Friday, October 16, 2015

A Tale of My "Lost Summer"

Like that, summer is gone and autumn is fully upon us. I "lost" a large portion of my summer this year after my daughter was involved in a very bad accident one evening in late July. I don't want to get into too many details of the accident itself, other than to say that it was severe enough that I had to take the first flight home I could get (as luck would have it I was on the other side of the country for business) and spent the next week in the hospital with my wife and daughter, and then spent the rest of the summer at a battery of doctor, surgeon, and therapist appointments. Hearing that my six year-old daughter has PTSD is not something I ever thought I'd be listening to.

I don't write this as a bid for sympathy or anything like that - we received a tremendous outpouring of love and support from our friends, family, and even complete strangers in the first few weeks after the accident and it was completely overwhelming (in a good way). I'm not really even writing this as a way to say "this is why I haven't been blogging" over the past few months. I've gone through many spells where work and family needs took precedence over the blog.

My daughter is continuing to recuperate and every day seems to get a little bit better, and we're so thankful for that. In those first few hours and days after the accident, all I could do was pray that my daughter would survive and recover and get back to being her healthy, normal self. I was walking around like a zombie in a half-daze, and then I just started to get grumpy about everything due to lack of sleep and of course stress and worry.

As the days wore on, I found that I fell back onto my old comfort zone to get by. When at first the thought of reading a comic or talking about gaming or movies seemed inappropriate and thoughtless, I found that it brought me a bit of comfort and that in turn helped my psychological state so that I could be stronger for my daughter, even when she was unconscious. I needed to "re-charge" my batteries a bit to just be myself.

What I learned is that my family's support network is so much larger and thoughtful than I ever could have imagined. There are so many tales I could share, but a few are directly related to the overall theme of my blog.

On the second day after the accident, after I'd finally been able to get a flight home, some friends of ours stopped by our local comic book shop that my daughter I visit each Wednesday night after work. The daughter of these people is my daughter's best friend, and their mom is, let's just say, the "anti-Martin." Other than our mutual affection for beer, we have very little else in common. She's set foot in a comic book store exactly one other time in her life, and that was because I dragged her there during a My Little Pony signing, so she could get a signed comic for her daughter. This woman and her daughter went into the shop and mentioned that my daughter had been injured and was in the hospital. The store manager connected-the-dots and realized what had happened (this particular accident had actually been reported nationwide on the news, although of course they kept my daughter's name out of it). He leapt into action, grabbing a bunch of comics for my daughter, and then he grabbed about four graphic novels for me to read in the hospital and just gave them to our friend to give to us. My daughter is kind of a "store mascot" in a way, and this guy knew that I would be sitting in the hospital, stressing out, and that I might need an escape for just a few minutes. And he knew I'd want something new to show to my daughter once she was conscious again. Those comics truly helped my mood and demeanor while I was at the hospital - not just the actual reading of them, but also just the thought and caring that went into him gifting them to us. I still get a bit choked up just thinking about it.

As a side note, about a month after the accident, that same comic shop held an event, named after my daughter, where they donated a portion of all of their sales that day to us to help us pay our medical bills. And they invited a bunch of artists who have appeared at the store in the past to do sketches and signings, and that day all of the money they collected for their sketches also went to my family. I just can't say enough about what a wonderful community we found at this shop and the great lengths they went to in order to "take care of one of their own." When I saw the shop owner post about the event on Facebook, you can probably imagine that I was just completely overwhelmed with emotion.

In other comics-related stories, "Wonder Woman" became a theme for my daughter's recovery. A graphic designer friend took one of my daughter's old Halloween photos where she was dressed as Wonder Woman and put that into a comic-book type "frame" and then mounted it on foam core and we put that in my daughter's hospital room. Other people sent over Wonder Woman themed gifts including bobble heads, a customized Wonder Woman build-a-bear, a Wonder Woman rabbit, and an Ugly Doll dressed as Wonder Woman, as well as play accessories like bracelets, necklaces, tiaras, and other items. All of these items really helped my daughter's spirits and her recovery - we kept explaining how she was just as strong and brave as Wonder Woman and that theme has carried on during her recuperation. Having a strong female role-model like that has been a tremendous help for my daughter.

Oddly, while I was in the hospital and even returning home afterwards, I found that I was going through a bit of a creative streak. After the initial shock of the accident wore off and my mood slowly started to improve, for some reason a bunch of ideas started bubbling to the surface of my mind. I've wondered if this was just my subconscious way of dealing with all of the stress and keeping it from eating away at me. Whatever the reason, I had a ton of new ideas for my on-going World of Samoth campaign that I began to jot down, and also randomly resurrected an RPG idea that I'd been working on-and-off again for the better part of the past five years or so, but one that I hadn't touched in at least a year. I started writing tons of notes and organizing my thoughts.

And of course the WiFi connection in the hospital enabled me to re-watch a lot of my favorite genre shows that are streaming on NetFlix and Amazon Prime. All of these so-called "geek" outlets were so comforting to me in this time of immense stress for my family and me. Being able to "tune out" for a few minutes with a comic, TV show, or game book and collect my thoughts really helped me to strengthen myself and be able to deal with my daughter's trauma.

It's a bit odd to think about my hobbies that way - always before, I looked at them as pleasant, diverting pass-times but nothing more. They're a fun way to spend time with friends or to just provide an escape from reality for a few minutes or hours. But I'd never thought of them as a kind of support network for one's mental health. I'm so glad that I had all of my hobbies and interests to fall back on.

I'm curious to hear if any of you have had similar experiences as a way to deal with stress like this.


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Listening: "Autumn Leaves (Instrumental Version)" by Stan Getz
Drinking: Fall Hornin' Pumpkin Ale by Anderson Valley Brewing Company

5 comments:

  1. I've had some rough experiences this year -- although nothing as stressful as what you've been going through! -- and I went back and forth on writing about them on my blog; I couldn't decide if it would help, or if it would come across as self-indulgent, even if it is a blog and that's what blogs are for. I didn't come to a conclusion, although I didn't end up writing anything.

    Instead I did something similar to you; I took this minor life change as an opportunity to do something different and attack the reading pile I've had growing in one corner of the room, and to play the computer games I've been neglecting and so on.

    At first there was a little bit of guilt, in the sense that I was having fun when I felt like I should have had my mind on more serious matters, but in the end my decision to catch up on my reading or play games or whatever would have no effect on what else was going on, and would help me get through it, so of course it was the right decision for me.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear that you've been having a rough time this year, but it sounds like you're dealing with it at least a bit, which is good to hear.

      I totally know what you mean about feeling guilty, but I think you made the right (and ultimately sensible choice) that doing that stuff would have no impact on your other issues. It's a very similar process that I went through.

      All my best that your years gets better and ends on a high note.

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    2. I wasn't aiming for sympathy, but thank you! What I've been dealing with hasn't been anywhere near as stressful as what you and your family have been through but I recognised a little bit of it in what you've written.

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  2. I can totally relate to your blog post. I just recently my wife was admitted to the hospital for emergency lifesaving surgery. RPG writing saved my sanity. The times while she was asleep, or drugged out of her gourd. I wrote the majority of a new game I've been working on. It was nice to lose myself in another world for a bit. As the real world was pretty stressful at that moment.

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    Replies
    1. All my best to your wife for a speedy recovery- I hope that she's doing well by now.

      And, as with Kelvin above, it sounds like you and I have a similar experience on how we approached dealing with our stress.

      Thanks for much for sharing your story - I appreciate it.

      Cheers!

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