This is an account of what happened to me during the night of Wednesday 12th September 2012.
I am asleep but with a slight residual awareness, consequently I know that I am restless. I cannot find a comfortable place in the bed.
My awareness increases, slowly. Something has changed, what is happening? There is a feeling slowly surfacing after being submerged in my brain. What is it? I turn it over in my mind as I inspect this feeling for meaning. I come to realise that it is fear that I am feeling. What am I afraid of? I try to turn over, to sit up, to look at the clock to see how far the night has progressed. I can’t, the duvet has me trapped, I can’t move. I feel like Gulliver. Who gets trapped by a duvet? They only exist to carry out one function, to keep you warm. Nothing in their job description mentions making sleeping people lie still. We need more turnover in duvets, attract a better class of candidate, more detailed KPIs.
I isolate the problem to the left arm, not my left arm, just the arm that is attached to my left shoulder. This arm is not me. It is other. It is outside the entity that is me.I cannot tell it what to do. I cannot feel its contact with the bed, there is no textural feedback from the fingers as they caress the duvet. I cannot feel what it is feeling. I try to tell it to move but it doesn’t obey. It moves but only as it wants. It has been privatised, it does what it wants. It is no longer a servant of my body or brain. It is heavy. It flops across my chest and approaches my right arm. This one is mine, it is part of me. It does what I tell it. I tell it to grab the wrist of the other, not me, arm It does and fights it to a standstill. The fingers on the other arm writhe in silent desperation as they move without direction from my brain, any brain, off the lead, open loop, no feedback, out of control. I have an itch on my nose. The arm tries to help, moves towards my nose. Falls over it, bad aim, trips and bangs the hand into the end. It hurts.
I now understand the fear I am feeling. I am frightened of the arm. How can I be frightened of an arm? Ok, it is a strange arm and not mine, an alien, perhaps a cling-on but even so, I should be able to deal with a rogue arm. Most arms are ‘armless. Perhaps it is searching for a prosthetic body. What is wrong with the one I live in? The fear subsides a little into a vague ‘nameless dread’ that wanders away to the back of my brain where the headaches live. There is no one here to say, ‘fear not, all will be well. No shepherds to help, no counted sheep to make me sleep.
The arm, the other, the not me one, lies on the bed, moving in a strange pattern, the truth is not in it, it is not a valid arm. What is an arm without a body? It is not an amputee, it is the other end. It still moves in that same pattern, one that I do not recognise, a pattern that is also not me. It is other, just like the arm. It moves, therefore it is. I am frightened of it. Why is this arm glued on to my body, it is not me, it is other. I pick it up with my real arm, I roll over onto my back. I put the other arm down across my chest and hold it there with my arm and hand. I calm and sleep as awareness leaves.
I wake. I need to pee. I look at the clock, it is not there. I get out of bed and stand up. I see the clock on the floor and put it back on the bedside table at 4:13. I stagger first to the bathroom and then back into bed. What now? Sleep? Raise alarm, ambulance, hospital, all that stuff, hand control over to others? Not likely, no chance, better to die here, tonight. Accept, relax, sleep.
‘What light through yonder window breaks?’ I have enough to worry about without dealing with broken windows, was it the arm? I have survived the night, hey ho, What will today bring? I wake with strange, disturbing, frightening memories of the night, of the dark demons that came for me. I feel army. Why Army? I joined the Navy. I check my arms. Right is fine. Left does as I command but reluctantly, like a resentful, sulky child eating its vegetables under protest, as slowly as possible. It’s back from its holiday away as other. It is now part of me again, just, for how long?
I check my brain, it works, I think therefore I think I still am, good news? I must be able to work this out. The childish arm looks ok, it is strong when I test it with my happy arm. The problem is not muscular ( power) so it must be brain ( control, signal, wiring.)
This is worse, this means stroke, have I had a mini stroke in the night? Perhaps a TIA? Perhaps a different doctor-coded brain fart? No other symptoms, no dribbling, no dropping of one side of the face, both legs are present – I counted them – haven’t tried talking yet but thoughts and cognitive functions seem ok.
Alternative explanation. Did I sleep on my left arm thus compressing the nerves and causing it to ‘go to sleep’, go numb? If so I should therefore recognise the symptoms of returning feeling, No, nothing like that, reject that theory, search for another. None occur, maybe my brain is damaged.
The left arm improves slowly but it fumbles, detail control is not good. I favour it, I use the right arm in preference. I turn on the computer, I want to write this account before the details fade from my front of house memory. I normally type with two fingers, the second one from each hand and use my left hand for the mouse. The mouse control is difficult, not so precise or fast as usual. Typing with my right hand is normal but with the left hand I keep missing keys and hitting the wrong one. Slowing down helps but the right hand is gradually taking over all the typing, leaving the typos for the left. I will have to do more editing and proof reading in my future – if I have one. The arm has forgotten all its routine tasks. I change arms to open doors, it cannot take a spoon of sugar from the jar and stir a mug of tea. Perhaps it is sulking because I am favouring the other one. It is being shown up by the right hand arm, my new favourite?
Breakfast. I munch a bowl of cereal. I am already adapting, evolving, using the right arm more and doing everything more slowly. Is this the future, adapting and coping with slowly increasing disability? Why bother? Why not retire from this life on a high? Say goodbye to everyone and do a graceful Titus Oates, ‘I’m just going and will be gone for some time, probably for ever.’ No way back. Save money for the NHS to help other people? Feels like a good idea this morning. All the paperwork is in order. Recent reviews and checks on pensions. Will up to date. Power of attorney in place. Organ donor card in wallet. Everything necessary in folders in drawer in desk. All my affairs in order. No order because no affairs – just in case you’re wondering. Faithful unto death, soon.
No more mountains? Cannot live without mountains. My life mantra, ‘Just living is not enough; I must have fresh air, freedom, music and mountains.’ I refuse to live without mountains, I cannot adapt to that. Must talk to P, eldest son, ensure he remembers the details of my living will, also in folder with my will.
Coire Lagan beckons me to Skye, who will carry the ashes? Peace, at one with the mountains, for ever.
Peace, just the ever present keening wind until the final subduction of the mountains – and me.
© Richard Kefford Eorðdraca
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