An ode to brain surgery

The topic of brain surgery will create a pause in conversation like no other. Espeically when it is your brain surgery that is up for diuscussion.

I am rather sick of discussing it. Sicker of discussing it than I am sick with the cause for the brain surgery.

I don’t want to have to explain anymore terms like Chiari Malformation or Syrinx or cerebral spinal fluid or dura or posterior fossa decompression. I don’t want to make jokes anymore about how my brain is too big for my skull and we always knew you were smart, haha, so that just make all this much better. No, not really. Maybe for you it does, but I’m the one who will have a saw taken to her skull in a mere four weeks, maybe you should ask me how I feel about it instead of turning this conversation into a case of Medical Mystery.

People are not good at talking about feelings. I know this. This is why they pay therapists. To learn to talk about feelings. To have feelings. To cathart, to release, to grieve, to unrepress. I am studying the art and science of becoming a therapist, and will someday apply various theoretical practices to help people feel.

I don’t understand what is so hard about feeling. I understand about displaying too much emotion. About putting emotion in the wrong place, with the wrong person. I understand about having to hold back emotion. Like swallowing the desire to punch someone in the head because you are irritated that you have to explain, for the 50th time, that your brain is too big for your skull, and you have to laugh at that joke because clearly, it’s the first time you heard it, ha fucking ha. I understand about having to repress the emotion that comes when people pretend to care about your brain surgery, your pain that leaves you unable to do the things you could do last year at this same time. That emotion is anger. You can tell they pretend to care because they look for ways to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible. You let them, because it’s really easier for you both. Then you cry later because you’re just tired of always being the different one.

I have actually, in my old age, become repressed, and am fully aware of it, because I am playing the social role of good girl. I used to do that a lot less.

A funny thing happens when you get diagnosed with something big like a progressive illness that may leave you paralyzed, and will leave you with chronic pain for the rest of your life, and may require multiple brain surgeries. You begin to think about just saying whatever the fuck comes to your mouth. Layers of socialization start peeling away like an onion. You see them fall off and lie next to you, yellowing and thin as tracing paper. There goes my abilty to care about what professors think about me, you think. There goes my ability to give a fuck about what random people think. There goes my ability to sit through painful conversations. I’ll just get up and walk out. It’s a sort of molting.

My surgery takes place October 28. This is three days before Samhain and 10 days before my birthday. It is the new year for me in many ways. It is an oppoprtunity to be something different, be someone new. I’m not doing it on purpose. I am not trying to unveil A New Me! With More Room For My Brain! I find it is just happening. I find I have less tolerance for things I have been socialized for, have been beaten down for in the last few years. When you find out your skull will be pried open, you find not much else matters, and you just get down to business real quick. It is a death of sorts for me, these last four weeks. Parts of me are dying. There is much to be buried. This malformation — I was born with it. This is an opportunity to re-do, symbolically, life, birth to 30.

This past year, I have been disowned, disenfranchised. I have been without a home for part of the year. All because I turned queer. I have been sick. I had to find a new job. I got divorced. My life has not been easy. I’m ready to do something different now. I’m ready to stop struggling so much. I don’t identify with struggling, but it seems to identify with me. I dream that this is the pinnacle of the struggle, and I have four more weeks. I am acquiring a new attitude, I can already tell. And I am hoping, once they cut into my brain, that they will excise all the crap that I have accumulated in 30 years, so I can do something different in my life once.



  1. vesta44 said,

    October 2, 2008 at 9:51 am

    My thoughts will be with you as you go through this surgery. I hope everything goes well and you heal rapidly. Keep us posted, please, when you feel willing and able to.

  2. Bri said,

    October 2, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    I have been thinking of you often. I can’t begin to imagine what this must be feeling like for you, more so emotionally than physically. People never know what to say in these situations and so they say dumb ass things in the hope that it will either make you feel better or make them feel better. Sometimes saying nothing is better. Do you feel better for the socialisation layers peeling off? Or does it add more stress?


  3. October 5, 2008 at 11:55 am

    If you think you’re sick of talking about brain surgery now, just wait until it’s taken over your entire life. I’m seven months past, and it’s a struggle to make my life about anything else. Cognitive therapy once a week, fighting to keep my job, etc. Every little boneheaded thing I do (that I would have done before surgery) means I have a big old hole in my head.

    I don’t want to discourage you too much – just thought you could use a warning. Once you’re bald and have an appointment with a new doctor every week day, it’s going to still be all brain surgery all the time.

  4. October 5, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    I always figure I’m getting my revenge for the consant law school talk when I hang around my husband’s classmates.

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