I Am Allowed To Be Dumb
Tuesday, 25 January 2011 08:52

And Maybe Without …Shame:

I’m “bump-dumb”.  I am not sure for how long I can use my most recent head injuries as an excuse for bouts of dull-wittedness, but I am counting on at least a week or two – as long as I don’t suffer another cranial mishap.

For a handful of reasons, I reached adulthood with a good deal of intra-cranial scarring, lesions, the on and off swelling of which led to a bleed in my early twenties and then bouts of neurological stress that I learned to treat and experience as “normal”. Any extreme emotions I simply chalked up to something akin to pre-menstrual tension and got on with things.  I impressed more than a few neurologists with my true grit approach. I have wondered, however, what they would have had in their bag of (even surgical) tricks that would have proved more effective. It is not as if one can just prick the brain and have it rid itself of pressure – or, in my case, hot air. In addition, my work as a trauma specialist, in crisis situations – either war related or where amorphous gaseous combinations have been unavoidable – has required ongoing, usually experimental treatment to ascertain both the short and long term effects and possible remedies for entire teams of crisis workers poisoned and otherwise injured on “the job”.

Why, lately, I have found myself falling off ladders, leaping to hug-catch a plasma TV plunging from its once affixed place high on a den wall (and ending up under the debris of six well-laden levels of bookcases that came down with it), walking through an open door to have a workman’s hammer, hung for a moment over the top of the door while he fiddled with something in his toolbox, descend unpleasantly to my crown, I do not know. But it is bothering me, not just because my head hurts and because I cannot afford additional swelling, but because of the timing. It has all taken place in a specific, three week period (or so) and while my neurologist doesn’t see anything weird about the dramatic series of potentially crippling thumps, I feel, well, guilty. By the “plasma catch” and somewhat bewildering climb out from underneath the myriad contents of tastefully stacked and decorated bookcases, I had had enough and was feeling just a little sorry for myself. Like a child who has fallen into a construction ditch three times a week on the way to school, and has kept her embarrassment (and fear) to herself, I now needed to tell someone. Almost like a confession, one that might break the spell. But there was a problem.

All this thumping and bumping silliness took place just prior to and after the daily coverage of the latest, most pressing and very real assassination attempt on an American congresswoman that resulted in a bullet entering and exiting her brain and skull.  Perhaps no one else would make the connection but I did, and with more than a modicum of shame. It is not that I thought I was being careless. I wasn’t. Just active , and stupid (regarding the 4’ by 5’ television). But as someone who is more empathetic than is often bearable, as well as someone who has spent long periods of time in hospitals trying to remember what “normal” is (until hospital subsistence becomes normal), I have innumerable moments when I imagine the congresswoman’s fear, confusion, her trying to make sense of  sounds, smells, the touch of  a child’s or her husband’s hand, trying to remember and coming up against that dark, primordial, protective space in soul and mind that knows one is not ready to know, or remember. The most primitive and wisest instincts remain while a brain can still direct its bearer to breathe.  How was I to tell someone, anyone that I was a little upset, even slightly regressed over repeated bangs to my head? How would it sound? I would appear to be either idiotically accident prone (which, as a psychotherapist, I know has all kinds of implications) or I might seem to be trying to hone in on the disaster of the month. Either way, I was going to look ridiculous.

I told a few people and….felt ridiculous. I couched the incidents in humor and downplayed any discomfort. Still, the renditions and the incidents could only come across like a hyper-bout of temporary, inadvertently masochistic insanity. But it didn’t and doesn’t matter. I think just telling someone, breaking the tendon that held and hid my minor secret – shame, plus childlike confusion with an added component akin to sadness - lifted my spirits, those that lie behind the scenes in which we present who and how we are to the world.

More important (to me, alone, I suspect), I did not feel I was steeling even a nanosecond of anyone’s thunder. By sharing the mishaps, I came to realize that I could not bear to experience or emotionally cogitate over the two ludicrously unequal experiences at once. I could not carry the congresswoman’s struggle in my heart and play an almost daily game of pong ball with my own head at the same time. In a very personal, inconsequential way, I was, like a child, making an angry  comparison, discounting the fact that I was upset and fatigued about continuously hurting myself, my head, and furious with myself (for the same reason) at a time when a ubiquitous bullet to head has determined that a life, many lives, will never be the same.

Dumb, I know. Even dumber to write about.  But this, being a little dumb for a few more days, I am going to allow myself - without shame.
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