I’m not talking about the recent event when the behavior of a groundhog (or groundhogs, depending on your regional preference) determines our future. I’m talking about the movie,”Groundhog Day” where Bill Murray’s character goes through the same day over and over and over again.
This is my life in a nutshell. I cycle through the same experiences / crap / joys / sorrows on a regular basis, each time without much active recollection of how it was before and what my experience was then. It applies to the good things, as well as the bad things, and my neuropsych is repeatedly surprised that I’m wrangling with the same issues that I was wrangling with, several weeks, months, or even years ago. Sometimes I have “new” experiences that are repeats of what I experienced only the day before, and I have to go through the whole learning process all over again.
One example I can think of was back in December, when I had that business trip overseas. Each day, I got up with this terrible, terrible dread — almost crippling anxiety over what was going to happen that day. It was awful, and I literally did not want to leave my room. I just wanted to stay behind closed doors, where I had no interaction with anyone, where I couldn’t possibly screw things up, and where I could move at my own pace and not adapt to anything new or different around me.
And each day, I literally forced myself to get dressed and go out into the world. Each day, I rediscovered that I was able to communicate, that I was capable of understanding what others were saying, even if I didn’t get every single word, and that the world outside was something to be explored and discovered, not dreaded and avoided.
Then the next day when I got up again, it was back to battling the crippling dread, the fear, the anxiety… the monumental effort of getting myself OUT the door… and the happy discovery that I could indeed handle myself well in the world beyond the hotel room. And at the end of each day, I was able to kick back and really enjoy myself in that space, just reveling — all over again — in the “discovery” that I was really going to be okay.
Now I have another business trip coming up that will take me overseas. This time I am going to a country where I do not speak the language. I have been studying a bit, which has been kind of funny — I found some audio files to learn from, but when I started to listen to them, it turned out to be all “Stop or I’ll shoot!” and “Put down your weapon!” and “How many armed men are there?” — apparently a law enforcement or military training course. At least I know how to say “Don’t shoot!” if I get into any trouble while I’m on my trip. You never know… there are some pretty rough neighborhoods where I’m going.
Anyway, the point I’m making is that for some reason, I seem to have just a terrible, terrible memory for things that have happened to me before. This is true of good things… and bad things. I seem to get myself into situations, over and over again, doing the same thing and expecting different results, and then I suffer and chafe when things don’t turn out like I think they’re going to.
Like trying to get out of the house to get to work… Time and time again, I get up thinking that I can just take a little time to check my email and/or do some little things around the house, and then I’ll be able to get to work on time. And time and time again, I get sidetracked on one thing or another… and I end up rushing and being later than I wanted to be. I make up the difference at the back end, of course, staying late — even later than I would have to, actually, because I start to warm up around 6 p.m., and it’s hard for me to take a break when I’m finally making good progress. Even so, even if I do make up the difference in the hours, the simple fact is that I do this over and over again, thinking that this time it will be different.
Insane? Well, according to some, it is. Whatever you call it, it gets frustrating, and I feel like a complete idiot.
I guess part of the equation of this apparent failure to learn, is the fact that I have to stay very present in the current moment, or I can really lose my bearings. I think this 100% here-and-now mindset has developed over years of having to navigate so many issues — light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, exhaustion, vertigo, nausea, pain of all kinds, headache, distractability, and more — but still needing to be functional. I think I just developed the habit of focusing so completely on the present so that I could function in that moment, that everything else — before and after — just disappears. Or it never has a chance to get set in my mind.
I think also the stress of daily living over the years has impaired my ability to learn. Just having to deal with all the sh*t of my issues and symptoms and the screw-ups and the adjustments and the confusions and distractions… it can get pretty stressful, and I’m sure it’s had some impact on my ability to learn.
Then again, in other areas I learn extremely well — like this language thing. I’m actually picking up a lot of good stuff, and I think I’ll be able to at least ask people for help and understand basic numbers and directions, and be able to thank people for their help, without too much struggle. Languages seem to come pretty naturally to me, and it surprises me how much sense they make to me after a relatively short period of time.
So, it’s not like I’m completely disabled with my learning. But experiential learning? There, again and again, I end up going through the same things, as though it were the first time ever.
Well, I can’t worry about it. If I approach it like it’s a grand adventure of constant discovery, and I treat each situation like a fun opportunity to have a “new” experience, it’s fine. It keeps me fresh, actually. It keeps me interested in my life. It’s never boring — that’s for sure. The worst thing I can do, is treat myself this means there’s something wrong with me, that it means I’m somehow damaged. If I don’t judge myself and I just accept that about myself — and come up with ways to work with/around my very limited memory… and I don’t get it in my head that this means I have early-onset dementia and I’m losing my mind…. I can work with this.
Hell, I’ve been working with it for as long as I can remember. I just “get lost” sometimes and I have to find my way out of the shadows and dead-ends… which I can do pretty well. I’ve had plenty of practice, you see.
Anyway, life goes on. I have a number of very interesting projects I am working on, and that’s keeping me interested and engaged in my life. I’m learning new things pretty well, and I feel good. I also got a lot of sleep yesterday afternoon, after I was done with my work. I worked from home, so I was able to just crawl into bed when I was done for the day. That was nice. I got about 7 hours of sleep last night, so that’s good, too. And I have all day today and all day tomorrow to kick back and take care of myself. Because I’m flying out in another week, and I need to be healthy and whole to make this trip.
So it goes. Part of me would like to have a better recollection of the things that I have experienced in the past, so that I don’t keep making the same mistakes, and I don’t keep pushing myself and wearing myself out. And I’m thinking about ways I could do that — maybe keep a log of what works for me in different situations, so I can draw on what has worked for me in the past… I had that kind of a log going, about 3 years ago, and it was working well for me. I think maybe I need to resurrect it, so I can continue to draw on my experiences and get my sh*t together better than I currently am. It’s an idea….
Anyway, the day is waiting, and I’ve got to get a move on. It’s always interesting and never boring… and I need to remind myself of how things have been in the past, as I work through my present and into my future.
I’ve been here before, I’m sure… now I need to figure out how to make the best of it.
4 thoughts on “Ah, Groundhog Day…”
This sounds so familiar! Every time I think things are going to be different, but it doesn’t happen that way. I tried to attend a conference with my son in the Fall, by now I should be able to do that. It was cold, people were rude, the lights were too bright, the chairs uncomfortable, and on and on. I guess some things don’t change, and that has been my intolerance to many things I thought has changed.
Could it be that our usual environments we manipulate the things we can to create personal comfort to be productive? Is it possible when we don’t have this control to so many small variables it’s difficult to know how to function?
At least we are still learning. Our brains are intact and working, and found different pathways. Learning is a great thing! Take care and stay safe, Edie
I think you’re onto something about being able to control our environments. The situation at work has been intensely stressful, largely because I cannot control anything about it, and I am stuck in a big room filled with a lot of people with no walls, lots of visual distractions, and no control over the ambient temperature. Before, I was in an office with a door that closed, and it was nirvana.
Now… not so much. Even my neuropsych doesn’t realize how stressful it is, and they just kind of wave it off like I’m being colicky when I protest. Please. I can’t believe nobody understands this… especially for folks with TBI. Nobody at work knows I have these issues, and I’m sure it wouldn’t help me if they did, but it would be nice to have at least some accommodation every once in a blue moon…
Maybe at my next job.
In 1999 my best friend fell while repelling rock climbing ending with TBI. She has an office away from where she normally would be located in nursing administration, but rather in a quiet area because her need for decreased stimuli.
I’m wondering if at some point you might just mention that you’ve noticed (causally mentioned) you do best with decreased stimuli and a lower noise and less distractions without saying more if they might accommodate you. It’s worth a try. You wouldn’t want to do any less than your best, and you want to give them your best.
What do you think?
Hm. That’s a tough one. I have actually mentioned that I do best with less distraction and less noise. Everyone knows it’s an issue for me. The thing is, it’s an issue for *everyone* in this work space, so if they make accommodations for me (without some medical reason), they will have to do it for everyone. Personally, I think they should do that, anyway, but it turns out that the building we are in was not built to sustain the weight of additional walls, so they can’t reconfigure. And the cost of making changes right now to a space that houses close to 1,000 people is prohibitive and not in the budget.
Fortunately, I can work from home just about as often as I like, so I try to do that when I can. But some days I really need to be there. Oh, well… So it goes. It’s not forever, in any case.