“The mind is fragile, fickle, but the human body is resilient.”
- Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone
False. I love him and love the book, but this statement is absolutely false, well, for me. My body has been the weak, frustrating, and rampantly disobedient one. My mind, on the other hand, has been thè surprisingly and seamlessly miraculous one, impressing even my harshest critic, myself. I don't think I have ever given enough credit to the tenacity and resilience of my mind. I've been in a brain injury rehab program the past two months where I've seen, felt, and understood a whole entire, rather hidden side of rehab. I'm well aware of the physical damage accidents and strokes can cause, but I've been embarrassingly ignorant about the amount of MENTAL damage these injuries can cause. I've seen it all here, and every time, it breaks my heart. The other day I was sitting next to a man who recently suffered a traumatic brain injury, and had some physical, as well as mental deficits. Through some garbled speech, he said he was drawing a picture for his young son at home. I had my mom take me away to the side and just burst into tears, right then and there. I just couldn't understand ( and still cant) how cruel the world could be to not only a person, but a father. A son needs his father, but how can he be there for his son, when a freak accident turned him into someone who can't even properly be there for himself? The word 'unfair' sounds incredibly inadequate right now. I'm surrounded by young people who all had great lives and incredible futures, and they lost it all, not just because of their physical deficits that can eventually be rehabilitated, but because of their mental deficits that have changed them forever. My therapist recently explained to me that it's rare for someone to have a brain injury or stroke, and be completely and severely, cognitively intact... So here I've been for the last 3.5 years, complaining and whining loudly, ignorantly, and quite selfishly, that I've had the worst possible stroke ever in the whole, wide world. While, yes, I've had the worst stroke in the world physically, I've had the best stroke in the world mentally. It's taken me years to realize the most basic thing about my condition, to not just realize it, but to truly understand it and to wholeheartedly feel it, with every ounce of my being. I've been so blinded by my massive physical deficits, my few strengths tend to be rather elusive and difficult to truly appreciate. But I've come to the semi-harsh realization that, however awful my situation is, it could be worse, so much worse. I have my mind, MY MIND, so pure and completely untouched. I'm still me. I know I've said that before, but for the first time, I'm truly awed and deeply humbled by this precious gift.
But the unappreciative devil's advocate part of me disagrees and disapproves, and begs the question, isnt it that same 'pure and untouched' mind that allows me to see and understand the severe devastation of my injury? Wouldn't I be happier if I wasn't so acutely aware of how much I'd lost? Is my mental clarity and medical background actually a curse? Can a person understand their stroke too much? I don't know the answers to these hypothetical questions, and frankly, I don't care. I probably would be a lot happier if I had some mental deficits to leave me peacefully in blissful ignorance, but would anyone else be happier? My family and friends lost me physically, but they have me, without a doubt, mentally and emotionally. I think that subtle fact is what's keeping people together - they know I may not be around much, but they know if they read my blog or my tweets, or visit me in person, it will be 100% pure Harshada. I may not look like me, or sound like me, but it's me, all me, the same ol' me - Shady, Harshonda, Hersh, ibe2fly4u - still the same girl you all know and looove (though I seriously think my stroke made me witty). Actually, I think it's what's keeping ME together, keeping me from breaking into a million hopeless pieces every frustrating day, keeping me from losing myself altogether. I'm still me. You guys have no idea how empowering writing this blog is for me; even though I've lost so much of myself and my life to this stroke, writing this blog reminds me that my voice is still mine. But, I've come to realize that writing this blog is bigger than just me. I was somehow allowed to keep my entire mind, despite having a massive stroke. Not everyone gets that luck. The media has a knack for euphemistically portraying brain injuries and mental deficits as glamorous and simple, but I now know its quite the opposite, horrifying and tragic. I need to write, to share my story, to use my mind; not only for you and me, but to represent all the wonderful people I met, who all had tragic stories, but weren't given the precious gift of an intact mind. With my mind leading the way, we won't be unwritten.
(This blog was largely inspired by one of my therapists.Thank you for showing me and teaching me that my life has meaning.)