To be honest, though I’d already told Michelle to stay at the office, I was dying for some company in the emergency room. I'd been through it once before all by myself, and I didn't want to have to soldier through it again all alone. Besides, I didn't have a strong enough cell signal to take any of the calls that were coming in from close friends and family on the East Coast, and having lived on the West Coast for only six months, I couldn't think of anyone local to ask to come visit.
Even when my boss texted me that she was coming, I told her not to. Why did I feel compelled to martyr myself, when I so desperately needed help? Was it the embarrassment of what Michelle had already witnessed? The guilt over having to be taken care of by people who really don't know me that well yet?
Or just the resignation that set in a long time ago, in childhood, that I was the only one who could help myself? Ever since I can remember, I always insisted on taking care of my own problems. I dug splinters out of my own leg. I rocked myself to sleep. I wiped my own tears. I spent weeks alone in bed, recuperating from some illness or another, my germophobic mother terrified of getting infected.
But when my boss - who'd been spared the spectacle of my convulsions by being out of the office during my attack - asked me if I wanted her to bring me some lunch, and my stomach growled, I relented, and reticently typed out the words "yes pls."
When she arrived, she proceeded to beg me to come home with her so I wouldn't have to be alone. She knew I didn't have anybody, that I lived alone, and that if I did have a concussion, I needed to be monitored. But I let my humiliation get the better of me, and I once again refused help, insisting that I go home to my own apartment where I could sleep in my own bed. I wanted to lie under the ceiling fan, not worrying whether the strap of my nightgown fell down, or a boob popped out, or a nipple hardened under the breeze. I wanted to feel sorry for myself, and cry. I wanted to writhe in pain and crawl up into a ball. I didn't want to pretend I was OK, and I knew if I was in a house full of people, I'd never admit to how badly I felt.
As it was, I hadn't been able to call out to Michelle for help, when I knew I was going to faint. I paused too long, considering it, until it was too late and I was already gone.
I don't remember much of the rest of that afternoon and night. I took Advil. I took a shower. I ate. I loitered on the internet.
I woke up at the usual time the next morning, and bravely planned to go into the office in the afternoon for a half day. But after falling back asleep and waking up again a couple of hours later, I started coming to my senses and took a sick day in bed. I waited for my doctor to call after his shift started at 5, as he promised to do. He never did. I waited for text messages or emails from friends who must've seen my outpouring of social media updates about my concussion. They didn't come.
Back to work on Wednesday. I bought myself miniature yellow roses which I placed in a vase on my desk. I fared relatively well until the end of the day, when I completely lost my senses and could not process any information. I tried to reward mysef with an after-work happy hour snack at SimonLA at the Sofitel hotel around the corner, but when I realized there was no bar to sit at, and they tried to seat me at a table alone, I declared, "This isn't going to work out," marched out onto Beverly Boulevard, and burst into tears.
I sobbed for the rest of the evening.
Text messages trickled in, most expressing surprise at how poorly I was doing. I complained of tingling limbs, short term memory loss, agitation, persistent headaches, disrupted sleeping, light sensitivity - all typical (and non-emergency) symptoms of a concussion. They don't go away quickly. They linger. My brain needs time to heal.
Back to work on Thursday, hopelessly dependent on emails and note-taking to keep track of my to-do's and already-done's. I found myself alarmingly susceptible to the power of suggestion. If someone had asked me, "We're getting married, right?" I would have replied, "Yep, uh huh."
Asleep early Thursday night, and then wide awake by 3:30 a.m. Up for two hours, desperate for sleep, head hurting, heart saddening.
Back to work on Friday, despite lack of sleep, pain fatigue, confusion, disorientation, and even a bit of slurred speech, a surprising lack of articulation. I found myself speaking very slowly and deliberately just to make sure I was saying the right thing. I'm still not sure if I did. I don't really remember.
And so a week after first concussing myself, I feel worse than I did right after the incident. What have I said? What have I done? What have I written? What have I promised?
What haven't I?
What help should I be receiving?
Who should be checking in on me? Do I cease to exist to the hospital staff until I return to the ER with a recurrence of emergency symptoms, or a worsening condition?
When will I feel better? Does my head always hurt this much? Has it just gone unnoticed because I haven't been paying attention to it as I am now?
When will I get better?
Six Words About Work: The Best Boss I Ever Had (Smith Magazine)
A Kick in the Head
A Kick in the Head, Part 2
A Kick in the Head, Part 3
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