For years, my passion has been music. Playing the guitar, writing songs, singing. Being in bands, accompanying other musicians, writing music for films. From time to time, people would ask whether I could imagine doing anything with my life other than music. Could there be any other occupation that would satisfy me?
Music, for me, was a way to connect with people in a meaningful way. I could connect with the people playing with me, the other musicians. I could also connect with the audience. From an early age, connecting through music was my way of developing a certain amount of self-confidence.
I've always had a good number of friends over the years. I've also always been close to the other members of my family. And yet . . . there was something about playing music that helped me feel less . . . alone.
What happened to me on the night of August 4, 2004 was completely unexpected. There were no warning signs. In fact, I was in excellent shape at the time. Ate well. Had a healthy social life. Was generally happy. There was no indication, no sign. That day was totally normal. And then, wham!
My life as I knew it was wiped out in an instant. I "woke up" 17 months later, living in a different city, with a one-year-old daughter, dealing with all sorts of physical and emotional challenges on a daily basis. A memory gap of a year and a half was a huge hurdle to overcome. Add to that all of the physical issues I had to deal with, along with daily exercises, therapy appointments, doctors' appointments. "Recovering" became my full time job.
It was very easy to feel sad and depressed about what had happened to me. It was easy to feel angry. After all, I had been "robbed" of being present for my daughter's birth. I was (instantly, it seemed to me) saddled with a multitude of physical issues I now had to address on a daily basis. I experienced extreme fatigue on a regular basis. My vision was impaired — I saw double images of everything. My hands were tight, making it virtually impossible for me to play the guitar.
Maybe the toughest thing about recovering from a brain injury is the loneliness. Although I was surrounded by caring family and friends, there was no one who could truly relate to what I was experiencing. I felt lost in a world I did not quite recognize.
"Why me?" I would wonder.
But there is no answer to that.
As my awareness slowly returned, I started to understand the decisions I had to make. How do I choose to deal with this? What is my life about now? How do I make sense of all this? How do I move forward?
Most importantly, I realized that I had choices. There was nothing I could do about what had happened. But I could control what happened next. I saw that giving in to negative feelings would accomplish nothing. Recovery required a positive way of thinking. I have been, and continue to be, determined. Whenever a doctor would say something negative to me, it would only drive me to work harder.
In the spring of 2006, I asked Eric Metzgar if he wanted to make a film about my story. I have known Eric for years and have always had a lot of respect for his integrity, esthetic taste and artistic choices. I felt confident that Eric would approach the film with the right kind of sensitivity. I knew he would create a work of substance.
Sharing the story has been a tremendous experience. It feels good to meet others and hear their stories. I feel like I am part of a large extended family. I feel less alone. I feel a sense of elation from giving back in a meaningful way.
It's a feeling that is familiar to me, somehow.
Connecting with people through this story reminds me of how it feels to connect with people through music. I feel a shared sense of knowing something that can't quite be put into words. I have a feeling that we have all been through something exceptional and come out on the other side. I feel a connection with people I have only just met.
My family and I were put in an extreme situation. We were forced to deal with a sudden, horrifying reality. Variations of our story are happening to other families all over the world every day. I think of Life. Support. Music. as a road map or template for what to do when a loved one is struck down. In today's world, we need these stories more than ever. These are the stories that illuminate possibilities. These are the stories that show us what human beings are truly capable of.