An Amazing Thing About Briefcases

So something ridiculously wonderful just happened –

I went to start working today, and found my briefcase in the chair.

I’m not sure you understandcanstock10066148. This particular briefcase has been lost since July last year, when I came home from my … experience at the brain injury rehabilitation foundation, the one that did a few good things for me, but on the whole wasn’t nearly as useful as I hoped it would be. I crabbed about it a lot shortly after leaving; I felt like I had a right to, because I had high hopes, and I was severely let down in that regard.

My bad, I suppose. The Buddhists say that they who have expectations of a thing inevitably get let down by that thing, whereas those who have no expectations are always pleasantly surprised by what they get. And yes, that’s a paraphrase, not a direct quotation.

Moving back home was such a whirlwind, as you might recall. I surely do. In my last staffing – meeting with the clinicians in which you find out how you’re doing – they said great, you’re about to graduate, any last words? This was a week or so before I moved out, I think. I knew that my wife Gina had stuff going on at the house, and wouldn’t be ready for me to come home quite yet, so I asked if it would be okay if I stayed another two weeks or so.

Suuuuuure, they said. No worries. Just start getting your stuff ready to move out.

Which I did, slowly but surely – until Wednesday, 03.July.2013. “You’re moving out. Now,” they said.

“But …”


Which meant that I pretty much had to throw the rest of my stuff in whatever was handy, the maintenance man helped me move (and almost killed my computer in the process), and around 12 noon I turned up on my own doorstep with a sheepish grin, saying “Hi hunny, I’m home … ?”

To which Gina said “They didn’t tell me you were coming home today!” Small surprise there; they never really told her anything. And at that point, she, my daughter Ariann and a boy that Ariann was quite smitten with at the time were all getting ready for an anime convention. I was the proverbial fifth wheel.

Robert the maintenance man and I threw my things in the house in as haphazard a fashion as we loaded the truck, shook hands, and that’s the last of it. I’ve been back a time or two, but … it’s not nearly the same.

Somewhere in the move, though, I lost my briefcase. That’s what I carried with me everywhere at the foundation. It had my memory book, my planner, my journal (of no small importance to a writer), some reading material, a place to take notes, a journaling workbook I’d planned on working with, called “After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story,” and some other miscellanea. I called the foundation to see if they still had it, if I’d forgotten it in the truck (I thought I remembered placing it in the seat between Robert and I), but to no avail. It had vanished into this black hole of stuff we call a house.

And now, mysteriously it has somehow found its way to my chair. I did not put it there last night; this is something I would have remembered. Gina must have done this. She must have found it; I am dying to know where, but I am refraining from texting her, because I want to see the expression on her face when she tells me.

I still can’t believe it, though.

By the way, for some reason it’s an amazingly difficult thing to find on the internet – a picture of a briefcase sitting in an office chair.  You wouldn’t think, but there you go.


Oddnesses at Night

So apparently I’ve got sleep apnea, which is a disorder identified by slight pauses in breathing, barely waking up, or periods of infrequent or shallow breathing during sleep.  As a result, I spend more time in light sleep, and much less time in the deep, restorative sleep needed to be fully sharp, energetic and productive the next day.
Left untreated, this chronic sleep deprivation can result in poor concentration, which I’ve already been experiencing, slow reflexes, and increased risk of accidents.  Over time, It can also lead to even more serious health problems, such as high blood pressure (mine has been great lately), stroke (I’m already at a higher risk for this due to my accident), and heart disease (maybe if I got off my ass more often, this might not be so much an issue).

Who knew? My wife, that’s who.

Well, to be fair, she was merely annoyed at my excessive snoring. We thought it had to do with my Sinuses of Perpetual Congestion, so we went to the Primary Care Physician. She gave me a nasal spray (Nasacort, I believe) that did absolutely nothing. I then talked to my neurologist about it, and he scheduled a two night sleep study for me, to the tune of $4000.  Or maybe $7500, as there were two nights, and the prices were different.  Regardless, thank the gods for Medicaid, for which I am eternally grateful.

Osa_cycleIt took a while, but we eventually got that scheduled and done. The first night was no big deal, aside from me getting up to go to the bathroom a lot – I had a lot of Electroencephelography (EEG) wires attached to my skull, wires on my legs, bands around my chest, etc. From my experience in the small bed at the Mary Lee Foundation last year, I’ve observed that when I’m uncomfortable sleeping, I will wake up to pee, if only so that I can change position.

The second night I thought was going to be a repeat of the first – lord only knows why. Right when I got there, the technician asked me “Are you having any problems breathing?” After an experimental sniff or two, and a negative answer, I thought “What an odd question!”

As it was, I had to wear a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask, which I found to be profoundly uncomfortable. I guess part of that was my surprise, and that I wasn’t used to it. And that it looked like a giant white snake hissing a continuous stream of air.

They wired me up for the EEG again, the same bands and leg leads, and strapped Leroy to my face. The tech had me lie on my back and attempt to go to sleep – which is an unnatural thing for me to do. I do lie on my back for a while to read before I fall asleep, but once I’m done, I flip the light off and turn on my side.

I do remember him saying that he wanted me to sleep on my back because that was the worst possible thing you can do for your breathing. In the research I’ve done since I learned I’ve got to use Leroy Jr., or whatever I’m going to name my machine, I’ve discovered that sleeping on your side is actually the best thing you can do to ensure proper breathing.

It took me a while to figure out that Leroy got a lot more comfortable if I would just shut my mouth and let him do his work through my nose. Until that point, though, Leroy was quite insistent. “BREAVE, MUTHAFUCKA! YOU WILL BREAVE IF AH HAVE TO SHOVE DIS SHIT DOWN YA FOO’ THROAT!” I talked to the tech with tears in my eyes and told him 800px-CPAP-machine-resmedS9that I didn’t think I’d be able to get to sleep, being as uncomfortable as I was.

Somehow, I did. Goddess only knows how. And I didn’t even wake up as many times as I did the first time I was there (I don’t think).

So now I know why I’m so tired during the day – why I can wake up at 3p, say (after going to sleep at 6a), take a shower, and be wiped out after that. This may be part of the reason I have such trouble focusing during the day. It’s not going to make my brain grow back, I hold no illusions about that. But if it can improve my quality of life, well, then I guess I’ll at least give it a try.

The problem is sticking to it. The number one reason that sleep apnea issues start reoccurring is that the person with the CPAP machine doesn’t use it. The mask is too uncomfortable, the machine is too noisy, whatever – but the mask at the lab I went to wasn’t that terrible (I guess), and when the tech finally told me that I could roll over to my side, it seemed to be comfortable enough. Or maybe I just collapsed into a pile of grateful goo.

Sleep apnea is pretty common, at least as common as Type 2 diabetes, according to some sources. More than 18 million people in the US are affected by it. And I’m in the prime risk category for it – male, over 40, and overweight. I would hesitate to call myself obese, but I am definitely overweight.

If you liked this post, then please consider leaving a comment or contacting me (Anam) below.  I write freelance for a living, and I would love to make contact with other writers.  Not only that, but I would love to have more clients!

Better Late Than Never

This blog has been quite silent over the past – however long. I have not posted a damn thing, leading one to believe that I am not, in fact, a writer. Which is quite the opposite, actually. I am very much a writer. I’ll have to confess, though, that when it comes to my personal writing, I’m a slightly lazy writer, and I’d sooner just write than go through the whole rigamarole of wrestling with WordPress, finding pictures, setting the spacing, and so on.

I’ve got ridiculous amounts of content that I can back-post to the last time I put something up here, which was I don’t know when. I started generating this content when I realized that I fancied myself a writer, but I didn’t write too much – and then I stumbled across Brian Clark’s Ten Steps To Becoming a Better Writer:

10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

Ever since, this has resonated in my head. And I read a back issue of Wired Magazine, in which author Vaclav Smil (heavily read by Bill Gates, of Microsoft fame) is in an interview. How is it that you write so many books in a year? he’s asked. Smil paraphrases Ernest Hemingway: First thing I do in the morning is bang out my 500 words. In six or eight months, I’ve got a book.

So I’ve got essays, memoir pages, and blog posts, and ridiculous amounts of content that quite honestly I despair of ever organizing into any collective whole. And anything remotely resembling cohesive? Perhaps not. At one time, I had wanted to publish my memoirs of being on this side of a brain injury, but there are a number of those out there already, and I’m not sure that adding mine to the pile would do much good.

Besides, my injury is so far back. I’m so used to it. How does a bird describe the air it flies in?

Right now I’m attempting to focus on paid content – things I can write and get money for. Copy writing, articles, magazine pieces, book blurbs, things like that. My personal writing is taking a back seat. That’s okay, I guess, but I have to confess, I miss it.

At least I’m not writing for content farms any more, which was killing my love of writing.

On Control

unlockingthemind1_id1904751_jpg Control is something that we’d all like to have over our lives. As a brain injury survivor, I am no different. As I walk on my Path-That-Never-Ends, I realize that as much as I might want to exert that control, it is an illusion.

Constantly we make plans that never turn out quite the way we originally envision them. Today I got up with the intent on going to the birthday party of a friend – a media-obsessed friend with a tiny apartment. There were eight people in it when I was there the other day, and with the aid of my earplugs and deep breathing I made it through without becoming a quivering blob of desalinated protoplasm. But when I learned that the head count today would be eleven, I had to grit my teeth and satisfy myself with sending good wishes over the phone. I had to take care of myself, which is difficult for me to do.

I’m coming to see the wisdom in the old saying “If you want to hear god laugh, make a plan.”

It is hard to give up that control, though. It’s human to desire it, to retain it. I illustrated that for myself today when my party plan went south – my wife and daughter were leaving, and I took my gloves out of the coat that Gina was putting on. “Just in case I go out,” I said – pretty unlikely given how cold it is, but I just had to retain that control over my own life.

Much of my life is like that, by extension – a struggle for control. I feel I don’t have control over, or even with my own brain. Thoughts and words constantly get locked in my head with no way out of my mouth. I am struck with random bouts of slow thinking. Constant depression and headaches, balance issues, motivation problems, obsessions large and small, many things that I imagine non-injured people don’t have to deal with. And of course I have no idea what it’s like to be not injured, because I’ve been the way I am for so long.

I’m grateful for what I have. Yet I reach for more, and I can’t help but wonder what’s on the other side, what might have happened had that car managed to miss me.

But there are no mistakes, even if we might not be able to fathom the reasons behind what’s happened.

There are no mistakes.



On Losing Things

On Losing Things
When a person loses one sense, their other sense become more acute so as to make up for the loss in perception. It’s a blessing in the cloak of a curse, or perhaps the other way around; as one loses the means to listen clearly to the outside world, or see the world around them, then perhaps they might tune in better to the sounds and sights of the landscape inside them.

What if the loss isn’t perceptual, though? What if the loss is in the framework of one’s brain, the underpinnings of the senses, the structure on which sight and hearing and the rest are balanced? What is the lesson there, and what has that got to teach me?

Many people have learned volumes from their struggles with cancer and other grievous trials. I am still coming to grips with my first trial, which came before I was even able to speak – I was separated from the woman that gave birth to me and placed among twenty other infants. The nurses there undoubtedly cared for us, but I’m sure they were overworked and I’m equally sure there weren’t enough of them. Hot on the heels of that trial was my second, or being placed with a family that was completely unsuited for me – granted, there wasn’t any direct physical abuse (aside from the occasional corporal punishment, accepted in that day), and things could have been a lot worse, but I had an emotionally and usually physically distant father and an at-best emotionally distant and at-worst neglectful mother.

And then there’s the brain injury, the third trial, that I’ve already covered; that happened when I was an adolescent, when I was i the middle of trying to find who I was and become a person, and whole the other kids were out smoking and drinking and cutting up and having fun, I was in the hospital again, having a recurring dream of people sticking tubes in me and of me pulling them out, being in a wheelchair, spinning in circles, learning to feed myself again, going through endless days of therapy because that’s just what there was to do. It wasn’t school, which I didn’t like anyway; I didn’t think anyone there liked me anyway, so being away suited me just fine.

But then I didn’t want to be with drooling Jermaine, either, or the guy who plaintively told his wife every night that he wanted her, that he loved her, that he needed her. Every. Night. Usually more than once. And I didn’t want to be with the other guy who fell off his horse (literally) and just stared at a wall 24-7.

No, I was the highest functioning person there, and I wanted to get out. I wanted to be normal again, and I thought I had a shot at it. I thought I could do it. Not knowing the extent of the damage to my gray matter, I thought I could regrow my brain; I thought I could fix myself.

How little I knew.

How little I knew how much the doctors in the ICU hobbled me, when they were talking within earshot of me – I was awake and they didn’t know it. Boy, I had them fooled, didn’t I, all drooling and shit. “He’ll never be a productive member of society again,” they said, to which I responded “well, fuck you sir,” but when a person in a position of authority says something like that, that ostensibly knows more than you, that is the “expert” in the subject, you’re supposed to listen. Are you not? Not that I consciously remember them saying that, but that’s what I’ve heard. What am I supposed to do with that information?

And granted, they aren’t the experts on my own life, *I* am – but like that well meaning uncle that makes the cutting comment, I’ve been carrying that around with me for so long and I have no idea how to get rid of it. I don’t know what to do with it.

Blowing the Walls Down

Despite my
best efforts to keep things all
and shit
I feel things changing
and it scared the crap out of me
I want it so badly
I want to change so badly
I know how
complacent I have become
and I hate it
I hate myself for that
(that’s not a long leap
by any imagination)
but at the same time
change scares
the living shit out of me
I suppose it would scare anyone
I suppose I can’t always
blame that one on my brain injury
but fuck change scares me
but hey, the muse struck, here at four am
like she usually does
that bitch
I mean really, why can’t she keep
normal fucking hours like the rest of humanity
but I digress
but hey, the muse struck, at four am
and I listened to her
whereas usually I would be mistaking her for something else,
or not hearing her at all,
or maybe even stuffing a sock in that fat bitch’s mouth

and I dunno, it feels like I just ate
a stick of spiritual dynamite
and that sucker just went off
in my under-used heart
blowing it wide open
here’s hoping I can get some more mileage out of it
real soon now
being complacent sucks
I gotta tell ya.

Copyright (cc) 2013 John Onorato. Some rights reserved. by-nc-sa

Good Days and Bad Days

bad-day2Some days are good days, and some days are bad days. We all have those, don’t we? That’s something I have in common with the rest of humanity; simply because it’s a commonality, that gives me a little comfort.

Yet it feels quite a bit different when the so-called “bad day” means that I can barely get out of bed due to a mind-numbing depression. Or a crushing headache, which I am quite grateful has not happened much, as of late. Other times it feels like I have nothing to do, nothing to strive for, nothing to live for.

But there is. I know there is something to live for, intellectually speaking, if not always emotionally or mentally. I know there is something to live for in a spiritual sense, even if I can’t always perceive that. Sometimes that has to be enough. Sometimes I have to realize that god (or God, or Spirit, or Yahweh, Jehovah, or Flying Spaghetti Monster, any of the many names she/he/it goes by) has placed people and beings and things in my path as direct evidence of her having a hand in my life.

And what do I do? I take them for granted.

I see now how this has led in a direct progression to my own misery. I thought I wasn’t miserable – oh but no. It’s a well-documented fact how people that are grateful are also people that are happy; the converse is also true. Not-grateful people are also not-happy. I’ve been falling into the latter category.

I would advise against doing this yourself. I would encourage you to learn from my mistake. I would push, prod and cajole you to turn to the first person you see and express your gratitude for them being in your life. It’s okay to wait for someone that you actually know or like, if you’re not that outgoing, that’s okay.

Let me know how it goes. I’m truly interested.