Last week I was on a table at The Gym and I suddenly recalled the ceiling tiles at OHSU. There are many things I “saw,” but it took time and photographic evidence for me to understand that many of those things were real. I mostly saw the ceiling in the early days (when I was not seeing the inside of my eyelids).
My social worker at The Place once asked me what my first memory was and I told her about the Pretty Nurse who pinched me. I can still hear her encouraging voice calling me back to the land of the living. Voices might be even more upsetting for me than seeing the ceiling now. The sound of voices, muffled bc of my hearing loss instead of the initial haziness, still catches me off guard because I get disoriented more often than I like to admit.
The moment at The Gym was pretty bad. But I held it together and I was the only person who knew about it. I almost told Mommy about it at teatime but retreated, telling myself, It doesn’t matter. I’m supposed to be putting all these things behind me, see. This is the No Sign of Weakness principle in living color.
But you know what? It DOES matter. And the No Sign of Weakness principle is quickly going the way of my compartmentalization strategy – it’s no longer a viable coping strategy – and once I informed her 48 hours later Mommy told me I should be telling her these things.
When I left Oregon I still did not buy in to the idea of brain injury etc. I passively allowed events to unfold on discharge day just to see what would happen. Yes, I went to church one last time, but I didn’t understand what was really going on. There was no closure and I never said goodbye to the people/places I lost the day my brain bled.
One of my neuro-psychs told me that it can be really hard if you’re cognitively intact but physically disabled since that means you’re probably going to sit around and think of what you’ve lost. I do think of it a lot, mostly when I’m supposed to be asleep.
As I’ve started writing I’ve decided the basic reason for why I do this is that God saved me from a lifetime of anger and bitterness and that is worth talking about. Friends have told me that the miracle isn’t so much that I lived (although polls indicate my survival was at least notable), but that Mommy doesn’t have to keep me locked in my room so I don’t harm myself or others. (This is the Bertha Mason principle as explained by J – another English Lit major.)
So the question of bitterness was answered definitively for me on Decision Day | The Turning Point. It’s a good thing, bc I’m saltier than I used to let on, and I’d be standing here telling people, I DARE you to try and convince me otherwise. (PS. I’m more fun now. Ask around.)
The thing is that sometimes I get sad and tired. But this isn’t an unfortunate episode in my life. This is my life. My writings’ frankness can be TMI for some bc they feel for me so much they are uncomfortable to “hear” me speak my mind so freely. Not bc they are not in agreement with the principles I espouse, but bc if I hurt, they hurt. It’s a good thing Tanpo doesn’t read this. Xoxoxo. He doesn’t need to bc he’s living it!! Heh heh.
On the other hand, frankness speaks to a wider audience. It’s the concept of recognition – there are moments of resonance when people read what I write – not all the time, but consistently enough for me to keep on doing it. People will often read my blog/book if and when they need to. If I know them they might tell me about it or else I’ll wake up, look at my WordPress stats and chuckle bc I see that someone read my entire blog (or close). I can hear the click…click…just one more….and then Okay, I really need to stop now.
As I’ve “met” people I’ve been asked for Recovery tips. I’m like, That is the sweetest thing ever that you think I know how to do this, but I’m totally making this up as I go along. True story.
But seriously, I’ve wondered how it “looks” when I’m tired and sad. Given what I believe, what kind of testimony is that? As I was struggling with this question this weekend I remembered an email I got from a lovely nurse from Vibra (2nd Hospital). In my “Memoirs” she’s known as “Anne” (p.36). She sent me a note after I sent a card to Vibra last summer. Boo Boo used to call her at 6am bc Anne was my night nurse. She was also the first person I asked for help bc I was in a lot of pain and I had just figured out how to use my voice. Prior to that I thought the words “help me” a lot but it was only a mental refrain.
Based on Anne’s recollection – of the absolute scariest part of my inpatient life, hands down – my vulnerable and helpless state did not compromise the image I would have wanted to project had I been in control of all my faculties. “Powerful” was the word she used. Wow. When I read that I couldn’t even finish the email because that word knocked the wind out of me. I had never considered her perspective – I only remembered that I felt more comfortable with her around and that before Mommy would leave for the night she’d tell me she’d spoken to Anne and extracted a promise of attentive “mothering” throughout the wee hours.
Anne also mentioned that my room was always full of fresh flowers and pretty cards. (The picture at the top of this post is of a pipe-cleaner bouquet Karine and Ezra made last time they were here.) My fear was so strong in that room it must have been palpable. But there was also a lot of love.
Her summary word, “powerful,” is based on the fact that the staff really felt for me – they saw me lying there pathetically and their compassion instincts kicked into high gear as they exercised their medical expertise. As I woke up, Anne said I was always very accepting of the care they gave me.
That’s been one of the hardest things about this – asking for help, not giving it. Like when I called for backup yesterday. I’m still not sure what this is going to look like when all’s said and done, but I’m confident that it’s going to look good. Thanks for being a part of this.