Finally, a decent night’s sleep last night, and owe it all to Ambien. Took one Ambien my first two nights here, the prescribed dose. Last night, in Laon, took two. Was desperate for a good night’s sleep. And knew, after my near- nervous breakdown in the church, that I’d never be able to fall asleep without some extra help. Can’t sleep without Maddie. We used to cuddle and spoon, talk and laugh, get drowsy and fall asleep.
Feel a little better this morning. Almost back to normal, or at least my new, post-murder, without-Maddie, TBI normal. It’s been so long since I’ve felt normal that I can’t really remember normal.
Can’t Remember Normal, now that’s a good title for a book.
Anyway, don’t have enough Ambien to take two every night, and probably shouldn’t. OK, definitely shouldn’t. Don’t even have enough Ambien left to take one every night. Have 34 left (just counted) and will probably be here at least 40 more nights.
Will have to skip the Ambien some nights, but not yet … not quite ready. Need my Ambien. Need my sleep. Maybe I won’t take one Saturday night. Or maybe I will.
And yes, I’ve become an Ambien addict.
And maybe a Lexapro addict.
Have 42 Lexapros (just counted). My doctor prescribed this anti-anxiety, anti-depression pill months ago. Helps a little, but makes me feel a little out of sorts. Can’t quite explain it or pinpoint exactly what’s different, but I just feel a little off. A little not like me. Needed them at first. Not sure if I still do. But afraid to stop taking them.
Hey, Out of Sorts, that’s another good title. And yes, all these possible book titles are getting annoying. I blame it on all the sleep deprivation and will try and control myself. Wait: Sleep Deprivation. Nah, sounds too clinical.
Anyway, think I’m going to stop taking Lexapro in a couple of days. Have started to kind of relax and feel less anxious since I’ve been over here, especially when I’m on my bike. At least I think I’m feeling less anxious. Can’t tell for sure. Then again, the whole trying to fall asleep thing every night is stressful and makes me anxious, which makes it harder to fall asleep.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Here’s the dilemma, the thing I’m confused about: I have a TBI, an actual brain injury, a physical problem. It’s like a broken bone, but in the brain. I suffered a broken brain. So, if all my lingering anxiety and depression are symptoms of a TBI, which all the doctors (and the Internet) say they are, do I have a mental problem or a physical problem?
And do any of these pills help?
None of my doctors, or even the Internet, has been able to answer these all-important questions. The doctors all say: We don’t really know. We know a lot more about the brain than we used to know, but it’s still a mystery. And it will take a year or two for your brain to heal from the TBI.
“So Marc, take the Lexapro, if you want to,” said the doctor who gave me the Lexapro prescription. “Or don’t take it if you don’t want to. It’s up to you.”
Thanks, that really helps. Or doesn’t help at all. It’s up to you to decide if I’m being sarcastic.
My brain does seem to be healing and my anxiety and depression are getting better. Then again, the progress is so damn slow I’m not really sure. It’s not like I can measure it day-by-day or even month-by-month. It’s more like three-month periods. A quarterly report. I’m a little better now than I was last quarter. Profits are up slightly.
Or maybe, I just want to believe my brain is getting better. Maybe I’ll never get back to who I was before Maddie was murdered.
We were – of course – wearing helmets. They say my helmet saved my life. It didn’t save Maddie. Despite the helmet, my scalp was ripped to shreds.
“Why was my head ripped to shreds if I was wearing a helmet?” I asked one of my doctors.
It seems that the impact of my head hitting the windshield of the car and then the pavement was so great that my helmet pushed against my head and just ripped up flaps of skin as it worked its way across my head. Even though it was on pretty tight. One doc compared it to getting scalped. Don’t like thinking about this analogy or image – and wish he hadn’t used that word. And wish that scalping wasn’t mentioned in Lonesome Dove on a regular basis. It took about 50 stitches and staples to put my scalp back together again – and pulling out all those stupid staples a week after the incident was totally painful.
“What does this feel like?” the doctor asked as he examined my scalp a few weeks later.
“What does what feel like?”
“When I touch the spot on your scalp where you suffered the fractured skull.”
“Are you touching it?” “Yes.”
“I can’t feel anything.”
“How about this,” he said, apparently moving his hands around my scalp, touching different spots.
“I can feel that,” I said as he moved from the left side of my scalp to the right side. “That hurts a little.”
Apparently a portion of the left side of my scalp is numb.
“It’s nerve damage,” the doctor said.
“When will the feeling come back?”
“It’s hard to say. Nerves take a long time to regenerate. A year or two, maybe longer.”
In the meantime, I have a numb skull.
Hey wait, Numbskull! Now that’s a great title for a book.
The Adventures of Numbskull
The Numbskull Chronicles
Back to the bike trip…
So, I’m in Reims, the headquarters city of the champagne region. Remember that scene in Wayne’s World where the pompous jerk played by Rob Lowe explains how Champagne is a region in France. And only champagne made in this region is officially champagne and everything else is just sparkling white wine?
Well, this is the Champagne region, the place where they make all the champagne.
Several of the big and famous champagne makers – Piper-Heidsieck, Mumms – offer tours of their caves, but wasn’t up for something so touristy. Here’s what I like to do every day: ride as far as I can and enjoy the scenary, find a hotel, take a shower, maybe a nap, wander around town, eat something, drink until I’m a little tipsy at a cafe, then head back to the hotel and hopefully fall asleep and stay asleep until dawn … and then do it all over again, day after day after day.
Other than the staying asleep part, I’ve stuck to the plan. I’m especially good at the drinking until tipsy part. Being tipsy makes my brain feel better. More relaxed and calm. And probably disrupts my sleep. It’s a Catch Vingt- Deux type situation.
Museums – and tours of champagne caves – are tough for me. Too many things to take in all at once. Too much information for my brain. Too many people talking all at once. Too much noise. Too many colors. And patterns. And things to look at all at once. Or read. Or remember. Too much brain stimulation. Circuits overload. Get really tired. And stressed out. Brain hurts. Have to get out.
Instead of going on a champagne tour, I wandered over to the Cathedrale de Notre Dame. According to my Let’s Go France book (the only book I have other than Lonesome Dove), the current façade dates back to 1211 and has 2,306 opulent statues of angels, prophets and saints. That’s strange, I only counted 2,212. Only kidding, didn’t count all the opulent statues. That would be a little psycho. And 26 French kings were crowned king here, dating back to Clovis in 498.
That definitely makes this place ancient.
The incredible, stained-glass windows were designed by the famous artist Marc Chagall (I know he’s famous because I’ve heard of him) and are totally mesmerizing. Must have sat in front of Chagall’s stained-glass windows for an hour, maybe longer. And only fell asleep once. Think I needed a quiet, peaceful place to sit and reflect and be in the moment. That’s something Maddie always said: “Be here, be now, with me. Stop thinking about what’s next and enjoy this moment.”
Unfortunately, all I could think was: Why isn’t Maddie here to enjoy this moment with me? Have had a hard time enjoying the moments since Maddie was murdered.
OK, it’s time to try and stop feeling sorry for myself and plan tomorrow’s ride. Planning keeps my mind from wandering back to thoughts of Maddie. Think I’ll stay another day here in Reims and ride through the champagne vineyards south to Epernay (the other important city in the champagne region) and look for Rob Lowe.
Between Google maps and the actual, old-school Michelin paper maps that they sell everywhere over here, it’s easy to plot out a day’s ride. Hang on a second, I’m at a café and my expensive glass of champagne is empty. It’s such a beautiful night and I’m feeling really relaxed and my brain is a little less fuzzy and foggy than normal, so think I’ll get a second glass …
I’m back … and trying to sip my second glass of champagne super, super slowly. It’s 7 Euros a glass.
BTW: They have Wi-Fi here at the cafe – and they pronounce it Wee- Fee, which is funny. So, could check my email, post a photo or two on Facebook, put out a Tweet or a photo on Instagram or even Skype someone. Nah, just not up to it. Not quite ready to reconnect with the world. Too exhausting. Maybe soon. Mom and Dad are probably worried.
As I was saying/writing: Love a good map and the Michelin maps are about as good as it gets. There’s so much information on them and I’m starting to get good at deciphering all the data to plot and plan the most scenic rides with the least amount of traffic.
Traffic makes me nervous. Which leads to anxiety. And stress. And makes my brain hurt. And yes, lots of different stuff makes my brain hurt.
The roads on Michelin maps are color coded by how busy they are. A red-and-yellow-striped road is a super highway, like the A1 at the airport. Bikes aren’t allowed on these toll roads. An all-red road means it’s a fairly major road. You can ride a bike on a red road and some have bike paths that run parallel to them. But it’s better to stick to the yellow roads, which are quiet country roads. Better yet are the white roads, which are even quieter country roads. I’ll add an extra 10 or 15 miles to my daily trip just to stay on the yellow and white roads and avoid the red roads.
The Michelin maps are also great about letting you know when you’ll be going up or down a big hill or mountain. A > symbol on a road means a climb of 5 to 9 percent, a >> symbol is a 9 to 13 percent climb and a >>> means avoid this road at all costs! It’s more than a 13-percent climb and should only be attempted by a professional cyclist who weighs 146 pounds. Fotunately, there are very few >>> roads. Think most are in the Alps.
Used to be a really strong rider who could handle the >s with ease and the >>s with only a medium amount of discomfort once I found the right gear and the right rhythm and started turning my beautiful circles. Now? Not so much. The >s are pretty tough. Haven’t hit a >> yet … and not looking forward to it. Maybe, by the end of this trip, I’ll be back to where I was before you know what happened.
Uh-oh, it looks like there are several >s and a couple >>s on the ride to Epernay and back tomorrow.
Keep reading, and remember, if you like Numbskull, you can buy the entire printed book (which is the way books were meant to be read). Sorry for all the blatant advertising. Then again, if I was really sorry, I wouldn’t do it.