Excerpt from the essay “On a Dime” included in the anthology, Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength & Inspiration.
I remember falling as if it were orchestrated…so fast I didn’t equate any fear with what was happening. The first “crack” I heard was my tailbone hitting the kitchen’s ceramic stone tile floor. The foot I attempted to step down with had slipped out right from under me, and my tailbone took the initial blow. The second “crack” I heard was the back of my skull hitting the brick wall in my kitchen. Picture an L-shaped landing, only one where it suddenly and awkwardly rotates 45 degrees counterclockwise.
And just like that, everything changed.
* * *
You wouldn’t know to look at me that anything is amiss—I can walk, talk, and communicate in complete sentences. By today’s societal standards, I appear quite functional and relatively well. So well, in fact, you would never imagine the stunning amount of resources I am expending just to meet you intellectually where you are at—and that’s on a good day.
Then maybe, just maybe, for the 10 minutes we converse, you might presume I’m just like my old self again and all is well, but I’ve come to terms with the fact there are many cracks and crevices in a 24-hour day for another, very different, Amy to appear. This Amy is moody and at times much more disconcerting and difficult to deal with. She cannot discern between the severity of losing her keys or losing her car. She painstakingly forages for words, and then falteringly forces them out as if they were passing through thick pads of cotton. She mistakes the past for the present, and then fails to recognize the future as something to look forward to, instead of feared.
So these are the very things, among many others, which still render me incapable of asserting, even simply to myself, this is going to go away—that this “brain injury thing,” this “time I hit my head,” is not so minute. Just because I am still in one piece, without any obvious physical or mental damage, it doesn’t mean I am completely whole.
If only I had gone in the other room for a ladder.