I’ve been thinking about my next steps in my TBI recovery. Logistically, I have been pretty consumed with just keeping thing together on a day-to-day basis for the past 7 years.
So much that I really took for granted had gone away — jobs, money, credit score, friends, daily routines, level-headedness, technical skills, harmony in my marriage and so many other relationships… and the loss of those basic features of my life — my foundation — left me floudering.
So, I had to really focus on the basis for a number of years:
Finding a job that suited me and keeping it.
Developing good working relationships that doubled as “friendships” (because I didn’t have the time and energy, when all was said and done, to have more friends than that).
Getting my financial affairs in order, paying down massive amounts of debt, and not getting into any more trouble with spending.
It’s been a very rough seven years — especially the past four — but I’m out on the other side, with my debts settled, my mortgage current, my credit score pretty good — almost on the verge of being excellent — and a regular job under my belt to keep my bills paid.
And I am saving up for doing some long overdue repairs to one of the bathrooms. We can’t afford to do both, but the one needs to be done, so…
Anyway, the point of all this is, looking back and what I’ve accomplished, the main thing that has carried me through all these years, has been learning to keep an even keel and not get thrown by every little thing that comes along.
For somebody like me with TBI issues and a pretty volatile temper, this has not been easy. It has taken a huge amount of work, and learning to breathe and calm down my physical system has been the lion’s share of the task. But as I look at my life of the past years from a distance, I can see how just doing that — learning to keep my system stable and not (too) reactive — has made my recovery possible.
It’s very simple, really.
When I am worked up and bent out of shape, my brain does not function well. I have a harder time learning, I have a harder time thinking, and the connections I need to create in my brain to get me back on the good foot, are being made in all the wrong places — if they’re getting made at all.
But when I can stay calm and not get caught up in the storms of life, then my brain has the chance to make the right connections in the right way, and “re-learn” how it’s supposed to do things.
Of course, knowing this and doing it are two completely different things.
Yesterday morning, when my parents were here, I was starting to feel really down on myself, stupid, useless, and overwhelmed. Whenever I am around my parents, I feel that way, because both of them are very heady and intellectual, and in a lot of our conversations, I feel like I’m barely keeping up. They do try to be kind — nowadays… it wasn’t always the case — but I really feel stupid sometimes, when I am with them.
I started to cry because I felt so stupid and so bad. Broken. Displaced. Useless. But then I stopped myself from the downward spiral, and kept repeating to myself, “I am smart in other ways. I am smart in other ways.” I just kept telling myself that, over and over again, and before long, I wasn’t in that dark hole anymore, and I could think clearly again.
And I had another good couple of hours with them before they took off for home.
Being able to talk myself away from that edge, and getting my system calmed down, was the key. It usually is. And looking back on the past seven years, I can see how much it has cost me, when I was not keeping a good handle on my “internal state”.
So, there it is — the foundation of my recovery from TBI has been keeping in state of mind steady and learning how to not let things get hold of me and carry me away.
When I am stable and present and I am not being pushed about by every last wind, my brain has a chance to make good connections that give me a solid bedrock to build the rest of my life on. It takes time, of course, and there are times when I slide back and have to make up lost ground, but that’s how it is with everything. There is no such thing as a straight line in life, as well as brain injury recovery.
You just have to keep going. You just have to keep moving and learning, keeping a level head and not getting derailed by little things that come along.
Speaking of not getting derailed by little things that come along…. I’ve got to go off to work in a little bit, and I’ll be dealing with my boss again, who tends to be petty and divisive and plays all sorts of mind games. They’re not nearly as smart as they think they are, but I still have to keep my wits about me, when they are up to their tricks.
So, that being said, I’ll practice my steady breathing again today, hopefully get a break in the afternoon, and just keep keepin’ on.
Life is waiting. Onward.