That was nearly six months ago and my journey (polite code for hell and back) to return to my old self has been a long and arduous one. I don't care about the scars I have on my body or that I spent months learning to walk again without the support of a cane. I have gotten used to my utter fear of walking outside and I remind myself often that it is a miracle I can walk at all so feeling safe when I cross streets or parking lots doesn't take priority. So what if living a few doors down from the accident site has made living the apartment I have lived in for a decade unbearable. These are all things I am still trying to make peace with but what has been the toughest part of these months has been a terrifying experience that I haven't discussed openly until now.
A brain injury was something I initially thought I had escaped. Because I never hit my head during the accident, I never spoke to doctors about the possibility of a serious concussion. In the hours and first few days after something as traumatic as your body being stuck by a car, you feel a strange combination of being out of your body (because it is so incredibly surreal to have something like this happen) and very much trapped in your body because every little movement that used to be easy is so longer possible and your body feels like a burden. Adrenalin takes over your very being for the first day (fight or flight feeling times a million). You are put on all sorts of pain drugs (not to mention the weirdness of tubes and drips stuck in your body). And the final strangeness? Being in a hospital at all. I found it nearly impossible to rest there as it is a scary, strange environment where people were coming and going from my room at all hours. It isn't until you return to the normalcy of your home, the comfort and safety of your own bed, that you can begin to really assess what has happened to you and how you feel compared to the last time time you were home and your old unbroken self.
It was lying in my own bed many days later that I realized how fuzzy my head felt. Without pain pills and in the peace of my bedroom it was my head that suddenly radiated the most pain. And so began my battle with a variety of symptoms relating to a brain injury that was later decided by experts in the field came from my head being rattled severely when my body was tossed on and off of the car. (much like the kind of injury football players suffer from). For 4 months I lived with torturous migraines, memory failures, and intense fogginess that made the general act of thinking straight a difficult task. It was during this time period that I was mysteriously and surprisingly let go from my full time job so to add to the nightmare of my recovery process, I was in constant chronic pain and suddenly unemployed. (and living without health insurance so my insane medical bills are just a footnote to this personal hell) I have to be honest here, while I revel in the fact that I am still alive and truly appreciate this gift, when I was stripped of the power to think straight and living with the debilitating side effects from a concussion like headaches every day, it felt like my life was over.
With migraines comes a sensitivity to light and sound. For those of you who know me, sound is my life. Music isn't just a part of my life, it defines me. Imagine waking up one day and your head hurts so much that that even gentle soothing tones resonate inside you like pin pricks. The pain was often so severe that whatever I was hearing couldn't register with me properly at all. And what aspects of my life did this change affect? Everything. My work. (music industry = all day sounds) My weekly radio show (more music). My home life. (where my record collection of thousands of records live). My social life. (loud live bands, noisy crowds, and DJs felt like a grenade had gone off between my ears). My record label. (more music!). Alone time. (I hated being in my own body)
And the most frustrating? Me as a recording artist silenced. The freedom to express myself creatively in a way that I have dedicated my entire adult life to was erased on August 30th. I have been trying to rebuild this missing person in me ever since. I began making music in the early '90s and the thought of this part of me going away forever feels worse than being hit by a car.
Even as recently as a month ago, recording and making music was not something I could do with ease. While the migraines and confusion associated with a major concussion are behind me (although I still battle headaches occasionally) I am still dealing with the inability to handle certain kinds of tones, sounds, and loud volumes. This makes the act of placing headphones on my head to record and work on music for extended period of times extremely difficult. This makes playing songs back to really listen to my pitch, attack, and timing often agony. There is also no denying that being extra sensitive to sounds not only changed how often I can work on music but the kind of music I can work on. Now that certain frequencies and tones literally pain me, I find myself working on music that reflects the tones that appeal to my head. Remarkably I have found ways around these endless hurdles but on some days it has been enough of a heartbreaking struggle that I have wanted to give up. What I have learned about myself since is that I am not quitter. I am determined to push through this and not let the negligence of reckless driver strip me of my passion in life.
It took me a half a year to get back to this point but I am proud to have finished not one but two new songs; one under my solo moniker and one under Positive No, a home recording project I do with my boyfriend Kenny. (also the man behind the incredible love, care and support that helped me heal post accident). Writing and recording music has played an interesting and important role in my healing process. It helps test and use my memory while forcing me to sharpen my problem solving skills. Best of all it is a return to something that brings me deep satisfaction and joy. I have no idea if I will be able to handle playing live and loud again, no less if my memory will allow me to recall the lyrics to a whole set list of songs but the fear of this unknown won't stop me from at least trying. If the end result means I just record music at home in a controlled setting that is kind to my ears and head, so be it.
The good news is 2012 is the year I became an artist again.