Monday, January 27, 2014

Absence

I haven’t been around lately. This took me a long time to write.

Recently, I’ve had seizures.When I started having them, I decided: these are not seizures. I do not accept them. Guess what? They didn’t go away. On some level, I still find this baffling (and on another level, I find my bafflement amusing and irritating). As if the force of my will ought to be enough to make reality what I wish it were.

Look, I wanted to be healed, not inconvenienced. Healing is something I can do in the evenings. In my spare time. I will learn lessons, grow as a person, etc. etc., and apply those lessons to the life I have. I will be the same, just better. More. I will know the world, be in it, exert myself upon it. And I will be healed. I will know my worth.

All evidence to the contrary, this is what I believed. This is what I believed before. And I believed: if I believe something hard enough, it simply will be so. I didn’t believe this in any organized or coherent way. I believed it even though I knew it was silly. I marched forward toward my goals, shoving this belief before me like a snowplow. It worked. I was, in most of the way these things are measured, becoming successful.

I believed that my worth could be measured by evidence of my presence in the world. Articles. Grades. Conferences. Projects. My Klout Score. These things told me: I am here. As I’ve withdrawn from the world, as I am disconnected from my own memories, I wonder about my worth. Urban told me that once I said: I don’t feel like a real person.

My seizures are not dramatic. It’s almost like passing out or blanking out. These are called “Absence Seizures.” Seizures are one of the side effects of my Traumatic Brain Injury. Having spent the last 8 months absent from life as I know it, these interludes just take me deeper into absenteeism.

I know it sounds alarming but I am ok and we are dealing with it. I get some symptoms just prior to a seizure (metallic taste in mouth, hands & feet go numb, sounds fade in & out) so I am able to sit down or lay down before it happens. My neurologist thinks they are triggered by lack of sleep and overstimulation, which is not unusual for someone with a Traumatic Brain Injury. We have adjusted my medications so I’m sleeping regularly, and have not had any reoccurrence. If they continue, we will do more tests and consider anti-seizure medication, but we don’t think it will be necessary. I also had an EEG (and after washing my hair three times, I still have the gunk on my scalp to prove it), which showed damage to parts of the left side of my brain. It made me angry to find this out. I feel obscurely betrayed by my own brain.

WHEN-THE-BRAIN-STARTS-TO-FALL-APART
source: http://iyashisource.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/WHEN-THE-BRAIN-STARTS-TO-FALL-APART.jpg

I am being careful of my safety, and only go out to see the horses or take baths and stuff when Urban is around.

Going out to visit the horses was one thing I could do on my own. It is hard to lose this small independence. It is hard to accept this reality.

All this could mean nothing in terms of my long-term recovery. I am improving overall. Most recovery from TBI happens in the first 18 months after the injury. I’m about 8 months in. As inconvenient as it is, I am healing. I’ve had some very difficult times. My life before was lived with engagement. I felt connected to the wider world. I felt influential.

I try to focus on the positive (I can read again!) and understand that the negative (I don’t remember anything I read!) will improve with time. The seizures are scary. I was pretty freaked out about it, but talking with my doctor has helped me calm down and understand that we have the ability to control them. I just have to be sure I am sleeping on a regular schedule and not overtaxing my brain.

The irony of this is not lost on me. I’ve spent my adult life staying up late in order to overtax my brain. Showing up was never enough for me, I always strived to be present: in my own life, in my relationships, in the larger world. Being present was a requirement for exerting control. I had already come a long way to understanding that my drive for control was not always a healthy thing. Having gotten that far, I learn what it’s like not to show up at all. I learn to be absent.

I try not to define my value by imagining a return to what I was (but I do anyway, see above). I have had to admit that I will not pick up where I left off. This is not an interlude. This is radical healing. My old way of living is over. Rather than thinking: someday I will be able to…whatever…again, and there will be value in that, I want to know the value of this absent life, withdrawn from the world. There is a lot going on in this silence. I perceive and experience the world, and myself (as if those are not the same), differently. Time and memory do not march in lock-step. There is no here and there in time. My narrative does not flow, it skips like a smooth rock on still water, glancing in as moments. I exert little influence. Things flow over, around, through me. Events leap out, then vanish. Unfixed. I feel sort of postmodern.

I am at the mercy of my brain. Here’s the thing: I always was. I just didn’t believe it. It didn’t inconvenience me, so I had no reason to think of it. Now I know: how ever far I traveled, however much I ever did, all life, all reality, is lived and known through my mind. Whether I show up or not. In the shallows or in the depths. There is no measurement of my value. Wherever I am: there is life. It’s all I’m worth. All I can know is my self, my ever changing self. It will be enough when I will it to be so.

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