After an Internet hiatus to end all hiatuses (hiati?), last week I re-entered the world of things-I-don’t-really-need-to-know-but-feel-ignorant-if-I-don’t. Who should welcome me back but some chap named Amis, whose name means “friends” but ironically didn’t seem at all friendly. His claim that the only way he’d write for children is with a brain injury got me thinking. Mainly about how Amis seems to be seriously misinformed about brain injuries. But also about other things. Deeper things. I have a traumatic brain injury. Two, technically. When I was twelve years old I was hit by a car and sustained some fairly intense damage to my frontal lobe. A CT scan later revealed I had a pre-existing brain tumor in my cerebellum. After growing for who-knows-how-long, the tumor was the size of a grapefruit when they completely removed it a few days after the accident.
I also suffer from a host of mental health issues. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was five years old—around the same time I began getting headaches so strong I’d put one hand above each ear and squeeze until I was sure the evil inside would come seeping out. It never did. Years later, when the evil inside was determined to be a tumor, I knew I should rejoice. But by then I was sullen; jaded. I was a girl who’d been sick longer than she’d been well. My mental illness and my physical illness have been inextricably linked for as long as I can remember.
Disabilities like mine are the easiest to hide. No one sees the brain tumor that’s no longer there, or the mass of mis-wadded tissue in the front of my skull. No one else feels the shaking above my eyes or hears the voices in my head.
Invisible illnesses are easy to hide but hard to treat. Which explains my hiatus. For months my headaches have been increasing in frequency and severity; the dizzy spells more common, the voices louder and stronger and more intent on promising me I’ll never get better. Not for lack of “taking care of myself.” Not for lack of hard work and inner strength and etc. etc. But because with a brain injury, these things happen.
Around Christmastime, I became unable to sit upright without getting “woo head” (a brief etymology—woozy head became wooze head became woo head). With my computer time limited by necessity, is it any wonder blogging was the first to go?
The thing about blogging: with it we can, to some extent, create our own persona. We can choose if we want to write happy stuff or sad stuff. We can choose if we want to post only the pictures that make us look pretty or if we want to show the world what we look like the other 99.9% of the time. I don’t want this blog to be a representation of a pseudo-life. I don’t want it to just magically pick up where it left off.
I can say my life is Taylor Swift concerts and writing retreats and rock-star friends. It’s true. But my life is also physicians saying to me, “Yes, your head is messed up and no, there’s nothing I can do.” My life is physical therapy appointments where I watch eighty-year-olds progressing faster than I am. My life is writing longhand, impressing people for being old-school, when the reality is that because of my brain injury I only type 17 wpm.
In my mind I’ve been going over how an injury like this can be related to writing for young people, and I still can’t find a connection. Then again, I am brain damaged. But writing for the under-twenty set is all I’ve ever loved. And if my injury is what led me to this life? Then it’s worth it.