How have the people in your lives reacted in the acute and longterm stages of recovery post brain injury?
I grew up with enough childhood adversity to have been warned by my very own mother about even “the really good friends” giving up and leaving you or your family to face hardship alone. Some people are themselves traumatized. Especially if your memory doesn’t include the days, weeks, or months you lay in a hospital or behaved as if no piece of your prior personality would ever be discovered again. But even these people, who’ve been traumatized in their own ways, tend to stick around or completely leave my life in roughly the same ratio. Love, friendship, bonding, attachment, human connection and devotion – it is all so indefinite, after all. Today I thought about the roommates who told me to move out because I was acting “different” and minor safety fixtures were annoying them in the apartment. Then one day I came home after a neurology appointment in desperate need of quiet and sleep. The apartment locks were changed. My keys were useless. My friends were making me homeless. A neighbor greeted me and I walked through her apartment unit and out into the back; I climbed the roof and called both roommates confused; I was confused and still so tired. After no replies, I had no idea of where to sleep or what to do for myself. This was back when a taxing day took every bit of problem solving and planning from my damaged brain. Not sure what direction to even walk (in retrospect, the bus and a train, or an uber, would have put me at another friend’s doorstep; my mom and sister only lived a 40 minute ride away as well.). Paralyzed with the experience of living out your day until your cognitive light extinguishes before the sun has faded to sunset, I stayed on the roof of a neighboring apartment and slept in the San Francisco chill without food, water, or warmth. Upon waking, I saw one roommate and asked about the change of locks. He summoned our third roommate, the real overt bully in this situation, and the two of them called the police and tried to have me arrested for breaking in. I pointed to my room and found much of my furniture remained, but plants, art, and other personal items could be seen in other bedrooms or in trash bags. Confusion, just more confusion before I could process this situation – not the processing time the police like to stick around and patiently wait. Since they believed I did live here, and clearly knew the neighbor who let me inside, this was no break-in. Then one roommate, a friend of a decade or so, told a new story of why I was to be jailed; he accused me of hacking into his “social security funds” and stealing money. The officer and I exchanged glances, annd neither of us quite understood what this allegation was all about. But cops are busy, and I was too overwhelmed, shocked, and terrorized by this development that I agreed to pay for an Uber to my mom’s, where I’d sleep on the couch as I sometimes did when the City became too noisy. The cops thanked me and stated I should either file a wrongful eviction case or arrange to have my belongings moved in one week. I texted my roommates one week later that a moving company was scheduled, that I wanted nothing to do with this, and that one of them needed to let them in the apartment to haul my belongings into the moving truck. No explanatory text. Just a flat refusal followed by radio silence. This friend, could not possibly misunderstand brain injury more than he turned out to be an opportunistic sociopath. Stores like that still wake me up at night. Other times, it’s just a lonely, blue kinda mood when no lifelong friends bother to visit or call you while you are living in a 24 hour skilled nursing facility during your thirtieth birthday. Only my loyal friend and companion, once a fiance before she became more caretaker, and now needs more time to heal and to see us whole again before we can permit the deep love we share to cause happiness once more – instead of numb panic and anger from the PTSD – but only her, with her heart wrenched out of her chest, despondent when even a look my way reminds her of the day her dreams died; the day our dreams died and we never even had the chance to say goodbye. Just a day and a foot placed one in front of the other, slowly returning to ourselves. One friend remains, and we take it one day at a time.