Shit just got real: my brain aneurysm

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

Christine Macdonald

The Blind Leading the Mind

For a minute there, I lost myself.  – Karma Police (Radiohead)

As kids, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of learning your enough. Tall enough? Bring on the rollercoasters. Smart enough? I’ll take that pop-quiz. Old enough? I’ll be home before dark. Responsible enough? Thanks for the ten spot, I’ll fill the tank (I’m dating myself here).

For those of us who grew up in Dysfunction Junction (abusive, alcoholic or addict households), it’s easy to argue that while we may have physically grown into our adult bodies, our minds are another story. On any given day, we’re pretty much hovering aimlessly between recess and study hall. And if you’re an addict – I’m positive when you’re in party-mode, you’re probably in need of some daycare. Or maybe that’s just me.

Damaged

In trying to explain my world to a friend recently, it went something like this:

“It’s like my brain is being held hostage by my mind. I know what I’m doing is fucked up, crazy and beyond forgivable, but I do it anyway”

I don’t think she got it.

It’s easy to call bullshit when it comes to anyone but us. There aren’t any cobwebs of denial obstructing our view of the tangled webs anyone else weaves. It’s a totally different world when forced to turn the spotlight on our own fuck ups as a result of our choices and actions.

There’s nothing like heavy fallout to pull our heads out of our ass. We lose jobs, get into legal trouble, even lose friends who – let face it – may be as fucked up as we are, they don’t need added drama.

Everyone is in recovery from something. The hard part is remembering that no matter how much we think someone may have their shit together, that we’re all just fragile human beings floating in a sea of struggle. No one is immune to the landmines life throws our way. We just have different ideas and methods in terms of how we handle our collateral damage.

Forgiveness is powerful. Support and understanding are essential. Getting out of bed, taking a breath with the thought that each day is a new opportunity to get it right, with the support of loved ones you’ve wronged? Well that’s just everything.

 

Christine Macdonald

21

The water was choppy and colder than I was used to, but on this triple-digit day there was no debate.

“It’s too hot”

“Right!?” He was faced-down on his towel, but the beads of sweat on his back agreed.

“I’m going in.”

I stood up, brushed the sand from my palms and pranced my completely naked, out-of-shape ass in front of everyone on the nude beach and walked.

As my body floated with the current, my belly and me had a moment. I laced my fingertips across my navel and exhaled with determination to get back into stripper shape. Fine – as close to stripper shape as a middle-aged broad can get.

“You just have to get all the way in, then it’s awesome!” I was thirteen again, bragging about how I had the balls to brave the cold (it only took the afternoon to submerge myself completely).

Once I was swimming, my eyes surveyed the people along the shore. It didn’t matter that my body wasn’t perfect. That a crowd of strangers saw my cellulite and buddha belly in motion. I was comfortable in my skin. I wasn’t happy with my body at the moment – but holy fuck – I was happy.

A swell lifted my body – and the water mirrored my breath – sighing with me in the realization of just how far I’ve come.

Christine Macdonald