How I can get hurt – again and again

Yeah, I’m a bad-ass alright. Hopefully not a short-lived bad-ass.

I had an interesting conversation with my neuropsych yesterday. I have been wondering about some judgments I’ve made, in the past six months or so, which — at the time — seemed fine… but in retrospect were probably not that smart. At least, that’s what my neuropsych has told me.

About six months ago, I was offered a ride on the back of a motorcycle, and I took it. I had to get somewhere fast, and this rider offered me a lift through a shortcut they knew. This rider (I won’t call them a biker, because I think of Harley’s, and this individual was on a BMW) was a stranger to me, and I had no way of knowing how good a rider they were. I’ve ridden with really bad motorcycle drivers before, and I didn’t care to repeat the experience.

But this individual appeared to be competent, and I hopped on the bike behind them.

For the record, I don’t drive motorcycles — or usually ride them — because of balance issues and attention problems. I can get distracted and lose my presence of mind, which pretty much disqualifies me for driving a motorcycle. It’s a great way to get seriously injured… or killed.

Anyway, the shortcut worked, and I got where I was going in record time. But not before we’d pulled some really dangerous stunts — fitting the motorcycle through very tight spots that were borderline illegal, and weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds. The driver also ended up taking a wrong turn, and we ended up driving around a blind curve directly into oncoming traffic — and the bike stalled on a low barrier and couldn’t move forward or back.

So, I hopped off the back, and while the driver got the bike started, I heaved at the back of the bike and got it off the barrier.

Very exciting. And also very dangerous. And potentially fatal.

Once I got where I was going, I realized how close I’d come to something pretty terrible. And worse yet, I was far from home in a place I wasn’t familiar with, and I’m not sure how I would have gotten help if I needed it.

It all turned out okay, and it was a thrilling ride of my life. But it’s not the sort of thing I should have done at that time.

A few months later, I was traveling (again). Near the end of a really long and tiring drive, I ended up at a rest stop where I realized I was being watched by an individual who looked like trouble. I gave them a wide berth, but later they were joined by another individual who looked equally rough, and they tried to engage me in conversation. Rather than keeping my distance, I walked right up to them, shook their hands, and had an extended conversation with them. In the course of the conversation, one of them identified themself as a known criminal. I didn’t bat an eye, just finished the conversation, and they took off… as though they were up to no good and didn’t want to get caught.

In retrospect, I was setting myself up to get mugged. Big-time. I didn’t… and I actually had a really cool conversation with those two. But was it a good idea for me to interact with these two at a rest stop along an interstate? Doubtful.

Then, the other night, I was driving home from work, and I got caught in a torrential downpour, accompanied by close lightning strikes. I could not see the road. At all. I should have pulled over, but I kept going. I could have easily run into a tree — or run into someone else. I didn’t, but even as I was driving, thinking that I might want to pull over, the urge to keep going was even stronger… overpowering. I got home safe and sound, and after sitting in the car for 5 minutes, the downpour suddenly stopped. Everything was fine. But it might not have been.

On all three of these occasions, I was tired, and I was looking for a “hit” of adrenaline to perk me up. I needed a pump — a jolt — to get me going. It didn’t matter that I was putting myself in danger. The whole point was putting myself in danger. I needed to get my stress hormones going and get myself back online. I felt dull and foggy, and I needed a boost.

So, I put myself directly in harm’s way. It worked — I did get the pump and the jolt I needed. But had things gone differently, I might not have fared so well. For that matter, I might not even be here.

Riding motorcycles is something I should NEVER, EVER do. I know that. I have avoided them like the plague — like I avoid tall ladders. Talking to folks who obviously look like they’re up to no good, and going so far as to shake their hands and “hang out”, is not something I typically do, either. I know better. What’s more, driving my car through conditions when I can’t see more than a foot past the hood ornament… I know WAY better than that.

But reason failed me. In a very big way.

And that’s how I can get hurt – again and again. By actively seeking out danger that makes me feel alive… that makes me feel like myself again… that puts all the pain and confusion and frustration away, for even just a few minutes.

My life tends to feel like a jumbled-up mess of contradictions and conflicts, and it’s hard for me to get any peace. I live in a body whose biochemistry tells me things are WAY more extreme than they really are, and as a result, I usually end up on a roller-coaster of emotion. I know better… but my body doesn’t get it. And it wears me out. Mentally and cognitively, my brain loves to do its own thing and not stick with the program. I’ve been forgetting a lot of things, and I’ve been coming up short, now and then, with projects I’ve been working on… playing catch-up and all that. I keep cool and maintain calm on the outside, but inside it’s sometimes pretty chaotic and frustrating and a little bit terrifying now and then.

So on the inside, I’ve got all these experiences of chaos and confusion and frustration, while on the outside, everything is supposedly okay. I know I’m not the only one who has this — most people do, probably. That whole “living lives of quiet desperation” thing that a philosopher once talked about.

That tires me out. And the quickest and most reliable way I know to stay “with it” is to add a little danger to my life. Or a lot of danger.

Looking back, I can see how almost all of my injuries — even from fairly young — came from this danger-seeking streak of mine. I put myself in dangerous situations. I also pushed myself to unsafe levels of play in football and soccer games. I drove while I was tired, and I pushed myself to do things when I should have stopped and rested. I needed the pump, I needed the adrenaline. I needed the shot of instant clarity, in the midst of all the confusion and static in my head, that I just couldn’t sort through.

I didn’t have a death wish. I had a life wish. And the one way I could really truly live my life, was to push myself past a certain point, and get lifted up by the pump.

I know I need to change this sort of behavior. It’s caused problems for me before, in subtle ways, and it’s doing it again. I don’t want to stop being the person I am. I don’t want to cower in a corner, hiding from life. But I would like to live to see another day. I’ll have to figure out something better, for how to get what I need to be as alive as I can be.

If I don’t manage to figure that out, all bets are off.

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.

3 thoughts on “How I can get hurt – again and again”

  1. I relate once again. BB. I can’t seem to shake off this need for adrenaline rush. It’s been a very difficult pattern to break. I think my favorite day as a teacher was when SWAT was storming the halls of my High School and we were in lockdown. I was looking for the chance to tackle someone. And was the calmest person in the place. Every other day, I feel like a wreck. Please give me advice on how to break this cycle. It’s stupidity. And nothing good will come from that for anybody besides my nervous system cannot continually get activated out I will just give out. The Holy Spirit I trust but I’m 51 now and our creator (ot whatever you might believe) doesn’t like me doing this to his body.) I must get the good adrenaline and that is by helping my fellow man in wise ways. It’s like i don’t know how to feel safe anatomically and feel unable to understand others’ gestures or theory of mind. After seeing so much of badly intentioned people, and getting fooled most of my life. (post TBI especially although i always had a bit of the asberger’s going anyway, I really need to stay with people who I feel the least risk with or stay alone. Since I feel risk with everyone, I stay alone mostly. maybe it’s best that way? I’m starting to understand why I have been mistaken for a vet so often. And why traumatized people work on ambulances and/or become police officers. It’s as if I were only able to think well if I am in life threatening situations. It has been a dumb pattern since my coma time. When i think of the situations and places that i put myself into, i feel shaken up, but at the time i usually felt calm or that adrenaline that made feel alive. I’m also in a very bad place as far as my ability to understand people’s intentions to begin with. What advice do you have for TBI victims like this. please chime in anyone. I’m lucky to be here. I know that gratitude is the right way and only way I should feel. Is this self-esteem issue? It seems more physical than psychological in how this pattern started. I’m far from a tough guy and pretty street dumb. But the “sheep” have never liked me much and I respect them but can’t understand them too much even if I believe as they do on the big things; among the wolves, I usually feel understood more, and they usually know instinctively I’m not worth their time and just a hassle. the biggest wolves leave me alone. it’s the wannabe or weaker wolf that can do me in. Are there any shepherds left in this world. maybe I’m slow to recognize them. I think before TBI and various assaults, I was born a shepherd. Do you ever feel plain despised by every creature except the homeless vet?

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  2. I am really searching for an answer for this one, too. I think that the ways I am going to start chasing adrenaline is by starting to pursue dreams I have had for a long, long time, but I was always too nervous to begin. I have a number of writing projects I want to get off the ground, and I have also wanted to do some public speaking, but I have been stopped by my nerves. I think it is time for me to start. To do something positive that gets my adrenaline going, for a good cause, rather than keeping safe in the pro-active ways, and walking on the edge on the unhealthy ways. As you said, this is no good for my body, and it’s not what I was created for. I don’t think it’s a self-esteem issue. This is where psychology goes wrong. There is psychology attached to it, but it’s about the physiological functioning of our brains — NOT poor self-esteem or a death wish.

    If you are often mistaken for a vet, why not work with vets — who are not “sheep” and who may get you. I have this feeling that there is something important on your path in front of you, and if you step out and reach out, you may find it.

    Volunteering? Pitching in, in some way? It’s a big world – I believe there is something out there for you that will give you that pump you need in a positive way. You’re right – you can’t keep on the way you are, walking that razor’s edge. It is for you to find the way off that edge — and into your future of helping others (again).

    Be safe and be well.

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