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.
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.
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...
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...
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.
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.
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...
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!
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.