Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I have to write because there is noise in my head

and it prevents me from doing anything else. This blog has served as a release valve for the din in my brain. Words and sounds repeating and ricocheting off the sides of my skull like a a squash ball being slammed against the walls, the floor, the ceiling of the court.

I woke up sad and angry and ranting this morning. Filled with hatred towards former friends who abandoned me. Some days I can proceed in ignorant bliss, enjoying the life i am building now. Every once in a while (less and less as time goes by) I am struck by how little sense I can glean from my environment.

The words I speak do not have the meaning I intend. The responses I hear do not match what I thought I said. I demand clarity because I am sure if I get the response I was expecting it will validate that I am making sense. It feels like I am hitting a tennis ball over the net and anyone who has played knows the feeling. The ball sometimes comes back exactly the way you were expecting and sometimes surprises you going faster or beyond your reach or with a crazy spin. That is the nature of the game. I used to love that about conversations (not so much about tennis since I was pretty bad at it. Big surprise since I had a growth lodged against my cerebellum). Post surgery talking to people feels like I hit a tennis ball over the net and a football comes back or an egg or a helium balloon that just floats away or sometimes someone just walks around from the other side and gives me back the ball. I want to scream (and sometimes I do), "Just hit the TENNIS BALL back to me like I am expecting. Why is that so hard?" I try again after explaining and when I still don't get back what I am expecting, it is frustrating. From the other side of the net ( I can only imagine) they are tapping the ball back so they don't understand why I am upset. Or perhaps they are wondering why I threw a bowling ball at them. Inevitably they think I am being combative or bizarre and they walk off the court saying, "I don't want to fight."

I want to find forgiveness. I know I will be free when I can. It is hard though. I am not sure how many people there are who can relate to the way I grew up. My childhood was chaos. Physical, verbal, psychological abuse combined with poverty instilled in me a strong survival instinct. Self-preservation at all costs. Get what you can and then get out of the way. Empathy is a luxury for people with plenty. I imagine if you are a child growing up loved and cared for, fed and warm, then you have room to develop good will for others. I heard that many people in the helping professions come from abusive households. I know it was a huge reason I taught and became a mother. I knew I give more than what I had. I wanted to make a difference in a child's life by letting her know she is important and heard. I love children and animals. I hate the people who were once my friends and now treat me worse than if I had died.

I will stop now because my brain is beginning to go back to normal. The volume is going down in there and I can think again. It's been quite awhile since I've written. That is a good thing. Goodbye for now. I will write again when I have no choice.

Monday, June 30, 2014

My 30th college reunion

I was planning to go. I snatched up one of the last hotel reservations near campus. I was part of a big email exchange in which we all promised to be there in 2014.

That was back in 2012. A friend of ours had just died. I really wanted to go to the funeral but I wasn't comfortable traveling by myself yet. The other New Yorker went without telling me. There were pictures and stories and discussions of not feeling guilty for not being more in touch. All of these conveyed through online channels not specifically directed at me.

I don't want people to feel guilty for not being in touch. I want them to be in touch. I had brain surgery and I don't remember if they called or wrote or anything. I was diagnosed with a brain injury and they definitely did not call or email or anything. I lost my job, I had a nervous breakdown, I wound up in the hospital, I wanted to die. Who calls after that?

I crawl back to the land of the living a little bit every day. I peek over the edge of the hole I fell into and I see people out there doing what I once did. I wave to my friends. "Hey can I play too?" I guess it's pretty easy to pretend they can't hear me. It's noisy with each person having their own family now, husbands, wives, kids. At 52, they're at the heights of their careers so their jobs are hard and filled with even more responsibility. Plus there's dirt on my face and my hair is messy.

That's the part that sucks. I would get more attention, more company, more phone calls returned, more responses to my invitations, if I had died and it was my funeral.

How much should I keep asking to be included before I give up? I'm getting pretty close. I don't want to go back, spend a ton of money, drag my hubby along, only to feel like a pariah. If the friendships are dead, I need to begin to mourn.

The dastardly thing about my brain since the injury is that I can't tell if my perceptions are real. I get very paranoid and I misinterpret situations all the time. I forget about boundaries and say things I probably shouldn't.

I was in the store last week. There was one line to pay and three registers. I was next when suddenly the cashier said, "Form three lines." This meant everyone walked around me to be the front of the other two lines. "This is bullshit," I said to no one in particular. "How's this fair? Can't we at least honor the order we were in? I hate this shit." Then I shut up and waited my turn but I was poised to mow down anybody who thought they were going before me. A woman was staring at me. I glared at her and said "What? Do you have a problem?" She laughed and turned to her friend muttering that she wasn't the one with the problem I was. I honestly felt like saying, "I may have the problem but it is about to become your problem because I am fucking crazy. You have no idea what the fuck I might do." I did some mindful breathing and imagined how it would feel if I didn't care who was next. It brought me back and then I was next so I paid and became normal again.

Would you want me as a friend? Maybe not. God bless the friends I do have! I am so grateful that there are people who love me. I am so grateful that I am still capable of learning how to show them that I love them too.

I think I'll save my money and skip the reunion.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

In sleep I dream I am a different me

I stay in bed because I can't fight the feeling that there is no reason to get up. I miss being needed so profoundly it hurts. I dream about my students or about meeting other teachers and telling them I don't teach anymore.

In my job, every day I faced a brand new challenge. How do I meet the needs of sixty plus kids today? How do I transfer mathematical information and skills from my mind to theirs? Each of them with such different ways of receiving that knowledge and some even resisting, insisting they don't want it, can't get it, won't hear it. I miss the rush and the thrill that I felt when I succeeded.

To the world you may be only one person but to one person you may be the world. I know I am important to my loved ones, my daughter, my family, my husband, my friends. It doesn't change the fact that I lack a daily purpose.

Last night on Criminal Minds another wonderful quote. This time a quoted quote.

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”  - Joseph Campbell

I am trying so hard. I want to let go. I feel like I have been mourning too long. Grieving this loss is holding me back and weighing me down. Anchoring me to my bed, to sleep, to dream of what once was.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Who am I? No,who do you think I am?

I am in the midst of an identity crisis. Today is the 7th anniversary of my craniotomy. Surgeons removed a benign brain tumor, an irregular cluster of blood vessels called an angioma from the left peduncle, cerebellar region of my brain. The growth was about 60% in my brain stem and it was bleeding. Leaving it there would likely have lead to paralysis or sudden death. I am alive and to survive, I must rebuild my fractured sense of self.

I had a discussion with my sister about a year ago regarding my injury, I described it as "losing the sister you had and getting a whole different sister."

She said that is not her experience. In her words, that "... is not my view of you - you may feel like a different sister, but to me you are a continuation of your previous self, with changes."

If I am the same person but with changes, then what does "self" mean? How can I still be me when I do things that I never would have done before? My behavior has been described to me by family and friends, people I trust, and upon hearing it, I recoil. I did that? Yes. But was that me?

Accepting that I am not a new person, is difficult to fathom. How can I still be me "but with changes," when reality is so markedly, sharply different? It strikes me that a crucial part of being understood is having others accept my sense of self. If my reality is not accepted by others, then I am left to believe it is false.

I act, then my environment and the people in it react. My brain interprets those reactions and sends a message to ME. I have been told by my doctor that those messages are false. My brain is misinterpreting language, actions, intentions, and social cues. Herein lies a crucial component of the new me. I need to be reminded that what I am experiencing is not necessarily what is being projected.

I am writing a brief bio for my 30th college reunion and this is what I have so far:
My daughter Sachi Ezura, Harvard College class of 2008, is the light and love of my life. She is the one constant I have and a beacon of hope for the future. In the past five years I've been battling severe depression. My 22 year teaching career ended abruptly in 2011 when the reality of my brain injury collided with my illusion of competence. I struggle to rebuild my fractured sense of self every day. Sewing keeps me sane.
I went to Harvard on a complete scholarship and to my mind, I squandered a great opportunity to better myself. I started off an honor student, pre-med and goal oriented. By the end I was nearly failing out. Crippling depression and anxiety often made it hard for me to leave my dorm room. I beat myself up for years that I didn't do better. My career as a teacher made forgiveness possible. I loved teaching and I was good at it. It felt natural, like breathing. It was who I was. As in most things I do, I endeavored to be the best, and the feedback I got was affirming. My students loved me. Their parents loved me. As a result, I loved me. My psychological need to be loved by many who did not know me (at least not all of me) was being met.

Now, I have only a handful of people in my life and it is more than I can handle. The frequent misunderstandings render me defeated. The environment is a reflection of me and I do not like what I see.

I know that this too shall pass. I pray to have gratitude for what life presents. I will keep going, working to forgive myself. I look forward to the day when I feel whole again, when I know who I am, and I love that person again.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

So interesting

It's been awhile since my last post. I've been very, very busy and that is a good thing. It's been busy in a constructive way.

First of all, I'm now part of a supportive community of artists. I don't want to go into a lot of detail here. Suffice it to say, I feel validated as an artist. I've had objective feedback that let's me know I am talented. This has done wonders for my mood and sense of worth.

Nothing was going to stop me from making things, sewing, painting, knitting, weaving, but knowing that there are people who actually WANT to own my stuff is awesome. It is more enjoyable for me now to just play in my sewing room. Even cleaning and organizing are less frustrating tasks.

I want to write today because I learned a couple of things about myself. First, I really need to label everything. As soon as I put it down, I have to label the spot. I have a handy bin with supplies for labeling: tape, cards, clips, sharpies. It is labeled "Stuff for Labeling." I have already begun to notice a difference. Sometimes I have a vague feeling that I already have a folder, file, box, or drawer that has the same name but I try not to worry about it. Over time the redundancies are finding each other. If I don't label, there is zero chance of like objects coming together.

I've had an iPhone for about a year now. It was easy to switch from my old flip phone. Much easier than I was expecting. I'm still not sure how to use some of the stuff but I'm learning. Christmas Eve I was at a party (away from the crowd over on the side sitting on a couch) and someone I just met asked me if I had any pictures of my artwork. I'd already told her I was a former teacher and had to stop because of my brain injury. As I was scrolling through over 500 pictures on the camera roll, she piped in, "Albums! You have to use albums."

"That is a very good idea," I responded. "I should do that." I found a couple pictures of my art to show her and as I was closing the app, I saw that I had already made some albums. In fact, there was one called Artwork.

That experience epitomizes the paradox of a brain injury. I can make a decision about how I feel or what I am going to do and then completely forget that I resolved that issue. That is the plus side since doing things twice is better than not doing it at all. Small steps of repeated routines make steady strides. Acceptance feels good. Can I grocery shop by myself? Sure as long as it doesn't bother me that I leave my wallet in the store and have to go back or bring my expired ATM card to pay and then ask the manager if the delivery guy can walk me home so I can pay with cash. (The manager said YES btw. That was a Christmas blessing.) Copacetic is the new happiness.