The Human and the Leaves

What follows is a description of the five phases of my injury. The Human and the Leaves is a continuation of the prior post, Trees and Humans.

Injury Phase 1

The first phase consisted of not knowing, of being insensible. I was unable to observe my injured state, or view my performance deficits. This insensibility was due to three conditions:

First, I had been stupid and had accepted to work a night shift (actually I had little choice in the matter. My employer was free to schedule my work hours as they saw fit to best match business conditions). Over the course of three years, the result had been a gradual atrophy of all personal relationships. People drifted away, I lost contact. This atrophy occurred slowly. So slowly that I failed to appreciate the change.

Second, my employment was terminated the day following the accident. This was by caprice, not design, but it had two immediate impacts: 1) It immediately shifted my attention from the injury toward finding new employment; 2) the loss of my work routine curtailed all my remaining social interactions. I was left unable to judge my performance deficits as I underwent a forced transition from constant workplace interaction to solitary unemployed uncertainty. I no longer had the benefit of a weekly performance audit. If audits had continued, I would have been forced into an early acknowledgement of my performance failures. But the audits ceased with the job loss announcement. I was severed from all accustomed prior routine.

Third, the job loss forced the alteration of my sleep / wake cycle. I had spent months making the initial transition from a normal day routine to working through the night. This inverted schedule had become my new normal; I had maintained this schedule for several years. It had become a deeply embedded routine.

With job loss, I attempted to return to a normal sleep / wake cycle. The result was a disrupted sleep pattern and consequent fatigue. Sleep deprivation explained my confusion, my memory loss, my frustration and irritability, my sudden inability with language, my severe fatigue, the unending need for sleep, and the general increase in my error rate. If I became lost on the way to a job interview, I assumed this was due to being awake well past my normal 0800 bedtime. When I exhibited mental confusion, was slow to respond, or failed to remember simple technical processes and detail, I attributed these failures to my changed sleep schedule.

This first phase continued throughout a long unproductive search for work. Toward the end of the year, a series of trigger events caused me to question what was taking place. This questioning of my own behaviour led me to again consult with Dr D. And I am ever in her debt for the assistance she has so generously provided.

Injury Phase 2

The second phase involved a mix of unwelcome learning and denial. I did not want to believe what the doctors were telling me. I did not want to acknowledge an injury that I could not see, of which I understood little. This phase of denial lasted for about six months.

Injury Phase 3

The third phase was initiated by a direct encounter with reality that had deep impact, that forced the recognition of my deficits, and made acknowledgement of the injury inescapable. It was evident I had changed. The only viable explanation for this change was the accident. Until the injury, I had performed at a consistently high level. Subsequent to the accident, my performance became both erratic and highly routinized.

Injury Phase 4

In the fourth phase, I invoked my dominant coping mechanism in an attempt to master and overcome the injury. I intellectualized the problem, studied it, ensnared it in a web of intellect, attempted to cage it within a conceptual framework. This well established coping mechanism failed. It did worse than fail. Each failure plunged me deeper into depression. I recognized the depression by virtue of a turn toward suicide as solution, the only evident means to resolve an intractable problem. Awareness of this final option drove me back toward intellectualization. There followed a redoubling of my efforts until I once more collapsed in despair. I then tripled my effort and went once again through the same cycle of collapse. I exercised the vain hope that an absolute totality of effort would deliver a positive result, would be sufficient to permit me to think my way to a solution. This was the same coping mechanism that had worked so brilliantly in all the prior years of my life. It failed me now.

Injury Phase 5

The fifth phase arrived on bloody feet in the autumn forests of the Gatineau. Amid the torn leaves, I finally surrendered to my experience and abandoned fruitless intellectualization. I pounded up the ridges and pummelled my feet on the subsequent descents. And, the next day, I forced my battered body to return to the same punishing regime. A coping strategy based on intellect and understanding was abandoned. In its place, I adopted a new strategy based on the bulldozer. I simply put myself in gear and proceeded forward, flattening everything in my path.