Almost year ago, I published a list of 84 ways TBI can make your life really interesting, which is a list of 84 different issues that can arise as a result of a traumatic brain injury. I pulled together the list from a number of different reputable sources — books, websites, papers — and sorted them by type, from behavioral to communication to mental to emotional, etc.
The list itself actually dates back to about 2008, when I put together a list of all the issues I’d been having that I needed to manage. I’ve been using this list for several years, now, to monitor and track the things that make my life more challenging, and it’s really helped a lot — sometimes, mainly because it just reminds me that I have these issues and I need to be mindful of them.
It’s tough to manage things that you can’t see, after all…
But with things in plain view, I was able to manage. At first, it was tough, but eventually I learned. It took a lot of work and a willingness to be honest about what was going on with me — like any self-improvement work, I suppose. Except in my case, instead of it being “all in my head/heart”, I had some underlying neurological issues that played into the whole picture.
In a way, having the underlying neurological issues was a relief. I had felt for the longest time (30+ years) like there was something wrong with ME, for how I behaved and the ways I handled the world around me. I thought I wasn’t trying hard enough. Or I was being lazy. Or stupid. Or I was deliberately sabotaging myself. As it turns out, I was dealing with neurological issues which in and of themselves weren’t terribly severe, but which combined to exacerbate each other to the point where I was practically disabled in some ways.
I had plenty of talent and plenty of smarts, but contrary to all appearances, I couldn’t seem to get my act together. I had told myself for years that I was “choosing” to not employ my talents fully, when in fact I was constantly undermined by distractability, fatigue, anxiety, constant restlessness, agitation, chronic pain, and sensory sensitivities (to light and sound) that derailed me in times when I needed to be at my best. I was on a constant roller coaster of up and down emotions, taking two steps forward, two steps sidewards, two steps back, three steps forward, and getting all turned around in the process. Anxiety, not intention, determined my life’s direction, and I can tell you, I was going nowhere fast.
Even in those times when I was feeling like I was getting somewhere, I sometimes got hurt again, and then I had the setback of yet another tbi to deal with.
All the while, there I was, thinking there was something wrong with ME… I was a loser, I was a waste of space, I was a charter member of underachiever’s anonymous. And that sense was probably just as debilitating as any of my neurological/physical issues.
I wasn’t doing myself any favors by being so down on myself.
But when I started learning about TBI and started tracking my issues in light of my neurological situation and background, things started to really come together. I was also amazingly fortunate to connect with a neuropsychologist who believed (as I did) that the problems I had were “fixable” and they’ve been working with me to help me think differently about myself and my abilities, and see my whole life, not only my tbi’s, as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Once I quit blaming myself and being ashamed of my issues, a lot of my troubles started to clear.
But it wasn’t until I took a close look at what was going on with me and got honest about the havoc it was wreaking in my life, that I was able to DO anything about it.
I could have gone on indefinitely, telling myself — and the world — that “That’s just the way I am – you got a problem with that?!” Being constantly defensive about my limitations and difficulties and pulling out all the stops to justify them and defend my “right” to be a screw-up. It’s how I’d been living for close to 40 years, so why stop now?
Well, watching everything you hold dear go to shit, and realizing that you’ve got no foundation (financial, professional, interpersonal) to support your life has a way of forcing you to get honest. That’s why I stopped all the B.S. in my head. Plus, I was really tired of feeling like crap all the time, constantly wondering why nothing ever worked out the way I wanted/expected it to.
Anyway, I guess the bottom line is, you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken. And getting past the idea that it was ME that was broken, rather than how my brain was working, was an important part of restoring my daily and long-term functionality.
Speaking of functionality, I’ve got errands to run. Have a good day, everyone. Stay strong.