It is also the tale of how after looking under every rock for many years, I finally found myself.
Silly me, I was here all along...
Twenty months ago I fell off of a roof that I was attempting to restore to its former leak proof self and was fortunate enough to land headfirst onto the pavement saved by little more than a big fat ponytail and the grace of god!
It’s absolutely true that everything seems to slow down for you in dire spots and this was certainly true for me in my free-fall towards my date with a cement pad!
It still amazes me just how much time slowed though; I am still able to see in my minds eye how the entire dialog and ensuing actions went down. I was headed for the ladder to come down from the roof and I discovered a wee to late that my partner in his haste had run the stiff 30 lb felt about eight inches over the roof on the side the ladder was on; I happened to be wearing brand new and very stiff leather work boots as I stepped on the overhang and went forehead first over the edge heading for a bulls-eye collision with the ragged pavement below!
"Not good" I thought "I’ll either die or end up a drooling, toothless moron if I strike this way!" So then, in the my impromptu dive, I considered bracing myself with my arms outstretched "No good dope, you’ll end up with two broken arms, a busted face and a drool cup for life! " (I’m not making this up, this is how I talk in my head) I’ve seen excessive drooling with brain injury before and it’s not pretty!
"Hmm, better cut your losses then, cause you’re goin’ down hard baby!" That’s when instinct took over, and told me to do a reverse cat twist, which is exactly what I did; mid twist my right foot caught the ladder slowing my momentum down just a tad then "SPLAT!" contact with planet earth, the theory of gravity proven yet again!
So there I lay more pissed off than a wet cat, blood starting to mass in a big sticky pool under my massively rung bell! I looked up and saw through a multiplicity of stars my partner who by now was turning green, as he stood over me aghast at the thought that I might be dying right in front of him!
I tried to sit up but the nausea and dizziness soon made it clear that that particular notion was right out, and that I indeed needed an ambulance! "Call 911" I barked, "tell them I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!"
I lay there seething with anger, I couldn’t stop thinking about how this was going to really screw up my scheduling for the next couple of weeks…oh, if only that were all!
In the emergency room they were busy giving me a less than stylish new hair-do and I heard the nurse say to the doctor "Gee, that’s just pulp! How’re you going to sew that back together?" "I’ve seen worse." was all he said as he busily gathered the pulp on the back of my skull together and stitched it into a nice little rosette.
The resulting hematoma looked as if a soft ball had been shoved partway into my skull, and was very squishy to the touch. I’ll admit to a certain perverse glee in letting people touch it and gauging the ick factor on their face as it yielded like a quaggy little rum soaked sponge cake. Delicious fun!
Luckily for my friends and family this was the only hateful behavior after TBI that I displayed. Many who sustain a traumatic brain injury suffer their loved ones through all kinds of abhorrent behaviors and personality changes. Some people become quite nasty I’ve been told, for instance there is a woman I met online who’s ex husband and "the love of her life" did a complete one eighty in the character department.
They were married right out of high school and had been going steady since their freshman year. He was a gentle, sweet soul who loved his work and his wife and family more than anything, and he was a very well loved man in his community; you see where I’m going with this right? Well after living in connubial bliss for twelve years and five lovely children, he was in a terrible car accident, which nearly took his life.
He sustained a sever head injury and went into a coma for over a month, when he came out of it this sweet guy who everyone adored was a changed man…more devil than man as I hear it. He became abusive both physically and emotionally couldn’t hold a job for more than a few months, started drinking and drugging and blatantly running around with other woman! She finally left him when it became apparent that the man she loved and married was no longer a part of this sorry ass creature’s makeup. Of course he’s been stalking her ever since.
But I digress.
I soon discovered to my consternation that I was dealing with more than just a nasty bump on my head; I found that I had actually sustained a bit more brain damage than I had planned on! (as if I had a choice in the matter) "Damn it, now what do I do?" I wondered on a daily basis. My short-term memory had become ridiculous, I walked around like a drunk from the vertigo and dizziness, and every time I looked up (even just slightly) I fell down!
Oh, and then there was this funny little tick I aquired in my right hand. You know what the hand sign for crazy looks like? Come on you know, the index finger points to the side of your head and goes around and around in a circular motion? Yeah, that one…well I had the terrific fortune of doing that every time I tried to hold a conversation with people. I even did it when I was the phone, it was as if I needed to make this motion in order to spur my thoughts and connect the disjointed dots that were floating around willy nilly in my head.
Now all that was a real pain in the ass, but sleeping after a concussion can prove to be a giant nightmare, and it certainly was for me. In the beginning I was always sleepy, so falling asleep wasn’t a problem, the problem was I woke up several times a night, every night for the first six months, because just the act of rolling over in my slumber made me so dizzy that I would pop up like a yoyo!
But the worst was yet to come, after the first six months of constant yoyo sleeping, came the next seven months of not sleeping at all! Oh yes, there I was, awake…always awake, night after night, and no amount of sleeping aids i.e. Sominex, Ambian etc. could put me to sleep for anything more than an hour.
Do you have any idea how twisted a girl gets after three weeks of watching dvd’s all night let alone seven months of it? Oh yeah, let the hallucinations begin baby!
Getting past traumatic brain injury
So there I was feeling helpless, vulnerable and incapable for the first time in my adult life. Not A comfortable feeling for a person who always prided myself on the ability to multitask anything and everything that was asked of me, while doing my work, household chores and shopping all at the same time!
Now that I was injured however, I found that most of the people who expected favors of me on an ongoing basis were still there with their hands on their hips feet tapping in annoyance, waiting for help with their plumbing, party catering, even diaper care for an elderly parent or sitting in for them in their R&B band etc.
I mean good god, help a girl out here…for Christ’s sake, it stood to reason that it may just be MY turn for a few small favors! But this was a concept apparently that many in my circle seemed to balk at.
What I’d come to realize, was that my overachiever "can do any damn thing but neuro-surgery" personality hadn’t gained me a lot of true friendships, but had instead drawn parasites to my never ending IV drip of "I don’t know how to say NO! to anyone, ever" character flaw.
Apparently I had to learn this lesson the hard way. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have people throughout the years trying to point out this little flaw of mine; subtle hints like "You're to nice" fell upon my deaf ears, and being the thick headed "let me do that for ya" kind of a gal that I was, I continued to try to do these favors for people who had no business asking me for them in the first place, let alone now that my noggin was scrambled!
Needless to say I started to fail miserably at these tasks that used to be simple for me, because I had freaking brain damage now, and let’s face it, my game was off, way the hell off! I had become dyslexic, I couldn’t comprehend written directions; my sense of direction was so whacked that I could count on finding my car by going in the opposite direction that I felt compelled to go!
It took me 2 ½ hours to do a plumbing project that should have taken me 15 minutes, the first email I composed (to my dad) took me two hours to complete two comprehensive sentences; my strength (which had once been compared to "mighty mouse" due to my small stature but comparatively great physical strength) had gone due to *pareses or partial paralysis, I couldn’t even lift a piece of drywall up off the ground 2 inches let alone hump it over to a wall and install it.
Man, I had some serious issues, and here were the freaking vultures still after me to do their stupid ass "favors" for them! You’d think I would have told them to piss off by now, but it wasn’t until some of them actually had the snotty nerve to say to me, (after I had finally started declining to do their petty biddings, citing quite reasonably my new found inability’s) "How long are you going to use that as an excuse?" that I started to snap out of it. These people didn’t give a rat’s ass about me! They literally wanted me for my aptitude! "Well screw that!" I said to myself, "who needs it?"
Soul searching can be a painful task, and it was with a heavy heart that I bared my soul to myself and started to take an honest inventory. I had to take full responsibility for this being "too nice crap" and own the fact that I had let the vampires in. My life had so far been dedicated to feeding human mosquitos which in a way made a pathetic sort of **'Renfield' character.
It's true what the myths say about having to invite the "bloodsuckers" in, in order for them to suck their fill of what you are offering. I’m not saying by any means that a vampire isn’t a nasty or disgusting creature, only that they are really only as strong as their host allows them to be.
I began to realize that my life had been out of balance for far to long, and that it hadn't even really been my own. I had been giving myself away in big meaty chunks and slices(cheaply at that)to anyone who asked;I was a virtual cornucopia of unending graciousness, and it was making me sick!
It was time to make some changes...
* Not unlike the partial paralysis you see in stroke patients.
** Dracula’s caretaker.
Coming next: Learning to love the word no