Thursday, June 27, 2013


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.

bookshelf 003

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. Lausanne.

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
Cognitive issues
Inability to focus
Vision problems including complete inability to see
Sensitivity to light and fortune sound.
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.

Mepole Finds A Hat

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.

blood red sky 005

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.


  1. It does... I will PM you!! <3

  2. It takes courage to share this.

    We will deal with it.

  3. Sending love and positive energy to you both. You will overcome!

  4. Who we are is continually in flux - you are ever emerging - and rebirths are painful. A hard bonk on the head what my friend Osunrete would have said it the ancestors telling you to pay attention... or maybe the universes way to insist for you to slow down. Give yourself permission to be gentle with yourself. The insights that will come from this will inform the whole of intellectual you. I know how scary the brain storms and confusion are (I was getting icepick headaches for two years following a serious concussion). Stress doesn't help - but peace does. You are so very loved. Wrap yourself in that and trust that there is a constellation of souls holding your well being in our thoughts, chants, and prayers. Let me know if I can come up and make you dinner, too. A girls gotta be nourished, mind, spirit AND body. /big hug.

  5. Be careful, and be good to yourself. I had a similar thing happen after a car accident and a concussion, and occasionally I still have weirdness related to that many years later.

  6. You're not alone, Saum. All that you are feeling is what I've gone through, but over a different disorder. I, too, have gone through times when my surroundings were alien, memory loss over where I am, who I am, and how did I get here? Lucky there is still some functioning going on enough for you (and I, as I relate to you while writing this to you) for us to start to decode.

    All of the nonsensical words you crossed out in this blog post all made sense to me -- your brain is jumbled, the words a code giving deeper clues into what you are conveying -- just like how other mentally disabled people talk. Explaining it may seem weird in and of itself, because whenever I do it, I feel crazy talking about it, but it's real and it's emotionally painful.

    I can't say fully I know your pain as you know it, yet I've suffered from two concussions, and deal with painful emotional and personality dysfunction enough on a daily basis to make things a tad difficult to deal with other people. The anxiety is the worst. Like you say, "be as kind to yourself as you would to other people" and continue to give yourself plenty of patience, soothe yourself with rest, and try to take your healing process as an adventure. Also remind yourself that you are loved, loved all the time, and you've got people who are not going to quit on you.

    You're lucky you have the social support system that you have! That's hard to build and maintain. You're already on the up! Just people standing by you from far and near make a difference. So if anyone comes to you and feels helpless because they can't "fix" you, you tell them from Val: "You're already helping me heal by supporting me as a friend just being there" because that energy people give is a prayer blossoming in itself.

    I feel for you and wish I could be *there* at your side, but I'm going through my own struggle. However knowing you're in pain immediately puts me in a state of emotional pain. Even though we've never met in person, you and Urban mean a lot to me. Please give yourselves hugs and know I am sending you supportive and healing energy all the time.

    Blessings, peace, and love always.

  7. I can only imagine how stressful it must be for you. You are such a powerful communicator and it must be frustrsting losing the connection to the mind. Please allow time to heal and kep your stress levels calm. Urban is streadfaast in his love and caring and will provide the continuity. I wish your peace and health and keep you both in my prayers. Best of everything to you.

  8. Saumya, you are the best.
    Love, Randall

  9. Some of what you describe here is familiar to me from my experiences with my strokes -- though the strokes weren't painful, just disorienting. Profoundly disorienting. And then my (trusty, ever-reliable) brain wasn't what I thought it had been. This was several years ago now, but it changed me.

    I've been unbelievably fortunate in the elasticity of my brain tissue. There are areas of brain damage, but my vision came back to me, and so did my ability to speak coherently the way I wanted to do. But the experience shook my sense of self. And reading this post reminds me of that.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. That sounds corny but I really mean it. I'm humbled by what you're going through and by your recounting of it. If it's okay with you, I will hold you in my prayers.