Back in 1970 I was sitting around minding my own business when my brain blew up. There was no warning at all. Little shards of sanity went all over the place. No one ever said anything about panic attacks, and I didn’t have the slightest idea what was wrong with me or whether it had ever happened to anyone else. It’s not like now when there are articles about all that stuff everywhere you look. If someone could just have said, “yeah, I know what you have, and it’s called this, and you’re not the only one,” I would have felt much better about it. I would still have been screwed, but I would have felt better. As it was, I had to apply alcohol to my brain for about fifteen years until the condition sort of cleared up on its own.
In the same general time frame, I saw a girl my age in church who had become gray and sticklike and I asked my mom what was the matter with Susan, because it looked like she was going to die. “She just doesn’t eat,” my mom explained, shrugging. This made no sense to me at all. It’s not like they’d quit selling peanut butter cups. Nowadays we’re all familiar with what was wrong with Susan, but not then.
We have so much more information available to us now. When I was growing up, there were always a few kids who were definitely not right, but you didn’t know just what was wrong with them. Now every one of those kids would be assigned a syndrome or condition of some kind, and they’d have support groups and pills and websites dedicated to their welfare. Oprah would do a show about them. Just about every oddity is covered.
But there are still just a couple things about me that remain mysterious, and in the interest of locating someone–anyone–else who has similar issues, I thought I’d take this opportunity to put them out there.
One. Sometimes, for no reason at all, I forget how to swallow. And I’m talking plain, tepid water. I toss back my little bloop of water and it suddenly hangs up in my throat, not budging, and I have to bend over and wait it out until it sort of dissolves and continues down the hatch. There’s no predicting it, and it only happens a few times a year. One time it finally happened with beer. I took a sip, and it drove just beyond my tonsils and threw itself into park. I immediately realized that the bubbles were going to be a problem, so I ran outside rather quickly and bent over. Concerned, Dave followed me out, but I’m not able to vocalize in that condition, so I was flapping my arms about, trying unsuccessfully to communicate that I was fine and everything would be all right in a few seconds. Then, suddenly, while I was still flapping, foam began coming out of my mouth and dripping on the porch. I think it freaked him out a little. He’s had plenty of CPR training but didn’t have a clue what to do about sudden-onset rabies.
Two. Then there’s the thing with my vision. At night, when I look into the darkness, I can often see a big purple eye floating out there. It’s like the CBS logo without the pupil. First time I saw it I was about six. It was a little scary then, that first time, and I said something about it to Daddy. I don’t remember what he said, but I suspect he didn’t think I was really seeing a big purple eye.
I was. I do.