March 2014. I am home, downstairs in the kitchen listening to an audiobook using a small speaker. The story is one I have heard many many times before (The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde). It feels soothing to listen to something so familiar. In my current reality, my brain doesn’t have space for new things. New things are too tiring. New things are bright or loud or fast. New things cause my brain to shut down and made my constant headache worse.
Mary is upstairs in her studio. By poor design, the rental house we live in has lots of space, but no privacy. Even with her door closed, I can vaguely hear her type type typing on her computer. I think of nothing, and the words of the audiobook fall soothingly into my mind. It is so nice to feel peaceful and stimulated at the same time. The typing stops, and I hear Mary rise and open her door. She calls down, “Kim, can you turn down that book? I can hear it upstairs.” Mary hates audiobooks. She finds them irritating and boring simultaneously.
My body flushes with a deep anger, my pleasant moment of life – so rare right now – ruined by her rude request. She is SO unreasonable. My hands tingle, and I clench my jaw tightly to keep from saying something reactionary, aggressive.
Thoughts slowly build in my head. She clearly doesn’t respect me. She doesn’t want me here. She just wants me to be some quiet damn prop in her life. Why is she bothering me? I am just trying to live my life here. Why can’t she give me some damn space and let me alone? I need to leave, I need to get out of this situation.
In those few moments, I experience crystal clear certainty that my lover, my partner, doesn’t actually care about me, certainly doesn’t respect me, and obviously treats me like trash. Why hadn’t it been clear before? Rage boils through my body, sending painful spikes of pain behind my eyes, at the base of my skull. Gone is the knowledge that just the day before she sat with me and helped me plan my day, hour by hour. No matter that she continues to stay, day in and day out, while I moan about the pain in my head. Obliterated are the memories of how she holds me when I cry.
And then, a moment of clarity: Wait! Maybe I am overreacting… Perhaps my emotional regulation is a bit off. Perhaps feeling so slighted by such a small request isn’t sane. Mary does keep complaining about my new temper, how I go from calm to enraged in the space of a heartbeat. I thought she was just kvetching because I was showing a bit of a spine. Maybe my anger is being amplified by my injury.
And that, Ladies and Gentleman, is when I realized that Mary wasn’t full of shit and that my extreme anger was another symptom of my head injury.
And we lived happily ever after… or at least, we staggered and stumbled and fought our way through until a normal-ish life has begun to appear on the horizon.