Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Running the Asylum

Surviving can make you feel like you are going crazy.

Everything collides at once. 

Emotions swirl. Physical ailments compound. Realities begin to converge. People get tangled. Life begins to take on a surreal quality, which can be extremely overwhelming. Like a lunatic in a padded room, your world feels straight-jacketed and fighting it just leaves you bouncing uselessly off the walls. Everything at once is very, very hard to process. When it keeps coming, it is difficult to find the ability to stop the roller coaster long enough to inhale and calm down.

At times, there is truly only one way to fight the madness. And, that is just to join the asylum.

Go insane.
Totally lose it.
Crack up on occasion.
Run amok. 

Meltdown when you need to. 
Temporarily allow yourself the freedom to go a little bit crazy.
Break a little to remain whole. 

Cry. Stomp around like a child throwing a tantrum. Flop on beds. Howl at the moon. Punch pillows. Yell at God. Dance around flailing your arms. Spin in a circle until you are reeling from the dizziness. Release the Kraken.
Whatever vents it out, calms it down, and pulls it together.

My aneurysm was discovered after I was involved in a "minor" car accident. I had been vomiting and passing out after having been sent home from the hospital the night before. I was back in the emergency room with whiplash and a shaken-baby style concussion. The doctors were concerned by swelling on the side of my neck and gave me an MRI to see if anything in there was about to rupture. But, at the very top of the scan of my neck, the technician glimpsed a brain aneurysm. So, I got sent home. 

(Yes, they do that. Drop a dire diagnosis in your lap, put a cervical collar on your neck to stabilize your whiplash, give you a pain pill prescription, tell you to find a neurosurgeon first thing in the morning since your aneurysm hasn't yet ruptured, and send you home alone at three a.m.) 

Things were starting to swirl.

In pain, hardly able to move, lightheaded, woozy and totally alone, I couldn't even reach anyone since it was the middle of the night. No one was answering their phones. I looked up aneurysm on the computer and started to panic. Those kill people. Hours until sunrise. Hours until I could reach family or friends. Hours looking at statistics about the scary thing in my head.

Things were starting to compound.

Phone calls, frantic family and friends, calling off work, doctors appointments, driving in a neck brace, woozy, hurt, more phone calls, emails, making arrangements, getting tests, needles, scans, developing a burn on my face and neck from all the contrast dyes, 
going to the hospital for a surgical cerebral angiogram for a better look at what I was dealing with, having my nether regions shaved, having a hole cut in my groin, having a catheter snaked up my body into my brain, having the anesthesia run out half way through the procedure maxing out my dosage, lying there awake, my head taped down, a wash cloth over my eyes so I didn't move them while they had a probe in my brain, 
unable to get the hole stitched shut should they need to go into the femoral artery again, unable to move or sit up for eight hours to allow the hole to clot, lifted by three strangers to go to the bathroom in a pan while lying flat on my back, bored, alone, frightened, and finally told I didn't have a brain aneurysm, 
I had two brain aneurysms, wrapped around each other, dangerously intertwined, with a 100% chance of death should one of them rupture, because it would cause the other to rupture seconds later, with a possible life expectancy of about 32 seconds should that occur.

Things converged.

I managed to stay rational talking to the doctors. I stayed in control checking out of the hospital. I held it together with the friend who picked me up. I assured the friends who made me dinner and wanted me to sleep over I was alright to go home alone. I somehow got the car started and began to drive.

Things tangled.

I was driving. I had on a neck brace which I would need to wear for seven weeks. I had whiplash. I could barely lift my arms to hold the steering wheel. I was nearing the end of seven weeks of I.V. iron treatments for severe anemia. I had less then $22 in the bank with Christmas only three and a half weeks away. I had a painful chemical induced burn across my face and neck. I didn't have enough money to buy both the burn medicine and the pain medicine. I had a hole in my groin. I walked dragging my leg behind me like Quasimodo. I hurt. I could hardly move. I needed brain surgery. I couldn't have brain surgery until my damaged neck stabilized. I had to tell all this to people I love who loved me and didn't yet fully comprehend I had a ticking time bomb in my head which could rupture at any time. I didn't have one brain aneurysm. I had two intertwined brain aneurysms in my temporal lobe.

Life became surreal.

I entered the asylum.

I laughed harder and longer than I ever laughed in my whole life. 

It was too much at once. Massive, painful, frightening realities now fully slamming into my already complicated life. Big decisions, big choices, little to no control. More than could be processed at once, yet I was having to face them all right in the here and now. Alone in my car.

I had to pull off the road, because I was laughing so hard I couldn't see. I melted down laughing. Tears rolled down my cheeks, but from utterly uncontrollable laughter. I even thought, "I shouldn't be laughing about this. This is so not funny," but I could not stop laughing. Thinking I shouldn't laugh actually made me laugh harder. It was not fleeting either. I was lost in this surreal place that had so much reality that I began to exist without reality, unencumbered by the passage of time. I laughed and laughed and laughed, because... Of course.

It may seem ridiculous, but parked on the side of the road, just south of Seattle, laughing like a complete lunatic, was the first step to my survival. 

Through the darkest, scariest, and painful of times after, I survived better when I could laugh and lose it, even if only in the form of a smile or giggle for a minute. It anchored me. It allowed me to calm down and vent. It helped me find me in all the craziness. I began to heal when I went a little bit crazy. 

Acknowledge the madness. Allow yourself the freedom to break down for that might help you get back up. 
It is okay to cry. It is okay to laugh. It is okay not to be okay. It is okay to run the asylum.

Surviving isn't about etiquette or proper behavior. It is about surviving anyway you can - however you can.

For the record, as fate would have it, after brain surgery, for months the nerve damage behind my eye made crying so instantly intensely painful, that I couldn't cry at all. 
So... Of course.

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