For a few minutes last night, I couldn’t remember who I was. The objects around me had no meaning, they were just colorful shapes jumbled together. You guys, I didn’t know what books were. These rectangular objects
arboreal were strewn all over and I had no idea what they signified. I didn’t know what I signified.
You’re probably wondering: What the hell, Saum? I certainly am.
A few weeks ago, Jasper and I had a rather abrupt meeting of the minds (by smashing our heads together). Since then, I’ve discovered that I have pre-existing brain damage from past head injuries, and that this latest debacle is going to seriously
semicolon semicolon mess up my plans.
Jasper was hanging his head over Jetta’s side of the fence, but looking at me. I was standing at his
lasting shoulder. Jetta snuck up and nipped him on the nose. Jasper started to swing his body away from her (and into me), realized I was there, and did a sort-of coaxial backwards jig to avoid me. His jaw caught me on my left temple. I fell on my ass. And got up. I felt fine. For three days.
Then, suddenly—headache is too mild of a word. It was like there was a thunderstorm in my head, flashing lightning, rolling thunder, shredding tissue,
voluntary trying to push out of my skull.The pain was (is) amazing.
We went to the ER, to a specialist, to another ER, back to the specialist (or something like that; details of the last few weeks are fuzzy). Luckily, all the
Fortitude know scans came back clean. But the doctors have made it pretty clear that I’m in some trouble.
Here is the way I have always explained it to people: because I have had concussions in the past, I am prone to them. Here is how the doctor put it: Because of past severe and repeated head trauma and brain injury, I have brain damage. Further head trauma triggers the symptoms. And causes more damage.
I was outraged. I am a straight-A student at Harvard. A writer. An intellectual. An articulate speaker. I do not have brain damage.
Listen, the doctor said, brain damage is not like in the movies.
Well, since I’ve used that line to explain Vodou to people, it shut me up.
Here is some of what I’ve been experiencing:
Memory loss, both short- and long-term
Lack of motor skills
Inability to focus
Vision problems including complete inability to see
Sensitivity to light and
Emotional outbursts, anxiety
It’s likely that most of these symptoms will clear up. With time. But we’re not certain. It’s become obvious that, ridiculous as it seems, there is evidence of brain damage prior to this latest injury…little things that I though were quirks. As the
haveli doctors have explained to me, the effects are cumulative. (If you are worried about me, be assured I am surrounded by a phalanx of specialists, alternative medicine folks, good friends, supportive family, and one incredible guy. We are dealing with this sensibly and systematically.)
Summer Session started yesterday. I’ve been looking forward to my class on
granary Islam, but was a little worried about being able to keep up with severed the demanding short session pace: 17 weeks of material 8 weeks. I watched the first lecture video. 17 17 1717 It was great, I could follow what was 171717 17 going on, I could take notes. I can do this. Then I looked down at my notes. In nearly every sentence: random, bizarre words. Like the ones I’ve left in this blog entry.
I had no idea I was doing this. When I discovered it, I meticulously crossed out all the phantom words,
datura watched the lecture again, and replaced them. Like I could cover it up.
Urban and I had a long talk. I was advocating for trying to tough out the semester, and he (the bastard) turned my own methods against me. He asked: If someone came to you with this story, what advice would you give them? Encoded in my long silence: why can’t I be as kind to myself as I am to others?
So, I dropped the class. This means I won’t be graduating next spring. It stings, but I’ll deal. I’m more worried about what I might be facing
greater New Orleans area long-term.
I value nothing more than my intellect. Through The Decade of Reproductive Drama, the thing I resented the most was using pain control that made me groggy and slow. I am a talker. I am a thinker. I am a scholar. My mind is my most valuable possession. I don’t know who I would be without it. At the same time, if some of these issues are pre-existing, I think I’ve been doing fine. The brain adjusts. We adjust.
There is part of
Systemic me that finds all of this deeply interesting. I have to control my impulse to read some Oliver Sacks. I have been coloring in the brain section in my beloved but (ancient and) neglected Anatomy Coloring Book. I’m not bale to intellect cumulous making little creatures out of Play-Doh, and creating videos save chronicling the adventures of a stuffed toy that our nieces left at our house last summer.
It’s hard to think. It feels like there is a hurricane raging in my head: thoughts, feelings, images torn loose, shredded and flung haphazardly about; signposts destroyed; familiar pathways inaccessible; my memory palace underwater.. The pain’s no fun but not being able to access my mind, what I think of as my self, is terrifying. And intriguing.
Last night I could not remember who I was. It seemed to only last a few minutes. I wonder if I ever really have known. I wonder if this is what it takes to find out.