Taking better care

Because I want to be here for a long, long time

In the aftermath of my recent dr. appointment, I’ve decided I need to bump up my exercise routine slightly. Start lifting slightly heavier weights. And see how that goes.

Yesterday, I did just that — I put 5 lbs more on my dumbells and had a good workout. At the time, it didn’t feel like was pushing myself all that much, but today I’m stiff and sore, so I know it had an effect.

So, this morning I did an easy workout and focused more on my leg-lifts, which are as much about improving my balance as strengthening my knees. Vertigo has been a big problem for me for the past weeks, and I’m finally getting to a point where I can walk around without feeling like I’m going to throw up. And I did my leg lifts with just a little bit of wobbliness.

There’s progress. It’s also progress that I didn’t push myself too much this morning. In months past, I would have just made myself continue the heavier workout, but this morning I was smart and backed off. I just need some movement, not a big Workout, to get my day going.

Now I’m back to thinking about the last three weeks and how it’s tweaked my TBI issues way more than they’d been tweaked in the past couple of years. Maybe it’s a sign of progress, that I’m able to wade into situations that set me off, and get through to the other side in one relatively intact piece, albeit shaken and sick. Or maybe it’s a sign that I just pushed myself too hard over crap that was someone else’s creation, and that it’s really not worth the pain and suffering.

Maybe it’s both. Could be. I do have to ask if it’s really worth getting into those kinds of situations, but ultimately, there’s a pretty good chance that those kinds of situations won’t be going away entirely, even if I do move on to another job, so being able to handle the hassle is a skill I need to refine. If nothing else, this has been a really good learning experience, and now that I’m on the other side of it and getting more rest, I can take a look at it all from a more sane point of view, and learn from it.

Looking back on all the frantic stuff

Let’s take a look at that checklist again:

Emotions/Moods

[x]  Excitability!check – I’ve been in an uproar for three weeks running, and it’s gotten old. The weird thing about it, is that it feels so justified. I feel like I have every right to be excitable. When I stop to think about it, I realize that it’s TBI talking, not reality, but it doesn’t change the experience itself — that ongoing adrenaline BLAST that just won’t let up. That firecracker response to every unexpected even that came up. Geez, how depressing, really — seeing myself react so stupidly to stresses I used to thrive on. I was on a tear for three weeks running, and I wasn’t proud of it. Once upon a time, I could be thrown into these situations and would come out on the other side stronger and better than before. Not this time. At least, that’s not how it feels to me.

[x]  Everything feels like an effort – check — God, did it ever. I mean everything felt like such a goddamned effort. From extracting information from people to just getting all the tasks squared away and taken care of. What a frickin’ chore it all was. I felt like I was running through quicksand, the entire time. Chasing after the elusive goal, running from the tigers in hot pursuit of my tail. I still do feel that way, to some extent, although the quicksand is more like wet sand now. I’m not drowning in it, but I’m still struggling to make progress. And that feeling that everything is just a trial and a pain in the ass has extended out to all the other projects I have going on. I had hoped that when this situation was through, I could go back to getting things done in good order, but now I feel even less capable than I did before this whole sh*tstorm started.

[x]  Feeling unsure of yourself – check — BIG check on this one. See above. People kept trying to bolster my self-confidence, telling me, “You can do it,” and part of me believed it, but for chrissake, I had really good reason to be unsure of myself, because there were so many pieces in the puzzle, and there were so many things that could have gotten missed, and in fact they did get missed. I mean, really obvious things that were right in front of me, that I was sure I had figured out… they slipped right by me, and I had to scramble at the 11th hour to get them in place. “Why do you question yourself?” they asked me. Duh — that’s why. Personally, I feel that people who aren’t unsure of themselves are often complete idiots, but that’s not in synch with the dominant paradigm, where everyone has to be so self-confident and self-assured all the friggin’ time. Please. Who the hell comes up with these ideas? Positive psychology proponents? Or Wayne Dyer? Tony Robbins? Who? Sometimes I just need a break — and I need people to admit that, every now and then, a healthy dose of self-doubt makes for better decision making and better performance. This aspect of my issues is not all bad, all the time.

[x]  Feelings of dread – check — Yeah, pretty much all the time. Dread about the project, dread about my life, dread about the job, dread about all the other things I wasn’t getting done, dread about my marriage, dread about, well, everything. And dread about what was to come later — that this was just a precursor to more of the same later. It wasn’t until I gave up hoping for the best, that I started to feel better. Just accepting the dread and accepting the sense that this and all the other projects that I’d ever have to do with these people were doomed, somehow made it more tolerable. But what a thing — to find relief only from giving up hope.

[x]  Feeling like you’re observing yourself from afar – check — It was the weirdest thing… that sense that I wasn’t even all there… The feeling that a part of me had stepped away and was watching myself flail through that project… not like some mystical out-of-body experience where you’re floating in space above your body, but like I was sitting in a small, dark, stale-sweat-smelling, trash-littered, popcorn-covered-sticky-floor movie theater in a rundown mall on the outskirts of an old depressed steel town, watching myself hack through the underbrush on the movie screen in front of me. I felt so disconnected from my life, from my mind, from my body, from my whole experience, and it wasn’t even until afterwards, when I could get a little distance, that I realized what a surreal experience it was.

All in all, I have to say that some of the issues above were specific to the project — they got set off in an irrational fashion because of the stress and the pressure. But others were generally applicable to my overall situation. Feeling unsure of myself is, I believe, just a logical result of having been in so many situations where I was SURE (and I mean 100% ironclad, absolutely positively SURE) that I was on -track, only to realize — often at the 11th hour — that I was only 80% on, and the remaining 20% was landing me in hot water.

In fact, if anything, that lack of sureness may have been what saved me, because it kept me from being too cocky, too brazen, too eager to take things for granted. It’s when I get into thinking that I’ve got everything covered (when I don’t) that I get into real trouble.

And if there was one thing that probably got me through, it was that lack of sureness, that constant re-tracing of my steps to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Now, the thought had occurred to me that I might have been perseverating on certain details — like re-checking the code for the 209 attachments distributed across 56 web pages over and over again. And I did kind of fixate on some of the small details, and that threw me off in my planning and time management. But if I hadn’t revisited those 209 attachments a bunch of times, they would have turned out like crap. They would have broken. And then I would have been totally screwed. So, all things considered, I think I did okay.

And here’s the thing about TBI that really strikes me — some of the issues we have are based in unrealistic thinking, while others are based in actual experience that arises from TBI. The sense of doom that I had, the depression I had, the excitability… that was based in unrealistic thinking that got “stuck” in my mind. But the self-doubt was based in actual experience. And it can be pretty damn’ difficult to tell the difference at times.

It might have been different if my neuropsych had been around to help me think things through, but for this one I was on my own. Who knows how it might have been, had they been around? Maybe they would have made things worse, by trying to talk me out of my self-doubt and trying to get me to be easier on myself. Easier on myself could easily have led to screwing things up. I had to push hard, and it took its toll. And they might have tried to minimize my difficulties, telling me I wasn’t really having all that trouble. They’ve done that a bunch of times, and it really bothers me when they do. As though I’m making all of this up… That’s just even more demoralizing — to have someone gloss over your difficulties as though they don’t matter and you don’t actually have to do anything about them… just tell yourself a different story about your experience.

It might have been helpful to have a sounding board to bounce all this off of… then again, maybe it was best that they were away. I don’t think I could have handled being told that it wasn’t as bad as all that.

Anyway, now the project is over and I am getting my life back. I see my neuropsych on Tuesday, and we’ll see how they respond to my experience. I’m kind of dreading talking to them about it, because they do tend to minimize my experience and tell me that it’s not as awful as I think it is. I appreciate the sentiment, and I’m sure they’re trying to help, but this time I had a terrible, awful time of things, and I need that to at least be acknowledged.

But that’s neither here nor there. It’s off in the future and who knows what will happen?

Anyway, in the spirit of restoring normalcy to my life, it’s time to take out the trash and rake up some of the leftover leaves from last winter.

Onward.

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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.

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