Monday Night Reflection: Slow Boat or Express Train

I do make a point of writing my Monday Night Reflection as close to real time as possible and today is a case in point. Today I got news that following my twenty minute EEG, which was, of course, a downgrade from the ambulatory EEG originally ordered, I have after an administrative delay, being booked for a three-day ambulatory EEG after all. This suggests that the short EEG was not good enough to show me the door.

This is significant because I have felt that my recovery has been very much more slow boat than express train and that I have significant skills deficits that are not really coming back in the area of motor skills, something showing up in my typing error statistics which are up over 500%, if ever there was a measure that a skill was a bit affected. Although thanks to Grammarly, it would appear my writing vocabulary is largely unaffected, those who know me have noted that I still lisp, slur, stammer and have vocal issues previously not present and that my memory defects are noticeable, especially when I get tired.

So while I am no fan of a reflection heavily medical in focus, it is difficult because I am two people. The person I can talk about and the person I can not talk about too much; and at this present moment the person I can not talk about a lot is driving and in charge, it is a very important week, it is probably the most important week of my year in that life. This upcoming weekend being the most important weekend of the year for that life; without melodrama what happens will determine the rest of my year, where I go, what I do. So, rather unsurprisingly, the combination of my motor skill issues which massively impact that life, my problems writing, which are my other life, and my recovery which is all my life have given me what is, in the day to day, a very quiet life as I have had an extraordinary narrow focus as we as a team, been focussed on this one goal and getting through it.

It is partly frustrating that I have to separate lives, but it is a necessity, after all, I lost the battle for public identity to my abuser and this blog is for all those who like me lost that battle and have to find their voice. Because, I made it back, in that life although I am a long way from where I was, I am still on course to make my year-end goal, and I am still processing that. It is hard to reflect on anything else, it is dominating my physical and mental landscape that I left hospital first week in April will partial paralysis and speech issues not knowing when the next attack would be, the longest I have gone is 6 days without any sort of attack, yet despite all the issues and challenges, I am 6 days from being a competitive athlete again; taking my first step on the road to a World Championships where I am likely to be considered a legitimate contender.

How do you think about anything else, whatever challenges I face today, and I hurt, and I ache and my motor skills are awful, my coordination is woeful, the fact that is a sentence that is possible does not seem like it is real life. Yet, it’s my life, and I could very possibly be writing a Hollywood ending in my own little life.

So apologies, it’s not about Mr Mouse, it’s about Me, but not about me because my abuser is out there and she would ruin everything with her lies, so I don’t want fame or to be famous, so it’s not a big sport that gets into newspapers or internet headlines. The Mouse and I will tell our story together because it is our journey together, from the abuse of childhood and being held back for years by first an abusive parent and then abusive wife who would both sabotage or make me give up my dreams, telling me I was selfish to the wife who did more than just give permission, but who did what it took to put their wrong right.

Success may be a slow boat, it can be an express train, but it is never our own story, it takes people to help us, support us, open doors, believe in us and hold us up; every cliche about teamwork making the dream work is made real every time we come together and help someone even just a little bit.

After this week I am taking some time off everything, and I have been working on some poems to publish, I have to photography trips planned and my car will hopefully be fixed soon so I can make those, so gradually I am getting back to my normal. While hopefully, I can draw my line and Mr Mouse can create again; Mr Mouse is committed to a book called Squeeking At the Top of My Voice sometime late in 2018, I am really excited at what he has planned.

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Monday Night Reflection: Not Famous

I have tried to avoid deep introspection and life reassessment, it’s a bit cheesy, but I have been very low, and having discovered that on top of my existing medical journey I picked up a kidney infection (probably in my duplex kidney) I did manage to hit a very low and rather depressed point.

Thing is, I started noticing something, part of what had driven me to change my profession was that people in that field were asking what I had done. When I started it was all about technical ability, proficiency, results and knowledge, and now it is all about how famous you are and how famous the people you work with are. It is a fame game. More and more, I was thinking about contributing and the barrier to entry was how famous are you or how famous are the people you know.

It was last night, sat with my wife and stepson watching Disney Cars, my wife had not seen it and I am excited to see Disney Cars 3 in June, so we sat and were watching it together, he joined us and we had a really great evening and even grabbed a small takeaway tea for ease. It was a great end to what was a really enjoyable weekend. It was getting ready for bed that I had the light bulb moment, because like I do, and many of us do, I had a quick scroll through Instagram and I follow a few “successful” people, and they had worked. They seemed super happy that they had found time to be “productive”.

No knock on them, but that would not have made me happy, the thought of what they had done made me sad. My weekend I had sorted the exhaust on my car with a friend, trained, spoke with a couple of friends, one was a bit overdue and was really nice to catch up too, and watched a lot of MotoGP, spruced up the house as we have been doing for years and probably will be doing for years, and connected friendships. Most of my time was simply,  being, productivity and metrics were the furthest things from my mind, in fact, I remember my son and wife looking at me somewhat aghast as my phone vibrated through the film and I didn’t even flip it over despite having seen the film many times before. Why, I was enjoying the moment of being with them, nothing I do is that critical it can’t wait an hour or two despite what some people thing. And it is Sunday, and it’s a day none of us has to work so I make sure I keep it free to have with those I love.

I don’t want to be famous, and I don’t want that success. Travelling to do this and do that and the lifestyles that the successful have in what I am good at are just not for me. I guess I am good at the wrong things. You can take your adoring crowds, that’s cool, I will wake up to the eyes of the woman who loves me win or lose, succeed or fail, the woman who picked up and held my hand when I couldn’t move it myself, the woman who has seen me at rock bottom, and who chose to sit down next to me and just wait till I was ready.

It is not that I don’t want success, it’s that I won’t drop mine chasing someone else’s dream.

Dear Diary 24th April 2017: I had a Plan

Day one of getting things back to normal, well I guess it really was back to normal. My wife drove off to work and I decided to hit an errand early before I got my telephone appointment with my doctor at 10:30am.

Sort of odd having the Doctor have reception ring me up and make a telephone appointment, but it has happened and the plan was to go out and get the out of the house stuff done before. Simple, normal.

As it happens, devastating normal, the car battery is flat, the rear tyre is functionally flat, and the steering feels like a truck from 1920 heavy.

The last couple of months have been expensive car wise with our cars breaking terminally leaving us with the cheap run about and then us buying a super cheap 2nd to get my wife to work that then needed fixing because its Main Dealer Service History included that Main Dealer not doing the work properly and nearly breaking the engine.

Day one and already things are messed about by 35mins into the day, which means, yep, normal for sure!

Monday Night Reflection: Moving Forward?

This has been a difficult week. I wrote my last reflection sat next to a hospital bed, and here I am back at my desk, that bed does not feel a lifetime ago. Quite the reverse, hospital feels far too close, and I am finding it difficult to impossible to move forward or get away from that medical experience.

I have been blessed by lots of support and genuine concern for my welfare which has really been humbling, and talking to those people and keeping them updated with how I am doing has been a great reminder of the great people I have around me. There was also the complication that I left hospital without a diagnosis or even an explanation of what had been happening, just follow up, which would rule out certain options.

It was frustrating, partly because I had nothing to tell people, partly because I had no treatment and no prospect of treatment, but mostly because Doctors were not listening to me, and not taking what had happened seriously: even to the point I was told “I am not concerned because this is nothing serious”. Now this may be a terrible attempt at being reassuring but when you have been ambulanced in straight to resuscitation twice and your wife was told to prepare herself for you having had a major stroke once, and she has been prepared by the ambulance telephone operator to give you CPR and asked if there is a defibrillator handy it is anything but helpful.

The medical experience has been all of my experience, and even now I have seen a GP and gotten on a treatment for the most likely diagnosis of hemiplegic migraine, and am able to tell people a more positive set of outcomes, it is still difficult to move forward. I still have to be supervised, and my return to a normal life is what an employer would call “a staged return” to normality, which is tremendously difficult.

Everything in life is starting from the beginning, my business project is stopped, my writing projects stopped, everything stopped, my office is a mess, my desk is a mess. More than that my confidence is in pieces, and I am having understandable trouble sleeping, while I am exhausted at very low levels of activity. The road to recovery is a cliché phrase, but it is also a very accurate description of the process. A process I have to take carefully because although we have a great working theory, we have no trigger and no explanation as to why this rare form of migraine has started in my forties rather than the average age of onset of 17. I am rather old for this to have started.

It is really difficult not to over-think and over-analyse every feeling, twinge, and the rather nagging headache that comes and never quite goes. Plus, there is the reality that some symptoms can take a few weeks to wear off, in my case the most obvious one is a stammer that I never used to have. A return to normal is also a little more difficult because at the moment I have a weekly trip to a not local hospital for another issue identified to be treated, and quite a few extra pills that more than likely I will have to take for life now part of my morning routine as a little reminder of my fragility.

I am not taking this as negative, it is great that I have had potentially serious health issues addressed before they got that way, and it is awesome to have a GP who works with me and who steps up when other medical professionals have let me down. I have had lots of scans and test that have revealed I am very healthy internally and have raised things that can be addressed in plenty of time.

None of which has moved me psychologically away from my hospital bed, mentally I am still a patient. Creatively I am literally an empty space, writing about my experience is dull and lifeless, there is nothing there, I cannot create from it, and I feel like my brain isn’t back yet, it’s a lot of locked doors and I have lost the keys. Writing this reflection was a challenge because I only had one subject to write about, and I didn’t want to write about it. The reflective framework suggests that I use the experience to inform future behaviour or practice, and even am able to identify what I could do differently. I cannot see anything I can do differently when I was a passenger taken for a ride by what was happening, sometimes very literally.

As I wrote last week, I cannot bring myself to take the easy route of claiming some epiphany about the wonderful gift of life and how precious I have realised it is after what has happened, the truth is I haven’t had that sort of light-bulb revelation at all. As time as has passed, I have started to see how this three weeks has changed or could change both my wife and me. For her, I see real positives when she realises how awesome she was, not in that terribly overused, found strength she never knew she had way, because I am pretty sure she knew she could be phenomenally strong, a reminder or a revelation of the extent of that strength, I will give you that. No, it’s deeper, she was capable, she made great decisions, and although she was worried beyond my comprehension she managed it, didn’t ignore it suppress it but acted appropriately and constructively through an incredibly difficult and challenging situation. I hope she walks away from this with her confidence in her capabilities raised and her assessment of her abilities and judgement moved up closer to the level where the are and she stops underestimating them a little more.

For me, probably not what people would expect. I realised how close I am to having a perfect life, and that sadly, money is what it is going to take. I have an amazing life, but it is insecure, money will make it secure and add stability and certainty to it. That is not so I can take more risks or necessarily have more material stuff, I have way too much stuff and there really isn’t anything I need, maybe some cool enhancements, but that’s always going to be so. No, it’s a case of making life secure, and so that I can compete and we can have a holiday so that we can go back to having a car each. I’ve realised I need to make my dream less precarious.

What I do not know, where I really do need the epiphany is the how.

Dear Diary: 20th February 2017

Don’t stroke the Mouse!

Mouse was rushed into hospital last Tuesday with a suspected stroke.

Nearly a week later all we can say for definite is that Thursday night his brain showed no sign of damage.

20 stroke like episodes later Mouse can barely move his left side or speak.

His NHS experience is far from positive but with every reason to be down my brave Mouse is still upbeat and planning new projects for when he finally comes home.

Mrs Mouse

Monday Night Reflection: Logan

Apologies to those who haven’t seen the film, this will no doubt have a spoiler in it. This is not a film review, instead, Logan, like other fictional works became a mirror in which I could see myself more clearly. Great writing, great story telling, whatever the medium talks intimately to its audience, the very best covertly seduces the audience by first entertaining, and by that means lowers their defences so that the piece can speak to those who are willing to listen.

Some films and works are overt in their message, there are self-consciously preaching and reaching for a reaction and response. Usually they achieve their goal of an Oscar nomination or two, or perhaps the equivalent “art-house” recognition that they were born to seek. However, in my mind, the greatest achievement is to talk and embed a thought in something covertly from the Christian allegory of Wall-E to the crushing grief and loss woven into the fabric of Rocky Balboa, such writing is able to stop us dead in our tracks and cut through all our defences precisely because it hides in plain sight while we sought distraction from our lives and struggles.

And so we meet Logan, the once indestructible Logan, the anti-hero for the ages, moody and broody, reluctant but the first into battle for the right cause, driving a Limo at a 4th rate stripper bar. This Logan has a limp, is clearly old and sick. Our Hero has fallen. When we met Logan he was drinking and fighting in a bar for money, running away, this Logan is working to support and care for his old friend Charles Xavier, drinking to hide from the past. The once brilliant mind now dying with dementia, and Caliban literally hiding from the light, like Logan seeking redemption that he cannot find.

The world has changed, Logan and his kind have become  irrelevant and forgotten, their lives passed into mythology and fairy-tales for children and disenchanted youth. Our protagonists are haunted by their failures, hurts and the death of those they loved, they no longer have a place and are simply waiting out their days till death will release them from their suffering. Logan self-medicating, Caliban obsessing and Charles losing his battle with demntia, needing to medicate himself to keep others safe.

If I were twenty, thirty even these would be characters and perhaps little more than back story giving depth to what is to come. I would perhaps focus on the emerging and the new, but I am forty-five. I have lost loved ones, I have made mistakes I cannot change and I carry regrets. Like Logan, I am no longer indestructible, my body has let me down and broken, my place in the world was taken and I am left slightly irrelevant without a place in a world I no longer really want to be part of. Like Logan, I want to pass peacefully, without incident or drama through the days and I am tempted to self-medicate away the pain both physical and emotional. I am not alone, this is the basis of the rather dismissed mid-life crisis, where you realise you have less years left (statistically) than you have lived, where people get sick, they die and you know why people wear sunglasses at winter funerals. And, while many are peaking in their career, many of us never peaked, never had much of a career and see that their time is passing, perhaps past.

It is not all gloomy and black, of course, there are things to celebrate in life, however, those are fragile. Many of us have had those stripped away through no fault of our own, hard work rewarded by being laid off because we were top of a pay grade. We have achieved what we were told was the best thing to achieve and it is nothing at all. The curse of self awareness. The Power-Rangers Movie or Cars 3,  I don’t get to take my children, while other parents will complain and see this a chore, we squander the gifts too easily, and when they are gone we regret we did not cherish them more.

And so Logan is a reflection of us, we see our lives in the characters or we see nothing. If you see nothing then I am slightly envious, because while there are only elements of crossover with these ultimately fictional characters, they are some of the most painful elements of my life. I have tried to hide away and drink, as well as drug my way through life because it hurt to much to face reality. I am keenly aware that as a choice these are on my shelf and while they are not “go-to” so much as they once were, they are preferred ingredients.

Part of me is happy to pass gently and relatively quickly to a state or irrelevance, I have lost faith in a world where I have never felt at home. I have never felt of a place, and the places I feel most connected to I have only visited a handful of times and never lived. I am disconnected completely from any sort of family and have never wanted any connection, when their lives crossed I felt no affinity or desire to foster relationship. Their concerns and focus alien, and their drama’s and big deals seemed irrelevant and trivial compared to what matters. The tie of blood no bond at all. And so it is with the world, I see hate and suspicion growing with an agenda with which I want no part. Not even discussion, because that assumes they are legitimately objects for consideration, and in my world they are not. #notmyworld perhaps?

I have to walk in this world, despite my intense desire to be apart and away. I find myself dragged in and helping others against my better instincts, and I am no hero. I hope simply that what has happened to me can stop someone going where I have gone and feeling what I have felt.

Leave the storehouse of regrets untouched and gathering dust.

Write 

Don’t write for redemption,
Don’t write for regret
Don’t write for the bitterness
Or tears you haven’t wept

Don’t write for emotion
Don’t write for applause
Don’t write for adulation
That you haven’t had yet

Maybe write for mediation
Maybe write for contemplation
Maybe write for the therapist
Imprisoned in your head

Write elegantly the words
Write triumphantly to proclaim
Write for the abyss
That extinguished your flame