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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Really pay attention to that routine, and really dive into it with all I have, sticking to it like glue.
- That routine then “rewires” my system — brain and central nervous system and autonomic nervous system — with familiar and recognizable patterns.
- 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.
- 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.