Hardship benefit #1 – unparallelled focus

Being able to block it all out can be good.

Hardship isn’t always a bad thing. Obviously, it’s not pleasant — that’s why we call it “hardship”. Yet sometimes it can bring good things with it. It always brings something — and it’s up to us to determine what we’re going to make of it.

One of the things all my difficulties have taught me, is how to focus and keep my attention so intently on what is in front of me, that other things can’t intrude. I am often so inundated by stimuli around me — too much light, too much sound, too much confusion… all the details, details, details — that I cannot concentrate on what’s in front of me.

It can be a huge problem. The distraction, the stress of having to keep up with everything… The exhaustion that comes from blocking out and/or processing all the input… The sheer overwhelm… It’s not always fun. Sometimes it feels like a gauntlet.

And I’ve learned to deal with it — with a focus so intent, that very little around me can intrude.

I am reminded of that fact right now, with my current work environment. It’s more open than the old office was, and I’m also seated right next to the copier/printer. So, periodically throughout the day, I hear the printer kick off, and people come over to get their printouts. It’s not optimal, obviously, but it’s also not throwing me.

There are also other groups around who talk and laugh and have bursts of conversation that I find distracting. And then there’s the regular interruptions from emails and instant messages and people showing up in my cube.

It certainly helps to have at least some separation between myself and everyone else, in the form of a wall that rises above my eye-and-ear-level. But there’s still a fair amount of interruption in the course of each day.

But it’s been worse, in the past.

I used to have a job where I sat at a desk that was just a folding table right set up beside a printer. I was a contractor, so I didn’t warrant an actual cubicle. The people in that office did a lot more printing than the people I work with now. There was constant movement around me, constant distraction. But I loved my job so intently that it didn’t bother me. I was locked on. It was a 6-month contract that was going to be over soon, anyway. And even though they took pity on me and gave me a desk in a cubicle before long, it didn’t make any difference to me. I did damn’ good work at that folding table out in the open.

The interesting thing is, that was a couple of years after my last TBI, when everything was crazy and nuts and a huge-ass problem for me. I was incredibly stressed on many levels — mentally, physically, emotionally.

At the same time, though, when I was at that job, I was AT that job. I WAS the job, as they say. And when I think about it, it seems like I was really using the stress of that location at that job to block out a lot of crap going on around me.

Analgesic stress, you know…

Plus, it was mitigated by the fact that I was working just 20 minutes down the road from where I lived, and it was a contract, and I was sprung free from the overwhelming stress of my former life. The crush of my daily workaday life was balanced by the short commute, my ability to come and go pretty much as I pleased, and even though a lot of really challenging things happened at that time, I handled some of them extremely well and I improved in certain respects. (Although, when I went back to a hellish commute, that all changed and the downward slide picked up.)

Thinking back on my life of regular overwhelm and one problem after another, I realize that I’ve learned how to block out the crap around me and focus in on what is RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME RIGHT NOW.

Nothing else exists. No problems, no troubles, no complications. There is only the moment at hand, nothing else.

That doesn’t always work in my favor, as I tend to forget things that aren’t in front of me, if I don’t take steps to remind myself. I forget to mention important things to people I’m talking to. I forget to do important things that need doing (like paying certain bills or getting my car checked out). I tend to talk about things at that very moment, rather than things that have happened recently, because outside the current moment, nothing else seems to matter. So, I need to write notes and also send people messages to remind them to remind me to mention certain things.

But for the sake of getting things done, I’ve gotta say that getting kicked around a bit has helped me quite a bit. As long as I have ample time for recovering and recouperating, I can adapt and adjust. Take away the recovery time, and things become very different, very quickly. But if I have time to “integrate” and let it all sink in, it’s good. It’s all really good.

It might not seem like it at the time, but ultimately — again, with rest and proper integration of what I learn along the way — what doesn’t kill me, makes me a heck of a lot stronger.

Onward.

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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.

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