Eighteen months ago I made a startling discovery that changed my life.
Not only my future life but also my past life. Or at least the past eighteen or nineteen years of it.
I’ll tell you about that shortly but first I want to say that this is not taken from a diary. I don’t have exact records of what happened when, though I suppose my doctors’ records would give me some clues to that. But it isn’t important to date these events. What I present here is an overview, though I have tried to get the chronology right, where possible.
Many times, since around the year 2000, I have said to a variety of doctors things which, knowing what I know now, should have alerted them to the fact that there was something drastically wrong.
Most recently, I had told one doctor that it “felt like my mind was dislocated”. That was probably the best thing I could say to try to explain how I felt. His response, just a few years ago, was “You cannot dislocate your mind.”
Of course, I already knew that and I wasn’t saying I had dislocated it. But that was how it felt. Like my mind was slightly out of line with where it should be; with where it used to be. The doctor made no suggestion of how I could address this feeling. I was disappointed, because I knew there must be a way. If only somebody could just put their hands inside my head and click things back into place.
Ten to twelve years ago, I went through a period of getting ‘knocked out’. I played amateur sports and was at the back end of my career – I was probably several years too old to be playing, but I enjoyed it. I had never, though, been knocked out before. The only experience I had of concussion dated back to when I started high school, aged eleven. I remember there was a sand pit that had been left by some workmen working on the school’s brickwork. It looked just like a long jump pit; but it wasn’t and the sand turned out to be rock hard, as I found out when I long-jumped into it, landed on my heels and fell backward, cracking the back of my head on the sand.
In a daze, I wandered round for the rest of the lunch hour, not quite knowing where I was, though I knew my surroundings looked familiar. Eventually I wandered into and office and was immediately sent to hospital, where I spent three days. I sometimes wonder if I ever fully recovered from that bump on the head, though, to be fair I think the general confusion did not stay with me throughout my youth.
But it certainly came back. That feeling of wandering round not quite knowing where I was, in vaguely familiar surroundings fits perfectly to how I felt during those long eighteen or nineteen years.
But, I was telling you about the four concussions in a few short years.
Three were suffered playing sport. The fourth came when I walked through a line of people, queuing for their coats in a nightclub, only to find out, as I stepped through the line, that there were three steps down to the dance floor on the other side of the queue. Three steps I did not see and did not step on. Instead, I ended up taking a long step onto a slightly slippery dance floor. My foot slid forward and I ended up flat on my back, cracking my head on the bottom step. Another trip to hospital ensued.
You may wonder what all this has to do with anything at all. Well… the point is, as I said to more than one doctor, I wasn’t totally surprised I kept getting knocked out because every day I felt like I was on the verge of unconsciousness. For those nineteen or so years, I was always ‘almost unconscious’, Looking back, it seems like I was ‘punch drunk’. Wandering around in a semi-dazed state, like my eleven year old self. Of course, this made no sense to the doctors and, as I always did, when they rationalised, I accepted and rationalised with them. After all, I wasn’t crazy.
The Distant Voice
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