Doing AND Enjoying

One of the things that has really become clear to me over the past several years, is that being functional is not enough for me. I need to do more than live my life — I also need to enjoy it.

What has also become clear to me, is that the more I enjoy what I’m doing, the more I engage with it — the stronger the positive impact it has on me and my brain.

So, enjoying what I’m doing is actually a big part of my TBI recovery.

I have to say that enjoying what I’m doing while I’m doing it has helped me turn the corner from a plateau I was at, a couple of years ago. I was making good progress, and I was rebuilding a lot of the kinds of self-regulation skills that went out the window when I fell in 2004.

I was better able to manage my temper, I was better able to manage how I behaved when I went through extreme ups and downs. I was better able to interact with other people. And my functioning at work was really on the up-swing.

But I felt like I was at a plateau. I just didn’t feel like myself, and I didn’t feel like I was making any more progress.

I might have been — and in fact logically I really was convinced that I was still progressing — but it sure didn’t feel like it.

For a number of years in my TBI recovery, I had beenreally locked in on an ultimate goal of being as brilliantly functional as I could be, including taking my performance to the next level and really “kickin’ it” to the highest point I could possibly reach. But I had hit a few plateaus along the way, and the experience had not been great at all. I had struggled with it so much… but ultimately through no apparent doing of my own, those plateaus had dissolved, and I was on to the next piece of progress.

So, I decided to just forget about it, and just enjoy my life. I figured, if I was going to be on a plateau, I might as well have some enjoyment out of it, instead of just mindlessly laboring along — seemingly in vain — and chafing over my lack of progress.

I also suspected that deliberately deciding to enjoy my life would kick-start something in my brain. I would take in all the sights and scents and tastes and experiences around me (as much as possible, given my limited energy and difficulties with my sensitivities). I would really see how much I could enjoy them. And I would stop, when it got to be too much for me. I would change my focus and approach, and my brain would adapt in completely new ways. I would forget about the same old working-working-working, because I had been doing exactly that for years, and I still got to a plateau, anyway. My brain clearly needed a variation from all the same kind of work.

I also figured my system needed a break, period, to rest and recoup and integrate all the new skills I was trying to build.

But most of all, I just wanted to enjoy my life. To fill it with happiness and joy in the little things, each and every day. I have been working so hard for so long. I needed a reward.

I can’t say that I’ve been particularly successful at stopping the working. I have a strong work ethic that isn’t going to quit. But when I consider enjoying my life to be a type of “work”, then I can do it. Then it makes sense.

My TBIs have cost me dearly in my life. I really resent every single one of them, because I have the sense that every time I got hurt (about 9 times, starting near the beginning of my life), it set me back a little bit, and took me steps farther away from my dreams. Each successive mild traumatic brain injury had a larger and larger impact on me, and even though they were supposed to be “mild”, the after-effects were anything but mild.

So much pain, so much suffering… not only for me, but for everyone around me…

And that pisses me off.

So, yeah, I’m going to want to work my a$$ off to overcome this. And as it turns out choosing to enjoy my life, to take in the senses of the world around me, helps me do that in a new and different way. Choosing to listen to the birds in my back yard, smell supper cooking on the stove after a long day of work, feel the light brush of ferns against my legs as I walk in the woods, sense the unevenness of the ground beneath me as I walk along my road… it all gets me to pay attention beyond the racket in my head, and it trains my brain to sort through all the different inputs… and also to relax.

Pressure and stress are terrible for TBI recovery, and anything we can do to limit them is a good thing (within reason, of course).

As it turns out, taking the pressure off and just enjoying my life has really kick-started parts of my brain that have been struggling for a long time. I’m reading again. I’m thinking in much better patterns again. I am doing better at dealing with people.

And that’s good.

Onward.

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.

15 thoughts on “Doing AND Enjoying”

  1. I totally understand. I was trying so hard to “Kick TBI’s ass!” that I was pushing myself, not only beyond what I should have expected of myself, but beyond what I would have expected had the TBIs never occurred.

    I have found so much freedom in allowing myself to be average when I can, and having an attitude of “Well, I guess that’s how I am now” when I can’t. And I feel like I’m enjoying the ride more, as well as recovering faster, probably because I’m not as stressed.

    I make changes when I can, like starting work half an hour early and leaving half an hour early, which relieves some of the rush hour anxiety. In addition to the TBI, I was rear-ended on the way home from work a few months ago, so that’s a big stressor. I stock up on Post-It notes and forced myself to make a daily To Do list a habit. I write it up the day before, then place it where my keyboard goes so I don’t miss it in the morning. And I look back on past days’ lists so I can see that I AM accomplishing a lot, even if there’s still more to do todaywith

    I’m going back to college this fall, two classes at a time, but I’m looking to pass my classes with a B or a C, not pull a 4.0 GPA. If I do even better, then that’s a bonus. But I won’t beat myself up for getting a C the next semester.

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  2. BrokenBrilliant,

    Just wondering if you got my messages about writing a Guest Blog piece on my blog, Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury, at survivingtraumaticbraininjury.com? I know you write daily and I hope will consider this. I’d love to ask you for an interview too, but I understand your wish to be anonymous. Perhaps that may be too revealing. You can look at Survivors SPEAK OUT! if this interests you. (http://survivingtraumaticbraininjury.com/category/survivors-speak-out/) You can contact me at donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com.

    Donna O’Donnell Figurski
    survivingtraumaticbraininjury.com
    donnaodonnellfigurski.wordpress.com

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  3. Hi Donna, yes, I would be happy to. My week is quite full, but I will give this some thought and see if I can come up with some ideas in the next week or two. I appreciate your consideration of my wish to remain anonymous.

    All the best – I will be in touch soon

    Cheers
    BB

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  4. My cognizant skills therapist told me that two things really seem to be the key to my recovery.

    1. I did all the design of our retirement home, construction began just a few weeks before my TBI, and I was going to see to it the project was completed. So I spent many a day at the site, assuring things got done and done right. (I was 120 miles from home, just getting back to driving, and struggling terribly.)

    2. My TBI was the result of a motorcycle wreck. It was my 3rd near fatal, not one my fault, but the first with head injury. So my biking days were over…25 great years! A friend suggested getting a Polaris RZR and getting back into off roading. So I dove into researching the machine, the accessories, the problems. Bought mine 4 months post TBI. Only took one ride that year, but I was fully engaged!!

    So I wonder, were those the first efforts of my brain to re-wire itself? I continue to be amazed at how much I can do with 1/3 of my brain “scar tissue” and five other areas active for seizures.

    Today, I keep searching for information on how my brain re-wires…and how can I drive that process even more? Therein lies the enjoyment of life!!

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  5. Thanks for sharing that – so true! I firmly believe that refusing to become disabled by my injury — literally or figuratively — has continued to move me forward. I know people who have a less “dramatic” neurological history than mine, who have all but incapacitated themselves with their focus on how injured they were/are. I have my neuropsych to thank — in part — for that. They never let me off the hook with making cheap excuses.

    You must have taken a pretty big hit, having to give up motorcycles after 25 years. But replacing the things we used to love with new things that recruit the same kinds of skills we used to use and are somewhat similar, can be a huge help. For me, getting back on my old rickety bike and taking it for a slow spin down the local road is feeling more exciting than flying all over creation on the top-of-the-line racing bike I once had. The best part about it is that I’m moving slowly enough that I can actually look around and enjoy myself.

    It’s pretty incredible, what the human brain can do, even when you’re “missing” parts of it. The Norman Doidge book “The Brain That Changes Itself” talks about that a lot, and it was one of the things that jump-started my recovery.

    There is still so much to be discovered — we’re just now learning. But at least we’re learning!

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  6. Dear BB, that is wonderful. I really enjoy reading your blog. You have much to say and it is so well-written. I would be honored to have you write a Guest Blog post. I have no problem with the anonymity. We can just use “brokenbrilliant” and link back to your blog. If that works for you, that is fine with me. You can email me or I’ll check back here for any communication.

    Donna O’Donnell Figurski
    survivingtraumaticbraininjury.com
    donnaodonnellfigurski.wordpress.com
    donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com

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  7. Hi – I am wondering what I should write about. Do I fill out the questionnaire you have and send it in? Or should I write about something else? Sorry for the confusion. – BB

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  8. Dear BB,

    I like this post, Doing AND Enjoying. It shows that you are not going to let TBI take hold of your life and you are going to make the best of it. I think it sends a great positive message to readers.

    I think a version of this post would be great as your Guest Blogger post for my site. (I can edit ot to make it a bit shorter to fit my format.) I have just a few questions, which I am still curious about on which you might elaborate. Look for questions/suggestions in {BRACKETS.}
    1 {What kinds of things, specifically, did you incorporate into your life and enjoy?}
    2 {What happened to cause the TBIs?}
    3 {Can you elaborate on this? How have they cost you?}
    If you want to contact me privately, you can reach me at donnaodonnellfigursl@gmaill.com

    Donna O’Donnell Figurski
    survivingtraumaticbraininjury.com
    donnaodonnellfigurski.wordpress.com

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  9. Thanks Donna – I will write something up and have it to you in another day or two. Sorry for the delay – I have not been feeling well, but I’m on the upswing now. Stay tuned…

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  10. Hi Donna, I just emailed you something. My email account has been maxed out (unbeknownst to me), so a lot of my mail has not come through for the past weeks. Can you please reply if/when you get my email and let me know if it came through okay? Thanks -BB

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