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.

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.