You Are Not Your Brain

I am thinking of renaming this blog “Scrambled Brains and Twisted Flippers.”  I quite like that idea, as it encompasses in a slightly irreverent way my two invisible disabilities.

But I have learned that when one is recovering from a serious concussion, what seems like a brilliant idea can sometimes just be one’s brain firing off in all directions.  Making decisions with a broken decision-maker can have mixed results.

And so I wait — as I have been waiting for more than two months now — for the neural pathways to rewire themselves, to be able to walk without a list to starboard, to be able to look down and then up without falling over, to see who Karen 3.0 will turn out to be …

My sense of humour is still intact.  I am amused by the irony of the situation.  This past spring, I was awarded an arts grant to write a memoir about recovering from a serious brain injury I sustained in 2012, but my writing it has come to a screeching halt, due to the Serious Brain Injury of 2023.  Perhaps this is the Universe’s way of reminding me of all the little aspects of post-concussion life I might have forgotten a decade later?

In a way, I’m glad that this is familiar territory.  In 2012, I had no idea that the thoughts in my head might or might not really be me.  The voice in my head sounds the same, after all.  But this time I’m aware of the need to sit back, to see if the Good Ideas still feel like good ideas in a week or so.

Brain injury affects your personality.  It lowers (or eradicates) your inhibitions and sense of social graces.  Dealing with a scrambled brain is kind of like having an out of body experience as your own evil twin.

It’s hard to share what I’m experiencing without sounding like a steaming pile of self-pity: Can’t work; can’t spit out the right words in the right order; can’t handle computer screens; can’t handle too much sensory information; can’t drive; can’t be a passenger; can’t take a shower without that overwhelming brain fatigue that normally follows a weekend of doing income taxes; can’t focus; can’t regulate emotions or reactions; can’t trust myself …

A doorknob.  That’s what did this to me.  That, and the cumulative history of brain injuries, big and little, since I was 17 years old.  The doorknob I slammed off the top of my head when I bent over to pick up something in late September was Concussion No. 10.

So … I wait.

And take notes.

And pat myself on the back for somehow managing to post this via my phone.

I am not my brain.

My brain is broken.

I am not.

I am discouraged, and lonely, and dizzy, and cranky, and broke.

But not broken.

This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge. Slice of Life Writing Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions this week via the comments here.



Remembering Darrell

Thinking about you today.

In July of 2022, when I’d learned you’d passed, my first emotion was gratitude:  so grateful that Life had given me an opportunity to know you, through our work in the tourism sector.

When you brought travel writers to my city, we made a good team — you as their official companion from the provincial tourism department, and me as the local tour guide in period costume.

You were always so kind, and funny, and never left without making a point of quietly telling me that — despite having taken so many of my tours — every time you would learn something new. You felt I was so good at what I did because I was passionate about it, and that the City was lucky to have me.

After I left my job with the city, we would bump into each other — at Kingsbrae Gardens, at the beach at St. Martins — and it was like meeting an old friend, a favourite uncle.

You were always so glad to see me, and I could just tell that you were always so glad to see everyone. That was your warm, twinkling, way. We later connected on Facebook, and your witty observations and warm comments continued to brighten my days. I especially loved reading about your theatrical exploits.

When you passed away at 78, and I read your obituary, I marvelled at the career you’d had before I met you, which you had humbly summed up to me as “a retired public servant.”

Seeing the Heart & Stroke Foundation listed as a suggestion for memorial donations, I assumed that was how you passed, in a manner so many do.

And then eight months later, I heard your name on the news, and I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. It had never occurred to me that “that poor man” I’d fumed to my friends about the previous summer, the anonymous man about whom I’d kept repeating “no one should ever have to die like that” … It never once occurred to me that man was you.

Shock turned to anger and then to rage. Because of all the people in this province who could have been “the man in the hospital waiting room”, it absolutely should not, in a hundred million years, have been you.

And yet …

In some belief systems, it is said that our souls choose the script of our upcoming lifetimes. And I can picture you sitting around a table in the space where souls reside, reading a role description that says “Experience an injust and especially horrible death, but serve to ensure that no one else suffers the same fate.” And I can see you looking up from the script and raising your hand, offering to take one for the team for the greater good. Because that is just something I am certain you would do.

Hearing your name on the news again this morning, in that neutral tone that professional newscasters use, brought it all back. And if I’m feeling this way, I can’t even imagine how your family feels. I will keep them in my thoughts, and send them strength. They don’t know me from Eve, but no one should ever lose a father, a grandfather, a beloved family member, a treasure of a man, the way they lost you.

There will never be “justice”; you were far more valuable on this earth than a billion-dollar surplus. But may the investigation and inquest at least bring some comfort to your loved ones, and some lasting protections for vulnerable people who find themselves in emergency waiting rooms.

I didn’t expect this note to you to be so long, my friend.  But you’ve accompanied me on enough two-hour walking tours to know that, once I get going, I can talk. 🙂

Butter tarts, Darrell.

Always mention the butter tarts.