…se of direction and other ways my brain retains information about as well as a flat tire holds air. I worry that others will think I’m stupid. It’s one of my greatest fears. I’ve never admitted this before, and only recently became conscious of it myself.
I worry about that with me. What exacerbates it is that I actually am stupid, at least compared to how I used to be. I’m brain-damaged.
I was in a plane crash many years ago, right after I got through the Navy’s nuclear power training. I talk about some of it here:
Besides the immediate physical damage, while I was being treated at the hospital I started exhibiting symptoms of extreme weakness on my right side, and I lost the ability to communicate verbally. I got treated with medication that helped clear things up in a few hours, and in a couple days they decided I wasn’t going to end up a vegetable after all. I went back on duty and I was fine.
I was forgetting things. I was not making connections and understanding new information like I used to. I was under a lot of stress, and there were some incidents, and the Navy decided that I should be moved to a status where I wasn’t under stress anymore. And just to be sure, they sent me to a VA hospital that specialized in brain trauma. The doctors there determined that I was okay… mostly. But they determined that I performed poorly now under stress (keep in mind I had been through the Naval Academy, which is four years of stress, followed by nuke school, which isn’t meant to be relaxing either, so I had previously been fine with stress) and the nice doctors thought it would be a very good idea if I wasn’t on nuclear submarines any more.
One of the nice doctors tried to be reassuring; he said I had the brain of an old man. Okay, actually what he said was that I had the brain of a guy in his 40s, but since I was 25, I heard “old man brain.” He was not able to answer the question, When I reach my 40s will I have caught up to my brain? Or will I have the brain of a guy in his 60s?
I don’t talk much about being brain damaged. Doesn’t come up much in casual conversations, and you might notice it doesn’t get mentioned in “Trapped in the Wreckage.” But as I get closer to being 60 than 59, I am noticing I do more stupid things, and I am thinking that I have the brain of an 80-year-old, after all.
My parents developed dementia in their 80s. Both of them.