I recognise this feeling from almost every time I’ve had the flu or even a really bad cold: that certainty that I am never going to get better.
It’s been three and a half months since I fell off a horse and got a concussion. And there are hours in the day — some days — when I feel “normal,” like my old self. (Or maybe I should put “feel” in quotation marks?) But a lot of the time — sometimes for a couple of days in a row — I feel worse, and like I’m not recovering at all. On those days I feel fragile and easily overwhelmed, emotional. Getting one or two things done in a day is too much. (My to-do lists are already laughably modest: online banking, renew library books, buy milk — but I still have to whittle them down.)
Everything I am able to accomplish is only through slow focussed grinding effort, and when whatever it is gets thwarted I get completely flummoxed, and don’t know what to do next. The problem-solving part of my brain is so slow that I have to give it a few hours or a day to let the wheels turn, and then if I’m lucky I might see a solution — and one that would be perfectly obvious to you, or maybe even the old me. (For instance: bought the wrong thing at the store, and it’s stamped “final sale”. Oh no! Think for a day. Oh yes, I can ask the manager if she can make an exception.)
But in a way that’s the kind of thing I’d expect from a head injury.
There are other little things that surprise me.
For example: Coming up to Halloween, I had the idea that I would do some tweaking to a story I wrote a few years ago about a ghost. I knew I wasn’t up to actually writing, but I thought I might be in the right frame of mind to bring a fresh perspective to the plot. So first I wanted to get more familiar with the genre.
So I went online looking for ghost stories, and I asked for recommendations, and I read anthologies — but the stories were all really disappointing. None of them seemed spooky at all. Even the ones with the best reviews just felt dull and uninteresting. Could it be that I just wasn’t finding scary enough stories, or was my sense of spookiness impaired? (I started to wonder if the bump on the head had turned me into The Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was — it’s probably a good thing I didn’t pursue that too far.)
An H.J. Ford illustration from the Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.
Well, now I have an answer to that question, at least. This morning I happened across a discussion thread about haunted libraries. It’s an uncharacteristically bright December day here in Vancouver, but after I read a few posts about mysterious noises and books flying off shelves in the dead of night I started feeling like there might be someone else in my apartment. I definitely felt something.
So maybe my spooky-spidey sense is coming back, at least.
It’s important to note these things, small and silly as they are. Progress is progress.
From the Safety Harbor Public Library, Florida.