When she talks about Lala land, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a very comfortable place. There are no strong emotions. Those come from outside of you, like the sensory information, which is every bit as painful as she describes. The coping mechanisms, like she describes while dialing the phone, are ingenious, really. I cope so well that you would never believe I had a head injury, in spite of the verbal mashup my dialogue sometimes becomes. (People think I’m being poetic.)
Like her, I had a very distinct advantage when it came to my brain. I saw it happen. I had experience with the brain. And I was determined to heal.
If you’re wondering, when I was 16, I rolled my car and sustained a severe brain injury. Even though I was examined at the hospital, I was released without any care. This was likely because my head xrays showed no hemorrhaging, as indeed, I wasn’t. But it was too early to see the swelling that over the next two days, slowly choked off circulation to different areas of my brain.
The reason I had experience with the brain is that my mother had had a traumatic brain injury sustained during a livestock accident, when I was about ten. Not only did I see what she went through, and what she became, and that recovery, though slow, was possible, but through my own research, I knew that it was possible to rewire the brain, provided you believed it was possible.
So as soon as I realized I had a concussion, I was determined that it wouldn’t affect my grades. And as it became apparent that I was in fact getting worse, not better, what little cognitive ability I had went towards rebuilding my mind.
She really describes it a lot better than I have. The expansiveness she describes really is astounding. My mother used to help me eat my breakfast, set me in a rocker in the kitchen, and hours later I would still be there, never having moved a muscle. Except for the ability to choose this state, it is totally indistinguishable from a deep, deep meditation. The kind of meditation where birds land on your head. Inside is like a dreamworld. When — if— it has shape or form, it’s totally malleable. You can wander in there like a mortal lost under-hill. Time passes so differently there, and anyway, time is just a meaningless construct. You really are limitless there. That’s why it’s so frustrating to come back to your limited body, the one that’s so easily overwhelmed, the one with no balance, no motor control. In your mind’s eye, things come to fruition as soon as you concieve them. In the real world, you cannot scream commands loud enough for your body to hear.
Having seen Dr. Taylor’s speak, you might wonder why you’d even want to come back from a land of eternal bliss. I find that the answer to that varies from day to day. It was uncomfortable in its pleasantness, a vague feeling that it was all too good to be true. In Dr Taylor’s estimation, I suppose that would be the death rattle of my left hemisphere talking.
There was also the fact that I didn’t choose to be a cretin, and I don’t care how pleasant it is not to have a care in the world, I wasn’t going to stand for it.
Finally, the loss of self is…tremendous. You have been ripped in twain, when you think about it. Everything that defined you, your brain, your abilities, your personality, knowledge, and sense of humor. It’s gone. It’s catastrophic.
And so you struggle with that, either with regaining your “self”, or with coming to terms with its loss.
In my case, it was really a little of both.
In many ways, I never regained many former abilities, including encyclopedic, near-photgraphic memory and a number of senses. I lost a lot of my appreciation for sensory input, including music. I guess whatever else I lost, I don’t really miss.
I came to terms with the fact that I would never again be a genius. That really chafed at the beginning, but I soon realized that my emotional intellect had outstripped my IQ, and there was literally no human emotion or motivation I couldn’t relate to. Life had gone from being harsh black and white to a veritable kaleidoscope of grey.
I had to come to terms with the fact that I was not, in fact, in control of anything, even my own body and mind. At best I was a figurehead. At the least I was a bumbling bureaucrat, bungling perfectly good systems with my theories of how things ought to be done. I’ve had to learn this lesson at least two other times as I’ve been hospitalized for burnout, but I think it’s finally stuck now. And I’ve learned, really learned, that when you get out of your own way you’ve got more mental and emotional horsepower than you ever could have believed. I suppose I should write a post about that too.
It was humbling to find out that while I was quite brilliant, I was an unimaginably shitty human being. Although I like to think that growing up would have taken care of that,the head injury really gave me a head start.
I was going to write a bit more about this, but I think I’ve rambled on past the main takeaway here:
There is no limit to what you can accomplish once you get out of your own way.
Or, as Dr. Taylor says, step to the right, and get on with it.
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