Written By: TBF Ambassador, Andrew Davie: Author. former recruiter, theater, finance, teacher. HHHG and AFOF shows. MA Counseling ’23. Ruptured Brain Aneurysm Survivor
June 29th, 2023 will be the fifth anniversary of my ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage.
Before my aneurysm, I had taught high school English/writing at an independent school for students with ADHD and learning differences. My first book, a crime fiction novella titled Pavement, had just been accepted for publication. I also turned 40 the week before. The school year just ended, and I was going to visit my parents. My aneurysm happened at the airport. Fortunately, I hadn’t boarded the plane.
Although there are some universal experiences, everyone’s recovery is unique. I have minor physical limitations (my balance isn’t great, and if I move my head laterally, I need to wait for my vision to settle. It’s similar to the sensation of stepping from a moving merry-go-round. Thankfully, I don’t get nauseated.) The challenge had been the emotional recovery; particularly, how I was going to adjust to many existential questions. I had spent the previous almost 20 years making writing my primary focus. I had enjoyed elements of teaching, but it had been a means to an end. I expected the publishing of my book to be a life-changing experience, which it wasn’t, and now it was uncertain if I would be able to capitalize on that anyway. Similarly, I had also imagined I would get married and start a family. One of the effects of the aneurysm is my ability to make emotional connections has been blunted, so after much of the physical recovery had tapered off, I was suddenly faced with a less certain future.
However, I returned to teaching and the dating world. Those had been my previous goals, but now neither seemed worthwhile. My book had arrived, and the event had not been the life-changing experience I had expected. The students I had been working with require someone at 100% capacity, so I always felt out of sync. When I would attend support groups and listen to other survivors mention how they wouldn’t have been able to cope without their spouses and children, it left a lasting impression. I returned to the online dating world, but most of the dates played out like an episode of the television show Seinfeld. Should I address the aneurysm on the first date? “Would you like to split an order of nachos? By the way…” Those and other similar questions were at the forefront of my mind. Not to mention, the difficulty with emotional connections only added complications.
As I continued to feel more comfortable, I got a job at a tutoring center, which was supposed to begin in April 2020. When COVID became a pandemic in March, my job was canceled. As a result, I moved back in with my parents, which turned out to be a silver lining, since I could focus exclusively on continuing to recover. The following things helped:
Time: Recovery of any sort is often not linear and doesn’t necessarily happen in a revelatory manner. Typically, you’re able to gain a perspective of how much progress you’ve made by adding up the inches at a much later point.
Somatic Experience Therapy: I’m still working with an incredible therapist, and I’ve been able to feel more comfortable with how I currently process emotions. Instead of focusing on what I don’t have or how I think things should be, I’m able to be curious and grateful for what I can experience.
Attention: While it’s a relatively simple concept, philosopher Simone Weill discusses the importance of remaining open to possibility. For example, if you are invited to a party and you know someone will be there whom you do not like, it might cloud your experience, and you’ll be unable to enjoy elements of the experience that may have been possible.
Rather than consider my future as a necessary extension of my previous life, I took a step back and reassessed everything. I realized teaching wasn’t going to provide the fulfillment I sought. Instead, I looked into becoming a Clinical Mental Health Counselor to help others through their brain injury recoveries. I’m hoping to get my degree in the Spring of 2024. I haven’t closed the door on potential romance, but I also don’t consider it to be a requirement for happiness. I’m fortunate I can still write, but publishing is no longer the driving force.
I hoped to be comfortable with these changes immediately, but it took about three years before I could honestly embrace the uncertainty of this experience. In the words of Ivan from the film Greenberg, “It’s huge to finally embrace the life you never planned on.”
Learn more about Andrew Davie and explore his writings, music, Interviews/Publicity/Presentations/Awards, and more on his personal website here.