The Original Book

The Book: Chapters 1-7
Let me first start this with the typical disclaimer you see before something like this:
DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME! I know now that the chances I took with my brain injury could’ve gotten me killed, so I wouldn’t recommend anyone doing what I did my first semester. If you happen to suffer a serious brain injury while in school, go get a CAT scan immediately, don’t wait until the end of the semester, it could kill you. I could have wound up bleeding to death trying to go to school, and I wouldn’t have known it, that’s how determined I was to keep going. Most people in that much pain would’ve had the common sense to go do it, but I was afraid they’d find something really serious that would require me to stop going to school, and I wasn’t willing to do that under any circumstances. Anyways, since this book started out as a journal, here’s the original first entry in it’s entirety:

first entry: 6/11/04
I left my shoes in front of the refrigerator last night to remind me not to forget my lunch, and I still did. It’s the little bloopers like that which will continue to drive me nuts until my head heals completely. The one I did yesterday was pretty funny-I decided to buy a bag of chips out of the vending machine, so I walked straight ahead, put in my dollar, and got four quarters instead of chips because I put it in the change machine instead. I grabbed my quarters and hit the floor laughing. I’m really good at laughing at myself now since it happens so often. there’s generally one of these incidents every day, and they occur when I do what I call tulti-masking. Tulti-masking is when I try to do multi-tasking, but completely screw up because my brain processes something backward or sends the wrong task to the wrong side. The best recent example of this i’ve had is when I answered the phone with my left hand (i’m left handed), tried to take a message with my right hand, and I actually managed to write two really illegible words before I caught my error. The handwriting looked like it belonged to a four year old. These types of mistakes are somewhat puzzling to me, because on most days I feel perfectly capable of doing anything, yet when I try to do more than one thing at once, that helps bring me back down to Earth.

Chapter 1:
I went through a whole two days of school before I managed to impair myself. I can actually blame it on my procrastinating, since putting off laundry is what caused me to have to wash a work shirt in the sink and hang it out to dry. It wasn’t dry by morning, so I threw it in my backpack to take to school with me. I figured I could just hold it over a hand dryer to finish drying, it was close enough. I simply had to go to the library to drop off a movie I checked out, because I certainly didn’t want to pay that fifty-cent late fee for videos. As it turns out, the doctor bills came out to alot more than that.

After dropping the movie off, I headed for the restroom to dry off my work shirt. I sat down on the floor so I could hold the shirt up close against the dryer. Being the busy bee that I am, I got up really quickly and went to head back out the door. However, the wall mounted vending machine located directly above my head prevented that from happening. I slammed into it head first, and as fast as I walk, that should’ve meant lights out. The very top of my skull hit the part of the machine where the quarters go in,. Being a veteran of twenty head injuries, nineteen of them being in the concussion variety, I assumed that was what I had done again. I went on to work not realizing how screwed up I was, and simply wanting to avoid the hassle of trying to call off an hour and a half before work.

By the time I got to work, I realized I was in alot of pain, and it felt like the slightest blow to the head would just knock me out. Doing simple things like walking around would cause the pressure in my head to build up and get worse, so needless to say, running a drive-thru sandwich station during a lunch rush was going to become an impossibility. I continued trying to function normally in spite of all the pain, but it was difficult. I worked 11-6 Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. I was in class from 11:30 a.m.-6:45 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, leaving me only Sunday to recuperate. My mental functioning appeared to be slowly deteriorating, which I didn’t fully realize until four days after the accident.

The first time I realized it was the first day back at school. I got in the main entrance and up the stairs when I realized I didn’t know where any of my classes are, or who the teacher is. I remembered that my first class was a math class of some sort, so I walked up to the first teacher I saw and tried to ask for directions, but the words just didn’t work. My question to him came out sounding like this: “Do you know where the math room is?” He directed me to the math lab, which I quickly realized was not where my math class was. Luckily, I noticed I was standing right in front of the new student scheduling center, so I went in and got them to print a copy of my schedule for me. I wasn’t stupid enough to go in and ask, ” I hit my head this weekend and now I can’t remember my schedule, can you print me out a copy of it?” I’m sure they would’ve insisted on calling me an ambulance if I had said that, and I would’ve said,” I don’t want to be called an ambulance, my name is Dan”. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be here now. I had to carry that copy of my schedule with me every day until sometime in October, when I finally started clearing up. I hadn’t been in school in eight years, and now, here I was, impaired, but with the determination of Rocky Balboa. Granted, in this case, Rocky was punch drunk, but losing just wasn’t an option.

It took alot of retraining to figure out how to absorb all of this somewhat new information I was learning. Reading was no longer an effective technique for learning; my brain simply wasn’t absorbing any of it. I did discover an effective method for learning in psychology: since reading was useless, I figured note taking would help, since that would force me to both read and write the topic. I decided to create a glossary of my own by writing down the definitions they have on the side of the page. this appeared to help my recall efforts somewhat; I still wasn’t remembering everything, but it was better than nothing. In my vocal performance class, there wasn’t much to absorb I didn’t already know, but the teacher was flat out terrifying. My confidence plummeted every time I went up to perform. The depression that resulted from being so impaired for weeks also contributed to my nervousness during performances. It seemed like every time I left my seat I was sure I would screw up ,and the teacher would manifest the personality of a drill sergeant. I was a little more fortunate in my math class-it was pre-algebra, which I could still do adequately even with my impaired brain. English 121 was easier than it looked also, because the majority of our work involved reading a short excerpt from a book or a short story, and then writing a critical analysis of it. To put it simply, the less reading I did, the better my grade came out. Coincidence? I think not.

Within two weeks of the injury, I noticed that my functioning had become too impaired to continue working while attempting to recover, so I applied for a student loan to pay my bills while I recovered. I had reached the point where my equilibrium required me to hold onto the railings to get up and down the stairs, or to lean on things in order to get around. If I got up too quickly from laying down on the couch or in bed, the room would spin very rapidly. it was almost like being drunk and hungover 24 hours a day. Getting out of bed presented a similar challenge on a daily basis. The alarm clock, with country music blasting at full volume, would force me up and out of bed very rapidly. The resulting head rush I got from getting up quickly made me just dizzy enough that I would stumble over to the wrong side of the room when I tried to head to the shower. I generally had to bump into the wall every morning to figure out how to get to the bathroom. Riding the elevator for the first time afterwards was pretty entertaining also-it was another scenario where I didn’t know I had to hold onto the railings that go around it until after I started to fall the first time. I did catch on quick though.

One of the side effects I still have difficulty with to this day is light sensitivity. I have to wear a fishing style hat that blocks out the sunlight pretty much every day, and i’ve even resorted to buying 40-watt bulbs for every light in the apartment that can use them. I’ve even reached the point where I no longer like being out in the sun because it’s too bright, and that’s really weird for a guy with a sunny disposition that wants to “show the light” to the world. It does help make sense out of the fact that I seem to love wearing black now more than any other color.

I did start getting alot more sleep after taking my hiatus from Wendy’s when the student loan came in, and I think that helped speed up the healing process. I only had class on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, so I could just stay in bed all day the rest of the week if I really wanted to, and that’s what I did most of the time until around Thanksgiving. I had black T-shirts hanging in the window to block out the sunlight, and I could now enjoy having my room a pitch black dark at high noon. Imagine not getting out of bed at 3 in the afternoon and being so disoriented from the lack of daylight that you think it’s 3 in the morning. I once slept until my brother came home from work at 9:30 p.m. because I didn’t realize that daytime had ever occurred, and of course I didn’t know I had slept 17 hours. Time was no longer a familiar concept.

The level of pain in my head finally started to recede a little around mid-October. I was used to just going home from school and shutting out the entire world, I couldn’t believe I was still awake and even vaguely functional in that condition. some days at school were bad enough that I would just have to put my head down on the desk, close my eyes, and try to get to a state of half-awake/half-asleep so I wouldn’t feel it as much. On a scale of 1-10, i’d rate the headaches from the first six weeks of school as a “why the hell am I not in a coma” kind of pain. When it started getting better, even when it was still an 8 (on a scale of 1-10), my confidence took a pretty big boost. When I looked at my grades and saw that I was still doing pretty well in spite of what happened, I knew this book would be a necessity, I had to tell the world what happened. I really hope this will inspire other people who suffered a brain injury to get out there and do something despite what happened to them. It’s pretty easy to lose faith when something appears to shatter your plans like this, but if you’re as stubborn as a freight train going up the side of a mountain, or in my case, your motto is something like, “I don’t quit til’ I win”, not even an earth shattering injury will stop you.

Once the pain had reduced it self to more of a steady, typical headache, I decide to start trying to do some of the things I did before the accident, like working part-time again if they could figure out how to use me without overdoing it. I was pretty sure I would be completely healed if I play it safe for a year, but that still didn’t stop me from doing some stupid things. Going to my nieces birthday party and playing like a four-year old was one of them.They gave me $10 worth of tokens to play with, and I used every last one of them playing skeeball to get my niece one big prize.

I should’ve known that all that running around with the kids would cause the pressure in my head to trigger a nasty headache, but I didn’t expect what did happen the nexy day. I got in after 10 pm, went to bed, and when the alarm clock went off in the morning, I tried to get up, but I had no equilibrium whatsoever. The room appeared to rotate like a soccer ball being kicked, I couldn’t even tell up from down. I had no choice but to go right back to bed and hope it eventually clears up. All semester I had put up with all this pain, and I let a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s cripple me! I only missed that one day since I was able to lean on the walls to get around when I got back up at 2:30, but I think I still had to do that for about two more weeks.

My boss at Wendy’s was pretty easy to deal with, so it was pretty simple to get him to let me sit in a chair and run the back drive thru register since he knew how screwed up I still was. They did let me try making sandwiches once for about ten minutes, but even that little bit got dizzying after a few minutes. It was definitely not as bad as before the two months off. As time went on, I got braver as I noticed my symptoms improving. One day, I came in feeling so clear headed that I felt like I could do just about anything; I really had a chip on my shoulder for a short while. It got knocked off just as quickly as I bent over to tie my shoes. This one happened with the boss in his car in the drive thru at the back window, so he had a nice clear view of what happened. When I got back up from tying my shoes, the room appeared to continue rotating in the same direction that I got up from. There just happened to be a trash can right behind me that was almost my height, and if it would’ve supported my weight, it would’ve been lights out time for sure. Luckily, since it didn’t support my weight, I managed to grab hold of a metal shelving area on the three compartment sink on my way down to the ground, and that prevented my head from making another impact. The boss freaked out when he saw me start to fall down, and he floored it and started frantically honking at the manager at the second drive thru window. I remember him yelling, “Danny just fell down, go check on him!” She came back and helped me get to the break room since I had apparently screwed up my equilibrium again. I sat still in the break room for a good half hour trying not to bawl my eyes out as I realized that I couldn’t even bend over to tie my shoes five months after the accident. Here I was expecting to be completely healed within a year, but I can’t tie my shoes five months later? Maybe that should’ve given me a clue.

Chapter Two: The Second Semester

I should’ve started writing this sooner, some of this stuff is a bit of a blur. I was rather confident in my ability to keep taking 12 credits per semester and working 30 hours a week since I finished with a 3.18 grade point average during the first semester. The work load wasn’t going to be quite as easy this time though, I signed up for Psychology 102, Intro to Philosophy, History 201, and Speech 115. I felt pretty comfortable with History because the instructor was my English instructor the previous semester, and he had a really good sense of humor. At one point during the semester , he mad a reference to England’s changing of the guard that made it sound like they were all in diapers. I continued my reading and writing method and did pretty well in his class. Psychology was a bit difficult, but my interest in the class helped me survive. I put alot more effort into this class than the other three. I thought Speech 115 would be difficult for me because i’ve never really spoken in front of a class before, but it got pretty simple to be myself in front of everyone after my second speech. I told the story of what I did to my head for my first speech, and I was pretty nervous, but the instructor was so good, it made it really easy for us to be comfortable in front of the class.

The second speech, which was an improvised speech, probably gave me the balls to be able to do anything in front of anyone afterwards. The rest were a piece of cake compared to this one. I reached into the bag of props they were passing around, saw this packet of little blue pills, and it was like a revelation-I knew what I had to do. I picked out the the pill packet, and when it was my turn to speak in front of the class, it went something like this-”You know, since I started going to college, I haven’t had the time or money to get laid. So when I saw an ad in the paper seeking a spokesman for a genital herpes pill, I said that’s me!”. I basically created an improvised commercial for a genital herpes pill, and boy did they laugh their heads off. The only part I missed was the rambling ending that would’ve went something like, “possible side effects include bla bla bla, yackity smackity, something something.” I think she still tells the story of that one to her classes when discussing possibilities for an improvised speech.

Now comes the part where I learned a new handicap, in my Intro to Phil course. I figured I would just go in there, shake hands with some guy named Phil, and be done with it. O.K., seriously, this turned into my one big obstacle, I barely got by in Philosophy. The huge new problem I discovered started when the teacher broke us up into groups of four to discuss the material. When everyone began speaking to each other, my brain somehow clustered everyone’s voices together, and they were all the same volume. The lady sitting right next to me tried to get my input on the subject , but I couldn’t make out a word she said. I think I pretty much just put my face down in the desk to cover the fact that I wanted to cry from frustration, and I covered up my ears to block out all the noise. The teacher saw something was wrong and came by to see what was wrong, and I thought it would be difficult to explain. Not every teacher is gonna be understanding when you tell them that your brain can’t seem to filter out noises and that all the voices in the room are just one collective voice in your head. Luckily for me, this instructor had a family member that went through something similar not too long ago, and he totally understood. Overall, I finished the semester with two B’s and two C’s, and I was just happy getting by, knowing I had already completed 23 credits in one school year with an impaired brain, and I still had six credits planned for summer school.

I got approved for work study starting in the summer semester, and I couldn’t wait to quit working the fast food job, since my long time boss quit months earlier. I still had difficulty with the room moving if I moved too fast, and I was frequently stuck making sandwiches in the drive thru because our team of new people was so bad, and I tried so hard to help this new GM succeed. I had one of my most unusual accidents there in May, a week or so before I started the new work study job. Since our old GM left us early in the year after four years of stability, the veteran crew that worked with him slowly left, and eventually I was the only one they could count on to do eighty-three things at once. So i’m running back and forth on the back register trying to take orders, collect money, and send them to the next window, all while putting away the truck order that had arrived the day before, as the dishes in my area piled up, since they weren’t a priority.. I heard a beep for an order as I was putting away a box of ketchup, and I overestimated the height of the shelf I was putting it on. As I went to take the order, I put so much more of my weight into pushing upward on the box ( it’s a natural reflex to reach upwards toward the headset when you’re taking orders), that I smashed my hand into another metal shelving rack above this shelf. My hand started to swell up really quickly, so I got a ziplock bag filled with ice and put my hand in it to keep the swelling down while I continued working since we were already short-handed (no pun intended, I swear!). The part that made it difficult is that I am left-handed, and that’s the hand I injured. So, there I was trying to adjust to taking orders and collecting money almost simultaneously with one hand, and it’s not even the hand i’m used to using for anything. After my shift ended, they sent me to the hospital for X-rays, which came back negative for breaks, but they gave me a brace and ace bandage to wrap it in since they diagnosed it as a contusion. I was able to lose the brace right before I started the new job.Getting this new job where i’m sitting behind the counter at a desk or table the majority of the time was a much welcomed vacation from trying to carry a restaurant on my back. That funny telephone blooper I mentioned at the start of the book happened sometime in the first two weeks (I’m lucky I started this as a journal, it helped narrow down the date). The more time I spent at this new job, the more confident I became that I was healing and would continue to heal now that I didn’t have to run around so much.

I reached one particular milestone around mid-August-I was checking the light bulbs overhead and I tilted my head back when I looked, and much to my surprise, the room didn’t continue moving when I tilted my head back into position. this was the first time since the accident that I managed to move my head at that angle without knocking myself over. Running around too much still caused the pressure in my head to build up like an impending volcano, and that would continue to be a problem. It would only get worse during the following semester.

Chapter 3

I had one more scare over the summer semester I forgot to take note of earlier. I took a Fundamentals of Music Theory class for one of my two summer classes, and we were all required to attend a live musical performance of some sort. Luckily for me, a jazz club had just opened up a couple blocks from my apartment, and it wouldn’t take much effort to get there. The music wasn’t too loud, so it looked like I had finally found a place to hang out without getting a headache. I had one beer while sitting at the bar for two hours while writing and enjoying the music. Everything went fine until I was halfway home-I got across Fillmore and noticed the huge light atop a train approaching rapidly on the tracks beneath me under this overpass. The sheer force of this train passing beneath me nearly knocked me into the street. I had to grab onto the railing along the side of the overpass and cling to it for dear life. I know I may be a bit of a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, but one drink was not enough to screw me up that bad. I guess we can give my lack of equilibrium credit for that one,too.
The Fall of 04′ started out with alot of optimism. I had a new job that didn’t require alot of running around & getting dizzy, my head seemed to be improving, and I was taking a foreign language for the first time ever. I’ve had a fascination with Russian culture and Russia in general for awhile. My favorite composers are Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, and Rimsky-Korsakov, and i’ve even flirted with the idea of learning some Russian opera. I did one little thing that killed the momentum I had early on-I found another thing I hadn’t tried since my accident that I was no longer capable of doing. Our office in the student center wound up going to a conference at Ft. Lewis Community College, and I ended up being one of the two work study employees that got to go. Everything went fine until we went to unwind at the end of the night. that was when I discovered-SURPRISE! I lost the ability to swim! It was good thing I didn’t just jump right into the deep end. I guess it isn’t just like riding a bicycle-unless i’ve lost the ability to do that,too.

My migraines and cluster headaches became a major problem during this semester. I tried to get in the habit of bringing my Gilligan hat with me to school to block out the light, but I was frequently forgetting it in the morning. Maybe it was from the lack of sleep or me not being used to getting up at 6 a.m., but forgetting my hat compounded the problem. I remember having one morning where I started work at 8 a.m., had a migraine by 8:10, and it didn’t go away until 3 a.m.

That great start I got off to in algebra didn’t last long, I soon started flunking tests. my comprehension in Russian came to a standstill as well-I could read, write, and pronounce the words, but I couldn’t put a sentence together. The headaches became so intolerable I thought there was something seriously wrong with my head. By the time the semester came close to an end, I knew I was going to flunk both Russian and Algebra. At one point during the semester I came home so worn out that I made the biggest blooper ever while fixing dinner. I got out this massive pot of spaghetti & loaded up a massive plateful to put in the microwave. Then, with my left hand on the microwave and my right hand on the dishwasher, guess which one I opened? So I pulled out the top rack of the dishwasher, put the plate full of spaghetti on it, pushed the rack in, & closed & locked the dishwasher. Five minutes later, i’m sitting on the couch thinking, why isn’t the microwave beeping? So I re-traced my footsteps & realized my plate of food was sitting in the dishwasher. It’s a good thing i’ve always been good at laughing at my problems, because it appears i’ll be in alot of situations where the options are to laugh or cry.
Overall, that semester ended with me getting two F’s and a C. that’s nowhere near my expectations I had when I started in the Fall of 03′. Maybe that would be a good acronym to use for for the huge dropoff I experienced afterward.I sure didn’t do a good job of catching myself.

Chapter 4:
I’m gonna start adding more journal entries into the book starting in this chapter, there’s too much interesting stuff that would be left out otherwise, and I think it would be best to leave it in its original format. Even with dates next to the entries, it’s hard to paste it back together perfectly.
I knew I overdid it in the Fall 04′ semester, so I decided to make Spring 05′ my one semester to lighten up a little. I signed up for English 122 and Interpersonal Communication (Speech 125), giving me only 6 credits, just enough to stay enrolled in the work study program.The headaches may have been getting worse, but I knew I was improving in spite of them. I started getting more rest with more free time, and even that created a new problem. I made a journal like entry in the middle of the notebook I wrote this in, and it will provide more detail on that problem, here it is in it’s entirety-
I should be doing my English assignment right now, but this is something I can’t just skip past and write about it later.If I eventually end up on medication to treat this latest problem, I fear it might affect my ability to recall what it feels like. This semester was supposed to be the one that ends up being alot easier because i’m only enrolled in 6 credits, but this new problem is overwhelming me. Maybe it’s my inability to be around bright light getting to me, but i’m actually developing a depression. It felt odd but pleasant at first, because the first thing I thought was, “I’m getting my senses back! I couldn’t even get depressed before!” I was actually thrilled about the very concept of me being capable of being sad, but the more time went by, the worse it got.

I think that had something to do with the sleep problem I had. I went through a span of ten days where the sunlight coming in through the window woke me up first thing in the morning. I decided to go for the extreme route to fix the problem-I bought a dark comforter to hang in the window and block out the light, and it worked. It also made my apartment pitch black in the middle of the day. I started waking up depressed on some mornings. I’ve been listening to every dark, depressing tape or CD I can find, and i’ve been enjoying it, even though i’m getting more depressed. I don’t even enjoy collecting football cards anymore,-i’m taking stuff I never thought i’d sell to the card show this weekend, and I don’t care. The next step will be to start selling all these DVD’s and videocassettes that are siting here gathering dust. I never watch them anymore, I don’t care.

It’s kind of hard to find anyone to talk to about this, because everyone sees me as this clown that always tries to make everyone laugh, so they wouldn’t believe i’m depressed. I did figure out that this creates a perfectly good reason for why I keep changing the way I look-i’m not happy with the way I am now, so I subconsciously think that if I change something drastically, it’ll change my outlook. All it did was change the way I look on the outside, it’ll never change the way I am on the inside. I think the next one will be to cut my hair short and dye it black-at least i’ll look normal then even if I don’t feel it. I’ve got to stop spending so much time at home alone. I’m pretty sure i’m going to go out Monday and try to get some help for this problem. I’m really tired of having such a dark outlook.

Thank God spring break is almost here, I really need a break. I don’t really enjoy getting so depressed that I want to cry but can’t get it out. The cigarettes nobody knows i’m smoking seem to help a little bit, but i’ll be right back to a pack a day if I keep using them as a crutch. I know alcohol is just a downer so i’m not going to resort to that either. Maybe if i’m smart i’ll have enough sense to go to that brain injury support group next Wednesday. It would actually be nice to meet some people having the same problems I have, at least we can relate to each other. I just hope they’re not as screwed up as I am.

When the Spring 05′ semester was finally finished, I was still feeling really burned out, but I finished with an A in speech and a D in English, which was good enough to get me out of the financial aid probation I was on. The only real noteworthy amusing thing that happened in speech this time was the amusing game show like presentation we did to study for a test. We set it up kind of like “Jeopardy!”, and I got to play the game show host. However, we couldn’t think of a clever name for it, so I thought, what if we call it “Insert Game Name Here”, and I even announced it with my announcer-like voice,” It’s time to play, insert game name…here?”. I managed to sound a little puzzled as I read it aloud, as if I was expecting a different title. I think Regina still uses that powerpoint presentation as an example of how well that particular assignment can go.

There was another big event I somehow left out of the summary of this semester. One good thing that came from the trip to Fort Lewis Community College was my discovery that one of my hobbies was quite popular in the college scene. Karaoke contests were pretty well received at the other campuses, so they decided to have one at PPCC, and they made me one of the onstage personalities. We wound up with a pretty good sized audience, and most of our singers sang really well,too. It even allowed me to show another side of me no one ever gets to see. Everyone saw me as this happy-go-lucky, mr. funny guy, mr. personality type (or as I now like to call it, “mr. happy perky la la la!”), and I wound up singing Josh Groban’s “Remember When It Rained”. I’m sure my friends and co-workers would’ve preferred me singing something happier, but it fit my mood at the time. I was starting to regain my senses, and it actually made me feel worse, emotionally. I remembered clearly what I was like before the accident-I was clear headed, confident, i’d even say I had the charisma of a politician. Now i’m really insecure, depressed, and I can’t stay focused when there’s too much going on. I started feeling like I had missed out by not ending up in a coma during my first semester of school. To this day, I still think I would’ve healed more if I had been comatose that semester instead of taking eleven credits and even working 30 hours a week until early October.

One day, when I was taking the bus home, looking over a not-so-good English paper, I came up with a plan to get that overdue coma. I noticed that the really short city buses have a really low ceiling in the back. It gets even lower right next to the windows at the very back of the bus. So I figured with my brain being as brittle as it is, I can just sit in the back, and when I go to get off the bus, stand up really quickly before I slide over to the aisle, and i’ll go out like a light and I won’t feel a thing. I figured that would probably screw me up just as bad as the initial accident, if not worse. However, with summer break coming up, I decided to try and go mingle with the brain injury support group and try to meet some of my peers instead.

The following week, I made it to the group meeting held at an ice cream shop in Rockrimmon. Much to my surprise, everyone in the group was older than me, much older in some cases. I was the only one in the group that was in college at the time. I was also surprised that I seemed to be in better condition than pretty much everyone, even though it had been less than two years since my accident. Meeting this group of people gave me a new sense of hope, and a new cause to fight for. I was going to school to show them that it can be done. I also developed a new found appreciation for the sundae bar, they couldn’t have possibly picked a better place for a support group to meet. It was a perfect balance of comfort food and good people. Oh yeah, and I almost left out what I wanted to say when I mentioned how surprised I was by how much older most of the people in the group were. When I first injured my head, I assumed I would be lucky to make it to my 50th birthday. Now I think I can plan on lasting alot longer than that, and that gives me another reason to be optimistic.

I was determined to have fun during the summer semester-I signed up for an acting class, and a humanities class. I did have alot of fun, but it still didn’t go as well as I planned. I loved my acting class, but I got so immersed in it, I never found time to do the reading for humanities. Everything seemed to move at a much faster pace during the summer, and there was too much to learn in acting to focus on anything else. I even had the balls (no pun intended) to do one scene where I went out onstage in my boxers! I even had to use tape in the front so I didn’t have a wardrobe malfunction like Janet Jackson. I wound up failing my humanities class, I never got anything done in there. Acting was a blast, but I never got too involved in our final project. The two main guys in our scene were control freaks, and i fel like a complete moron on the day of the showcase. I figured out how to run the lights, but the director decided he wanted to do that, too. One of the times he was late for rehearsal, I tried to get us organized without him, and two of the other actors started arguing with each other to decide which one of them was in charge with the director not available. I guess in this case, the title of stage manager meant insignificant idiot who has absolutely no part in in this production. I did manage to walk away with a B in the class, but it was really frustrating. A couple of my classmates tried to get me to sign up for the same acting class as them, but I didn’t want to risk ending up on the same stage as any of the three egomaniacs. As big as our stage was, there just wasn’t room for more than one of their heads onstage.

Spring 05′ journal entries:
04-15-05: I finally went out and pampered myself by pigging out at the buffet. I went through two whole plates of dinner before I decided to go ruin a perfectly good salad. I topped it with all the usual veggies and cheese and bacon bits, and then I ruined it by putting raspberry vinaigrette on top! Just a hint-never use a sweet dressing on a salad with cheese and bacon bits.

4-18-05: My train of thought is like an overly obsessed express subway today-it zips right by before I can even figure out where it’s going. Putting a sign on my door that says “don’t forget lunch” probably wouldn’t have prevented me from forgetting it today, but luckily I put my shoes right in front of the fridge last night. Now I just have to figure out how to prevent forgetting my book bag. That’s happened once this semester, but I actually noticed it right as the bus pulled up, and I went back to retrieve it. I guess I could put it right in front of the stove before I go to bed, but since i’ve put dinner in the dishwasher before, i’m afraid i’d literally “cook the books’ and not realize it until I wake up smelling something burning. Maybe I should get one of those daily planners and just make it really detailed, with step-by-step instructions, but how many people really have to walk around carrying something to remind them about really basic things most people don’t even have to think about?

04-23-05: It’s a good thing Blockbuster dropped their late fees-I rented a 2-day new release Monday night, and just dropped it off Saturday night after midnight. Remembering them took alot more effort than usual-I left my 3rd floor apartment and got all the way downstairs when I realized the movies were still in the apartment. I went back upstairs & decided to change CD’s while i’m at it. So I went to my zip up pack of funny CD’s and threw in Insane Clown Posse’s Riddle Box and off I went again, but with one thing missing-THE MOVIES! Once again, I got all the way downstairs before I whimpered, “Aw man!, not again!” I guess it’s true what they say-the third time’s the charm.

Summer Journal Entries:
06-07-05: No matter how many times you pick it up, push a button and say hello, the TV remote is never ringing. I saw a friend of mine do that at my apartment and I hit the floor with side splitting laughter. That is so TBI it sounded more like something I would do. I guess it’s better than getting it reversed and trying channel surfing with his cell phone. Can you imagine him trying to explain to his cell phone company that he never made a ridiculously long call to Japan that was only cut off after the battery died?

09/16/05: Idiot Proof Labeling
I discovered why some of the simplest things have idiot proof labeling. I brought home my first box of plastic wrap in quite awhile, and for some reason, I couldn’t figure out how to open the front of the box. I started pulling each perforated section one little tear at a time, and after I finished, it was still a case of, “o.k., now what?” because there was some cardboard packaging getting in the way of the sharp edge. Then I looked down at the cardboard and saw that little bit of fine print that says, “to open pull here”. Now I know why there’s such a thing as idiot proof labeling-it’s for people like me who have these moments where they’re so clueless they couldn’t buy a vowel if they won the Powerball drawing.

Chapter 5: Fall 2005
Today’s date is October 6, 2007, and i’m just now writing about the Fall semester of 2005. In all honesty, the last two years have been such a trainwreck, it’s taken me this long to figure out how to start writing about it. If the current semester doesn’t go too well, this isn’t gonna look like such a great comeback story. So far, so good, but it’s still early in October. Anything can still go wrong, a meteor could fall from the sky and finish my story tomorrow, school is going way too well so far. Another obstacle of course will be my own memory-if it’s been more than a year, it’s ancient history to me.

When the Fall 2005 semester started, I stuck with my theme of trying to keep it fun. I did sign up for an acting class again, just not with the same group of people. I also decided to make Astronomy one of my science classes, since i’m a bit squeamish about dissecting anything that was ever alive. Also, I decided to take a second shot at Algebra 090, since there was no way this time could go as bad as last time, right?

I had one of my funniest brain bloopers in quite awhile at the end of my first week of school. It provided yet another example of why I shouldn’t be allowed to leave the house while running on no sleep. I went into Fazoli’s for the for the first time because they had some decent coupons. So I ordered my food, and they gave me this disk that lights up when the food is ready. This disk was such a foreign concept to me, I didn’t know what to do when it lit up. So after sitting for a few minutes at a table facing the drink station located right in the lobby, the thing lights up. Great, now what do I do? So I pick up my disk and walk to the counter, but i’m so tired I can’t find the right words to say. I tried to think of something representing light, so in front of a line of people waiting to order, I held up this disk & declared, “I’m glowing!”, with the enthusiasm of a 4 year old girl that just got the doll she was wishing for for Christmas. As if this wasn’t a good enough display of my sleepy headed stupidity, I went back for an encore! I finished off my soda and went back to the counter to get a refill. Do you recall the part about me sitting at a table facing the drink station? Yeah, i’m guessing the employees were thinking I was either drunk or stoned. First I came up & declared that I was glowing right in front of a line of people, and then I wanted them to get me a refill when i’m seated right across from a self service drink station. Yeah, next time i’m that tired-JUST STAY HOME!

One of the highlights of this semester was the Astronomy teacher, that guy was so unintentionally funny. I made a nice comeback in that class too, I started out rather slow. I had a sixty something percent on the first test, and a fifty two on the second, so I knew I had to do something. My friend Dan, who sat behind me, formed a study group with me and another friend of his. We spent hours going over every possible question we could think of for the test on study cards we made up. So, as a result, I went from a 52 on one test to a 92 on the next! So, on the day the teacher gave back the tests, the fun started. He handed them back and then said, “O.K., class, today we’re gonna go over what worked good, and worked bad.” Wait a minute, rewind that-”what worked bad?” Did this guy take his English lessons from President Bush?

This wasn’t even his funniest one either, i’ve got a notebook here somewhere with even more good ones he did, even a few words we claim he invented. The best episode we had was when we were going over the planet Uranus. This teacher was quite a busy guy, it was obvious when we saw that his powerpoint presentation on the planet was simply copied right from the book. Not just word for word, but page for page too! It even had the page numbers at the bottom. if we were going to do this right from the book, why didn’t he just tell us to open up our books to page bla bla bla and follow along?

So he starts reading it to us word for word, and when he read the intro to the chapter, it just about killed me-”The discovery of Uranus”. I ducked down and put my face in front of the desk to try to hide my smirking because I was having a hard time controlling myself. My laughter was too much for my friend Dan behind me, who was also trying not to laugh; he just exploded with a “PPPPPPPPPFFFFFFFFFFFTTTTTTT”, which of course made it harder for me not to laugh. I’m amazed the teacher didn’t just send us out of the room, but I guess he had a good sense of humor himself. Overall, by the end of the semester, I rebounded from my near failing grade and finished with a B in Astronomy thanks to the study group and our countless hours of studying.

I did end up missing the class once, but that was for what turned out to be the high point of the semester. We did another PPCC Idol contest because the first one was so popular, and once again I got to be one of the onstage personalities, as well as the final singer. I was actually worried my voice wouldn’t hold up as well, because i’d been sneaking in more cigarettes in the previous few weeks before the event. I was having a hard time handling stress, mainly because my headaches were getting harder to control. We had a decent audience at the event, probably 150 or so people showed up again.I wound up closing the night with Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up”, and I was surprised at the audience’s reaction. There was people holding up their lighters, or in most cases, their lit up cell phones.In spite of my sore throat from me forgetting my water on the other side of the stage two hours earlier, plus the slight congestion from the cigarettes, I don’t want to brag, but I really brought the house down! It was so cool to do that well when I had a few people I knew in the audience-there was several of my friends (one of my best friends who I had just met weeks earlier among them), two of my teachers, one of my bosses, and my oldest brother. Among the judges in the contest were one of my co-workers and one of my mentors, the speech teacher that taught me how to handle an audience.That was so cool to do something this big with her there.

After that moment in the spotlight, it was back into my usual downward spiral again. The headaches progressed to the point where I was convinced there was something new that had gone wrong with my head, I figured it was a tumor or something. I’m thinking now that I was just overloaded, I wasn’t getting enough rest. I did end up failing Algebra again, which I didn’t think would happen originally. Acting went well until the night of the showcase, and I know it wasn’t my nerves, I can handle having an audience. We got halfway through our scene when suddenly my brain skipped right over almost a page of dialogue. When my scene partner helped me realize I had just messed up, I almost just blanked out the entire scene, I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, she took control and adapted and I figured out where she was in the script, and we finished without any further mishaps.

One more bright spot in the semester I can’t overlook-I finally met a friend that didn’t want to just sit at home and watch football, I finally started getting out of the house again. If it weren’t for her, I probably would’ve resorted to simply sitting at home getting drunk as stressed out as my headaches made me. I was sooooo close to reaching that point before she came along. Also, I was so paranoid of re-injuring my head that I was somewhat afraid to go out & have fun until she got me out. I even called & cancelled the first time we planned to go do something, I wound up using Steve Carell hosting Saturday Night Live as an excuse to stay home. When we finally did get out, we went bowling, and much to my surprise, my equilibrium didn’t put me in the hospital. I figured i’d throw one ball & go flying head first down the lane, but I kept it up. I wasn’t exactly a pro, but I did O.K. We did it again two weeks later, and that was priceless. It was Halloween weekend, and I went out dressed up as the grim reaper, and bowled wearing that costume! We even got a good screen picture of me looking scary as hell standing next to her. I think this weekend might have also been my first attempt at punking up the song “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina & The Wave on karaoke, which you’ll see later, turned into my signature karaoke tune. So, just in case I forget to put it in the thanks section in the front of the book (if it ever gets printed), thanks Marilyn, for teaching me not to be afraid to get out & get a life again. A brain injury doesn’t mean I have to sit at home in fear of rattling my brain again, I know that now.

In January, I finally had an episode with my head so bad that I resorted to going to the ER for a CAT scan. I was really afraid they were gonna find something, because they even did blood tests this time, and they had this weird thing hooked into my arm in case they had to take more blood. I thought I was gonna be there forever, but it was only a few hours. The CAT scan didn’t show anything unusual, I was shocked. they did however, introduce me to my newest temporary savior that guided me through the next year or so-Vicodin. One little 500 milligram pill wound up being enough to get me through an entire day of work or school, and in spite of its usual addictive effects, I maintained the same dose almost every day for over a year. I think I wound up taking a second pill three times during the semester. My regular doctor added a blood pressure pill to try to prevent the headaches, but those pills generally only lasted about two hours, and then it was straight to the painkiller.However, even they couldn’t save me from my worst episode ever, I don’t think I ever even blogged about it, but i’ll save it for the next chapter since it didn’t happen until May.

Fall 2005 Journal Entries:
10/07/05: The Pepsi Tease
There’s a really cool new machine installed in the student center at the Centennial Campus. Apparently, for a mere buck and a quarter, you get to see this mechanical hand do this really cool dance. You just select a number that you think is supposed to give you a soda for your money, and it’ll dance up and down, across & in front of the sodas, sometimes gyrating in front of one bottle but without actually grabbing it, and it lasts for a good three minutes or so.

10/08/05-10/10/05: A Place Called Vertigo
I went to bed feeling so shitty I thought I was gonna wake up two weeks later in a hospital bed & find out that I was in a coma. The only bright side to this story is that I did 6 of my 10 hours of stage work for my acting class in one day. Apparently that was a bit too much for my brain, which is still as brittle as a crystal chandelier. The sheer volume of noise coming from as many as three power tools running at once, plus the radio overhead in the back was so overwhelming for my senses that my equilibrium was totally shot. It got worse when I got home-I had to meet a group from Astronomy to watch the movie Apollo 13 for a class assignment, and we had the volume up really loud. By the time it was over & they left, I realized that my ear canals felt like they were inflated by an air pump & the pressure was not gonna drop. My brain itself was throbbing like a heart after a marathon run, and I nearly knocked myself over with a simple cough. I wound up spending the rest of Saturday evening laying on the couch, slept 10 hours, and still spent the next four in bed not wanting to move. I’ll just have to hope & pray this clears up by Friday.

10/15/05: One Giant Leap For Dankind
I went bowling Saturday night for the first time since my accident, and nothing went wrong! I figured by the end of the night i’d find myself falling literally head over heels from continuously leaning too far forward while bowling, but it never happened. There might be a light at the end of this tunnel after all; lets just hope it’s not a train. After the skeeball incident in December 03′, I thought i’d never try this activity again, but as Stallone said in “Over the Top”-”You gotta go for it, cause’ I go over the top”. That quote sounds so much funnier in my Stallone voice.

10/18/05: Light My Fire
Maybe medication would be a bright idea, because the spark is is dead, and “Idol” is coming up in two days. I’m running on four hours of sleep; I guess its way too easy for me to crash at the start of the week after a fun weekend. I noticed during acting class that i’ve got one glaring weakness-I use laughter way too much, often as a defense mechanism, i’ve gotta learn to express emotion in other forms.

Chapter 6: Spring & Summer 2006
I’m gonna be a litttle more choosy about which journal entries I put in here this time, because my new year’s resolution was to keep a daily journal. I didn’t succeed in keeping it,it only lasted 18 days, but there’s alot more entries than in the last couple of semesters, it’ll be overkill if I use all of them. This was also the year I joined myspace, so there’s alot more to work with to help me remember everything.

I discovered what my life would be like if I were disabled and couldn’t leave the house-I would be alone and depressed all the time. I tried to wake up at 8 a.m. on a Wednesday to go to the brain injury support group meeting, but I was so tired I just got up & turned off both alarms, and layed down & tried to do the “i’ll just lay here & rest a minute” thing. Two hours later, I got up & realized that at least half my plans for the day were now erased. At least I still needed to call the doctors office & go pick up my records to take to the school (or so I thought). I called & discovered that I had already started this ball rolling a long time ago-my doctor’s office already faxed them the info in April of 04′. I was trying to avoid going back to bed again at first, but I found some rather depressing reading material that made me give in. I found this source sheet for my brain injury report I did in psychology 101 two years ago. Apparently, even in my extremely impaired state, I had the presence of mind to circle the symptoms I was suffering from at the time. I was astounded to see I had this many problems only two years ago. Then I read them one by one & realized that i’m still having most of these problems. There has been improvement, I can’t deny that, but it’s not as dramatic as I once pictured, since most of these problems are still problems for me.

I have improved at multi-tasking, but the only reason that’s noticeable is because I can now carry things in both hands without dropping my walkman, that used to be a huge problem. I’ve failed Algebra 090 twice, so problem solving is still a huge weakness. The changes in personality are really obvious to me-I had the sunny disposition of a cheerleader before this happened, now I have to go around acting perky all the time so people don’t notice. I think they’re starting to catch on though. Now, black is my favorite color again, I have to avoid sunlight to combat the migraines & cluster headaches, and sleep has turned into a hobby since i’ve spent so much time in bed lately. My attention span and ability to focus haven’t improved at all, I even have trouble telling what voice is coming from where when there’s too many people speaking in one room. I didn’t notice how bad my difficulty with eye & hand coordination was until I discovered I lost the ability to swim. Man, that one was quite a downer for such a fun trip. Besides all this stuff, there’s the occasional dizzy spells, loss of balance, & the room spinning when I make rapid movements too often, but other than all that, I guess i’m improving. Needless to say, this discovery made it easy to go back to bed again and not get up until 5 p.m.

By the end of January 2006, an entire week of headaches finally drove me to the breaking point. I went to the emergency room so I could get my head looked at. I’ve been trying to get signed up for the community health center since December, and I wasn’t willing to risk waiting until I have an aneurism or a tumor to see why i’m getting these headaches. I figured they’d get me a CAT scan and zip me in & out quick since i’m uninsured. Instead, they startled me early on, & left me a little worried for a couple of hours. They took a ridiculous amount of blood out of my arm initially, and then they inserted this awkward plastic thing into my arm where they took the blood. I was worried they’d already found something wrong & were going to hook me up to a machine. I guess they just did it as a precaution so they wouldn’t have to tap another vein if more tests were needed. They did do a CAT scan as I expected, but of course, no MRI. it’s been 2 1/2 years since the accident, and I don’t think i’ll ever get one at the rate i’m going.

I felt lucky I brought a big stack of Reader’s Digests with me, I was at the hospital for five hours, including the time spent in the waiting room. I stuck with reading mostly funny stuff to keep my spirits up since I was expecting bad news. instead, I got one of the brightest omens i’ve had in a long time. First, the doctor comes in & tells me that both the CAT scan and the blood tests came back normal, and that the nurse would be in soon to remove that annoying, painful thing in my arm. So I went right back to reading the funny stuff in Readers Digest, and the next funny one I read went something like this:

A guy was at a restaurant waiting for his food thinking he’d be the next to get his order; but he knew someone was ahead of him when he heard the employee call out: “Angel, your wings are ready.” In my mind, that was like hearing that i’ve been cleared to fly again! Rather ironic then, that they gave me a prescription for Vicodin for the headaches. O.K., so I guess the lesson learned that day was this-when your ideology involves expecting the worst & hoping for the best, don’t forget about the “hope for the best” part. I’ve also learned to try to keep better documentation of my headaches. Figure out where it starts & what could’ve possibly triggered it. I’ve got a pretty good idea for the list of usual suspects-bright light causes some bad ones, so I have to either wear shades or my Upper Deck fishing style hat. Too much running around makes the pressure in my head build up. the latest one I discovered is when I don’t sleep enough. I’ve been trying to run on four hours of sleep on too many of my Mondays and Wednesdays so far. I think that’s actually when I get my worst ones, but the thing that scares me is that 98% of them start right in the spot where I hit my head, & they quickly work their way over to the right brain from there. The intensity of the pain makes me glad i’ve got Vicodin in my bookbag now.

After a couple of weeks of boredom stewing within me, I got the balls to go to a karaoke bar right up the street without nay familiar friends with me as a comfort buffer. I put in Katrina & The Wave’s “Walking On Sunshine” and did my screeching punked up rendition just to see the crowd’s reaction. I expected to see people cringing & covering their ears, but instead, like half the bar was up there dancing in front of me while i’m screaming my lungs out. All I could think was, “These fuckers are crazy! This is my kind of bar!” I have definitely found a new Friday ritual.So the next weekend I went back & started building up my alcohol tolerance-I drank two mini pitchers & a pint glass of Laughing Lab and a butter baby shot. I don’t know how I got up to go to the computer lab the next day, i’m usually a two beer person. The saddest part is, I got so much work done, I actually had even more time to party the next weekend. As if that’s not enough, it gets better-I figured out that weekend that i’ve got the timing down on my medication. If I took it right when the headache started, it never turned into one of those Earth-shattering headaches that makes my brain throb. I had gone a week and a half without a serious headache, and I never went that long without one since since the injury. No wonder i’m getting more school work done, I can think clearer when i’m not in pain or overly medicated. I convinced myself that I actually had time to go out & get a life again since I had so much control over my headaches. The previous three months they were so bad they had me wishing for the worst case scenario. That triggered a party animal in me that I hadn’t seen in years to come back to life.

I still put in alot of effort on my schoolwork, but once Friday night arrived, it was time to go out & get smashed. One day I even made the mistake of drinking on a day that I had taken Vicodin. That night turned into the only episode where I came home & puked afterwards, so that never happened again. I think that was the weekend after I scored a B on an Algebra test-I put alot of emphasis on the small victories, and didn’t put enough effort into making up for the bad days. I never got a high score on a Biology test, but I didn’t let it bother me since I was having fun again. I eventually reached the point where I could no longer afford to live on my own, so I took an offer from my best friend to stay in an extra room at his new apartment for $150 a month. That was perfect, I still had a party budget with my rent being so low! I really didn’t see the crash course I was on, but my good days became rather scarce because I was so tired all the time. I had to adjust to the falling asleep & staying asleep through the sound of trains arriving at the power plant, which we had a nice huge view of from behind our apartment complex. I eventually grew to like going outside to smoke & stare off into space at the stars & ponder really deep drunken thoughts, like, “what the hell am I doing with my life?”

The semester concluded with me having the biggest migraine of my life right in the middle of the biggest week of the semester. It was Tuesday, graduation week, the big event was on Friday, and I had to do Deion Sanders like duty-work graduation with the student life office, and rehearse with the choir for our performance at the ceremony. I took a Vicodin during choir class because I could see it coming like an oncoming train. of course, the pill didn’t kick in nearly as quick as it should’ve. When the headache suddenly hit, I thought that was it. It was the worst one i’ve had since the accident, period. it was so painful and so sudden, I actually thought it was the aneurism I was waiting for, I thought I was just gonna die right there in class. It was so powerful, not only did it nearly knock me over, but I also spontaneously started crying from the intensity of the pain. I really didn’t know how to deal with it-I hadn’t cried since my mom’s funeral five years earlier, so it was like trying to hold back a deluge. As soon as we got through the song we were rehearsing, I asked to be excused for a minute, and I think I managed to at least disguise the fact that I was crying.

When I got out the door, and it shut behind me, I still didn’t know what to do. I almost just left, plain and simple. I knew it wouldn’t do any good ,where the hell was I gonna go? I suppose if I had been a little more emotionally distraught, I would’ve completely snapped and just walked down I-25 to Pueblo to their mental hospital. I think they would’ve kept me there for observation for awhile after that big of a meltdown, and I would’ve missed working graduation and getting to sing in the choir in front of 4000 people.

Instead of enduring that big of a meltdown, I just stayed out of the room for one song & then went back. I sat on the floor and leaned against the wall and cried for a minute or two, and then just bottled up the rest for after class. I told one of my fellow singers that I felt like I was unraveling but I would get through the week. I think the fact that the choir and my job were counting on me kept me from falling apart completely. After class, I went back to the office, knowing I had a half hour until work, and alot of crying left to do. I went into my bosses office to try and explain what happened, and I started crying again in the first sentence I spoke. I wound up walking over to the building the student center used to be in, and I locked myself in an empty room so I could finish letting it all out. I sat alone in the dark crying til’ I had nothing left, and I think it took about ten minutes. I felt like I had it under control when I started work at 3:00, but when one of my friends stopped in a half hour later, I still couldn’t talk without thinking I was gonna cry. That had to be the quietest night I ever had at work.

I made it through graduation day in one piece, although I didn’t get home until after 4 a.m. I was such an emotional wreck trying to get through work and the choir performance only two days later, I don’t know how I did it. I headed for the karaoke bar afterwards to try and snap out of it, but even that didn’t help. By the end of the night I got so trashed that I decided to walk home. I don’t remember what went wrong, but I somehow took a wrong turn on the way, and wound up walking down south Wahsatch instead of south Nevada. I got so confused when I reached the side street where there should’ve been a 7-11 and it wasn’t there.

It was either graduation week or the following week when one of my co-workers talked me into working at school during the summer. I wanted a break really bad because I thought I was unraveling, but I realized working there in the summer would be a break. I wound up being the only work study there in the summer, and there wasn’t alot of traffic in the student center in the summer time. The two scenarios together gave me alot of time to do some really deep thinking. I wound up cancelling my plans for a big birthday party because I felt like I didn’t really have anything to celebrate. What could we toast to? “Here’s to another year of living in constant fear of a headache that now has the ability to make me cry in class! Whoo-hoo!” Yeah, that wasn’t happening. I still wound up going out to The Robin Hood with my siblings & causing the usual eruption of laughter from them, thanks to my screeching rendition of “Walking On Sunshine”. I think the original concept of me doing that song was to poke fun at my bright & sunny disposition I was so sick of projecting to everyone. It was like my way of flipping the middle finger and saying, “Yeah, I got your walking on sunshine right here, pal. I’ll tell ya where you can stick your sunshine!”

One good thing that started that summer was the other medication I started taking at the end of July. The doctor put me on a blood pressure medication that didn’t seem to help much at first, but another change I combined with it made a difference as big as night & day. I had a long running regular routine of drinking an average of four cans of soda during a school day, and usually it was some sort of generic Mountain Dew. I figured cutting the caffeine out of my diet completely would help, but by combining that with the blood pressure medicine, I was able to do so much more. Even if I ran around at work, I still didn’t usually get a headache until about 3:00 on average, and I was used to having one by 10 a.m. I was able to go even longer without it on Mondays & Wednesdays when I didn’t have class. By the time the semester started, it made it really easy to pick between my two hairdo ideas-blue mohawk or really normal hair. I decided that since I was probably going to be spending alot more time feeling normal, I might as well try to look the part.

When I went into work the Monday school started, no one knew who I was because I looked that different. I showed up with a nice, normal, short hairdo, with hair gel in to spike it up, had contacts in, I was clean shaven, and I wore a sport coat, button down shirt & tie, slacks & dress shoes. Most of the reactions I got when I said hi to people was, “Oh my God!”. One of my own bosses even found herself thinking “Who’s this new hotshot sitting behind the counter that thinks he owns the place?”. Then she heard my voice and it got the same “Oh my God!” reaction i’d become accustomed to all day long. I was so pleasantly surprised by the reactions that I decided to start dressing nice every day. It looked like the inner cheerleader that I declared dead back in January is going to be alive & well for the Fall 2006 semester.

Spring 2006 Journal Entries:
01-06-06:This turned into a bad weekend. I wound up moving a bunch of furniture at work Friday afternoon & it started a domino effect on the whole day. I was dressed sort of business casual since my bosses farewell party was right after work, and I didn’t want to go looking like a goof. I got all sweaty & smelly (not to mention dizzy) moving the furniture, so I went home to clean up. By the time I got in the door, the room was spinning, so I figured I better sit down for a minute before I try to go stand in the shower. So 4 1/2 hours later, I woke up, it was 10:30, and I had completely missed the party. The room was still spinning when I came out to use the phone, so I just laid down on the floor next to the phone when I called.

01-09-06: I got to work an hour early today to grab lunch, and it was just as the bosses were sitting down to lunch. Perfect timing, now we’re all on the same page. They all totally understand now that I can’t do much physical work. My equilibrium is still screwed up from friday.

01-16-06: I almost wrote 05′ for the 2nd time this year. Thank God i’m leaving my part time job at Wendy’s, I can tell i’m gonna be overloaded this semester. I thought I had a full plate with English, Biology, and Algebra, now I discovered that the vocal class I picked turned out to be the school’s choir.

01-18-06: Time is not one of my allies today. I work 8-12, have class 12-12:50, then 1:00-2:00, 2:30-3:45, 5:00-6:50, and 7:00-8:15. it’s days like this where I end up feeling like the pilot on a doomed plane. if the inside of my head resembled a cockpit, it would be filled with flashing lights & alarms going off. I know i’m going to crash eventually, I just don’t know when or where. I did do one really smart thing when I got home-I threw away the pack of cigarettes I had in the closet. I realized how absurd it was to smoke when i’m in a choir.

01-06-06: I know it’s easy to mix up the year when writing something right after the start of the year, but this one was a doozie. I made a bunch of meeting signs for work, and I put 2006 on all but one of them. The only one I screwed up said 2004. Oops.

03-08-06: I guess I can cross out the daily part on the front of this notebook, it’s been a whole week since i’ve written. Lets see if I can remember it all-I took my test for Algebra 090 in OASIS Thursday, and I left feeling fairly confident that I scored between an 85 and a 90. When I got it back on Tuesday, I found out I scored an 89! That’ll give me a reason to celebrate again this Friday, at least that combined with the 88% & 85% I scored in English. This Friday’s goal will be to down a gallon of beer in the five hours i’m at the bar. I got close last Friday, I drank sveen pints; one more and i’ll reach that goal! Ironically, those seven pints were the most iu’d drank in about seven years. I’m already thinking of new tunes to try too-John Denver & Linkin Park; that’ll turn some heads.

I had a bit of a revelation this morning, thanks to a little too much time to think. I now know why i’m partying too hard on Fridays. I was trying too hard to create a new self-identity. I can’t seem to decide whether to slow down, relax & mellow out, or get psyched up, go crazy, and be a wild party animal. All I know is i’m not happy with the current version of me. I seem to be associating staying home & mellowing out with sitting at home alone & bored & getting depressed. When the other option is to go out and have fun singing, yelling, and screaming while chain smoking and getting drunk, which of the two options would you choose?

04-12-06: The condition my walkman is in right now perfectly sums up the shape i’m in. The light indicating dying batteries is on, the left speaker is putting out too much base & sounds distorted, & the CD player itself occasionally won’t play unless I press down on the door to close it in just the right spot. As for me, i’ve got an algebra test and a biology test to do tomorrow, i’ve had twelve hours of sleep in three days, and I nearly blacked out again in choir. I’m a little wary of how my English paper turned out Monday, but i’m much more concerned with my own exhaustion level at this point. I know i’m going to crash eventually, and I don’t know where or when it’ll happen.

04-17-06: Todays lesson-jalapeno poppers, apple pie, and root beer are not the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast. Maybe next time I should wash it down with a real beer instead.
04-18-06: Interesting morning-the headaches are in a different location than usual. it starts in the back of my head, just just above the neck, instead of the corpus colossum; it seemed like I had it when I woke up. It usually doesn’t develop until an hour or two into my work day. Yesterday I didn’t get one until after 2 p.m., that was nice for a change. Today’s almost felt like one of my Saturday hangover headaches when it started, but I didn’t drink last night, so that’s not it.

04-20-06: I tried taking two Vicodin in one day for the first time ever, the stuff’s becoming less & less effective. I think eventually my options will be to either feel high as a kite or in excruciating pain.

04-25-06: Today sucks. I got all dressed in black with my Cure t-shirt since it was grey & gloomy outside, and the stupid sun ruined it. Next, I went through 2 Vicodin in 5 hours, and this crazy guy, one of our regulars, comes up to the counter & decides i’m his therapist. I don’t mind talking for a few minutes, but not an hour! There’s only so much crazy person I can take while i’m this medicated! I need to put up a sign here, like they have at carnival rides, except it’ll say something like, “you must have this many marbles left to talk to me.”

04-26-06: What a rare day. I came to school alert, well rested, & never got a headache, so I never had to take a Vicodin. I was so clear headed I typed up a six and a half page paper in three hours! if I was this clear headed all the time, i’d be a straight A student. I think I have to give a little credit to the big guy upstairs for this one. He was probably looking down at me going, “Dan doesn’t want to get a headache today, & I bet he’d function better if he wasn’t on Vicodin every day, so i’ll give him one day without either just to see what its like”. I’m so lucky there’s a 7 foot tall, 400 pound witch doctor living upstairs from me.

04-30-06: I slept in until 2 p.m. That felt good after 6 days of 5 hours of sleep per night.

05-03-06: Tuesday was a roller coaster. I went to school on three hours of sleep and somehow didn’t get a headache until 3 or 4 p.m.. When I finally did get one, it was the worst one i’d had in a long time. I felt the pain in the back of my head, on the right side for awhile, then it shifted to the left on the top of my head. At one point I got concerned because I realized I hadn’t updated my emergency contact information, and there would be no way to reach my family if something did happen, so I went to my bosses office & fixed that immediately. I actually found myself worrying that i’d pass out from the pain and finally get that overdue coma. I’m well rested today, but again, got a late headache, around 2:30.

05-05-06: Have you ever let your choice in clothing in the morning dictate how you went about your day? I woke up this morning knowing I had a very difficult Algebra final to take on, and I thought I needed a little inspiration. So I went through my section of heavy metal T-shirts in the closet, and I picked out Pantera’s “Far Beyond Driven”. Now that’s a good way to brainwash myself back into the “I don’t quit til’ I win” mode. I wasn’t just driven to accomplish something, I was far beyond driven.

Summer 2006 journal entries
06-28-06: flashbacks
I found a couple of notebooks in my closet I haven’t read or written in for awhile, and there’s some rather interesting reminders of how much my head has improved in the last year. I had a notebook labeled MEMORY NOTEBOOK that I briefly tried using about 6 months after the accident to help keep track of important things to do back when I was too impaired to remember some really basic daily essentials. Here’s what the inside cover of the notebook said-
DAILY REMINDERS:
1 TRY TO GET 8 HOURS OF SLEEP
2 DON’T BE OVERACTIVE-TOO MUCH ACTIVITY MAKES BRAIN MOVE AROUND TOO MUCH, TRIGGERING DIZZINESS & UNBEARABLE HEADACHES
3 DON’T PROCRASTINATE ON HOMEWORK-REST IS IMPORTANT, BUT SCHOOL IS URGENT.
4 LEAVE SHOES IN FRONT OF THE FRIDGE WHEN I PACK A LUNCH
o.k., so maybe I still have difficulty with migraines, my balance, and i’m not sleeping enough, but at least I can write a better statement than,
“makes brain move around too much”. Good job there, Frankenstein.

Chapter 7: The Fall of 2006
This semester felt like it was gonna be the beginning of something big, a huge step in the right direction. I was taking Russian for the second time, and I had all the enthusiasm in the world, it felt like it would take an apocalypse to bring me down this time. I also signed up for Algebra again, but this time I picked Algebra 106 instead of 090, simply because I wanted to catch up with the pace I had planned. If I could pass at this level, it would lead to me taking 121 next, and that was the class I actually needed for my degree. I also was in choir again, because quite simply, I was hooked, I loved singing in front of an audience, whether solo or in an ensemble like in this case, plus there was never enough guys, they kind of needed me, even if I wasn’t really trained for choir.

The perfect semester lasted for about a month, or about as long as my meds lasted. When the prescription for one of the more pricey pills I had samples for ran out, they replaced it with a cheaper medicine, and that plan backfired horribly. I misinterpreted something my doctor told me, and ignored the dosage on the new blood pressure pills they gave me. I wound up taking one every time I felt a headache starting, and after a week of enduring this daily routine, I had gotten so weak I could hardly remain standing for long. I think I really dodged a bullet with this one- I spent a week accidentally overdosing on blood pressure pills without putting myself in the hospital. I gladly switched back to the more expensive pills after this incident, and I even discovered that they weren’t even that much more expensive than the cheaper replacement.
The rest of the semester turned into a weekly circus for me-I followed the overdose incident with a weird illness where my tonsils were sending fluid to my ears and screwing up my equilibrium. My balance was bad enough before this happened, this only made things even more interesting. My pregnant sister had a health scare, and then her husband wound up in ICU due to his own health problems. The strangest incident of the year happened on a night where I was just trying to relax & have some fun.

I was sitting outside in the smoking section of my favorite hangout spot (thanks to Colorado’s stupid new law prohibiting smoking indoors), I was enjoying a mini pitcher of my favorite beer Laughing Lab, and all hell breaks loose right in front of me. This guy asks the woman next to him for a light, and her overly-obsessed, big, huge, drunken Indian boyfriend takes offense to him interrupting their conversation to ask for a light. He threatens to kick the guy’s ass, and this dude’s only about half the size of the big, tough, drunken guy. He replied with the stupidest answer i’ve ever seen for a guy in his situation-”You wanna kick my ass? Let’s go!”. The Indian dude comes flying out of his bar stool and slams the guy into the fence. So first my beer glass goes flying off the table and shatters all over the bar, then the pitcher goes bye-bye when they came back around and took out the table I was sitting at. Then the scary part happened-they knocked over the nice big propane heater keeping all us poor smokers warm. The thing puts out flames at the top, but it’s enclosed in a metal, sort of round frisbee shaped thing. When that thing came crashing down next to me, I thought I was dead. I figured the thing would blow up and I just froze. The sad part is, the only thing that went through my head when I saw it fall was, “Oh well, no more migraines!” One of the women that works at the bar had the balls to go pick up the heater since she also thought it might explode. So after a couple minutes, they got the fight broken up and kicked out the big bad wolf, but it took a total of six people to break it up. They lost alot of business initially, but most of the people came back in an hour or two. My nerves were so shot from thinking I was gonna die that I was shaking the whole rest of the night. I still had enough life left in me to pull off an incredible rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody that won the karaoke contest for me. The whole crowd was into it-I think I counted 6 people around the room singing along, and most of the rest were headbanging during the part at the end where they’re headbanging during Wayne’s World.

That one little thought couldn’t escape my mind for two weeks afterwards-”Oh well, no more migraines.” I actually gave up? I faced what I thought was a life or death situation and I chose death? How bad had my life become to make me sink to this level? That was when I knew it was time for a break, but I still wasn’t going to just roll over & play dead, so to speak.

It took me two weeks of some really deep thought to put my head back together. The Monday after it happened, I went into school on an hour of sleep. I was such a zombie that day that I managed to miss a tour I was supposed to do that morning. My co-workers knew it was not like me to miss something that important, so one of them filled in for me even though it meant missing class, I was amazed she did that. I felt even worse when I found out I missed it, but my boss was pretty understanding when I told her what happened. I told the woman in the Presidents office what happened since she was the one that was supposed to do it originally, and she even suggested I see their crisis counselor. I decided to stick to the tough & stubborn routine because I felt like I could do it since my psychology was my major, and I thought there was no such thing as too big of a mess for me to handle. I was simply under a ridiculous amount of stress, and I just needed the semester to end. The lone bright spot that happened afterwards was me getting Josh Groban’s new CD “Awake”, the song “You Are Loved” lifted my spirits a bit, but it wasn’t enough to just snap me out of it after something this traumatic.

I finally started to get my nerves back after about two weeks, and it lasted a whole two days. My brother had a meltdown at my pregnant sister’s place, and wound up staying at a mental health facility for a week afterwards. he didn’t feel comfortable going back to stay at their place again after that, so guess where he went? That apartment of ours was one crazy place for awhile-we had my brother on the couch with all his meds, my friend & roommate who had to resist the temptation of these powerful meds right in front of him (he was an unemployed prescription drug addict with a huge football card collection when I met him), and then there was me, trying to gather my marbles up in spite of everything going on around me.

After the bar incident, it didn’t take me long to give up on Algrebra, I simply stopped showing up so I could try to spend that time on Russian, but even that didn’t work. It was time for a break from school,. but I got alot more than I bargained for in the last week of school. I got the icing on the cake on a Tuesday night after my Russian class, December 5th to be exact. I was running on three hours of sleep, and it was one of my brain’s rough days where I had to go hide in the dark at work for while, while I waited for my vicodin to kick in and kill the migraine. I had to take a second one around 4:30 when I was downtown studying for what I thought would be my Russian final. The second Vicodin kicked in right around the time class started, and it was a miracle that I stayed awake. When class got out, I went down the hall, and headed for the stairs to the computer lab, since I had to kill 50 minutes until the next bus. I didn’t make it very far past the first step on the stairs. I tripped over my own feet, and I went flying. I tried so desperately to catch myself that I got in sort of a B-1 bomber like formation trying to avoid hitting my head again. I reached out and grabbed the railing with my right arm, grabbed my book bag to cushion the other side, and somehow used my feet to press against the steps and bring me to a complete stop. I managed to stop moving so suddenly that the jolt of my sudden stop made my brain kind of ricochet within my skull.

At first, I looked at it as though it was some sort of miracle. If I hadn’t caught myself, it would’ve been much worse. If my head had hit the ground, I would’ve left school in an ambulance, and unconscious. I got up and went on to the computer lab, feeling a little out of it, but thinking, I was lucky. I had planned to put a whole bunch of football cards on ebay before running to the bus, but before I could even scan one card, I had to go running to the bathroom because I thought I was gonna puke. I didn’t actually do it, I just shook up my insides really badly and got incredibly queasy. By the time I left the computer lab, I was feeling like crap. My head was hurting in spite of the Vicodin, and that told me I must’ve really rattled my brain.

I got to the bus terminal and made it just in time for my bus, and then the walk home got interesting. Every footstep I took hurt my head, I wound up weaving all over the side of the road as I walked up the hill. I got to the apartment and I was in so much pain and so dead on my feet that I dropped to the floor and crawled to the bathroom. This marked the first time in six months that a headache actually made me cry. My equilibrium was so jacked up I didn’t dare walk around anymore. I crawled from room to room when I got too queasy. I called my boss as soon as I realized I was in jeopardy, the only reason I called was I figured, since no one knew what happened, and there was no way i’d follow the usual instructions for post-concussion treatment, I might not wake up in the morning. The usual thing to do is to stay awake for 12 hours following a Concussion. Since I just did it right before 8 p.m., there was no way in hell I was gonna stay awake til’ 8 a.m. and then get up for the choir presentation I had to perform in at 1 p.m.! I figured if I go to sleep too soon, I might end up in a coma, but I was so tired and so frustrated from hitting my head again, I didn’t care. I stayed in bed til’ 11 a.m., and then tried to go about my day like normal, except that I needed a chair for the choir performance since I couldn’t stand up for long. Oh yeah, and to make the choir performance more fun-I was the only bass singer in the whole group, the other three were missing. I couldn’t believe I made it three years without a concussion, but thanks to me trying to go to class on three hours of sleep and with two Vicodin in one day, the streak was over, and the concussion count is at 21 in 18 years.I should’ve figured this semester had one disaster left, but I really didn’t need another concussion!The semester finished with me failing both Russian and Algebra, but I didn’t really care. That fall down the stairs screwed me up so bad I felt like I had gone back in time four years. I was back to leaning on the walls to walk around. I couldn’t even begin to plan the “what now?” stage I knew was coming next.

Journal entries:
09-06-06: Today’s lesson-spending my free time chain smoking, yelling & screaming at a karaoke bar is no way to warm up my voice for choir. I sounded more hoarse than Mr. Ed at today’s choir practice.

09-11-06: Thank God I bought Slayer’s new CD, this morning sucked, but the tunes helped. I twisted my foot while taking a shortcut to do laundry, and ir should have slowed me down more than it did. By the itme I finished putting away my laundry, it was 10:37 when I was running out the door. I needed to be at the bus stop by 10:45, and it’s a ten minute walk from the apartment. Luckily for me, I had Slayer’s “Christ Illusion” in the walkman, and I went racing down the hill (but not running), without limping or stopping to go “Ow! Son of a bitch!”. I got there about a minute before the bus even showed up, and I expected to see it go passing down Nevada Avenue when I was a block away. I can still hear the opening lines in the first track playing in my head, it’s so fast you don’t even need spaces inbetween the words: “Takeadeepbreathcauseitallstartsnowwhenyoupullthefuckin’pin.Theshrapnelburnsasittearsintoyourskin. Everwonderwhatitsliketobequestioningyourfaith? Thisiswhatitslikewhenithappenseverygoddamnday! Violenceisourwayoflife!”. I like thinking that my level of intensity and determination is so elevated while listening to Slayer that I could probably run through a building engulfed in flames and still be able to run out alive. Of course, the walkman would have to be fireproof.

09-15-06: Nature is so full of reminders warning of impending danger. One glance at a porcupine tells you that it’s not something that you want to cuddle up to. A cloud of ash coming from a mountain tells you it’s about to erupt into a volcano and that you need to get the hell out of there. When the sounds of a cupboard door closing resonates like a hammer hitting a wall, it’s time for me to stop.

09-15-06: I don’t usually write this much in one day, but my brain got overloaded earlier, so i’ve got to put it all on paper to let it out. The scene coming home from the karaoke bar tonight was absolutely priceless. I had only $10 in cash left for the cab ride home, so I decided to go downtown to The Pita Pit instead of home. I ordered my food & paid with my Visa, left, and got about a block down the street when the scene unfolded (or more like unraveled). When I got to the next corner, I noticed the sound of police sirens on the next block where the bar crawl was going on. There was plenty of people out & about, walking around after the bars let out. So I get halfway across the street on Cascade, there’s a group of women walking in front of me, and as I get 2/3 of the way across the street, these two cop cars come up Bijou & decide to turn on the lights & sirens right as they got close to the intersection. Apparently, the cops decided to play a little game of ‘make the drunks run”. they turn on their lights and we have to run across the street in a green light just because they feel like fucking with us.I wouldn’t have bothered trying to cross the street if the lights & sirens had been turned on in a normal manner, I don’t mind waiting when it’s an emergency, but hwen they turn them back off after crossing the intersection, that pisses me off. Now I know why some people don’t like the police. There really is such a thing as pigs in this town. Hopefully, they’re in the minority, but I have seen proof that they do exist here. After I got to the corner, I opened my eyes & ears to the scenery around me. The ghetto bird was buzzing overhead in case any of the drunks try to run, there was an almost constant blare of sirens, and it appeared the cops had essentially taken over a couple of blocks of Tejon Street. It felt like I was living out a scene in Judge Dredd, as if the police had declared martial law.

09-25-06: This semester was actually going pretty well until I ran out of one of my medicines.This blood pressure medicine they put me on for my migraines had me feeling better than I did in years. I ran out of it on Friday, September 15th, and this new cheaper medicine isn’t hacking it; I think i’ve seen placebos work better than this. I’ve already had two episodes at work where I had to go lock myself in a dark room to get away from all the lights and noise, and it’s only been a week and a half. in that same time span, i’ve had three days (out of four in this case) where I had to take two Vicodin in the same day. I’ve only been taking Vicodin for eight months, but until last week I only had two episodes in those eight months where I had to take two pills in one day, and now I had three of them in one week? My change of scenery idea is starting to look really appealing to me. this way, nobody will be there to see the huge fall from grace. I just have to learn how to drive by the end of the semester, or maybe January.

10-04-06: My head is having one of those days-again. I don’t know how I still have the enthusiasm for this. I feel like i’m being thrown into a boxing ring to fight a great big over-sized gorilla every day, and I always go running out there with this “Go get em’,tiger!” attitude, and all it takes is one good pounding headache to kill it.
10-28-06: last night…
was the most fun i’ve had in a long time. I went to my usual karaoke spot., the Robin Hood, and they had their costume contest for Halloween going on since it falls on a Tuesday this year. I showed up dressed as death as usual, and found another good theme to go with it. I’ve done Frankenstein sings Frank Sinatra before, but I think topped even that. My first song I put in was “Don’t Fear The Reaper”, and most people didn’t know it was me because I usually start out screaming either “Walking On Sunshine” or the Sex Pistols “My Way”. The one that brought the roof down had to be my high pitch rendition of “Stayin’ Alive”, that was really fun. I was doing this goofy lookin’ disco dance, there were other people dancing in front of me, and everybody had a blast. I also did Wanted Dead Or Alive, Alive (Pearl Jam, not POD), and Bohemian Rhapsody, where I had a guy dressed as the devil singing backups, and another regular helping out on a third mic. I really only picked that one since it starts out “Mama, just killed a man….”, but that one helped liven the place up right before the costume contest. I didn’t stand a chance in the contest since there were so many extravagant ones (the devil, The Cat in the Hat, for starters), but it was so much fun that most of the crowd stayed until close, and that was probably because most, like me, didn’t realize time was flying by so fast. I’ve never seen it that busy there, or at least not since the statewide indoor smoking ban forced the smokers to go outside. Lately, it’s been more like a 4-6 person karaoke concert. Hopefully it’ll stay this lively there since we all had so much fun.
11-27-06: That new improved ‘brighter” perspective I started the semester with seems to have suffered a massive power outage. It’s only fitting, surviving this semester has been like enduring an 8.0 earthquake, and that would do alot more than just a power outage. in the last two months i’ve had an accidental prescription overdose that took 7 days for me to catch onto, that left me really weak & exhausted. Then I had that weird illness where my tonsils were somehow sending fluid to my ears, that really screwed up my balance. there was the incident at the bar where I thought I was gonna get blown up by that propane heater getting knocked over & I did nothing to save myself. I just sat there thinking, “Oh well, no more migraines”. That incident put so many questions into my head that it took a little over a week to get my nerves back to semi-normality. I was so shaky afterwards I thought i’d need an anti-anxiety medication.My brother, who was staying at my pregnant sister’s place, had a meltdown & wound up checking into St. Francis for a week to put his head back together. So he got out last Monday, and now he’s staying with me & Kevin. Everything’s going cool except for one thing-he lives on myspace, and the computer is rigvht next to my bed. It’s going to be intersting tryign to go to sleep at a normal hour tonight since I have to get up at 6:15 a.m., and I get home around 9 p.m. I am such a light sleeper that if someone opens my door i’ll wake up.Can you imagine how hard it would be to stay asleep with someone typing on the keyboard right next to me? I might have one thing going for me this time-the electrical storm in my brain was so bad today that I took a Vicodin at 1 p.m., and another at 4:30. Maybe all those meds will leave me dopey enough to go out like a light when I get home.

12-20-06: Reinventing Dangard-Attempt number two
I nearly failed in my first objective to rebuild myself for the new year. I have now made it 7 days without a cigarette, but I got the strongest urge of the week earlier today simply from pure boredom. If the weather had been worse as they originally projected, I don’t think I would’ve taken a 20-minute walk to Walgreens for snacks. I would’ve stopped at the gas station not even ten minutes away, and i’m sure I would’ve bought cigarettes instead since their snacks are so expensive. Ironically, I spent $12 on snacks between Walgreens and 7-11, but at least I didn’t buy cigarettes. If I still had stuff to keep my mind busy, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but with no school, no work, and nothing going on online,I could’nt help getting bored. I’ve got enough snacks to last awhile, so I dont’ see this happening again.
As long as i’m already on this subject, I might as well post my entire plan for rebuilding me. there’s a number of things I need to accomplish before I can get the old me back. For instance-

1-I need to find a better way to handle stress. I don’t need to be consuming three 32 oz. pitchers of Laughing Lab and a Jager Bomb every Friday night. I’ve gotta stay away from the cigarettes too, as much as I love my menthol lights, they probably cost me that karaoke contest last month. I had won to get into the finals singing Bohemian Rhapsody two weeks earlier, but when I tried it again at the finals, my voice was so raspy from all the smoking, I couldn’t do it as good as before. Finding another way to kill the boredom would help, but I don’t know what to do about that yet.

2-Take better care of my very slowly healing head. I want to get an MRI done to get more of an idea of how much damage i’ve really done to my brain. Maybe I wouldn’t push myself so hard if I stopped getting CAT scans that came back normal. I have to get more control over the headaches somehow if I ever want to return to school. I had at least a dozen episodes ( I didn’t bother counting, it’s probably more) where I had to go hide in the dark, cover my ears, and close my eyes, and just wait for the painkiller to kick in. I also had two episodes where a headache actually made me cry-one during graduation week where I almost snapped and went God knows where, and another two weeks ago after my fall down the stairs. If this says anything, the previous two times where I cried occurred in 2001 and 1989, so that doesn’t happen easily. I don’t like having to take Vicodin and have my head up in the clouds to fight the pain, but it’s the only effective method i’ve found so far. I want to find another way to combat them.

3-I WANT MY SPARK BACK! I don’t know where the hell it went, but I want it back. I liked the being the happy, perky fun guy that lit up the room just by being there. It was probably a combination of everything going wrong so close together in a short amount of time, just like in 2001. The change occurred so fast that when I met an agent at the karaoke bar in August, he was so impressed with me that he wanted to use my personality for a marketing campaign. Now, here I am four months later, and i’m nothing like the guy he met. I don’t think I could pull it off right now, but i’d like to try, so i’m gonna have to find a way to get the old me back. that brings up the next one-

4-Save up money to either go back to school or go to California to try becoming a celebrity. I think that agent could work wonders with me, he knows his stuff, I just don’t know if i’m ready to give up on school yet. although, i’ve also got an idea for a movie I want to write, so I might explore that out there too.
So, for anyone wondering , where did the old Dangard go? I will be back, and when the old me returns, you’ll know. I’ll ditch the dark, dreary grey background i’ve got on my myspace and replace it with something kind of “happy perky la la la!” looking (Thanks, Leah!). I just need a little time to put my head back together, just like in 2001 when I had that three month span where I got promoted, had a close encounter with a bear on the way home, was nearly electrocuted at work, my mom died, and then 9/11 happened. I’m still too impaired to even bend over and tie my shoes without getting a head rush, and I don’t think I can work yet, but I went through that three years ago, so I know it’ll all get better, just give me time.
One positive development that happened after my injury-I started writing more humorous blogs. I got out three good ones in a five day span:

12-23-06: Weather Update
I guess everyone outside of Colorado Springs probably saw that we had a big blizzard this week, since it even made the national news. Locally ,thanks to one of our local news stations, we had constant, non-stop coverage of this storm starting in the early afternoon. For those of you who missed it, it all went something like this-

“We’re bringing you non-stop coverage of this very serious storm, all day long. It’s cold, windy and snowy outside, and we’re gonna spend the next several hours here in the studio rehashing that basic subject over and over, with live reports every ten minutes.”
Ten minutes later:
“Next, we’ll go live to Poor Frozen Bastard, who’s outside in the cold on the north side of town. Can you hear us out there, Poor Frozen Bastard?”

“Yes, I can hear you guys in the studio, although it’s difficult, it’s very windy. It’s cold, windy, and snowy out here. The snow is really accumulating.”
“So what you’re telling us is that it’s cold, windy, and snowy outside?”
“Yes, that’s correct,. it’s cold, windy and snowy out here. Don’t leave home unless you absolutely have to. Back to you guys in the studio.”
“O.K., that was a live report from Poor Frozen Bastard, and it is cold, windy, and snowy outside. now we’re gonna spend the next ten minutes telling you that it’s cold, windy, and snowy outside, we’ll show you videotaped footage of how bad it is outside, and then we’ll go to a live report from The Human Popsicle on the east side of town, who’s outside, in the cold, wind, and snow.”
Ten minutes later-
“Now we go live to The Human Popsicle, can you hear us over all that wind?”
“Yeah, this is The Human Popsicle, reporting live from the east side of town. It is cold, windy, and snowy out here, and the snow is really accumulating.”
“O.K., thank you for that live report, Human Popsicle. Now we’re gonna spend ten minutes telling you that it’s cold, windy, and snowy, and show you videotaped footage of how bad it is. Then we’ll go to a live report from Another Frozen Reporter, except this time it’ll be a woman, and she’s on the west side of town.”
Ten minutes later:
“Can you hear us out there, Another Frozen Reporter?”
“Yes, I can hear you. I have to tell you guys, you won’t believe this-but it’s cold, windy, and snowy out here. I would suggest staying inside if possible; in fact, i’d even go so far as to say, don’t leave home unless it’s an emergency.”
“O.K., thank you for that live report, Another Frozen Reporter. Next up during our live coverage of The Holiday Blizzard, we’re gonna show you videotaped footage of all the chaos this storm is causing, and we’re gonna tell you that it’s cold, windy, and snowy outside. After about ten minutes of that, we’ll go to a live report from Stupid Freezing Schmuck, who’s outside on the south end of town in the cold, wind, and snow to keep us up to date on what this very dangerous storm is doing.”
Ten minutes later:
“Yeah, this is Stupid Freezing Schmuck on the south end of town, and i’m here to tell you, it is cold, windy, and snowy out here. Do not leave your home unless absolutely necessary, because this storm is dumping alot of snow.”
“O.K., that’s it for our variety of reporters, so we’ll just keep going back to those same reporters braving the bad weather every ten minutes so we can tell you that it’s cold, windy, and snowy outside.”
It was like that for hours, what a waste! Do these people think we don’t know how to look outside our windows? I can look out the window and go, “It’s cold, windy, and snowy, I shouldn’t leave home.” but no, they had to spend hours on end telllng us the same message over and over. Most of you know that expression “beating a dead horse,” right? This wasn’t just beating a dead horse, this was the equivalent of zooming in on the horse’s face to show you it’s not breathing, and then tying it by it’s tail to the back of a pickup truck, and then dragging it for 85 miles. Oh yeah, and my other gripe-
Do they really need to put more than one reporter in harm’s way to tell us the obvious? I saw how many abandoned cars were still out on the side of the roads today, they could’ve easily been stuck out there just like anyone else. maybe next time they could just use live traffic camera feeds; the shot they showed from the I-25 exit to Woodmen made it perfectly clear, no one was getting anywhere anytime soon. Watching that traffic camera for hours would’ve been more entertaining.

12-26-06: The Star Wars Rant
One of my friends just told me he hadn’t seen or heard this yet, so if I don’t know you from PPCC, you might want to read this and have a laugh.
Back when the Student Center was located on the opposite end of the school, where no one could find it, we had almost no traffic. The majority of the students would come to the Student Center to get their new student ID, and then never come back until graduation time, which was only because we handled the caps and gowns. They would forget it was there because it was so far away.
So, what did that leave us for traffic? The only people who hung out there were the Star Wars/anime/magic cards crowd. they were all into Star Wars, anime, and magic cards, and that was all i’d ever hear them discussing. Never any talk of “i’m doing this for this class” or ” I scored this on my test”, it was always, “Star Wars, anime, magic cards”, over and over and over.
The only problem I had with them was this-
Sometimes one of them would see me siting behind the desk, dressed in all black, with glasses on, and just assume, “Oh, well he must be one of us “(this is funnier to hear me say, because I do it in my nerdiest voice). And then they’d come up to me and start talking-
“Star Wars, anime, magic cards, Star Wars, anime, magic cards, bla bla bla. I had this dream where I was a storm trooper…”. Everything in me wanted to explode like Sam Kinison and unleash a salvo of foul language, something like, “Do I really look i’m just sitting here going, “Gee, I hope one of these Star Wars fucks comes over here and starts talking Star Wars to me, because I love hearing people ramble on about something I don’t give a shit about. If the black clothing and glasses fooled you that easily, i’m sorry I don’t have a green mohawk and a “STAY THE FUCK AWAY” t-shirt, but they might not like that so much here.”
“I’m sorry, I got sidetracked, how can I help you, you Star Wars fuck?” Unfortunately,that wasn’t an option since I worked there and had to deal with these people every day anyways.

12-28-06: ESL Dating Site Reply: The Original

I love receiving replies on dating sites from people who live in another country and can barely even speak English. When English is their second language, the sender usually ends up creating some of the most interesting combinations of words. Check out this probably bogus one I got today from a woman named lovestar222. the message didn’t even come up in my inbox in the site so I know it’s a spoof. This is why I was mean enough to use English as a second language when I sent her a reply. Here is her actual e-mail and my reply that follows:

Hello my dearest new friend,

Hello my dearest new friend,
it give me a great pleassure to contact you after viewing your profile which
interest me in having communication with you so that we can get to know each
other and see what happened if you will have the desire with me,i wil be very
happy if you can write me through my email for easiest communication.here is my
email : i will be waiting to hear from you through my
email so i can tell you more about my self and send you my look to know who is
communicating with you. take care of your self and i wish you happy day. yours
new friend.
I LOVE YOU
cynthia
So, to make a long story short, here is the reply I sent to her:

Many greetings to my newest dear friend,
It is with great sorrow and many hurtings of heart that I am to tellings of you profile of yours is not findings on site. I would like to have to having the desires with you, but you are not appearing to be seen on site of this. I am guessing this e-mail is only way of making the contact with you, so cannot I making the visual viewings of picture of yours. So, tellings to me of self of you, you are international student, no? I must be goings to the places of my travels, so until the next communication we make, I must say happy departures for the now.
Much talkings in future conversing,
Dan

The Scenic Route, Part II

I was once so sure that I was going to become a psychiatrist, the original title of this blog entry was The Book. Why did it have that name? Because it was going to be my only book. Now i’ve published two of them, I have about 100 pages of the third one finished, and there’s probably going to be a fourth one that’ll be done before this one ever gets published.

This one isn’t going to be published until i can put the happy ending into the story. What kind of comeback story is it if I simply go from being brain injured to working for minimum wage at a fast food restaurant? That’s just not the kind of awe-inspiring story that’ll make people want to pick up a book. Luckily, in spite of the fact that i’m nowhere near close to even finishing my associates degree, something else came along & turned into my only sign of hope.

In December 2006, after another head injury forced me out of school, I started a funny blog series that grew a cult following. I was on this dating site, and i got an e-mail written in such badly broken English, it made me think, “What if I wrote back in broken English?” it turned out to be so funny, I had to share it with my friends. So, my friends started sharing it with their friends, and the next thing I knew, I suddenly had a biggest fan in England! I wasn’t even aiming outside my home town, let alone another country! That blew me away, and that’s when i knew I was on to something.

After about two years, I reached the point where I had so much material, I decided to put it together into a book. I gave it the title The E.S.L. Dating Diaries: A Collection of Broken English Love Letters. As I was writing these replies, I discovered that I was simply writing to con artists who make fake profiles & try to dupe people into sending them money. So, ‘the game” became to look for fake profiles, reach out to them, and trick them into wasting their time on me. I was making people laugh, raising public awareness of a very hidden problem, it looked like an all around win scenario.

In 2009, after realizing I had enough material for a book, that became the next route I decided to take. I realized that if i could make this sell, i’d be getting paid to make people laugh, raise public awareness of romance scams, and put some con artists out of business. In a strange twist of irony, I fell for the biggest fake literary agency out there while looking for an agent to represent me & my work.

After that incident, i decided to just leave my work in my own hands, and do all the work myself. I made pages on Myspace, facebook, Blogspot, Twitter, and now I even have esldatingdiaries.com, and theforum.esldatingdiaries.com. I started gaining momentum in 2010, I was doing readings at local literary events, and I even did a book signing on June 23,2010.

Five days after the signing, my next unlucky break came. I re-injured my head in a freak accident at work. To this day, I still don’t know what it was, since I was uninsured. I had a sudden fall, and I was so lost & confused that I didn’t even know I was falling until right before I hit the ground. I had no time to catch myself, it was as simple as, “I’m falling? WHAM!!!!”

i assumed it was just a simple concussion since i’d had so many of those before. I figured I just needed a few days of rest, maybe a week or two at the most. I tried to go back to work three days later, but it just wasn’t happening. The more time i spent on my feet, the more the pressure built up in my head. It only took about an hour of carhopping for me to realize I needed time off. If I couldn’t spend an hour on my feet, how long was this recovery going to take? i still tried to be an optimist, but time just dragged on & on, and I just got worse. It reached the point where I was in bed & asleep for at least 12 hours a day 3-4 times a week. I couldn’t even stay on my feet long enough to try job hunting. I slept a personal record of 19 hours in one day three times in a span of a year while I was recovering. The first time I think it was related to my medicine. I was trying to find the right number of pills, & I wound up falling asleep around midnight on a Friday night, and waking up at 7 p.m. on Saturday. I was so sure I was a goner, I rushed through publishing my second book, and it looked bad. It was written in blog voice, and it had a hastily put together guide for spotting fake profiles in it. I felt that was essential to helping put romance scammers out of business. If people knew how to spot their profiles, they would at least have some sign that the person they are talking to is fake.

By the time I finally started making progress in staying on my feet, it had been almost a year since the accident. To give you better idea of exactly how long it was, the accident happened on June 28, 2010. I finally convinced another restaurant to hire me on June 13, 2011. Neither of the restaurants where I had a combined 12 years of experience were willing to give me another chance. They probably just didn’t want to see me re-injure my brain again.

After I got back to work & got a steady income coming in again, I went right back to work on my writing. I re-published both books, but with alot of fine tuning. I added the dots between the ESL in the title, I revised the guide for spotting fake profiles, and put it in both books. I even added the Nigerian bank scam e-mail replies I’ve written, and added a few more previously unpublished letters to make it even bigger.

Of course it didn’t take long to have something throw me off course from this comeback. I re-injured my head in a hit & run accident nine days before Christmas in 2011. I was lucky it was rather minor, I only missed four days of work this time. I’m still not entirely comfortable trying to sweep under things at work, but at least i’m still functional.

I feel like i’m a little closer to having all of my ducks in a row finally. I’m going to spend the next two years working my tail off to get things moving. I’m going to sort of connect together all of the various pages relating to the book: esldatingdiaries.com, the forum, Facebook, Myspace, Blogspot, Twitter, WordPress, and YouTube. I still have advertising credits to use thanks to GoDaddy, and I plan on starting that next month right on my birthday. It’s one of those rare years where a payday just happens to fall on my birthday, and i’m giving myself an awesome birthday gift. I’m hoping i’ll have the money to take some books to my birthday party to give out, but i’m not counting on that yet.

The Scenic Route

This is absolutely not where I planned on being in life in 2013. It hasn’t been all bad, but I will admit my luck has made me sort of afraid of success. It seems like anytime I get even close to taking my life in the right direction, some sort of disaster happens & causes me to start all over again. Sometimes it takes a disaster to get pointed in the right direction, and that’s how I got started on what I’d call the scenic route.

I’ve always had horrible luck with concussions. I had my first three in a span of ten months when I was 13. I suffered my 8th one when I was 17, and it was in the life changing variety. I still know the exact date: it was October 5th, 1992. My friends & I played football every day at lunch, rain or shine, we didn’t care. We didn’t use helmets or pads, or any of that safety crap, we didn’t care. It was wasn’t like any of us played on the actual team at Wasson, we had no reason to worry about getting injured.

I was always the tall, skinny, scrawny guy who just wasn’t as skilled as the rest of the guys, it took some overachieving for me to accomplish anything on the field. On one particular play, it was thirds down & ten, all of the other receivers were covered, I was the only option to throw to. A short pass was thrown my way, and I wanted that first down so bad, I was willing to do anything to get it. A guy who used to play linebacker for Palmer was running right at me, and i decided I was going to hurdle over this bigger, faster, stronger player to get that first down. I actually almost made it because he was trying to go easy on me. I got into an all out sprint & i jumped up so high, my knee clipped his shoulder.

i went down head first, at sprinting speed, and the impact was so loud, I was absolutely certain there was a car accident right next to us! From what i’ve heard, my head hit the ground, I bounced forward, hit someone’s knee with my head, and then ricocheted off the ground again. I remember laying there thinking, “somebody needs to go check on those people, that accident sounded bad”. I couldn’t do it though, I was just laying there not knowing what was wrong. After about a minute I found myself thinking, “Was that my head? That couldn’t be the case, I’d really be hurting if I landed on my head”. I immediately got this jolt of pain that ran up my spine & into my brain, i’d never felt anything like it!

I was somehow able to walk off the field, and I tried just sitting out for one play. I went back in after they couldn’t convert on first down, so they threw me the ball again on second down. The only problem was, when I went to catch the ball, only one side responded to my brain’s command to use my hands! That’s when I knew something was wrong : I tried to catch the ball like I normally would, but my right side was unresponsive!  I went in to go see the school nurse, and i wound up getting sent home. After a couple of hours laying on the couch,  I suddenly realized that I had regained the feeling on my right side. It turned out there was big lump on my spine; I had a spinal contusion, but neither myself or the nurse would have thought of checking my spine after a head injury.

My brain has been about as brittle as a crystal chandelier ever since that incident. I’ve averaged about a concussion per year since then, and that’s if you call the other four TBI’s in that time frame a “concussion”. The concussions haven’t been the only obstacle though. I spent most of 1999 drinking twice a week after discovering I could actually sing. I started out doing heavy metal songs, but I wrote in frank Sinatra’s “Witchcraft” as a joke one day, and actually pulled it off! I figured people would see the title & think, “Oh great, more metal”. Instead, it went so well, I started doing normal music instead of yelling & screaming. I started out just drinking two beers per night. By the time I quit, I was staying five hours, and drinking two pitchers, two bottles, two pints, two shots, & two mixed drinks. Amazingly, I only had one night that left me waking up the next day going, “I’m home? How did I get home? I don’t even remember leaving the bar. That last thing I remember it was 12:30, there should still be an hour & a half of karaoke left”.

I quit drinking & smoking for my Y2K resolution, and I kept the resolution for eight months. I went back to work for a restaurant I loved, and we turned our location into their flagship store in a matter of months. I re-joined them on February 29th, and by summertime we were their training store. I can’t even count how many GM’s we trained there; at one point, we had three trainees, and two of them became GM’s right after leaving.

After about a year, I got bored, and felt like I had hit the proverbial wall at work. I took a promotion to another of their stores, and that was when the series of disasters started. Two weeks after the promotion, I had a very close encounter with a bear on the way home.Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any scars to show off from it. However, when it’s 3 a.m., obviously pitch dark outside, there’s a bear not even 30 seconds away, and i smell like a hamburger, it’s easy to assume that i’m a goner.

 A month after that, I was nearly electrocuted at work. There was a torrential rainstorm going on, and a leak in the ceiling sent water running though the roof. It started running down a cord that hung from the ceiling & plugged into one of the heat lamps. I was afraid one of the stoners on my crew would get themselves electrocuted trying to stop it, so I ran over to unplug it. I pulled the cord & quickly looked away so I wouldn’t have to see myself getting fried.By the time i turned my head back around, there was water dripping off the metal prongs that were just in the wall.

In August of 2001, my mom caught us all off guard when she suddenly got pneumonia, wound up with a blood clot in her lung, and died suddenly after only a couple of days in the intensive care unit. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.I put in my notice that I was going to quit & take some time off to put my head back together. I had been working 55 hours a week because we only had myself & the GM as managers at this store, so I could afford a short break.

i didn’t expect the next disaster that happened on September 11th. I didn’t even know anyone hurt or killed on 9/11, but with all the other stress I had going on, that pushed me over the edge. by the time I quit, I had reached the point where my hands were shaking as I was counting down the drawers at the end of the night. I did make a difference in that store, I could see it clearly, I had a whole crew that ran as hard as I did. I just needed to take some time off, put my head back together, and basically go, “O.K., now what?”

I knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in fast food. A year managing at the best in the business helped me see that even that wouldn’t be fulfilling enough for me, I needed to do something big.That was when I gave myself the best advice I could give anybody in that situation. I still find myself saying this to high school graduates: find something to do that you enjoy doing so much, you could do it for the rest of your life& never complain.

It was then that I decided to go get my GED, and go back to school. I went back to working at the restaurant that i helped turn into a training store, but as a crew member this time so I could devote all of my free time to studying for the GED. I spent six months reading the 300+ page book that I bought, from cover to cover.I took the test in June 2002 when i finally felt comfortable enough to feel like I could meet my expectations. I wound up scoring 3050, and I found out that if I had taken it at PPCC, I would’ve gotten a $1000 scholarship for scoring over 3000.

It was then that I decided i was going to go to college and study to become a psychiatrist. The comeback story would be awesome: I blew off high school because I though my band  was gonna become the next Pantera. We never even made it out of the basement. I just never thought about what to do after that until my mom died.  I guess I can credit her with helping me find some direction.
 I wound up finding out on the Friday before the start of the Fall 2003 semester that I had been approved for financial aid. I wound signing up for Psychology 101, English 121, vocal performance, and Pre-Algebra 060. I felt reborn when I first stepped off the bus & walked through those double doors. Everything seemed perfectly set up, but I couldn’t even imagine the next disaster that would slow me down.  I ‘ll start with that story on the next blog entry.