stroke

Trauma

My therapists like to use this word often. They use it when I talk about my mother, when I explained what happened when my first girlfriend died and most recently they use it as the aftermath of what happened that day, February 3rd, 2017.

I remember every minute of that day, everything from 11 AM forward. I was editing a scene, nothing out of the ordinary, just a scene about a character from our documentary that I had edited before but I wanted to try using her in a different way. I also bought tickets to see Slowdive and thought about asking Mike if he wanted to go with me. It was 11 AM and I thought Mike was in a meeting with my boss, something that happened very often at the time. Then my boss said good morning to me and asked me about Mike, I said I thought he was with him, so I texted Mike. I said, ‘dude where are you?’ but I didn’t get an answer. At 12 PM it seemed strange that he wasn’t here, he would always call in, even if he was gonna be 10 minutes late, but nothing. I started getting worried and so did my boss, we called him and left him voice messages. By 1 PM we called his dad, asking if he had heard from him but didn’t. I messaged his brother too, then suddenly I saw I had three missed calls from Mike. I called back but I didn’t get an answer. I left the office and took the train to Brooklyn, at that point we had called the police and his landlord. When I got there his friend was waiting. He told me the cops stopped by but they didn’t break the door because the landlord was on her way. I waited for her at this girl’s apartment with his friend. She offered us the usual, water and food. I couldn’t get my mind off what to expect. I didn’t even know if he was in his apartment.

The landlord showed up, she opened the door and Mike was in bed. I approached him and he flipped around annoyed, it seemed he wanted to sleep more. The neighbor who was with us called 911 and his friend called his parents. I spoke to him but he wouldn’t say anything back, I didn’t know what was going on or why he was acting that way. The ambulance showed up and they asked him about last night, if he had taken any drugs, Mike couldn’t speak but I said he doesn’t take drugs. They didn’t believe me and kept pointing a flashlight at his eyes. They asked me to help him dress up, he couldn’t move half of his body. I got closer to him and helped him put his sweater on, he finally recognized me and said ‘oh hey’. I kind of lost it when I was putting his shoes on, his neighbor had to help me because I was so scared. I grabbed his sweater, his wallet and ran downstairs to hop on the ambulance with him but suddenly his dad showed up and he went in instead. Mike’s friend and I got on his dad’s car and we followed. I had asked the paramedics to take him to Columbia Presbyterian but they didn’t listen to me, they took him to the nearest hospital instead. I didn’t eat at all that day and at this point it was 5 PM. We waited and waited to know what happened, the rest of his family arrived and soon after we learned he had a stroke and half of his body was paralyzed. They didn’t have the equipment he needed at the hospital we went to so he got transferred to an NYU hospital in Manhattan. When we got there they said the doctors were too busy, so he got transferred again to another NYU location in Red Hook. I was so mad. Finally we got there and he was taken to the ICU, they did a couple tests and we waited until 4 AM, then I went home.

The next couple of days were sort of a blur, I remember coming to work but I don’t remember what I was working on. Then after I would check in with his family to see if it was okay to visit him. I also read a lot about aphasia and strokes, i read about recovery, stroke survivors and so forth. I felt so anxious and frustrated, I was so scared that I reached out to my ex-girlfriend. I guess I needed support and she also knew him, so I told her what happened and she was supportive.

A week went by, my therapist kept asking me to do breathing exercises while I was still so anxious, anxious of his life, and if that life would continue, under what circumstances? I kept thinking of how he might never be able to use all his words, and that’s what he does, as a producer. I wondered if he would hate me for finding him, if his life would be something he would not want being this limited. Then suddenly, on February 13th 2017, after not hearing any news about his recovery, I reached out to his friend to see if he heard anything. He didn’t text me back, he called and he said ‘Mike’s gone’, I collapsed in the kitchen as I couldn’t believe how the fuck the world would go on without him. It is the most bizarre of thoughts, in the moment, shutting down life like that.

I called my ex-girlfriend and told her the news, she told me she was sorry and didn’t know what else to say, she said she’d text me the next day. I cried all night, I kept crying through the week. My ex-girlfriend stayed in my life about two days after he died, by the second day she told me she didn’t wanna be linked to her past and asked me to stop this bullshit. I was just so, deeply offended. I was also disappointed that this person I used to love so much to the point of wanting to spend my life with her forever could say something like this, but that’s what it was and perhaps if she wouldn’t’ve ever said anything like it I would still think of her the way I did before. It combined, Mike’s death and her real self, I grieved both but for a while I did not care about losing her. It happened later and it wasn’t her exactly, more the idea of her, who I thought she was.

I was stuck in a loop for a month of that day when I found him. For a while it just kept replaying, it replayed until it didn’t and I started grieving, realizing he was dead. Even now as I type this word, it doesn’t feel complete yet, and I’m not sure who I will be when it does. You hear the word ‘trauma’ as such a casual term, you picture someone scared or on edge, it is so much more than that, trauma has a world around it, I guess that’s why it’s hard to overcome it or learn how to cope with it.

I hope all of you have a good day.

- Grieving Young.