Before the accident, I was…
I didn’t notice at first. In the process of my recovery, the loss of words was hidden under the haze of opiates and glossed over by more physical injuries. If I couldn’t remember something, it was clearly the fault of the drugs or the pain. I wasn’t reading anyway. Too hard to concentrate. I lost myself in series after series on Netflix.
But then…as I weaned from the drugs…the words wouldn’t come.
I had more excuses. The anxiety over driving. The struggle to remember all the therapy appointments. I just had too much on my mind. It would come back.
But then…I went back to work. And I crashed. The words were still not coming. And words are my job. I need them to flow easily to earn a living. And they weren’t coming. I’d sit at my desk and try to find the “right” word. I knew there was one. I’d used it hundreds of times before. It was right on the tip of my brain. I reached out hard to try and find it.
But I couldn’t reach it.
Back to the doctor, and a referral for some tests. Hours of tests. For my brain.
I was told to get a good night’s rest before going. And I did. I was nervous anyway.
It started out easy. A list of words. Remember the list of 10 words. They even gave me time to stuff them in to my head.
Next a task. Dexterity. Make my hand move to grab the pieces. My tongue wrapping around my upper lip as I concentrated on the new task. And back again.
“Can you remember that list of words?”
Sure. I confidently list off six. And then I falter.
“Wait. No. Give me a sec,” my eyes move up to search. I close my eyes, hoping that if I concentrate hard enough…”ah, yes,” I list one more. But I can’t find the others.
Seven. All I can do is seven.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “Let’s move to the next task.”
“Tell me the list of words again.”
Only four this time. I lost three more. My brain screams. Are you an idiot? You just listed the words 30 minutes ago. Where did they go?? I close my eyes and put my hands on my head. Trying to pull the words out. Nothing.
She moves to the next task.
“Can you find the pattern here?”
I can’t see a pattern. I take a few moments and then at my task master’s urging, I guess.
“No,” she flips the card. “Next one.”
There’s no pattern. Why is she telling me there’s a pattern. I can’t see a pattern.
I take a breath. I put my had to my temple in an attempt to physically prime my brain.
It doesn’t work. I guess again.
“No. Next one.”
The tears well with frustration. I take my time. I look hard. I can’t see it. I can’t see it. Why can’t I FUCKING SEE IT. She seems to think it’s easy. I should know this. Why DON’T I FUCKING KNOW THIS?
“Is it A?”
She starts to turn the card.
I touch the card. Holding it down.
She starts to pull it away.
“Tell me what it is.”
“Tell me. I need to know what it is.”
ARE YOU FUCKING WITH ME? IS THERE EVEN A PATTERN?
“THERE IS NO PATTERN! IS THAT THE TEST? IS THE TEST TO MAKE ME QUESTION MY SANITY?” I’m flashing with both anger and frustration.
She touches my hand, kindly, catching my eye with her own. She turns and then hands me Kleenex.
“You’re getting frustrated. Let’s take a moment and then we’ll move onto the next one.”
She takes the test and leaves the room. I crumple on the table, defeated. The tears rim my eyes and I run the Kleenex hard under my nose.
I have some water, take a deep breath. I need to mentally prepare myself for the next test. I can do this. I CAN do this.
She comes back in, without the last test.
“Are you OK?”
No. I’m broken. I wipe my nose again.
I take a breath.
“Yes. Let’s go. How much longer?”
“Not much longer. Can you remember the list?”
I wipe my nose, stalling.
What was the list? It’s right there. I can see it!
A minute passes, and the tears start afresh, I can’t even hold them back this time. They roll hotly down my cheek.
“No. I can’t remember it.”
I didn’t need the results to tell me that there was something wrong with my brain. That day made it abundantly clear that something that would have once come so easily was now a struggle. I leave the test even more terrified than I had been going in.
I was broken.
But there was more that I had to go through to find out how broken I was.
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