Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Left…

Posted: April 2, 2014 in Warning Book Length
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Even though the subject of this blog is about my recent need to learn to adapt to living with one hand in a two-handed world, it’s still worth mentioning that pain continues to play a major part of my life. Pain management is a daily reality for me, though sometimes, as anyone with a serious injury or illness involving pain can attest, certain days are better than others. The only problem is, of course, that we never know which days will be good and which days will be crummy. But that’s just how it is, and I’ve learned to live with it.

However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned to look on the light side of it either. “A Day Without Pain is Like a Day Without Sunshine,” I’ve often said, mostly with the idea of (believe it or not) cheering up myself a little bit. Before my accident, I was not above self-deprecating humor, and I’m not about to change that now, no matter how it might appear to others who don’t know me. I highly doubt that anyone cares, really (see? I’m doing it again…).

That said, it’s also worth noting that I consider pain to be a separate entity, wholly apart from me, almost like another personality. I believe Pain is all in the mind anyway, where our personalities reside, so to me, it’s an accurate analogy. Even so, my own unique mind-body connection being what it is, I sometimes feel it’d be nice to be able to jump outside of myself and into another body. It wouldn’t even have to be another healthy body really – a body with different pain in different places will do fine if it means I’ll get a respite from the constant pain I’m used to having now. But, of course, just because I wish this could happen doesn’t make it so. If this were the case, I would’ve won the Tour de France several times over, and I’d be a millionaire several times over, too, from having winning lottery tickets. But, alas, that isn’t the case.

So, my survival mechanism for this has been to view pain as something with which I have a special relationship. In a sense, it is a significant other in that it plays a very powerful role in my life; it influences much of what I do, what I think, and how I do things. Pain is something that can’t be reasoned with, though I try to anyway, if for no other reason than I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t. But don’t get me wrong-I have been in much more pain than I am now, and it’s that thought that keeps me going when I might otherwise feel incapacitated from it. Even so, I sometimes still pull away from the world around me because, when I’m hurting, it seems as if everything stinks, nothing is fun at all, and I just want to curl up in a corner somewhere, hope to fall asleep and then, when I wake up, I’ll find it was all just a bad dream that is over now.

Wishful thinking, yes, but at least it keeps my brain active. I recently read somewhere-on a refrigerator magnet, I think-“the voices in my head may not be real, but they come up with some pretty good ideas.” In a very real sense, that’s me; the brain works in very mysterious ways, and those who purport to know how it works-brain surgeons, for example-are full of Bolshevik when they try to convince me, or anyone, that they know what they’re talking about. The brain is, I believe, as much a black art as a science-if not more so-and that anybody who messes with the brain and gets a person to continue working even semi-properly afterwards just got lucky, that’s all. But that’s a subject for another time, and I’ve plenty to talk about when it comes to Western medicine and it’s arrogant belief that it and only it holds the key to everyone’s health…

So, as promised, here is an excellent idea that is directly related to the purpose of this blog, namely, living with one hand in a two-handed world. When it comes to managing pain, distractions play a major role in my strategy. Listening to music, watching movies, watching my diet, reflecting on past successes and transgressions, and looking forward to creating new ones. All of these things and many, many more constitute my daily brain activity. One distraction in particular has been Lumosity, the brain training and development “game” which, if I’m not mistaken, refers to itself as part of a scientific study that calls itself “the human genome project.”

Who knows what that vacuous name could mean, though in my experience such vague descriptions often hide a multitude of sins. I know, because I personally have been responsible for covering up for a wide multitude of sins myself, and I have a very easy to understand first, middle, and last name.

Lumosity is a terrific example of an activity that requires two hands in order to participate. Before my accident, I truly enjoyed the benefits of Lumosity, even though it did take place under the ever-watchful eye of the “human genome project.” Since the mid-1990s, I’ve had a couple of mild, closed-head traumatic brain injuries, a.k.a. TBI’s, and the Lumosity exercises helped create a pleasantly distracting, and sometimes even enjoyable way in which I could quantify the progress of my own brain’s improvement.

The aforementioned brain surgeons might describe a person’s ongoing progress in Lumosity’s “brain games” as akin to “increasing neuronal activity in atrophied areas of the cerebral cortex” or some other similar, lofty-sounding terms. Howeve, it is enough for me to simply say that parts of my brain were simply rusty from lack of use, and once I started using them again, some of that rust rubbed off, and Voila! My brain began working better again.

By that I mean finding the right words to complete a sentence was no longer such a struggle, and also I enjoyed some memory improvement. Mostly this came in the form of remembering little things; where I left my car keys, for example, and whether the underwear in my dresser drawer was clean or not. Never mind the fact that I shouldn’t have been driving a car anyway, especially if I couldn’t tell if my underwear was clean or dirty. And what would dirty underwear be doing in my dresser drawer anyway?

Anyway, one or two of Lumosity’s five daily games almost always required the use of two hands to complete. Well, since I now had but one hand with which to work, I fully expected the folks at Lumosity to be sensitive to this fact and willing to modify my daily strategy accordingly.

But after contacting Lumosity in writing and describing my new circumstances, I never heard back from them. So I tried to hedge my bets by cutting and pasting the same words and forwarding them to as many different places at Lumosity as possible, even to one place that I think was a marketing department. How on earth something called “the human genome project” could have a marketing department I could not figure out. But then again, I was foolish enough to believe that something called “the human genome project” would have enough of a heart to understand my predicament and consider modifying itself for me.

But this was not so. In fact, I believe that just the opposite was true. In fact, I began thinking that maybe the folks at “the human genome project” blamed me for suddenly having an unusable arm and, what’s more, I had an inexplicable unwillingness to heal and, as such, would become personally responsible for ruining their secret “project.” Clearly, I was a threat to them and, even though this all took place months ago, I still find myself hesitant to go outside at night without the dog lest there be a “human genome hit man” lurking in the bushes.

So, as this example demonstrates, even though I can no longer play Lumosity games, it hasn’t kept me from using it as a distraction from my pain. And in the process I can feel good about getting my money’s worth for the service in a way nobody else likely has.

As for my consciously having an unwillingness to heal, I can only say this:

I’ve always been something of a nonconformist-and proud of it, too. But I can’t ever imagine myself saying “I’ll show those people who’s boss – it’s my arm, and I’ll decide whether it hurts or not, or whether I’ll ever use it again or not, etc., not them” and then I’d stick out my tongue and say “nyah-nyah nyah-nyah nyah…”

Mind you, I’m not above doing that, and I’ve done it before, probably even within the past couple of years. And, if I’m not mistaken, there is a picture of me taped to the fridge right now that shows me doing just that, wearing bunny ears fashioned from one of those long, twisty balloons-the kind that circus clowns love to make and give to adults to wear so they aren’t the only ones who look like asses in front of the kids, s.

Anyway, such childish, stick-my-tongue-out retorts to perceived “authority” has been my fallback probably since grade school, largely because I don’t think well on my feet (and I often don’t think well sitting on my rear end, either), and it’s the only thing I could come up with at the time. These days, after having more than my share of unpleasant interactions with pompous, self-important, smarty-pants doctors, I figure that if I am unable to come up with a witty, well-directed comeback to someone who’s talking down to me in the first place, I might as well make them work a little for it and give them a reason to really, really, really talk down to me.

Somehow, in a very twisted way, I take enjoyment from this, which I guess is better than keeping it all bottled up until, like a repeatedly shaken soda can, I explode and make a big, sticky mess everywhere. But hey, they’re doctors, and their job is to make me feel better, and if that’s what it takes to make me feel better, so be it. But all that is in the past now and, though it may sound like fun (it was), I am now more inclined to “act my age” as they say and behave more like the graying, 40-something-year-old man who has as much hair growing out of his ears and his nose as he has left on top of his head. In other words, I do my best to think before opening my mouth so as to not inadvertently say inflammatory things.

To my credit, I recently realized that my own energies were best directed inward, where I needed them to help me heal. Sadly, it’s true that I used to reserve the right to throw a tantrum that would make a two-year-old proud. But as I said a few paragraphs earlier, I have been responsible for covering up a multitude of sins and, though it’s a stretch, I suppose this could be considered one of them, albeit a very mild one at that. But the bottom line remains the same: Distractions in just about any imaginable form are key to my salvation from Pain.

Finally, on a serious note, my evolving behavior and the mindset behind those behaviors have been an undeniable part of my collective experiences that have become part of the recovery process. While I am older and wiser for it, I have crawled through a lot of mud-much of it of my own making-just to get to this point in my recovery. But, as I look with joy to tomorrow, I wonder what new and noble experiences might await me next; I suppose I’ll just have to wait to find out… “nyah-nyah nyah-nyah nyah!”


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