The Accident -- the day that destroyed my life

On January 18th, 2010, I was awakened in my bed by my dog Ginger whining to go out. Slipping on a bathrobe, I shuffled to the back door with the dog in tow, opened the door, and let the dog go out. However, Ginger hates snow, of which there was plenty, and rather than run out into the snow-covered yard, decided to do her business on the porch. I angrily stepped out to order her into the yard, when my foot hit a patch of black ice. I pitched back and sideways, cracking my head against the bricks of the door frame, and then flew down to slam into the concrete, bouncing the left side of my face off the icy cement, and lay on the ice-covered concrete in 10 degree weather in nothing but an open bathrobe, unconscious.

 

I awoke much later on the floor of the kitchen, my mind blank, my head pounding; the dog had apparently whimpered, yelped, tugged and nipped at me until, in a dazed stupor, I dragged myself across the ice and back inside the house. (Later MRIs and CAT scans would reveal that -- based on the brain damage -- I must have been unconscious for half an hour, if not longer.) I had suffered a traumatic brain injury and had a severe brain bleed.

 

When I was finally released from the hospital, I had multiple problems: damage to the optic nerve had left me with uncontrollable double vision and no ability to change focal depth on-demand anymore; my right arm shook and my hand had limited control; I could not walk in a straight line without falling over after a couple of yards, necessitating a cane. However, two things, far worse than these, became obvious immediately. The first was that I could no longer read. To be precise, I *could* read, but only a sentence at a time; reading more than two or three sentences created blinding migraine headaches.

 

The second, far worse, was that I had completely lost my desire to write. ANYTHING. What had been a driving passion, a force that made me get up every day and write fiction, was gone. Removed from me. It was as if "writing" was a skill on a circuit board in my brain, and that circuit board had been ripped out and thrown away. Whereas I had spent nearly every day of the past quarter-century getting up and writing or editing or checking the markets ... now I just sat on the couch, staring at nothing. My wife asked me if I wanted to write, and I asked back "Why?" What's more, I had no sense of loss in this whatsoever. It was gone, and I did not care it was gone.

 

My writing friends shrugged and called it "writer's block" or "you're just tired" or even -- and this one infuriated me -- "you've just chosen to not write right now." NO, I did not "choose not to write" any more than I "choose not to run naked down the street." I had no reason to even try writing; the whole drive to write, the passion to create, had vanished. "Choose not to write"...? That was like saying "Choose not to spend all day digging a trench across your yard." It was something I did not care about doing whatsoever, so why would I spend any time doing it? And I did not care to read fiction any more. And No, it was NOT as my friends put it ("Oh, you have headaches, that's why") but rather "Read fiction? These are made-up stories about people who never even existed! Why in the world would I want to waste my time reading fake stuff?" The very idea of reading fiction sounded utterly stupid to me.

 

Well, I spent the next seven years learning how to walk straight again and get control of my right arm, and -- since you cannot function in modern society without being literate -- I taught myself how to read and write again. It took over half a decade, but I managed to get through a whole paragraph of non-fiction without throwing up in blinding pain, and eventually began reading 1, then 5, then 10 pages of non-fiction at a time. But it was only in the aftermath of my mother's death and funeral that I finally felt the desire to actually sit down and write something. It was, of course, non-fiction, but I managed to work my way through it. And then, one day, I got an e-mail cattle-call for open fiction submissions ... and something happened: I got an idea for a fiction story, and sat down and labored my way through it, eventually finished it, and submitted it.

 

It got published. In the months since then, I have repeatedly forced myself to go to the computer and write, crafting stories and submitting them, getting rejection slips and acceptance e-mails, and actually starting -- and completing -- a novel I had been considering since before the turn of the century. I have once again become a writer.