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Susan P. Koniak

Boston University Law School
I was born with a different brain. But no one knew and I got by, getting around the things my brain couldn't do, using my outsized cognitive strengths to compensate, as my doctors now say, for my profound cognitive deficits, graduating from Yale Law School and becoming a writer and professor without anyone knowing my brain didn't work in the regular way. I found the other way round. But in 2000 after an abrupt and early menopause my ability to "pass" began to slip away. I was getting worse I knew although it was hard to say how. Then In 2005 I went three blocks in a straight line and could not find my way back. Disoriented I fell and badly injured myself, but my perception of pain, always poor, had got worse and I had no idea blood was gushing from my leg. Navigating space had never been a Susan thing, but now I was coming apart. Was my different brain now melting? How different was my brain after all? I now needed to find out. I talked myself into fancy brain imaging machines, went thru extensive cognitive testing, eegs, vestibular tests, on and on. I spent three days at U Cal Davis' MIND Institute, one of the premier brain research institutes in the nation, where the researchers could not believe what they'd found. How could anyone with a brain like mine speak, no less do all the things I'd done. My brain turns out to be so different that even I have trouble accepting that all this can be. The secret I'd kept for so long was now out and the truth was scarier and stranger than I'd imagined it could be. I am writing a memoir about what it's like navigating a world not meant for me about being too different for others to understand, a difference so great it slips in and out of my own head. Can this really be true?
I write for me and for all the other unicorns out there. I write for all those who care enough about unicorns to want to see them thrive. And for those who don't believe in unicorns, I write to let you know we're here.