The loneliness of the long-distance TBI survivor

lonelyTonight is a lonely, lonely night for me. I felt it, driving home. I think it’s the change of clocks, the loss of that hour of sunlight, the way my life does not shift along with the time, but I have to adjust myself and my life to fit into that change.

It’s hard.

It feels like everything is dying around me. In truth, the natural world is simply going through its cycles. If I went to Brazil, it would be turning to spring, right now. Maybe, when I am much older, I will migrate south of the Equator, when fall starts to arrive. No more autumns… no more of that. And then I will come back north, when it starts to turn to autumn there.

It’s an idea.

Work is very strange, these days. People are getting attitudes about the merger. It is to be expected. They are also having territorial wars. That is to be expected, as well. My position may be shifted to another group. I was expecting that, to be honest, but I really like my current group, so I’m in no hurry.

I stay later than everyone, because I get in the office later than everyone. Plus, I love the work I do, so it is like play for me. Everything works faster at the office, which is why I am there. I’m happy.

But today I felt lonely. Isolated. Irritated. Like I was falling behind.

I left the office an hour earlier than usual. But driving home, the traffic was terrible. That’s why I leave an hour later than most people. I miss the traffic. It’s better that way.

And while driving home, I was overcome by this intense sense of isolation. Like the whole of life was passing me by, and I didn’t have any meaningful connections with anyone I really felt like I could get along with. Even my neuropsych, whom I have been seeing for 5 or 6 years, doesn’t seem like someone I’d get along with outside of the sessions we have. I just talk to them for an hour, once a week. That’s it. One hour out of 24… one day out of 7. That’s not very much at all.

Plus, that hour with them doesn’t seem to make much of a difference, when it comes to the difficult things in my life. In terms of discussing my work, it’s great. They are very helpful with professional subjects. They support me in ways that nobody else I know can, or does. But when it comes to my personal experience of everything just sucking so terribly, the depression, the upsets, the disconnects, the meltdowns, the confusion, the malaise, the sensory issues… they are really no help at all. They’re worse than no help. They actually hold me back from understanding what’s going on inside. They minimize my experience, dismiss my concerns, and tell me I’m just taking the wrong attitude. I’m fine. My faculties are fine. I’m exaggerating. Again.

If I gave it a lot of thought, I’d blow up. But usually when I meet with them, I am so wiped out from a long day’s work, I haven’t got the energy to fight. So, I leave it alone.

I talk about work. And everything gets better.

Tonight on my way home, I took a detour around the traffic jam through a town where a former friend and I used to meet for breakfast. We had an on-again-off-again friendship, and they did not treat me very well, a lot of the time.But we had some things in common, so I overlooked it.

Until I couldn’t anymore. They were just so obnoxious, sometimes, telling me how much smarter and better educated they were, than I was/am. I wrote them an email saying I couldn’t have anything to do with them unless they treated me better. They answered. But I did not have the courage to read their reply. Years passed before we had contact again. Then we were back in touch for a few months. They had a brain injury from surgery that they went through, and maybe that’s why they treated me badly. I could look past that.

Then they disappeared.

I don’t know what happened to them. I think I will email them now, to see if they are still around.

Done.

Anyway, I think I’m just very tired from this week. That always puts me in a funk. And I have been working very hard, so of course my brain is tired. And when my brain is tired, nothing seems very good.

At all.

So, I’m feeling lonely. Isolated. I have no energy to go out and get connected with live people. This is why TBI is so isolating. We barely have energy for ourselves, let alone socializing. Maybe a solution would be to have all the people with TBI live in a community where we could just hang out… and when we’re tired, we just get up and go back to bed.

Wouldn’t that be amazing. To just go back to bed whenever I’m tired. Impossibly amazing.

But I’m not holding my breath.

People at work tell me to go home. Don’t stay so late. I have done contract work for so long, I’m used to putting in my hours, no matter what. Pushing through. Getting my hours in. Topping off the clock. But nobody else seems to care about that.

So, I left early tonight.

And I got stuck in traffic.

And I felt terrible, all the while.

Maybe I’m a workaholic. That would not surprise me. My work, though, is the one thing that makes my life meaningful and pleasant. It’s a pleasure for me to work. Why would I not? I have no kids. No energy for that. Work fills a need that most people fill with socializing or drinking or drugs. Or their families.

Me? I have my work.

Tomorrow I paint some more.

And then it’s Sunday. And I am OFF. I think. I have some things I need to get done, in order for that to be true. No, I’m not off on Sunday. I have chores to do. Yardwork.

So, I guess I’ll do my virtual vacation thing — where I just decide to let the world go pound sand, and I don’t care about anything or anyone. On purpose. I’m not being mean. I’m just going on a mental vacation.

Because it is lonely. And I feel alone.

And I need a break. From people. From everyone. From it all.

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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.

7 thoughts on “The loneliness of the long-distance TBI survivor”

  1. Get out of your head and into the world. Negative self-talk only keeps the limbic brain on automatic pilot and controls our thinking brain from processing. Eat some fresh pineapple and go for a walk. Be good to yourself because you are important and a guiding light! Be thankful for the lessons a brain injury has given you. This experienced-based knowledge is what we offer others with brain injuries along the path of recovery. We are the light that helps others see! You are important to me and everyone else who is going through this process. Be good to yourself and move on. Get out of your head, eat some fresh pineapple and go for a walk.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you very much. It’s funny – last night when I was spiralling down, I actually ate some pineapple without knowing why. And it helped! As it turns out, I had so much energy, it was bringing me down. I just go back inside from work around the house and yard all day — with a nap in between. And yes, I feel much better. Thanks for the reminder. Onward!

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  3. I love how honest you are about the highs and lows. I have totally had that day you described, and its frustrating because when you’re tired everything is harder, eating right, changing your environment, etc. Glad you’ve found a release valve in this blog. 🙂

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  4. BB, Your blog helped me make a private peace with how siezure epileptus. Series of concusions, and being only treated for depression (not due to negligence i just didn’t see the worth in telling this missing piece to my history). My case was extremely difficult. I was for a long time written off as a schizo for blurting dumb things out. Then five to ten years passed and my mind was working better in ways it never had. Among one friend i hadn’t seen in years, she said, “when did you get smart” She said i never thought you were dumb but now i feel you are so smart” And then she hears me speaking a spanish that was getting taken as a brazilian spanish. She was more confused about that than i was. But what she didn’t know about subtle personality changes still existing that had me feeling no “feeling memory” for our one time strong bond. And how in 1991 AA thought i needed another “kind of help” I was inappropriate and still brain damaged after 11 months 2 weeks of TOTAL sobriety and no pharmaceutical meds. My deficits reoccurred in 2003-4 after getting drugged in a bar in a foriegn country. My story is so long and complicated, i believe but without proof, i may have been written off with a personality disorder. Frustrated that nobody could see that i was not “borderline” or much worse, “malingerer” i began the biggest meltdown. I was actually getting yelled at and unable to interpret anything but feeling as if sarcasm was getting missed. I tried to get community support through various churches but my injured “on and off” ptsd brain, brought me stigma. Somehow i never felt angry at anybody. I often thought if i were they, id draw similiar conclusions. I just did not add up. Nothing did. And looking outside-in it seemed like behaviors differed as if i could turn them on and off. What nobody knew is that i timed things. I had hours that my mind worked but got fatigued after just two hours. So if i wanted to be fully present, and on it, I’d do nothing but that one thing. And there was an inner self-disgust for what I became after 91′ and a disgust for old close friends who never question these channges and wrote me off. But I had so much going for me before 91 that I had something to go into automatic pilot with, tjat got me employed and eventuslly in the profession i had chosen. It took 10 years to do it but i did it. And while my work was marginal and less consistent than par, i was very good in areas. Again it was all that i could do that made compassion on me more difficult. So frustrated i stigmatized myself, unconsciously joined forces with those who just saw me as a “screw-up” and the years post 2003-4 have been a struggle that agsin. few really understood. Conyextusl memory when tired has hurt me most. Example, i remember buying and riding a motorcycle, but no context or memory of liking it (I’ve been reminded how i loved it” but i never miss it. Huh? This leads me to the saddest thing and most painful thing in my life. My daughter who gave me mitivation to continue in the face if stigma and struggle with condition, lost her fiance suddenly on June 4th. I was who she trusted most but had been less involved due to last TBI. But still her main confidante with marathon two hour phone talks weekly sometimes bi-weekly. Her terrible grief put us back together. I knew of her pain and felt it with her. But at times my contextual stuff was off and I may have led her to think I was not grasping her situation enough. She was very fragile with abandonment stuff. Needed me to be extra consistent. For three months we faced this mostly together. But she made an early exit from this life around her fiance’s would have been 25th birthday. I realize with intellect that nobody is responsible especially no one person. But with my gutt I feel that I failed her and that my brain injuries were a part of it. I used to read all your blogs. No more. I haven’t posted in months. I’ve lost my passion here but on this veterans day have decided to write. So many with ptsd and tbi. Good work. And your work indirectly touched jazmin and helped give her a better shot. But mission failed. I lost her to depression and complicated grief. R. I. P. Jazmin 1993 to 2015. Te quiero mucho y para siempre!!

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  5. Thank you for writing. I totally understand the loss of interest in reading this. I sometimes lose interest in listening to myself, as well 😉 Suicide is hard. People are like trees in the forest. We are deeply interconnected, far beneath the surface, in ways we cannot see… and when one falls, it’s not just that one that’s hurt — it’s all of the living, breathing beings around it. We all lose – and that loss ripples out to others. Your devastating loss of Jazmin has kept you from much — and the areas where you used to be involved are no longer shaped by your presence. So, many more people have lost, as a result of her untimely death. But she never saw it. We all never see it. Especially when there is so much pain, we find it hard to live with ourselves.

    Regret and self-recrimination are ways of life for many of us. Of course, none of us could ever do as well as we hope to. Especially those of us who have high aspirations, and the ability to reach them. We are perhaps the most vulnerable, compared to individuals who don’t really know how much is possible in the world.

    I can also relate to the loss of sense of connection. Most days, I don’t have it. I go along and interact with others in the way they need me to interact with them, because I care about them and I don’t want to hurt them. But to be honest, I don’t really feel much for them or about them.

    Like my neuropsych. I do really value their input and their insight, and I do feel connected to them in many ways. But that same sense of *connection* that I used to feel with people… that went away in 2004. It hurts others for me to tell them that, so I never mention it. But that’s how it is, so there it is.

    Yes, rest in peace Jazmin. Rest in peace.

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