The word for today is vindication. After decades of being told I just need to be more disciplined, more organized, less flaky, that I just need to get it together, that I'm lazy, that the reason I don't get more done is that I think I'm entitled to a life of ease, which has made me weep from sheer exhausted outrage, today I sat across from a man who showed me exactly how heavy a load of cognitive rocks I've been hauling around for at least 34 years, exactly which circuits of my brain have been gasping for blood supply, and exactly how miraculous it is that I've been able, however haltingly, however stop and go, however exhaustedly, however poorly paid because after writing I have nothing left for marketing, that I've been able to carve out for myself a name and reputation as a public intellectual, a feminist, a writer whose words are taught and reprinted and translated into many languages, and in spite of ceaseless ablism, earned for myself widespread respect.
Each multicolored chart, representing one of the tests I took while lying in an MRI machine, underlines this truth. Again and again he points to the ways in which my brain has "flatlined" its capacity to do any number of things I've been telling the people around me I can't do, and which they keep expecting that I can, because most of the time, the things I struggle with are camouflaged behind my un-garbled speech and my fluency with the written word. He shows me the black lines that represent all those times I can't remember what you just said to me, can't remember if I sent that payment in or not, can't retrieve a word, a name, something I know perfectly well but can't find anywhere, cannot, for the life of me begin to remember where I put the crucial document I just spent months getting a duplicate of, can't, no matter how I try, pull the information I need through the great hub of my subcortical brain, am swamped in the hubbub of a crowded room, my brain on overload from trying to filter out all the background noise with a broken net, and walk smash into a geological scale upthrust of bedrock tiredness so dense that I can't speak at all, must wave my hands in the air and retreat to a closet, elevator, bathroom before my entire brain floods and I can't find my way home.
Tomorrow will be about starting to bring all those circuits back to life, about reestablishing blood flow to places that, like a limb bent too long, have fallen asleep. Tomorrow will be about sweat and tremble and push, and the painful tingle of reawakening. But tonight is all about me turning to face the two white male neurologists who in 1983 told me that I was not brain injured but instead had conversion hysteria born of the desire to avoid working and be supported by my partner, waving these colored charts in their faces and telling them, "You can kiss my cerebellum."
Aurora Levins Morales is a disabled and chronically ill, community supported writer, historian, artist and activist. It takes a village to keep her blogs coming. To become part of the village it takes, donate here.
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