After so many years in confusion and pain…

coming out of the dark
It’s been a long time coming… but it’s here

I can honestly say that life is leveling out for me, and I now have what I would consider a “regular” life. And starting from there, things are becoming truly exceptional.

The “regular-ness” is amazing and phenomenal in its own right. I have been thinking about how many years I spent in confusion and frustration, always playing catch-up, always struggling to keep up appearances of normalcy, always feeling — and being — so behind. And never knowing why that was.

Little did I know, concussion / mild TBI had knocked the crap out of me. I’m not like folks who go through their lives at a normal pace, then have a concussion / mTBI screw them up. I was always screwed up by brain injuries. I started getting hurt when I was very, very young (maybe even having an anoxic brain injury – from having my air cut off – when I was an infant, according to my mother), and I continued to get hurt regularly over the years. I never got hurt badly enough to stop me from diving back into things. And nobody around me knew that I was hurt badly enough for it to throw me off.

I kept all that pain and confusion inside, for as long as I could remember. It was just one day after another of working overtime, trying to keep up with everything… and failing. Always coming up short.

Now, suddenly, I feel like I’ve come out of a long, dark tunnel into the light. No, not suddenly… It’s been a gradual process, so my eyes have adjusted to the light. But the realization of where I am and how I am now, is sudden. It’s like I’ve at last joined the land of the living.

And I am amazed.

How did this happen? How did I get here? It’s been a slow building process, with pieces of the puzzle floating around in the air… taking their sweet time getting plugged back together again. But once they click into place, they click.

Phenomenal.

So, now I have to ask myself — how did I get here? How did I manage to do this? I had all but given up on myself and figured I’d just be struggling and battling, all my born days. But I don’t feel like that anymore.

How did this happen?

I think there were a number of factors:

  • Having someone to talk to on a regular basis – first, my neuropsych, then another counselor who has been able to talk me through stickier emotional things that I don’t like to discuss with my neuropsych. Having someone to just listen and then get to interact with, has had a hugely positive impact.
  • Deciding that I needed to get better. Even when everyone was telling me I was fine, and I didn’t seem at all strange or brain-damaged, I could feel that something was off. I just wasn’t myself. Nobody else seemed to get it. But I did, and I was determined to do something about it.
  • Getting my Sense-Of-Self back. This was the biggest piece of things, by far. It’s been the key, because restoring my Sense-Of-Self makes everything else possible. It absolutely, positively, is the biggest piece of the puzzle.

How did I do that? I’ll be writing about that in the coming days and weeks, as time permits with my schedule. But basically it’s this:

  1. Find a small but significant way I am struggling — a day-to-day required activity that “shouldn’t” be difficult for me, but which is a huge challenge. Getting ready for work each day is a perfect example for me.
  2. Develop a system and a routine for doing that small but significant thing the very same way, each and every day. Making this system into a routine not only makes it predictable and comfortable, but it also keeps my brain from being overtaxed by having to reinvent the wheel each and every day.
  3. Really pay attention to that routine, and really dive into it with all I have, sticking to it like glue.
  4. That routine then “rewires” my system — brain and central nervous system and autonomic nervous system — with familiar and recognizable patterns.
  5. These patterns become something I can then rely on, to know who I am and what I am about… and what I can reasonably expect myself to do under regular circumstances.
  6. In times of uncertainty and insecurity, I can go back to those patterns and find comfort in their familiarity. So that not only gives me confidence in myself, but it also gives me a refuge where I can find some self-assurance again — even in the smallest of ways.

It’s all about building confidence over time.  Predictable patterns. Predictable behaviors. Predictable reactions. And that can lead to predictable outcomes.

Our brains are pattern-seeking by nature, and when we don’t have predictable patterns, we have the sense that we are in chaos — we are threatened. Building in predictable patterns is the key, for me, to a healthy recovery from PCS / mild TBI / other brain injury issues. And anybody can use this. Anybody can do it.

That includes you.

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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.

15 thoughts on “After so many years in confusion and pain…”

  1. Absolutely! Another good thing to do is to “close the loop” by doing the first step in the next day’s activity the night before. It takes some of the stress out of the early morning rush and ensures that you totoatlly completed the last task.

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  2. I seem to always make my way back to this blog. Why? I think that it relates most to how my rbi’s played out. TBI is a very unique situation. I just listened to a girl’s video. She speaks how It strengthened her faith. I found that to be awesome, but unfortunately for me all my former relations had a contrived foreign feeling to them- this included my faith relationship. That was more than 25 years ago. And I even my strongest relationship- that being with my daughter, it still has a sense go being unreal or acted out. But it is still very important to me. And being that I don’t feel connected to emotion in how I once was, I think this actually makes me a better father in many ways. I think good parenting includes real unconditional love. Like most good daughters, I think she sets out to please her earthly father and make him proud. She does this not by what she does, but by the person she is. Whether I was attending a violin rehearsal or her soccer game, I had the same level of enthusiasm. I know nothing about musical instruments and a lot about soccer. Being a TBI survivor takes the self from relationships in certain ways. In romantic relationships it hurt big time. In friendships a little less so. But in parent/child it may have helped. Being that I had little sense of self, I could not see her as an extension of myself. I was never too proud of her when she excelled brilliantly in so many areas nor too disappointed when her life stalled as it has the past four years. I only felt bad for her pain that seemed excessive to me. I felt an underlying sense of contentment when she became independent, but now she is dependent on others again and I’m here with no expectations but just to cherish her person and that is what she needed at 6 years at 14 years old and at 22 years old. In fact, she is now in a situation that expectation too strong too soon could sink her. So my kind of presence is very important. Others want to push an agenda for “her” well-being. “get her into a routine right away; she needs to get back in there and finish college and not dwell on her loss”. The once again are questioning my parenting. In life I have had little idea what I am doing in relationships much, but in this relationship I sense that I know what I am doing. It is strange but it is true. TBI people are not worthless as others want you to believe at times. We may not keep up with them on everything, but worthless, NO!

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  3. I can really relate to what you are saying – the relationships being acted out. I have no children, so I cannot say I understand 100% what you experience, however, at work I have the same kind of sense — after my TBI in 2004, I lost attachments to the people I worked with. I thought early on that maybe I was hiding from them and afraid to get involved, but now I realize that I just don’t have the same capacity for involvement that I once did. Not in others. In my own experience, yes! More than others probably wish I did. But for others… I work at relating to them, and I work at feeling something for them, but it never lasts. And in the end, I move along and count them as my friends, but my life doesn’t depend on having them around me. Not like it used to.

    Years ago, I got very emotionally involved in my work and my workmates. I still feel a strong bond with some I worked with, years and years ago. But I always feel like I am standing at a distance, watching myself interact with others, thinking, “How interesting…” with a sort of amusement/bemusement. All the people in my life who do mean something to me… some days, I think of them all going away, and I feel nothing that lasts more than a few minutes. It comes and goes. I know that part of me would be sad, if they disappeared, but part of me wouldn’t care. I would move on.

    This detachment makes me really good at settling in and getting accustomed to others. Because I care… but I actually don’t REALLY care in any permanent or attached way… it frees me up to just be myself and not give a damn about their opinions. And they actually kind of like that.

    It’s strange. I never tell anyone how little I care. That would be… almost Un-American. We’re supposed to care deeply here, but I don’t seem to have the same capacity I once did. And that’s actually fine with me. That was very tiring.

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  4. Yes, it can get difficult to see and then to admit to self, the real reason for “hiding out”. People I think saw me as somebody with something to hide. They were right. Social obviousness,
    Your attitude that we can work on it especially after we see it for what it is, well, that is true maturity. I’m getting there again.

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