I hope things work out okay

The skills-building continues. I had a pretty good weekend and I got a lot accomplished, putting my personal portfolio online. Looking at it now, I can see much room for improvement, which is good. I just need to not get hung up on feeling bad because I didn’t think of it the first time. This is an “iterative process” as they say. I need to just keep going back and refining.

I also have some additional things I’m working on that I hope will help me bring in extra money on the side. That has been interrupted with weather conditions, but at least I’m moving forward. Step by step, bit by bit. I am moving forward.

I just hope things work out okay. I often think things are perfect, then they are obviously not.  It can be a problem. The best I can do, sometimes, is just do what I feel is right and hope for the best. I just have to keep going, make adjustments where I need to, and keep learning… because this is all about learning. And growing. And improving regularly.

The main thing is not being thrown when things turn out really differently from how I expect or plan or prepare for. It can be a real problem for me to rebound after a setback. But I once heard someone say that a setback is a setup for a comeback, so I’m going to hang onto that idea.

And just keep going.

This is not how I want to think, but I’m going to say it anyway

I have been feeling very down, these past few days. I know that I am over-tired, and that has a lot to do with it. But still… I feel down, and I don’t like it.

On the one hand, I know I am making really good progress with my job and my skills. I feel very positive and hopeful about my future.

But on the other hand, I am sad about how things have turned out with my present situation, and I am kind of mourning the passing of all the high hopes I had for the job I am trying to leave.

It’s really got very little to do with me, the way the job has changed. And the things I’ve been asked to do have been so overwhelmingly complex — for anyone — that anyone would have struggled the way I have been struggling. I know that now, although for some time I thought it was really me that had the problem. The problem is not with me. It is with the job.

And yet there’s a part of me that won’t let go of the idea that I should have been able to make it work. Somehow. If I wanted it badly enough, I would have managed. If I’d been willing to work a little harder… if I’d been smarter… if I’d reached out and asked for help more often…

Blah-blah-blah. The committee in my head is not doing me any favors. The fact of the matter is, it is NOT me – it is the job. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that my boss’es boss has probably wanted me gone for about a year, now, since they started changing the focus of the team I’m on. I really don’t fit into their version of how people should work, or what makes us productive team members. They are very much into competition, blaming, making fun of people behind their backs, finding fault, being aggressive towards others, and schmoozing up to the people in charge.

Which is the exact opposite of how I am. And that’s precisely why I’ve been so successful in my work — because I am into collaboration and cooperation, including people from different teams, being respectful of others and treating them like professional colleagues (which they are), and telling the truth instead of slanted version which will make me (or my boss) look good.

The fact of the matter is, they cannot dare not include me in meetings, because I’m not willing to cover them and their lies, and if things are messed up and need to be fixed, I say it — and get down to fixing them.

So, it’s really small wonder that I’m not being made to feel welcome, that the rest of the group is “circling the wagons” and keeping me at arms’ length, and that I am never included in important discussions until after the decisions have been made. It’s just not a good fit – but that’s probably a testament to my effectiveness and the quality of my work, rather than a dark mark against me.

Even so, I’m bummed that this isn’t working out… that I need to find another job… that I have to deal with recruiters and hiring managers again… I’m also a little paranoid that the hiring managers and recruiters I talked to about a month ago have not gotten back to me, even though they said they would call me. I don’t like feeling like this — paranoid and self-doubting.

What I really want is to just do my own thing. Just cut loose from this crazy day-job business and find a way to work by myself, for myself. It may be me just wanting to isolate and avoid others because of all the wrong reasons, but I that’s how I feel. Or maybe I just need to be in an uber-geeky environment, as I once was, and that will help. I got a couple of lottery tickets last night – just in case. I should check them….

Okay, what would make me feel better? Being free of the foolishness, that’s what. I just feel like people can be so cruel and dense — like all the stupid comments and jokes people are making about Hurricane Sandy, when there are real lives at stake. And I am so tired of being surrounded by people who care more about what others think of them, than what the right thing to do is.

God, just let me crawl into my little hole and let the world pass me by…

On the other hand (and here’s the weird/manic part about it), I am feeling incredibly calm and sure and certain and hopeful, and I am so excited about the next phase of my life. I have a much clearer view of where I’m going and what I want to be doing with myself, and I am taking steps to follow that. I know that this present situation – uncomfortable and sad as it is – is a temporary one. And I know that things always change. Always. So, I can’t get too bummed out.

All the same, I am feeling bummed out, some of the time. I’m tired. I know that.  It’s normal for times of change. I know that too. And the holidays are coming, with my crazy family waiting for me. That isn’t helping.

Oh, well. I’ve got to get back to my studying, so I can get my mind off this. It’s just change, and change is hard for me — extremely hard. I wish it weren’t, but it’s always been. Even when it’s good change.

So, I guess I’ll stop whining now and get on with it. Do something constructive to get my head off things, and just “channel” some of this energy, as they say.

Onward.

Yeah, I did that

Stylin’…

I’ve been working on my online portfolio for the past couple of days – the job search has made it obvious that I need to get something online that people can look at, so they can see the depth and breadth of what I’ve done.

I realized last night (yet again) that one of the issues I come up against, over and over, is that people expect me to talk at length about my work and what I’ve accomplished, and to be able to be a fascinating conversationalist with regard to my work.

But I can’t stand that stuff — all that talky-talky-talking stuff — it just sounds like so much fluff, so much grandstanding.

I’d much rather just do things. I can talk about them later, when they’re done. But then when I’m done, I don’t feel like talking about them anymore, so I’m on to the next thing that I want to do.

So, I never really talk much about what I do or have done.

The other thing that’s been a bit of a stifler, in this respect, is that I’ve often worked for companies where everything we did was highly confidential and proprietary, so I literally couldn’t talk about it. It’s a little like having been a spy or an under-cover operative. There’s only so much I can say, because I’ve worked on some very high-profile projects that had a lot of sensitivity to them.

So, I haven’t been active on the forums where people strut their stuff and show off their chops. I haven’t been a talker on a lot of the online communities that are about what I do for a living. Aside from the confidentiality issues, I literally haven’t had time — I put everything I have into my work, and at the end of each day, I’m wiped. I just don’t have the time or the energy for chatting with folks about this or that.

I just don’t.

So, I’ve been a little bit freaked out about what that means for my job situation. The conversations I’ve had with individuals — and the test I took that I did really poorly on — have not reflected exactly who I am and what I’ve done. There’s this disconnect between what I do and what people hear me saying I do, and I’ve got to fix that.

So, I built myself a website yesterday that will have my portfolio on it — screen shots and examples of all the stuff I’ve done over the years, so people can see it. I’m also posting details on what the projects entailed, what my biggest challenges were, what my greatest successes were and when I came up short. It’s a private website that no one can see unless they know the login and password, so I can talk about the confidential aspects of my prior work and not worry about it going out into the world at large.

AND people will be able to see what I do — and what I can do — without getting all stuck on my serious unwillingness to run at the mouth and be “emotionally intelligent” with the rest of the world.  So much of what we do, these days, seems to be geared towards making a good impression — making sure we “represent” and have a “presence” in the world. But what about those of us who are more about doing, than talking, and who are quietly brilliant, instead of gregariously pretty-good?

I get so sick and tired of being measured by my sociability, how well I can put people at ease, and how well I can communicate to people who just don’t know as much as I do, yet are in charge of me for some strange reason.

So, I’m building my case for people to get a grip and see just what I’m capable of doing. I’m going to put this all together and then turn it over to people who are considering hiring me, and have them review this material before they come anywhere near me. I really don’t want to waste my time on projects and companies that don’t know enough to realize how much I know, and aren’t able to respect me because of their ignorance. That’s how things are now — the people I work with have been doing things a certain way for years, and they think it’s fine, but obviously it’s not, because executive leadership is putting the pressure on. But rather than take stock and get a grip and approach things strategically and systematically, they continue to just throw stuff at a wall and see if it will stick.

Sigh.

Anyway, that’s not going to be my problem for much longer. I’m going to whip up a kick-ass portfolio that people can see and read and become familiar with — and that I’ll be able to tailor the way I want it to be. I have just been doing this way too long, to have to put up with this ignorance, and I need to give myself credit for what I’ve done.

And I realize that this is one of the issues that’s come up since software and web development got popular and everyone started doing this kind of work — there’s a huge glut of people who haven’t been doing it that long, who know all the catchwords and have certain skills in certain technologies, but they don’t have the breadth and depth of real-word experience — the kind of experience that can mean the difference between doing something right the first time… and spending untold amounts of time and energy and money fixing sh*t that’s broken, weeks and months and years on down the line.

So, you’ve got a whole lot of “talent” that’s of variable quality, and the ones who rise to the top are the ones who make the most noise and have the most glitz… not always the best quality.

And then there’s folks like me. Who just know how to do stuff and are so low-key about it, nobody things we’ve got anything going on. But we’re like the bass players in the band — we stand at the back, we do our part and don’t move around much, but we still lay down a mean line for everyone to follow, and without us, the song just wouldn’t sound the same.

I guess it’s always been that way. I just need to do what I can to make the most of what I do best… and I need to do that. I’ve built a site that can hold all the details of my work over the years, and now I need to build it out and really kick some ass showcasing what I’ve done.

Because I’ve done a lot. The more I dig into my past, the more I realize it. I’ve done some great stuff over the years, and I need to be recognized for that and also compensated appropriately.

So, it’s time for me to quit bitching about the general work situation and go do something — time for me to fill in the blanks about what I’ve done with myself and how and why… and let the world see what I’ve done, in ways that I can express myself best.

So I’m not particularly verbal. So I don’t test very well. So I have trouble “selling” myself when I talk to people.

So what? I can write, I can design, I can code. I’ll use them for my own purposes, and just get on with my life to the best of my abilities.

And there we have it.

Good to stretch

Image credit: fitnessachievement.com

So, the weather is getting colder, and with it comes more pain. It woke me up overnight and kept me up for a few hours, so I’m behind on my sleep.

It’s time to start stretching before bed again. I’ve been sitting for long periods of time, again — interspersed with yard work, raking leaves and cleaning up before winter comes. So, my body is out of whack a bit, and it’s cutting into my quality of life.

A few days ago, I had a pretty good evening without pain — and without needing a bunch of Advil.

I started the day with a good warmup, and I got up and moved during the day, stretching and moving. And I also drank some water with a little bit of baking soda, which I hear helps to cut down on acidity and helps get lactic acid out of your system. (That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.)

Whether or not all of that worked — or a combination of a few of those things — I had a pretty pain-free night.

Then the next day it was a different story entirely.

So, this morning I got up and did my warmup. And I stretched a bit. I’m going to need to stretch during my days — as well as move, instead of sitting like a lumpy rock at my desk all day.

God, I wish I could go back to my chiro, but I just don’t have the money. No way can I afford $30/week. That’s $120/month I need for food and gas and all the other costs of living.

Maybe someday. But not just yet.

In the meantime, I’ve got my stretching and my movement. It’s good for me to do this, anyway. I just can’t stand the idea of going down that long, slow slide that people “my age” are supposedly doomed to experience. I know people in their 70s and 80s and 90s — and beyond — who are still vital and active. That’s what I want and that’s how I want to be.

So, I’m taking steps. I’m doing what I have to, even though it doesn’t feel that hot when I start it… once I get going, I start to feel better. And I get better.

I’m working with it. I’m making do. I think I’ll go mix some baking soda in water.

Onward.

Patching up

Fix it, don’t throw it away

Okay, it’s Monday. I had a nap yesterday, then ended up staying up later than I should have, watching television that is NOT improving my life ;)

Oh, well. So it goes. I did actually get some good things done yesterday. I got the biggest things handled that I needed to – and I finished some things that I was putting off, and I was going to put off till next weekend. Some other things I forgot, but that’s okay.

I woke up yesterday feeling really out of it and wasted — almost hungover, except I wasn’t partying the night before. I actually got in bed at a decent hour on Saturday night. But I woke up wiped out with a sick headache. In the morning, I read for a bit and wrote a little bit and I tried to do some studying, but that was a lost cause. So I went for a walk in the woods, and that helped me at least get some exercise and move the “sludge” through my system. I also had a chance to stop and chat with a couple who were hiking into the woods in search of a geocache. I got to tell them a bit about the place and give them better directions than the maps posted at the head of the trail did.

That was one of the high points in my morning, actually. They were an older couple and they looked a bit intimidated by the situation, but I managed to chill them out and get them laughing and looking forward to their hike, instead of being intimidated and confused. Where’s the fun in dreading you hike? You should enjoy it! And I helped them get on their way.

When I got home, I was going to do some errands — run to the hardware store to pick up a new rake, glue to fix my boots, and a bolt for my pole saw, so I can trim my trees. I had a list with me, but some of the items I decided not to get because they’re too expensive, and I forgot to put the rake on the list. The rake was the main reason I was going, because my yard is just too big for the standard-issue width rakes — it takes me forever to gather all the leaves when I rake. I have a leaf blower, which I use sometimes, but a rake is actually quicker for me. And on top of it, I don’t have to deal with the noise, which gets to be way too much for me.

This time of year tends to really push me, anyway, because there’s so much work to do — AND all the leaf blowers are going, which is incredibly hard on my ears and my head. Come to think of it, that might be part of why I have such a headache, these days — all the leaf blowers constantly going. Oh well, so it goes, this time of year. All I can do is make sure I get enough rest so I’m less sensitive, and wear some ear protection when I am working. But geez – the constant whine of them in the background, everywhere I go, is too much. It makes me yearn for a time like on that t.v. show Revolution, when all the electricity goes out all over the planet. Just kidding — almost.

Anyway, I got to the hardware store — and I remembered to take the bottles and cans I’ve been meaning to return. I also managed to take the bag of canned goods that I’ve been meaning to donate to the food pantry. There’s a collection bin in the store where I return my bottles and cans. So, I had three things I needed to do:

  1. Get a rake and a bolt and some glue at the hardware store
  2. Return bottles and cans
  3. Drop off the food for the collection

And I managed to do them all, even running late and being just under the wire with when the hardware store closed. I was pretty smart about the hardware store (my shopping list inconsistencies aside) – I actually took the pole saw with me, because I had no idea the exact size of the bolt I needed, and I couldn’t afford to make trips back and forth. It worked out, too — between me and the fellow who was stationed in the hardware section, we found the right size, and I picked up five bolts and five washers. Then I got my glue and took off for the grocery store across the way with my bag of bottles to return and a sack of canned goods to donate.

The bottle return was busy and loud, and people were impatient and pushy. I was already foggy, and it kind of threw me into a tailspin – between the noise of the plastic being crushed and this one individual standing right behind me, rushing me to get done with what I was doing. I was just trying to get the bottles in the machine, which is harder to do than you’d think, when you’re struggling with all the noise and being rushed by some a’hole who thinks they’re more important than you. Geez. You know, thinking back, that 5 minutes in the bottle return was one of the hardest episodes of my day. I was getting seriously tweaked by this individual, and if I’d been less focused on what I was doing, I probably would have gone off on them and ended up in a fistfight. I’ve been feeling increasingly combative lately, probably due in part to the sudden jump in the pain I’ve been feeling. But I was so busy just trying to deal with the uncooperative friggin’ recycling machine, I had to stay calm and not get aggressive and confrontational with this individual, that I just put my head down and pushed through it, and got it all done without a fight with this person.

Then, as I was getting into line to cash in my slip for the bottle return, I realized I had forgotten my rake – the whole reason I’d come out in the first place. I was so caught up in the drama about the bolt and the glue at the hardware store, that I completely forgot my rake. Because it wasn’t on my list. I had just expected to remember it. Yeah, right – will I ever learn? And part of me felt like, “Screw it, forget about the rake — that’s embarrassing — the guy asked you five times if there was anything else you needed, and you swore up one side and down that you were all set – and now you have to go back like an idiot to get the #1 thing you went to the store to get in the first place?”

But getting the rake was more important than looking good, so after I returned the bottles and cans and dropped off the canned goods, with 10 minutes to spare, I walked back to the hardware store (which is in the same shopping center as the store). I swallowed my pride and found someone to point me to the rakes, and I sorted through the bunch of them — looking for the biggest, widest one they had.

I combed through the collection and thought I found a really good one, then checked out and headed out to my car. The store was closing in 3 minutes. But as I was situating the rake in my vehicle, I noticed that the handle was damaged — a big chunk of it was cracked off, near the end.

My heart really sank, because the first thing that came to mind was, “Okay, not only are you an idiot for forgetting that you needed a rake, but you also picked one out that is broken. Any fool can see that it’s eff’ed up, but you pick it out like you’ve got good sense. What is wrong with you?!” And the thought crossed my mind to just take it home and deal with it. Or wait till another time when I wouldn’t have to look the folks in the store in the eye and show them how dense I was — yet again. If I waited a few days to bring it back, they might forget me completely and not remember that I was the idiot who swore they didn’t need anything — only to return 10 minutes later.

But then I thought about the coming week, and I thought about the rest of my day, and I thought about what it would take for me to do that — I would have to keep the receipt and remember where it was, in a few days’ time. I would have to make time in my crazy schedule to come back when the store was open. I would have to negotiate some sort of social interaction to convince the folks at the store that the rake was already defective when I got it. And it would be a huge friggin’ mess that might never get handled. And I’d probably end up keeping defective equipment, which would be a constant reminder of how I couldn’t manage to simply buy a rake on a Sunday afternoon.

So, again, I swallowed my pride and went back inside the store, obviously holding up the folks who were hanging around the entrance waiting to close up. I showed the rake to the cashier, and I headed back to pick out another one. I knew they were closing up, but I made sure I got one that had a good handle, and in another few minutes, I was on my way back home — to rake.

All this time, my head was full of all kinds of frustration and incrimination about how stupid I was, and how dense I was — really out of proportion to the situation. It was pretty noisy in my head, and the noise wasn’t good. I could have saved myself a ton of hassle and frustration and discomfort, if I’d been able to quiet it down — and I probably would have been able to see that the first rake I’d picked out was defective, if I hadn’t let the pushy individual in the bottle return get me all wound up. But thinking was not my strong suit, yesterday. So, I just drove home and got to work, moving leaves. It was getting pretty dark, by the time I finished – and I still have a lot of raking to do. But at least I made some progress. At least I managed to move some leaves. And I got my rake. And my bolt. And I fixed my pole saw, so now I can trim my trees, which is good. I also got the glue, so I can fix my favorite boots. And on top of it, I also patched up some of my spouse’s clothing. I can cut and sew a denim patch on a pair of old jeans like nobody’s business – and if I say so myself, it looks pretty cool, by the time I’m done with it. Both of my parents are skilled at patching things, so I must have gotten it from them – plus, I hate to throw things away and I love to repair stuff so it’s good for years and years.

And that’s the thing – so many times in the course of my days, I say and do things that just aren’t right. Especially when I am tired and/or I’m struggling with my sensitivities, I get a little bent and screw up things that you’d think would be easy for me. And I have to regroup. Figure something out. Make up for oversights and lost time and all the other stuff you’d think would come easy. People say I “shouldn’t” have any problems with stuff  ’cause I’m “so smart”, but it’s not intelligence that’s the problem — it’s logistics. Figuring out how to do things in which order, and figuring out how to make right the things that go wrong, whether they’re little details like putting a bottle into a recycling machine while someone is breathing down your neck, or missing a broken spot on a rake handle. It’s all the extra stuff… like sorting through all the input, managing the stimuli, dealing with the pain… yeah, the pain — I’ll talk about that later, ’cause it’s back, in a very big way, now. Intelligence is the least of my worries — basic, dense, step-by-step stuff is the problem.

But I do manage to figure out how to deal — especially in the moment, which is when I have to do it. I don’t know if I’m going to remember things later, or if I’m even going to make time to do them, so I have to do things NOW. In the moment. When they come up. And I have to acquire more skill at putting aside all the chatter and drama that’s clattering around in my head, just so I can get stuff done.

I’m actually doing better at that than I did in the past. And despite all my internal drama yesterday, with the pain and discomfort and frustration, I did achieve something I wasn’t going to get done maybe till next week — buy my rake, fix my pole saw, get glue for my boots, return the bottles and cans, and drop off the food for the food pantry. I didn’t flip out and assault the individual who was breathing down my neck at the bottle return. I didn’t lose my resolve and run away from that rake return with my tail between my legs. I handled things in the moment, and I handled them well, despite my internal experience.

That’s what I need to focus on — the final, end result. Not the things I experienced on my way there.

Yesterday felt really shitty, for the most part. But the end result was rockin’. And that’s the thing that really matters. For all the pain and awkwardness, sometimes I really do rock.

James Cracknell: Hopefully, we’ll get back to where we once were

James Cracknell and his wife Beverley Turner have written a searingly honest account of the impact his devastating brain injury and personality change have had on family life

“You’re not the man I married.” Of all the hard truths James Cracknell has had to face since his brain injury, those six words are the hardest. His wife, Beverley Turner, isn’t being accusatory when she describes how his personality has changed, nor is she insulting his masculinity. They both know it is the truth.

“Since the accident, she’s been the hardest person on me,” he says. “Challenging me in a way I’ve needed to be. She makes me angry and frustrated. Sometimes I don’t understand why she’s so hard, when I feel she should be the one who loves me most. But it’s because she loves me that much – I’m hoping – that she doesn’t hold back. I take a lot of strength from Bev as well as flak.”

On the other side of the kitchen table, tender but implacable, Bev listens like a mother. She is watchful. Their troubles seem to have imprinted nothing on her features. It is their 10th wedding anniversary. His card – scrawled “Hey baby, we made it!” – suggests this was not always the predicted outcome.

Read the rest here >>

James Cracknell and Beverley Turner: ‘For a moment, I genuinely thought he might kill me’

From The Telegraph: In our second exclusive extract from James Cracknell and his wife’s account of his brain injury, Beverley Turner recalls bringing him home to their children only to find he is a changed man.

By James Cracknell, and Beverley Turner

I know that something is wrong the moment the hotel phone beside me rings. It’s 6.30am in Las Vegas and no one calls at this time. “Bev, mate, it’s Bernie,” says a familiar voice. And I know. I just know. “There’s been a crash.” His voice wavers and cracks. “You’ve got to go to Phoenix.”

Read the rest here >>

The Importance of Team Support on the Road to Recovery

It would be nice to think they exist

I found an interesting article today — about a Marine who did something about the isolation that veterans go through when returning with injuries – especially TBI.

They train together. They fight together. So if wounded, why shouldn’t they go through recovery together? This was the question that Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell asked about his fellow marines being discharged from the hospital and left alone to recover from injuries of war.

“When you’re in the hospital, you are with other wounded warriors. But once you are out of the hospital, it’s tough,” explains Maxwell.

He should know. While on his sixth combat deployment, Maxwell sustained a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) during a mortar attack in Iraq. When he awoke a month later at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center, doctors didn’t think he would survive. The
shrapnel that penetrated his skull inflicted severe damage to his brain, impairing his vision and leaving him unable to talk or walk.”

Read the full article here (it’s a PDF download). >>

This is the kind of news I love to read – the kind of forward thinking that comes from within the ranks of TBI survivors. I understand that Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell is now retired, but I believe Maxwell Hall is still going.

And I have to wonder if these things are still going on, if they are still holding up under present circumstances, or if the resources and halls and support networks are able to stand on their own, after their founders retire or just can’t do it anymore. I wonder if the “superfriends” ever get replaced when the original members bow out or fade away. Of course, in the comics, none of the Superfriends die or are destroyed. I think… But in real life, does that really happen?

Seldom.

I suppose in a way we are all on our own, and we all have to take it upon ourselves to take steps to get better, when we get hurt or injured. But what about those who just cannot find it in themselves to do that? What about those whose brains are damaged in ways that keep them from even wanting to get better… or that keep them from even realizing they need to improve?

And what about those who go back to lives after their injuries, surrounded by people who neither know – nor care to learn – about what TBI / concussion can do to a person, and who just can’t bring themselves to help.

Yesterday I spent much of the day with a friend who has been through some serious sh*t and could relate to some of the difficulties I have, now and then, with fatigue and light/sound sensitivity. All through their growing-up years, they were in and out of trouble, in and out of institutions, so when I talk about having a tough time at this or that, they seem to get it. And they don’t judge.

I don’t know how much they know about my TBI history – I’ve never brought it up, but my spouse may have mentioned it in past years when I was having a much more difficult time than I’m having now. I just don’t have the heart to bring it up in person. Whenever I try to discuss it with people who didn’t know before, they usually either make some blanket statement about how “smart” I am and how it’s just not possible that I could have any brain issues… or they back away from me, become distant, don’t bother with me the same way the did before. So, I haven’t said anything about it, specifically.

But that didn’t actually matter yesterday, because I could talk about the difficulties I have with getting tired and then having everything crash in on me… or losing my cool and freaking out… or whatever various difficulties come up in the course of my everyday thanks to TBI stuff. I could talk about these things not as TBI-related, specifically, but just generally in my life. The “why” about it didn’t matter as much as the “what” — in other words, I could just discuss the issues without getting into the root causes, and get some feedback about what to do.

And that’s the thing that I have learned will help me, when I need feedback or support — not getting specifically into the TBI-nature of my issues, but just talking about them as I experience them.  So long as I don’t go down the road of “I was brain-injured in 2004, and nothing has been the same since”, and I talk about the things that happening with me just for what they are, I can actually get some useful feedback from people.

It’s the “brain injury” thing that keeps me cut off from the rest of the world. It’s the root cause that is the problem with people, I have found. But when I don’t get into the causes, and I stick with the end result that I need to manage, people can actually hear me and help me out. Or at least not push me till I’m crazy.

And it’s funny – when I first learned about TBI and finally had an explanation for why I was so screwed up and everything was falling to pieces around me, it was like I was finally free. And I thought that telling others and educating them would help them the way it had helped me. But all it did was freak them out. They just couldn’t deal. And everything got lonely really quick. Then I got to a point where I made peace with this loneliness and just focused on my own TBI recovery, understanding how it affected me, and getting a handle on what I really wanted to change in my life. Then I got to a point where I was less focused on the brain aspects and more concerned with the end results and managing them, getting them better. And now I’m at a point where I am mainly interested in having the best life possible, without making everything that goes wrong about my brain’s problems, and making it more about getting on with my life, picking myself up after I fall… and being able to talk to people about my issues in ways that they can hear and support – instead of getting all freaked out about it.

That’s how I get my support, these days. I’m still learning the best way of doing these things, and I still don’t have a lot of friends I can actually talk to about what I’m experiencing. But at least I’ve learned a thing or two in the past four years.

Actually, you know what…? I’m really tired and foggy. I’m really struggling to put words together, right now, and my head feels like it’s packed over-full of cotton. I have been at this computer for the past 2 hours, reading and writing, and I need a break. So, I’m going to pick myself up, change my clothes, then get out and walk in the woods for a while… and be quiet and settled and not worry about much of anything.

And that, my friends, is probably the best support I can give myself today.

Learning to learn again

So, the studies are going well. I have been working on some projects that are getting me “re-tooled” for my next steps. It’s pretty great, and I’m enjoying myself. One of the things I didn’t anticipate, though, is how exhausting it would be. Seriously.

I get up in the morning and spend about an hour studying and practicing, while I’m still fresh. Then I drive to work and think about what I’m working on, while I’m in the car. All the things that come to mind… it’s energizing and gives me such hope for my brain and my future.

It’s seriously exciting. And it’s intensely hard work. I had not anticipated how intense it would be, actually. I had been more concerned about the difficulty of learning… not the demands on my mind and body.

But it is demanding. Very. And I’m finding myself running out of steam when I get home at night — just beat. Wiped out. Finished.

Part of it, I think, is that I haven’t been getting enough exercise. I have noticed myself getting winded when I’m walking up stairs at work, which isn’t a good thing. Five flights of stairs would conceivably tire me out. But two? That’s no good. I need to get back to taking afternoon walks that send me up and down stairs. Seriously. I can take 20 minutes to go for a walk. It would probably help my brain function better, too, when I’m in that afternoon lull.

You know, it’s interesting — TBI has so many physical and emotional complications that come with it. And along with it comes the worry that you’re never going to be able to get back to where you were before. I was that way with reading – I really couldn’t read for a couple of years, and I gradually built myself back over time, to where I can read now. It was incredibly bothersome, and I felt like a complete idiot (and mentally ill on top of it). I mean, who forgets how to read?

Um… I did. It was so disturbing to me, that I got thrown big-time and had come up with all sorts of around-the-barn alternatives for reading – like faking my way through things, and telling myself (sour grapes) that I didn’t really want to do the things that required reading.

Uh, yeah… {sarcasm}

Not quite.

It’s taken me some time to get back to where I feel like I can actually read with understanding again. Even then, I often have to read things several times over and really think them through, before they make sense to me. Used to be, I could read something and feel fairly confident that I got it. Especially technical things. But since I “decided” I didn’t really need to read… and I wouldn’t understand what I read, anyway, that’s been a sticking point with me. And whatever additional difficulties I have with reading and comprehension and learning have actually been made worse by keeping my distance and not using my skills and abilities.

So, I’ve kind of painted myself into a corner, over the past years. And now I need to un-paint myself.

So, I’m really working at this now. I’m carving out time to study and learn and experiment, first thing in the morning when I am still fresh and can think clearly. It’s no good, expecting to be able to study and learn and practice at night – I just get too tired, and then I get down on myself, which is no good.

I’s hard. It’s exhausting. But I don’t see any other way to deal with all of this, if I’m going to have any kind of a life. Seriously, I just can’t stay where I am indefinitely. I am capable of so much more – I just know I am – and I really, really want so much more for myself and my family. So, I have to find a way to do this thing called learning. And I have to adjust to the fact that I do get tired, I get worn out, and I need to rest extra, when my brain is going through a lot of gymnastics.

Because it is. Seriously, this is pretty big stuff for me — it’s back to work I was doing before I got hurt in 2004 — and I was convinced that it was cut off to me for ever more. I thought after I melted down in 2005, that I was never going to be able to go back. Not to the big time. Not to a serious company. Contract gigs, I could do. Basic, simple, rudimentary work, I could do (so I thought). But the really heavy lifting stuff? I was convinced it was never going to happen.

Huh.

Well, that’s fine to think that way, but I’ve been struggling financially and professionally for years now, and I have got to find a way to get back. I have got to find a way to learn again. Come hell or high water. No matter what anybody says about “TBI recovery” not being possible. I’ve got to find a way. Or make a way. Last weekend, a dude jumped out of a space capsule and fell 24 miles to earth… landed on his feet… and told the world about it. And I can’t recover from TBI? I can’t figure out how to learn again?

I call B-S on that. Major B-S.

So, now I’ve gotta get creative. And pick and choose. I’ve got to focus in on what I need to learn, because I’m working with a brain and a body that get tired much more quickly than before, and I can easily make myself crazy, telling myself all kinds of ridiculous things about what that fatigue means about me and my abilities. I need to get myself back in better shape, with better exercise throughout the day, not just in the morning. I can’t just sit there for hours at a time. I need to get up and actually move. Note to self: Practice that.

I’ve also got to keep myself from getting distracted and turned around and taking on more things before I’m finished with what I started. That’s a major temptation and sticking point with me. I get so excited and enthused about things, and I just want to learn and do and showcase everything. But I need to practice staying on-track. ‘Cause life isn’t going to get any less distracting over time, and I need to seriously build up that skill of sustained focus and lasered attention (I guess that means I need to go back to my focused breathing again).

Speaking of keeping myself on-track, I need to start getting ready for work. I wasn’t planning on going into the office today, but it’s Friday when most people work from home, and it’s going to be quiet there today, so I’m going to just go… and see what happens.

I’m sure it will be good. Along with my future.