The joys of having a nonfunctional brain
February 22, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
The last coherent thing my father said to me was, “It’s hell when your brain doesn’t work.”
Since I’d been knocked for a loop by the knowledge that we’d come to the end of the road, and now he’d have to go into hospice, I spoke without thinking.
“Well, think of it as a vacation,” I said.
And he laughed. I’m glad.
My own brain doesn’t work very well right now, but it doesn’t really bother me. That loss of control meant more to someone like my father than it does to me. I’ve never once felt like I was in control of anything anyway. Having a rattletrap brain isn’t a big deal to me.
The combination of the post-traumatic stress disorder with secondary psychotic features (PTSD-SP), the brain fog from Meniere’s disease, and the medication I take to fight both those afflictions results in a kind of low-grade Alzheimer’s that gets much worse when I’m under stress.
So far in the past five months, I’ve forgotten to pay my health-insurance premium, forgotten to renew my vehicle registration, forgotten to take my car in to have a recalled part replaced, lost the business card of a very important contact, and let myself by ripped off for seven months by Mike Albee and Lura Dold of the fake agency Sandpiper Publicity.
There’ve been countless unimportant screwups too. Since I couldn’t drive my car until I got the new registration, Tim let me use one of his. I had to get to the pharmacy before it closed, so I took the keys to Tim’s Crown Victoria and stepped out my door.
As I closed the door, I thought, I don’t have my own keys, so I’m going to lock myself out.
Then I closed the door and locked myself out.
Since I had to get to the pharmacy on time, I went, and when I came back, I found that Tim was out. It didn’t occur to me to use Tim’s house key—attached to the Crown Vic ring—to open his door and get the spare set of my keys that hangs on the board in his kitchen.
Instead, I carefully pried off the screen to one of my kitchen windows, used a trick I learned from Dad to unlock the window, slid it up, and crawled in on my belly. Halfway through the tiny window, I moved the dish rack and soap out of the way and then inched forward until I was in a push-up position over the sink. From there I turned over onto my side, pulled in my legs, swiveled around, and set my feet on the floor.
You can see where I wiped off all the dirt and dust from the window frame with my belly, thighs, knees, and shins.
I took that photo a few minutes ago. As I was fiddling with the camera, I thought, I need to make sure I don’t accidentally press the shutter button.
Then I accidentally pressed the shutter button.
At least you can see that my eyes really are hazel, not brown. In Japan a very hostile British woman asked me what color my eyes were.
“Hazel,” I said.
She guffawed. “Hazel? How pretentious can you be? They’re brown!”
I didn’t know that saying I had hazel eyes was pretentious. It’s just that normally they’re olive colored. Under the right conditions, they look brown. Here’s a rare shot of me in the middle of a dissociative state brought on by PTSD-SP.
I have no memory of that photo being taken. When it was sent to me, I had to ask what it was. The people who sent it to me didn’t know that I suffered from PTSD-SP. At the time I didn’t either. Imagine getting a really weird photo like that in the mail and having no recollection of the incident.
Though PTSD-SP and brain fog have made my belfry even more problematic than it would’ve been otherwise, it was never quite up to par anyway. All my life I’ve had waking dreams, in which I was both asleep and awake at the same time. Once on Sanibel Island, Flordia, I listened to myself shouting, “HELP! HELP! THERE’S A VAMPIRE AT THE WINDOW!”
I was about seven or eight. As my voice echoed throughout the vacation house, I thought, Why am I yelling that? I didn’t see a vampire, but I couldn’t stop. Then Mom loomed out of the darkness and told me I was dreaming.
On pages 62-63 of Hallucinabulia: the Dream Diary of an Unintended Solitarian, I relate an episode of lucid sleepwalking. I still remember the state of total confusion and frustration over how I couldn’t get Tim to understand my gibberish. I also once climbed my bookshelf in Stavanger, Norway, to escape an evil Michelin Man who’d trapped me in an alley.
I knew I was dreaming, and I was perfectly aware of climbing out of my bed and scaling the bookshelf, which fell over on top of me with this classic sound.
The whole family came downstairs to find me lying under the shelf, covered in my books and model tanks and airplanes. Their expressions were amazing. If they could’ve traded me in at that moment, I’d be writing this from Pyongyang or Abu Dhabi.
Being left-handed means you suffer disproportionately from migraines, motion sickness, and dyslexia. Guilty on all three counts. Also, I was never able to do math or chemistry, as my eleventh-grade report card shows. I was a mediocre to poor student all around.
All the kids in my family had our IQs tested, and I remember Dad telling me that mine was 87, which is low-normal. Three-quarters of Americans have an IQ higher than 90. When it comes to math and chemistry, I have an IQ of about 14. No matter how many times I tried, I’d just hit a wall. Beyond a certain point, I simply couldn’t comprehend what was being said. Calculating moles? Imaginary numbers? Forget it.
Tim and I plan on moving somewhere together when we’ve settled Mom and Dad’s estates. We’ve also worked it out so that if either of us goes off the deep end, the other can just put him away and be done with it. He shouldn’t have to deal with my nonfunctional brain if it starts getting intrusive. For example, if I decide I no longer need to wear pants. Or if I end every conversation with, “And what did you say your name was again?”
I really used to fear losing my mind. Well, I can honestly say that it’s not so bad. It really is like a vacation!
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