• The Cerebellum Blues Story: Chapter Four, Waking Up to Reality (sort of).

In preparation of my album launch, which should happen in May, 2011, I'm recapping how I got back into music. In this chapter:

The future is no longer the future / Staying put / Starting therapy / A visit to the office / I am NOT disabled, damnit

After my first two post-accident appointments with my regular doctor, I had a clear idea of what had happened to me and why. No longer did I think I had suffered a minor injury that would heal in a few weeks or maybe a month. Instead, I was fully aware of why my brain injury was called a severe traumatic one, and why Catherine and I had to possibly accept that whatever future we had been planning for no longer existed.

Oddly, I was not too stressed about it all. I had good health insurance and plenty of unused vacation, and I worked for a company that still had some old-school attitudes toward employees who had suffered some sort of set-back. In addition, by sheer chance, I had disability insurance that I could maybe use if things truly were as bad as they seemed to be. I had a safety net, right?

And so Catherine and I started to settle into a new life. No longer was I getting up and heading off to work every day while she stayed home and pursued her budding food writing career. Instead, I was mostly sleeping while Catherine handled countless calls and paperwork with doctors and insurance and my employer, who needed to know what was going on in order to make sure I could take full advantage of my benefits. She also fed me and bathed me and helped to keep my spirits up by simply being there for me. Needless to say, we completely abandoned our hunt for a new apartment.

In those early days, I was too out of it and Catherine too overwhelmed for either of us to be doing much exploration around ways for me to get better, so we simply heeded my doctors’ advice, which, sadly, did not amount to much. Not that I had bad doctors, it’s just that there’s very little you can do for brain injury victims. The main therapies suggested to me were physical therapy to address my walking difficulties and pyschotherapy to address my growing depression. I started both of these a few months after my accident and a routine developed in which I would get up most mornings around 10 or 11, go to whatever doctor or therapy appointment was scheduled, then come home and go to bed between six or seven. My parents were very helpful, driving me to from several appointments, but mostly Catherine was my everything. In time, we added movies to our schedule, heading off to the theater whenever I felt up to it, and we started going on a lot of walks together, which often ended with me getting sick, especially if I made the mistake of looking up.

Given all that had happened to me — life threatening brain injury (about 40% of those who suffer the kind of brain injury I suffered die), possible loss of career, motor control damage in my brain extensive enough to make it nearly impossible for me to walk unaided, etc. — it was a good idea to just take a step back and focus on my recovery, which I was doing. But old habits die hard and as I improved, I spent a bit more time checking work email and fretting about all that I was missing. I even went into the office a few times, and I could tell by he way people looked at me that I was in a bad way.

Call it stubbornness or maybe idiocy, but despite my condition, I was still fully expecting to go back to work. I just could not imagine any other future and was working hard in my mind to rationalize why going back into a career that had ultimately made me very unhappy made perfect sense. The plan was to stay home for six months in order to make sure I would qualify for my disability insurance should l I need it — actually, it was doctor's orders — but at the six month mark, I was going to return no matter what. In fact, when the time came, I remember working hard to convince my doctor I was good to go; he relented and approved me for 30 hours a week (or maybe it was only 20, can’t recall). But he was not enthusiastic and encouraged me to go on full disability, but I just could not accept that I was disabled. Sure, I was in bad shape, but I wasn't missing any limbs, I didn't seem to have any cognitive issues, I could walk pretty well, albeit with a cane, no, I was not disabled. And I was going to be better soon, I was sure of it.

Next up: casting for hope.