My writing has changed a great deal inÂ the last two years, in several ways, due to several factors. I’ve mentioned that I have a tube in my throat, that I can’t talk, but I haven’t really gotten into specifics. I haven’t explained how I’ve been affected. I figure I’ll chat about things over a few posts.
One evening I’m watching a really bad episode of Dexter with my girlfriend. Back then I wear a mask over my nose, the mask is connected via a stylish gray hose to a machine that blows pressurized air into my lungs. Without the mask I can’t breathe, but I can talk. So, being that I can still talk, I ask for a sip of pineapple juice. This sip takes a really bad turn. I don’t drinkÂ the juice, I inhale it, I drown myself. After about three or four minutes I pass out, an ambulance whisks me to an e.r. trauma room. I die in this room, my heart stops, but it doesn’t take.
I wake up two weeks later in intensive care, feeling like I got hit by a bus. Oh, and much to my surprise, I can’t talk. My lungsÂ are nicely infected, so I had to be intubated. There’s hard plastic tube in my mouth, snaking down my throat, blowing air into my wet lungs. For someone inÂ the throws of acute respiratory failure, intubation is just a temporary fix. IfÂ the person manages to live, but still has severe respiratory issues, they’re given a tracheotomy. So, one morning I’m wheeled into an operating room, a hole is cut in my neck and a plastic tube is pushed down my throat. This tube is connected to a hose,Â the hose is connected to a ventilator.Â The bad news is that I’ll never really talk again, but on the upside, nobody will ever be able to smother me to death with a pillow. Since a tube has taken up permanent residence in my throat and swallowing is definitely a thing of the past, I also get a tube placed in my stomach. A fellow has to eat.
I spend about two months in the hospital, it’s a pretty terrifying experience. Everything I had ever been afraid of, getting a trache, a feeding tube, not being able to talk, not being able to breathe, it all happened in an instant. I cope with it by way of some totally spectacular pain killers, better to be whacked out of my mind than lucid and constantly afraid of everything.Â
When I finally get home I feel a lot like a kitten tossed in a swimming pool. I’m also still quite in love with pain meds. I mean, I’m alive, but I figure my life is over. No more going to the movies, no more nights out with my girlfriend, no more anything. Everything feels so entirely wrong. A few weeks later, for various reasons, my girlfriend says goodbye. I understand, I’m not surprised, but aside from dying, it’s what I feared most.
So, while growing deeply depressed, nobody wants to quit their opiates, their best friend and their lover in the same week, physically I get ridiculously healthy. It’s actually much easier to breathe withÂ the trache and eating withÂ the feeding tube is surprisingly satisfying. BeforeÂ the final sip of pineapple juice, I could hardly chew and swallow anyway. WithÂ the tube eating is so easy. ByÂ the summer I feel well enough to hop a plane to New York for a visit with friends in the Andirondacks. On this this trip I meet a fellow named, Kevin, he owns the production company behind Showtime TV’s version of NPR’s This American Life, hosted by Ira Glass. Kevin tells Ira about me, and a few weeks later Ira and IÂ are e-mailing each other, he wants to do an episode on me. He asks me question after question, I tell him things I never told anybody. A year later, Ira and IÂ are having our picture taken at our Emmy after-party, we won two awards. Johnny Depp played my voice for the episode. I got him to sayÂ the term, “absolutely fucking spectacular,” on my behalf. I had to swear, it was cable TV.
Now, here’sÂ the crazy part. I’ve always been aÂ competentÂ writer, but generic, kind of flat.Â Something about my writing changed when I met Ira, it became very natural, and brutally honest. I could never write about myself with any real honesty. Even my fiction was total garbage, I never bled any of myself into it. At some point,Â I realized that I didn’t want to die and feel like no one really knew me, simply because I hid everything. So, I started with Ira, I wanted him to know me even if no else ever did.Â
Here I am, two years since that trauma room.Â I’ve been depressed and lonely almost constantly since I was seventeen. Horrible things don’t surprise me, yet I’m consistently optimistic. I know there’s beauty inÂ the world, I’ve experienced it. I adore life, but I’ve genuinely wanted to slit my wrists and quietly bleed out. I love a woman completely, waking up next to her is everything I’ve ever wanted. She’s so smart, and so beautiful, being with her feels like home. I’ve lost her twice, I wonder if I’ll find her again. There’s a woman who very much reminds me of home, I wonder what that could mean. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything, maybe it doesn’t matter. None of this is difficult to say.Â
After losing everything, honesty gets very easy. Losing everything is also a chance to gain new things.
Has anything ever drastically changed your writing?