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

Knots

In a recent email exchange with a certain family member about mental health (ok, my mental health), it didn’t take long before finding myself in familiar and somewhat frustrating territory.

With feeble attempts to illustrate how clinical depression is so much more than just “having the blues”, I Googled articles on the subject, forwarding anything I could find that would help explain my brain.

After a few minutes, I receive the inevitable reply thanking me for sending the information, in assurance they understand a bit more. But the amount of truth to their statement is directly proportional to just how much I believe it.

This hamster wheel of grasping for vindication (for my thoughts and behaviors when treading the waters of despair) exhausts me – yet again – and I’m left alone to shut my computer down and accept the facts when it comes to mental illness: some people will never get it. And who can blame them? It’s my crazy-coated DNA, and I barely understand it myself.

But just because the people in our lives are unable to fully grasp why we can’t get out of bed (or take a shower, do the dishes, take the garbage out, or do laundry for days on end), doesn’t mean they love us any less. And to be clear, when we are in the throes of this utter darkness, it’s not that we physically can’t do those things – it’s that we won’t. We’ve lost the ability to

Christine Macdonald

Right Now.

main-qimg-4cd9d0abdd61a3f86eb8db248571686d-cRight now. This very second. Someone is thinking of you, grateful for you – just as you are. Now take a deep breath and let that truth wash over you.

I recently satiated on one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies (next to Shawshank, Almost Famous, Postcards From the Edge).

No matter how many times I watch these lines come to life, it ignites that part of me I sometimes forget exists:

“Look, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you — the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass”  – Juno (screenplay by Diablo Cody)

Hard to believe – what with my being a professional pole swinger in the 80’s and all – but when it comes to fathers – I got nothing. Nada. Bupkis. It used to really piss me off, but I’m good now.

Spend enough time in the therapy chair and even hard-core narcissists get weary of cliché.

Somewhere in the cigarette smoke-filled milieu of graduating the stripper scene in my twenties and navigating my thirties with the moxie only a born salesman can attain, I pierced the Daddy Issues umbrella. It was enough to move on from being a victim of my mother’s poor choices, to my own mid-life conundrums.  I’ve been a walking lesson to myself for decades now without any help from the family fallback card.

Therapy should come with a hole-punch card.

Welcome to treatment! Ex-stripper? Daddy issues? Self-esteem in the shitter? Punch. Punch. Punch. Only two more and your next issue is free!

How cool would it be if we could all take a pill and wake up one day, look in the mirror and see what our loved ones see. We’d all wake up where our real life bleeds over from our dreams. The fantasy life we spend so much time wishing ourselves different from who we are would be reality. We’d have that perfect body, hair, skin, waist size, career, bank account, family, spouse… whatever.

Know what’s perfect? The knowledge that nothing is. The most beautiful part of being human is knowing that we are.

And human beings are flawed. We make mistakes, fall on our asses, throw people under the bus, avoid personal responsibility, live in denial, project our issues, betray trust, and break rules.

And that’s just with the people we love.

But not all hope is lost, so open that garage door and turn off the engine, buddy.

We also have infinite measures of being able to forgive, lend a hand, support each other, share our good fortune, own our mistakes, learn from them, pull ourselves back up, teach each other, and provide compassion – not to mention unconditional love.

Right now. This very second. Someone is thinking of you, grateful for you – just as you are – as dysfunctional as you are. They know you are perfectly flawed. And love you.

So now that you’ve been reminded of your greatness – it’s a good time to cut yourself some slack.

Christine Macdonald