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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Out with the old, in with the new

This past Sunday,  I had plans to reconect with a friend I had not seen since spring.  A good 4 months went by.  She got a new job, and found herself working 2 jobs for a short time, and I went to Colorado for a writers workshop with a fantastic new friend, Sandy, and to do some adaptive horseback riding with Mike Farlander at the Adaptive Sports Center in Crested Butte, again.  I need to write about that trip, too.  After, I got back, I was back, and forth to Maine 3 times, and generally, felt lost no matter where I was.  I did a lot of soul searching, and am still torn between pursuing school, in the field of public health. and trying to become an inspirational figure, through writing, and outdoor recreation.   I thought about going to med school to become an osteopath,but as soon as I started getting into studying the MCAT material, it made me remember why I'd changed out of the pre med track. 

 At 17, I went to UVM on they're veterinary track.  I loved horses.  Giving my bratty Morgan horse up, to come to UVM, had been extremely emotional for me.  Then, just as I began my junior year at UVM, I got  lost in my decisions, and abandoned school, for a job as a stable hand, in southwest England.  I just needed to get away from my crazy, scattered lifestyle in college, and find out if I belonged on the farm instead.  I loved spending everyday on the farm, feeding, cleaning, riding, and running errands.  I was mostly there because   I often  got to ride 3 times a day. The most hilarious event I participated in was the British Eventing Ball.  It was literally a ball, where the woman wore gowns, and the men wore tuxedos. I remember finding it hilarious knowing that hours before, many of us had been up to our knees in soggy manure.  I also felt like my attire declared my nationality, in an absurd fashion.  I brought one dress, to England, and, it was a little black one.  All the other women wore gorgeous gown, think prom dress, and the multiply how fabulous those are by 4.  Nonetheless, I still had a wonderful time, despite the constant declararation of, 'oh, you must be the American.'  Assumably, because I was 20, and legally intoxicated.  And that wasn't even the most amusing part of my year.  I had 3 close friends studying abroad that year, and was able to travel, and see each of them.  I also got to validate my decision of taking a year off, in that I couldn't afford to pay for school, if I did not know what I wanted from it.  I went home in May, and worked 2 serving jobs (waitress) to save money to live on, back at school.  Wheni went back, I stuck with college of agriculture, and life sciences, but I switched my focus to public communications, and enabled myself to broaden my view of the world. I got a job at a local barn to help myself remember to stay grounded.  My focus was better, and my GPA nearly doubled, after swiching my studies.  In my final semester, I got the opportunity to study abroad too.  I went to Belize, to a small private college, with 15 other UVM kids.  When classes ended, I traveled with a friend for 2 weeks, returning days before graduation.  The day I returned, I met Sean, who I was dating when my heart stopped.  Irony is incredible sometimes.  I'd returned to my per diem job as a secretary at the hospital, while I looked for a more life sustaining career.  Just when I found it, I acquired this injury.

In June, I saw a doctor recommend by at friend, to get back on a prescription contraceptive.  I didn't know a lot about it, but I asked for prescription for Orthtrycyclin, as it had helped tremendously, the year before iwith unpleasant woman issues.  This doctor said that she could only offer me Yaz, I remember asking if it was similar to Yasmin, which I'd seen lawsuit commercials for.  She said, yes, but that they had changed the formula, and the name since.  In what I now recognize as terrible judgement, I allowed myself to be satisfied with that answer.  I say that because after 4 months of absurd nausea, when I took it, I suffered a random cardiac arrest, my heart just stopped, from an extreme potassium deficiency.  It was later determined, that those effects were cased by that same contraceptive, Yaz.  Looking back, I think I'd rather have had a kid, than have become one again, myself.

This is my history, I acquired an anoxic brai injury because my heart stopped, and failed to get oxygenated blood to my brain.  I owe the life I have now to countless people- Sean, my mom, my dad, my aunt, and  my incredible friends from all facets of my life, my doctors, nurses,therapists, and adaptive recreation professionals.  I am so thankful for them all, as each one has had a hand in helping me become who I am today.  Thank you all, it's been a long trying road, and may always be, but still worth it, everyday I can help someone else see that no matter how bad it gets, there's always something to keep pushing for.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Super Sunday

One of the traits I've missed most throughout my recovery is the ability to remain productive, and not fall into distraction traps.  I'd set my alarm for 6, to attempt to run downtown for a free yoga. Class on church st.  Sounded like a fun morning, though I woke up, made a smoothie, and put on my running gear.  Though once I'd eaten, I'd forgotten about my plan to be at church st. By nine.  While I ate, I revered upon the wall to wall carpeting in the apartment.  So, I vaccumed when I finished breakfast.  Then, I headed to my towns fabulous farmers market.  This market is hands down my favorite attraction,  it's grown massively in the past few years, and I got carried away today.  Corn on the cob, kale, blueberries, cucumbers, chaga chai tea, spanicopita, and samosas, and croissants largely covers  what I got.  The best part is that this was a week, they were matching every $10 you exchanged, so I got a great deal on lots of fresh food.  Later I made 2 salads with my goodies.  I was relieved to have enough time to go for a 3 mile run, and clean up, before heading to a potluck dinner, and meditation.

My friend Anna moved to an in residence meditation teacher training program, and her family kindly offers me a ride each week, for the community sit.  I hadn't been able to make in over a month, so it felt exciting to return.  It was wonderful meeting new people, reconnecting with some, and hopefully making a new running friend, fingers crossed.  In tonight's sit, we were invited to focus on our peripheral sense, see, hear, feel, and consider the feelings which arose as a result.  I heard someone outside, inflate what I assumed was a bike tire, and was derailed into a mountain biking fantasy.  Good stuff right there.  Soon, it was time for the active segment, where you're invited to stretch, move around the room, do yoga.  Tonight I really appreciated that segment, as it gave mevtheopportunity to positively reinforce the progress I've made physically this year.

I've been attending weekly meditationsat the Center for Mindful Learning pretty regularly since Anna introduced me to it.  It's an incredible community asset, I sincerely wish the western mindset was more accepting of this practice.  Although it's a majorly accepted here, at least.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wedding Season!

So it begins...
Back in college,   I spent a lot of time doing Outing Club related activities, leading trips, fundraising, instructing new leaders.  Through this community I made some amazing friends.  I lived with some, learned a lot about the backcountry, and teaching.  College seems like an alternate universe these days.  I met Chris through mutual friends.  He's very candid, and seemed to so easily make friends wherever he went.  Senior year I sublet a room in the apartment he lived in.  A very foul apartment, in every sense, it was quite small,and had never been cleaned, it appeared, since it had been built.  We all made the best of it, and I could count on being heckled for getting food on myself while I sat on the couch at mealtime, and inevitably spilled all over myself.  The couch doubled as a dining area, as there was no table.  The Outing Club was more or less an unsanctoined fraternity for the guys and the ladies.  The parties were ridulous.  Many of my college memories have been swept away, but I will always remember how outgoing, and friendly he was/is, his originality in Halloween costumes, and an amazing ability to make everyone feel included.  In my world now, people with that quality are few, and far between.

I am moderately antisocial these days, as it takes an unreal amount of energy, cognition, and attention for me to be clearly understood, and even then I'm not too intelligible, unless I see you often.  I'd dropped the ball on planning to get there.  The wedding was at a ski resort, Jay Peak, 7 miles south of the Canadian border.  Pretty inaccessible for those who can't drive, and I had not thought ahead to line up a ride.  It felt like nothing had changed, in some respects, and like everything had changed in other respects.

The ceremony was beautiful.  Chris and Christine were married/ordained by two of their closest friends, all of their family members attested to their love, and commitment to one another. It seemed there wasn't a dry eye around, during the ceremony.  The testament to their love, and devotion, was powerfully lead by a great friends of theirs.  Family members offered intriguing testimonial also, however, John, and Karen ordaining the ceremony, was a beautiful touch, and the intermittent procession from the string quartet was beautiful. The weather was perfect, sunny, and mid 70's.  I can safely say I spent too much time outside, by the fire pit, during much of the dancing.  I smelled like wood smoke for the rest of the night.  When the band called it a night, for the fourth time, the wedding party proceeded to the bar.  My brain was at max capacity for the day, and I proceeded to pass out immediately, on a pull out couch, in a friends condo.  .  Being amongst this group, sometimes it feels exactly as I remember.  We can revert into our old roles, of our college selves so easily.  

The unruly drunks/ not so drunks paraded in,throughout the next 2 hours I wasn't sleeping anyways.  Some kindly meant comments, however, poorly worded, had sent me Into my head during the receptiion.  I was sitting near the dance floor, observing the ridiculousness when an older woman approached me, put her hand under my chin, and said,'at least you're still so pretty.'  I rarely feel provoked to smack people, but it took every moral fiber I have to ignore that shit, and remain seated.  I shut down after that.  Although thinking back on it now, I wish I'd thought to pull her down to my eye level, and said, 'Yes that is such a comfort, when I sound like this, and move like a troll.  Maybe it's just me, but looks aren't everything.  As for you, at least your sagging face makes it much easier to identify you in this crowd.'  I knew she hadn't meant to insult me, but it left like she had poured salt in an open wound.

In the morning I awoke to familiar voices upstairs, and went to see who was up already.  There wasn't much time before the mad dash to checkout, and make brunch began.  Lauren and Jesse kindly helped me with a plate of goodies at brunch.  I enjoyed the endless antics over the meal.  The goodbyes were aplenty.  The opportunity to reunite was an incredible gift.  It's often bittersweet, as I'll never be the girl I was when we were all closer, but the time spent making new memories, and continuing  on with a renewed ifaith in the power of love was the blessing I received from this event.  To Chris and Christine, on your wedding weekend.  May you both be blessed in your union, and throughout your lives together.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Good Morning Burlington PD

This morning, I'm standing in the kitchen, still in my pajama pants, when I hear someone at the door.  I put down my coffee to answe the hall-way door, assuming it's probably maintenance.  He asks for my housemate/aide.  Only then, does my brain process his uniform, as a police officer.  Marc is the kindest aide I've had in years, with an intact moral compass, and decent values.  It's why I hired him.  Apparantly openness and honesty are difficult to find in the 'real' world.  I've put up with some very questionable souls, but this is the first time I've gotten a visit from the police department.

I invited him in, while I tried to see if Marc was in.  He works nights, so it usually takes a moment to get an answer.  I finally realize this is not a social visit, and ask if everything is alright, wondering briefly if I live with a very unique criminal, although I find it totally unimaginable he would intentionally cause any trouble for anyone, ever.  He tells the corniest jokes I've ever heard, and never has a bad word to say about anyone, or anything.  Even when someone cuts him off in traffic.  I had foolishly assumed Marc had probably befriended a local police officer, so it took me a moment to realize he was here on official business.   Apparantly, Marcs employer did not receive the message he had called out of work the night before, and asked the police department to check on him.

This idea seems absolutely senseless to me.  if you work nights, you sleep in the daytime.  He puts his phone on silent when he sleeps.  I have to give him my schedule in advance, so he can sleep outside of the time I heed asisstance.  If I called the cops whenever I could not get ahold of him, I think there would be warrant out for a civil violation on my part.  I thought you had to wait 24 hours before the police could intervene.  The officer said it was  an unusual call.  As soon as Marc came out, he seemed thoroughly confused, and realized his employer must not have gotten the message he had called out, and the officer left.  What a bizarre start to the day.  I've  already decided when the nosy neighbors ask about why the saw they police at my door, I'll tell them I was arrested for running a drug cartel, but there was no evidence in my apartment, so they had to release me.  Often, I find myself annoyed with obtrusive questions from my building neighbors.  They usually misunderstand my responses anyways.  May as well make it more interesting...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Food for thought

Expect the unexpected.

A little story about myself.  6.5 years ago, I'd landed my first 'real adult' job.  I was very nervous to leave everything I knew behind, and start over again, although my career goals aligned with non profit management, and public relations.  I tentatively accepted this position, in Texas, as a personal assistant, to a woman who'd founded her own non-profit, primarily aimed at assisting children, and education in various ways.  I left, the day after my 23rd birthday, or I was supposed to.  The nihht before I left, my heart stopped, dead.  At least, I was, for an estimated 12-15 minutes.  My then boyfriend, fortunately realized, and did CPR, while getting my roommates to call an ambulance.  I am still here, because of his quick action, and later, my families unwillingness to give up on me, and faith in the bodies ability to heal itself, even in the face of the unknown.  We pushed through inpatient care, in 6 months, and then  I settled into my Medicaid/care funded rehab program here in Vermont.  Did you know that Vermont is #3 in the whole country, for brain injury rehabilitation ,and has the#1 most compressive/best outcome mental health programming in the country?There are plenty more external factors to wrestle with, but I stayed in Vermont to relearn life with an unknown kind of brain injury (anoxic).  I also had fantastic friends, and contacts from college.  Though, I didn't foresee losing. My relationship, and most of my college friends over the next 2 years.

Today, I am hopeful that you all, as well as others, can be persuaded to be more vigilant, and consider the ramifications of possible side effects, listed on your prescription bottles.  I know many of us believe that anything prescribed by a doctor, will help us, or remedy a problem.  To clarify, the reason, I briefly died, and was revived, and concurrentlydetermined to have sustained severe brain damage, is linked to my then, contraceptive, Yaz.  The company that produces it, BayerLLC, has had to change the name from Yazmin, to Yaz, to Ocella.  Reportedly, it's name is getting changed yet again.  Here's a novel idea, Bayer:  instead of changing the name of your drug to avoid lawsuits, how about changing the components of the drug, to make it less harmful, to less women.  Yes, I'm sure it's more expensive to do that, but think about the money you could save in your legal department.  I'm one of over 200,000 plaintiffs seeking an apology, at the very least, though preferably compensation for the damages, and experiences endured.

 How do you put a dollar sign on a life?  In my opinion, you can't, no one can.  We all have different values, and hold them in different places.  To clarify, I mean that characteristically, and not monetarily.  Same word, entirely different meaning.  Life can be fuzzy, as in, when the line is grey.  Defining right, and wrong  is different for each of us.

Today,  I'm asking you to look at yourselves, think about your own healthcare experiences.  How was the outcome?  Good?  Bad?  Indifferent?

Today, our country is on the crux of major health care reform, where all American citizens could gain access to the healthcare they deserve, and need.  Public healthcare is not the  psychotic, dying, bloody, disease ridden, festering mess it appears to be made out to be.  It's just (gasp) CHANGE!  and, a big one, at that.  What are we, as Americans, deathly allergic to?  Exactly, that.  Change.  I know, it might as well be a curse word, right?  You can faint now, or proceed with any overly dramatic reaction of your choosing, now, should you feel the need...

Alright, now that we've all recovered, let's get back to it.  Our country is touted for its freedoms,  however where money is involved, freedom seems irrelevant.  I live on government funds, my apartment is through section 8 (a government subsidy for people with little income, or a disability).  I use food stamps to buy my groceries, and receive a small monthly allotment to cover my bills.  What cracks me up, is that the fiscal resources I currently receive, is more than what I worked 3 jobs to make per month, while I was in school. The government system is created on formity, which I'd like to point out is the opposite of independence, and freedoms.  Needing government aid is all too common these days, but it all depends on your education, and willingness to look for the resources you need.  I now firmly believe that the media is our largest social enemy, by propagating false impressions regarding the validity and success of these programs.  In my nonprofessional opinion, we invest far too much money in defense, and international relations, where the valuable investment is domestically, within our own borders.the number of Americans seeking financial assistance goes up every year, as wages fail to rise, despite monetary inflation.

There are a million and 1 problems with the difficulties and rigours of public funding.  However, bottom line, they were created to provide asisstance for people in need.  The rules are quite strict, and there are seemingly endless threats of possible ways to *poof* lose your funding.  However, I've come to realize much of these difficulties have come about through poor implementation, or grievances caused individuals not understanding the system.

I think back to US history and social studies courses in high school, and while I agree there is a certain need to understand our heritage, I cannot get over the fact, that we are not required to learn more about the use and implementation of govrtnment programming.  If we have federal aid programs available, for nearly every purpose, why isn't there better dissemination of these programs?  we are always going to have our own misgivings, dependent on our own situations.  That will always be true,but clearly we have gone awry somewhere in the succession of arriving to the social plague American society currently suffers from.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Story of a lifetime

Today I went in for my annual Physiatry appointment.  I see my physiatrist, and neurologist annually at this point.  It's a question and answer session basically?  How's your mood?  Are you experiencing difficulty focusing?  Any changes since last year?

Without fail, I have always been against the use of a neuro stimulant.  Throughout my progression, and rehabilitation, I've been fortunate to gain a perspective of watching myself grow, relearn, and adapt to my surroundings as if I'm growing up again.  Somedays it's an infuriating perspective, as I'm nearly 30, and I'm relearning social norms, traing myself to walk, run, react in a timely fashion, and speak clearly.  Of course there are days I don't even want to face the world, yet I get up, and go out, and often meet amazing people on those days.  It's been a difficult spring, as I'm more aware of who I am now, yet I still don't have a handle on what to do with the rest of my life.  It's like when I graduated from college, and didn't have any idea what to do next.  Things fell into place for me, just in time to acquire the most unique,brain injury out there.  I mean really, who takes Yaz (a contraceptive), and expects their heart to stop?  Certainly, not me, or anyone else out there.  I recently learned I am not the only woman to suffer a sudden cardiac arrest as a result of this drug.  Sadly, it seems I might be the only survivor, though.  Apparantly, there is little to no research regarding cell death from lack of Oxygen (Anoxia).  That caused my brain damage.  Frankly, I'd prefer to be single parent, over the single survivor of severe cerebral anoxia.  The hardest part of this injury for me, is it's inconsistency.  The random tremors that toss me on the ground, without warning, the way my visual accuracy can differ with each day, how much my vocal clarity can differ from one moment to the next.  

With most other injuries, if you break, or tear something, your body can attempt to heal itself, in time.  That's my perspective on this injury too.  It took me 3 years to sell my car, because I believed my vision would recover. (I was initially blind from this injury).  Clearly, much of my vision has pieced back in, and for that, I am so thankful, however, I don't see myself safely behind the wheel of a car anytime soon, because I cannot react to anything, in time, to save myself.  I fall too often to keep track of.  My approach is, if no one saw, it didn't happen.  Although, my consistent bruses, and road rash indicate otherwise.  Physically, I can say that I have a definitive faith in my ability to improve.  I would rather afford myself the opportunity to push, and test my abilities, and likely get hurt in that process, than sit, and wallow in a pit of despair.  We all have good days, and bad days.  It just so happens that ny bad days are profoundly more so, because I can't trust my body to do what I ask it, in a timely, or effective manner.  My mental hang-ups increase ten-fold, as I've learned from experience, that I cannot trust myself.  Although, through all of the pain, tears, and frustration, I have seen myself improve.  I've learned to walk, and run again, without help (sometimes).  It may not be consistent, but it keeps me going.  Life is about testing yourself, accomplishing new things, and taking pride in where you're at, and how far you've come, even if there's still a long road ahead, we have to appreciate the journey.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Total Recall

Wednesday morning, I was up early, walking in town.  Ihad plans to meet a friend for breakfast.  We had agreed on a place called Misery Loves Company.  I'd only heard great things about them, and was excited to try them.  Mind you, I am not in any way, shape, or form, a morning person. 7'is my normal rising time, not my be dressed, and walking out the door time.  I said I'd walk because I know I need that time to assess myself, and my surroundings.  I am rather unpleasant as a conversationalist, if I just roll out of bed, and meet you.  I figured it would be nice to walk a short distance that early.  However, I was apparantely incorrect. On auto pilot, as I crossed 4 lanes of early morning traffic.  Somebody, is apparantely less of a cheery morning person than I, and proceeded tocurse at me, as I trundled by.  I stopped to smile, and wave, and the car beside him waved back.  I decided to walk, and take my chances with early morning road rage. If you're going to be rude, I'm going to focus on finding everything I can do, to walk as slowly,  and carefully as possible.  It's a gamble, I realize, but if you hit me, your life will be a lot worse too.  I think the traffic pattern in this town is idiotic and senseless.  I also still have not come to an understanding with my brain, and how it flakes out on me, at seriously inconvenient times.  Although, I'd appreciate it, if my first communication of the day, was not being cursed at, because you can't wait 30-60 seconds for me to pick a route I feel safe walking.  Whatever, you've probably forgotten this particular interaction, as you've likely repeated it multiple times since then.

Moving on, I walked into a restaurant that clearly wasn't open yet.  Their doors were open, but everything was neatly stacked, so I asked when they opened, and immediately realized my mistake.  The bake shop part of this merchant was back on my street.  I'd braved rush hour traffic for nothing, and now had to do it again.  As I walked back down the hill, a man passed me, stopped, turned back, and said my name.  I wasn't interested in trying to figure out how I knew him,  in that moment.  though, I did feel guilty, because he knew me from my old life, and I wasn't willing to take the time then, to put the pieces together.  I continued on, and had a great breakfast with Zetty.  A lot can happen, in a quick walk to meet a friend.

I awoke the next morning, Thursday, to, eat, wripte a couple emails, and set off for PT.  I worked on some rigorous (to me) balance exercises, and then headed off to do the rest of my routine independently.  As I was doing one of the exercises, it occurred to me, exactly who the man on the street the day before was.  He'd said, his name,and that I knew him from Fletcher Allen, and my brain said, I think they called him 'mcdreamy.'  (As in Patrick Dempsey  charachter from Greys Anatomy.)  Though, I looked at him, and thought, 'that's odd, he doesn't look like Patrick Dempsy, I must be confused, AHH, big, loud truck in traffic circle!  Don't freeze/fall!'  I recovered from my fear freeze, and we said goodbye, and I concentrated on crossing the street again. 

 I see people from my old life, intermittently, and can rarely place them in the moment.  A couple years ago, a teenager, came up to me, and said, 'hi Courtney, it's Katie'.  I had no recollection of who she was.  About a week later, I realized I had been her babysitter.  Their mom had to be into work by 7, so I went over, woke them up, got the cereal, reminded them to get their things, and brought them to school.  In that moment, I realized how far I still have to go, to get back to being that responsible.  

When this man told me who he was, I knew I would put the pieces together, and I did.  Now, I'm very moved, that he recognized me on the street, nearly 8 years after his group of interns rounded, on the general surgery unit, where I was the secretary.  He was the only one patient enough to answer my coding questions, or who didn't mind translating handwriting.  I just wish I had put it all together,yesterday, on the street.  I always feel horribly rude admitting I have no recollection of people, I used to see often. All in due time, I suppose.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Super scary soul vibration

The above is a random line, or title of a Lenny Kravitz song.

Welcome to my strange, and twisted mind...
This morning I was out meandering the streets of my tiny  city, at the unacceptable time of 6:45.  I had made plans to catch up with my friend Zetty over breakfast.  Breakfast is hands down, my favorite meal out, always has been.  The plan was to check out Misery loves company's bake shop.  Unfortunately for me, I'd forgotten the bake shop was specified.  I raved traffic hell (welcome to Winnooski) for nothing.  I shuffled through 4 lanes at a cross walk, and continued up the hill.  Upon walking in, I immediately realized they weren't open for the day yet, and was sent back to the street I'd walked over from.   I walked outside, and called my friend to let her know I'd be late. Good thing though, as the call, woke her up. It made me feel better about my tardiness, as I knew it'd take 15 minutes to get through the circle again.  Winnooski has this asinine traffic circle that no one actually seems to comprehend how to drive in. In Maine we refer to a traffic circle, as a rotary.  I'm fairly certain the rest of the country follows suit in saying rotary.  In a Vermont, it's a traffic circle, and no one seems to understand the traffic patterns or rules to abide by, for making it a useful traffic pattern.m my next letter should be to the DOT, regarding the thoughtlessness behind the circle.

I finally hot to the correct location, ordered good, and just after I'd taken my first bite, my friend walks in, says hi, and asks 3 questions in succession.  I'm awkwardly trying to nod my head yes or no, to wussy ions that can't be answered that way.  Once I can speak without fear of spewing croissant everywhere, we decide to sit outside in the morning sun, and delightful sounds of road rage, a few hundred feet away.

I'm at the age where it seems 95% of people in my age group, are either getting married! having kids! and/or buying homes.  I got to hear all about the antics surrounding a mutual college friends wedding.  Then it's my turn to share what I've been up to, and howi answer this question, is completely dependent on my mood, and emotions of the moment. I say usually say, 'okay', or 'good', and change the subject.  Trust me, it's easier than hashing out the widely flawed governs programs I currently participate in, or have.  However, over coffee, I'm feeling pretty open about it, and try yo explain the various prgrams, and departments I'm affiliated with, through the state.  This now seems like I may have dropped a truckload of information on her, about every program,  the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Sometimes I'm listening to what I'm trying to say, while simultaneously wondering how I know about it.  This conversation was one of those moments, how bizarre.

As I'm blundering through my soliloquy of program difficulties, a woman nearby calls out to me, and I look over to see my neighbor, and former writing coach.  She's a wonderful, inventive, and talented woman, however,has also had the unfortunate opportunity to venture into neurological difficulties by way of  negative side effects from  a medication. I felt a pinge of guilt, over having said some negative things about the department I'd originally met her through.  Such is life.

After breakfast,  my aide Marc helped me get to my psychology appointment.  In my usual fashion, I mixed up the time, and left right before my appointment began.  I'm heading into the library,  when she calls, and arks where I went.  Gold stars for me...

My final event of the day, was PT.  I realized I felt a bit slow today, but am starting to get a bit more control in some of my new exercises, despite my slothfulness.  However slow and inconsistent my progress is, each time I have this realization, my spirits profoundly improve.

And now I'm writing it all down, hoping to one day find my purpose in this path.  My days are full, and generally happy enough, I've just lost sight of what exactly I'm currently working towards.  And that,my friends, plain,old sucks.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Marathon madness

Vermont City Marathon, what can I say?

The organizers an volunteers put so much into pulling off this fantastic event.  I'd signed up to do the final leg again this year. My dad came out to participate, and be my safety net, if need be.  On Saturday, we attended the race expo.  The highlight for me was attending a talk by Colleen Kelly Alexaner.  She was hit by an 18 wheeler, while cycling, and is still out there pushing her limits.  Se also survived cardiac arrest, though hers were due to dramatic blood loss, whereas mine was due to enzyme imbalance.  By no means do I envy her story of survival, though I'd love to be able to say I got a brain injury from being hit by a Mack truck, no, 't I have a brain injury because I didn't put enough consideration into the contraceptive l took (Yaz), and it caused my heart to stop, and deprived my brain of oxygen.  People stare blanly for a reson, it doesn't make sense.   I have the least cool or badass sounding reason for a brain injury. 

 The next morning, my dad and I convened at the gym where I do PT, to get our bibs, and make a plan with the other teammates.  After almost an hour passed, we bailed to grab a 'super healthy' pre-race breakfast at the Skinny Pancake.  If I ever get to the point where I'm able to push myself aerobicaly while running, I could never go out for breakfast pre-race, though a 4.5 mile jog, I could handle my egg and cheese crepe, and feel alright.  However, there was a door handle incident, I did not handle well.  I was returning from the bathroom, and as I opened the back door to go  into the restaurant, the guy behind me rips the door out of my hand, I assume in an effort to helpful.  However the way my wrist was aligned with the door, it became jammed in the handle, and was dragged forward unexpectedly.  Serious pain.  I instantly had to resist the urge to start blindly cursing, as the pain hit, accompanied by a bizarre tingling.  The guy apoligized but I was already crying, and hoping I could still push the jogger with it.  Thankfully, the initial pain dissipated as we got ice on it.  As we left, my dad wrapped the wrist in a towel.  As I'd forgotten sunscreen, I received a pretty special tan, resembling a gauntlett.  Good stuff, I'd forgotten how much sunburns suck, I can't remember having a burn that aggressive.  Oh well, lesson learned, always have sunscreen on hand.

We waited at the hand-off area for nearly an hour.  Just as I decided to visit the bathroom again, they came in.  I was pretty mad at myself for not going earlier, not a great mindset to start off in.  Most of the runners who passed were toast, and unable to respond to encouragement, or questions.  Though a fair number encouraged me, in passing.  Much of the final leg is on the bike path, next to Lake Champlain, which offers a slightly cooler breeze.  I imagine we finished earlier than last year, as there was still pizza, loads of food, as well as free massages.  I felt sheepish approaching the massage tent for running 5 miles, but they weren't busy, and willingly accepted us.

The glory of doing the last leg, was realized by me for the first time this year.  I'm not great at dealing with crowds, though I did see several local college friends, which made it super exciting to catch up with them.

As things started to look like they were wrapping up, we took my friend Ann's offer, to come over, and visit.  I had to resist the urge to mock the 19th century hand powered mower she was using.  It's actually brilliant as there are no emissions, and you, the user, is the only power it requires.  I love that it's her choice of mowers, but I still want to mock it.  So badly.

In my true form, I neglected to lift my foot high enough to compsate for the door jam, and fell down.  Thankfully, Ann has known me a long time, and is used to my clumsiness.  She and my dad pulled me back up, and we continued inside.  I listened to shop talk about home renovations.  It was somewhat amusing, as they are each so humble about their accomplishments.  I suppose we were all well matched in the clumsiness department.  I often forget how easy it is to hurt yourself, for anyone.  Probably because I happen to do it so requently.  I generally wear clothes that cover my arrays of scrapes and contusions, so people don't have the opportunity to realize how often I fall, or walk into things, or anything else. My least favorite part of summer, is the number of concerned comments, or questions I get, regarding my minor injuries.  Although I appreciate that people are concerned, because it reminds me of my own idiocy. I don't generally respond to the concern, as well as I should.  I'm relearning or attempting to receive these questions more gracefully.  In 2011 I managed to acquire 11 black eyes, many fom falling, and not having the reaction to put out my hands.  That's a learned physical reaction we acquire to protect our faces/heads.  Trust me, that was not a fun reaction to learn to reacquire.  Although, everytime I fall now, and my hands go out, I'm beyond thankful for the brains plasticity.  

In conclusion, it was a fantastic race weekend, I got to see my family, and old friend.  I got to be part of  a great race, and meet some incredible people along the way.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Freaky Friday

What a crazy, random day.  I puttered around all morning, retrieving items my mom left behind, cleaning the cat box, finding inventive ways to use my busted blender, until my friend, and meditation guide, arrived to lead us in an hour long practice.  She also confirmed the possibility of center for mindful learnings potential move.  Could be as close as Hardwick VT, or as far as California.  Neither  of which I can access easily, so we discussed our concerns, surrounding the issue.  I couldn't help feeling-like the world to which I'm currently accustomed, is falling apart around me.  I've already beenthrough looking for a new psychologist, now I'm facing a transition of physical therapists, and losing mindfulness practice. I know I'll survive, it's just upsetting yo loseactivities, and people who've improved my lifestyle profoundly, at the same time.  I have to think, if Anna can approach her unknown transition positively, so can I.  We parted ways, and Marc brought me to the  brain injury support group I facilitate downtown.  I was ill prepared, not having thought of any potential topics,mand was so relieved only 1 person attended.  An hour or so passed vrybquickly, and as I returned to the tiny city I live in, I went into a hysterical fit of excitement, as I received a message from one of my favorite people.  I gave him my address, and happened to catch sight of him outside.  I hadn't seen Ian since 2006.  Way too long!  Time flies, because despite our ridiculous tales, of life's bizarreness, and being relatively out of touch for nearly 8 years, our friendship hasn't changed.  It's really hard to make that statement about anyone, especially when you've acquired my ridiculous brain injury.  I got to live vicariously, in hearing all of Ian's ridiculous, testing, yet exciting adventures serving peace corps, and working for the forestry service.  I talked  about some successes, and pitfalls of my recovery.  Mostly my adaptive trips, absurd caregiver dramas, and tried to update him on the history of mutual friends.  He'd been trying to catch up with other local friends, so we soon headed downtown, on the city bus.  He admitted to never riding then in college, although, I never did either, and immediately felt a pinge of frustration, and resentment of my injury.  My visual processing still prevents me from even thinking about driving, an ability I once took for granted.

We got off, and walked the block over to The Farmhouse, to meet Meredith,, and her adorable 18 month old, who was unbelievably well behaved.  I asked the server to put a rush on the fastest burger they could push out.  I got a quinoa burger, and classily munched away, while shaking my head to answer certain questions.  I ventured out of my realm of comfortable beer choices, to try my standard half pint, of chocolate coconut stout.  Didn't know if I could handle the harshness of a stout, but apparently chocolate and coconut flavoring, make it tolerable.  I felt like a jerk leaving early, but I'd committed a small gathering, where I do PT, for a going away party for the therapist I've worked with for the last year and a half.  I went to be supportive, even though I expect this to be a difficult transition.  I can't be upset, I'm used to finding people that I make incredible strides with, until they leave.  I've lost 3 in the last year, although, the first was the most difficult, as she, my occupational therapist, passed away from complications of cancer.  The next was my last psychologist.he transitioned to a different job.  It's easy to get attached to the consistency, of people you have a good connection with.  Everybody makes their own progress in life, so while it's a bummer for me, I'm surprisingly happy for him.  I had totally forgotten how awkward I used to feel walking a party alone, even though I knew most everyone there.  I think going helped me gain closure, or made it seem more real.  It seemed odd to see everyone I normally see in gym clothes, all in normal street clothes.  Out of normal context...

 I was really surprised to feel so bitter, as it's not usually my MO.  Then again, it had been a lot of things for me to proces in one day.  My mind was still in shock from the day before, where I'd learned what happened, when my parents were divorced  25 years ago.  I guess it's mind blowing information, to revisit events from 24 years ago (damn I feel old writing that sentence).My mind was more than I could handle, so when one woman was slightly rude, and I started to feel uncomfortable, I decided to rejoin my friends from dinner.  We all sat around their place, and listened to Ian and Phillip swap personal slaughter stories.  Phillip is a local chef, and restaurant entrepreneur, and Ian served in the peace corps, so they each had valid interests, and needs for the experience, however disturbing it was to hear about.  Time passed without notice until my phone rang.  I answered, and my dad says, 'uhh, where Are you?'  I totally felt like a senseless kid, in that moment.  He was brilliantly understanding, and came over to collect me.  What a full, crazy day, complete with old friends, and family.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The rule of 3's

Each day always holds some awkward seeming situation for.  Arrarantly that's how I roll, and I can't even blame that on my TBI.  Wif Theresa way to appear more foolish, I can always count on my ability to do exactly that.  May as well find humor in it, as there's no better alternative.
Firstly, I'm at voice appointment, working with a voice coach, to help me focus on forming each syllable as I speak.  It's as if I'm learning to speak, physically.  I have all the words in my head, but my physical ability to spit them out clearly, in a way that others understand, was extremely compromised.  It's like any other motor skill I have to rewire.  It's frustrating, forcing my body remaster the simplest of tasks, like speaking clearly, walking, running, tying shoes (I still avoid that), even cutting, and preparing food.  I have always been a klutz, so it's no so different in that respect, it's just worse, and now I have to train my brain to control my motor skills in ways I learned to at 4 or 5, when I had much less to worry about, or even realize I had to control.

Bill Reed, the voice coach I work with, has helped me tremendously in the last 2 years.  His background is training actors and singers to use their voices more effectively.  It seemed like an expensive reach, when  first I heard about him.  Though, after meeting him, and beginning to work with him, I even noticed myself focusing on clarity, and volume more consistently.  He often provokes his students in a good natured manner, which makes it a bit more fun.  So he gives me a voice excercise today, where he says 'poopoopoopoopoopoopo', and I'm supposed to repeat the excercise.  Instead, I collapsed in a fit of hysterics.  Apparantely I couldn't handle the 5 year old potty humor, and was unable to control my laughter.  He's a good sport, but in a professional setting, I felt like such an oaf for losing my cool, because somebody said poopoo.  Off to a great start...

In my next appointment, PT, I had a sleeveless shirt on, and had already completed a couple exercises, when my therapist walks over, and says, 'uh, what's going on with your shirt?'  Automatic response is to look down, and verify nothing is exposed, even though the mirror had done that for me, not 20 minutes before.  Plus, a sleeveless T, seems difficult to put on incorrectly without noticing.  Although, if anyone can do it, and not realize, apparantely, I can. Seems pretty straight forward too.  Oh well.  Not even noon, and I'd managed to  embarrass myself twice.  Excellent, however, par for the course.

The last shaming moment of the day was primarily self inflicted.  I was out for a jaunt on the bike path, which was unpleasantly busy that day, as it was about 75 and sunny for the first time in months.  I'm trying to make myself jog on the causeway, which is  a 2 bar fence between a ledge, and water (the lake).  I'm always more nervous on this part of the bike path, as it's rather narrow, and I don't move fast enough to avoid cyclists.  Also, I lost the coordination to swim, so being a foot from a ledge, and water, isn't all that relaxing.  I'm picking my legs up as if I'm jogging, though my speed seems to be around -2.5 mph.  I reach halfway, when a cyclist flys by, inches from me, and yells, 'HI COURTNEY!' While passing.  I have the worst fear response, I freeze, and become totally stoic.  I often fall over because I freeze in some totally awkward position, though, I DID NOT this time!!:). I tried to commend myself for not falling, but the flash freeze response to fright, just pisses me off.  I don't understand why my body has evolved to basically do nothing, in the face of danger.  Ridiculous, and trust me, a great way to get road rash.  However, not today!

Yet another ridulous day in my bizarre world...

Friday, May 16, 2014

What is mindfulness?

This morning I met with a long time friend, and fellow brain injury survivor.  She went into a residential mindfulness and meditation program, about a year ago. I still see her often, when I go to meditation practices.  Her parents are incredibly committed, and attend nearly all of the community sits (guided meditations) offered.  Whenever they go, I usually have an opportunity to go with them.  The practice of personal meditation does not come so easily for me.  Though, I've found the guided practices extremely beneficial.

  Anna has offered to meet with me once a week, so we can do a more individualized practice.  Today, we were outside, by the river, and two commonly used meditation phrases came, 'hear in,' and 'feel in.'  I've always appreciated hear in, because it requires me to take notice of my physical surroundings.  I appreciate the reminder that we are of animal ancestry, and have keen senses, that are so often diminished by the technology we are using all the time.  For me personally, I also appreciate it, as it gives me time to reflect on any changes in my body.  Feel in, I'm not a fan of because I'm supposed to process my feelings, of the moment, of the past, whatever arises.  Personally, I don't like dealing with my feelings, I don't know if I ever have.  I'd rather pretend they are not there.  Good, or bad, it doesn't matter.  Being so active has always helped me with that.  

After our first session we were reflecting on things that came up.  I said I felt frustrated with where I wa/am in life, and not knowing how to move on.  But, eventually I said I was angry at myself for allowing the gynocologist to coerce me into not only taking Yaz, but to continue using it, after I was unhappy with the side effect of nausea.  I didn't want to feel in, because I feel like crap on the inside.  I try not to reflect that, but I want my independence back, at least financially, and physically. I hate not having an 'intellectual'purpose'.  I need tangible goals, I'm so tbored with only focusing on my rehabilitation, at this point.  See, feel in brings out the demons, but at least I was talking about them.  Word is, admitting your troubles is first step to quelling them.  We shall see.  Meditation can be so difficult sometimes, but it has helped me pick myself back up, and keep going, time, and time again.  

As we shared our experiences, Anna's  response to my feelings, put me on edge.  She said, 'I'm sensing a lot of rage in you.'  I had to brush it off then, but that was like a trigger word for me.  I just shut down until we were done.  We all view thing differently, but I personally view rage as a physical manifestation of anger, like violence, hitting, or breaking things.  I know it's more common than anyone realizes, because we don't talk about it.  I should look up the definition of rage, maybe I'll have a better perspective of what she meant.  Obviously, I have some pretty intense feelings regarding the how, and why I acquired this injury. and some of the experiences I've had as a result.  Anoxia is not typically an event, people survive.  The cell damage is random, so it doesn't appear on scans.  Initially, I may as well have been dead, the machines ran my body for me.  Ironically, the defribilator shocked my heart back into rhythm, but all else was lost, and I will always have a myriad of scars to remind me of my vitality, as well as 7 years of a rehab. program.  No one signs up to have their life altered forever, by losing once trusted, and dependable, actions, physical, and/or mental.  Initially, I had severe memory difficulties, the first couple months I couldn't remember from one day to the next.  Everyday, I woke up confused, and afraid because I didn't remember where I was, or what had pappened.  The kicker was that my tracheotomy kept me from being able to speak, until it was removed, and I couldn't see, so I was unable to react to anything visual.  One of my first, (and favorite memories,is of my mom remarking on my feelings, and folding my fingers, until only the middle one was extended.  It worked, she got me to laugh.  Nothing like a little juvenile humor to appeal to an otherwise unresponsive human.  It's been a long road, and likely always will be.  The key is who you have around you, and to help you keep moving along, towards whatever your chosen path.

 One of the most difficult aspects of this injury, is being alone in it.  There's no yardstick by which to measure myself with others, there's no one who understands how to deal with it, however, there are tons of people who are encouraging,  and others who just want to tell me their opinion of how I can move forward. (Most annoying personality type out there), but my favorite are the people who put the extra time, and put energy into hearing me, and are okay with my will to do things for myself.   Yes, there's a lot of things that  are awful in life, for me, for you, for I everybody.  But it it's not about who got me where, or how somebody else made me feel.  At the end of the day, this life is what I have, and I'm grateful for it, despite all of the absolute rubbish I've endured as a result.  I don't actually feel enraged, not now anyway.  It's been 7 years, I've had plenty of time to realize some peace, and I will always be grateful that I still have the opportunities to rebuild, and rewire.  The ability to acquire new skills, and knowledge is gift to each of us, and not having lost that, I'm contended enough.  With all other injuries, if you lose motor function because of a severed nerve,  tendon, anything, the impairment can be lifelong.  The only beauty of a brain injury is that neurons, and synapses can regenerate.  It's difficult, and pure hell some/most days, because the act of trusting myself, and my abilities is lost.  However, there will always be magic in my, well, 2nd firsts.  And, the continued growth from there.  For example, as my vision has ever so slowly pieced back in, or running again, albeit with a baby jogger, and certainly horseback riding again.  There will always be more to push through, work on, and overcome, whomever you are.  This world is only lonely, if I put that label on it, so I'm not going to.  There will always be positives, and negatives in life.  It's all in how we decide approach our challenges. Mine is a totally unique brain injury, where I have to continue to push on, test everything, and stand up for myself, and the unique injury I acquired.  As they say, 'You don't know what you can do, until you try.'


Thursday, May 8, 2014

The road less traveled

I lost an intangible amout when I acquired my brain injury.  At this point I feel like an imposter in the brain injury world, simply because I am the exception.  My heart stopped, and somehow that translates to 'severe cerebral anoxia'.  Basically synapses (connections), and neurrons cells) died from the lack of oxygen.  The damage is not quantifiable, as it doesn't appear on scans.  My records indicate a lack of oxygen for over 10 minutes.  I love that it has taken me, oh, seven years of unimaginable triumph, and conversely devastation to get to where I am today.  Ironically, I don't even know where I'm left standing. All I know is that the physical independence vision, and speech, I've fought so hard to regain, is an blessing, however many bumps in the road.

  Lately, I've been going through old memories trying to piece together who I was, and what lessons got me there.  I did my fair share of  stupid stuff, that I was constantly bailing myself out of.  Though, because I learned what not to do, and could reflect on other choices, I learned to get  to get to where I wanted.

7 years ago my heart stopped dead.  I was a healthy, fit, active young woman with boundless energy.  I had lititle free time, and where I found it, I was outside.  This is me, obviously, not everyone appreciates  this lifestyle, but for me, this is how I go.  Were all different.  In 2011-12, I had my plan laid out for my recovery, and for going back to work/reclaiming financial independence.  Yep, the moment I was released from the hospital, I've been surviving on public funds.  The regiments, practices, and design of the system is archaic.  The people who oversee these programs have either worked their way through the programs, and gotten educated, or not, and there are others who are just so used to being treated like a mildly tolerable fool, that they turn around, and do ithe same tonwhomever comes to see them, or apply for assistance.   I think the world of a lot of people who've helped me on this path.  Others I wish the undue injustice of an anoxic brain injury on, but that's just me.

In my junior and senior years at UVM, I worked 3 different jobs, and attended classes, taught a wilderness instructor course, edited a 'safe at college' hand out with the Red Cross, was on the student council, led alternative spring break trips, outing club trips, and helped with fundraising.  I made all my classes, despite  overcommitting myself.  I wish I'd had a more structured system for over committing myself.  My friends never understood how I did it all.  The ONLY reason I fit it all in, was because of my job.  I had to sit for 8 hours, and intermittently enter data, order things, and do busy work.  Although, I soon found a way to manage the work in bundles.  The doctors rounded at certain times.  I'd have a pile of orders to fo input, and fill, and then, nothing to do.  I learned to be prepared, and always have my school work on hand.  I did all of my reading, and worksheets for school, at work.  I could never write papers because writing has always required my undivided attention.  That is why I adored that job, because I could easily multitask, and get my school work done, as well as my actual work duties done.  My other jobs were child are, and horse care.  I fed these kids breakfast, walked their dog, brought them to school, and went to the barn, to help with turnout, and stall cleaning.  Not glamorous, but the routine, and the horses saved me from getting too self involved.  I have always needed to be occupied at all times.  Actually, I think most of us need that, it's just so easy these days, to stare blankly at a screen, we've lost a lot of the once normal face to face interaction.  Sad, but true.

The life I lead now is the exact opposite.  I live in my head.  I lost all of the hard-won lessons I'd spent 23 years accruing, with regard to physical, and social skills.  My book skills, that stuck, but I walk, and fall like I did at the age of 4.  It's too bad I'm so tall, because falling at 5'8", hurts a lot more than it did when I was 3 feet tall.  Additionally, as we age our bones get harder, and we get heavier, so it hurts a lot more to fall.  I fall around once per week, presently.  I fell today, on my run, actually.  But no one saw:). It was like a very fast, uncoordinated, and awkward stop, drop, and roll.  No harm done, this time!  The way I 'run' now is so absurd, the word run, barely seems barely applicable.  I'm either pushing a 30lb old school baby(less) jogger, or out jautntily running at a pace walkers eclipse.  Right now, the fact that I can do it at all,, is all I can enable myself to care about.  It's funny to be out, and have random people tell me what a great job I'm doing, or how amazing I am.  Of course the kind encouraging words are a blessing, but my first thought is always,'oh please, I'm barely moving, and I must look like lsome dying animal, the way my legs move, how can you be serious?'  Somehow, I can bite my tongue to say thank you, and wish them a good day,, even though my mind is like, 'AHH devil!' 

I've seen so much, dealt with everyone, and everything that has been in the way, yet, now I feel as if I've been left in the lurch.  My degree is irrelevant, and I'm no longer eligible for federal aid, because my debt was forgiven.  Unless I'm able to assume $90,000 in debt, plus interest, on top of new education costs, I can't manage the cost of school.  Guess I should get into tech companies, or oil.  This countries revenue infrastructure is miserable.  It enables the people with the most money to keep all of it, and creates a system of indentured servitude for individuals without  the necessary means to live.  I fell in this hole, now, I have to climb out.  Easier said than done, apparently.  This is probably the most difficult situation, I've personally found myself in. There must be other people who have gotten above it, without setting their pride, beliefs' and values aside.   Clearly dying, in 2007 was pretty crappy, but the incredible support system I've amassed along the way, has carried me through.  There's incredible beauty in the worst of tragedies, that interpersonal support is crucial.  It is the reason I haveve made it this far, and one of many reasons why I keep fighting for the life I want back.  It's truely bizarre to feel so aimless, and not be able to realize a new path.  I have no idea what is next, but I'm determined to stop wallowing in my personal pit of despair.  Just because I can't find my way out now, doesn't mean I won't.  That is key.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Who's scared now?

I am!  I currently survive on public funding.  Yes, it's problems are rampant, and the rules binding me are ridiculous.  Much of the time, I wonder if our public funding system creates much of the oppression in our country.  There's a certain stigma attached.  I'm ashamed to say that admitting my funding resources, and how I get by in my day to day life, is through funding provided by section 8 (housing), social security, disability, and food stamps.  I wish I had gotten my degree in social work, at this point.  I have a major problem with how these funds are allocated among recipients.  Freedom is nonexistent within these boundaries.  Public programs were created as a foundation to ensure the well-being of its constituents.  Somehow, our foundation has become cracked, and now these programs serve the financially desperate, and/or the morally corrupt.

As we consistently  fight to maintain my programming and benefits, there are many days, I consider leaving.  Getting on the next outbound flight, and leaving this oppression behind.  I admire the structure of public programming, however the actual implementation, and individuals running the show, are a different story.  Corruption, embezzlement, lies, mostly over money it seems.  I never imagined I might feel sad about proclaiming my nationality, though, today, if feel deflated, empty, and beaten.  Here, no one cares about your work ethic, your honesty stabsvyou in the back, or denies you claims, and finally, your money just appears like magic every month, for NOT contributing to the greater good.  God Bless America....  Somebody has to...

This article originally inspired me to write about the benefits of public programs, in their defense.  Clearly I view them as flawed, however anarchy seems imminent, if we agree to allow money and ignorance to govern our great nation...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Social experiment

Here's how I feel, I lookThis spring, I'm enrolled in a public speaking course at UVM.  I took a similar course in my undergrad, although, I'd clearly lost any skill, or confidence I may have gained from that course.  I really enjoy telling my story, , as it's many things, from shocking, to horrifying, to hilarious, to moving.  The path I walk today, is anything, but expected, and I enjoy raising awareness, but, let's face it, I speak in a relatively unique way now.  My voice is profoundly more clear now, than it was, even a year year ago.

I still have to actively think about the volume of my voice, remembering to breathe deeply while speaking, and take into consideration, how to move my lips and mouth, to form each word.  It's a lot to remember, and on top of that, I have to retain  what I'd planned to say, and try to remain organized. Enough to convince my group, and class why beauty pageants are a positive influence within society.  Frankly, I could not care less about pageants, I remember appreciating 'miss Congeniality' for its raw humor,  and demonstrating that not all women, are poised, and move fluidly, with coordination.  'Little Miss Sunshine'  was another fantastic pageantry comedy, that made fun of the trivial absurdities, and unique personality traits, so well.

Realistically, if pageants make some people happy, then those people should appreciate them.  I had to tell my group why I appreciate beauty pageants, and name positive aspects of them.  Apparantly there's a fair amount of scholarship money in them, for winners.  I also decided I should look the part, so I put on some make up, and fussed over my appearance, before I went to class.  Call me crazy, but it seems if I have to care about beauty pageants, then I should appear to care about my own appearance.  I hope that I do, anyways, but makeup has never been part of who I am, or want go be, at least on a daily basis.  I felt like a kid, playing dress up, but it put me in the right frame of mind, and it didn't hurt that some kid literally tripped himself, running around me, to open the door for me. People are generally very kind, with holding the door for me, but the enthusiasm, and lack of coordination, combined, struck me as hilarious, in that moment.  He did make it, but I was a bit dumbfounded, watching it take place.

The many faces of me
Here's how I usually look
Here's how I feel like I appear (that's me on the far left)
This is what I wore to present my beauty pageant advocacy speech.
still feel like I little kid playing dress up.  This lifestyle is so bizarre, although,I'm clearly not the only person out there with image confusion issues.  Yesterday, I was walking to the corner market, and walked around a person wearing a banana costume.  As I was told, dress for success.  Not sure what dressing like a piece of fruit gets you, maybe some funny comments, and possibly a free banana?  Hard to say with that one.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The mountains are calling! Much adieu with Crested Butte

AMAZING!  I enjoy these trips so much!  Everyday is a brand new experience.  I love everything about traveling, from the Invariability of arriving on time, to wandering around different airports in my wait, for my next flight.  I also landed early, which never happens.  Only about ten minutes,but still, nice! Getting off the plane in Gunnison, I'd begun talking to an older gentleman, inquiring about which mountain I was headed to.  It seemed that we were both headed to Crested Butte.  The conversation then turned to Saturdays Madis Yahu concert.  Apparantely, his son was in, or managed the band.  I said I was planning to go with my friend, although did not have my ticket yet.  He offered to allow my friend and I VIP access, so I gave him my email, and promptly forgot about the interaction, as I located Maggie.  I was slightly thrown off by her Crested Butte Fire Department attire, but she had just finished a shift, on duty as a paramedic.  As soon as we got in the car, she informed me of my rigorous schedule, for the next 5 days, and I could not have been happier to hear, that I didn't have a free moment, the whole week.  My idea of a vacation, is to have a jam packed schedule full of adrenaline laden activities, and lots of social activities, as that's nearly the opposite of my day to day life.  I knew going into it, I needed to be mindful of the amount of sleep I got.  I was super excited to see Maggie's new place, which still featured a stairway I needed supervision on, though was bright, open, and spacious.  And, to boot, a spectacular view of the mountains, and direct sunlight.

We arrived to her condo around 8:30,  and chatted a bit, before I crashed.  My alarm, went off at 7, and was particularly unwelcome, but as I opened my eyes to blazing sunshine, I remembered where I was, and what my day held in store.  I was slow moving that morning, and the coffee stop was necessary, I've suddenly become a coffee drinker, I'm not too pleased with myself for that, although, it made the morning, all the more glorious.  Going back to the adaptive sports center is always a treat.  It's teeming with energy, and I'm beginning to remember more faces, and names, finally.  and Each trip, I get meet many new faces too.  I was working with Marc squared, which soon becacame Marky, Marc, and the funky bunch.  Guess who I became, in this equation?  'The funky bunch'.  It took me a few days to embrace it, but we all had fun with it.  I worked with Marc D. last year, and was pretty excited or the continuity, and somebody who already had a grasp of my abilities, and difficulties.  It still pisses me off, the first few runs, as I remember I have to wear a seizure belt, on the lift, because I suffer seizures.  There are so many seizure disorders, I understand the precaution,  I just don't agree with it, in my case, as I know when I'm in danger of seizing, and couldn't be moving, let alone getting on my snowboard, in that state.  Oh well, I get it,  it just evokes terrible memories, and takes me back to a time where I needed constant monitoring, and supervision to ensure that I didn't acquire more injuries.  It often seems surreal, to be out having these incredible experiences, considering how incapitatated I was 6 years ago.  I just have to deal with the safety precautions.  As soon as I became distracted on the lift, taking in the view, and bantering about the answer to the trivia question, it was nearly forgotten.

That first morning, the conditions were atrocious.  Hard ice, with a millimeter of snow covering.  Just like the mountains in Maine, where I learned to ski, growing up.  I wondered if I was trying to ride a glacier.  I had a hard time, as I couldn't stop, and we all know falling on ice HURTS.  I was not feeling brave, or ready to make my own turns.  I was overly cautious, which also makes me fall, so, I'd had it after trying once, to make my own turns.  Not, the best start, for my morale, but taking in everything else, it was a great day, we grabbed dinner at the resort, and must've met 4 new people in the course of eating.  It's a small community, so it seems Like Maggie knows everybody.  It's always fun, but I do not like meeting people while I'm eating.    Oh well. It happens everywhere,I should be used to it.

I went to sleep, as soon, as I could, upon returning.  I love being so busy, I'm exhausted, by the end of the day, it's so gratifying.  The next morning, I awoke with sunrise again, peering out the window, to see a dull glow behind the mountain tops.  Maggie blended us these power smoothies.  I had no idea what exactly was in them, but they were an awesome start to the day, on top of the granola I also had. I felt as though I was always eating, and it was all great food.  We stopped for the morning coffee ritual again, while Maggie detailed my insane schedule to me.  She was off to Denver for a  hockey game, between Boston, and Denver.  I'd been invited, but preferred to spend my precious time in the mountains.  It sounded like they had a great time, which made me happy.  I love hockey, just not nearly as much as snowboarding.

I rode with Marc squared again, and while it was a tougher day, for me physically, we made the best of it.  The first run was a hand held asisst, where I hang on for balance, and to prove to myself, I can make it down.  The second run, I opted for hand held asisst again, instead of working on my own turns.  We were making a turn that felt slightly choppy, when I suddenly collided with Marc, and literally saumersaulted over myself.  Talk about dad zed, and confused.  In that moment, I was so thankful for my helmet.  We both fell pretty hard, as we'd caught an edge, and had gone flying. Tthe lunch break was perfectly timed, so gathered ourselves,headed in.  Friday was the first day of ladies camp,  so we all got to catch up a bit, over lunch, get reconnected, and swap stories.  Lunch passed very quickly, and soon enough, we were back on the slopes.  I saw very little of the ladies out skiing, but I also have difficulty visually processing more than one event at a time.  I have a hard time directing my efforts into the physical act of speaking, while doing another physical task.  I'm sharp, but I have a hard time completing 2 physical tasks at the same time.  That afternoon, I opted to try the sit ski.  It was very different.  I couldn't liken it  to anything I'd previously done.  I fell only once, even though I had a very difficult time trusting my left side.  I had keep my focus on using my left and right equally, and my left side has to work twice as hard.  I'm the sit-ski newbie, being the only snowboarder, I can't ever relate to their experiences, or stories.  Also I got to see a lot more of the mountain.  I was really happy to have tried it, but for now, I'm pleased with trying to regain my snowboard abilities.

Dinner that night was hosted by an adaptive volunteer, who goes out of her way to welcome us, and share her life with us.  Her generosity is overwhelming, as she had 10 of us over for dinner, and prepared 3 fantastic quiches, salad, and to die for brownie sundaes.  Over dinner I found myself talking about my writing aspirations, and Sandy told me about a conference at the local University, Western State.  I'm still looking into it, but what could be better, than writing in a inspirational setting, surrounded by so many brilliant writers?

That night, an adaptive intern, Hanna,  had kindly volunteered to help me out, at Maggie's. At first I was nervous about it, only because I didn't know her, though many of the adaptive staff only had great things to say, and she was in fact, a warm, friendly gal, with a kind heart.  It just can be nerve racking to find yourself in the care of a new person.  Given some of my poor past experiences, it's not the easiest thing for me to go into a situation like this with an open mind.  Although, I was able to recognize that his was a very different situation from what I'm used to, and tried to see the best in the circumstances.  And, of course the moment I met Hanna, my uneasiness dissipated.  She was easy to talk to, and great company, just as I'd been told.  The next morning we got ready to go, and zipped out the door, in record time.  I had breakfast plans with Elaine and Julie,from our ladies camp group.  They were staying at the Grand Llodge, which had a fantastic brunch selection.  Brunch, is without question, my favorite meal.  A staff member kindly helped me carry my plate, and acquire way too much food.  I enjoyed my oatmeal, French toast, bacon, fruit cup, and home fries.  Slightly ashamed of myself, I ate it all without hesitation, and attempted to participate in conversation, although eating is still a task that requires a bit more focus, as I have to actively think about it, to ensure that I don't a) choke, b) accidentally inhale food, or c) try to talk, and accidentally spit food out.  Admitting the mental focus, and stamina this injury requires of me, is not the easiest thing, it's just that I find it so frustrating not to participate in the social activities surrounding a meal with friends.

Elaine's sense of humor is fantastic, she loves to have a great time, and make things fun for others.  As she and Julie were staying at the lodge, every morning, staff from adaptive came over to accompany all of us, on the short walk/roll to adaptive.  That was probably my first morning getting on the mountain around 9:30. Even though, I chose last minute to change everything around, and try the ski-bike again.  Physically, it wasn't a great morning, my muscles were tense, and I felt slightly unsteady.  Not the best combination for snowboarding.  I was also slightly sore from yesterday's fall, and was not looking for another opportunity to repeat it.  The  vast beauty the mountain has to offer.  My first year at CBMR (crested butte mountain resort), I did one run, peach-tree, almost every run I took.  The following year, I got to experience more trails, although I still rarely got yo see any of the rest of our group.  I love snowboarding, and am willing to do whatever it takes to get my indepence back, with doing it.  I probably will always need adaptive asisstance, though,I will never lose the drive to keep pushing myself to reacquire whatever abilities I'm able.  I was happy to have the experience, but I knew it wasn't how I wanted to enjoy the mountain.  I don't trust my left side at all, so making left turns was quite awkward.  The mental fears I have in relation to using my left side, it's I never learned to trust in its abilities, due to weakness, and spascity. I usually ask people not to walk on my right, because I find the movement distracting, and feel I'm more likely to lose my balance.  Although, it only happens on my left side.  As always, some days are difficult, others not so much.  I used to get really excited everytime I'd have a recor-breaking good day, because I assumed it meant I was making this grand improvement towards a more mobile lifestyle.  Turns out, there are good days, and bad days with a brain injury.  On my great days, my brain fires on all cylinders, and I feel nearly unphased by limitations.  Then, on a bad day, I need help in the kitchen, or paring food, serving it, cleaning up, getting dressed takes 45 minutes to an hour, because I get so shaky.  I will not ever askfor help dressing, unless it's a difficult zipper, buttons, or tying my shoes.  This is how my body functions, invariably, and spastically.  I've never found the words I felt, summed up my difficulties, until now.  One of the million reasonsI'm so thankful for adaptive programs like this one.

Trying out the sit ski, I got some breathtaking views, and felt all the more driven to improve my snowboarding, and coordination, so that one day I'll be more adept at riding more difficult terrain. That is a dream to shoot for.  I was a feeble snowboarder prior to my injury, never had taken a proper lesson, but it fell in love with riding the snow that way, my first time out.  I grew up skiing, but from the moment I tried boarding, I knew I wanted it to be my preferred choice of mountain sports.  Learning a sport I was barely adept at before my injury, seemed far fetched originally, but thankfully, where the there's a will, there's a way.  This week, Maggie, Marc squared, and the entire adaptive community helped me realize this opportunity.

That evening Madis Yahu was playing a show at the resort.  I would describe them as a Jewish reggae band, if you've never heard of them.  When Maggie originally asked me if I wanted to go see them, I had to check them out on Youtube. I was immediately struck by their unusual appearance, and sound, so I wanted to see them.  I'm so glad Maggie suggested it, otherwise, I would've continued on in my oblivion, having missed a great show.  The show was outside, at night, and somewhat disorganized.   None of the employees had a clue of how  to help people with questions other than directions, and once we were under the dome where the show was, it was chaos.  No seating anywhere, and an open bar, in the back.  At first we were at the very back, on the edge of the dancing/swaying crowd, watching the opening band.  Maggie ran around looking for something I could sit on.  I felt okay on my feet, thankfully, but 3 hours is a long time to stand in place.  Around the time she returned with a milk crate, I sat down, just as Madis Yahu was coming on, and now was sitting so low that I had a glamorous view of 1,000 backsides, and a cool light show.  Just as I was getting aggravated with sitting, I heard my name, and rose to turn around.  It was the man I'd met in the airport, and he was talking to Maggie about getting us VIP access.  I want to remember his name as John, so that's what I'll call him in this story. I had seen him at the resort twice, and both times had difficulty recognizing him, or remembering our interaction at the airport.  However, in that moment I've never been so thankful for a random act of kindness, like that.  My concert experience was instantly transformed from a slight bummer, to an incredible, crazy, hilarious musical experience.  There was a place to sit, as well as space to stand, stage side.  At one point, the guitarist strolled over to bum a light off someone nearby.  Instantly 3 hand with an open flame in each went up, totally thrilled to have the opportunity to give Madis Yahu a light.  Once hey came on the stage, the time flew by, and the show was over way too fast.

It was so hard to get up, that next morning, and I hadn't even been drinking. The sun was out, and I hold myself, when in Rome, you have yo get out and play, so I got up, hating myself for going out to play, the night before.  As soon as I ate, I felt slightly more human, and the icing on the cake, was the coffee stop I'd begged for.  By the time Iwe got to adaptive, I was using full sentences.  And after our first run or two, I'd entirely forgotten how tired I'd been, waking up.  If only I had amazing adventures to wake up to, more often.  Marc had me rtiding on tethers, that day.  I really wanted to be able to work hard, and have a great day, that Sunday, as it was the last day of ladies camp.  We had a great morning, but I was pooped by the time we came in for lunch.  That afternoon, I decided yo try ski biking again.  I loved it, last year.  However, once I was out there,  it seemed as if  I'd conveniently forgotten how much work it was, and found typically underused muscles whining. 

 This trip, I had my first ever, 'ugh, I'm getting old breakdown'.  I am turning 30 this year, but it's just a number.  I am stressed that I'll hit 8 years post injury, and that I'm still living on government resources.  I finally finished my rehab program, but pushing my way out into nothing,  was obviously not a genius move on my part.  I've been in such a rush to move on, I figured things would fall into place, once I finished rehab.  Instead, I just feel like I fell apart, empty, bored, and full of self doubt.  I remember these feelings, I felt like this the summer I graduated from UVM.  I threw myself into a new relationship, and training for my first triathlon, while going for countless interviews for jobs I was less than passionate about.  Sean was my lifeline, in more ways than one, that summer.  I did eventually find the elusive job I'd been looking for, I I just 'died' before I could take it.  Yes, died is my choice word.  Clearly I'm not dead, and I'm ever so thankful for that, though I did lose any semblance of my independent, active, social, and rewarding lifestyle, to start all over.  I'm so fortunate to be the same mentally (for the most part), and I'm lucky to have the oppotunity to grow, and redevelop, my athletic passions, even if its unbelievably frustrating, and difficult, this is an opportunity that many wish for, but very few have the circumstances, or drive to endure. The harder I work to establish my physical abilities to whatever they may, or not be, it's all success in one way, or another.  This is yet another reason why I look forward to these trips so much, as I gain a new vantage point, from which to measure my growth.  Crested Butte Adaptive Sports  Center   is a magical spot, full of adventure, growth, and a vision for change.  Thank you to all who were involved, or took part.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Heavy things

(Heavy Things is the only Phish song I like, random, but true)

I just watched this awesome clip of an interview, with Lady Gaga.  Not even sure why, really.  I'm not a big fan of pop.  When I realized how long the interview was, I thought, 'I'll just check it out, and carry on.'  The title was about maintaining her independence, which was what grabbed my interest.  It just made me think about following your passions, and doing what makes you happy in life, over selling out, to do what the masses tell you to do.  These are all things I remember being hold, as a child, to follow my heart, and do what makes me happy.  I hear that a lot now too, and genuinely try to follow it. I'm much harder on myself, than most others are on me.  But, I also think that's true of many people.  Life with a disability is my life now.  It's been 6.5 years, I've learned a lot, about people, myself, and many other things.

Yesterday, I went snowboarding, at Smugglers Notch.  I've really enjoyed their adaptive program, over the years, but I was rather unsettled, walking in, in a rain storm.  I was psyched to be there, but not pleased about the conditions.  Rain, makes the snow sticky, and slushy.  You get wet, when you go down, so I was trying to mentally prepare myself for that.  I have to face the fact, I always have at least one fall.

I was working with a new instructor, to me, anyways.  Adaptive is a truly unique world, and I have so much respect, and admiration for most of the people I've worked with over the years.  It is a job, but they help me, and so many other people get out, and enjoy the activities I/we love.  Pretty damn noble, if I think about it like that. Yesterday was not a difficult, unresponsive day, but sometime I'll be stuck in my head, without the ability to talk, and ride, or run, walk whatever.  My mind is always running but the physical aspect of forming my words, and doing another task, is often beyond me.  I can only process the movements, I have to will my body into making, or try making.  I felt fortunate, as yesterday, I could talk, and ride, or ride, and translate my instructions into the mostly correct movements.  I was also working with an instructor who was really easy to talk to.  It's funny how were all different like that, obviously we all can't get along with everyone, but I I can't get over the fact that sometimes you instantly know you like, or really dont like another person you encounter.  I think it's part of our animal ancestry.  I've just lived in a world where I've had 1 mode, apathy.  I had memories of things I used to recognize on an entire range of levels, from good to bad, to indifferent, so that's what I used, to make comparisons, and decide how to judge a situation, or if I liked, or didn't like someone.  My experiences relearning life, are completely unique, I'm not always sure how to relate my experiences, with people I'm just meeting.  But, my day on the mountain helped me realize, I'm still Courney, Cblaze, sloth, Courtee, and the many other charming names you've all devised for me, in my earlier life.  I don't know how my neurons are re-awakening, I /we thought they were dead, but it is possible to create new synapses.  However, against all odds, I'm still the same, in many respects.  The best feeling in the world, is to be yourself, and be proud of it.  I might move, react, and speak differently, but I'm getting there.  I wouldn't wish this journey on anyone, but as they say, 'you don't know how strong you are, until it's tested.'

So, here's to a miraculous ongoing recovery, and all of the unconditional, love, support, coaxing, and will, it has taken to get this far.  Thank you everyone, for helping me get from mute, blind, and 
Bedridden, to a place where I am back to pushing myself to doing bigger, and better things, around each new turn.  Your faith has helped me get here, and I am truly grateful.