Brain Tumor/Surgery My Recovery Story: Chapter 5 - "Freak Out vs Mo' Better"
One of the things which freaked me out the most was my having my general physician tell me before the surgery that I could anticipate a personality shift. I thought to myself—”Oh, my God it has taken me decades to finally like my self and like my personality, quirks and all. So it can’t shift now—especially to something / someone I don’t even like. Someone hateful, angry or depressed. I was bumming with this thought for a few days when a light bulb went on in my brain. This light bulb said “WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE BAD OR LESS THAN” . A change doesn’t necessarily have to mean worse, right? So to convince my self of this truth I would recite and share my new mantra “ Me going to be mo’better”.
When I came home I tried to make sure I was Mo’ better. Within days of being home I started to do brain teasers, Soduku and all types of puzzles. The first thing I noticed was that I felt more confident and I could do these tasks better. I was kinda curious to the Why? Slowly I realized that the little voice inside of me which had nagged at me most of my life and quite frequently said “You are stupid, you can’t do this, you should have already have the task correctly completed. The Blah, Blah, Blah was gone. Now there was an ease to which I did things, all the negative judgment I had about myself appeared gone. Further more, now that the judgment was MIA, I actually could do Sudoku and other types of brain teasers and have fun.
Out of boredomand the knowledge that my sister who is the supreme being of picture- puzzle -putter - together was coming to stay with us again for a few days. I asked my husband to go out and get a simple picture puzzle… with a big emphasis on simple.
Over three decades of married life we never put together a picture puzzle. He brought home one that was so cute, a pyramid of dogs with a cat on top. However, it was anything but simple. A 1000 piece puzzle and all pieces had a flat edge. Gosh, just looking at it was enough to start driving me over the edge. Then I breathed and became centered and realized it was only for fun… no worries. Subsequently we ended up having to start in the center and work our way out. But with my sister’s help we actually put it together and had fun .
Since there was an ease to which I did things and furthermore now that my personal judgment was MIA, I could actually have fun. So fun was another element that shifted in my personality. I could have fun, spontaneous crazy goofy fun. I found everything hilarious. I made jokes for one… me and sometimes two. I cracked myself up all the time. I was now beginning to think this personality shift definitely had an up side.
By the by, did I tell you that for the first few weeks when ever I shut my eyes all I saw was fractured puzzle animal cracker colored light. Pink and white...Very trippy, most psychedelic!
The first half was written very effortlessly. I just hand wrote it in a journal and drew in the pictures. I tried to write the second half a couple of times in the same fashion and ended up in tears. It just wasn’t coming. I thought I lost “IT”. I was working myself up to a real depression because I felt I wouldn’t be able to finish the book. I just could not remember tthings or write things down that I did remember. Fears of losing short term memory started to kick in. I started to spiral into a dark place. Thankfully another light bulb went off. “It wasn’t that I couldn’t write the second half of my story, it was that I couldn’t write it in the same way.” That compulsive need for patterns was trying to regain control. Suddenly I realized that there was no law written in stone which dictated that I had to structure the second half of the book as I did the first. I did not need to even write it in the same fashion. Once I allowed myself to step into this reality, I became unchained to that old pattern.
As I became less frightened of the changes the surgery might have made in my personality. I looked at other things which had shifted. Another shift was that I was no longer obsessive / compulsive. When I shared this realization with some friends, their response was “What? You obsessive/ compulsive?” I thought to myself, what reality were they living in? Hello, friends this is Barbara! Then I realized part off that trait was to hide that trait so no one saw it. I made the obsessive disorder appear natural…normal. I did things so other people wouldn’t. I now realized that I did all of these things so that I could have control over everything. Even the simplest task— the arrangement of the silver in the silver ware drawer was something that must have an order; which towels went on which shelf, how they were folded etc. etc. etc. .
End Chapter Six
"Change does not mean for the worse."
I am ARIES, born under the sign of the RAM, the Sun my ruling planet. I am not afraid! I face change with open arms —— HARDLY :) That is the bravado I put on for myself and others. Up until this event I would always PUT on a smile and in a high falsetto voice, squeak out through gritted teeth, “BRING IT ON”. Change is good—Right! Everyone always says that and although I didn’t believe it I would through terror filled and dread glazed eyes nod in agreement.
In my experiential frame work, change was always connected with this knee jerk response of panic. Only through experiencing this event was I able to break that pattern. I consciously used the fear created by the doctor’s words… “You will experience a personality shift” to gain the strength and determination to break out of this pattern. Through the horrific images of who I might become, I found the strength and courage to not only identify a new framework but the motivation to embrace it completely, thus obliterating the paradigm which had encased me my whole life...Change is bad. Now, for me this framework has shifted, so change has become neither good or bad – rather an opportunity for new beginnings.
"Fun is a good thing. Laughter is even better. "
Before the surgery I hadn’t realized how driven I had become. How everything I did had to have a point and of course a forward movement toward a goal. Through this experience I relearned that fun is not about forward movement, it is about relishing the moment, being so absorbed that there is no control over the body... the laugher just spontaneously swells up until lthe body shakes, the belly aches, the nose snorts and one collapses helplessly on the ground. Sure I had fun and laughter in my life prior to the surgery… but it was a grown-ups-safe kind of thing. I had forgotten how to play. Words like glee, delight, surprise and magic had lost their correlation to fun. I had forgotten the fun of leaves, dirt and fairy dust. I was more concerned about raking up the leaves and controlling the dirt then the magic.
I had grown up. Nestled and intertwined in my girlish friends arms giggling uncontrollably had transformed into “Doing Lunch”. Fun had become a job well done or equal to accomplishment. During my recovery I began to see fun and laughter as a sign post. On my healthiest days fun was the guiding force. I would take a look at my body and feel a connect flow between myself and the universe, between the cells, between the heart beat. I knew at those moments that this happiness, this joy made my cells, my micondriach happy and when they were happy they did a happy dance and I healed faster.
"Honor your feelings, all of them, and you may find that you just will heal faster and in ways you could not have imagined."
Got to tell you. When I got home from the hospital during the first few weeks I was also highly concerned that I could have lost a few marbles and I wanted to know which ones. I established that I wasn’t drooling, grateful that I could feed myself and knew I was I; but could I still think and reason? As I told you before I started to test myself – so for the first couple of days I focused on doing lots of puzzles and taking tests… which was good. At one point I even went online and took an IQ test. I remember being crushed with the results and started to cry on my husband’s shoulder. “Gary, I took an IQ test and it says I am not a genius – sobbing I ask him “What is wrong with me? Why didn’t I get a genius score”... Thank fully he didn’t even smirk… whatever he said made me laugh even as I was saying ...but I got 100% correct in Math, Logic and Language” – what silliness, but at that moment in time being smart was really important.
This is where I learned two important lessons – first, when you are mending nothing is silly… nothing is foolish. It is all part of the process. And second, trying to make rational in a world created by out of balance energy is foolish. At that moment in time it didn’t matter that the thoughts I had weren’t relevant or rationale, if my husband had addressed them at all we would have been enveloped in a crazy-making new world. What my husband did was to honor how I was feeling and stay far far far away from my question. By not focusing on the world I had in an instant created, he helped me unlock the trap of illusion. Immediately, unworthy feelings of fear, ridicule and shame which had created the need of being smart floated away on the sweet breeze of laughter… they disappeared like husks of grain,
leaving behind the valued seeds.
As those thoughts were honored and blew away, I realized that the tumor had been affecting my right front lobe; the land of intuition and creativity and in another instant I realized the big whoops. I had been testing the wrong skill set. As I howled in laughter I fervently started to plan my art and creative writing projects…. Freedom to create was unleashed with the removal of BOTH the tumor and the world of illusion I had just created.