It’s been weeks since the docs told me about my little bubble brain. They didn’t use those exact words, but I prefer a sugary colloquialism over the actual medical diagnosis: “Intracranial Aneurysm.”

What started out as a personal quest to get to the bottom of my twelve-day migraine (landing me in the ER twice) ended up being the very beginning of a new adventure: discovering, learning about and living with this ticking time bomb.

brain%20aneurysmTruth? I thought a brain aneurysm was a stroke. But after a crash course with a couple of top-notch neurosurgeons, I now know better. I learned that an aneurysm of the brain is a weakened area of a blood vessel. If it ruptures, this causes bleeding in the brain – which is called hemorrhagic stroke. Roughly fifty percent of people will die immediately, the other half, brain-damaged.

If. Rupture. Stroke. And, scene.

If. Those two letters joined at the hip have been a storm cloud hovering above me since my diagnosis. It’s one of those words that, when on automatic replay is guaranteed to heighten anxiety, perpetuate insomnia and toss you around in a cyclone of worry and fear.

Everybody has their Ifs. If they finished college, saved more money, accepted a job offer, stayed in touch more…the list is endless.

KikiMollyThe only If in my world lately relates to my old stripper-self twenty years ago.

As most forty-something’s do, I reflect on my irresponsible past whenever my present self is faced with something that could have been avoided. It wasn’t until incriminating photos surfaced from old friends on Facebook that I realized how much I used to smoke (as a bladder cancer survivor at 36, the weight of regret when seeing my cocky ass holding a martini in one hand and a cigarette in the other is suffocating).

My memory of the nine years I worked as a stripper is a kaleidoscope of VIP rooms and debauchery, which seems cool. But stare long enough at the shine, and reality will find a way to blind you.

I’ve been assured by the professionals that the string of cocaine and alcohol binges in my twenties is not the cause of my new-found brain aneurysm. They tell me in fact, that if I had this little fucker back then, I wouldn’t even be here – another casualty of addiction.

Still, I wonder. If The Universe is trying to get my attention, she has. Her sense of humor isn’t lost on me, either.

As someone who has struggled with depression I know well, the cinderblocks of despair and hopelessness. A few years back, in the thick of one particularly dark spell, I was paralyzed and obsessed with the fantasy of taking my life. Google was my accomplice; every hyperlink, another turn down the rabbit hole of options in which to do so.

KikiRed

This brain aneurysm scares the shit out of me. The Ifs are immeasurable. If it ruptures. If I need brain surgery. If I die. I’m living in a constant reminder to breathe, and try to let go of things that are out of my control.

It’s an odd and embarrassing feeling to admit fantasies of wanting to die. But if this aneurysm is teaching me anything, it’s that I can honestly say, I’m not ready.

28 comments

  1. shit.

    well… from the little time I have been reading your blog, know that you have helped a lot of people with your words, humor, compassion and encouragement – to name a few.

    and for those of us who have lived on the edge – in one fashion or another – and survived…

    …you think that the weakened blood vessel is going to rupture your spirit?
    (see what I did there?)

    ….nahhhh you got this.

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  2. What can I say, Christine? This gives me goose bumps. I want nothing but what’s best for you right now and always. You got a friend!!

    Patrice

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  3. If. It’s one hell of a powerful word. If. It carried with it all the potential of the known and unknown universe. It also has all the regret. Amazing that such large and unfathomable concepts can be squeezed into two letters. Really, the letters don’t even look that much different, do they? One is just a line, and the other a crooked line, with another line running abreast.
    One could feasibly argue that the word itself is a yin and yang, the path of the I representing the journey of our lives, once all the probabilities in our past have been collapsed into a linear path. It has a start and an end and the pieces in between that gives it structure. One motion, one event.
    The f on the other hand is a plethora of options, a start, a curve, a crossroads, another path. The pen lifts off paper and re-orients itself and continues writing. It seems the f represents all the options we didn’t take, or didn’t see.
    If.
    I don’t know pumpkin, maybe If needs to be so small because its concepts are so big.
    In reality, all of our lives are just If, aren’t they? You’re who you are, contemplating your Ifs because of the Ifs you’ve made real. The good, the bad, the ugly, the funny. All Ifs.
    And for every regretful and reticent If there are Ifs that remind us of the arguably “right” choices we make.
    If you hadn’t had your experiences on and around the pole, you wouldn’t be you.
    If you had chosen to not go on Yahoo years ago, we never would have met.
    If you had stayed in your old pad, you wouldn’t have a bitchin’ dog with an atypical number of limbs.
    If you hadn’t gone to the doctor to figure out why you were having so many headaches, you wouldn’t have been able to arm yourself with the knowledge to fight. You would have been a witless participant in your own life.
    I could go on, but I think I’d just be getting poetic-like.
    So for now, just try to remember, If you choose, that while wonderful thought exercises, the Ifs of your past don’t change the truth of your present.
    And more importantly, and I mean that, the truth of your present does not change the millions upon trillions of Ifs in your future. Those are the most exciting Ifs because they are all real. Every last one of them is still very real until you choose a specific If, collapse that If into a truth, and add it to your line, and then look forward to the next If and make it real too.
    Your future is a collection of Ifs, darlin’. And that isn’t depressing, sad, or scary. That makes you exactly like the rest of us, and exactly like you last month, last year, or even back to when you were on or around the pole. Love your Ifs. Live your Ifs.
    For example: If I don’t see you at the next HOB 80’s night, I’ll be real pissed.

    http://faculty.weber.edu/chansen/humanweb/projects/MeghanUng/whatif.htm

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  4. Sending you light and love. My aunt and a close family friend have both survived ruptured brain aneurysms. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses during recovery, but they are both here – in tip top shape, years after their accidents. As Nancy said above, you got this.

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  5. Sheez, with what you’ve lived through already, I would have thought your bombproof. But now this as well ? I’m scared shitless for you too and I think the worst of it is there’s nothing you, or any of your friends can do to help. Universe having a laugh ? She needs to get a better sense of humour x x x

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  6. I’m so sorry to hear that Christine. I hope this is either a manageable health issue or minimal surgery. I find your blog quite inspirational and wish you the best. You write with the poise and honestly many people could only hope for. I hope you are writing and kicking ass for a long, long time. And you look beautiful in your green top pics!

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  7. Holy crap, Christine. It’s not the news I wanted to hear about you. It sounds like you have an incredible support system around you and whole lotta strength inside you. I wish you nothing but good wishes.

    I’m right there with you battling depression too. I seriously considered ending it recently as I couldn’t go another day imprisoned by this chronic pain. Something is keeping me going, though. I’m having back surgery next week with the hope that it will provide “some relief.” my choices are limited as the only other option is to live with it, and for me, that’s not an option. There are no guarantees unfortunately. My spine is crumbling and the docs can only do so much. Just like they said on The Sopranos, “Whadya gonna do?”

    I think God has some kind of plan for me & I’ll pray that he still has your plan under construction too. Even though we never got to meet in person, I still feel a connection to you in many ways. Take care and if you ever want to talk, shoot me an email & I’ll send you my number. I think I still have yours but I don’t want to be intrusive.

    All the best,

    John

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