29 February 2012


The headaches I get today closely resemble the pain of my concussion. I had a friend once tell me that if you're still thinking about it (head trauma and it affecting you), that there probably is still damage.

Sometimes, when I'm spinning out or spiraling, I want to blame whatever unhealed portion of my brain is left. Whatever part that is. That's if there was any damage or damage remains. The portion that controls rational thought. The portion that controls feeling positive. Probably, mostly, the part that controls memory and retaining the positive and rational conclusions I already came to. Yes, the cause of spinning out is often not being able to get back to the positive and reasonable attitudes I came to because I struggled with remembering how I got to the good side. No, Darth Vader, Darth Maul, you can't have me.

Although you provide a great space for feeling sorry for myself.

Now, fuck off.

I don't know if there's truth to what my friend said or what I've thought, but it got me thinking anyway. It's had me pretty damned curious off and on over the years. If there was any truth to my wiggly hypothesis, it would only be because I haven't exercised that part of my brain enough, I'm sure.

What I've learned is that the brain can repair itself, but slowly, and you have to put all good things towards getting it healed: the desire to, memory exercises, therapeutic exercises, physical exercise, and diet. I wouldn't say I've been very good at any one of those things, save for maybe the memory exercises I got figuring out how to complete Sudoku puzzles when I worked at the crusher, even the higher difficulty ones, and waitressing.

But working and trying to eat healthy has helped. Every time I'm engaged in social settings, it helps. I used to be in the eye of too many social things, and that didn't help, because I needed alone time, too. But the needs of the brain for its health change as times change.

And, because there were many things going on in between the car accident in '99 and my job at the crusher in '05 requiring a lot of stress-induced, higher-level thinking while my brain was still processing the least of it, many impaired decisions were made.


"Impaired" can be taken however the hell it wants to be taken. A type of stoned or drunk level of thinking, wherein the person thinks heavily with their emotions. A type of light affectation, where whatever synapses that had fired with regularity before were not firing so fast, creating a slowed ability to process information. A type of excuse to fit any model of behavior, especially shocking or uncharacteristic behavior. A type of mental retardation that justifies ditzy behavior.

I was all of that.

Between the fog that everyone got sick of hearing about, the help I never got, the pain meds, and the gigantic fuck that was never given those days while I suffered in sheer frustration to find my classes on campus, remember my bassoon fingerings, start driving again, I was swimming--nearly drowning--in my own world.

But I was trying. I worked through it. Didn't make excuses.

I didn't lean on the least of those things. I never leaned on any excuses while trying to get my shit together. I wavered between wanting to throw up my hands in utter defeat and complained in the process, yes. I threw blame around, yes, then and later. I have done things that yes, ARE out of my "character," some of which are actually unfathomable, yes.

But it was always, always, always a bloody hard process, knowing that people were waiting for me to be me but it just not clicking. It was a world that was so very fucking real to me, yet enormously difficult to get the least picture painted for the least clueless person. But worse! The people who I cared the most about! Trying to get them to understand, to give a fuck? Nada! I know they all got sick of hearing about "The Fog" I was in. But I just needed a little more help, a little more spoon-feeding. Just until I got back on my feet.

And what the fuck IS my "character" anyway? What did people perceive of me?

I do know, no matter what any single person has said, be it family, friend, or foe: I have done everything in my power to own every fucked up thing I've ever done. And everything I have ever done, fucked up or awesome, I only did out of making a decision based on all the facts I could have possibly gathered and had in my possession at those times. At an impaired, fucking capacity.

Tell me what person alive hasn't done the same kinds of shit with even more supposed elevated cognitive function.

This is what I've been trying to get the people closest around me to understand for years. Since the butt crack of time and my skull (it didn't really crack, there were no contusions or fractures in the x-rays), I have been frustratingly trying to get people to understand this and back the fuck off. In some ways, it's been a theme in my life: people all around me, people since the dawn of time, having some kind of expectation of me and then coming down on me for their own disappointment because I did something that surprised them.

The hell? What were you expecting, then, dear sir, madam, friend, person of puritan-based ideological west? Furthermore, why do people gotta be on my ass about it? That's my thing: you don't know what you're going to get with me, so long as you're going to be an ultra-conservative, whitey, Anglo-saxon puritan who pretends that life is a white picket fence in the sheltered suburbs of western North America. I grew up in one and I am grateful to my parents for their love and nice shelter. But I will say this: it cost my deeply-rooted, Latina, passionately-craving side dearly. Very fucking dearly.

The bottom line is that my head trauma should have been at least a big, old red flag for people to shut up and cut me some slack, accept me at face value or whatever, but it didn't. This whole "we're surprised Amy has a brain and uses it for ideas different than we're used to" bit was old before I even left home; it was been going on long before the accident. It's a theme that runs back into my childhood quite a ways. 

These two elements are not actually completely wrapped up together, but for my life, and for my experience, trying to make sense of this, while trying to get my head wrapped around daily effing life with a concussion!, it totally is, and I really hope that those around me will start to think a little more open-mindedly, with a little more strength of heart, and a little less auto-pilot.

Infinitely and exponentially above and beyond that is my hope that I always have the strength to keep being me.

28 February 2012

concussion included

So then...

I was fubarred beyond belief. Lucky to be alive. Blessed beyond measure that everyone survived. And relieved as hell that I was the one who got the brunt of the accident.

And our accident rendered us stranded in my hometown.

The Tracker was written off.

I won't even post the photos of it because it was a long time ago. I only relay these stories now to continue trudging forward, in a personal commitment to write them down. Why does it matter? I don't even really know now, but I feel that I must; and I'm pretty sure I'll figure out why later.

That entire time in my life, to this day, is almost completely blurred.

I cannot tell you the hell it is to have no sense about you whatsoever and everyone around you not really realize why you are acting like a fool. To be so mentally confused and disoriented that people around you think you are you and assume that because you like like you, you must be you, but you are not.

My ex, Aurora's biological father, was in town. He had moved back there after our hellacious break up that same March. He and his mom, a woman I trust exponentially, took Aurora in while I recovered. My fiance and I stayed at my grandpa's after I left the hospital. Somewhere in there, I visited my dad, who was already separated from my mom; and my mom, who had moved to Nevada, had flown in with my youngest brother upon getting the news of our accident.

I seriously believe that it was my incapacitated state and my daughter being removed from my care, even if out of love and compassion, that wreaked havoc on her already stressed little body and mind. But I was appreciative of my ex's mom's involvement and it was ultimately in Aurora's best interest.

But that would not be the highest majority of issues then.

Because, somewhere in between my dad learning of the wreck and getting to the hospital and my mom actually getting into town, there was some hissy, verbal scuffle between them which resulted in my mom's lividity with my dad.

They had not even gotten along during marriage.

Whatever they were fighting about---the focus of which shifted a few times then---it became the subject of that time period. Erik's wedding had been postponed to the Tuesday. I went in a wheelchair. A small ceremony. Aurora was being passed in between people. Mom and Dad started bickering at the wedding. Someone kicked the other one in the back of the leg while the other one was holding my daughter.

Later on during the stay, there began a discussion of my youngest brother not wanting to live with my mom. She had custody. He was 14. Dad heard his plea. He decided he was going to give my brother his wish. The details are a blur, but there was some kind of exchange. Soon Mom would be going back to Nevada but she could not find Michael. Dad, who was hated by all of my uncles, aunts, and grandpa, showed up at my grandpa's. I heard my uncle say, "here comes the horse's ass." I lit into my uncle, a man who was like my second dad, with the biggest, most uncharacteristic F bomb I ever dropped. I remember feeling very angry and pissy, twenty-four-seven. I remember that F bomb. I don't remember anyone feeling sorry for me.

I pleaded with Kyle to see if he could get his friend's discount at the local Holiday Inn. I remember being in the room. I remember it being dark. The next thing I remember was being told Grandpa had withdrawn his offer to let us take the ancient, old Zephyr back to Bismarck. And I remember feeling dismayed. But I only remember leaving town after that with the Zephyr. I remember passing by the accident site. And I remember the car breaking down halfway between Gillette and Bismarck, waiting on the side of the road for Kyle to go get help. And I remember not being fast enough enough to keep Aurora from wandering near the highway...

It wasn't until we got back to Bismarck that I realized that we had stayed in Gillette about two weeks. The pain was too great to think about taking care of school stuff, which was about to start. I hadn't registered for classes and knew that was lingering over my aching, bashed up head.

In the meantime I learned that my dad's little stunt to help his son get his wish landed his ass in jail. I have heard both jaded sides of this story, of getting arrested, of my mom going to see him in jail to figure out where my brother was, of the police being the ones who pressed charges and not my mom. Of how much evil they could see in each other's eyes. Yadda, yadda. Their stories juxtaposed one to the other. Just like they always did. Just like every time I ever played mediator when I lived at home. Just another of a million reasons they should have never made it 23 years...

I also phoned my uncle to apologize for my F bomb. Even though I was the one fucked beyond repair, even though I was the one with the head injury, even though my mom is a nurse and could have explained to everyone that I was not myself because that's what brain injuries result in, even though all of the crap that happened was because my parents couldn't get their shit together, I was the only one who apologized.

27 February 2012

car wreck

Another crazy thing that happened...

...in 1999.

I had already been living with my fiancé. A modular home, trailer, shared with two other guys--Joel, who was majoring in theology, and Nathan, who was never there. Yet another mess, arrangement, whatever, that my one-year-old daughter was being dragged through that year.

It was a nice place. Good space. Full kitchen, a few bathrooms. Definitely luxurious compared to most college student dwellings. But not a place into where I would be settling. No. I was there far more out of necessity than by choice. These roommates of my fiancé were even less thrilled than I was.

I had shacked up with these guys as a result of my own basement apartment flooding just weeks prior. The fiancé (Kyle) and his buddies were renting the modular home from a priest, whose ownership and arrangements of future habitation are still fuzzy in my mind because, well... we'll get to that in a minute.

All I remember is that this guy they were renting from was someone Joel knew through his ministry studies and that he had needed someone to rent the house from him until he could move in.

Anyway, I had come home for lunch one day late that summer from my degrading job as a telemarketer only to find my apartment about an inch under water. It had been raining hard that morning, and my best friend, who was sharing rent with me for the summer and working at the same place only two blocks down, was trying to get boxes and clothing off the floor just as I came through the door and rudely discovered the water under my foot, which sank into the carpet about an inch.

The living room, the baby's room, the laundry room, the kitchen, the whole floor. All of it. Under water.

I grabbed my piano books from under the couch, grabbed anything on the floor under the crib, and checked anywhere a surface could be touching the water and tried getting it all off off the floor. It was close enough to the start of the school year that Celia was able to move what she could up to residence at the university, while I stayed back to deal with the landlord.

Who was not very deal-with-able.

In the meantime, I packed baby and me a few bags and forced my way into the lives of two, very unsuspecting and rather objecting bachelors via Kyle's permission.

While that was going on, I tried to show my appreciation by cleaning their place in between shifts at work, and tried to keep the sheer stress of the situation from showing, mainly for my daughter and partly for myself.

Looking back on it now, it was mind-fucking-ly stressful. Worse is that this was the last in a whirlwind series of places or environments that I placed my child in trying to single-handedly provide for my baby. The kind of places to have crossed my daughter's eyes that year, while not the worst in the history of all momkind, used to be cause for incredible amounts of reflection-induced guilt. Especially on account that there were times in her life that I can't remember who was caring for her or whose care she was in, even today. I wasn't on drugs. I didn't even smoke then. I was just that incredibly prolific with sitters because I had to go with what I could afford.

Days passed. I had no idea what was going on in my apartment. I didn't know when I'd be going back. I used the forwarding feature on my phone to get my calls at Kyle's place. The weekend comes. I get a call from my brother.

He and his girlfriend were getting married on the fly, and could I come?

I turn him down, move Aurora away from the buttons on Kyle's boom box, and apologize profusely by saying that Kyle had to work on that Sunday; and there was no way we could get there for their ceremony in time on Monday. It is an eight-hour drive from the city I'm living in for school to home, where Erik is, and I have no vehicle. I'd sold my p.o.s. Ford that spring for cash to have a first-year birthday party for my baby girl.

Married? What?!

My poor brother. Did he learn nothing from watching his sister get knocked up? He hadn't even left for basic training and was about to engage in a lifelong commitment to his girlfriend so that she could be covered under his medical coverage. Or something akin to that.

He is understanding because it is, after all, a very last minute arrangement, and I call Kyle at work to share the shocking news.

"Well, why not?" he counters when I relay what I told Erik. "Let's do it. We can drive overnight tomorrow night."

A little surprised, I jump on board. It would be great to surprise my brother!

I get a bag ready, Kyle gets home Sunday night, we throw our few things in his hard top Geo Tracker, and go.

We get all the way to the gas/pizza joint--the halfway point between college town and home. We get gas, our personal pan pizzas, and some water bottles at about two-or-so in the morning, and get back on the road. Aurora gets fussy and wants out of her car seat. Against my better judgment, I unbuckle her. The poor thing's been in her car seat for four hours already. About ten minutes later, I trade spots with Kyle for the wheel, and rebuckle up a very feisty, pissy year-old in her car seat.

The next thing I remember I only recall from a handful of fuzzy memories. Stumbling into a hospital bathroom. Being at my grandpa's. Sitting on my dad's couch. My mom's being their with my other brother. A hotel room with Kyle.

Everything else I know is from the accounts of others, not my own.

Because, you see, just as we were about to make it, about half an hour outside of my hometown, I had fallen asleep at the wheel. To this day I don't remember even dozing off once at any other part of the trip before that.

And, as the Tracker veered off the road and smacked a reflector pole, I woke up, tried to correct the wheel and ultimately jerked and pulled the Tracker into a roll, three times, before it landed on its roof.

The only reason I know what I must have done is because Kyle said he was sleeping and woke up to me screaming, "oh shit!" and I know how women drive. And I'm a woman. And the police report described the tire tracks and location of the vehicle, upside down, in the median.

The EMT on his way to work that early morning was right behind us was also a source of learning what happened. He reported that he saw our tail lights go all "whirly... all over the road" as per the news article he was in because I had searched him out via the editor, and he had been "ratted out" by a friend, and followed up by a local reporter.

The EMT, Keith Gould, from Upton, Wyoming (oh yes, I hope anyone reads this knows who he his, where to find him, so they can know what a real hero looks like) was on his way to his job at the mine as an EMT and has been right behind us and saw the whole thing. He stopped, he took care of us, he got us an ambulance, got us sent to the hospital. According to Kyle, I said my daughter's name was Kyle Marie and was extremely combative in the ambulance.

The vehicle had rolled 3 times and in the process, bashed Kyle and I around so hard that his back muscles were all torn, his eyes blood shot and black, and my head hit the ground and broken glass like a ragdoll's. Not only did Kyle have to check my vitals while buckled upside down, but in less a flash later, his concern turned to Aurora.

She was not in her carseat.

He heard whimpering.

He unbuckled his massive 6'6'' frame, dropped to the roof and crawled out, and found Aurora walking around. In the median. In the span of time it took for our lives to change forever, Keith Gould was there, checking Kyle, checking Aurora, and I presume checking on me. I was out.

Aurora only had a small couple of scratches where we assume, to this day, the harness of the car seat had loosened.

I would want to add that there being anyone on a Wyoming highway at 6 in the morning is rare enough, but to have that 1% have been an EMT...

Within hours of being checked out at the hospital, Kyle and Aurora were released, while I stayed in ICU with a concussion.

Any of the piddling memories I have all fit into the encircling drama that ensued, as well as the recovering process of working through a massive fog.

When I was able to finally put it together, weeks after the accident, and I got pictures of the Tracker and of Erik's wedding in the mail, I stood in my doorway and cried so hard. I ran to my baby girl and hugged her. The horrible feeling of not even being able to protect her from myself is worse than a mother who messes up any other way...

I mentioned ensuing drama because, I will also tell you, my own parents couldn't get along during my extended stay...