Photo credits Jenna Lindqvist
You never used to have trouble sleeping. Never. It used to be easy. Routine. Even mundane. Do whatever you do during the day, go to bed. Don’t bother reading more than a page of a book. Close your eyes. Fall asleep. The entire procedure, 1min.
If it took more than 10 seconds to fall asleep, you we’re convinced that you knew what insomnia was. Boy. You didn’t have a clue. Not a clue. Nada. Would you ever dream? Nope. Maybe once a year. Tops. Did you find it weird. Hell no. Once you sleep, you do it full throttle and dreaming would be wasting time.
Along with brain damage comes sleeping problems. In the beginning it’s too much. After a few months it seems to be too little, too light and miles away from what any healthy, sick, old or young person needs. Every case is different, since everyones’ brains are different. But what you’ve noticed talking to other people with brain damage, sleep is an issue. And not in a good way.
You’re also tired. Tired because the brain is heating itself. Building new pathways to do tasks you found elementary during your 30 years before the injury. In your case, the tractography scans show cell damage in your corpus callosum. This, is certainly not the case in a large portion of TBI cases. But in both cases, new pathways have to be built up in the blob of jelly residing in the penthouse. And it’s tiring as fuck.
The past week has been light on the sleep front. To quantify that, you’ve slept an average of 7.1 hours the last five nights. However, statistics only tell you what they want them to tell you. Let’s look under the hood: you’ve also woken up an average of 3 times a night, two out of these nights you’ve slept 12 hours and one of them you slept 30min. Or that was the interval between the glimpses at the clock.
Well, how do you know you’ve only slept 30 minutes one night? And does that even count as sleep? Both are great questions. Partly because you’ve made them up yourself and partly because, how the fuck do you even know you’ve been asleep anyway?
In this particular case, it was easy. You had a dream. A dream you for some reason remember extremely well.
You’re in the hotel room of a colleague. Country unknown at this point. And something that isn’t weird, since you used to travel a lot for work. To be honest, you never saw the face of which colleague it was and not even the country for that matter. But it was a country you’d never been to before. A country that looked like something from Aladdin. You were hanging out and listening to music, getting ready to go to the trade show meet and greet. It was work. What else would the trip be about?
You look out the window and into a beautiful scenic landscape, green grass for a mile and then desert. All the roads are red clay and so are the rooftops of the buildings. There is a smell of warmth, but noteworthy is also absence of the smell of dryness. There must be water and beaches closer by. The windows are open and it’s all really carefree. The curtains are white and the windows are big with matching white frames. There is a breeze and the curtains sway. Your hair, although glued down with too much gel, flickers ever so subtly in the gust. The music is on. Laughter, chatter and most important of all, banter fills the room. It’s weird, it’s really sunny outside, you’re not in the shade and you’re looking out, but don’t need sunglasses. This should be a clear sign of the entire thing being a dream.
Suddenly a loud bang pierces through everything. The music, the laughter, the mood and that carefreeness one feels when totally at ease, vanishes. The sound is unmistakeable. It’s a gun shot. For some reason you don’t freeze. You go into fight mode and grab your colleague. Make a run for the door and head out into the courtyard of the hotel building. The courtyard is U shaped and only a field of red clay. The hotel building is two stories. The second and first floor are aligned, but the second floor has a walkway all round, about three people wide. This covers the first floor allowing for some shade during the day. Both walkways end with a flight of stairs. Stairs that take you to the street. From there, there is a building on the other side of the road or street. They aren’t paved so you struggle to make sense of what to call it. But that doesn’t matter. The building is perpendicular to the hotel. A matter of fact, the area is very linear and the building on the other side has rows of windows. These windows aren’t the same as the ones in your hotel room. These have army green frames. But that doesn’t matter. Because there is something different with everything. The town or city seems to have become abandoned within seconds. But that doesn’t matter.
Because in the window is a guy with an assault rifle. And you’re at the bottom of the steps looking him straight in the eyes. Not frozen, but observing him. Wondering what the fuck he is up to.
He looks down the street. He’s up against the wall on the right side of the window, looking down the street. Face towards the left from where you stand. He shifts his observant gaze between the street and you. Gunshots are going off, but you’re not moving. Once again. You haven’t frozen, you’ve gone into observation mode. You see, you think you’re safe. And everyone you know there is safe. After all, your colleague got out safe from the room. Headed the opposite direction with everyone else. You ran towards the gunfire. Not by choice. And not even by instinct. But because of curiosity.
So, there you stand. Eye to eye with a guy shouldering a gun. Looking like an unarmed dweeb to anyone who might be observing. But some part of you thinks, that if you look at this dude long enough, you could get an answer to why he’s doing what he’s doing. However, suddenly. Without thinking. Just by acting, you bolt. You don’t even have time to blink.
But suddenly you stop. And this time you freeze. The voice screaming is far too familiar. A part of you doesn’t want to believe it. A part of you, is trying to protect you. But that doesn’t take away the fact that you’re hearing it. That you have to stop. That you have to turn around. That you have to see who it is. That, even if you don’t want to, you have to confirm it. So you do.
It’s your sister screaming.
No clue what she is wearing. Not important. It’s a war zone and she’s there. And you want to, have to, need to protect her. So you start walking towards her. Down the stairs. Out into the square. Not seeing what she is afraid of or why she won’t dare move. She has her back towards you. You’re not walking fast nor slow towards her. But you get this feeling it’s not normal and you can’t see what is scaring the living daylights out of her. As you get closer, it dawns on you and when you’re 3 steps away from her, you see what it is.
It’s a child with a machine gun, pointing at her.
The kid is short, but so is the weapon. It looks eerily like a Swedish machine gun, a .556 caliber thing that looked short. Memory might serve you wrong, but not the issue. It’s pointed at your sister and no fucking clue what this small dude might do. So you walk up next to her. Stand by her. Say nothing.
Just staring the kid straight in the eyes.
You keep looking straight at him. Not trying to stare him down. But trying to look into his brain to see what his intentions are. He’s not shaking. He’s not panic sweating. As a matter of fact, he’s not really acknowledged you at all. He seems out to get your sister. The guy in the window has disappeared. And there are guns going off, but none are that close to you. Every time a gun goes off, the dude doesn’t even flinch. There is something not right. And you come to the conclusion he won’t flinch even you move closer towards him. Calm as fuck and without any thought of the possibility of shit going sideways, pear-shaped or well FUBAR.
So you take another step closer. Grab the barrel of the gun.
Move it upwards. Relieve the small dude from his weapon. Like its a big burden he’s just managed to dump, he looks like he’s found a more peaceful state of mind. Until he realises your holding the gun. And that he doesn’t have a clue of what is about to happen. He’s probably always been punished by guys my age. Because he looks like he’s dead sure, the only way this is going to end is by him dying.
Honestly, you had no plan approaching him. None. Well, none other than saving your kid sister.
So you calmly grab the gun with your right hand. Place the butt of the gun in your elbow pit. Point it upwards, towards the sky. Remove the clip. Drop the clip through the drain cover into the sewer, which appeared from nowhere. Remove the bullet in the chamber. Drop it through the drain cover into the sewer. Pick the gun apart and drop it down the drain cover, into the sewer.
After that you witness the kid scat. Bounce. Take off. Make himself invisible.
End of dream. Done. Eyes open. The time hasn’t passed at all. Well 30 minutes has. And you’re tired as fuck. However, you’re left with the feeling of that being the most real thing that’s ever happened to you. Would you be that calm in a real situation? I can hear your brother snicker. You’ve certainly had your headless chicken syndrome moments, as you like to call them. But all in all, you learn from everything.
Without going balls deep into some bullshit analyses, the only conclusion you can draw from this dream is: you’ve changed and you’re not afraid to embrace it. There are certain things that fall into place, when you deal with your own mortality at the age of Dirty Thirty. One, being that you don’t really feel shame of failure. It doesn’t fucking matter. Everyday during rehab you train until failure. You fail at things other people take for granted. Because there is only one way and that’s up.
The second thing is, you’re not afraid of death. Without going “everyday is a blessing on you”, because that’s not your train of thought. Although, you do take life head on and in a positive way. Even more than before. Something your father said did stick with you. It was the Rolling Stones that got up on stage and their opening line was “Hi! It’s good to be here. Hell, it’s good to be anywhere!”
And at 31, that’s one fucking awesome way to look at life.
“Life is all about falling down and getting up again. And again. And again.” -Unknown