In my last session with my social worker, I described the uneasy feeling that overcame me whenever I came upon a certain patch of tree shadows during our nightly walks. From a distance they were harmless and unremarkable, but as we approached and our angle under the streetlights shifted, they morphed into something alien and menacing. My steps would become apprehensive and I would cling more tightly to my husband’s arm, the anxiety quickly escalating as we got closer then disappearing altogether once we crossed into safer territory.
She said a physical therapist would give me advice about vestibular issues, which I seemed to have been plagued with as I had mentioned balance problems before. She suggested I look at a stable, vertical object such as a house, and not at my feet where the evil shadows were. Which actually made sense – I would try that instead of avoiding the street or being guided to safety, eyes tightly closed, being guided by my husband’s voice. Sure it was cute hanging on to him like that, but also it made me feel like a blind person being assisted across a busy intersection. I vowed to take her advice and conquer this new fear, like everything else that had been an issue since my brain surgery.
Was this really the last thing I had to deal with? I had run out of incidents happening out of nowhere, and I was feeling quite confident about my general well being and ability to cope with life. She seemed to read my mind and asked if I had thought about stopping. I said I had, which was true. I didn’t feel the therapy was necessary in my current state, which as previously mentioned was as close to normal as it had ever been since this whole affair.
We both agreed it was the right time, and so it ended up being my last session with this wonderful woman who had helped me get through the mysteries of my recovery. I was truly grateful for her advice and guidance, and so glad I swallowed my pride and put myself in the hands of another person more experienced with head traumas. Somehow through the magic of emotional intelligence she understood my intentions, and all my damaged brain attempts at explaining things. It was so rare to meet someone like that, who could just figure you out with minimal effort on your part. It was a very comfortable relationship we had, and so I wasn’t surprised that she picked up on my contemplations regarding ending my sessions.
I wasn’t scaring her, as she put it, and she was totally comfortable with me taking the wheel and driving the rest of the way on my road to recovery. She also mentioned that some people taper their sessions off, or stop for a while and come back when they need a “tune-up”. I said I was fine with ending things immediately, and so she agreed to give me a discharge from her services. Fortunately, this was towards the end of our time so we wrapped it up by expressing our mutual fondness for each other, and she gave me a hug and wished me good luck.
Or parting was a little bittersweet. I had come to look forward to our Wednesday sessions, describing new neurological oddities I was puzzled or upset about, and getting some kind of plausible explanation from her. I could tell she enjoyed her job,and I found this inspiring. She was damn good at it. But she was a comfort that I would no longer have, because now I would have no one to talk to about my brain surgery that would really understand things from my point of view. I had gone to group therapy and found it a little wanting, as no one there had my specific head trauma and I really just wanted to find someone – anyone – who had also undergone a craniotomy. So despite the fact that we all shared similar experiences, I just couldn’t connect, though perhaps I should have given it more time. Plus there was 11-14 people in the room, which was far too many for an introvert like me to be comfortable communicating with.
Therefore, I felt a little panic as I drove away, wondering if maybe I had made the right decision to stop. Or maybe it really was time for me to move on and this would all become an unpleasant memory, soon to be forgotten by the gentle erosive fingers of time. Even now, certain details and timelines are lost that I swore I’d never forget, but you know – life happens. And some things need to get tossed to the side to lighten the load.
I walked carefully up the stairs, steadying myself on the railing. I headed straight for our bedroom, holding on to the walls until I laid down. I was feeling light-headed from the medications and still a little unsteady.
“I’ve hidden your laptop, just in case you get any ideas,” he said. Oh, he knew me so well. I’m sure he thought if he hadn’t taken this action I would defy my doctor’s strict instructions and peek at my Facebook once he left.
“Will you be okay?” I detected a hint of worry in his voice. He had to leave for a round of afternoon meetings, which I knew he was hesitant to do.
“I’ll be fine. I’m just going to sleep now, I think.” The doctor had said sleep would encourage healing so I was keen to get on with it. He kissed me on the head, and left. I laid there, in the quiet of the sunny early afternoon, grateful to be back in my own bed. The comforter was comforting,the air was clean and free of hospital smells. But something wasn’t quite right. I felt an odd crookedness laying there, like I was being tipped backward. I checked my position and there was nothing wrong – nothing had changed in the mattress. Weird, I thought.
Octavia, my darling little ragdoll cat, had been observing from a distance when I came in. I had been gone for quite a while by cat reckoning, and she sensed something wasn’t quite right with me. When she jumped up on the bed, she sat a little distance from me, observing, processing. Just looking at me, as the silence grew around us, human and cat. Was she going to come up to my face like she usually did, and give me a playful nip on the cheek or eyebrow? I was actually terrified that she would, because I didn’t have the strength to deal with it.
She seemed to come to a decision and simply laid down, not too far away from me. I drowsed for a bit, then when I woke up she was still there. She had concluded that I was wounded, and that needed to be respected. Perhaps the white gauze taped over my six inch suture was her first clue, but I’m sure my smell and body chemicals were all different to her now.
A little later, I was wide awake and the sun was shining, diluted but cheerful through the blinds. I still felt crooked and wondered if I should just keep lying there (um, yes) or do something. I looked at my cell phone, and thought, oh, what the hell. Just a few seconds. Just a quick peek at my Facebook to see what everyone was saying about me.
I ended up checking my Facebook (something close to 300 Likes from my husband’s last update, which was astounding and some touching messages) looking briefly at my emails from work (they had started attempts to survive without me) and a quick look at some texts that had been sent since I went under the bone saw. I don’t know how long I took doing this, but it didn’t feel like any more than maybe five or ten minutes. I wondered what the big deal was about not looking at my phone or the internet, as nothing serious happened after I put the phone back down.
My husband came home and commenced making the best pork chops I had ever had. Maybe it was the fact that it was the first non-hospital food I’d eaten for a while or maybe he’d finally gotten the hang of cooking without my guidance, but they were perfectly seasoned and barbecued to juicy perfection. I hadn’t felt hungry until I took a bite, and then I was suddenly RAVENOUS. I ate off a breakfast tray as we decided to wait until the next day before I moved into the dining room. My husband was so pleased with my appetite which thankfully hadn’t been affected, and brought me sliced apples with honey drizzled on top for dessert. Each bite was perfectly sweet and crunchy, and the honey was a bonus parade in my mouth. I’d never eaten anything so wonderful, it seemed. Flavors and textures were insanely and blissfully magnified.
With all that sleeping during the day, I thought it would be difficult to sleep through the night, but I had faith that my Norco and Keppra would put me out about a half hour after taking them. My husband came in with a glass of juice for my pills, and as I sat up to take them I suddenly got incredibly nauseous and faint. I broke out in a cold sweat and felt like I was going to pass out if I hadn’t lain back on the bed. It scared me how it had come on so fast, and I tried to figure out what could have caused it. Maybe I ate too quickly? Or maybe I shouldn’t have disobeyed my doctor’s instructions to not look at my phone or any internet. Obviously my brain really wasn’t ready to be that stimulated yet. The overstimulation must have made my body behave in this manner – it was frightening how quickly I had gone from normal to almost losing unconsciousness, which I had never experienced before. I didn’t tell my husband that I had disobeyed instructions earlier, as he would have been quite upset with me. After this, I vowed to follow doctor’s orders until I saw my neurosurgeon again in two weeks.
I asked for a cold washcloth for my forehead, which eventually calmed my nausea and took care of the cold sweats. Back to being excited about tomorrow. More sleeping, eating, maybe even a real shower (Huzzah!). Also my nephew’s hairstylist wife had offered to shave my head to match the incision area, or at least cut my hair close enough to ensure that all areas were reasonable close to the same starting point. I actually had planned on cutting it in a pixie style that Saturday, but of course I had to cancel that appointment the day before my surgery, hoping my voicemail sounded like it came from a sane person.
But I couldn’t sleep. My husband had turned on the TV in the kitchen, and it was making me crazy. He turned it off, and I put in my ear plugs to keep out other sounds – the house, the cars passing outside, everything. I wanted silence. About 30 minutes passed before I was in drugged slumber again.
I dreamt of darkness. Somehow I knew I was in Maui and sensed it was our honeymoon or ten year anniversary trip. It was pitch black until we started climbing up a narrow mountain path. Suddenly the path upwards was illuminated by a glowing salmon-orange color. There wasn’t much else in the way of imagery – some shops appeared, set up against the mountain side, but only two or three and they were simple thatched roof affairs. The dominant dreamscape was the angled salmon-orange slash against inky blackness which I found quite beautiful in its simplicity but profoundly eerie at the same time. These were the only things that my previously fertile imagination could come up with. And also, I didn’t recall ever dreaming in the hospital – probably because I had never actually fallen asleep long enough to get to the dream state.
I woke up at about 4:30 am, super awake and enthusiastic about telling my husband all about my dream. At first he was happy I was awake at all, then not so much. He asked for the time and when I told him he expressed surprise at how talkative I was, and asked that we continue the conversation in the morning. He rolled over, snoring fitfully seconds later.
It would be a few hours until the sun came up. I never really fell back asleep, but that was fine as I would have a whole day of it. Sleep, and the silence I had longed for since my predicament. I couldn’t wait.