Sunday, May 20, 2012


One more doctor's appointment on Monday, and then it's back on the chain gang, back to the world I last visited on May 4. The pre-stroke RED wouldn't think a thing of it, except to grumble about clearing out a bunch of old emails and having the blare of six scanners a half-dozen feet from my head.

But things are a little different now. What happened on May 5 remains stuck in my brain, despite my best efforts to dislodge it. I dream about it every night.

Last night was no exception; I was back in Brazil, this time walking with a friend through a favela, when a group of shanty-town residents set upon me with canes and clubs. My friend gleefully joined in the beatdown. I don't think we need Freud to figure that one out.

In all of my dreams I'm able to walk without a cane. I'm able to grab things and hold on tightly with my left hand. I'm always with the same person. When I wake up I'm usually crying — crying or on the floor. Again, Sigmund is probably not needed to interpret what's going on upstairs. You don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows, and you don't need a shrink to figure out that May 5 really freaked me out, and left me feeling like a part of me is still missing.

How do I shake this shit?

Getting back to work will probably help. The routine of hitting a deadline and boothing a broadcast has always been a great stress reliever; the job of producing a newscast may be nerve-wracking at times, but it's never been something I dread. I thrive on the pressure.

Or I did. I think I will once I'm back on the clock. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't have my fears. The doctor told me about vessels in my brain that were blocked. In the back of my mind I think about that area in the back of my head and I think about a patched tire, and what happens when the pressure gets to be too much on the weak spot. I think about that and I get the shakes, and then comes the loathing.

I hate feeling diminished. Earlier this week I confessed that a part of me wished the stroke would have killed me, because there are worse things than death, and being less than whole is one of them. I'm up to a mile-and-a-half of daily walking — which sounds like great guns until I realize that just two weeks ago, I could walk four miles a day with ease, and without a limp. Again, more loathing.

And with it comes more fear, to bastardize the phrase from HST. I was determined to return to work without the quad cane. Despite my best efforts, that's not going to happen, and I'm scared the cane is going to be part of my life forever, and that only makes me angry. A friend wrote and said, "I don't think the cane's that bad," and I wanted to scream in reply, "YOU TRY WALKING WITH IT AND HAVING PEOPLE STARE AT YOU AND SEE IF YOU FUCKING LIKE IT." The gentleman in me is glad I refrained from saying that to a lady. But I stayed angry for a long time after.

That's another thing that's changed since May 5. I've rarely been accused of keeping my emotions in check, but since the stroke everything feels just under the skin, ready to well up and burst through the surface. Anyone who suggests I should take it easy — you can't work the same way you did before this happened — is liable to get an earful. Friends who've called and said kind things are often met with momentary awkward silence because I don't want them to hear me crying and I have to suck it up before I can speak. It freaks me out to realize that I'm often thisclose to tears — and that I can't really do anything about it. I'm soaked in emotion. Even typing about it right now makes my eyes leak.

I wonder if I've gone all weak upstairs, if the stroke fucked up some hidden wiring and left behind a few short-circuits, just waiting for a power surge to happen. Concurrent with that is a paranoid whisper: am I going batshit crazy? Is thinking this way some sign that I'm going insane?

Anger. Fear. Loathing. And hatred for those emotions. That's my world right now, less than 36 hours before I get back to the office and say guess who's back, everything's fine, and no, I don't need your help getting up and down the hallway, now get out of my way. The rondavis mask is a great deflector shield. No one has to see the face beneath it.

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