My Brain Is Broke

Maybe folks will look at this headline and think, “Big whoop” or less charitably, “Duh.” Actually, as a relentless over-sharer, my adding another confession to my list of not-so-secret-secrets will most likely have folks saying, “Please, stop.”

What makes this not-so-secret secret different is that I feel ashamed. See,  I’m not used to feeling ashamed. Generally, I operate on the principle that if something would make me feel ashamed I wouldn’t do it in the first place. While many could (and do) argue that I SHOULD feel ashamed more…well, I just don’t. 

But in the last few years I’ve had occasion to feel this new shame emotion, and it doesn’t feel good. Since I’ve heard confession is good for the soul – and since my soul could likely use a good polishing – each week I will somewhat reluctantly share some things about which I am embarrassed and maybe it will ease my mortification.

I’ll start with the fact that my brain no longer works so well.

My brain – that used to be my jam. Growing up, I knew I wasn’t pretty, or athletic, or particularly loveable. Being adopted, I was always worried my parents felt ‘gypped’. School was the only place I felt confident, the only thing that felt easy. When my county instituted an off-site program for “gifted” public school students, I attended a special school twice a week.  To get in kids were nominated by teachers and then took an IQ test. Without my fanfare, I remember my mom telling me I had a “genius IQ”. When I asked what that meant (the only thing the word genius conjured up for my 8-year-old mind was Albert Einstein’s messy hair) my mom told me it meant I was smart but not to ever mention it, ever. I guess she didn’t want me getting too big for my britches. (I should mention here that there was absolutely zero danger of that; my britches were plentybaggy.)

Now, if my life has taught me one thing it’s that no one gives a shit about your intelligence. Only within a handful of contexts – National Merit Scholarship, SAT tests, Spelling Bees, annoying people – does it have any effect whatsoever. Still, it was all I had. It’s like if you can do a handstand. No one really cares, but it’s good to know you can whip it out every once in a while if need be.

A little over a decade ago I started to have seizures. Rarely the big, scary kind – just a tingling in my feet and hands that tell me they’re coming, then for ten minutes or so language escapes me. If I try to write or talk I’m literally at a loss for words. I’ve had tests, I’ve been hospitalized, I’ve tried different meds, I had a grand mal seizure at my job and co-workers saw my underwear. Nothing tragic. (Although those poor co-workers might disagree.)

But the medications make me terribly fatigued, so much so that I go through much of my day in a somnambulistic stupor. Without a disco nap – and sometimes with one — I don’t have much energy to go anywhere at night. (And you may be surprised to learn that awhole lotof stuff happens at night.) Even worse, each seizure in my left temporal lobe destroys brain cells. Basically, it’s seriously affected my word bank, my retention of facts and information, my long- and short-term memory, and my ability to recognize faces (Prosopagnosia). I also sometimes have selective attention to what I see and hear. (I always had that – my brain has always gone “la, la, la” when anyone starts talking about physics, football, or my computer or investments.) I have difficulty retaining new information or following manuals’ instructions. (Ask anyone who’s seen my try to work my DVD player.) Occasionally I have difficulty understanding spoken words. (The latter is especially bad when Republicans or Evangelical Christians start to talk.)

So, my brain, the one part of my body I actually liked, is broken. I can’t understand tech manuals, remember verbal instructions, and often get lost when written instructions exceed 3 bullet points. (Much like our President.)  I can no longer summon a dozen synonyms for most words (which may be of great relief to friends and readers).  I can’t remember movies I’ve seen, concerts I’ve attended, most vacations and events. I live in terror of seeing people I know and not recognizing them and have them think I’m an idiot, or much worse, uncaring and snotty. (Recently there was a 20threunion that I wanted to attend but didn’t; I was too worried and guilty that I wouldn’t recognize people who recognized me.). 

My confession is I’ll be limping through the rest of my life with my bruised and broken brain, averting my eyes and shuffling in embarrassment around all the bright and shiny brains. Don’t fret; I do not need pity or sympathy. But cut me some slack if you can. And please don’t get offended if I don’t recognize you right off.


Dixie Laite - Dame Town Writer

Author: Dixie Laite

I'm Sarah "Dixie" Laite -- a writer and branding consultant in New York City. I love classic movies, animals, flea markets, and "Law & Order" re-runs. I live with my husband, 2 dogs and 5 parrots in midtown Manhattan.All my life I've been obsessed with figuring out how to navigate life as a woman. There are endless books, TV shows, gurus, guys, movies and magazines out there to guide you. But now that I'm closing in on 60, I've noticed that the old rules don't apply, and most of the role models aren't old enough.I'm older now. I know more and I weigh more. I want to be inspired and I want to inspire. Let's get a handle on this shit and figure it out together.

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  • Love you, Dixie. You have always been inspiring to me and will continue to be. I’m from Oxygen and have resting bitch face in case your memory needs jogging. Xoxo

    • I hope I didn’t tell you that you had resting bitch face! (Anyway, it’s the most hints, bravest face. I aspire to it — I’m almost there!) oxoxox Love you, and THANK YOU.

  • Dixie – you are loved and your precious brain is loved. Please continue to do what you do – using your superb intellect to make us think and question. I am so honored to know you and hope I’ve earned your friendship. Dawn

  • A couple of years ago, I had a mishap while scuba diving. Diagnoses have been suspect,nevertheless, I did suffer a “traumatic brain injury “ which has become my “get out jail free “ catch phrase whenever I have an oops moment. The truth will set you free.

  • Hey!!!You have just described most of what I have been going through, since 2008….except you don’t walk into walls???? and feel like the floor is a rolling deck of a pirate’s ship and there is no parrot here. At least you would have Butch!!!!!You are breathing and we love you, especially your bangs!! You will know me by my cackle. BIG HUGS~~~~ Phyllis

  • I love your sharing, over- or otherwise. I am sorry you have to go through this. I think you are the coolest.

  • Dear, dear Dixie,
    I adore you so much!
    After reading about your “broken brain”, and without minimizing what you are going through, it is my humble belief that you already have so much than the rest of us.

    You will never give up, this I know, and I predict that whatever part of your brain is looking for “downtime”, the rest will takeover and compensate bigtime.

    Love you, my feisty, fiery friend. We will meet some day soon.

    • Thank you so much, lovely Donna! I am grateful for all I have, and my brain thing really just gets me down for fear of being rude to people who think I don’t remember them or what they’ve said out of self-centeredness. Forgetting stuff has its advantages — I can watch re-runs over and over and never get bored. 🙂

  • I’m new to your page…my brain is broken, too, and I’m a writer, like you. I had an an aneurysm in my cerebellum in 2015; neurosurgeon severed the artery feeding it, coiled it & sent me on my way. In 2016 a vein started feeding it from below & they took me off blood thinners, hoping it would stop; it did. In June 2018, it popped up in another place & they put 16 more coils in…so far, so good. I have to stop & think of words, I don’t remember all the faces, I forget the lines to all the old musicals & the names of all the Clark Gable movies I once could recite the words to. But I’ve read your work, Dixie, and damn, girl, can you write. Even with a broken brain. So like a wise dame recently told me when I whined that I just wanted to be normal again…maybe this is the new normal. Go with it. Learn to laugh at yourself for forgetting if your can, because why not? It’s actually kind of freeing. And the people who matter, who love you, will love you all the more for your little imperfection. Don’t be ashamed, and don’t apologize. Live and love you, your amazing and still existent creativity and talent. I have no idea when this damn aneurysm is going to pop up again, or pop & kill me, but I’m here today and I’ve found Dame Dixie. Woo Hoo!

    • Wow, Kelly, your message is so empowering and flattering. I am so grateful. My memory is shitty but somehow I remember every compliment! :). I am so thankful we found each other and that you took time out to send me your kind and gracious thoughts. Kelly, we will not only survive but thrive! xo

  • I love you, honey, no matter what. I’ll introduce you to L and reintroduce myself to you as much as you need! I love you and your brain, and we enjoy reading the insights that come out of it. It’s ok if your brain isn’t 100% fine 100% of the time. We’re lucky to have you! xoxox Valerie and L

  • Hi Dixie. I’m so sorry you are going through this. I had a friend with a brain injury and people tended to say “fixing” type things to her, like, you’re fine! Don’t worry your brain is just FINE! This denied her reality and made her sad and even worse off. So I offer you empathy and space to mourn your loss. I admire your courage and persistence. Like you, I’m delightfully near the big 6-0 and it’s good. And now dammit I realize I get to BE the role model of whatever the hell this is. The Fresh Hell of it. Maybe that is my Big 6-0 name.
    You are one of my role models and our only interface is UnSocial Media (Twitter and FB.)