Taking good care of myself

Sometimes….

Well, my spouse has done it again. We were supposed to leave for our vacation today around noon, and now they tell me that they’re not going to ready in time. They may — may — get up by 11:00.

That’s pretty disappointing. But then again, we are taking two cars, so I’m not going to be dragged down by their sluggishness. I have to come back home on Sunday night in order to be at the office from Monday through Wednesday. Wednesday night, I’ll head back out to the condo we’re renting, a few hours from home, and I’ll work remotely in the morning on Thursday and Friday, then take afternoons off.

I’m not sure why this “change in plans” surprises me so much. Maybe because my spouse is picking up another friend to join us for a few days, and that friend’s family is going out of their way to drop them off half-way. It seems incredibly unfair to everyone (except my spouse), that everyone’s schedules need to be re-jiggered to accommodate them. People have better things to do, than wait around to find out when they should leave the house.

If anything, it seems a bit sociopathic on my spouse’s part – like nothing matters except them and their own wishes and needs. Then again, they do have neurological issues, as well as some cognitive impairment and possible dementia, so they may not even realize that they’re being selfish. The whole neurological decline thing is a real drain, and if you forget what’s going on with them, it can be maddening. When they’re challenged, they get really angry right off the bat, possibly because they get scared at being caught unawares and not being able to think right away. They lash out and yell and threaten and cry and so forth. On the one hand, some people think they’re being manipulative, but I think it’s also a sign of cognitive decline. They really do get scared — and then they use their anger and blustering to stop me from saying or doing anything else… and that way they buy some time to catch up.

The thing is, once they get past their hemming and hawing and blow-harding, they re-orient themself to what’s happening, and then they calm down and can carry on a usual conversation.

The main thing for me is to not take things personally and get really upset when they start acting out. That happens all too often, and I forget that they’ve got cognitive issues. I take it personally and get so upset and bent out of shape — everything balloons in my mind, till the argument is not about what’s happening right in front of me, it’s about everything and anything that’s possibly related to my frustration at that point in time. My own brain goes haywire, too, so we feed off each other — and not in a good way.

Fortunately, I am getting better about checking in with myself and telling if I’m starting to get too wound up. Then I can back off — just walk away and cool off, and give us both a chance to simmer down. It’s just both our brains going haywire, and we both get scared. And we lash out. It gets to be a little much, to tell the truth, and some days I just despair about that downward cycle. But if I can step away and have some time to myself and get enough rest, that helps.

Taking care of myself really needs to be my top priority, in dealing with my spouse. When I get tired, my brain doesn’t work well, and of the two of us, I’ve always been the more functional — by a lot. I’ve been their caregiver, pretty much, for nearly the whole time we’ve been together. Their health has often been bad — especially their mental health, and after a serious neurological illness they had back in 2007. They’ve got a ton of history behind why they’re so mentally ill, and there’s plenty of reasons why they have the issues they do. Panic. Anxiety. Depression. Paranoia. Verbal aggression. A real roller coaster of emotions — with very little calm in the meantime.

Does it get old? Oh, you betcha. But they’re the love of my life, so you take the bad with the good.

And you take care of yourself.

So, this “vacation”, I need to be really clear about what I will and will not do. I need to not bend over backwards for them, just because they’re on vacation and think they should be treated like royalty. They’re not the only person who deserves a break, and I need to get some rest, too. In some ways, coming home from Monday to Wednesday is going to be a real relief for me. I’ll have the house to myself, I’ll be able to eat whatever I like — actually much healthier than how my spouse will eat. And I’ll be able to get to bed at decent times without that late-night drama they love to stir up.

So, it’s all going to work out for the best, I believe.

I just have to remember that my spouse is actually impaired in some significant ways, and I need to adjust and adapt and plan ahead.

And not get my hopes up for things that have never happened before, and will probably never happen, period. Like getting on the road at the pre-agreed time. Or having a low-key and very no-nonsense sort of trip.

The main thing is that I find a way to really enjoy myself, take care of myself, and actually get some rest. The condo where we’re staying has three floors, and I’ll be downstairs in a quiet, dark bedroom with couch and desk and its own bathroom, while my spouse will be up on the top floor. It works out well, and it leaves room for both of us to move at our own paces and have some freedom from each other. We’re both getting older and a lot more set in our ways — and a lot less willing to compromise.

More rigid? Yes. But also more discerning, and not so willing to give ground on things that really matter to us personally.

I think a lot of couples find this as they get older. They either split up, or they stick together and find a way to peacefully co-exist, whilst pursuing different interests that are all their own. I know I’m at that point in my life, and it’s not worth hassling over. It really isn’t.

So, I just need to take care of myself and have the vacation I want. Whatever my spouse does, is on them. No skin off my teeth. Not if I don’t let it.

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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 “Taking good care of myself”

  1. You hit the nail on the head, BB – even for couples without “beyond the norm” cognitive struggles to factor in. But why-oh-why is self care so difficult for so many of us? Maybe we are afraid that if we let ourselves be “S”elfish, we’ll end up running roughshod over the needs of others in the same manner that makes us crazy when they do it to us?

    The two-car approach to life together seems to be a pretty good solution to a lot of potential tussles (keeps the murder stats down!) Oddly, all over the ‘net in the last day or two (for the blogs I follow, anyway), the topic seems to center on how we locate some sort of balance between our own needs and those of others — PARTICULARLY how to zig when life suddenly zags.

    That’s always the toughest for me personally — accommodating a sudden alteration in how I thought things were going to go. I wish I could skip the part where I freak, fuss and fume and get right on to the part where I accommodate and move on, but it doesn’t seem to be a part of my genetic code.

    btw- recently forced to move (suddenly and without ANY reason why given), but there is a nifty silver lining to a situation that has been otherwise eating my life whole since the cast came off post-mugging (TOUGH year!)

    My next door neighbor (we share a narrow side alley – my kitchen window to his side door) has turned out to be a neurology prof. who is getting good results with TBI from a protocol he developed. He works hand-in-hand with the athletic department, so once football season settles into its rut, I will be interviewing him on the way to writing an article or so about what he is doing (to the extent that he is free to share – you know those football coaches – proprietary to the max, most of them)

    Alley conversations so far have been VERY interesting, and relevant to all of us with EF challenges.
    xx,
    mgh
    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

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  2. I read all your posts. I have qurries. Pl answer.
    1. Is it that after tbi we have to remember always that I am slow learner and has to worry about fatigue?
    2. Is that we can’t keep up with other so called normal persons?
    3. Is it that one can get incontinence due to fatigue?
    4. Is it that we have to always calculate our energy and work?
    5. Is it that almost nobody except the supporters educated in TBI understand tbi problems of survivor?
    6. Is it that we have to repeat our Neuropsychological test often to know our limits?

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  3. Hi Pramod, I will try to respond in a helpful way.

    1. Maybe… and probably so. Learning is often affected by TBI. After my accident in 2004, I could not learn programming languages the same way as before. The things I used to do for a living could make me a very lucrative salary, but I cannot seem to re-learn how to do them — I run out of energy and feel terrible — so I have changed my career and am doing something that is much less demanding, but still makes me a decent living. Fatigue is always a problem. Especially when you are pushing yourself. It makes everything worse.

    2. “Normal” is relative, and I have found that when I honestly look at other people, many of them struggle in ways similar to my own. Maybe they also had TBIs and don’t know it. Or they are just slow. I know that I cannot keep up with my “old normal” self. So, I find other ways to be. I can’t think too much about it, because it really upsets me, to realize how far down I have slipped. Oh, well. Life goes on. I find other ways to live a happy life.

    3. That can be. Incontinence is often related to muscle tone — you need to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Look up exercises for them and do them regularly. When you are fatigued, your muscle tone can decrease, and your body doesn’t do such a great job of holding things together. Giving the muscles in your pelvic floor a good workout on a regular basis is good, in any case.

    4. Probably. When I don’t, and I lose track of my energy and how much I’m working, bad things can happen.

    5. That’s usually the case, unfortunately. TBI is the sort of thing you cannot imagine, unless you’re “in it”. Others with chronic hidden health issues may be more familiar. On the positive side, when we understand our own limitations and learn compassion for ourselves, we can extend that to others.

    6. That may be. I know that I like to track my progress. On the other hand, a neuropsychological test is a scientific, somewhat academic measure of our abilities. The true test of our progress is our life — our quality of life, how much we are contributing to others, how much good we are doing in the world, and how well we know ourselves and can be our best self, no matter what is happening. One of the problems with neuropsych tests is that they can measure you on a day when you’re not doing that great — or you’re doing better than usual — so they can “lock” you into a specific definition. In the end, you need to measure your own progress and find the qualifiers that are the most meaningful to you. It is a “fuzzier” way to live, but in the end, it makes you the ultimate authority on how well you are doing, and you can decide for yourself if the life you’re leading is the one you wish to live.

    If it’s not — then keep searching. The truth will reveal itself. You must simply never give up.

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