Chapter One - The Blue Coat

Prologue – The Blue Coat - Daniel Hendrikx
There once was a boy in a big black coat.

The coffee shop was loud and bustling, but I didn’t mind. I had been coming here for months, just as some time away from schoolwork, and because it was a step outside my comfort zone. I sat with my tea and a book in hand, a copy of Andrew Clements’ Things Not Seen, but I wasn’t reading. I really was just there for the atmosphere. People came and went constantly, and the chatter was a sort of music to my ears. The colors, the sounds, the smells, it was all a good experience for me.

“Heads up,” Jon said, and I looked up at him with an eyebrow raised. His gaze was focused on the door to the street. I knew he was staring at some hot something-or-other, and I let him be. I looked over his shoulder at the people around the room, with a smile on my face.

I couldn’t remember for the life of me the reason I had started coming here. In the end I doubt I’d have wanted to remember. A rough summer hit me after the first week of college and since then I had been trying to settle back into everyday life. I had been trying to think and understand why I felt different, but something had changed in me, and since then, I had just been feeling alone. I had all my friends and family to rely on when I needed help, but I just couldn’t comprehend the feelings I had.
    
I sat there sipping my tea, burying those thoughts with thoughts of content, and it worked quite well. 

“So,” Jon said, turning back to me, “what’s the plan for tonight?”

I shrugged. “I’m not sure. I’ll probably head home after this. I’m going to just lie down and watch some T.V. Why?”
    
Jon laughed and shook his head. “Nope. Uh-huh. Not happening. You’re coming with me.”
    
I sighed. “Where to this time?”
    
“We’re going on an adventure,” he said with a wink. “Bring your I.D.”
    
I stared at him, unimpressed. He had a devilish grin on his pale face, and his eyes shone; the one I could see, anyway. One was always hidden behind a lock of dark hair. 
    
“Tell me where.”
    
“On an adventure, I said,” he grinned. “Just trust me. How’s the sister?”
    
“Which one?”
    
“Older.” He sipped at his coffee. “Still pregnant?” 
    
“Yeah,” I smiled. “I’m going to be an uncle, Jon!”
    
He laughed, reached across, and clapped my arm. “Alex, that’s amazing! When’s she due?” 
    
“April of this year.” I grinned and took a sip of my tea. 
    
“You’ll be a great uncle, man!”
    
I shrugged. “Let’s hope the kid doesn’t turn out like me.”
    
He was silent for a few moments, then nodded. “That’s true, I guess. It could be worse off, though.”
    
I glanced around the coffee shop. It was a nice place, strangely busy for a backstreet café, but I liked it. I had a tendency to avoid busy places but I liked the décor here. The tables were nice with a red-white checkered pattern and the hardwood floors were heavily worn. The ceiling was surrounded by old-time pictures of jalopies and groups of friends, with vibrantly clear glass windows and doors. It was a few roads back from the main street and only a few blocks away from my college campus.
    
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of blue, but I ignored it. I pulled my coat tightly around myself, feeling a chill. “Cold as hell in here,” I said absentmindedly.
    
Jon raised a finger. “Provided,” he smirked, “that hell were freezing cold.”
    
I flipped him off, feeling that an answer like that would suffice. He laughed and turned back to people-watching.
    
We sat there a few more minutes, and I glanced over the first few pages of my book; I had read it a hundred times or more and it remained my favorite. I don’t know what it was; something about the characters or the concept of disappearing, but it always peaked my interest. I liked the repetition. 
    
“What’re we doing here?” Jon lamented. I glanced at him.
    
“The hell if I know,” I said, taking a sip of my tea. “Just... sitting.” 
    
“Want to start heading back?”
    
I shrugged. “Go ahead. I’m going to stay here.”
    
Jon stood up and grinned. “Suit yourself, man.” His bandana swung from his belt as he walked away, an orange-black flash of color. Jon grinned at a few nearby ladies as he passed, and they giggled, but then he was gone out the door.
    
I sat alone there at the booth, thinking about how crazy he was. Jon and I had met the previous year as roommates at the college, and everything about him spelled trouble. His hairstyle was a worn-out side part, and his clothes were all bright band shirts, even though half of the time he couldn’t name the artist he was advertising. Between that and his assortment of leather bracelets, steel necklaces, and the scattered sigil tattoos around his body, the guy just advertised excitement. And that didn’t even include his gang involvement around the city. He was a good guy – he really was! – but he had some less-than-admirable affiliations.
    
I was deep in thought and had my mug of tea to my lips when someone bumped into my left shoulder, sending the mug skittering across my lap to the floor, soaking me with what was left of my tea.
    
“Shit!” I heard someone yell, a female, and I stood quickly, wiping myself off as best as I could with my hands.
    
“I’m so sorry!” the girl exclaimed, diving forwards and grabbing the napkins from the table, handing some to me and going straight for the mug. I laughed.
    
“Hey, hey!” I said, quickly as I could. “Don’t worry about it! It’s fine!”
    
She grabbed the mug with both hands and put it on the table, knocking it over again. Her face was red with embarrassment, but I thought it quite cute. I smiled again, then put my hand on her shaking wrists.
    
“Hey!” I said. “Stop. You’re worrying over nothing.”
    
“I’m so sorry!” she exclaimed. “I was walking and I was looking at the clock, and I wasn’t paying attention, and – ”
    
I smiled, watching her talk. She had a cute face with an upturned nose and small lips, and her eyes were a deep silvery blue. Her hair was straight and brown and parted off to one side, with a few strands splaying haphazardly off to one side. She used her left hand as she spoke, gesturing here and there, as her right held a blue-black checkered parka, and it was then I realized I had zoned out.
    
“Are you okay?” she asked quickly, shyly. I nodded.
    
“Don’t worry, ight?” I said cheerfully. “I’m fine. Nothing that a quick wash won’t get out. It was getting cold anyway; I think you spared me having to drink it.”
    
“Let me buy you another?” she asked, cocking her head to one side, and I shrugged.
    
“You can join me for one, but you aren’t buying.”
    
“That kind of kills the point.” 
    
I sat down with a shrug. “I enjoyed the tea, miss. I didn’t miss much. Do you want to join me? I always enjoy conversation.”
  
 She grimaced. “I’d love to, but I can’t. I have class in – shit! Twenty minutes!” She turned and made for the door.
    
I laughed and grabbed her arm. “Hey, hey!” I said. “Wait a moment!”
    
I pulled a pen out of my pocket, grabbed a notebook from the side of my coat, and flipped it open to write.
    
This coupon is reserved for one tea with Alex Philips. You owe him. I like the coat.
    
I passed it off to her, and she read it and smiled.
    
“That’s... cute,” she said, averting her gaze and blushing. “You live near here?”
    
“Near the college, the Viewland. What about you?”
    
She smiled. “Oh, I’m around.”
    
I raised an eyebrow, smiling, dabbing at my jeans with a napkin. “Mysterious, aren’t we?”
  
 “Isn’t it more fun that way?” She leaned against the table, smiling.
    
“Don’t you have class?” I asked.
  
 “Shit!” she exclaimed, tucking the paper into her pocket and slinging her coat on. “I’m so sorry Alex, I have to run!”
    
I smiled. “No worries, miss. Might I ask your name?”
    
“Catherine.”
    
I extended a hand and she shook it. “Go to class, Catherine. Take care!”
    
“Bye!”
    
I watched her turn and run out the door, leaving nothing behind but a flash of blue, and I smiled again for the umpteenth time. I scratched my chin, remembering the cute way she had blushed, and I sat back at the table, thinking about her for a moment. She was quite the beautiful girl. I wiped the remnants of tea from my pants with a napkin then shrugged, not letting myself get too hopeful.
    
Who the hell knew what the next few weeks would bring, anyway?


DANIEL HENDRIKX

Daniel Hendrikx is a Professional Writing student from Newcastle, Ontario. Daniel grew up working on farms, and writing his own fiction. He finds time to write between playing video games and his guitar. Daniel is aspiring to be a professional writer. One day Daniel hopes to write a memoir as he draws his best inspirations from his own life

Parting words

There’s a few things I’d like to say before anybody blows these posts off as some depressing memoir. Because yes, it is hard. In fact, it is absolute hell, and I could rant for hours about the trials and tribulations of the loneliness and the medicine, but instead, I’d like to raise mention towards the things that helped me through it.

People are always going to be stubborn. It comes as our first response to our problems, to try and be stubborn and deal with it alone, but at some point you need to learn to forsake pride for your own health. I have held a very straightforward mindset my entire life – if I can’t deal with a problem alone it was a weakness, that I wasn’t strong enough to solve by myself, and I was always trying to be better. But it isn’t weak at all to rely on people to help you through tough times. It’s not a matter of whether you’re strong enough to get through something.

 
 Every angel has their wings.

Every angel has their wings.

It’s a matter of love. Of whether the people you love are willing to help you through your problems. I learned this summer who I wanted to keep in my life because I knew I could count on them. Physical pains are only the first step of a life-altering journey and my situation was no different. I experienced so much this summer, but it wasn’t all bad. I simply had closed my mind to all the good; I couldn’t notice it. It seems I had my angels and I didn’t even notice they had their wings. My sister, always knocking on my door to see if I wanted to talk, day in and day out, despite my fighting that I’d rather be alone. My mother, trying so hard to get me to eat food or drink water or even get out of bed. My friends, always calling me or sending me messages, always making sure I was okay.

Because now, at this stage, I am okay. My friends and family helped me through it. The people that fought to keep me around when I tried so hard to be alone mean the world to me, and I’m blessed to be able to call them all my angels. I wish there were a way everybody could feel that loved, so I could wish it onto all of you without you experiencing the pains it takes to get there. It is an experience everyone should have and nobody should have, because you see yourself at your best and your worst. It’s certainly a humanizing situation.

I love you all.


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DANIEL HENDRIKX

Daniel Hendrikx is a Professional Writing student from Newcastle, Ontario. Daniel grew up working on farms, and writing his own fiction. He finds time to write between playing video games and his guitar. Daniel is aspiring to be a professional writer. One day Daniel hopes to write a memoir as he draws his best inspirations from his own life

 

Ditzwhat now?

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An extreme difficulty, when it comes to something as severe as spinal pains and nerve damage, is the medicine you need to take in order to keep from tearing your spinal column out. First off, most medicines react terribly with each other, and if they don’t, they work together and cause some serious side effects. In my case, I was on several different painkillers, antibiotics, and nerve-repairing medicines that all conflicted terribly.

The first medicine was called Apo-Tridural, and it was possibly the worst experience of my life. It influences chemical imbalances in your brain and causes severe mood swings, sending your brain down dark paths. You contemplate everything from suicide to arson simply because you get bored. It has an extreme reaction with antidepressants and causes them to work negatively – your mental state declines and begins to fall to pieces.

The second was called Apo-Gabapentin, a high-level anti-seizure medication used to treat people with epilepsy or nerve damage. This was the most positive medication I was on over the summer – it helps the pain with nerve issues and it has very few side effects. The only one worth mentioning is that you become as ditzy as a sixteen-year-old with a pumpkin-spice latte. Your short term memory is nonexistent and you will forget what you’re saying in the middle of a sentence. You randomly stop doing whatever you were in the process of doing and find yourself staring at a wall. Productivity decreases a hundredfold and you become extremely absentminded.

Combine those two with the final medicine I had to take, Naproxen, and you become a shell. For nearly four months I was barely human. Instead of living, I just existed. Naproxen is a painkiller, and when combined with other medication you become tired. Every day you are absolutely exhausted to the point where you can sleep eighteen hours and still be too tired to move. You feel trapped and sluggish and slow with all the medicine you’re on and it eats away at you.

The amount of medicine you need to take with nerve damage is ludicrous, but it could be much worse – you could be without it, feeling like you’re on fire for hours on end. Next time you pass by someone with a cane or a serious limp or a wheelchair, you might understand a bit more of their pain – it is a living hell and you have no choice but to keep waking up in the morning to this burning, electrifying sensation, until you reach for the bottle beside the bed and fall back into the shattered numbness of your mind. You simply have tunnel vision until the next time you can fall asleep. 


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DANIEL HENDRIKX

Daniel Hendrikx is a Professional Writing student from Newcastle, Ontario. Daniel grew up working on farms, and writing his own fiction. He finds time to write between playing video games and his guitar. Daniel is aspiring to be a professional writer. One day Daniel hopes to write a memoir as he draws his best inspirations from his own life

Curses and blessings

With spinal and/or nerve damage, the first few weeks are the hardest. You begin to lose hope as you’re bounced back and forth everywhere, between doctors and specialists. For me, I couldn’t even get a straight answer as to what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with everything from arthritis to kidney disease, and I was treated for it all. With something like that, you begin to feel quite helpless.

That was my biggest problem at the beginning. It’s extremely frustrating needing to ask for help at everything. When it comes to grabbing a glass of water, you find dozens of obstacles. In my case, one arm couldn’t raise high enough to the cupboard while the other one couldn’t stay steady enough to hold the glass. Even standing long enough at the tap to fill the glass was exhausting enough to cause me to have to lie down. I broke more than my share of glasses.

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All the stresses and pains begin to wear away at your mind. You begin to lose sleep, and then you begin to stop trying to get better. You have a few weeks where you work hard, where you’re determined to get better, but the energy required to keep going is beyond what the human body is capable of. At some point, you give up.

It’s an extremely humbling experience. It throws you through an existential crisis because you begin to question what the rest of your life will be like. Being unable to get up and go for a walk, or even for a glass of water, it begins to show you exactly what you are capable of at your worst. And unfortunately, depression soon follows

It isn’t some romanticized sadness; it is a genuine, crippling depression. You start to question the point of continuing  to breath, and the bottles of painkillers or sleeping medicine begin to tantalize you. Most people can’t stay alone with their thoughts for more than a few hours without an activity to distract them and I was no exception.

The most important thing once life has hit such a point is to speak with people. It is a clichéd notion to speak of but it truly helps. Having friends and family to speak to, it changes your viewpoints. The unending support of your loved ones gives you something to hold onto when you feel like letting go. Spinal damage is terrible, and nerve damage is awful, but feeling the love and support of people around you...

It’s a humbling experience.


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Daniel Hendrikx

Daniel Hendrikx is a Professional Writing student from Newcastle, Ontario. Daniel grew up working on farms, and writing his own fiction. He finds time to write between playing video games and his guitar. Daniel is aspiring to be a professional writer. One day Daniel hopes to write a memoir as he draws his best inspirations from his own life.

It's No Walk in the Park

There really is no feeling in the world like giving up on yourself, and I was forced to deal with that situation over this summer.

In the beginning of my first year of college I began to experience minor back pain, and it steadily got worse and worse. As the summer drew closer and I went back to my old job it became a daily issue, a stabbing pain in my spine and sides. Several appointments with doctors and emergency runs to the hospital revealed my kidneys were failing, and my body wasn’t able to properly function anymore.

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Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. I began medicine for the kidney disease, and soon that cleared up. It all looked uphill from there, until one day at work something popped out of place. I found myself being rushed to the hospital, barely conscious, and after many long hours, and a few blackouts, I learned that two discs in my spine had slid out of place, and were beginning to sever the cord of nerves on the left side of my spine (the L3-4 disc and the L4-5).

I began physiotherapy a few days later, and received a series of injections to keep the discs from falling further. Surgery was no longer an option as it was too risky; there was too high of a chance of severing the cord entirely and causing me to lose any communication to my left leg for life. I had to leave work, I needed a cane to get around, and the summer became a trial. Moving around the house was absolute hell, while even getting up out of bed was nearly on impossible.

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Long nights led to more hospital runs, and I found myself in a rut. The discs were falling further and further out of place, almost entirely severing the cord of nerves, and my leg began to warp subconsciously. It twisted outwards nonstop, bringing the hip and pelvis along, while rotating the knee inwards to maintain my balance. Soon after I began feeling tingling sensations in my left arm, and subsequent hospital visits revealed I had developed nerve damage along the left side of my body. Spending all my time alone, unable to even leave my bedroom for sixteen straight weeks, I gave up on myself. I didn’t believe I would get better, and I slipped into a serious depression.

This blog is about the difficulties I've been facing in both my mental and physical health, and the pains people face when they can no longer support themselves.


LIKE A FUCKING BOSS.jpg

Dan Hendrikx

Daniel Hendrikx is a Professional Writing student from Newcastle, Ontario. Daniel grew up working on farms, and writing his own fiction. He finds time to write between playing video games and his guitar. Daniel is aspiring to be a professional writer. One day Daniel hopes to write a memoir as he draws his best inspirations from his own life.