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Falling Upwards A.K.A. Happy Accidents

Mortality is a weird pragmatic joke when it comes to brief periods of chaos. Eight months of gray ice at Middlebury College led to a difficult relationship with myself. Reacting to the odd nature of young adult depression, I started up some serious therapy starting freshman year. Over 6+ years, 5 different medical cocktails, and 4 therapists/psychologists, things started to change a new sense of semi-happiness. I went from a kid who hated himself to quietly happier, more successful, and genuinely excited about getting MARRIED (which I had proclaimed I would never do… and was wrong). Not too bad in terms of the relative point of view from the past.

August 18, I fell down my apartment steps because of klutziness. Breaking a bit of my skull and brain- mashing my body down the metal railing and concrete stairs is something a neighbor told me happened. Due to internal brain swelling and bleeding, I am missing about 8-9 days of my memory. I was told that I looked and acted sick then spent 4 days in the ICU. Apparently, I kept claiming that Kanye West was God. Here are some weird side effect stories I’ve been told: I called all nurses “Mistress,” proceeded to rip out my IV’s on about 4 different occasions, was strapped down for 2 days trying to escape… those are the kind of funny stories at least. Following that initial ICU stay, I kept (unconsciously) saying I wanted to take my own life for a week while crying sporadically 4 hours a day. Julie (my awesome wife) planned to keep me safe and took me back to the hospital. Talking to a local therapist and misunderstanding how damaged I was, she finally put on a 72-hour psychiatric hold at Denver Health – mental health institution. I remember none of these terrifying elements of trauma, but the story sounds like nature rather than the nurtured version of James Brown.

Clearly, the past 3 weeks were without a doubt the worst time of my life. Unable to sleep, think, read, write, or even care about my loved ones left me empty and scared. Oddly the irony is that I have hated myself since at LEAST 18…. and post neural rehab and a ton of protein I have little self-loathing. Brute force and chaos have made me concerned about my well-being for the first time ever. So, what the fudge does all this lead to? I was a huge ass-hole, consciously offensive without a filter and a madly unhappy / typically condescending liberal arts student. Switching personality thanks to neuropathway trauma, I’m different, which is just confusing and exciting. After 25 years of living, a single yet massively powerful hit to the head has shifted self-hatred to a completely new sense of empathy and relative connectedness. Existentially things start to get cosmically strange as nature versus nurture is featured in a whole new brawl.

Following through on some of the philosophical consequences of realigning neuropathways is the newfound baseline of accidental happiness. Previous therapy was necessary to maintain a limited appreciation of existence in face of self-loathing. Flipping an internal quarter to the opposite side has created a mentally new canvas. Moving from a defense of fractured mental health, the surprising side effect has been to re-define my personal sanity and happiness. Instead of the past therapeutic experiments on trying to like me and other people, the metal strike to the brain has realigned a fair amount of the original psychological goals. Empathy leads a new focus on family relationships, in tandem a few career skills and interests have spontaneously switched spots with each other.

Is any of this neuropathway change going to last or be real? Umm… that’s what it seems like since a month later none of my memories of those 8 days have returned. Mortality is a bell that got rung by accidental brain damage. A completely new sense of fear and embarrassment along with compelling characteristics that never existed inside of myself lead to a hell of a rollercoaster. Anger has become extinguished, replaced by raw sensitive/empathetic fear and love. Honestly, I cannot promise that my head injury will continue to generate the opportunities that instinctually occur due to emotional and physical extremism. After almost dying though I hope that my changes bleed over into a different incarnation of identity and I cannot wait to see what happens next with other creatives and talented Coloradans.

Stay spontaneous, thanks for reading // JWB IV

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