A sudden force I would later refer to as Hurricane Brain overwhelmed me for the first time today. A force more powerful than any human strength and swifter than time itself, I was left in a state of total chaos, unaware for hours what had happened to my body and brain.  I knew something took place. I felt incredible, whole body pain. My mind woke in a different state. One that Rod Serling and Steven Spielberg could have created on a movie set not far away.

Fall of 1985, weeks after the birth of my first child, my daughter Jesyka, I attended a small family reunion with my father, my siblings, and grandparents in California. My dad, myself,  and my siblings traveled from Tennessee excited to be in the company of loving relatives we may never see again. My mom lovingly sacrificed to stay behind with Jesyka as she was too young to travel. The storm that was to come made me grateful, Jesyka was safe with someone able to care for her.

Tired from the morning’s activities, I decided to nap on my grandmother’s loveseat. After all these years I can still tenacious-tonya-hurricane-brainremember the love welling up in me as I cuddled into the overstuffed pillows and inhaled the essence of her perfume.  I fell quick asleep with a smile on my face and moments later, I was in another world.

Yes, in another world as I woke believing I was in a dream. Yet, this was not a dream as the people around me seemed to be concerned, calling my name.  I did not know or recognize them. I was frightened. I felt alone.

Was I on a spaceship? Everything around me was foreign. I had never been to this place before. People around me were in a panic and I did not know why. Who were they? Where was I? Why were they concerned? Oh, why could I not answer them? Panic was settling into my being. Instinct was all I had left. Fight or flight. Yet, my physical being could do neither.

I gathered up the energy to open my mouth and allow sound at any level come out. I was not forming words, just screams. Oh, the pain. Now the pain began to settle in. What horrible thing did these strangers; these aliens do to me?

The reaction of surprise and fright seemed to make the strangers more frantic. What have I done? Were they angry with me? Were they going to hurt me again? Where am I? Who am I?

Suddenly, one stranger’s face became a bit clearer. I did not recognize him, but I could hear him call a name, “Tonya”, That must be my name. “Tonya, wake up, you are having a nightmare. We cannot get you out of it. We have to take you to the ER.” Then, the stranger left. I was glad. His voice was deep and loud and scary. Another stranger appeared in front of me. “Tonnie,” Is this my name? “You are going to go to my ER, and they will take good care of you”.  I began to feel a sense of relief from one small word. The word spoke by the older stranger with a quieter voice, the word was “good”.  I began to feel warm in my heart. Was I beginning to feel safe?

tenacious-tonya-hurricaneThe strangers went away, and I was alone and awake. All was eerily quiet. So quiet I could hear my heartbeat. I call this moment “The Eye of the Hurricane”, the Calm before the fallout and craziness of what happens next.

The stillness did not last long, although it seemed forever. Then suddenly, Whoosh! A crowd of strangers and deafening noises with lights flashing entered the room.  These strangers were talking fast, in a language I could not understand. Were these aliens from a different place coming to take me away?

Quickly hands appeared out of the darkness to wrap my feet in shoes. The older stranger wrapped me in a blanket and, what is this? I breathed in an essence of a familiar perfume. The fast speaking aliens strapped me to a bed and into a speeding tube. Again, I could hear one speaking word making little sense. The words phased out as I lost consciousness.

I woke in a bright white room. When will this end? It was like a scary movie. The aliens transporting me from place to place. Were they going to hurt me? Were they going to experiment on me? Tubes are in my arms; it must be an experiment. I am not tied down, but I am too sore to move. Did they break my bones? I have never felt pain like this before. So intense and all over my body. What did I do to deserve this? Why isn’t anyone helping me?

The strangers appearing in the beginning of this nightmare have appeared again. They are watching me. Do these aliens like watching humans in pain? I want to scream, “Help me!” or “Get me something for this pain!” but my mouth, my tongue, will not move. Oh! Did they cut out my tongue? Suddenly, too overwhelmed, I begin to cry beyond condolence.

Another stranger enters the room, wearing a sterile white coat. He must be the one in charge of experiments. My mind considers the fact that salt is in tears and salt tenderizes the meat. I wonder how I remember that, and I cannot even remember my own name. I stop crying for fear my skin and flesh will become too soft it will fall off my bones.

“Ms.  Collins”, the man in the white coat said, “I am your doctor and I have looked at all your test results.”  What is he talking about? Who is he talking to? I do not want to anger him, so I will listen.

“Tests have determined you had several seizures, but we do not yet know the cause or reason why”.  I still do not know what he is saying, but I notice I am feeling relaxed, even sleepy, and much of the pain has subsided. ” Some test have detected your gut is severely constipated, perhaps this is the cause of your sudden seizures.” As I grew warm, he continued, “We also learned you recently gave birth and you have traveled across the country, this may have increased your stress level which can also be the cause of your sudden seizures. I have prescribed sedatives and laxatives to help you during your stay on vacation. When you return to Tennessee, please see your family doctor for a follow-up visit.” I had no idea what to think of what he said. I was glad the feeling of pain and fear were lifting as the feeling of warmth covered me like a thick blanket.

“I’ve ordered the nurse to give you Valium intravenously, you are probably affected by it by now. Rest and we will talk after you have a short nap.” Then his voice became blurry. Yes, you read that right. He and the other strangers in the room walked out.

I was alone again, and this time, I did not mind. The Brain Hurricane lifted, the pain was gone, and I could no longer resist the need for sleep.

Have you experienced similar events?

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