words are foreplay for the soul

Archive for the ‘My Brain On Crack’ Category

November 9th, 2017 by Akua

My Broken Brain, Part Two

My brain has a new curfew. It’s not allowed to make words past 7 pm. This is to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings between me and my beloved, who keeps telling me I don’t make sense when in fact I know I am making perfect sense. We cannot both be right. My brain must abdicate and I must learn to live with it. But this is a hard, hard thing for some one who grew up thinking that to be Right was to be Good, and to be Good meant being worthy of being alive.

Ergo, to give up being Right feels a little like death. Or the imminent prospect of death, to come perhaps with a swift silent blow in the darkness as I sleep, or with a yawning bathtub drain that opens to swallow me into wet darkness while I shower away my dreams, or perhaps as a knife-beaked silver bird emerging from my morning’s egg to carve my throat into scarlet ribbons.

Some days the words do not come. I sit in stifled silence, my brain no longer on speaking terms with my mouth. My mouth, hungry thing that it is, demands words! But my brain does not obey. Or, if it does, it metes them out slowly, slyly, doling them out like precious jewels. Except these jewels are all mixed up, topsy-turvy, helter-skelter in the summer swelter.

And the Queen must have her crown.

Communication is a funny thing. “It’s the one hundred percent responsibility of the speaker,” he says, “to make sure they are understood.” But he also says, “If you don’t understand what someone says, it’s your one hundred percent responsibility to make sure you do.”

Surely they both can’t be right. [Yes they can! And stop calling me Shirley!]

And the band marches on.


October 25th, 2017 by Akua

I am scared now

I was so excited to go to the library today.

It had been years since I set foot in a library. The last time was, well, I cannot remember when the last time was, I just remember that it had a row of computers that always seemed in use. And the end of the rows were marked with papers that said which kind of books could be found there. I read a lot then. I even read several biographies, which was weird but oddly satisfying. I can remember many details about the library but not where or when it was.

None of this should surprise me, given how things went down at the library.

I drove up and had trouble deciding which space to park in. Some spaces were labeled “20 Minute Parking” and I debated using one of them. I did not think I would be there longer than 20 minutes, and yet I might, and if I was, what then? Swarms of Library Parking Police descending on my car and towing it away to who-knows-where while I stand forlornly in the parking lot, helplessly shaking my fists in the air?

I got out and walked toward the building. The sun was in my eyes, emitting a blinding glare. I kept walking toward the large dark shape in front of me. It was U-shaped. There were doors on the left and doors on the right. Which door? I started walking toward one but it was marked “Gallery”. The other door was marked “Auditorium”. Neither one seemed very library-ish. At last as I continued to walk the glare subsided and I saw huge double doors in the center looming out of the darkness. “Library”. Okay, we’re in.

Next up was finding the place where they give out the library cards. I saw one desk marked “Help”. There were three or four people gathered around it. I thought I would lose my nerve if I had to wait in line so I looked around and saw a desk all the way over to the left marked “Accounts”.  Why we need Accounts at libraries I do not know. There was no one there. I thought I might have to change my strategy but maybe if I stood there, trying to radiate “please help me I need a library card so I can read again and make my brian work” waves, someone would take pity on me. A name tag-wearing woman pushing a cart filled with books must have felt my waves because she asked me why on earth was I there (I think she was actually a reptile), and muttered to me that this other, tag-wearing lady with glasses would help me.

By this point I had used up my Brain Hours just getting to the right desk inside the actual library.

The rest of my time there was spent in a confusing haze of signing forms in pencil (?), admitting I could not remember a password I had set up less than a week ago, or even that I had set up a password at all, and trying (unsuccessfully) to put a little library-card-keytag on my keyring. Then I went to the “Help” desk and asked about renting ebooks and the ladies politely did not correct me and say “no, dear, here we borrow books, not rent them” and they told me I had a choice of two apps to download to make the book rental thing work and one of them was called Libby and all I could think about was Libby Hall, my boss for about six months when I was 25, I think her last name was Hall. Pretty sure her name was Libby. What is Libby short for, anyway? Liberty or Death? I hope not.

Then I walked down the two little aisles of DVDs for rent/borrow and used a computer to see how many copies of Lincoln in the Bardo they have for rent, and could not at first make the mouse scroll down the page until I tried it the opposite way and realized it was probably not a Mac and therefore I would be unable to operate it because I have forgotten how.

I’m pretty sure I could’ve parked in the “20 Minute Parking” space.

So I am scared because it should not be this hard to get a library card. I am scared because I should not be exhausted and out of Brain Hours just walking into a new place. I am scared because my days are so very long now and I can barely remember what I think of as the bottom of them, which is the part closest to when I wake up. I am scared because most of the day I just long to be asleep again. I am scared because I cannot remember many things. I am scared because my beloved thinks I don’t reason very well and cannot be trusted to make decisions. I am scared because I don’t know if my brain can be fixed. I am scared because I might never get any better. I am scared because there is a good chance I will get worse even though my neurologist said he doesn’t think I will get worse. I am scared because I don’t know where I am anymore. I am scared because I don’t know if I will find myself again.

October 21st, 2017 by me

My Beautiful Broken Brain


From the movie My Beautiful Broken Brain. I feel like this looks.

There is a documentary out called My Beautiful Broken Brain, about a woman learning to communicate again after her brain injury. I keep meaning to watch it. But I just realized I don’t need to watch it — I am living it.

It turns out that I am not as invincible as I once thought. Repairable, yes. Invincible, no. I have permanent brain injury. Brain damage. My brain got jostled about during its two surgeries, and it was even shifted over to one side for a few months, which I am now told is a Bad Thing. Some people don’t recover well from it. I’ve beat worse odds than this before, so I may recover just fine. Neuroplasticity of brains and all. Hard to tell right now though.

My deficits are in communication and problem solving. That’s what I know so far. My neurologist wants me to attend Brain Camp, an intensive rehabilitation program where I get to relearn how to make words happen and hopefully learn how to think better. I, of course, think I think just fine. I like my ways of reasoning. But apparently it makes less sense if you’re not inside my brain.

Do you know the Spoon Theory? It goes like this. You have 12 spoons to spend each day. Only 12. Each thing you do in a day requires spoons. For instance, just taking a shower may require 1 spoon. Driving to the grocery store might require 3 spoons. But you only have 12 of them. How do you determine what you can do that day and what you cannot? Blow all your spoons on a big fight with your beloved and you are toast for the rest of the day. Spoonless toast, I might add.

I totally get the spoon thing now. I think it as Brain Hours. Some days I get more Brain Hours than others. Some things I do add to my Brain Hours, and some things subtract from my Brain Hours. Regular gym-going mostly adds Brain Hours. Eating well keeps them steady; scarfing down plates of waffles drenched in maple syrup (Grade B — the good stuff) generally subtracts. So now I get to practice self-care things like getting up, stretching, and  doing 5 minutes of my physical therapy exercises every hour. Going outside to feel the sun on my face and the breeze on my skin. Making sure I eat every few hours. These don’t add to my Brain Hours but they ensure that my time spent at my computer attempting to write doesn’t subtract from them.

For the past month I’ve been using an app called Luminosity. I grit my teeth through its constant manipulations to buy the “premium” version. My thought was to practice things that can help my retrain my brain. So when I remember to, I play my three free little games for the day. Today they sent me an email telling me how I’m doing. They compared me to other people my age. What I didn’t tell them is I lied abut my age. I said I was 40. I am a fair bit older than 40. But compared to other (presumably) non-lying 40-year-olds, I am barely functional. My problem-solving is in the 1st percentile. That means 99% of those non-lying 40-year-olds did better than me. My highest percentile was 17th. My days in MENSA may be over. Once I had 150 IQ. Now I doubt I could hit 100. I wonder who I am anymore, who I am becoming. I am afraid.

I used to be funnier. I used to remember things. I used to write faster. I used to use more words. I used to not have a broken brain.

October 20th, 2016 by Akua


On weekends, she wandered across late-80’s on-trend gray-carpeted floors, regarding the mauve sectional they bought after hours of agonizing over seating choices. She walked right through the living room to the front door and peered listlessly out into the blinding-bright Phoenix sun. Then back again, this time through the kitchen with its white tile and whitewashed-mauve cabinets, over to the family room that the house’s one visitor said needed personal touches (tchotchkes, she thought — yuck) and then it would feel like a home.

She wandered because there was nothing else.

No long streams of adding-machine tape to pore over, looking for the one mis-entry that kept everything from adding up. No yellow bags of Lay’s potato chips to pretend into non-existence, to remove any temptations, since she knew that one bite (of anything) was poison and fatness and also a gateway to desperate binging to quell the ever-present inner emptiness she avoided feeling at all costs. No books to read except for the worn copy of Butterfield 8 that arrived in the mail from Chris with a cryptic statement: “she reminds me of you”.

She wandered because she didn’t belong.

Oh, the gray-carpeted floors were hers, as were the mauve sectional and the white metal day bed (with gold finials) in the guest room and the bare tchotchke-free walls and the trendy mauve pleated shades on the windows. It was all hers, technically, since it was her money combined with his that made this Dream House possible.

And yet it wasn’t. Nothing was. Not even herself.

And now, and now, three decades later, the man, the house, is long gone. The wandering starts again. That woman has become this one.

This time the wandering is over Pergo and area rugs, while gazing at multicolored paintings I made myself, looking out onto the wide green world. The details changed but the inner part, the nugget, the kernel of that life-long pain from the long, missed grasp of belongingness, fingertips barely there but slipping off soon after because when you are a person who Doesn’t Belong, there’s really nothing you can do except howl at the pain and injustice of it all.

This time I wander in my mind, my imagination. I pretend I feel connected to this place, this house, but now I wonder whether my lifelong sense of non-belongingness isn’t connected to a place but rather to a person — me.

Maybe I don’t belong anywhere. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe that’s my superpower.

September 28th, 2016 by Akua


The second Claire woke up, she knew something was different. It wasn’t the constant steady beeping of the machines next to her bed, tubes snaking to her nose and wrist. It wasn’t the smell of disinfectant and coffee from the hallway outside the door (coffee? was there really coffee here?). And it wasn’t the starched feel of the sheets that lay loosely over her legs, not that she could feel them. No, Claire expected all of those.

What she didn’t expect was the light.

How Claire knew to look at the light that streamed through open institution-green curtains at the broad windows spanning one wall of the little white room, she didn’t know. But there it was. It wasn’t that it was more golden than before, or more pinkish, or even more blue. Light contains all those colors. A spectrum of colors. No, it was more the absence of color. Yeah, that was it. The light was….clear? How could that be.

The coffee smell got stronger. Claire remembered coffee, hot and bitter and milky-sweet, a gift and a punishment at the same time. Coffee meant mornings, and cars, and a desk in an office filled with clacking typewriter keys and ringing telephones. Coffee meant phone calls and memos and kicking off of shoes under the desk. Coffee meant regular, normal, before.

She never should have let them do it.

They said it was an experimental procedure. There weren’t any options, they said. It was either the surgery or…nothing. Literally nothing, as in Claire herself would be nothing if she didn’t agree to let them monkey around in her head. She had a good chance, they said (a good chance of what?). But still, experimental. So no one knew for sure.

Was it really the light?

Now she tasted coffee. Just the way he used to make it for her, so hot and so strong she had to douse the bitter fire with clouds of cream and what he always teased her as a whole tree’s worth of maple syrup. Coffee? Maybe it was the tube in her nose.

Was the light…moving?

The beeping slowed.

The light beckoned. So bright.

June 23rd, 2016 by Akua

Back From the Dead

I died and I came back. I couldn’t breathe and that fist-sized muscle in my chest pounded a hole through my thoughts and I beat my fist on the wall because I could no longer form words and the ambulance came and the lights were so bright and there I was, walking serenely in a land made of gold where everyone smiled like rainbows and there was nothing that was not made of wonder and goodness but I stepped back through the shimmering curtain to tell my beloved I chose to stay.

Sometimes I regret that choice.

I wish I remembered more. I still see that nurse in a blue smock who walked past the curtained opening of my ER cubicle over and over. I’m told that she didn’t, or that she only walked past once, but I keep seeing her stuck on repeat, right to left, like one of those carnival shooting gallery ducks. But that’s about it. I just remember golden light.

My beloved tells me I demanded sex from him right there in the ER, and that I went ahead without him and had multiple screaming orgasms. I’d like to remember that. I’ve never had multiple screaming orgasms and that would be a memory I could carry with me a long time. Instead, all I remember is the light, that golden light like liquid sunshine that poured over everything in the Otherworld, a magical Midas that turned death into gold.

They tell me I can feel that gold right here, but it’s hard for me to believe.

That’s actually the secret, though. Like Rumplestiltskin who spun straw into gold, I can spin the black mud of my life into light, and from that light I can weave a new life. I think I almost know how to do it.

September 13th, 2014 by Akua

The Circle Game

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

— Joni Mitchell

This is what reading my archives does to me. Inspires me, that’s what.

Thoughts that go through my head:

1. She’s a damn good writer. Why doesn’t she write more? Where’s that fucking book she promised? (oh hey, I did write this one)

2. Seriously, where is the damn book? The other book?

3. Aha! A Category titled Rants. I shall make use of that one.

4. The Way Back Machine goes all the way to here. The beginning.

5. Shit. I didn’t leave my problems back in 2012 or whatever.

Okay, that last one is a bitch. That’s why I’m here today, to reconcile the sad fact that despite the passage of six years I’m still the same [read: gloriously fucked-up, insecure, self-judging, wants-to-be-awesome] person I was in 2008. Read the rest of this entry »

August 6th, 2013 by Akua

100 and counting…

There are so many ways to die.

She knew this. Daily she plotted her death. Little ways.

A sheaf of papers could grow edges and slice knifelike across her white soft throat. The cord of his headset, sprawled oh so innocently across her bed, could stretch and wrap itself like a hungry boa around her neck. The closet door could slam so satisfyingly, crushing her skull into the jamb. Kitchen knives could grow wings. Heavy pots with heavy lids could crash like cymbals into the grapefruit of her head. Cars could swerve and leap over sidewalks.

So many ways.

There’s no point to being here if Here just means pain. Refresh. Reboot. Wipe away years of dried tears, years of rust around your heart, and for what? More pain.

The circle stands unbroken. You can’t get off the carousel. She prayed for the ground to open and swallow her into nothingness. She was so very tired.

November 3rd, 2012 by Akua

Why I Have Cancer

I figured it out. It should have been a no-brainer. Why I never suspected that years of self loathing would lead to cancer, I don’t know. But it clearly did.

I hate myself.

I tried to wipe me away by changing my name two years ago, but like a bad penny and a lost puppy, I came back. And all I can do now is imagine I’m jabbing an ice pick into the side of my now-irradiated head because the pain of being me is unforgivable.

Please make it go away. The pain. I would do anything not to feel this anymore.

I shouldn’t be here. I can’t be here anymore. There is no place for me and the pain of being me is unbearable. But everywhere I go, there I am, way less of me now than a few months ago, to be sure, but I’m still here and there are no icepicks to save me from drowning in a sea of me.

August 20th, 2012 by Akua

I’m a bitch, I’m a lover

Something has turned me into a total raving bitch. Does cancer do that? Although I would like to blame [everything] it on cancer, sadly, I believe this is my doing.

Last week one of the people I love most in the world came to visit. And that was right about the time that TB (Total Bitch) showed up. All her fears and anxieties and need to control came out while this awesome person was visiting. I hate that. I hate that my son, this amazing young man, saw me being a bitch, saw me in my fears, saw me struggling to walk across the room because my body is so weak, saw me fighting with the man I adore, saw me doing anything but being the perfect goddess woman I advertised I was going to become. Read the rest of this entry »