My Story from Counting the Days, Recovery

Man Sitting with Face Down in Hands

After I learned again to walk and talk, I broke windows, frustrated because words wouldn't dislodge from my fractured brain. I put my fist through any type of glass, including a tough-to-break telephone booth. But my memory is weak on these points, even with my emotionally-challenged discovery of drawings and poetry, which I apparently had dictated to someone else long ago as evidenced by my words written in an unknown legible hand. I don't recognize numerous scribbles of thin suggestions scrawled across aged paper.

Eventually I wrote my own poems, beginning in an immature block awkward print. I was lost inside my drawings, as the one above, being deathly focused on each intricate detail. A leaf, tree bark, a flower or a blade of grass was how I sailed away from my pain. Years later, medical evaluations measured my academic performance level around fourth grade. I was twenty-seven then. I found myself also dealing with a common result of Traumatic Brain Injury, that of anger, which is a cause of incarceration, broken families, domestic abuse or an increase in public violence. Like many others suffering with Traumatic Brain Injury, anger is both our savior and curse, one arrives with bells on to chase our heads with bolts of energy such as motivation, false courage, and determination, while the other offers an explosive additive to fuel a weakened neurologic system. With the bridge washed out and streetlights gone with a zap, anger delivered more salt in the wound, which pain led to dying.

One memory of how anger sped me along a path of death felt like an artery burst at one hundred miles per hour riding flat-lined on my Yamaha RD 400, which was akin to straddling a stick of dynamite; I was the match! This tenacious effort to drive "TBI" out of my life failed by my living, couldn't kill it without killing me. Matter-a-fact, I kept living so there's something to that. You keep living too! Once a Highway Patrol Officer pulled me over on my motorcycle near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Upon orders, I tried to remove my helmet but it was stuck like a cord in a tight socket. Pulling the helmet off finally released a long mane of blonde hair. In the dark stood an obedient-to-theauthority, lanky butch. He stared a minute, then broke into song, "Oh my God you're a girl! Oh my God. What are you doing riding like that? I have a daughter your age!" He shrieked upon seeing his first butch, defined then as those women who ride motorcycles bravely tipping fate at higher speeds. Upon a milder voice, of course, he expected a guy.

"Guys are stupid and suicidal, not girls." He obviously didn't know any brain damaged ones! I stood silent taking my carving to the core like a tough "boy," wondering what was next. Arrest? I thought to myself, I had something to kill inside, My loss of life; My pain; My rage; My disorientation; My future; My dreams, that another would live, not me! My mind turned back to what he was saying, still standing at attention, is that he cared! That two-stroke motorcycle was my instrument of expression and I did have a lot to say!

After the car accident my father and two older brothers left us like trash thrown out a car window, to be blown away quietly alongside a highway, or if lucky, we'd survive the repeated run-overs. My mother and I formed a bond surviving repeated run-overs, struggling through our lives minus a father's child support or alimony. We lived in poverty. The car accident that brought hell on the wind happened July 7th on Highway 46, a desolate and dehydrated country road made famous in 1955 by James Dean's tragic death in a car crash with his mechanic Rolf surviving. Like Dean's fate, someone died in my crash. I was thrown out of a roadster onto the highway at high speeds, directly on my head. I was seventeen years old then and I will never know now who I would have been, but for the accident. Nor will Rodney's parents know whether their son would've ever changed his life from where it was going with drugs at the time, because I took that. I was the driver who survived! That haunts me at my emotional center, it is hidden in everything I am. Where enormous guilt pushes my hand to scribbling poetry, to rid the angst punching against my insides, banging outward to express hell. It was the beauty of poetry written by others that drew me back to living. It was the area of my brain that stayed intact for the journey home. Where pain and sorrow could romp and spill freely from a split-gut. Where I could feel love and romance made-up, fantasized, unreal. Pen to paper over my senses of being alive. Quivering, beneath the surface buzzing through the silence of redwood trees on a sunny day. I was living. I created a world I could bear to acknowledge through poetry. A world, in which I would recover my self, not the dark hole thought to be me. A remanufactured self, but nonetheless a person, to eventually find great love and passion transformed through literature.

Poetry penetrated a brain that no longer sensed or connected with "real" pain. As a reminder, I'd put cigarettes out on the back of my hand. Done during recess in the yard, mingling with other locked-up psych ward crazies. Yes there are scars. But I never winced. I didn't feel pain. I felt poetry. When I watched my skin smoke it was no more upsetting than the news of the day. Burning my flesh, I imagined a glowing dot pulling me in. A lava-colored transparent red windowpane opened to my soul, just smoldering. Then one day, I jumped back from the burning, the practice was over. I not only didn't want pain, but I could feel it as the cigarette came within closer proximity. I was a miserable heap of someone who had no past, no present, and certainly no future. I was the question mark!

Yet, poetry reached me, keeping me from falling through the red-stained window. Love and romance fed my desire to feel anything good about living. As if "future" were an item one could win or buy from surviving battle like a powerful winged, flying dragon swooping over the forest, or the mightiest sword pulled from the stone, waiting years for its master's strength. I would discover through monumental pain and suffering, a steady private romancing of my soul. The heart center of my brain romantically revived my body, shuttering it to the living. "Something" feeling painfully good, that could hold my feet to the ground while propelling me upward, to climb hope's highest mountain as the writer and poet emerged. The broken comes to the page with desperate dreams in hand.

After my accident my brain was completely disconnected like a severed ventricle, the ends sanded clean of any association of the other before seventeen. In the last photo of me, I am standing in front of a wire fence in a public park. I look at the photo now to see a young girl, one who died suddenly in a crash. That one I don't know? My childhood recollections are spotty where memories are held in conflict. It is the remake of any great movie. The script begins at the computer screen, blank of course. If you are reading this book you are part of my dream so welcome to my succeeding against trauma that devoured years of my life. This work is for those who faithfully survive life's crippling effects of disability. It is for those of us who dare to scale hope's mountain while broken, to kneel before her majestic heights unafraid. One step at a time keeps your eye on the peak!