Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Going back Somewhere

Hi. I haven't written anything for a while. Sometimes the mind languishes in the mental doldrums where inspiration is totally absent for long periods. I thought this was just me, but I read some comments elsewhere that lead me to think it is cyclic and that other people are currently experiencing the same thing.
So I decided to drag myself out of the stupor and see if my fingers might loosen up and assist my brain in doing the same. Well, we'll judge how well that went later, perhaps.

Last week, we went on holiday. Holidays are a difficult conundrum currently. Once, little ones ere content to sit on a beach, even unseasonal weather, and dig holes in the sand all day; making sandcastles and damming up those little streams one always finds on beaches.
Now at 19 and 17, requirements are different and finding something we all might like is pretty much impossible. So, we booked a house in Portland and threw the invitation out to our offspring, who enthusiastically accepted.

I didn't feel able to cope with anything more exotic than Weymouth. My mental stamina is almost back to what it was, but I confess, my brain is not (yet?) what it was before recent events took their toll. I feel less clever than before and have less clarity of thought when complex information needs interpreting. So a quiet week in Dorset with no intellectual demands was just the tonic I needed.
There were some places I wanted to visit, specifically too.
In 1969, my father got his two children up early. Then Mum, dad and kids, stopping only to bundle grandparents into the old banger that tenuously maintained reliable motive power, all headed noisily to Durdledoor on the Dorset coast. I don't why he chose that spot. He isn't here to ask now.

I remember it was early, even by the standards of a four year old who was always up with the dawn. It was, to my now responsible eye, brave of my father to to think we might travel all that distance in a car of such unreliability with kids and parents. The roads are winding and hilly and I am amazed the car managed the journey without dying in a cloud of smoke and steam. Perhaps, my father, a mere twenty two years old at that time, had the confidence and optimism of youth on his side. But a Morris Oxford that had seen much better days was a worthy chariot as far as we were all concerned, even if the rear footwells were always full of water on rainy days, slopping from one side to the other as we went around corners so we had to keep our feet on the dog-eared leather seats from which the springs protruded.

But it got us there, and on a warm summer morning in August 1969, we found ourselves hopping barefoot over the sharp pebbles of this beautiful beach, a magical feeling I can recall to this day.
My dad had recently got his HGV licence and, as was his wont, had purloined several lorry inner tubes. Inflated, they were tremendous fun to mess about on in the sea. I still remember my grandfather's bum poking up through the hole in the middle after a particularly spirited wave caused him to capsize. A good day was had by all and in the warm familial glow of children oblivious to political undercurrents, we nodded off on the grandparents as we made the 100 mile journey home.

So, last week, being somewhat near to Durdledoor, I decided I had to see the place again. Forty years later, I stood by its iconic arch looking out at the steeply shelving sea, and I tried to connect to the small boy who had sat, examining each rock hopefully for fossils and being disappointed not to find any.
But he wasn't there. His tracks had been obscured.

My hope had been that I would somehow be transported back to the place and the time, with all the associated memories and feelings flooding back. I had thought the sight of the arch, the beach, the cliffs would cause the sudden confluence of memories overlaid upon the sight before me, coming into focus like a picture you might see on one of those victorian stereoscopes one requires sort-of-binoculars to view.
But I wasn't transported. I remember I was there. But I don't remember being there.
I confess, I was disappointed. There was no leaping-to-mind at the prompting of the scenery of memories; what we ate, what we did that day or my grandfather's face (though the aforementioned upturned arse in a truck inner tube is still visible in my mind's eye, which is some consolation, I suppose).

But the scenery was still stunning and the weather held. So, I gazed through the arch at a small boat sailing by - the epitome of freedom somehow as one stands by a shore looking out into an element which is not our own.
Then I returned to the present day and suggested we find somewhere for lunch. Nostalgia is all very well, but apetite usually prevails.


Friday, 1 June 2012

Looking for Realisations

At the risk of seeming self-indulgent (and is blogging generally not a self-indulgent passtime anyway?), I am adding an update with regards to my cognitive state subsequent to events of twelve-weeks-ago-tomorrow.
Recovery, physically, is complete. I can cycle, dance, run, do anything I could before from a physical perspective. (But not drive yet as the medical panel of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority needs to get together and talk about me to be sure I am safe before they allow me to drive again).

Given that many sub-arachnoid haemorrage sufferers are permanently affected (i.e. estimates vary but about 50% die immediately, 20% more in the next couple of days and a significant proportion never fully recover their original cognitive function) I am blessed to come out of it generally unscathed. I suppose on the spectrum of SAHs, mine was at the very-less-severe end, for which I am immensely grateful.

It is in fact, in its way, quite fascinating to observe the modularity of the brain's function. A small impairment in the functioning of the left pre-frontal cortex correlates with an inability to direct one's attention. It also seems to cause problems making decisions. Similarly, it affects motivation and I find myself sitting for long periods just thinking, unable to rouse msyelf to any form of action, even for activities I enjoy.
But most of all, and this causes immense fatigue, any noise or distraction, especially conversation in the immediate vacinity, prevents concentration and brings about a feeling of confusion and distress which subsequently makes me sleep for a couple of hours.
I am told that this will persist for six to twelve months after the initial occurrence. Impatience grows....

Whilst it is annoying not to have full function of my brain, I find the tendency to distraction actually quite liberating. I can daydream and blame it on my "condition". And I do seem to have become significantly more prone to daydreaming, an activity which in recent years  I lamented the absence of.

But what I really wanted to "throw out there" was an attitude I find myself holding that I feel quite guilty for.
Often, when people ask how I am, I try to explain as succinctly and accurately as I can what progress has been made and to outline the residual effects as described above. Now, I have to stress that without exception, everyone has been absolutely lovely these past 12 weeks or so.
But so often, people will say, in an obviously well-meant attempt to imply a sense of normality: "Oh, well, I feel like that all the time!" or "Now you know how the rest of us feel!" (a comment which has an implied compliment in it which makes me cringe with embarrassment)
And guiltily, I suddenly feel incredibly irritated by these responses. Is that wrong? Am I being ungracious?
Oh, the implications and intentions are good. But I am frustrated by the fact my brain cannot do what it used to (albeit temporarily). To be told, jokingly, that this is normal operation for some people, which undoubtedly is not really the case, does not help. Or is that just me being curmudgeonly?

So, twelve eventful weeks have passed. The unbelievable pain, the headaches, the immobility and permanent confusion at the World, have all passed into indistinct memory now. What remains is feeling that something should be learned from events. I just don't know what. To my chagrin, no unavoidable and profound "carpe diem!" revelations leap out to change my world view or provide resolve to "ignore the irrelevent niggles". To derive significance from the experience, I would have to go looking for it and possibly conjure something up from clich├ęs and accepted wisdom.
My attitude remains, it seems, disappointingly unchanged by my experience.

But if anything does stand out, it is this: People have been lovely. As I resume the activities of normal life, shopping, going to the gym, going to work a few hours a week, I am struck by the immense compassion of people. There have been so many who I either bump into or who actively seek me out who tell me, with genuine concern, how shocked they were to hear about what happened and how pleased they are to see me back in circulation. So many people, people I didn't even know were aware of my existence, have come to find me at my desk and expressed the loveliest thoughts and wishes and I am genuinely humbled by their kindness. Some even brought cake!
So, perhaps I take that from it: That I have more friends than I thought and that more people care about me, and hold me in high regard, than I had realised. I guess, up to now, I must have done something right.

So, and I hope this does not sound too trite, maybe, in return, I will show a little more consideration for others, as I and my family have been shown these last few months.