The day the music died

On Sunday Feb 21st, 2021, I woke up complaining to my husband of a mild headache. As someone who has had migraines for close to a quarter of a century now, it was not nearly worth mentioning but as someone who has had some neurological issues since May 2020, my husband took it seriously enough to bring me two pain med tablets. That was around 10am and the next thing I remember was lying in the hospital bed on the afternoon of Feb 23rd, waiting to be wheeled for an EEG test.

Between my husband and two daughters, there are various versions of what happened after I went into a full-blown seizure shortly after ingesting the pain killers. There was a 911 call, paramedics having to use a defibrillator to revive me and fire fighters wheeling me down three flights of stairs to the ambulance. Given then my weight loss plans have been feeling miserably, I am guessing I must have given the poor fire fighters quite the workout ☹.

I have no memory of any of it, or of being hospitalized on Sunday, Monday, or most of Tuesday morning. As with the prior minor events that I had experienced, I have had memory snags since then of both current and past events. It literally feels like a big chunk of my RAM storage was deleted or altered; only this time is much worse than before, and the medics still have no idea what is causing it.

I was released home on Tuesday evening, to follow up with several specialists and continue with tests from home. As I have been working from home during the better part of the last year, I logged into work on Wednesday morning which in hindsight was total foolishness.

Or was it? I have lived in North America for close to 20 years now, every day looking over my shoulder. I was top of my class in Primary school, middle to top of my high school class and eventually squeaked a spot in the highly coveted public University admissions back home. For all intents and purposes, I was smart enough to get through life on that. Moving to US, then Canada however destroyed any feelings of intellectual superiority or I daresay adequacy that I had previously held. I quickly learned that I was first and foremost a black woman and as such, there were certain often unspoken expectations of inferiority of people like myself and I needed to quickly learn to stay in that lane. I could have fought these stereotypes but with three children under 10 by my 32nd birthday, I deliberately chose not to. I learned to dumb myself down, to not question whatever was said or not said about me because well, I had bills to pay. I took job positions that did not require a BA degree, let alone the MBA Honours degree that I had attained while baby number 1 and 2 were 5 and 3 years, respectively. I was ok to play dumb because well, I knew I was not really, but it paid the bills to do so.

So, February 21st, which is a culmination of some unknown illness that I have been suffering since May of 2021 was troubling for several reasons: I am finally dumb. I have found myself unable to recall names of people that I interact with all the time. I am struggling at work to recall mundane tasks or worse still analyze out of ordinary tasks. I logged into work on the Wednesday to cover up my ‘failures” in not having been able to work on Monday and Tuesday for the puny reason that I was hospitalized in a semi-coma. I have learnt in 20 years to be seen and not heard, to perform at a higher level than most so as not to draw undue attention to myself. The image I have worked so hard to cultivate was destroyed by the wiring in my brain deciding to dance to its own tune.

So, did the music really die or did I finally start listening to the right chords?

20 years down the road, I know that whenever I walk into any public spaces, the immediate assumption is that I don’t belong: be it the store clerk who follows me on the store CCTV camera, or the security guards at my (recently) numerous hospital visits who goes out of their way to loudly relay to me the instructions that are written on the entry for all to read and follow, but somehow something about my face requires further elaboration. To the department manager at one of my jobs in Canada to whom I made an application for a lateral move, and after speaking to my direct manager somehow decided I was no longer as qualified for a lateral move, but they would keep me in mind for clerical openings in the future- I am sorry what? It was a lateral move in a position that was already a hair above entry level but somehow, I was only qualified for a lower position?? To the HR manager who somehow never responds to any question that I ask her unless I CC my manager or basically anyone else in our company: I am just not worth her time solo. There are too many instances to recount them all here, but they all point to the fact that even as I dumbed myself down to make others comfortable, they still found a way to take me down a notch or two further; it is no wonder I completely stopped hearing the music playing.

My recent medical woes have been both a freedom and an imprisonment. I need to get healthy- whatever this is, I will fight it with all my might, and I know I will prevail. In the meantime, I have opened my eyes to the fact that I cannot keep playing the foolish game of ‘make them comfortable” because it does not serve anyone any good. I can’t even be mad at anyone because I brought this all on myself. I have two daughters and a son who deserve better than what I have shown them so far. I look forward to getting past whatever temporary madness I am currently suffering through so I can go into the business of taking over the world: in whatever tiny or large corner that I will find myself in

Happy 2021

 “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
– Alice Walker

What losing my mind taught me

On the 16th of May, the year of our Lord 2020, I woke up with a pounding headache, and completely unaware of where I was. According to my husband, I kept asking about our oldest daughter (who moved out in Jan of this same year) and repeating the same question almost as soon as it was answered. He thought I was fooling around so he started making fun of me. Irritated, I walked next door to my son’s room and peppered him with the same question. He was quite alarmed by it all and either of his own accord, or my suggestion, he called 9-1-1. The paramedics came in, checked my vitals which were normal but still wanted to take me to the hospital for further observation. Apparently, I refused to accompany them on account of a) not wanting my son to be worried b) not wanting to pay ambulance fees (this second point makes me chuckle that even in my madness, I am still cheap 😊 )

My husband eventually convinced me to go to the ER, and due to covid, he dropped me off at the entrance and left me there for several hours while they checked me for stroke and concluded that I wasn’t experiencing one. While doing an CT scan, they accidentally scanned my chest, where they found clots in my lungs- complete happenstance (or was it??). I was immediately started on blood thinners, and sent on my merry way. Official diagnosis: TGA (Transient Global Amnesia) a.k.a something happened to my brain causing temporary amnesia but not much is known about the “something”. It apparently is only supposed to occur once in a life time and more often than not in older population, which at 43 I apparently does not include my demographic. I was foggy for a day or two after that but eventually recovered my prior memories but none of the duration of the episode.

First forward to Sept 2nd the same year of our Lord 2020 and I woke up unaware of myself or my surroundings again #theylied. For some reason, I still kept asking for my oldest daughter, who thankfully came home a few days after the episode and eased my mind. I have less details about this second one, perhaps because my family is getting tiredness of the madness: pun totally intended hahaha. The fog lasted a good two weeks after this second episode, and as I write (close to 3 weeks later), I still have pockets of my memories since the episode that are all but gone. Incidentally, my older memories resumed perfectly and as usual the day of is gone.

I’ve never been the smartest person in the room, or the prettiest, I’ve been the tallest sometimes and on some days depending on my mood, either the loudest or quietest: in other words I am your typical average person. That didn’t stop my mind from dreaming up an alternative life where I am “somebody”. Some of this head in the clouds behaviour was encouraged by my dad when I was young, most of it from all the books I’ve read over the years and every heroine I have idolized in them. Most of my dreams have to do with public service either in the legal or administrative capacities as I am strong believer in changing society one dusty Government file at a time. I have made circuitous attempts to achieve these goals, while balancing the mom and wife life and in all cases fallen flat. BUT, I always had the dream, and as someone always willing and capable to read and advance my knowledge, I figured it was only a matter of time before I brought it to fruition. Until now

In history, books and movies etc, there is the concept of “the masses”. These nameless, faceless group that plays as a backdrop to the main storyline. Sometimes, they are in servitude of the lead character, sometimes they select the lead either in election or by chanting their name in the streets. Sometimes, as in my beloved “GoT”, they are massacred by flying dragons, with nary a mention of the families who go on to curse day the dragon was hatched. They are very important, especially in determining the popularity, or lack of thereof, of the main protagonist but lack individual recognition. Excellence demands rising above that group enough to stand out in whatever capacity and many self-help books have been written about avoiding this grey existence. One may even argue it has fueled the rise of internet and social media stars, who create their own “masses” in the form of likes and followers and chart their own stories of excellence to avoid being seen as failures.

I am not a failure though: I have three beautiful, smart, thoughtful children whom I have raised against all odds. With their dad, whom 25 years later, I still think is pretty hot and I have grown to tolerate if not out rightly appreciate his quarks ; many though they may be 😊. To these 4 humans, and my 4 siblings, and my mom and perhaps my dad, I am not a “mass” but an individual with a plotline to match or even beat many Russian tragedies. Yet to the world, and perhaps finally to my own realization, I am part of the masses. This doesn’t make me feel sad, or want to somehow change the trajectory of my life so far, but infact makes me content. Losing my mind allowed me to see that the thing that I valued the most, which is my ability to learn and retain knowledge, was not mine to lay claim to. I am ok seeing my children and husband thrive and if their path raises them from the masses, I pray to be around to cheer and maybe get a cameo appearance as “woman in the back fainting at the sight of the hero/heroine”.