This is the first of what might be more sort of autobiographical stuff. I do want to get all this stuff down, somewhere. We’ll see how it goes. Well, here it is:
Do you know that old joke where somebody is asked if their parents dropped them on their head when they were a baby? In 1974, that actually happened to me. My father accidentally dropped me on the floor. He had even momentarily thought I had died. That’s how the story goes, at any rate. I don’t really remember what happened, of course; I mean, obviously.
I don’t know if any damage took place after that accident; I don’t think I was ever taken to the hospital to get checked up on, or anything like that. But I grew to be a very intelligent child. “Hyper-intelligent,” in fact; a prodigy. I entered kindergarden knowing how to read the classics such as Little Men and Alice in Wonderland. My teachers weren’t even sure what to do with me. By the third grade, I had classes which just consisted me of sitting alone in a room reading a stack of books that were brought in to match my reading level; because the public school I went to was legally obligated to give me an education.
I was described by teachers as “a little adult.” I found other children my age extremely boring. When asked by a school counselor what things in life made me happiest, I responded, “staying home sick, so I can read books.”
My parents were very proud of my academic “success,” if you can call it that. They bragged about it to relatives and friends, bringing me out so I could read perfectly a passage from one book or another. My father even once wondered if that hit I took on my head when I was a baby might have even resulted in making me smarter than I might have otherwise been; sort of a “blessing in disguise.”
Forty years later, in 2014, I had a terrible fall and concussion. I lost about three months of memory. My personality changed.
I was already changing a bit since the end of 2012, in that I was experiencing spiritual growth & so on. I had even tried my hand at channelling—though to this day I can’t really say with any certainty that it was more than just a “creative exercise” that I, as a writer, was used to doing as easily as breathing.
But after I hit my head, I changed. It’s been very hard for me to admit this to myself. There wasn’t a lot of remedy for it; it was something that I was told would have to naturally heal. It might never be exactly the same as it used to be, but I would get used to that “new normal” and life would go on.
My taste in music changed. I suddenly became very interested in jazz and progressive rock, two genres I had only a very limited patience for previously. I now yearned for long, sprawling compositions; anything released in the early-to-mid 1970s was a special favorite, especially on the original vinyl.
My interest in subject matter changed. I became very interested in science, technology, and space exploration topics: topics I never really cared for, even with a biologist mom who tried to force me to read Scientific American as a child. But now I couldn’t get enough of it; in fact, you could say I became far more a skeptic (well…an “agnostic”) about esoteric matters than I was before.
I suddenly became very interested in futurology. I had always been a very intuitive person and into “future predictions” and all that; but now I craved more solid notions. I practically devoured whitepapers. I read trending reports, statistics. I was interested in looking at diagrams, schematics. None of this engaged me before; I was a liberal arts major in college, and my goals were to be either a poet or a comic book writer. But now I was getting my jollies reading trending data on automobiles; and I didn’t even know how to drive an automobile.
My ability to read data and retain it had increased significantly. Books that seemed so intimidating to me before suddenly became relatively welcoming and easy. In particular, I began to tackle Philip K. Dick’s 900-page Exegesis—my copy of which I was pretty much ready to sell on eBay pre-accident, because of the “scary” density of the writing. I covered the pages of the book in underlines and tiny block print with my mechanical pencils; 4 years of college and I never took notes inside a book, to the point where my highlighters would dry out from disuse and age. But now I was practically embroidering these pages with lead.
I read one book after another. I filled thousands of pages with journal entries.
And though these seemed like rather solitary activities, I also found that I could now start…coaching people. Like, start conversations with total strangers and start asking them about their life-goals, giving them advice, etc. I had always had really bad social anxiety, and would normally never do something like this. I quickly started taking on some clients. I was coaching people over Skype—stuff that I would never in a million years do. And I was good at it.
But who was I?
Because the fact of the matter was—I felt like a different person. I mean, intellectually I knew where I “came from” and who I was and all that. But I was different, a change that happened very very fast.
This was all a little bit horrifying. I didn’t really relate to my immediate peer group anymore. And further: I’m pretty sure they stopped relating to me, too. I remember sitting with some colleagues post-accident at some bar, and just being like…I don’t know these people. That was really hard. That was really a weird “place” to be.
My personal perception of my own identity had changed. To be blunt, it became a hell of a lot more masculine. I was always what would be considered a “tomboy” growing up. I had even, during the onset of puberty, had some degree of dysphoria. But not like this; not like in the weeks and months immediately following my concussion. This was different. This was an immediate “panic.” I literally felt like I was occupying the wrong body. I felt like there was some sort of mistake; like some dreadful mistake must have happened. I would open my closet and not even recognize my own clothing. It was fucked up.
But the brain would just have to “heal”—to heal into whatever shape it healed into.
This whole situation put somewhat of a strain on my marriage; I mean, obviously. But my husband, who had been with me when I had the accident, was supportive.
I finally went to a therapist; to largely deal with the gender identity issues but also just to cope with the entire situation. She was concerned that the attacks of dysphoria occurred so closely after the accident; as if there was perhaps some sort of organic brain damage (maybe “reversible,” maybe not) that contributed to it. She suggested I sort of “hybridize”—instead of wishing the accident didn’t happen & try to fit into one “role” or another, I just sort of let the chips fall where they may. One day, I might wake up feeling more like “this,” and the other day, “that.”
Her suggestions made sense to me. But I found that the person I was before the accident seemed more and more like some sort of persistent “ghost,” a type of “interloper” who complicated the new pattern I had established for my life.
But maybe it was the “I” I currently identified with who was the interloper.
I only remember the several months after (and perhaps before) the accident because I was keeping a journal. The night before the accident, I experienced what might have been a paranormal occurrence. I had got up in the middle of the night to sleep on the living room couch, because I couldn’t stop coughing and I didn’t want to wake my husband. My eyes closed on the couch, close to sleeping, I felt a “presence” in the living room. At first I thought it was my husband, but I could hear him gently snoring from the bedroom. Once I realized the presence in the room was not my husband, I was too scared to open my eyes. I ground my teeth together and just waited for it to pass.
The next day, we went to a party at a local bar. I had an extremely “bad” feeling, and I didn’t want to go. I didn’t feel I drank too much alcohol when I was there, but apparently several blocks after leaving the bar, I turned to look at a pair of purple shoes left at the side of the road, tripped, and landed with the full weight of my body onto the sidewalk. Slightly above my left temple received the full brunt of it.
I do remember briefly regaining consciousness on the sidewalk. I could hear myself curse like a sailor. Then I blacked out again and “woke up” on the living room couch, shaking, holding a bucket full of vomit and twitching uncontrollably. I was covered with blood literally from head to toe. I nearly missed knocking my teeth out, a small wound under my nose and just above my lip.
I never went to the hospital. In retrospect, that was probably very very stupid. Depending on the type of brain injury, I suppose I could have died of a hemorrhage.
I acted like a zombie the first few weeks after the accident. I wasn’t really sure of what to do with things. I remember us going to the park & me being like “Huh. That’s a park. Yes, indeed. This is a park.”
One of the first social activities I did after the accident, about a month later, was attend a local meeting of a Gnostic group. In the months that followed, this was very helpful and a source of support. I still felt that “limbo” feeling, but at least I had knowledgeable people helping me navigate it.
I also began reading a lot of Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick. I was familiar with them before, but now I was really “diving” into the material. They too were a valuable source of support. I felt like they both had gone through some similar experiences as I had, especially Dick. I felt that Wilson’s skeptical (“agnostic”) approach was going to be the most helpful for me.
I also felt a deep connection to the whole period of time they operated in, especially the decade of the Seventies.
I suppose I was feeling a little bit of time-centered dysphoria, as well.
When I finished my run with the therapist, I had to make a decision how I was going to deal with this “new normal.” Some of the extreme changes I felt so acutely after the accident, especially the intensity of the gender dysphoria, began to fade as the years passed. I was able to, as my therapist had recommended, “hybridize.”
But there came a point where I had to accept that I was never going to go back to the way things were before. I was never going to be the “me” I was before.
Certainly, we all do change. We evolve. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse; but we all do.
However, I experienced a tremendous sense of grief over the accident and its effects. Grief and loss. I didn’t feel that those around me could really understand what I went through, and what I continued to go though. I don’t blame them for that. It’s pretty fucking unbelievable, even to me.
And so I made a decision to place the sum total of the person I was now into an appropriate vehicle to express to the world, in the only way I knew how.
I created this blog.
Two head injuries, 40 years apart.
The Skeptic in me believes this was all coincidence; just one more example, two more examples, of “shit happening.” Further, it believes that all the paranormal, esoteric, and unexplained phenomena I’ve ever experienced in my life could probably be explained by those head injuries; in that, I was brain damaged and none of that really happened at all.
The Agnostic, however, questions this rather absolutist point of view. There have been esoteric and paranormal experiences I’ve shared with other people (the Skeptic: “these must have been folie à deux situations; quite common”).
Further, the Agnostic wonders if perhaps some underlying propensity to these esoteric experiences were “set off” by both accidents. Like, maybe there is some “bridge” between these two worlds/states of being we can make that would explain everything. Maybe one day the science will explain the more fantastic aspects in a manner that will not invalidate the experienced sensations entirely.
I would be remiss, however, and somewhat dishonest, if I said that the Mystic never considered that perhaps at those crucial moments of cranial impact (which might have been near-death experiences) some “other” consciousness—the Higher Self, a past life, Zimbu from Sirius, an old dead writer looking to find out how to save money by switching to GEICO—temporarily “flew in.”
(The right side of my brain talking to my left)
But all we have is this moment right now. All I have is me as I am right now.
All I have are these minutes, ticking away.
I’m just going to run with it.