Protecting the ones I love… from me

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about how well people respond to me, when I am bold and brave and daring and don’t let anything get in my way. I seem to have a sort of mystique about me, that causes people to have innate trust in my capabilities and “powers”… even if they have only just gotten to know me.

And likewise, when I am less than my best, when I am faltering, when I am struggling with my life, and I am in full contact with my failings, people around me tend to get miffed. As though I am intentionally being that way to piss them off. Or I’m being a lazy-ass and slacking off. Or I’ve decided to intentionally not live up to my potential.

What’s more, the people closest to me have an extremely bad reaction when I don’t take the high road — they get a bit anxious and agitated, as though I’m about to eat them, or something. It’s an either-or, all-on-all-off thing with me, this adoration of my “secret powers”, and frankly, it kind of irritates me, that I’ve always got to be superhuman, or I can’t be anything at all.

Over the past week, I’ve been deliberately sticking with my mystique thing – being the bold old soul I used to be, before I had my fall in 2004, and my life went to shit. I guess I just gave up on trying to be sensitive to my own needs, and I jumped off the bandwagon that a lot of my therapist friends are on — getting into the victim mentality and concentrating on my needs… my wants… my hurts… my… my… my…

Okay, so I was a bit into that frame of mind for a while. My previous therapist was really into “helping” me get in touch with my own needs and all that, for fear that I was being trampled by the all-too-needy world. My current therapist is on the opposite end of the spectrum — they’re really into me not going off on my sore spots and getting all mired in them. I’ve been re-adjusting, over the past six months or so, and I think it’s been really good for me. Sometimes, I do wish I could get a more sympathetic ear in my current shrink, but I’d rather deal with a hard-ass than someone who coddles me and turns me into an infant, ‘cuz my inner child needs attention.

Actually, I have to say, I’m a whole lot happier now, and I’m a whole lot more functional — and leaning towards increased functionality — than I was for about a year. That whole victim orientation makes me a little nervous, and I also have to say that getting in touch with my needs is vastly overrated. To tell the truth, I’m so self-obsessed at times (I credit my right-hemisphere brain injury) that the whole rest of the world takes a back seat to my needs. The weird thing is, half the time, I don’t even realize it, ‘cuz I’m so deep in my own crap, I can’t see the fact that I’m being pathologically ego-centric. Truly, I have so many needs, there is literally no end to them… and the more I “get in touch” with them, the more I find I need, and it rapidly becomes an endless cycle of identifying my newest and most novel needs, and trying to figure out how to get them met. Which is a never-ending cycle of self-perpetuating ego-centricity of the highest order.

Sigh…

Anyway, what I’m realizing more and more all the time, is that sometimes it’s not such a great idea to focus on myself. And in fact, if I want to do my friends and family a favor, I’ll take the focus off me for a little bit. Or a lot. When I’m given free rein, I can be petulant and childish, foolish and self-serving, needy beyond words, spiteful, bitchy, cranky, and aggressive. It’s not pretty.

So, this trip I’m doing now, with being the strong silent type and holding my shit, even when I feel like I’m about to come apart inside… (which, by the way, is a trip I was on for many, many years, until some well-meaning but head-injury-oblivious person encouraged me to start thinking more about myself and consider what I wanted in life. Then, my literal head jumped on that bandwagon and we were off to the races)…  well, that old stoicism, that warrior composure, that ability to just remain calm in the midst of everything… it’s actually a very good trip, which has really good consequences, and it gets me back on the good foot, even when everything around me feels like it’s going to pot.

And this self-sacrificing trip also lets me keep my friends and family from living with a madperson, a crazy-ass nut-case who jumps at every sound and attacks their own shadow. When left to my own devices and allowed to act like a child, there’s a part of me that will jump at the chance. But when someone — like my current shrink — pushes me to buck up and grow up… well, even if that costs me my warm-fuzzy in-touch-ness with all my feelings, it does make me a better person.

And that’s a good thing.

A happy accident?

Lately,  I have been reading about right-hemisphere brain injuries, and it seems to me that some of it applies to me.

What are some signs or symptoms of right hemisphere brain damage?

Cognitive-communication problems that can occur from right hemisphere damage include difficulty with the following:

  • attention
  • left-side neglect
  • memory
  • organization
  • orientation
  • problem solving
  • reasoning
  • social communication (Pragmatics)

Attention: difficulty concentrating on a task and paying attention for more than a few minutes at a time. Doing more than one thing at a time may be difficult or impossible.

Yes, in some cases, that would be me…

Left-side neglect: a form of attention deficit. Essentially, the individual no longer acknowledges the left side of his/her body or space. These individuals will not brush the left side of their hair, for example, or eat food on the left side of their plate, as they do not see them or look for them. Reading is also affected as the individual does not read the words on the left side of the page, starting only from the middle.

Doesn’t sound like me, thank heavens…

Memory: problems remembering information, such as street names or important dates, and  learning new information easily.

Yes, in many cases, that would be me…

Orientation: difficulty recalling the date, time, or place. The individual may also be disoriented to self, meaning that he/she cannot correctly recall personal information, such as birth date, age, or family names.

Not so much…

Organization: trouble telling a story in order, giving directions, or maintaining a topic during conversations.

Yes, in too many cases, that would be me…

Problem solving: difficulty responding appropriately to common events, such as a car breakdown or overflowing sink. Leaving the individual unsupervised may be dangerous in such cases, as he or she could cause injury to himself or herself, or others.

Sorta kinda, in some cases, that would be me…

Reasoning: difficulty interpreting abstract language, such as metaphors, or responding to humor appropriately.

Sadly, yes. Though I’m a lot better now, than I was when I was a kid.

Social communication (pragmatics): problems understanding nonverbal cues and following the rules of communication (e.g., saying inappropriate things, not using facial expressions, talking at the wrong time).

All too true, sadly. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot over the years – mostly from trial and error, much to my chagrin – about what works, and what definitely does not.

I also came across this about right-hemisphere brain injury:

So what happens if one side of the brain is injured? People who have an injury to the right side of the brain “don’t put things together” and fail to process important information. As a result, they often develop a “denial syndrome” and say “there’s nothing wrong with me.” For example, I treated a person with an injury to the right side of the brain–specifically, the back part of the right brain that deals with visual information–and he lost half of his vision. Because the right side of the brain was injured, it failed to “collect” information, so the brain did not realize that something was missing. Essentially, this person was blind on one side but did not know it. What was scary was that this person had driven his car to my office. After seeing the results of the tests that I gave him, I asked, “Do you have a lot of dents on the left side of your car?” He was amazed that I magically knew this without seeing his car. Unfortunately, I had to ask him not to drive until his problems got better. But you can see how the right side puts things together.

I’m not blind on my left side (I think…  joke!), but I do sometimes wonder if the right-side brain injury I had when I was eight might be mucking with my ability to tell whether or not I’m able to do the things I think I can do. I’m up for a promotion at work, and part of me is wondering if maybe I might be over-estimating my ability to do the job. I know I’ve been having a lot of trouble, doing the job I’m doing now, and I’m not sure why I think I’m going to be able to do something that’s even more challenging. But part of me is quite confident I’ll be able to figure it out.

Go figure.

It’s kind of wild, how I’ve been able to pretty much sail through a lot of tough spots, without being really seriously derailed by anxiety over them. It’s almost like I’ve been  blind to the dangers and risks of certain types of work — certain tasks that nobody I worked with, would take on, so I got to do them… the dangers and risks associated with being around certain types of people and pursuing certain types of activities, like traveling alone in foreign countries and walking down rough inner city streets at 10 p.m.

I remember reading about how right-side brain injuries can lead to denial of illness, not to mention getting facts and figures all turned around. And that has sorta kinda been setting off alarm bells in the back of my head, when I’ve contemplated getting this new job. I know I can’t continue to do the kind of work I’m doing now. I am coming to the realization that my fall in 2004 has sort of closed the door on that type of work. I’ve been able to do similar types of work temporarily over the past 5 years, but now that I’m in it full-time, it’s really turning out to be impractical and self-defeating. I need to make a change.

I just wonder if this is the right change.

Now, thinking back, I’ve got a looooooong history of struggling with details and not being able to accurately assess my abilities. The second head injury I can remember was when I was eight years old, and some kids who didn’t like my looks were throwing rocks at me. They hit me on the right front side of my head, above my temple, and I was knocked out for a while. I’m not sure how long I was knocked out, because the sibling I was with can’t recall the exact details of the incident, but I do remember opening my eyes and seeing them crouched over me, crying.

And when I got home and my parents found out and made me lie down, I remember having to lie on my left side, facing the back of the couch, getting all hot and antsy and irritable and restless because I hated the feel of my breath against the back of the couch… and my dad wouldn’t let me go to sleep.

That wasn’t the first injury I had — and lately, I’ve been bothered by an old, old memory of when I was in daycare and I was playing with some of the older kids, and something happened where I got hurt or something, and one of the older kids ran downstairs to tell the lady who was watching us, and she came upstairs and yelled at all the older kids and brought me back downstairs. I think I got hurt, but I’m not sure. The memory is still working itself out, and it may never fully form.

But anyway, that time I got knocked out by the kids, I did get hit on the right side, above my temple, towards the top of my head. And whether or not it was the specific cause, I have had a lot of difficulties with the kinds of things listed under right-hemisphere brain injury. And one of the things that has really been a hallmark of my life, has been this unwavering conviction that all is well, that I’m fine, that everything is hunky dory, and no matter what, everything will work out just the way it should. Now, some folks firmly believe that as a matter of their spiritual or moral makeup, but with me, it’s been almost an unassailable “fact” that I flatly refuse to refute. Even when things are at their worst, there’s a part of me that’s like, ‘Oh, well — fiddle-dee-dee!’ and goes merrily on its way, no matter if all the world around me is going to shit.

I can feel like death warmed over. I can be hobbling along in excruciating pain. I can be teetering on the brink of personal financial ruin. I can be pushing the limits of good taste with big, angry people who have a chip on their shoulder. I can be face to face with big, nasty people who want nothing more than to pounce on me and beat me to a pulp. But I merrily fly in the face of whatever danger presents itself — not because it gives me a charge, but because I frankly don’t perceive the danger.

To me, it’s just not there.

It’s kind of wild, though, how things eventually worked out. Okay, so I have almost been attacked and rolled by disadvantaged people looking for money. I was almost abducted by a dirty old man when I was a little kid – I almost ended up on a milk carton, dude. Okay, so I have been in a number of really hazardous situations, and I am frankly lucky to be alive. But either there is a God and a heaven full of angels looking out for me, or there’s something about the quantum field that makes my cluelessness prophylactic, and protects me like a big-ass cosmic condom as I poke my way through life — sorry about the image — it’s late, and I’ve had a long day;). It’s like my ignorance and blindness to the dangers negates them, or something.

Either that, or the world isn’t nearly as dangerous as my friends (some of whom have had left-brain injuries) tell me. I hear the left-brain injuries make you over-cautious, and I’d definitely concur with that.

Well, I can’t get too tweaked over it. I’m going to stand up straight and walk face-forward into my job situation (hopefully not ramming the glass door with my nose in the process), and I’ll do my best under any and all circumstances. I’ll also just have to trust that there is a God and a heaven full of angels who are at the ready… or at the very least, the quantum field is sensitive to what I’m “putting out” and only organizes its atoms around the dangers I’m actually aware of.

It’s all a deep mystery, to be sure. But it might be a good idea to keep in mind that one of my early injuries was to the right side of my head, and that may cause me to over-estimate my abilities. Somewhat.

Well, there’s only one way to find out if I’m right or wrong about myself. And that way is to give it a shot and see what happens.

Putting it into pictures, getting on the good foot

It’s been a good weekend, thus far, and I had a great day yesterday.

I started out Saturday morning doing my usual bike ride. I rode 30 minutes, and then I lifted weights for about 10 minutes after. The weights I’m using are much less than I used to lift, and part of me feels deficient for having let myself get so out of shape. But the athlete I once was is still living in me, somewhere, and they know that any sort of progress needs to be made systematically and with good sense. There’s no point in wasting time on regret and self-recrimination. The point is to do what can be done, at that point in time, and do it in such a way that it serves as training for later, when I take on larger tasks, heavier weights, higher stakes activities.

While I was riding the bike, I thought through the day ahead of me. I got my trusty old clipboard with some scrap paper on it (so I wouldn’t feel too pressured to not make a mess while I was writing), and I wrote notes about what I wanted to do that day, as well as thoughts that came to me.

The first thought that came to me, was on the wings of an image I saw in a New York Times article about a young many who sustained a brain injury in a motorcycle accident. Adam Lepak, 19, who suffered a brain injury, is being led through a field by two friends of his. His story is pretty moving, especially considering the degree to which he was injured. He was in a coma for a while, which is a lot more than I can say for myself. It left me feeling both grateful and frustrated… and all the more determined to do something about my own situation.

Reading his story and having a visual of him just trying to walk across a meadow is really helping me. In particular, the passage about really working the brain has stayed with me:

No one knows what treatments or exercises will drive an injured brain to preserve or reconstruct a coherent identity — to pave its neural back roads. But neuroscientists generally agree that it can do so. The brain is “plastic,” recent research suggests; intact areas can recruit nearby, healthy brain tissue to bypass damage and compensate for lost function.

It does not seem to happen, however, without effort; to reroute signal traffic down back channels, the brain needs traffic, scientists say. It needs to be active, solving problems, meeting social expectations.

Reading the article about the progress this young man has made really lit a fire under me. What also lit a fire, was finding myself in a position, last week, to make a case for getting a promotion of sorts — changing the sort of work I do, from doing straight-ahead development/coding work (which I frankly have been struggling with, on and off, for the past five years, ever since my last injury), to more conceptual, higher-level abstraction- based work.

A new slot has opened up, with the arrival of a new uber-boss at work, and they are looking for someone who can get their head around the crazy-ass intricacies of the organization I work with, and identify ways to make sense of it. The opportunity is about as right up my alley and consistent with my “portfolio” of experiences at the company, as you can get, and I jumped at the chance to go after it. I talked to the uber-boss. I talked to my new boss, who is uber-boss’es underling. I talked to my former boss, who first suggested that I would be just the person to do the job, when the uber-boss started talking about how to get things in order.

Creation Plane Fractal 1
In a way, this opportunity has a delightful fractality to it. Fractality, is when a pattern repeats itself at smaller and smaller dimensions, repeating the same patterns and qualities infinitely within the whole.

In this very fractal case, the organization I work in shares a lot of my own qualities. It’s wildly diversified, almost to the point of incoherence, it’s got a lot of varied passions and abilities and strengths and weaknesses, none of which take very well to being told what to do. The various individuals charge into any challenge with all their experience and ability and passion, and, like me, there’s a ton of all that in vastly diverse abundance to manage and deal with and figure out, in the process of doing even relatively simple things. Like me, the organization tends to get mired in details and my co-workers tend to get very worked up over seemingly little things that may or may not matter — or, for that matter, be true.

Which all makes for a very fertile opportunity for me. Because now I may have the chance to bring the same sort of order to my organization that I have brought to my own life. It’s wild, how this happens. And now the full force of my attention is on making sure I don’t screw up the opportunity and end up worse off than when I started.

There’s always that danger. Always.

Neurons in the brainAt least my mission is clear, now. I need to get my act together — watertight and airtight and consistent — and keep my brain in the best working order of its life — and my life (which I suppose is one and the same). I need to up the ante and really focus on not only being normal, but being functionally precise, and not screwing up my chances at all this, by bad thinking processes and the residue of a past filled with screw-ups that had their logistical basis in fundamental neurological issues — issues which had nothing to do with my character, but were always interpreted as being due to some fundamental flaw in me, versus, the way my brain is wired together. All my life, as long as I can remember, I’ve hit snags along the way that were interpreted — by me and by others — as being due to fundamental flaws in my moral fiber. Only in the past couple of years, have I realized that the problem is not with my soul, but with my brain.

And now I have to re-train myself to think about my abilities and inclinations in terms of machinery. Wiring. Construction. Dendrites and neurons and synapses and axons. Not sin and soullessness. (Granted, there are plenty of sinners and soulless bastards running around out there, but I’ve counted myself among them for way too long, and it’s got to stop.)

Rewiring my own self-perceptions is taking some work. One day at a time, I’m getting myself accustomed to the idea that the problems I face are manageable and that I can — and will — overcome them with a combination of technique, tirelessness, tenacity, and as much finesse as I can muster.

So, I’m building myself some tools to do it. I’m drawing pictures of my situation. I’ve got an inventory of my strengths and relative weaknesses, from my neuropsych evaluation, which I have organized and ordered into graphics. I’ve broken down the different strengths I have and I’ve colored them green. I’ve broken down the different weakenesses and difficulties I have, and I’ve colored them red and orange, respectively. And I’m drawing lines between the strengths and weaknesses, identifying which strengths I can use to address which weaknesses, and giving myself visual reminders of where I’m strongest, and how I can apply those strengths to my difficulties and weaknesses.

It’s taking me some time, and the process I’m following tends to change and vary, between each “session” I spend with myself, figuring out where I have issues, and figuring out where I can apply my strengths. I spend a fair amount of time focusing on my difficulties, which can be a bit demoralizing, if I don’t put the emphasis on the solution, versus the problem. But when I keep my focus on the positives, I can “map” my strengths to my challenges in a way that keeps me on the good foot.

And that’s huge.

One of the things I’ve noticed about myself, is that if I let one or both of two things happen too often, I spin out of control and things start to head downhill:

  1. Letting myself get too tired
  2. Not self-assessing and tracking my issues on a regular basis

I’ve been handling No. 1 pretty aggressively, lately, with mixed success. But No. 2 has been a sticking point for me, as I’ve gotten pulled in a thousand different directions by upsurges in energy combined with lack of discipline, and I’ve stopped tracking my issues, for all intents and purposes, for the past couple of months. I guess I haven’t wanted to pay close attention to my issues, because I’m sick and tired of feeling defective, and I tend to run out of ideas for how to handle things better.

But now that’s got to change, as I’m finding it incresasingly difficult to effectively manage my life if I don’t address my issues, as they come up, and the stakes are all the higher for how well I manage my life. If I’m going to get this job, I’ve got to figure out how to sort things out on the inside of my head in a productive and positive way — and not let reluctance to face my issues keep me from making progress.

So, the painted carousel horse that is my issues tracking and management has once again circled around. It’s time for me to hop back on. I can’t avoid dealing with my stuff, if I’m going to operate at a high level. I’ve got to buck up, face facts, deal with my situation, and figure out pro-active ways of overcoming what gets in my way. I’m sure my neuropsych is going to be eager to help me do this. I just have to figure out the right way to approach this, and come up with a strategy and a plan for getting on track and keeping myself there.

Vacation’s over… thank heavens

Funny, how the seasons go…

For the past several years, I have been increasingly sedentary, not spending as much time outside in the summer, and then not in the winter. Now, I’ve been living in my current house for close to seven years, and the first couple of years, I was very active outside, in all seasons. In the winter, I was always out, working on the ice and snow that built up on my driveway… snowshoeing in the woods nearby… raking snow off my roof… and more. In the spring, I was out in my yards — front and back — working with the plantings there, making plans to put in a garden, getting to know the place, negotiating the vast amounts of mud that replaced the snow. In the summer, I was usually out mowing or working on some fixer-upper project… hiking in the woods, riding my bike, and generally being active. And in the fall, there was even more work to do, to get ready for the winter. Putting up firewood, raking all those leaves, weatherizing the house, getting the furnace cleaned and the snowblower serviced.

It was engaging, necessary work, and I loved my house — as I do now — so I was happy to do it all. It gave me something to talk about at work. It gave me something to keep me busy and active and healthy.

But then something changed. I stopped being as enthusiastic about taking care of things. I stopped being as engaged with the maintenance and the general work it takes to keep a place running. I stopped mowing religiously every other weekend. I stopped being as diligent about clearing leaves from the yard and snow from the driveway. I stopped going outside to work on the plantings, and I let things just grow up wildly in all directions. There were repairs that needed to be made, but I let them go. I just didn’t pay any attention to them. My mind seemed to always be somewhere else.

I couldn’t seem to muster the enthusiasm to do much of anything around the house, and the things that did get done — the painting, the snow removal, the cleaning — seemed like monumental efforts that usually involved some sort of emotional crisis, either before, during, or after.

And I hardly even noticed the change. It sounds strange to say, but the neglect and the ennui just sort of happened, and I barely noticed. In fact, it took a couple of years for me to even get a clue about how I’d just let things go. It took me some time to figure out that all the drama around doing what were once simple things, wasn’t actually the way it always was before. But something was different. I couldn’t feel it, but when I thought back about how things had been before, I knew — rationally — that there was no way I could have kept the house in good working order for the first few years, if I’d been this lax about everything.

And I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I’d let everything go. It didn’t make sense. But until about a year ago, whenever I’d start to puzzle over the “why?” of my increased neglect and unusually sedentary way of life, I would get hung up on the confusion, and then give up before I could puzzle my way through to any sort of answer.

But when I think about it now — and for some reason, things have become clearer to me, over the past months — I realize that my neglect and ennui and abandonment of my “post” as the head steward of this house coincided with the fall I had in 2004, when I hit my head on those stairs.

Again, it’s really hard for me to get a sense of where and when and how it all changed. It seemed very subtle to me, and perhaps it seemed that way to others, but the snowball effect has become increasingly difficult to handle. I’m now at a point where the basement is full-up of all kinds of stuff that I just tossed there, we can’t use our attic, because of an invasion of flying squirrels, we can’t use one of our bathrooms because the leaks are too intense, and the tile is falling off the walls, and the other bathroom — the usable one with the shower — is in danger of falling apart, since the walls are very soft and spongey. The shower walls are literally being held together in places by thick lines of caulk.

This is not good. And I have to do something about it. I’m working on it, for sure — trying like crazy to get the money together to do the repairs

Looking back, I can see how, in 2005, the year after the fall, I became increasingly non-functional. I was having tremendous difficulties at work, things were really unraveling for me there, and I stopped going to the gym. I stopped being social, period. I did less and less hiking, I didn’t do much snowshoeing in the winter, and I didn’t mow as religiously as I had. Being a lot less social, I had fewer people to talk to about my life, and things that people used to remind me to do, by telling me about their activities, just fell by the wayside. I spent more and more time inside, writing in my journal, or trying to read or … what was I doing? I can’t quite remember what I was doing. I’ll have to go back and look at my notes.

I do know what I wasn’t doing, however — taking care of my house and my health.

It was like my brain went on vacation.

Interestingly, I find myself suddenly starting to re-emerge from that old fuzzy place. I’m not sure if it’s because of the new therapist I have who really holds my feet to the fire and forces me to account for myself and behave like a normal human being (my other therapist treated me like a poor victim of circumstances, which did not work for me, really). It may also be because of the neuropsych I’ve been working with who is really focused on problem-solving over the long term. It could be the exercise, which has helped me get my act together — perhaps better than any other thing I’ve done, or help I’ve received. It may also be because I’m pushing myself to do more, take on more responsibility, and really live up to my potential, rather than wandering around in a daze, aimlessly drifting from one activity to another without understanding what I was doing, or why. Or, it could be that my tracking activities are paying off, and I’m managing my own cognitive-behavioral health better as a result. I think it may be a combination of all of the above. That, and the fact that my spouse has a better idea about what it is I’m dealing with, as a multiple MTBI survivor, and they can not only cut me a little bit of slack, when I’m drifting or falling back, but they can also now support me better in getting on the right track again.

I think it’s a combination of all of the above, plus time. TBI  can take a while to sort itself out, and everyone is different. For me, it may have taken me five years to get myself back together to this level. I have a lot more progress to make, and every day, I learn something new about what I need to improve. It’s a constant process, and it’s a good one. And the better I do, the better I want to do.

So, it seems my brain is coming back from its vacation. I’m doing more around the house — I’ve actually been helping to clean, if you can imagine that. I’m doing more with myself that’s productive and focused. And I’m making excellent progress in my work. I’ve got a great new opportunity I really want to pursue, and I have to keep on my toes to do it — and myself — justice. This is really, truly big. It’s huge. It could mean the difference between competing with lower-priced professional peers for increasingly scarce work, and rising to a different professional level, entirely, where I can use more of my conceptual thinking strengths, and not be held back by my nitty-gritty detail-ridden complexity-mired weaknesses.

Onward and upward. It’s good to be back.

Remembering how good it feels to move

Changing the cat’s litter box, last night, on a whim, I hoisted the 20-lb bag of litter and did 10 overhead presses, just for the feel of it. Pressing against the weight felt good, in a way I remembered from my youth. In high school, I was a thrower in track and field, and lifting heavy weights overhead was a regular part of our training.

To this day, I still have pretty well-developed upper body strength. It’s diminshed, over the past five years or so, since my fall down the stairs and my “decision” to quit going to the gym. But I still walk with a thrower’s posture — poised for action, and leading with my shoulders.

It feels good to move. I had forgotten that, over my years of post MTBI inactivity. I became intensely uncomfortable in public places, and I became almost agorophobic in ways. I also became a lot more sedentary, just sitting for hours, literally doing nothing. Strange, how that goes.

But in the past several months, since I started getting on the exercise bike and riding, I’ve rediscovered how good it feels to move. Just to exercise, to engage my muscles in motion. To feel the blood rushing through my veins, the breath quickening in my lungs. And sweat trickling down my torso — a feeling I had all but forgotten.

And when I spontaneously lifted that bag of litter over my head and did 10 quick presses, my muscles warmed with a welcome glow, and part of me remembered — I used to know how to do this. And I used to do it a lot.

It’s true. I did used to do it a lot. In the years before my fall in 2004, I was a regular at the gym, and the “extra” weight I carried was all muscle. My doctor would lecture me, when I got on the scales and they showed I was “over”, but when I rolled up my sleeve and flexed my bicep, they stopped complaining at me being 10 pounds “overweight”.

I haven’t seen that doctor in quite a few years. I’ve moved on. My new doctor has never seen me in peak physical condition, and they don’t know I’m capable of it.

But what nobody probably knows — or would guess from looking at me — is that my body responds extremely well to exercise, especially weight training. Perhaps it was my athletic youth that set the stage. Perhaps it’s just a genetic thing. My dad has always been lithe and athletic, and he’s pretty much kept in shape over the years, as his brothers and friends have all gone to pot. On my mom’s side, my grandfather is also wiry and fit, despite pushing 100 years of age. Now, the women on both sides of my family tend to be heavier, which is where I’ve been leaning. But as a kid, I always took after my dad’s looks and build, so I’m guessing (hoping) that once I get past this lumpish existence, I can restore at least some of that past grandeur. Not all of it, perhaps… no, wait — why not all of it? Why not go even farther? Why not get even more fit? When I was weight training regularly, I consciously held back from my workouts, not wanting to bulk up so much that I’d have to work like the dickens to maintain it over time. I know for a fact, I could have gotten even more fit, back then. Why not do it now?

Why not indeed?

Well, anyway, first things first — I need to ease into this, so I don’t injure myself right out of the gate. I’ll need to use lighter weights from the get-go, so my muscles can get re-acclimated to moving in that specialized way. I’ll need to make sure I do some light lifting on a regular basis, and ease into the heavier weights slowly but surely. And I’ll leave plenty of time for rest. If there’s one thing that knocks the stuffing out of weight-trainers and compromises the quality of their training, it’s lack of rest. And poor nutrition. In training, I’ll need to eat right — and have plenty of protein. Keep the carbs as complex as I can get them — but don’t eliminate them entirely. My brain needs to quality glucose. No sense in getting physically fit, if my brain suffers as a result!

Balance. It’s all about balance. And as a former thrower, I know all too well what improper balance can do to someone who’s handling very heavy weights. It’s a recipe for serious injury. I’ve already been injured — plenty of times. The last thing I need, is more.

So, onward and upward. Back to the movements. Back to the sensation. Back to the muscle and sweat and fitness.

Back…

Because it must be done

I’ve recently come across a blog I really like – Absolute Twisted Zero – apparently it is a fictional blog following the daily endeavors of a TBI survivor. I’m not sure if the writer has actually sustained a TBI… the language is quite fluid and the thought processes are pretty advanced, IMHO… but that’s not to say they couldn’t be a TBI survivor, all the same. There’s nothing to say we’re not able to by utterly lyrical in our expression, when our brains have been modified by injuries.

Perhaps they are masking their identity because they are a survivor, and they don’t want anyone to find out. Perhaps they are exploring this through fiction, because personal memoir is just too… close… for them.

I can certainly understand why they’d choose fiction, rather than memoir. I’ve often considered doing it, myself, but alas, I am not able to sustain interest in writing fiction on an ongoing basis. And turning my real experiences into different sorts of accounts takes more energy than I can muster.

For me, memoir is the way to go. It’s just so much simpler, easier, and to-the-point for me.

Oh, back to my feelings about Absolute Twisted Zero — One of the things I really love about it, is the emphasis it places on physical activity, physical fitness. Setting goals and reaching for them. Doing the work. Having a plan. Sticking to the program. And being a warrior. It really rings true for me, and in another space and time, it could very easily be the kind of thing I’d write, myself. But I am here, writing as Broken Brilliant, so I will leave them to fill in their corner of our world.

Reading ATZ, I am reminded, yet again, of how necessary it is to work. I am reminded that nothing worthwhile comes without some level of effort, and that the life I wish to (re)build is well worth the effort. I may stumble, I may fall, I may crash and burn… but I always get up again, sooner or later. ATZ helps me get up sooner when I stumble… and just get on with it.

It helps me get off my pity-pot and just do what needs to be done. Make the lists. Use the tools. Keep the focus. Stay grateful for what good I can enjoy, and stay mindful of the progress I’ve made. Eyes on the prize, the prize being more than “normalcy” — it’s the development of these new aspects of myself I’m finding, to either supplement or take the place of the aspects of myself that have fallen away since my last accident… as well as realizing the unique talents and abilities I’ve developed over the years, to compensate for the loss of abilities that are common to most folks.

So, I have issues with my memory… keeping on track… getting started… and I have pain. What of it? There is more — much more — more than I can list here — that I could feel depressed and assailed about, but what would be the point? The only person that would hurt, is me. After all, the rest of the world is busy with itself. What does it care, if I’m having a tough time? It doesn’t. Not because it’s cruel and cold, but because there is just too much going on in the world, for it to pay attention to every person’s list of issues and aches and problems and pains.

And given that so many people are keen on informing the rest of the world about their issues and aches and problems and pains, if one less person chimes in, well, that’s actually a favor I’d be paying to the universe.

So, thank you, Absolute Twisted Zero, for getting me off my butt and raising this work we do to a new level. The prose is moving, the writing is poetic, and it both keeps me honest and inspired.

Kudos.

Learning to read… again

One of the things I’ve been really struggling with, lately, is my uneven ability to read and understand. I’ve always been an avid reader, but until the past couple of years, I never really understood that what I had thought was “reading” was something a lot more irregular than looking at words and understanding what was being said with them. I’m running behind schedule this morning, but I do want to call out some things I need to focus on — as much for my own sake, as for this blog’s.

I’m actually in a position, right now, where I may be able to change the job I’m in  — for something better that I’ve been wanting to get into for quite some time. It’s a great opportunity, but I need to be able to read and understand and learn, if I’m going to do it. No two ways about it.

First, I have to realize just what my real reading abilities are. I am having a hell of a time at work, reading and understanding what I’m taking in. Sometimes, I’ll get 10 pages into some text, and realize that I stopped reading 3-4 pages back. My eyes continued to move across the page, but my attention was elsewhere. Or it was nowhere.

I also have a nasty tendency to forget what I’ve read before long. I may get something very clearly, one day, and then completely lose it, the next.

I need to figure out how to address this. And I need to figure out how to retain what I’ve read in ways that let me act on the material.

I need to get on with my day, but I’m going to give this more thought. I also need to look at some of the materials I have on hand, most notably from Give Back Orlando and the neurological information Dr. Schutz provides about how the brain can be affected by traumatic injury.

It’s all very exciting, but I have to say, I’m a bit unnerved by it. Well, I’ll figure something out. And either it will work, or it won’t.

Onward.

… the winding milestones of my identity exoskeleton unraveling…

Absolute Twisted Zero has a really beautiful post out there – Seeds of Change…

“…

Look closely. You see the winding milestones of my identity exoskeleton unraveling. Rituals hold me together while identity reconstruction is underway. Identity helps organize my Human Animal social behavior. Healthy routines replace some rituals. I change slowly with multi-sensory training.

Around the edges is a lot of light. I am growing out from the rituals of the Cult of One. A Book of Rituals is not Identity. A Cult of One breeds anti-social behaviors. I am a molting Human Animal.

Wrapped round the trauma of my brain injury is a tourniquet of panic. I found no identity repair manuals. I have lots of self-help books with no section on identity reconstruction for people like me. I am not eligible for identity transplant benefits.

…”

Read the whole post here…

Work is my rehab

I’ve been thinking a lot, over the past weeks, about how I’ve gotten as far as I have in life. I’ve been thinking about the people I’ve met along the way who have sustained TBIs, both mild and moderate — and worse. In some cases, folks sustained injuries that were similar to mine, or seemed like they were even less severe. And they had a hell of a time getting back on their feet, if they ever did.

I’ve been thinking about the injuries I, myself, have had, and I’ve been wondering how in heaven’s name I ever managed to get by in the world. How have I managed to acquire the skills I have and build the career I have, despite my history of head injuries? How is that someone my own psychotherapist views askance, sometimes, as I boldly venture into new areas, has been able to get by as well as I have? To all appearances, as far as people who don’t really know me and the full extent of my capabilities are concerned, I’m a normal person with a normal range of abilities (they cannot, apparently, see the areas of brilliance which — had I not been injured so frequently — might have turned into much more impressive accomplishments in life).

When I look back on the course of my life, I have to say that work has been my saving grace. Being able to be employed in a position where I was part of something larger than myself, in an environment where roles were clearly defined and duties and expectations were clearly communicated, was what kept me from the brink of disaster.

Having skills helped, too. I had the good sense, when I was in high school, to learn to type — this was long before personal computers were as widespread as they are today. I acquired a skill, which I’d read was very important, in a story in The New Yorker which featured an artisan woman who urged everyone to acquire a skill, a trade, before they worried about developing their artistic talents. Something in me believed what that woman said, and it took her advice very seriously. So, I learned to type. And as I drifted from job to job, from company to company, throughout  my pre-drop-out years of college, I was able to acquire various skills and abilities that I needed to get by.

When I was temping as a “floater” secretary in Corporate America, I moved from short-term position to short-term position, filling in just long enough to get a taste of interacting with people, but never staying long enough to get a chance to screw up and alienate people. I also did a lot of transcription, in those days, which actually helped me learn to listen and hear and understand. I actually learned how to understand the cadence of different voices speaking at different speeds and different volumes, while transcribing dictation. The machine I used let me go as fast or as slow as I needed to go, as loud or as soft as I needed to hear, and I could always back up and listen a 2nd or 3rd or 4th time, if I missed something.

Looking back, I think that doing transcription was one of the biggest contributors to my being able to communicate effectively with the world outside — I learned, tape by tape, assignment by assignment, how to comprehend what was being said to me. Before I’d gone into temporary secretarial work, I’d really floundered in my work, screwing up things that should have been quite easy for me, and never fully at ease with discussions with others. As a young child, I’d had tremendous difficulty distinguishing certain sounds, and my insecurity never fully left me. But when I started listening for a living (literally), that had a chance to change. Learning to listen by typing transcriptions made all the difference in the world, I’m convinced.

Having a wide range of possibilities open to me, too, helped. I drifted for a number of years, as I said, moving from job to job, from assignment to assignment, not worrying about building a career, so much as just paying my rent. I did pretty well for myself, finding a niche type of work, and I was quite happy with the agency I worked for. My parents despaired, of course, thinking that I was wasting my life. But they had no idea how much the head injuries of my childhood had impacted me, and they had no idea just how prone I was to screwing up, no matter how hard I tried.

Temping gave me a chance to at least simulate normalcy, to see what the different aspects of the working world were all about, and let me “try before I’d buy” into a certain company or a certain role. It let me practice dealing with all sorts of different types of people in a variety of situations — all in a professional, paying setting where the highest etiquette was required. It let me get back on my feet, after each successive injury — car accidents, falls, and so forth — and it gave me environments in which to interact with others that were limited in scope. After all, everybody had to go home at the end of the day.

All in all, I think that temping period of my working life paid off many times over, no matter how embarrassed my parents were to tell people I was a temporary secretary.

Over the years, I’ve held a lot of different kinds of jobs, with the last 12-15 years  or so being in high tech. That’s been a great boon to me, too, as a whole lot of “neurodiverse” people work in high tech, making room for me and my idiosyncracies in ways that the “normal” world never would. Along the way, people have cut me a whole lot of slack in the areas where I fall down, because there are other areas where I excel, and they can see them, plain as day. And the bottom line is, I needed to deal with computers a lot more than I dealt with people — and computers are exceedingly forgiving. With them, you always get another chance, and they’ll never call you names and treat you badly for messing up.

Work has always kept me going. It has provided structure and purpose to my life, it has forced me to get out of bed each workday morning and stick with a routine. It has provided me with great freedom and great responsibility, and it has given me a way to contribute to the world around me in important ways. It’s also held me to the straight and narrow, requiring me to keep my temper in check and be on my best behavior around colleagues. And that helped me keep my act together with friends and family and passing strangers, as well (tho’ I must admit, things have a tendency to break down at home — but that happens to everyone, so I hear). In a pinch, having a job has also granted me an identity of sorts. When I didn’t know who I was or what I was about, at least I knew what I did with my life each day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. And that was something I could discuss with just about anyone, when other topics of conversation failed me. Yes, work has given me tons of challenges and headaches alike, but it’s also consistently delivered rewards.

I never got medical attention for my head injuries, and if I had, I’m not sure they would have done a thing for me. I never had a chance to get formal rehabilitation for my cognitive-behavioral issues, and even if I had, I’m not sure I could have followed through with it, being the defiant, vain, self-sufficiency junkie that I am.

But in spite of it all, I’ve managed to make it through. Work has played a huge role in that. For anyone who’s sustained a TBI of any kind, who is worried about being able to get back to normal, I really recommend looking for alternative ways to make a living out in the world — temping, contingency labor (not crossing picket lines, however), and other kinds of paying work that not only let you earn a living, but also get you out there in the world as a productive citizen, interacting with others. Volunteer work is fine, but for me, the stakes need to be higher. I also need to get paid for my time, so I don’t diminish my own self-worth. I know there are a lot of folks out there who advocate TBI survivors doing volunteer work, but there are tons of genuine blithering idiot “normal” people out there making a living, so why not us TBI folks, as well?

It might just help. Everyone.

Taking a break from my brain… or?

I just got back from a week-long vacation at the beach with family and friends. Some of them know about my history of TBIs, while others of them don’t. It was an interesting time — it was good to spend the days with people I love and care about (and vice versa). And I did really well, overall. I only came close to melting down once, and then I was able to pull myself out of the tailspin before things got too out of control. My partner complemented me on how “well” I did — clearly, they were not aware of the turmoil I was in, much of the time.

Overall, it’s true — I did do “well”. But it was also a little dicey at times. Like when I kept slamming into things and injuring myself — scraping the skin off my left forearm on the sharp edge of the screen door latch… getting several bruises from furniture that protruded out into my wobbly path… and various nicks and cuts I don’t remember getting, but discovered later when they started to sting under hot running water.

It was a pretty physically rigorous time for me. I had been lugging all the bags of foodstuffs and various creature comforts my spouse likes to take with us, when we go. Things like the specific foods we eat, the different changes of clothing, the binoculars and bird book, the hats and boots and coats, the books and CDs and various electronic gadgets we can’t seem to do without, not to mention the laptop(s) — one for my personal use, one for work — and the associated work that I brought along with me to look at, at my leisure. All in all, I hauled a whole lot of stuff — in a lot of small bags — into the 3-story condo we rented, a short walk from the beach.

I know I pushed myself too hard, but I wanted to. I was so sick and tired of taking it easy and backing off on my activity, just to pace myself. I was sick and tired of stopping to rest and monitoring my energy level and the food I was eating and the ebb and flow of my emotional self. I was so sick and tired of limiting myself and being sensible about everything. I was sick and tired of being mindful of my mind, of accommodating my broken brain. I just didn’t want to be less-than-functional (by choice) while I was on vacation. I wanted to be free, goddamn it. Free.

But there was a price for all that freedom. No matter how I tried, I kept running into things. I was off balance, and my sense of where my body was in relation to the world around me, was not good. I had a hell of a time judging where to put my feet, how fast to move, and how much distance to put between myself and objects I was passing. What’s more, I tended to injure myself when I was deliberately trying to avoid another hazard — stepping around a small fan my partner put on the floor near the bed, I slammed into the sharp corner of the bed frame and got myself a half-dollar-sized contusion that swelled up and turned a nasty shade of purplish-yellowish-green. I still have it, a week later, and the purple border around it is spreading wider like a ghoulishly blooming flower. It was bad enough, when I hit it the first time, but I couldn’t seem to navigate the space between the bed and the fan and the wall, so I hit the corner a couple more times. Dang! I hate when that happens!

Anyway, pretty much the whole time, I was really off balance and had a hard time coordinating. I had to move pretty slowly at times, and I felt dense and thick and foggy a lot of the time. Nobody seemed to notice — I was my usual self, as far as they were concerned. They’ve always known me as this quiet, “introspective” person… a person who would rather say nothing than open their mouth and have everyone realize that they don’t have a clue what the hell is going on. I’ve always erred on the side of caution, when it comes to social interaction, and it’s helped me “pass” as neurotypical throughout most of my life.

I know it works, so I fell back on that behavior again. I was just so out of it and tired and turned around, I couldn’t even begin to navigate all those social waters with any level of personal authenticity. True to my past form, I spent an awful lot of time keeping quiet and keeping busy, covering up my difficulties and going along with what everyone else wanted to do, so I wouldn’t get in the way of everyone’s fun. Everyone was having such a good time — why spoil it with my slowness, my warnings, my whining?

Yes, everyone had a great time, including myself, for the most part. But I spent a lot of time feeling out-of-it and numb. Like I was swimming underwater. Like I used to feel all the time, before I got in touch with my TBI issues, and was still constantly scrambling, trying to stay on top of what was going on around me, without paying any attention at all to myself. I just wanted to relax, not “ride herd” on my issues. So, I spent a lot of time pretending they didn’t exist — to others, and to myself.

I really wish I could have been more present for the vacation. I’m still pretty numb and out of it, in fact. It’s going to take me a while to get back to where I was — not quite as off balance, and a lot more clear and present. I’m going to have to take things pretty slowly, I think, if I’m going to regain my footing. But everything is going 100 miles a minute around me, these days, so I have to keep up… I still have to keep up. And learn what I can, as I go.

Here’s what (I think) I learned from this vacation:

I think the first thing that got me in trouble was, I had been going 200 mph for a number of days before the trip, trying to get ready to go away, tying up loose ends at work and packing my bags, getting scheduled tasks taken care of ahead of time, and doing all those things that needed to be done in preparation for the trip. My spouse did most of the nitty-gritty preparations, bless ‘em, but it’s so hard for me to go away and take a break from my standard routine, that it was a pretty stressful time, leading up to this “vacation”.

In addition to going 200 mph for about a week prior to the vacation, I got behind on my sleep and my work. I hadn’t been sleeping well, for a couple of weeks prior to the trip. I am concerned about my job (who isn’t?) and I am concerned about not having a decent financial safety net in place. My cost of living is going to jump in 2010, and I need to figure out what steps to take to safeguard my family’s health and welfare. There is really no one else who can help me — my extended family are all as tapped as I am — nobody has money, and nobody understands the kind of work I do. I’m on my own, and I haven’t been 100%, lately. I haven’t even been 70%… at a time, when I need to be at 99%. And it worries me.

Being worried has contributed to my sleep problems, which has also complicated my work situation. I find myself having a lot of trouble reading and understanding what I’m reading. It’s taking me literally months to “get” information that used to take me a few days (if that) to understand. This is maddening on so many levels — not only is the material I’m reading not that complicated (according to folks whose judgment I trust), but it’s also much more critical than other material I’ve read before. I’m working at a higher level — with higher-level requirements and bigger consequences, if I mess up. But my brain is not cooperating with wrapping itself around the material.

But despite my difficulties, I have a hell of a time being able to ask for help. Part of the problem is my pride — part of me is too vain to admit that I have trouble just reading a full paragraph. Part of the problem is not being able to understand the exact nature of my problems. And another issue is that the people I need to ask for help, don’t think I need it. I got several “lectures” over the course of the week from friends and family who know about the issues I’ve been following up on, but none of them really takes this seriously. They told me that I was just paying too close attention to myself, that everybody has these problems, and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I should relax and just cut myself some slack. (Even my psychotherapist, who knows about my TBI history, has been urging me to not work so hard — just at the time when I have to work even harder.)

All my friends and family were giving me this “encouragement” through a dense fog that had settled over my head a week ago, last Friday… as I really struggled to follow what they were saying. I’m sitting there in the sitting room of the condo overlooking the beach, smarting from a number of minor injuries I’d sustained because I was so off-kilter and out of whack, only getting about half of what folks were saying to me, totally freaked out because I’d been trying to read, early that day, and I couldn’t get more than a page’s worth of material into my piecemeal brain, wondering how the hell I was going to complete this critical task at work that requires I learn material I can’t seem to get my head around… and they’re telling me, basically, it’s all in my head.

Well, yuh, it is all in my head. But not the way they think.

Lookit, I’m not a complainer, I’m not a whiner. I don’t like to draw any amount of attention to myself for any old reason. I detest being in the spotlight, and I would be quite content to live and work behind the scenes, all my born days, if I could make a handy living that way. I cannot abide being under scrutiny by others, and I hate paying any amount of attention to myself. But you  know what? If I’ve got problems that are really, truly getting in my way, leading to injuries, making me physically ill, and possibly threatening my livelihood and my ability to provide for and protect my family, then it behooves me to make an effort to clear things up.

Contrary to what some people in my life have intimated, I’m not wedded to the idea of being disabled. I want anything but that. People have encouraged me to look into filing for disability, and I’ve flatly refused. No judgment on anyone else out there who requires and chooses that option, but I’m not going there. I’m like that knight in the Monty Python Holy Grail movie, where his opponent has chopped off his arms and legs, and he insists “It’s just a scratch!” That’s my style — not calling attention to every little ache and pain. And as a result, I have gotten myself into situations where I over-estimated my physical abilities and really fried my system. And then fell down the stairs. Or out of a tree. Or got into a car accident. I like to think I’ve learned my lessons from before, and by paying attention to my limits, I can better care for my limited ‘vehicle’. I’m just trying to find a balance. Find the truth. Figure things out. And keep safe, so I can live a long, fulfilling, productive, and happy life.

But when I make any attempt to discuss my situation with people close to me, they cannot handle it. Not my spouse, not my friends, not even my best friend, who has studied TBI and is getting a masters in special education. They all react with horror, shock, dismay, denial, when I tell them about what’s really going on with me. If anything, I tend to under-state my situation and I don’t tell them all the details, but even the “easy” stuff they have difficulty handling. I guess they love me so much, they are horrified at the thought that things are as challenging for me as they are. That’s nice, but it’s also a pain. People and their attachments to me are… a problem.

What makes things even more… interesting… is that I have a hell of a time explaining what’s  going on with me. In this blog, I can write and be clear and edit myself, in the privacy of my own anonymity. When I’m in conversation with someone, I often don’t know how to articulate my thoughts in a way that makes sense to them. I either give them too much information, or not enough. I either understate my situation, or I overstate it. It’s all but impossible for me to accurately convey to someone — especially someone I love and care about — the true nature of my condition. They start firing questions at me, and I can’t keep up, so rather than answering them clearly and accurately and authentically, I just say the first thing that comes to mind, for the sake of moving the conversation along. It’s what I’ve always done, in the past, and they’re used to it. It’s pre-MTBI-awareness behavior that persists to this day, because I don’t want to slow down the flow of conversation, and I get very impatient with myself. So, I leave myself behind — and everyone has a grand time, including the part of myself that doesn’t want to deal with my cognitive-behavioral issues.

Anyway, what I learned from this (among other things) is that there’s not much point in discussing my situation with my spouse or my friends. They just aren’t equipped to deal with it, and they aren’t willing to learn more about it. They hear “brain injury” and they think the worst. Or they hear “head injury” and they look for certain stereotypical signs that I’m cognitively compromised. When they don’t see them, they think I’m either exaggerating or making a mountain out of a molehill. But when I do explain the seriousness of my situation to them, they get all alarmed and go into panic mode.

This is not helpful. For me, or for them.

I don’t need tears and fears. I need information, courage, knowledge, and confidence that no matter what comes, I’ll be able to find some way to meet the hurdles that rise in my path. I always have, and I always will. I don’t want my friends and family to cluck their tongues and say, “Poor dear…” That feels so patronizing and condescending to me. Pity stings me worse than outright cruelty. I want them to just sit and listen to what I have to say, acknowledge my situation for what it is, not deny it and tell me I’m making too much of this… or become shocked at the level of dysfunction that I’m steeped in, at times.

This twice-hidden disability business is a real bitch, sometimes — pardon my language. It not only keeps me from having an accurate perception of my own state of mind, but it also keeps me from being able to accurately describe it to others in a way that seems truthful and accurate to the ones I care most about. At best, it puzzles them. At worst, it makes me look like a liar. And the more I look like a liar to them, the less inclined I am to share what it is I am experiencing and need. The more inclined I am to just disappear into the woodwork, smile and nod and be obliging and compliant… and completely forget that I am in the room, too.

So, yeah, this past week, I took a break from my brain — or rather, the people closest to me did. My spouse got to run around with our friends and family, pretending all is well and I’m all fixed and what-not. My friends and family got to either pay no attention to my dulled, dense behavior, because that’s what they have come to expect from me, and as far as they’re concerned, that’s my “normal”… or they got to tell me that I’m just fine they way I am, and I shouldn’t be so “hard” on myself. My spouse got to shop and eat out and see the sights, without me pulling on them to slow down and not stay up so late, not spend so much money… and they got to tell me how “well” I was doing, as I was barely keeping up… or barely keeping my balance. Everybody got a vacation. They got a vacation from my TBI.

If only I could have taken a break, too…