Friday, March 6, 2009

Broken Back Story Part 14 (Sixteen Years of a Head Injury Boiled Down to One Page)

The looming head injury that I had suffered that no one noticed at first, including myself, started becoming more evident about three months after the wreck - once the summer ended and 11th grade began.

A lot of it was funny. I won't bore you with the whole process. But some of the things that happened were things like this:

1. During the first year, my friends could say "Meet me back here in fifteen minutes." When I wouldn't show up, they'd call me at home later in the day all pissed, saying "Why didn't you meet me in fifteen minutes, like you said you would?" And I'd say, "What are you talking about? I haven't seen you today."

2. Writing. I developed a new accidental habit of repeatedly leaving the last letter off of words and the entire last word off of sentences. Oddly, I just realized that once I took up writing as a hobby three years ago and quit hand writing and started doing more typing, I've kind of overcome this.

3. Double negatives. I still haven't, and probably will never heal from this one. If you use a sentence that has two words in it such as "don't" and "not." I have no idea what you mean. I literally have to stop and do the math. For example, if you say, "I don't want you to think I'm not happy with the situation." I have to do the math in my head and say, "OK, He DOESN'T want me to think he ISN'T happy with the situation. OK, that's twominuses, which kind of makes a positive. So he DOES want me to think he IS happy with the situation. So that's good. But only sort of. Why didn't he just say it that way? I wan't to explode my brain now. What were we even talking about anyway? I am now even more confused. (I know everyone has trouble with double negatives at times, but I never had the trouble to that degree until after the wreck. And I've never really conquered it. I read recently that stroke victims often report having this exact problem. I'm glad to know it wasn't just me.)

4. Math. I know they say I didn't hit the part of my brain that does math. But I do know I was great at it. And ever since the wreck, I am frustrated at it.

5. Directions. I get lost going to places I've been a million times. I've had a job delivering pizza in a 4 square mile area for a year and a half. I still get majorly lost at least once a week in places I've seen five thousand times. I also still get lost going to my newspaper job at least twice a month. And it's mostly highway.

6. Sleep. My sleep habits got fucked in 1993. I slept 12 hours a day for the first two years and I've never recovered. Sure, I was a night owl when I was six. But now, I can't turn my brain off or I can't turn it on. I'm either up forever or I sleep forever.

I ended up going to a memory loss clinic in Charlotte about three months after the wreck. It was called the Arnold Palmer Medical Center. I don't know what golf has to do with memory. But I know it only taught me how to cheat at being competent. I guess cheating comes from golf.

I took a lot of expensive tests at the center to conclude that my memory was as bad as was already obvious. (I've had more MRI's and CT scans and EEG's than you'll care to know. More on that later.) I never had amnesia, I just have major trouble comprehending too much new information at once. It's really bizarre for a guy like me to have memory problems, because in a way (I'm not joking), I've always thought I was mildly, mildly retarded or autistic or something - because I was born with the amazing ability to remember details about the stupidest parts of life from many years back. I can tell you multiple details about random days as far back as preschool. Yet, since the wreck, that weird ability was coupled with common situations where I get overwhelmed with not being able to comprehend something that used to be so simple. As a result, I just go stare at the wall alone and think, "Why don't I understand something so simple that used to be so easy?!" I can't explain it any further. Head injuries suck. I do know that I'm way better now than I was the first year, but in some ways I've hit a recovery plateau. And when you're a guy like me, it's hard to deal with these things that make this already eccentric person seem like some sort of different eccentric than my normal weirdness.

The only thing I remember about going to the head injury center for those two years was that they told me that my short term memory was in the 2nd worst percentile. In other words. If you put 100 people in a room and gave us a simple memory task. I was only going to be better than one or two people most of the time. I don't know if retards were included in the sample.

I also remember that I was supposed to go to the Center in Charlotte twice a week. However, a lot of the time, I would get lost driving there. Or (Surprise!) The doctors would call me at home and ask me why I hadn't shown up for my appointment and I'd yell, "OH, NO! I FORGOT!" I bet that happened to those people a lot. All I really learned when I was there was how to fake my way through life to trick myself into making people think I remembered things I really didn't. And I'm still not good at that. Don't get me wrong. If I hadn't told you, and you knew me - you would never suspect I battle the effects of a head injury. But when I tell people, they always get a sense of relief over them and say, "Oh! That makes sense."

I also piss a lot of people off on a daily basis because I am always introducing myself to them, only to hear, "Dude, we've met like three times."

Oh well. Who the fuck cares. I can walk. And I can run and jump now. Even if that usually hurts like shit. I'm not in a wheelchair, so I'm not gonna cry about it. Besides, there are millions of more legit things to bitch about. Have you seen how fucked this economy is?

The next story will be funny. It's about a keg party.


  1. I find it totally amazing that you can remember all this and write about it so vividly, even if you are remembering some things that people TOLD you. I can't even remember what happened yesterday! Awesome.

    Can't wait for the next one!

  2. You seem to have a good handle on it. Way to go! And you've really made an amazing recovery, too.