A slip of the brain

I pride myself on holding everything together mentally, but had a moment today that was hard to explain.

One important note – this is not a sympathy post. It’s more an explanation & self-record. I will talk frankly about my condition, but only because we’re geneticallly linked.

I’ve been dabbling with voice acting in audiofiction recently & have had the absolute honour of working with some proper pros (I’ve added links below, because if you haven’t discovered them oooh you’re in for a treat). Now, part of live action roleplay podcasts is that there’s no script & you have to think fast. This ticks so many of my creative boxes and I love it. It’s a world where I’ve mentioned that my body is a bit wonky, but I can generally set my stupid physical self to the side & have fun. So based on this, I mask a good 80% of what’s actually going on, and some people don’t know at all.

So what happened?

I was mid flow with my warlock telepathically interrogating a player when the brain fog descended and I asked a question with complete confidence & they just sort of looked at me…

The words I’d said bore no relation to what I meant to say.

I snapped out of where I was & managed to brush it off and said sort of what I actually meant. And on we went, albeit a bit foggy.

So what actually happened?

It’s something called Transient Aphasia and is similar to the aura stage of a migraine. One minute I’m bright as a button & the next I’m talking absolute crap and am not consciously present for a few moments. It’s a bit like being in a vivid dream where no-one can understand you. It feels like ages, but it’s usually seconds.

It’s embarrassing when you build a persona around being on the ball & intelligent.

Aphasia can be triggered by any number of weird things going on with my body.

I take a drug called gabapentin which was developed initially for epilepsy, but treats the nerve pain caused by frequent dislocations & spinal injury. It does it’s job, but does so by impacting on my brain’s ability to create new synapses. I have to work extra hard to remember things. Helpfully, in addition to jellifyig my once super sharp mind, it can also trigger Broca’s Aphasia (when you lose words but understand others).

This is why poor Mr Geek has become a mind reader of what “The Thing… The THING” might actually mean at any time. Weirdly, I can still explain an adjacency matrix for Djiksta’s shortest path algorithm, but can’t remember the word for Spoon.

Then there’s the main reason for my migraines – cranial instability. I’m still mightily pissed off that my own spine is putting pressure on my brain and causing occasional cf leaks (yes folks, that’s where pressure builds up & my brain juice leaks out of my nose or ear – who says disability isn’t sexy??). So these migraines can take 24 hours to get going & early sings are whoosy heads & Wernicke’s Aphasia (the kind where you talk crap & have no idea you’re doing it).

Treatment for spinal instability in the UK is pretty much non-existent and after long discussions, we’ve agreed that I don’t want surgery anyway. Since being diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos I got the answers I needed and frankly don’t want to be poked & prodded more for a genetic condition that has no cure.

I make a point of not dwelling on it too much, but cringy moment’s)l like this in front of people I really respect, make me so frustrated with myself.

So, on a lighter note here are the podcasts I promised (these are all podbean links & not promotions):

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Escapism

So here’s the thing. I make a lot of jokes about goofing off & not trying too hard – all of these things are basically pure fantasy. I love my job. Teaching is in my bones and I find it nigh on impossible to switch off.

I work “part time” now, by which I mean I am contracted to work 4 days each week, spend my day off marking & prepping, and tutor 4 evenings & Saturday mornings. Part time = 45+ hours each week. When I’m not working, I’m mulling something over about work. So I needed a distraction that wasn’t generalized ranting on Twitter.

I’ve blogged a lot before about the need for pacing and work/life balance, but I just suck at it. Take right now as an example – it’s past midnight & I have a meeting tomorrow (today) with someone who I really want to approve of me as a teacher (fuck. I’m 38 & have been doing this a decade. Why am I still seeking approval like a puppy?!). Ok, I’m mainly awake because my knee dislocated, it’s swollen like a balloon, and liquid morphine keeps me awake.

So yeah, here I am at peak anxiety with pain levels that are piercing through the usual drugs & a top up of 20ml morphine. Anxiety does not help with pain, so I learnt to meditate.

I ought to mention that I’m equally shit at meditating because my brain gets bored. I sit here & do a “body check”. Breathe in……. Breathe out….. Breathe in…… Toes…um… Shit. I can’t feel my toes! …. Calm down dickhead, we haven’t felt our toes in years. Oh yeah…… Breathe out…..

I place myself somewhere calm….. here I am dancing gazelle-like through the fields of my mind… getting to know my new roleplaying character…. Clear your mind…. Nope…. And relaaaax…. Nope.

Because actually where I get to relax is inside my head creating stuff. As a weird only child, I spent ages in my room building home made maps & villages where the stories I told to the people in my head took place. I was generally far happier chatting to made up people than real ones. Mr Geek shares my love of sitting quietly with little plastic figures & watches from his office as I bring my imaginary friends out to play with others.

It’s been decades since I created something more personal than cool learning resources. I’ve sunk all of my creativity into developing CSI style codebreaking resources, Elma the Elephant hexadecimal colouring, Game of Prolog, Revision Twister… But over the past few months the games have crept back in. First came Warhammer, then Bloodbowl (if you suck at meditating, try painting teeny little orcs for weeks on end), then over the past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to join some roleplaying games online and have just started a weekly campaign.

Before you back away from the nerd, hear me out.

Today was Game Zero – working out who we are, our back stories, the world around us & how we gel as a team. What I remember from teenage games was us as kids picking the warrior woman with the massive tits and distracting guards with nipples (and frankly nearly killing our shy DM who barely looked at women let alone knew what a real boob looked like). Instead, what we got was a game that lets us test out our psyche.

“What do you want from this character?” Holy crap, that’s a deep question. By this point I was already invested so just went with it.

In a group of just four, one is seeing what it’s like to have real faith, one is living knowing that they will die, one is merging being a young soldier with hidden disabilities, and another a manchild rebelling against caring parents for the greater good of those around him. This is heavy stuff – not your average elven archer skipping through the forest in suggestively shiney tights. I have to hand it to Blood – she unpicked our characters until they were real. We all know at some point a specific character is going to die, and yet we’re going to willingly get attached. Self-preservation mode has pressed the eject button & has shot itself through the ceiling.

So here we are, instead of meditating and clearing my mind to reduce pain, I’ve created Pip (Lady Philippa Billingworth), a genetically modified soldier with the anger issues of an orphaned teenage girl, topped with a mutation causted by the faulty collagen gene already in her body allowing her to bend & break her body seemingly at will. She’s the angry, frustrated internal me, albeit with a 7ft much more functional body and weapons. That can’t be a good idea…

To see what we’re up to & some of the other weird and wonderful activities from the guys, check out these links:

You can find me on Twitter at @I_Am_Spanners

Please do check out the Bloodthirsty puppets at either their website or Twitch (where you’ll get points for watching which you can use to mess with the game play!)

www.bloodthirstypuppets.co.uk

Bloodthirsty Puppets Twitch Channel – Regular games of various fun. Catch me every Monday at 7.30pm GMT, and watch along with me on Friday Night Spiced at 8pm GMT (unsurprisingly on Fridays), plus plenty of others.

And of course, I can’t do an intro to me being allowed to play with tese guys witbout mentioning ‘the hot one’

Skaggeth Twitch Channel – this guy is an absolute dude.