From Underwater: When Encephalitis, Brain Injury and Epilepsy Change Everything.

A key word for me—and for all of us members of the brain-damaged tribe—is hope. Individuals and groups need that word. My brain remembers it; I can spell it and talk about it. In some odd ways, my mental adventure underwater has helped me live with hope.

Neurological adventures, anti-epileptic medications and their side effects, inner wars, words hiding in the let-me-house-your-nouns-until-you-need-them section of the brains, numb hands, numb feet, slow methods of processing how to answer an unexpected but simple question, and an exhausted electrical system in need of a nap when others want to run marathons—those realities could cause sadness. Sometimes they do. But as I stare at the MRI results, I remember. I actually do remember.

One word.

One four-letter word.


Hope to continue. Hope in the brain and the Designer of that craftwork. Hope in hope—to live and breathe, to smile and care, to endure and not give up, to say the word epilepsy and spell it correctly, to believe, to continue this voyage.

Kathleen Norris wrote about that four-letter word: “But hope has an astonishing resilience and strength. Its very persistence in our hearts indicates that it is not a tonic for wishful thinkers but the ground on which realists stand.”

Instead of dwelling on the scar tissue’s disruption of the brain’s ideal design, I recall those conversations when staring at my test results. The MRI revealed reality—often hidden, but now on a screen visible for my eyes to see. Clear enough for my brain to understand. Raw enough for even me to remember.

A screen of scars. A revelation of reality. A narrative by image. A case by science.

A brain—created artistically, though damaged now, though unable to function as intended, though wounded. The electrical system fascinates, finds, labors, and, at times, overreacts in an action known as seizures. But, through even that, the art amazes me. Cells are determined to work hard and well and together, even if sometimes they work too hard.

Medication and conversations and writing help this scarred brain to see more than the gray. It notices a quest abounding in hope among the storms.

And that hope allows me to sometimes lie down and be still, even when not being tested for the latest revelation of damage. To ride the waves. To rest in the underwater adventure. To hear of hope and breathe. To notice the images all around and appreciate the wonder of now.