Are You My Brother?

When things go wrong with the mind, there is a tendency to demonize or to romanticize it. I never understood enough to know that there was anything to demonize or to romanticize and I couldn’t even get that people were demonizing it.  I know that I am no JOB and myself in need of grace of mercy, I cannot feel this anger at the medical system that in the words of my last girlfriend who was convinced that I was autistic, said “The medical system let you down, Luka. I’m sorry.” My first somewhat successful job after the coma time, came teaching ESL. The fact my students were from a different culture and did not understand language much, was a huge help. I was basically alone, free of those moments that I would get sensory overload or lose context due to lag time in understanding. I also felt their marginalization feelings on a gutt level. But when our “side by side” textbook had me modeling the dialogue “this is my brother” or How many people are in your family? I had to leave the room and I cried hysterically alone- not knowing why. Later I figured it. a Salvadorean student who was very intuitive told me to come visit and she spoke of my “soul injury”.  The fact I remember her saying this 23 years later. Teacher I’m sorry something happened to you. You are a very noble man, and it’s ok. Tell me about your family.  Where are they? Ok teacher don’t answer, it’s ok.

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“Are you my mother”

Traumatic Brain Injury- May, 2015

The early 90’s were a strange time for me and the visual that comes to mind tonight is the well-worn cover of a book that is pale blue/aqua with some yellow that stands out. It contains a children’s story of a perplexed baby bird who has fallen out of the tree and is trying to make sense of his surroundings while instinct tells him he needs to find his mother. The book is entitled “eres tu mi mama” (“are you my mother”) the symbols of this book now have a tremendous meaning to me. The story captures much of the experience that we MTBI survivors understand on a personal level. The bird is existing but he is out of synch. He has lost “context” (or never had it) and his urgent need to find his mother does not match his curious meandering and pondering. No, I doubt the bird hit his head on the fall, but he might as well had. The bird is unaware of his plight. His naive nature is age not a result of injury but nevertheless I relate to it. A predator? What is that huh? He does not understand that his survival is in jeopardy. He comes across several beings and finally a big crane. He is very bewildered but nothing seems to really register. This works in the bird’s favor as he does not panic.  He fits in nowhere and is brushed aside which he glosses over and smiles in an amused state. He even tries asking this big machine with a crane “are you my mother”.  He is somehow jovial strolling along unaware of the fragile state that he finds himself in. And this is how some of feel in between our fatigue issues and depression from fleeting realizations that something has been lost. I imagine that if the bird were a human he’d be seen as a “punch drunk” or a bird that played “too many games without a helmet”. (My own mother threw out that line in a non-malicious humorous way when I was young. But it is no laughing matter when it speaks to my experience some 40 years later.) I now picture the bird going through the other stages of recovery and see that if the book was longer it would not been the children’s book section but in horror fiction. But the book has a pleasant memory attached to it. It is the affective memory that has me thinking about it tonight. I see my daughter looking at me with eyes pleading and her mouth saying “otra vez” “again” The year was 1994/5 and two years had passed from my coma state. My comfort zone was a healthy distraction -a two year old and a child’s book. And I was unaware why it was so comfortable. And how the word “again” was one I wanted to hear. Yes, the instinct to parent was there and the blessing huge!  But the PTSD need for distraction was being met in area that I felt intellectually competent and a perfect atmosphere even if I hadn’t processed it yet.

Aside from not really understanding the severity of his plight, he sets out to find his mother. (his mirror). The one who will meet his physical needs and help him figure out who he is and that he is worth keeping. These needs are very much like the TBI survivor’s especially in those first years and I want to shout from my treetop to tell all the “care-givers” but this blog must do for now. Peace! Luka