Improvements all around

I've got some work to do...

It’s raining today. And lots to do. I’ve got leftover work I couldn’t get finished this past week that won’t wait — I have to square it away for Monday. And I’ve got other work I’ve got to get finished for some folks I’m freelancing for. There’s a lot on my plate, and there’s usually someone at work pissed off about things not going they way they’d like.

Not that they help. The directives tend to come from four levels above me, and they keep changing. Every week something different comes up, and I get the distinct impression that the people who are running things either don’t know what they’re doing or they don’t know what they want — or both.

This could be maddening, if I let it drive me crazy. I know my boss’es boss is easily pushed by the Person Who Is Constantly Changing Their Mind (who happens to run the show). I think most people in middle management are easily pushed by this person, who seems to have some Svengali-like hold over their minds, hearts and gonads. It’s very odd. The interactions I’ve had with this Terror have never struck fear in my heart. If anything, the “Terror” has been open to listening to what I had to say, they could be reasoned with, and when I stood my ground on principle, they backed off.

In some cases, they even told me that they would defer to my judgment, which is nice. They thanked me for keeping them honest, when I wouldn’t back down.

And yet, the folks who report directly to the Terror are all running around in a state of high anxiety and crisis, apparently due to pressure from THE TOP.


Kind of reminds me of the Elvis Costello song – I used to be disgusted… now I’m just amused. It gets a little wearing, being so tweaked over the volatility of someone else. I could certainly do that, but what would be the point? I just need to keep steady with my own agenda and my own work. And to remember that I have an agenda… which would be looking out for myself within the context of the broader company, which spans many countries and continents, and within the context of my broader life.

There is, after all, more to my life than making my superiors happy.There has always been more to it for me, than that. It’s one of the things that’s made me both useful and a little dangerous — the fact that I stay true to myself and my vision and my goals, even in the face of external pressure. If something matters to me — and I mean really matters — I stick with it and don’t let anything or anyone stand between me and that goal. The only thing that can keep me from achieving it, is me — and I’ve done just that more times than I care to think about.

I literally am my own worst enemy, in so many ways. I’ve pushed myself, driven myself, exhausted myself, undermined myself, and done so many counter-productive things that made it much harder than necessary, to get from Point A to Point B… let alone Points C – Z. And when things didn’t work out, I was all too quick to just throw up my hands and say, “Oh, well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” and just walk away.

Crazy. What’s even crazier, is that I’ve gotten used to it and I’ve developed a whole repertoire of sour-grapes-type “explanations” for why I never followed through.

I’m working on that. I’ve figured out a bunch of issues and patterns I tend to follow, and I’m coming up with better ways of handling situations as they arise… and avoiding them to begin with.

One thing I’ve become keenly aware of is how I have traditionally made bad choices in friends — people who didn’t treat me right, who made fun of me, who gave me a hard time, who really dragged me down, and cost me a lot in terms of money and time and energy, not to mention reputation.

Thinking back, I have not had many good friends at all, over the years, who really treated me the way I deserved to be treated. And the people who have treated me well, I ran from.

I mean, it’s bad enough that I have spent so much time dealing with bad friends, but why the hell would I run from good ones?

Why indeed?

Well, I think I’ve figured it out. And it has to do with the same things as procrastination — but in a much darker way.

See, with people who treat me like crap, I’m much more alert. I’m awake. I’m on guard. Every bit of my mind and attention is pumped. And I feel alive. I feel like I’m actually with it. In fact, the worse people treat me, the better I feel like I can function. Because I’m so ON, thanks to the constant threat of ridicule and mistreatment at the hands of these “friends” of mine.

As for people who treat me well, I have almost no use for them. They don’t wake me up. They don’t make me feel like I’m “on”. If anything, they relax me and that makes me feel dull and dense and not entirely with it. Maybe it’s that general level of wakefulness that’s missing, or that slower processing speed. All I know is, people who are nice to me don’t hold my attention. If anything, they make me feel kind of bad about myself. Because I’m just not as present with them as I am in situations where I’m under constant threat.

Here’s a picture of the situation, as I understand/experience it:

Sad, but true

I hate to say it, but there’s something about being treated badly, that makes me feel good — and I really feel it’s due to the level of wakefulness, which is also connected with my agitation and restlessness that sets in even more when I’m not all awake. When I’m not awake, I become itchy and anxious and agitated. This does not make me feel good — about myself or the people I’m around. If anything, it makes me feel worse.

So, bad friends make me feel good, and good friends make me feel bad.

How’s that for a TBI after-effect?

Pain in my ass.

Anyway, at least now I’m aware of it. And now I can come up with some alternatives for handling the situation. Because you can’t go through life all alone and isolated… and surrounded by people who mistreat and take advantage of you. Something’s gotta change, so it’s time to take a look at this and see what I can do.

I think I really need to find connections with people who I can DO things with — structured activities, rather than sitting around and “relaxing” — which doesn’t relax me at all. I need to be doing something, learning something, engaged in an activity that holds my attention — but doesn’t tire me out too much.

Here’s an idea — I’ll join a Meetup for a language I’m learning — French, for starters. I’ve been checking out and it looks like there may be some meetings in my area, which is a great thing. Who knows? I may make some good connections.  At least I’ll get out and meet new people.

And keep an eye out for the people who are pretty rotten. There are always some. Not that I plan to go into this with an attitude… just keeping in mind that I tend to gravitate to people who are not particularly nice to me, is helpful, and I can then manage to it. It’s when I’m not aware of the potential for getting caught in another web of destructive human interactions that I get into trouble.

Not that I’m very pleased about this aspect of my life. I’d like to think that I am surrounded by people who give a damn about me and will be there when I need them. I’d like to think that I have friends I can count on, who will stand with/behind me when need be. But as long as I prefer the company of people who treat me like crap, that will remain an elusive goal.

There is some good news, though.  Again, here I am looking at the fact that certain patterns in my life — which were always interpreted as being a sign that there was some deep-seated emotional/psychological issue at work — actually have a lot more to do with my neurology than my psychology. I don’t seek out the company of jerks because I think less of myself or I have some deep-seated self-loathing going on. I do it because it wakes me up and makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like myself, where being around people who relax me and don’t put me on edge, actually make me nervous and agitated.

So long as my brain isn’t fully engaged and fully charged up, I feel a lot less “human” than I would like to be.

And that’s no fun.

So the challenge now is to find ways of being fully engaged, fully awake, fully with-it, when I’m around people who treat me with respect and consideration. To find ways of being fully “on” when I’m not in constant danger. To find ways of getting myself in the game, without compromising my chances of developing positive, productive relationships with people who genuinely appreciate my company and input.

It’s a fairly tall order. Old habits are hard to break. But now that I’m aware of the fact that I need to make some improvements… well, I can.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

5 thoughts on “Improvements all around”

  1. BB – I have written several times but just haven’t had time to finish my thoughts. Many of these issues tie together – I believe 100% that you cannot say any single situation is brain injury and NOT psychological – they are so intertwined as to be impossible to parse out. If you have grown up with a series of brain injuries shaping your view and comprehension of the world it shaped your psychology. The knowledge that brain injury impacted your comprehension or focus or processing speed etc is helpful but you don’t wake up one morning and say ‘eureka, I love myself at last’. BI impacts sense of self, it damages relationships, it puts you on the fringe of society which drills into you (explicit learning that you are a worthless piece of ….). This becomes your you, the inner message you live etc. And even the awareness that brain injury plays a big big role in this doesn’t set you free. An example is friends – there are nice people in this world and not nice people but the vast majority of them are fully capable of both. Most people will be a bully if you let them, most people are not going to naturally look out for your best self-interest (even your spouse, even your parents) – this isn’t being mean but it forms a pattern in the relationship. That doesn’t mean that a person has to be nasty to be respected – it does mean learning to speak out and believing intrinsically that they are worthwhile, even if they make mistakes. BI taps into the fearfulness, it makes thinking black and white, exaggerates emotional response and when we are honest we know that we have ‘blips’ and slips that can decimate the security of our days.

    Part of the process of recovery is to retrain your thinking, to understand that there is this story that you tell yourself about yourself and to identify a new story and teach it to yourself. I think your blog does this for you.


  2. m –

    Very good points. I agree with you to a pretty large extent, tho’ not 100%. I think that personality differences play a role in what we do with the information, and that it is entirely possible for someone to be diagnosed as being psychologically ill, when their situation is really shaped by neurology. I’m thinking especially in terms of epilepsy where someone has epileptic “fits of rage” that are interpreted as anger management issues, and treated accordingly — all to no avail. I’ve heard/read people describe that.

    Also, the emotional lability issues and wild mood swings, and the behaviors that people interpret as ‘self-harm’… they can be something completely different than people expect. Knowing the neurological roots may not magically cure them, but what a difference a little knowledge makes.

    Sure, tbi really marginalizes us and sets us at odds with so much, and it does have a psychological impact. I’m seeing a neuropsychologist, after all, not just a neurologist. But to lay everything at the feet of psychospiritual maladies… I’ve been negotiating those discussions for WAY too many years, and I’m tired of people constantly telling me I’m repressed or suppressed or whatever… and that if I’d just get in touch with my pain, all will be better.

    Again, personality differences… But this variation on common themes is what makes it all so very interesting.

    And yes, I guess I am teaching myself a new story about myself. Thanks for mentioning it.



  3. I apologize if I wasn’t clear – TBI ABSOLUTELY impacts behavior and presents in ways that are interpreted as psychological illness – and having that understanding can make improvement, treatment and quality of life vastly different. I agree with you there.

    My BI has absolutely fed into the small voice of self-esteem issues and doubt and made it a raging voice – and I think that I fall into patterns of behavior that are self-sabotage. I don’t see this as psychotic or profoundly disturbed but I do see it as a psycho- bio chain of events that, like the snake swallowing its tail keeps doing me harm. PART of the answer is to say to myself over and over and over – I deserve happiness, I deserve peace, I deserve to be treated well – so I can recognize people who abuse me, so I can say ‘this situation is not a happy one’ and walk away from it. Sometimes that is very hard because I am used to saying it’s my fault. Some of this has been there for years – but the injury exploded it. Life events capitalize on emotional cracks and make them giant chasms.


  4. m –

    I hear you loud and clear. Self-esteem and self-image and self-worth are still in play. I think the revelation for me came when I realized that poor self-image was more a RESULT of my experiences, which were often precipitated by TBI, than the original CAUSE of them.

    I think it has been quite impactful for me, this realization, because I’ve been carrying around this ‘monkey’ on my back that has laid all my woes at the feet of psycho-spiritual dis-ease, and for more than 40 years, people have been telling me it would all be better if I:

    (as a child/youth)
    1) Prayed and got right with God
    2) Accepted Jesus into my heart
    3) Confessed all my sins and asked for God’s forgiveness

    (as an adult)
    4) Confronted my demons and made peace with them
    5) Found the wounds that I was carrying around with me and let the healing in
    6) Got in touch with my hurt inner child and learned to trust again
    7) Accepted myself as worthy and allowed myself to be loved

    While these are certainly worthy pursuits for many, for me, they just caused me tremendous amounts of confusion and pain, because they never, ever actually found and addressed a root cause of so much trouble and suffering. They treated the effects as causes — and while I’m quite certain that the effects of low self-esteem, self-sabotage, and disregard for my own well-being did feed back into my cycles of issues, without recognizing and addressing the TBI issues — poor attention, susceptibility to short-term interference, distractability, perseveration, obsession with details beyond any logical need, not to mention the physical issues which stoked my distractability and energy depletion — I was going to be forever doomed to a case of mistaken identity — thinking that the ONLY thing wrong with me, was that there was something wrong with ME (my spirit and my character), rather than something amiss with my neurology.

    You’re right on about the cracks. Like water feeding into them and breaking them even wider when it freezes.


  5. I hope that you can be surrounded by people who are healthy in how they relate to you and others. It sounds like you are aware so that’s a big start, I think. I try to treat friends and family good. However, I can’t be there for them like I would like due to my condition. But I feel very much included and I feel that there are good ways that I can be involved.


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