Sunday, February 20, 2011

Things Fall Apart

Every few months, things seem to be fall apart.

It starts off with me not doing well in school. Then it starts affecting my social life. Then other more physical things start getting affected.

Every time this happens, I think one thing: this wouldn’t be happening if things were different for me.

I would be doing a lot better in med school if the accident never happened. The brain injury I suffered really may or may not actually be affecting me in a neurological sense, but the doubt instilled in me by the people around me because of it certainly has. Am I really dumber? I feel dumber. I know I could be doing better.

Simple things take longer for me to do, and I can’t help but think I could save a lot of time or go to places easier if I wasn’t in a chair. So, my education and social life has certainly suffered. With one aspect suffering, the other probably responded by also suffering, thus creating a vicious cycle.

My health is not exactly great right now and I know I should get it checked out because it could be something serious. But right now I have more important priorities that deserve my time, I think. If it’s not serious, I’ll regret ever wasting my time, so I just ignore it.

A friend is annoyed at me because I’m too friendly, I guess. A few people I was good friends with were in town this past weekend, but didn’t feel obligated to let me know or try and see me. I think they felt like they were friends with the old Hammad anways.

Now that things are troubling my mind, other things come up that serve to remind me that I’m different. The backrest on my wheelchair is broken in one spot, so I sometimes have to spend extra time fixing it when I am getting out of the car. The handle I use to transfer in and out of the car is also breaking, so I’m taking extra time now while getting in and out of the car by a different method. This is while I hope and pray that my arms/balance don’t give out or my legs don’t spasm mid-transfer and I end up with my butt hitting the parking lot floor. One anti-tip bar that prevents my chair from falling backwards (especially useful when my backpack is heavy) is loose and could easily break off at an inopportune time, which would cause me to bust my head if I ever tip back.

All these things just make me think about what things were like before and if I can recreate them now.

I know I’m not dumb. Well… I think I’m not dumb. So why do I keep making stupid mistakes? I stop and think about how I did things before so I can go back to being the person who was smarter, better, stronger. Maybe I can go back. Maybe I can excel at things again. Maybe people will see me for who I really am.

“I’m actually surprised you got this far,” someone important said to me. Sweet.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. I’m supposed to be studying for a huge final exam I have on Friday. I can’t focus so I decided to try and clear my mind.

I know I’m not supposed to think about “if” statements. “If this had not happened… maybe I’d be doing better.” “If this had not happened... maybe people would like me better.” “If this had not happened… I wouldn’t be trying to figure out this or that situation." Those statements will drive a man crazy so I’ve done my best to avoid those thoughts.

But it’s hard not to think them sometimes, like when things seem to be falling apart.

“You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather.” – Outkast


I wrote the things above earlier when I was really frustrated. Since then, I have reevaluated things and realized that it doesn’t make sense to think those kinds of things. It doesn’t help anyone. There is nothing to do but to learn from these obstacles and keep on going. Find something new.

Alfred Pennyworth: “Took quite a fall, didn't we, Master Bruce?”
Thomas Wayne: “And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Sometimes even to live is an act of courage"

That’s a photo of one of the tiles on a hallway wall in the Shepherd Center.

Passersby may not pay attention to this tiny tile amongst the many other hand-painted ones. In addition, most people who see it will just smile at the nice grinning sun and just think for a brief moment that the quote must mean something profound since it is by the Roman philosopher Seneca. They will never think twice about it or why it was written on the tile.

When it seems like there is nothing to live for, when living each day brings deep pain of all kinds, then living becomes an act of courage.

When I think about about my fellow patients with me at the Shepherd Center, I think of the bravest people I know. We were expected to move on with our lives—nay, start a new life—after everything we have ever known changed. We did not ask for this, and complaining or whining about it would get us nowhere.

In medical school, one of the patient cases that we focused on one week was an individual with major depression. The patient felt like she “shouldn’t wake up in the mornings”, which paralleled her other signs of major depression.

“Wow,” I thought to myself, “I remember not wanting to wake up in the mornings either.” I remember going to sleep every night thinking and praying that this was all a dream and that I would wake up in the morning in my bedroom and everything would be normal. And then every morning, I would wake up disappointed. It didn’t help that we had to wake up early every weekday morning for therapy; to work hard just to do simple things that a two-year-old could do with ease.

I was very tired in the mornings. Physically tired because my body was sore and in pain and I never seemed to be able to get enough sleep anymore. Mentally tired because everything was so incredibly draining in this new life that was worse than death. There’s a song I used to listen to when working out when I wanted to get focused, and I occasionally listened to that in the mornings to get me going.

In the beginning, my chest brace hurt. My neck brace hurt. My neck staples hurt. The nerves in my right arm hurt. Speaking and swallowing were difficult.

After a while, I started wishing and praying every night that I would go to sleep and never wake up. Then, in the mornings, I would wake up disappointed that I had woken up to another day.

My relationships with friends would never be the same. The way people looked at me would never be the same. I could not participate in the same activities or go to certain places anymore. Simple tasks would become a huge obstacle. Everything would take longer for me.

But we found a way to start anew; to build from bottom up. What other choice did we have?

Our bodies fought for us to stay alive when we should have left this earth. We had to fight ourselves to stay alive each day when we sometimes wished our bodies would have just let us go.

Sometimes, living each day takes strength beyond measure. I applaud my fellow hospital-mates and hope they are all doing well and are happy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Be quiet, Amber.

As Amber notices me pull my wallet out of the little pouch under my wheelchair:

Amber - "That's kind of like your purse!"
Me - "No. It's just a little bag where I keep my wallet and gum and other stuff in because it's hard to reach in my pockets while I'm sitting down sometimes."
Amber - "Yeah, it's a purse."

Thanks, baby Amber, for making me feel like a girl.