Pre-Injury: Everything Was Perfect and Other Great Lies
I’m recovering from a brain injury. But there’s more to me than that.
I lie in bed, in that space between sleep and awake. With no energy to read, or watch Netflix, there is nothing for me to do, but allow my brain and body to rest, heal: do its thing. With endless days like this and an abundance of time, my mind wanders to my pre-injury life.
On the wall opposite my bed are hundreds of printed photos from my Instagram account. I originally created the collage to prompt memories, regain the missing parts of me. Now when I see my familiar face staring back at me, I’m taunted: who is that happy, joyful, free person? Her life was wonderful. Why can’t I just be her again?
As pre-injury Sarah drifts away with time, I forget the exact details of my previous life. The memories blur. I imagine: pre-injury Sarah was happy, content, everything went her way. Sarah had a life, she had fun and, above all, every day was fucking amazing. With each passing day, it becomes easier to pretend everything was perfect back then.
Looking back to the wall, I think a little harder on pre-injury life. More details emerge: I was not always happy, things didn’t always go my way, I had my challenges. I was newly divorced, heartbroken, figuring out my new solo life. I had chronic back and neck pain from a couple of bike crashes. I had no idea what to do with myself nor my future. I was living one day at a time.
Ironically, life hasn’t changed much now: I’m still living one day at a time. A part of me knows I’m idolizing the past, concocting an artificial reality. This is the great lie: When I am well, I will be happy.
As if wellness and physical health will guarantee happiness. What are memories but a selection of handpicked moments we chose to reinforce? I’ve done this before: idolizing past relationships. Of course, my ex-husband was perfect. I’d only remember his good traits and forget entirely why we parted ways in the first place. I guess, that’s a part of grieving, a mind in denial.
Still I keep doing it. But why delude myself? For the comfort it brings me: imagining the past as perfect makes my reality more bearable – there was a time when I was happy, pain-free, invincible and immortal, even. And this past is what I pine for, a distorted reality.
All this idolizing is not good for me, I want it to stop. It makes me suffer unnecessarily and deny the good things about my present. If only I can pull my head out of the past and back to the moment. Recovery from brain injury is not easy, yet it’s not all bad. I am safe, I am loved and looked after. I have shelter, food, clothing and friends. I have support and help from medical professionals. And above all my health is improving, one day at a time.
I lie back down, waiting for the long minutes to pass, time allowing my brain to heal. These facts, the small improvements, this present reality, for now is enough.
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