“Don’t let them break you,” he told me. He stared at me intently, as if searching to see if his words were landing or hitting some place inside of me. He was looking at the inward flame although dim, still lit. So there in that office, his words blew on the inward embers of potential. This is my doctor.
Thank you for being one of my fire keepers.
“Don’t be afraid, you have us.” She stated this matter-of-factly, pushing my fears aside and behind, just as she effortlessly pushed her long blonde braid past her shoulder. Those fears had been nipping at my heels, and one sentence told them to back off and that they didn’t belong anywhere near. Solidarity comes not just in numbers, quantity, but quality. And I couldn’t have ran into a finer pack of wild women. They had fire within them. They’d been beaten, battered, bruised, but amidst fires of testing weren’t consumed. They stood as beacons of hope to every person around them weathering a storm, including me.
Thank you for keeping me burning.
“Hi, Moonshine,” with the trill of playfulness in that voice of his. “What?” the only word I managed to spit out as I practically fell through the doorway loaded down with the more bags than I had left with that morning.
He poked fun at those many bags, always pointing them out, in fact, counting them out loud as I left the house. He liked to ask, “How many do we have today?” He’d laugh as he squinted, one eye shut as if shooting his pointed finger like a gun at each one. “One, two,” laughter as I grappled with not one, but two, door handles as my personal opponents each morning. “Three, four–wow! Five! I think that’s a record. Yes, that’s certainly a high five.”
“Yeah, Moonshine. You’re my Sunshine in the morning and my Moonshine at night.” I could feel the heat rising up, the kind that usually prefaces tears. I laughed anxiously, uncomfortable with the affection I’d been given. Laughter shoved the tears back down with sound from my mouth. In the honey of his speech I was covered in safety. Sweetness dripped from his laughter and sometimes his simple random babbling. Why yes, honey was dripping and healing me. His random “because you looked like you needed one,” hugs breathed life into me. One sentence from him could at times cut a thousand accusations. In a moment I was far, far away from the war zone and whirlwind I’d been in, and at complete peace, honey surrounding me.
Thank you for healing me with honey.
As I hit the concrete the sound waves swept over me. I felt my friends’ voices, unintelligible, unable to hear clear. I felt them touching my hand and arm, touches of concern, care, and presence. I laid there all but dead, seemingly lifeless, on the cold concrete of The Basement, a blanket wrapping me and keeping in the heat, staring at the ceiling. Tears were streaming so steadily that you couldn’t discern one from the next; crying, but I didn’t make a sound.
This is brain injury.
Five minutes before I met the concrete with my deadweight body I heard the sounds and they were drawing me. I slid off my bed my friends had tucked me in, knowing it was “a bad brain day,” and I wasn’t functioning. I crawled and then walked, my hands feeling for the rails and walls to steady and direct me, because sometimes you can’t see with brain injury. Then I finally hit the concrete intentionally.
Previously, you could find me vomiting and enduring any and all sounds or movements, let alone music. This was a great pain and crisis to me, considering I ran a DIY basement music venue. Every show since my accident I’d get sick, slump down to the nearest floor, and lay comatose until “the storm passed,” as I’d say. Even after moving the location of the shows to help alleviate some pressure, I’d go out to the church’s graveyard and puke and lay in an almost drunk state, the kind where everything spins and it feels like a bad dream, half reality, and you’re simply watching, floating above your body.
This is brain injury.
At times I couldn’t speak. It felt like every word was another twenty pounds added by gravity to the weight of my body. Before this moment, every show I’d been to and put on I would be sick, throwing up or slumping down to take a take a time out.
This time it was different. The sound was moving and drawing me. I had always felt I tasted sounds to a degree, synthesia, [a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., vision)] but since my accident and traumatic brain injury, this was a whole other degree. Nothing tasted so sweet than what I was hearing…or tasting?
With traumatic brain injury, it is as if your inner circuit board switches your wires all around, inputs and outputs, or inputs/outputs are eliminated altogether due to the injury and until healing of the brain takes place. Some of the rewiring may never change, and you’ll never be the same.
The sound waves crashed over me, and I was safe, floating out in a stormy sea of brain injury, but anchored deep in sound with my friends that have become my family.
Thank you for weathering the ugly.