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The girl who had worms in her brain: interlude

There’s this thing that happens. I suspect it’s a universal law. I only find stuff when I’m looking for other stuff. Recently, I found my passport when looking for a dongle, and found the dongle when looking for a printer driver. (I’m yet to turn up the printer driver.) This is likely to be connected to my home being the very picture of entropy. Chaos and Disorder are my bedfellows. (At home, this is true, but not at work, where I’m efficient and organised. Something to do with wishing to please others, I suspect.)

My latest adventure, into the Escher space that looks like a bedroom if you tilt your head and squint just right, was a quest for letters and writings from my time in Madagascar. If you’ve been reading my story, you’ll know that episode two ends with my arrival in Fort Dauphin. What happened next (episode three to be) is a jumbled memory-mash of dusty tracks, cyclones, watching thunderstorms whilst drinking the local brew, counting dismembered tree trunks, marvelling at lemurs, and having jiggers pulled from my toes in the same way Gran used to pull periwinkles from their shells. I hoped my correspondence (letters to home/letters from home) would help to order those memories.

Naturally, I didn’t find the material for which I searched. But, also naturally, I did find lots of other stuff. As though I were a shrunken explorer rummaging around amongst my own neurons, so snapshots of my history appeared; notes from the dormouse monitoring group, rosettes from the dog training school I ran 15 years ago, papers from a communication review I ran at the council, an adoption certificate for a rhino called Shida (kiswahili for ‘problem’), and some real gems.

Like this…

Colouring-in book

It’s a book for little people. It has colouring in (some by-the-numbers, some freestyle) join the dots, simple wordsearches and mazes. This was bought for me by a lovely work friend (on behalf of ‘the whole team’) whilst I languished – full of head pain and fear – in hospital. I’d explained that, although I loved to read, I sometimes found it hard to concentrate. And so this, along with accompanying pencils, was Rachel’s answer. And incredibly therapeutic it turned out to be. I love that I kept the sticky notes.

And this…

Skydive certificate

A tatty skydive certificate, which deserves to have been stored with more care. This was an accelerated freefall (AFF) which I enjoyed in 2006, in aid of the Free Tibet campaign. (The acceleration part is about the rapidity of the learning; it doesn’t involve jetpacks and the thrill of a speedier meeting with the ground.) AFF is super fun; you get to pull the cord and steer your chute to the ground. This was my first time jumping a square chute on my own (I’ve managed the easy-fly round ones before) and, as the notes suggest, my mastery of the steering was somewhat wanting: ‘went downwind of the landing area, but made it back’. Indeed. I recall feeling somewhat bothered when I found myself looking down over sheds and paddling pools rather than the drop zone of the airfield.

I share my skydive adventure in connection with my ‘brain worm’ story, as this was 2006, and I was still very much recovering. Not that recovering from a brain injury ever caused me much pause: in 2005, whilst still taking epilepsy medication (about which I kept quiet) I jumped in tandem, with an oh-so-dishy instructor. (I heartily recommend tandem.) This short story isn’t about showing off, it’s about showcasing the importance of stubborness. I hated being ill, being abnormal, being an invalid. A combination of the illness, and the drugs I had to take, left me feeling weak, low on energy, unco-ordinated. I found it hard to concentrate, to hold a conversation, to be around more than two people at once. And I needed to do something about that. So my self-imposed recovery programme included personal training, getting back into competitive fencing, and – jumping out of planes. As i currently cope with another crisis – this time economic – it’s good to remind myself of my stubborn ability to rebuild my strength.

And, finally, there’s this…

Brain injury notes

which for me, is rather poignant. These notes (and more like them) are scrawled onto the back of information sheets. This was on the back of a page from the Lancet; a report about cysticercosis. I imagine I was given the notes whilst in hospital, by the neurosurgeon looking after me. I don’t remember. I only vaguely remember these records – kept so I could tell the doctors what had been happening to me. I suspect I was encouraged to do this as a way of coping; write it all down, talk about it, realise that it’s not that big a deal. It’s interesting to me that these (quite copious) notes are all scribbled on the backs of printouts. Why didn’t I use a notepad?  It must have made sense at the time.

As these notes were unearthed when seeking my Madagascar ‘diaries’, I feel moved to continue my story by sharing some of the contents. I think it will be interesting; I’m certainly intrigued to revisit them.

So, dear reader, it appears that my story is to move back and forth across time. (Isn’t it interesting how stories will always tend to take on a life of their own?) I will return to the exotic shores of Madagascar. Likely when I turn up the letters whilst searching for my drivers’ licence.


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