When was the last time you had a vacation? Did you go anywhere? Did you do something special?
For those of us who have had a brain injury, the best vacation any of us could possibly have is any place where we can escape from ourselves, where we can at least escape from the grinding pressure of having to function within a set of parameters we no longer fit comfortably in. Isn’t that it? On our own, it seems, we are better equipped to do what we have to do, and be who we are going to be, than in society. In society, among other people, there is a pressure to be who other people want us to be; usually who we used to be pre-TBI. there is also the unrelenting pressure we put on ourselves to function in a certain way when we’re trying to do something, or are with other people. The pressure we put on ourselves is probably the worst.
This is not to say if you were alone, on a desert island everything would be hunky-dory. Yes; if you were there, you certainly would have escaped from some pressures, but what remains is your own worst enemy, yourself.
Even when you’re alone on the island, you can’t escape the doubt and the frustration, and the fear of the future. You can’t escape the anger and helplessness that comes up each time you try to use your brain for something and it misfires. There is nowhere you can go to get away from the hopelessness that seems to haunt you. You just can’t escape the feeling that you aren’t what you used to be.
After my accident and coma, I decided I was returning to college as soon as I could. I consciously threw myself into the fire, knowing it would be difficult in ways I couldn’t imagine, but also feeling college was a safe place for me to experiment and to learn about myself. The fact that it was a small college in the woods near the coast of Maine, made the decision that much easier. It seemed safe.
My first semester back was rough. I lived on campus, with people I had previously not known, and could never seem to escape from the feeling that I didn’t belong, or the fear that I would never get better. I couldn’t even begin to think what life would be like in the future, so I focused on slogging my way through the present.
My last few semesters I lived off campus, about 10 miles from school, on the ocean. Things changed then for me.
No matter what the people at school were like, no matter how I felt about friends seeming to ditch me, no matter how impossible the coursework might seem, I always had my red shingled, wood heated cabin on the ocean to return to. That was my personal desert island, my place where I could go to be alone and be un-bothered. Oh, I still had fears and doubts lingering around my head, but it wasn’t quite as bad.
It was the place I went were I could be at peace. I could watch the sunrise over Bailey’s Island, or I could take a short walk out to the shore to look out over the ocean, towards Meir Point. The ocean provided me with the peace I needed and was looking for, and it gave my head a much needed vacation from myself and whatever stresses I was experiencing at school.
I didn’t necessarily want to be taken away from everything, because, although I knew this is where I needed to be, I knew it was only temporary. All I knew was that it was really nice to have a little vacation from all that stuff bouncing around in my head.
I look at it as the place I started to rebuild my life, uncluttered by people, things or technology. Of course, technology really wasn’t an issue in the mid-70s, unless you had access to a mainframe computer or a super-powerful calculator. I really believe the relative simplicity of life then made it easier to get away, or to take myself away. Now it’s work to stay away from you computer, or Facebook or your smart phone, but I don’t really know if any of that helps when you are in pursuit of yourself.
What I always looked for was to escape so I could heal, at which point I would return, like the triumphant soldier in the Norman Rockwell painting, coming back from the war. I looked on it as taking a hiatus from the human race, because I had some important business to attend to. Take me away, wherever that might be. it doesn’t have to be some fantastical voyage, as a matter of fact, the simpler the better. Anywhere I can go where my mind will be at ease.