the old man.

"It might be a good idea considering you can't smell."

"You know," I said, "That makes sense."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I Wanna A New Drug...

I know, I've been absent for a while. This past month has been filled with me filling prescription, prescribed to ease the symptoms and provide a little push during my recovery. During that time, I've been on Zoloft, Lexapro, and Adderall. There have been ups and downs during my search for the right drug.

The Zoloft provided the needed Seratonin that doctors said my brain now fails to produce. And while it leveled my moods, improved my new OCD's, and eased my rage, it depleted my energy, and depleted my stomach of all contents the moment I swallowed the pill. It put me in a permanent stupor.

I switched to Lexapro. For the first week I was a mess. I acted crazy, and felt a rush after taking the pill. But after getting used to it, I am more awake than I was on Zoloft. I feel better about myself, my moods have improved.

And then there's the Adderall. Crazy drug. Has me waxing cars in fifteen minutes, doing work in the yard at a frenetic pace, and writing fifteen-hundred word articles in a day. But then there's the crash. The crash is hard and miserable for everyone around me.

And that is my little prescription drug cocktail. A month in, I haven't been convinced that it's the right thing to do. I've always been reluctant of taking drugs, at least prescription drugs. They are expensive and have strange side effects. But then there's the other side, the fact that I actually feel the most normal since the injury. I don't think about the injury, about my deficits, nearly as much. I am able to focus on tasks. I don't obsess about things, nor do I have those lingering thoughts that won't escape now matter how hard I try and make them.

It's strange coming to the realization that for now, drugs are the only way I am going to feel normal.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Yosemite...


Early afternoon, last Thursday, Aimee and I packed up the Westy and left San Diego for Yosemite. That day we sputtered our way through Southern California. Going up the Tejon Pass, the small diesel engine topped out at 34 miles per hour and I had a smile, at least a smirk, on my face the entire time.

I needed the trip. I needed a fresh outlook. I left with the realization that I would no longer speak to some family members for a long time. And while the conversations with those family members played on repeat for most of the trip, Aimee and I rejoiced on the open road.

Even though our rear tire blew while driving through Fresno, the trip, the feeling of the open road, hanging out and having beers with old friends, mixed with talks about future road trips in the Westy kept us excited and laughing all the way.

We needed it. The past few months have been tough. During those months I succumbed to depression. I lost sight of the target. I lost confidence in myself. The trip put it back in focus.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Falling Out

This recovery is harder than it ever has been. The ups and downs, the obsessive compulsive behavior and poor judgement has nearly sent me over the edge. My doctor prescribed me Zoloft to try and level things out and provide some needed Serotonin. I met with her the other day and gave her an update on my recovery.

Shortly after sitting down in her office, I began to rattle off my symptoms. She told me it was normal and said this stage of recovery is hard, that my brain is still healing and will continue to heal for some time. While it heals, symptoms will remain. She recommended a strict routine to try and overcome my obsessive compulsive behavior, and my frustration caused by my distractibility. I'll try.

It's difficult trying to balance all of this with ongoing issues with my family. They say their feelings are hurt. They say my irritability has offended them. They have said hurtful things in return, things that I would never believe possible. Aimee keeps telling me that they just don't understand the injury. I didn't expect any of it to happen. It makes this whole thing almost impossible to handle.

We leave for Yosemite on Thursday. I need to escape.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Too Fast Now Furious

Artie was in his bed, his ears pasted back, his eyes droopy. He was scared. In the other room, Aimee sat in her white oversized robe trying to stop her tears long enough to finish putting on her makeup. In the living room the cats hid underneath the old oak record player. I stood in the kitchen with my teeth clenched. I hit the wall with the side of my fist. I screamed out in anger. By the time Aimee came out of the room to check on me, I was on the couch crying.

"I'm losing it. I am fucking overwhelmed. I can't think straight," I said to her. This was the climax. The point when the frustration over my new life, my new weaknesses, exploded.

The frustration had been mounting for weeks. Not having focus, or getting sidetracked each day with some new meaningless task, or the constant fucking thoughts about this injury, about my inabilities, about my fatigue; it mixed with everyday stress.

Three days into it, burdened by the depression, I told Aimee that I needed a break. I told her that going back to work six days after waking from the coma, rushing to get back to my life, avoiding idle time, wasn't an easy strategy for a hard recovery. Looking back, I see my errant ways and I fear that only now am I beginning to pay for them.

I see that I am unable to say no to new things. I see that I am unable to switch tasks. I see that I can't control my thoughts. I notice how weak my mind is. I see the ironies; being 'unable to switch tasks' is more than getting fixated on a little project, it's getting fixated on my overall routine, my new life, depressed and stressed.

And while this weekend's little breakdown resulted in some tears for Aimee, some uneasiness for Artie and the cats, I worry what it might turn into not only for them but for me as well.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Celeb With A Dented In Head

I stepped up to the counter to pay the cashier the ten bucks for a car wash. A lady in her twenties stood at the register. She took my slip and stared at me.

"It's you," she said. "It's you."

"It is," I said, not sure how to respond. "It's me."

"It was you on...you wrote the article..."

"Yeah, yeah, that was me."

Tears welled up in her eyes. She started to cry. She said her friend was in the hospital when the story came out. She told me her and her boyfriend cried while they read the story. They just got a new puppy and her boyfriend always ran the dog next to his skateboard. That ended after they read my story.

I was speechless. I didn't know how to respond. All I could say was thanks. She said I looked good. I took it that she meant that I looked better with a complete cranium.

These past 7 months have been the strangest months of my life. I'm not sure how to move on.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shudder To Think

We watched Shudder Island last night. It was disturbing. Not because it was scary but because it made me feel crazy. The movie brought back memories from when I was in the coma, or when I was coming out of it. I felt like the main character living a false memory.

The memories seemed so real and still do. They were vivid and they lasted for what seemed to be days. I still can describe the faces, the places, the anxiety, and the pain. Whether I was a newscaster, a documentary film maker
, or, a prisoner held against my will, they were my only reality during weeks of nothing.

We paused the movie and I asked Aimee about those memories. She said it was called confabulation. It results from a cerebral disconnection. She reached for her computer and read from a website. "Patients recovering from coma after a traumatic brain injury often start by retaining bits and pieces of information; hallucinations" she read.

It was strange watching a movie about mental illness and actually understanding what that means. It made me realize that I will never be removed from it. I am disturbed to think that those false memories will haunt me for the rest of my life. I'll carry them along like childhood memories. It freaks me out that on the outside no one will ever tell that anything happened but on the inside I will always have those false realities waiting to resurface.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I Ride...


It's been eight days since the newspaper with my face on the cover was replaced with a new edition and yet, the response continues. I found out yesterday that the story is getting a thousand hits per day, making it the most read story so far this year. I never expected to reach a wider audience. I'm amazed it's happened.

I received this message today from a school teacher in a different city in the county:

I am a middle school teacher. I read your amazing story "Broken Skull, Broken Heart" and just had to share it with my students and the other english teachers I work with in 7th grade. My students and I read your entire story. It took us a week and a half to get through it, but it was like a reward to them. When we were finished with our other work they begged to continue reading about your crash and recovery. They were incredibly taken by your inner strength and Aimee's love and support. I lost a student 2 years ago to a skateboarding accident, so my students are very aware of the severity of these types of brain injuries. Would you consider coming to speak to our class or classes? We would very much love to have you here and be able to meet you.

This is the first time in my life that I feel like I am doing something for the greater good. Too bad it took me nearly losing my life to do so.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ex-Austin!


While a four piece country band played in the background, we stood in line next to the bar waiting to purchase two tickets for “Chicken Shit Bingo.” I turned to Aimee, who stood behind me.


“I love it here," she said with a huge smile on her face. "Let’s move to Austin." Aimee picks the funniest moments to show her appreciation for places, such as while standing in line for Chicken Shit Bingo.


After we bought our tickets, we stood outside drinking Lone Star beers. We stayed there while the crowd stood around the makeshift bingo table waiting for the chicken to shit on a number. The chicken picked the wrong number.


It was the perfect way to end our four-day trip to Austin.

The trip started off at some bar on 6th Avenue that supposedly serves the "best" burgers. We stuck to our guns that night and ordered a veggie burger and fries. By the time we were done, the patio was full with dozens of old friends from as far back as 20 years, some of which I hadn't seen in half that time. We drank beers. Some had shots. We all smoked cigarettes as we laughed at the old days and caught up on the new ones. Most asked me about my brain with worried faces.


That night ended for us at last call. It ended for the others when the sun came up; the same way most nights were spent.


Some highlights of the trip: A rehearsal dinner at the world famous, Salt Lick Barbecue, or as I referred to it as; "The Great Salt Lick," poolside with beers, Chicken Shit Bingo, Barton Springs.


Austin got the best of us during our exhausting four day trip. Most days were spent trying to meet the requirements that one must do when in Austin such as eat barbecue, despite not eating meat or lacking the sense of taste; drink beer and smoke cigs, even if your tolerance is low; and swim in Barton Springs.


We did all of these things and more. A well-needed vacation. Of all the highlights, hanging out with childhood friends and watching my old friend tie the knot with a new friend topped the list.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Doctor Stone Strikes Back...


I would have died if not for my doctors and nurses at Scripps Mercy. The damage inflicted on my brain would have been much worse if not for those same doctors and nurses. I appreciate all they did and what they do for a living.

When I was transferred to another hospital for in-patient rehabilitation I had a new doctor. I wrote about him in this post and in several others. I didn't like him for several reasons. Despite the drugs and the damage, I didn't hear anything in his voice or I couldn't see anything in his eyes that showed any kindness. I saw status. I saw a conceited, smug man.

I remember as my frustration grew, I requested a meeting with Dr. Stone. He sat down on a chair next to my bed. He looked annoyed. I asked him if he was going to write my concerns down. He said no and then reluctantly took out a sheet of paper. I told him I wasn't benefiting from the rehab. I told him I wasn't learning anything about my condition. He left the room after I was finished. My family was waiting in the hallway. He shook his head and said something about my poor attitude.

I mentioned him, not by name, in the article. He wrote the following letter to the editor.

What An Insult

I was insulted by your article “Broken Skull, Broken Heart” (Cover Story, April 22). I was one of the physicians caring for Dorian. The derogatory depiction of his medical care and physicians in particular was in poor taste. Your readers have no idea of the time, skill, care, and interest myself and others had in trying to provide medical, advice, support for him and his family. It is clear he is and probably always was an insecure, angry, and self-absorbed person. Trust, I had no economic gain in his care, and I am unsure I have ever been paid. Someone should have edited this article. He comes across as an immature, careless person. The article does nothing to educate the public about the social, personal, neurologic consequences of brain injury, which are substantial. The Reader missed a great opportunity to help the public understand this endemic problem but settled for a hit job on the medical community.

Name Withheld by Request
via email

Thanks for the confirmation, Doctor Stone. Even brain damage can't blind a person from seeing the man you are!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Class Dismissed

I was terrified as Aimee and I stood outside a portable classroom at a local high school today waiting for the third period to start. High school kids shuffled their feet in small cliques on their way to class. Nearly all of them looked down at their ipods as they spoke.

The other day one of my old therapists from rehab contacted me and asked if I'd like to attend a presentation to high school students about brain and spinal cord injuries. My therapist said that I didn't have to speak, only watch and see the program in action. I agreed.

Moments after the bell rang, Aimee and I walked into the classroom. It was like stepping into a time warp. I haven't been in a high school classroom for sixteen years. The chatter, the laughter, petty squabbles were all I could hear. My stomach felt uneasy.

We sat near the front of the class. My therapist gave a presentation on brain injuries and spinal cord injuries before introducing the first speaker; a man who at the age of seventeen was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident. From the center of the room, the man spoke about his injury. He spoke about his recovery and having to adapt to no longer having the use of his legs. He was confident. He joked about one of his ex-girlfriends accidentally touching his condom catheter. His presentation was inspirational. The students asked questions. They asked about sex, driving, and accessibility. As he spoke, my former therapist asked if I would like to speak. I agreed.

Next it was my turn. I stood at the front of the class and talked about the fall. I said it was something that I did almost everyday, that I never once thought that I would wake up like this...I flashed the class the picture on the cover of the paper. I saw some of their mouths open.

I spoke for about ten minutes. My voice quivered. My thoughts wavered. They laughed a few times. At the end, they asked me questions. They asked if I had any loss of appetite since losing my sense of taste. I said no. Another person asked if I had surfed yet. I said yes. The last question was about the scar and the skull. And that was the end of the presentation.

I walked back to my seat. Minutes later class was dismissed.

I walked out of that classroom feeling great; still a little nervous but I felt like I had done something for the greater good.

I thought about the week since this whole article has been out. I had never expected anything to come from it. I never thought that it would be the spark that was needed to do those things that I wanted to do, to help and to try and prevent one person from going through the same; to prevent one family from having to watch their son or daughter sit with a blank look, watery eyes, and a caved-in head.

This is my opportunity. I need to take it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Head Shot





You take a shot to the head and next thing you know you have a head shot on the cover of a paper. The article came out Wednesday and now 161,000 copies are strewn throughout the county at gas stations, outside liquor stores, and inside newsstands. For two days now, fear and anxiety has paralyzed me. I read the story over and over again. I wait to see the comments and I hope they are kind. My anxiety seems to be all for nothing. People I have never met, people that live across the country, leave words of encouragement and support after reading. They use words like 'inspiration' and 'brave'. Words that have never accompanied my name before. Some share their tragic stories, others just give me their support. I didn't see any of it coming.

When I woke up from my induced slumber, I saw the outpouring of emotion. I heard about neighbors coming by to get updates. They gave us baskets of fruit and nuts. Most of these people I hadn't said a single word to, maybe just gave them a wave as they drove by. The response is similar since the story came out but this time, it's from people I don't know, have never met. It's sad. It's taken these comments and well wishes to once again see how amazing people are. I want to learn how I can hold on to that knowledge. And while they say I am inspiring, that seems to be the only word that I can use when I read their words. Here's one of those comments. It brought tears to my eyes when I read it.

"I never do this, write to somebody about something that I have read or anything that I see on the web, but not today, today is different. I felt the need to express my self to you, it was rather difficult and painful to read your piece in The Reader today.

I was in a car accident 13 years ago, I was wearing my belt that's why I am alive today, my friend who was driving, wasn't wearing her belt and did not survive. I still live with some pain from that time, but you make me remember how important life is and how delicate we are!"


This is what I hope to take from this. This is what I need to live by. It's becoming less about recovery, and more about new beginnings and it's about time.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Filling The Wormhole

Two days and counting until my face, skull missing and all, will be plastered on the front cover of the weekly newspaper I write for. I'm nervous. Not just about the picture, which is pretty disturbing, but I'm nervous about what the response will be, if there's any at all. It was a difficult task; writing about something that I fail to understand and am still unable to grasp. Those weeks and months after the coma were filled with numbness and pain. At times I had no thoughts just watery eyes, a dented in head, and an open mouth.

How do you explain the unexplainable?

The upcoming cover story has caused us to talk about the injury much more often than in recent weeks. Aimee has cried. I asked her ridiculous questions. I asked her why she didn't fall out of love with me. I asked her if seeing me in that weakened state made her think I was weak. She said no. She asked me if I would feel that way if it was her. I said no. Truth is, I don't know how I would handle it. I wasn't awake to see her face, her tears or her smiles. I wasn't awake to hear the sounds, to smell the odors, or see the look on the doctors faces as they tried to explain the situation. The entire experience has left a black hole where memories should be and I will never have anything to inject in that wormhole except for a cover story, Aimee's journal, and the stories I have heard. We'll see if I can stuff anything else in by the time the week is through.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Can't Stop My Brain...

Things are finally slowing down. During the past couple days I was able to enjoy myself. I had a few drinks with friends. I surfed. I avoided the stress that has been with me in recent weeks, the same stress that has kept me from posting, and has had me running around from chore to chore, place to place.

It was a welcome change from the everyday stress that I can't seem to get away from. During the past few weeks I haven't stopped. I didn't relax. My days were filled with distractions and chores.

The hardest part is I know this feeling is normal. People have long lists of chores, whether at home or work. I had the same list before the blow to the head but it doesn't feel the same. I feel overwhelmed and stressed most of the time. I find myself asking myself: 'Where does the injury end and where does normalcy begin' When will I get used to the new me? Am I creating this or are the distractions and the poor focus real?'

I don't know. What makes this so difficult is aside from the small bulge on my right temple, and the scar that is now covered by hair, there are no indications that any of this ever happened but my mind is not the same and no one would ever know. I know I need to move on but I am unable to. I don't have a clue how to put this past me. I consider myself crazy as I pace from room to room reminding myself the things I need to get done, or when I get stuck on one task and am unable to stop.

Aimee tells me to get help. I tell her time is the only thing that can call an end to the invisible battle inside my mind. I hate the thought of complaining about everyday life and I know that I need to relax but I find myself unable to think rationally. I no longer am able to prioritize, I just go and don't stop until I can't go any longer.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Time Continuum


Time is speeding up. A change of pace, compared to the way that the last six months of my life have lagged. In the early stages of recovery, time slowed to a crawl as I got to know the person that this injury had turned me into. It slowed even more as I fought the new traits, the depression and the rage.

But the past few weeks I have gone from first to fifth gear with no warning. And now my days speed by in the wink of an eye. I've learned that not only does time fly when you're having fun, time also flies when your recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury.

The decreased attention span, lack of concentration, distractibility, and impulsiveness act as time's propeller. I sit on my couch, computer in my lap, trying to write. Frustrated by my lack of concentration, I get up and brew some tea, or get a glass of water. Different chores that I need to do start flooding my mind. I sweep. I mop. I can't stop. Artie enters the kitchen and I take him out to the back alley and throw the ball for him. Fifteen minutes later I come back inside and finish my chores in the kitchen. After, I return back to the couch and force myself to write for another brief interlude. Once the attention span wanes, I get up and repeat the whole thing over, just different chore in another room. Before I know it, the day has come to an end. I have accomplished a long list of little items, nothing substantive, nothing meaningful.

It's a debilitating feeling, and it tells me that I have entered a new phase in my recovery. The time has come to defeat the fleeting thoughts and the obsessive compulsions, to slow the pace. I thought this recovery was hard before, I was right, I thought it would get easier, it hasn't, just different. It's hard not to want to quit everything. I want to sit and do nothing as a way to stop the thoughts and the endless tasks. I know I can't but I wish I could.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tasteless

People freak out when they find out that I can't taste. After they lift their jaw off the ground, they ask me ridiculous questions about my appetite and how I manage. I respond by telling them I have no choice. I remind them that I need to eat in order to survive.

Some people have asked if I miss it. Sure, I do but again there aren't any solutions and I don't remember different flavors, maybe that's because of the coma, the brain injury, I don't know.

Today, as I heated up some fake chicken strips, the directions suggested adding some sauce for better results. After reading it, I found myself scouring the fridge and the pantry searching for the right flavor combination. I found some cajun sauce that Aimee found at our nearby farmer's market. 'This should work,' I thought. The next thought that came to my head; 'why do I care? I can't taste."

I realized that the answer to everyone's questions about not having taste; I don't remember that I don't taste, not until that first bite, or when someone tells says how good something tastes and then it's time for one of my classic "no taste" joke, which keep getting funnier and funnier each time.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Smooth Salesman

The motorbike is still in the driveway. It hurts to see it just sitting there. I've had one guy come by to look at it. Fifteen minutes before he showed, I started the bike to let it warm up. I noticed the battery was weak. I let it run thinking it would charge. I turned on the headlight and the bike died. It was out of juice. I sat in my driveway and tried to kick start it over and over again. Nothing. I panicked. I started pushing it down the driveway to jump start it. Still nothing. So I pushed it down the street and jumped on. No go. I called the guy and told him that the battery was dead, that I was injured and haven't ridden it in six months. He said he still wanted to check it out. When he got to my place, I tried to start it again and it revved right up, like the whole thing had never happened. He looked at it and at me sweating profusely from the ordeal and then he offered me $625. I had it listed for $1100. I wanted to grab that little clump of hair under his bottom lip and rip it out. Instead I said I'd let him know and he left.

I don't know what upsets me more, having to sell the bike, or knowing that I won't get what I think it's worth. The former, I guess.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Music Reviews from a lame brain...

Recently, I have been writing music reviews for the paper I work for. And while writing is harder than it was before (it was never easy), reviewing music is especially difficult. Not only do I have to concentrate on the music but I have to concentrate on writing something about the music; a double decker of concentration. For a person with little focus, at times it feels like the second deck has collapsed on my head. Here are a few...click on them and read for yourself.



Sunday, February 28, 2010

Miss you motorbike...


Chalk up another victory for Aimee and for my family and friends who have said that I shouldn't ever hop on my 1972 Honda motorcycle again. I don't have the energy, or the strength to fight them. In recent months, I looked for someone who agrees with me that riding around town isn't a big deal. I haven't found that person yet.

Here are my thoughts. Yes, I smacked my head hard and almost died. And yes, another blow to the cabeza wouldn't be good. And yes, riding a motorcycle is more dangerous than driving a car.

So where does that leave me? This injury has already taken enough. Should I stop the things I enjoy because something might happen? Should I not leave the house because my brain took a hit a few months back?

I work from home, I don't travel far, sometimes a mile from my house is the furthest I'd go on my motorcycle for months. I used it to go to the store, to go to interviews by my house. I took backstreets. I enjoyed every second of it, expect those occasions when the bike wouldn't start and I had to push the thing uphill on the sidewalk.

I conveyed this to Aimee and she didn't agree, neither does anyone else. I see their point but I have a couple opinions on the matter. First, I should be grateful I am not dead, or that my brain is not severely damaged and I should not take any unnecessary risks that might jeopardize that good fortune. My other thought, is yes I almost died, and yes I should be grateful to be in the condition I am, but I should take advantage of that condition and enjoy life as much as I can. Being overly cautious will only remind me of what could have happened and this experience will never leave, just haunt me until the bitter end.

So today, I posted my bike on Craigslist. I barely could bring myself to do it. It looked so good shined up, and it felt so good to kick start it and rev the small two-stroke engine. I kept thinking about trying once again to convince Aimee but I know what she will say. I know too well what she looks like right before she cries and I don't want to bring her to tears again. I think she's shed enough. I guess it's my turn to shed tears, for my motorbike. I'm going to miss it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Oh No, Mr. Bill!


I get stressed over almost anything, nowadays. Stress is by my side throughout the day as I sit and write. I rush through things that I shouldn't because I am freaking out about time and crossing tasks off my list. I get discouraged for not focusing, for not researching, or reading, or making my words fit together as I once thought they should. There's stress when I take breaks to throw the ball for Artie or when I sit down for lunch. Stress has taken the place of fatigue, just another actor in what is one very complex play. Now, my everyday life is full of stress and that stress has increased over the past few weeks. The old me would have expected that something would go wrong. The new me has trouble thinking things could get much worse.

So, as medical bills once again started arriving in our mailbox, the stress increased. I knew there would be bills. I didn't think there would be different sets of bills. Naively, I thought paying the insurance deductible would be the end of it. The old me would have known better. The bills coming in now are a different breed, they are from the doctors and from the procedures that are out of my "network." It's strange considering some of these procedures occurred when I was in the coma; like the tracheotomy, or the cardiograms, or the list of other things. I wasn't exactly in the position to choose the caregiver.

The worst part about it, apart from the cash I have to find, is that I have never been so confused in my life. I am oblivious to so many things now, like I live in a world where nothing else can go wrong, where the unexpected will never occur again, where all that can go wrong already has. I am unprepared for what will come next, whether that be more bills, any unfavorable news, or just what was once an average day of work. Most of all, I am unable to handle the stress that comes with it all. I know it's all in my head, it just feels so out of reach...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Movie Review From A Lame Brain: The Ugly Bones

I've seen my fair share of movies in the past week. What else is one to do when their anti-social behavior is starting to take hold? I watch movies. I've seen good flicks. We saw Crazy Heart. Who doesn't want to see a depressing flick about a drunk, washed-up country singer? I do. We saw It's Complicated. It was good, surprisingly good. I would expound on these movies, throw some neurons their way but I am not going to. Instead I'd like to focus on one movie. This movie deserves some time, some hatred, some bad press, even if only a handful of people are reading this thing!

The Lovely Bones is the latest Peter Jackson flick starring Mark Wahlberg, Susan Surandon, and Stanley Tucci. Sounds good so far, you say? The movie is about a young girl who is murdered by some neighborhood creep. Sounds good, right? The creep likes building doll houses. He also likes devising intricate ways to kill unsuspecting little girls. And while the plot sounds disturbing yet entertaining, this film is laughable, possibly the worst movie I have ever seen. Peter Jackson and the cast should be embarrassed, ashamed, and banned from Hollywood. This movie drags, following the dead girl in a purgatory full of cornfields and gazebos, running around with all of the other little dead girls. I'm not sure what's worse, watching the girl float around in purgatory, or watching Mark Wahlberg and Susan Surandon try and act. As for Stanley Tucci, maybe the worst actor in the history of the silver screen, Jackson should have taken inspiration from Bilbo Baggins in Lord of the Rings and called Tucci's character Dildo Baggins, it would have been a perfect fit.

The worst part about this flick is you can't even laugh at it, you just fast forward through the whole movie waiting for it to get good. It never happens. I'm not a huge Lord of the Rings guy, i mean, I watched the movies but didn't immediately begin to idolize Peter Jackson like so many other people did and I am glad I didn't, because The Lovely Bones shows he has the tendency to suck.

I give this flick a quarter neuron...one of the worst things I've seen ever...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Argument...

There's been some talk recently about me going to a neuropsychologist to address the rage, depression, and frustration over not having any focus but I remain reluctant, for a couple of different reasons.

To start with, there are no clear cut answers to this injury. There doesn't exist a time line I can go by. No one knows when, or if, my smell, taste, focus, will come back and nobody can tell when, or if, this surliness will disappear. It's just this vast gray area and these estimates of two to six years until recovery is realized.

I have done this all before and I don't see any need to relive the past. I saw a neuro-shrink when I was in rehab. She was great. She told me about the condition. She told me it would get worse. She told me there was nothing I can do but try to be the person I want to be. She said this injury would change me. It has.

I can see if I couldn't get out of bed, or if the dark thoughts stayed through the day, but I do rise out of bed in the morning and that despair is often overcome by laughter and delight. It would be great if I never felt depressed ever again and it would be great having control of my thoughts, but this is my life now, and I will do my best to regain that control. I don't get how hearing someone else repeating this serves any purpose, other than to line their pockets. It will just be someone else that doesn't understand, unless they smack their head hard enough, then they'll see that they are the only one that truly knows.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Singing The Blues

I am working on a brief article about a blues musician who was diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer last year. On September 22, the same day my wheels stopped at a crack in the sidewalk, this blues guitarist had his vocal chords removed. He has spent the past five months undergoing radiation treatments and learning to live with no voice.

Through the whole thing, he has continued to strum on his guitar, absent of any harmonica and no accompanying vocals. He has appeared at benefit concerts meant to help him pay his large, outstanding medical debt. In a few weeks he flies to Prague to attend another benefit show.

In our back and forth emails you could almost hear his excitement and respect for all the support as well for his second chance at life. He used phrases like "happy chappy" in his message. This man, learning to live without a voice, seemed so grateful.

Just another instance where I am left feeling like an ingrate. I cry about my lack of control, about my fleeting focus, depression, and temper brought on from this injury. I feel sorry for myself and hate what this accident has done to me. Meanwhile here is this man, unable to speak, sing, or play the harmonica but still upbeat and positive.

It's sad to think about this lifelong blues musician left with no voice to sing the blues, the one thing he truly loves in life, while I sit here singing the blues to myself everyday, every chance I get. It's a tune I need to change but am unsure how to change keys.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rut's Wrong...

I'm stuck in a rut. Days have gone by and nothing has been accomplished. I try and revisit the routine I had before bashing my head in. I walk the dog in the morning. I do beginners yoga when I get back. I eat a small meal and make a hot cup of tea. Until 9:00am I feel good. And then I sit down for work.

Today, I tried to focus on the story I am writing. I read emails but halfway through my thoughts wandered. I started outlines but never finished them. I tried to read the spreadsheets but couldn't get past the first few lines. I need to conduct interviews but I am reluctant to leave the house.

In my previous life, I called this procrastination. In my current life, it is just the way it is. I hate it. Every thought is like a flash of light. After it disappears another one enters my head. There are no deep concepts inside my head. I have nothing to say but the obvious. I have no opinions worth sharing-- some would say this is a good thing, I know.

If this continues much longer I will need help to regain my focus. I don't know how I will do this. I don't know if it can ever come back. If I try to work on it, will it be another box on my checklist, next to 'meditate', 'exercise, and 'rest'? Will this be another empty box?

The hardest part about it is I don't know if this even is a rut. There's a big chance that this so-called rut is my new home and there's a good chance I will never get out of it. If that's the case I fear what may come. This rut is too small for this depression to take refuge in. That's rut's happening here...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Weatherman...

Another storm system blew through Southern California yesterday and along with it came that same pressure inside my head. The storm wasn't as intense as the last one and the headache wasn't nearly as bad, it was just there from the night before the storm hit until the last drop of rain fell to the ground. I saw the forecast and knew rain was expected a few days before it came. I know now that there isn't any need to check the weather. When a storm is brewing funny things happen inside my head.

The night before the rain arrived, we headed over to our friends house for dessert and a glass of wine. I chose the most expensive dessert on the menu; a nine dollar dessert- quite the waste of money considering I can't taste a thing.

On our way over, I found myself squinting on the road. My reactions were slow. My thoughts were as well. I got out of the car and told Aimee I thought my reactions lagged. She told me I was always a bit slow. When we arrived at the house, I felt fatigued. I had a hard time focusing on the conversation. When we left the pressure started and remained until the storm was gone.

I got to thinking that I should be a weatherman. I would be a hundred percent if any changes in barometric pressure and I could use all of my special new gifts during the report. If rain was in the forecast I could tilt my head and drool all over the areas where rain was expected to fall. The stronger the storm the more I could use my depression. I would cry if accidents occurred on the freeways, or if a parade was canceled due to inclement weather. If nothing but clear skies, to get some extra ratings, I would even focus my new temper on the interns and scream insults off-camera. Who wouldn't watch that. I'd be using my powers for good, not evil. Positive thoughts!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Captain Furious

It's been a week, a very depressing and frustrating week since I last posted something. I've realized a few things during that time. I found out that what I've been told is actually happening. I've discovered that the depression and rage that I have felt in previous months has been nothing compared to what it is now and I have learned that I have no way to control it, no way to keep it from taking over.

I've never had an experience quite like it. I never was prepared to accept the fact that I would be a different person from this. I believed I was in control that any changes would be insignificant. I tried to accept it. I nodded my head when the neurologist told me that my temper would flare and my depression would intensify. I told people that the depression and rage had arrived. I was wrong. I didn't bother to think that it was only the onset of what would be an onslaught of new emotions. I didn't believe that a mere hit on the head would usher in a new persona.

There were instances during the past week when I was punching walls, doors, and kicking the furniture. I did so while clenching my jaws shut, like some madman in a killing frenzy. I fear what I might turn into if I don't learn to control it.

I've always had a temper. Nothing I couldn't control. I believe it's my difficulty changing tasks that's to blame. I start a task and can't adapt. I don't know how to quit. I continue no matter how impossible it may be and the rage creeps up on me, it's sneaky and I don't see it coming. And then I snap.

I consider the rage and depression related. When my ire fades, I turn emotional and sad. I think dark thoughts, like I was a teenager all over again. There's not any other way to describe it besides dark, cold, and lonely.

Control will come one day but I am frustrated because they said this would happen and there I sat, legs crossed, stroking my beard, acting like I was prepared and writing the same. I wasn't and I am not. I am more fragile than ever, the difference from before is you can't see it, it's internal and comes out when no one is around. This isn't recovery, this is a discovery, a discovery of what this injury has turned me into.