About a year ago, as I was finishing up my thesis for my MFA in Creative Writing, I had a stroke. A small thalamic stroke, they called it. It happened on the day my thesis was due; I think I’d just emailed it when I noticed I was feeling numb on the left side of my body. When I say numb, I don’t mean to the core. It was just my skin that was affected by a tiny pinhole of a stroke in the region of my brain that controls the sense of touch.
Is it coincidental that something erupted in my brain when I was writing about being molested as a kid? I think there’s a connection: my body finally said enough of this bullshit. After two years of dredging up childhood abuse, it was just time to stop. And so I have, for over a year. I was afraid of causing another stroke if I went back to revise, even if I was balancing it out with all the good in my life. The brain is the one thing in my body that I don’t have a handle on –a stroke isn’t like getting period cramps or even a headache. That sucker hits you with no warning, not even a pop to let you know a blood vessel’s awry.
I have two symptoms that remind me of the stroke: the ball of my left foot feels like it’s asleep, and the left side of my gut has what feels like a brick in it. That brick is my barometer for stress. Most days it’s a faint sensation, but when I’m feeling any kind of stress, the heavy feeling comes back full force.
I’m a little jittery about writing. I wonder if I can trick my brain into thinking I’m writing about someone else, or if I can pull back enough to be able to view events from a distance—and it is a distance, of years. Writing it, though, makes it immediate. I have no trick for creating psychic space, but I’m hoping that this year off has worked some time-magic and I’ll find the psychic safety net is already there.
Here’s to the brick in my gut.