So, I’m downloading the new iTunes so I can update my music on my iPhone (it’s company-issued, and I’d probably not even bother with it if I didn’t have it for work – these things add way more complication to my life than I care to add, myself).
I spent a fair amount of time yesterday collecting music I’ve got scattered in different places into one location on my computer, so I can get to it more easily. I had planned to take care of some work-work tasks, but I used up the time I was intending to spend on getting work-work done, so I didn’t get those handful of little tasks done yesterday. Then I ended up sleeping all afternoon after I got back from my social excursion and errands, which is exactly what I needed. I didn’t reach the goal I’d set for myself, but I don’t care. I needed to sleep. And I needed to take care of myself. So no, I didn’t get those tasks done. Today is another day, and I’ve got another 24 hours till I need to be in the office again.
I got together with my old friends yesterday — the folks I used to hang out with now and then before I fell in 2004. I must admit, I didn’t do a very good job of keeping up with them when I knew them — they were more acquaintances to me — friends of friends who would get together for coffee and just hang out every week or so… in a kind of rolling group. You never knew who was going to be there, or what you were going to talk about. And sometimes the antics got a little obnoxious, so I didn’t get really invested in that “gang”. Ironically, they always thought of me as “one of them”, which I found out yesterday.
After I fell and smacked my head in 2004, I really had no use for anyone, and I withdrew into a cocoon of trying to figure stuff out. Nothing made sense to me, and I couldn’t seem to find any answers. So I isolated. When I started reaching out for help, I stopped isolating so much. I started talking to doctors and then to friends about my situation. Then, when I found out how hard it was to talk to people about TBI, I withdrew again and just tried to keep my act together and figuring things out for myself.
When I found my NP, I found someone I could talk to about my situation, but I still didn’t reach out much to friends. Dealing with my TBI was such a big part of my life, that if someone wasn’t actively involved in some sort of recovery, I didn’t have much to say to them or much reason to interact with them.
Yesterday was quite eye-opening for me, and I think it’s brought a lot of things to light with me. Namely, that before I started seeing the neuropsych, I was pretty insular to begin with, and there were a lot of things that kept me from really interacting with others. I’ve gotten hit on the head so many times over the years that I guess I just got used to keeping to myself and staying quiet so people wouldn’t realize how clueless I was and how long it takes me to catch up. It’s that “Better to keep silent and have people think you a fool, than open your mouth and confirm it” strategy. Which tends to work, because when you’re quiet, people think you know something they don’t. They rarely guess the opposite.
Anyway, yesterday when I got to the meet-up place, there were a bunch of folks there who really welcomed me warmly. It didn’t seem to matter to them that I had been under a rock for all those years. They were still happy to see me. I have definitely changed, since I last saw these folks and I could tell that they could see it also — I have changed for the better, because I’m a hell of a lot more interactive than I ever was before, and I’m a lot more open and involved in discussions than I ever thought I could be. And in the process of being more interactive, I discovered that folks in this loosely affiliated group have been going through all kinds of crap that makes a person wonder if they’re a magnet for hardship.
One has been having food allergy issues and has been having cognitive issues, like forgetting words and losing track of sentences and being wiped out all the time with fatigue.
Another went through a bunch of job changes and is still reeling from the roller-coaster.
Another quit drinking and has been going to AA.
Others have had deaths in their families and are struggling to deal with all sorts of family stuff.
Another is going through a nasty divorce, with their soon-to-be-ex threatening to have them arrested over “any old thing.”
Others are either going through menopause or have gone, and they’re “all over the map” as they describe it.
Interesting bunch of folks, to say the least. So clearly I’m not alone when it comes to having to struggle with a lot of stuff.
I would think, from reading the list of “adventures” above, that this would be a pretty maudlin group who sit around and feel sorry for themselves. On the contrary, it was a pretty good time. We had some good laughs. I said nothing about my TBI, but I did mention the job situation, and a lot of folks could relate. In the process of talking to folks, I realized — even more clearly — that many of my troubles from the past month have been somewhat self-inflicted, coming as much from my wounded pride and frustrations with management and the stress of the short timeframe for such a high profile project, as from any circumstances outside of me. I haven’t made things any easier for myself, and I really got that loud and clear, hearing folks talk about their own situations in passing, and listening to me grouse about mine.
The nice thing was, nobody seemed to judge me for my frustration, and they just kind of nodded when I realized – out loud – that I was just feeling sorry for myself, and I needed to get a grip. And they talked about their own difficulties with a humanity that we could all relate to.
The consensus at the end of our little gathering was that we’re all just human, and that we often don’t make things any easier for ourselves… but we’re works in progress, so we’ll just keep trying. I was really surprised at how together everyone seemed in the face of some pretty heavy stuff. But maybe it was the heaviness that forced everyone to put things in perspective. And maybe it was the extra 8 years or so, since I’d last seen them, that basically grew us up.
What I took away, for myself, was the realization that I’m really not alone, and that I can actually get together with people whose lives are different from mine, but who have the same kinds of challenges and the same degrees of difficulty to deal with. I also saw – right in front of me – that everyone is dealing with something, but that something doesn’t have to be the ONLY thing in your life. And no matter how screwed up things may be, you can often find something redeeming in your experience to share with others. The individual details may not even matter all that much, when it comes down to it. The important thing is to find the common ground we all share — and just be human with each other.
In retrospect, we didn’t really go into a lot of personal detail about things, and the rough patches we tended to gloss over. But we didn’t cover them up. They were just background information behind our conversations about sports and music and our families and our jobs and our pastimes, and what we’d been doing with ourselves lately.
So, it looks like I’ve found a real-life group of folks I can relate to, which is huge. I may get together with them again next week, or I may not. It depends on my schedule, but the important thing is — I know they’re there if I need them. They may turn out to be totally different next week, or the week after, but at least I had a good experience yesterday. It takes the pressure off my working relationship with my NP, because they’re no longer the ONLY real-live person I can talk to about my life and what’s going on in it. I can’t have my NP be my only in-person source of support and feedback. They’re good for some things, but not all things, and I’ve been needing to reach out for years, now. Even before my last TBI, I needed to reach out — on my own — to others, but I just never really did.
Now I have. And it feels pretty damn’ good.
Now, let me restart my computer and resynch my music.