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4. Recovery

Now here's the chapter I've thought about every day for the past year and a half. Through this section I'd like to impart upon everyone an understanding of why you should never judge that person begging for your help or that person who just doesn't seem as stable as you'd like. With the state of mental health care in the US being what it is, any single one of us can find ourselves in the same unfavorable position.

So to start with, Diego struck me in the head so many times that I developed a stutter. After having spent so much time throughout my life polishing my presentation and public speaking skills, even one on one conversations would involve me stumbling over my own words repeatedly. To counter this, I spent more nights than I'd like to admit reading books aloud to get my mind back in rhythm. This may sound simple enough, but I assure you that a 32 year old man learning how to speak properly again, especially after having invested so much into it already, was an extremely painful experience.

Additionally, I was unable to count even small groups of objects. If we were at a restaurant and you asked me to tell you how many people were at the table, I couldn't just blurt out a simple "four". I would have to individually count 1, 2, 3, and then 4 to come up with the solution. To work my way through this, I would take quarters and draw a random amount out of a pile. I would then count the number of quarters and return them to the pile. I did this over and over and over until my mind understood numbers and their comparative value. Without this ability for many months, managing finances was a harrowing experience while attempting to stay afloat.

Though I think I've explained the facts on the surface of what happened, I think I would be doing a disservice to those that could not complete their recovery if I were to, in some misguided attempt to preserve my dignity, hide from you how truly horrifying it was. Almost every session of quarter counting ended with me flying into a rage and throwing the pile across the room. I sincerely doubt there was a single night between March of 2017 and August of 2017 where I did not cry myself to sleep. There would be random moments in the evening where I'd be driving home and I'd have to pull over to scream into the steering wheel and strike my fists against it repeatedly as the impossible task before me began to win. During the day at work I would be presented with a problem that I knew for a fact I could have easily handled before the concussion. These would often lead to me excusing myself to one of the single-person private bathrooms where I would weep as quietly as I could until I felt I could come back out again.

We often see the above played out in movies, and in retrospect I feel that movies have served only to damage our understanding of what it's like to go through physical or mental rehabilitation. We get a scene where the hero or a major character becomes injured, typically a spine or leg injury so they can have their moment where they fall down while trying to walk. Then their friend gives them a one minute inspirational speech about getting back up and never giving up. Then in the next scene or the next movie everything is just as it was. In real life it doesn't button itself up so neatly, and you have to accept that in some way you will be lesser than what you were before. In reality it just wears you down until you're not sure if there's anything left. You wake up slow, you go to sleep slow, you know you have weeks and weeks of mental exercises ahead of you and dozens of breakdowns and outbursts until you reach the vague promise of being stable. At this stage I am forced to live with the fact that I will never be as smart or as quick as I once was. I will never attain the dreams that I once held so dear as a child because I'm simply no longer smart enough to fulfill them.

As is common for an American suffering from a medical issue, I also suffer from medical debt and debt from being unemployed on levels that I can still barely fathom despite living through them daily. My current monthly total from all related bills and debt consolidation loans is at $2300/month. I could've mitigated a portion of this by more intelligently managing my finances, including applying for massive loans while my credit score was still good (it dropped approximately 200 points in the months following the incident) and getting on disability immediately, but intelligence was something in short supply when I needed it most. If anything good can come from this, let it be the awareness you take with you that any of us, even at the height of our financial and physical success, can have it all ripped away from us in a matter of seconds due to someone else's foolish actions. I hope that by inspiring compassion and understanding, it will ease the passing of my various dreams and goals that have faded far from view.

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