3. The Crash.

Peripheral Neuropathy Brain


The Crash.

I remember very clearly the day that my legs gave up on me, rendering my barely able to leave my flat.

It had taken a while for life to settle back down after the big falling out. But, as is the way, after a few months, things began to return to normality. I had been seeing a girl for nearly half a year. She was beautiful, funny and talented. We decided to move in together. Things moved extremely quickly and, a few months later we had a car, a puppy and she was set to come and visit my family in England. The constant partying had calmed down, but my body was still not recovering from the past few years.

The truth is that the distress that my body was in was as a result of something much deeper than the past few years of heavy hedonism that I had put it through. It was only a year later, as I sat sweating and feverish on the cushion for the first time that I began to see the true cause of my constant anxiety, my restlessness, and my inability to sit still or stop thinking for more than a second. I remember one time in Los Angeles when I became so frustrated with the over activity of my brain, the constant stream of thinking that smothered every experience that I had, that I ended up calling a psychiatrist to see whether he could prescribe me anything to knock me out for long enough to give my brain a rest and allow me to simply be in the moment!

About a month after this I was collapsed in my bed, exhausted yet buzzed. I had been to a rave and taken far too much ecstasy. Lying in bed that night, I was hit with a sudden, life juddering pain in the back of my legs. My nerves were on fire with the pain of thousands of tiny needles stabbing the Myelin Sheath surrounding my sciatic nerve. The pain was excruciating, and I was crying out in pain, startling my girlfriend who had been sleeping next to me. After a long and agonising night the pain finally subsided, and I was able to get to rehearsal for the play that I was performing in. For a day or so things went back to normal. I was rattled but took it as an early warning and narrow escape.

But it was not an escape, and the warning had come too late. Two days later, when back at my flat after a long day’s rehearsal I felt a burst of pins and needles hit my legs. A minute later and the left leg had gone completely dead, heavy like I was wearing armour, the muscles cramped up like bone. My right leg soon followed. I could not walk more than ten meters at a time. I was terrified.

I think that it is perhaps a normal reaction to sickness to at first deny its existence. I felt that, were I to accept that there was anything wrong, the sickness would become a reality. So I kept it to myself, and spent the next year living in constant terror, my leg slowly getting worse and the pain spreading to my hands. I managed to become extremely good at hiding the side effects. When I was seated there was no problem, so I tried to sit as often as possible, and when I walked I would muster all of my strength to pick my feet up high enough on each step to camouflage any underlying problem. But, beneath the veneer, I was deeply, deeply frightened. I was so identified with myself, so completely immersed in ego and pride that the idea of not being able to walk crippled me all over again.

It took an entire year for me to summon the courage to go to the doctors. I went to a GP at first, and then consulted with one of the top neurologists on the planet. The prognosis was not good: I had a degenerative form of peripheral neuropathy, a disease of the nervous system that was only expected to worsen.

I still did not tell anyone close to me for another few months, finally succumbing due to a midnight rush to the Emergency Room with my entire body spasming and in agony.

A few days later, a week before my twenty-first birthday, my beloved father passed away. He had suffered from a terrible case of Multiple Sclerosis and a brain tumour, and had died at home in the early hours of the 18th April 2009, surrounded by my mother, brother and sister.

In all of my pretend optimism I seemed unaffected by the events of the past year. I put the smile on, laughed it off and let everyone know how okay I was. A big truth is that I had allowed my whole system to completely shut down, which in many respects allowed me to be fine. My mind was so cluttered and disorganised and my energetic body so closed that I had successfully numbed myself from my ability to be aware or to feel. Through years of mindlessness, neglect and hedonism I had brought myself as close to destruction as anyone can get to without being destroyed.

It is at these hard moments in life that human beings are called to make a choice between peace and chaos. More often than not we do not understand the full scope of the question, and it is even more rare that we are able to truly see the chaos and cause of our downfall. I certainly did not have the insight for such wisdoms.

I did, however, have the great fortune of being introduced to someone who did.

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