I’ve been digging into the Give Back Orlando materials, for the past few days, highlighting as I go. I printed out a copy of Teaching Yourself to Prevent Head-Injured Moments by Dr. Larry Schutz and I comb-bound it at work, using the hole puncher they have there and some comb binders I’ve been toting around with myself for years, in case I need to bind something. I often find documents that are much easier to handle bound, than as a loose sheaf of papers.
I have to say, reading it has been a real relief. As someone who basically self-diagnosed my problems and came to the realization on my own that I had serious issues — and had for a long, long time — and I needed to do something about them, I’ve had my doubts at times about the veracity of my quest. What numbskull actually runs around looking for reasons to call themself “head-injured?” I’ve thought to myself more than once, over the past couple of years.
But you know what? It’s a good thing I do, because if/when I don’t, as often as not, I end up in a whole lot of trouble. With people. With work. With situations I totally misjudge without ever realizing it.
Part of me knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that getting hit on the head, falling down stairs and out of trees, having car accidents, and getting hit really hard during sports games is not a good thing for my overall life. But every now and then, it’s nice to hear someone outside of my own head — someone who is a professionally trained and qualified brain rehab person — confirm out loud what I feel in my bones to be true.
Here’s a tasty nugget from Chapter One about “Learning about the injury” (bold is my addition):
Head-injury survivors can spend their lives trying to prove that the injury has not changed them in any important way. It’s easy to do, and there is plenty of evidence. Most survivors can still do everything they could do before the injury, even their most advanced job and hobby skills. If they could run a computer before, they can still do it. If they knew how to do brain surgery or rocket science, they still do. If they could speak four languages, they still can. If they knew the whole history of ancient Sumeria or ancient Motown, they haven’t forgotten it. They are 98% the same as they always were. But they usually feel 100% the same, and often they work hard to claim to be 100% the same.
They are the ones who don’t recover.
There is another way to live after a head injury. It involves working to notice what has changed.
Most survivors don’t do this. It would be unpleasant and negative, and many people want to think positive and feel good. Besides, all survivors get a powerful feeling from inside that they are doing things correctly at all times. The injury has shut down the brain’s quality control system, jamming it in the “all clear” position. The brain says everything the survivor does, everything the survivor says, is coming out just right.
It says “I am no different than I was before the injury.” And it’s not just a weak feeling–it’s a feeling of total certainty, a lock, dead solid perfect, a slam dunk! It’s the feeling the person has always gotten when things went just right. It feels good, and it feels right. So why question it?
Some people question it because it is their style to be concerned about screwing things up. They hate to fail, and they want to be extra careful. And the moment a survivor tries to be extra careful, that feeling of being right on the money, dead solid perfect in everything you say and do doesn’t make sense. Because if you look for things you have screwed up, you can find them. There have been more errors, more missed opportunities, more things you wish you had said in another way, more bad decisions, more times when you forgot to do something important or forgot a critical message–yet each time, you felt okay about what you were doing. As soon as you look for the things you’re doing wrong, you start to find them. And once you do this, you can see that for some reason these errors don’t feel wrong when they occur. And for some strange reason, you aren’t thinking of yourself as a person who makes more mistakes now, even though you should.
As you think about that, you begin to realize that there’s something wrong with how you evaluate yourself.
The survivors who realize this are the ones who start recovering on their own.
This, my friends, is a perfect description of me and how I came to this path. I am one of those detail-crazy individuals who hates to fail. I spend an awful lot of time trying to not screw up… and when I started to turn my eye to myself and my own actions and results, rather than looking out at everyone else, well, I could see there were a lot of errors. And none of them made sense. Because I was certain, every time I was making mistakes, that I was dead-on, 100% correct — no, 1000% correct. No doubt about it. But when I took a cold, clear look at what was really, truly going on — the botched jobs, the failed relationships, the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a very short time… well, my logical mind could not deny there was something wrong, any longer.
So, here I am.
I’m just glad that someone else — who’s not inside my sometimes-screwball head — knows how to explain, describe and articulate it.