The things we do to our heads – and our lives

losing-the-raceI pretty much took the weekend off. I had been planning to make some progress on one of my projects, but it turned out to be a better use of time to just relax — and let my mind go where it will.

All week long, I have to keep myself on point. And that gets old. By Saturday morning, I know better than to continue with the compulsiveness of the past five days.

Funny how, on Fridays, I am always so convinced that the weekend is going to be filled with productivity… as soon as I get away from the time suck of my day job. But in fact, there are two things that play into that internal dynamic, which both send the wrong signals.

First, I am tired. And when I am tired, my mind gets rigid. I get locked into very narrow ways of thinking, and I lose sight of anything else.

Second, by Friday, I have forgotten what freedom feels like. My routine has taken over and is propelling me forward. I’m no longer thinking clearly. I’m no longer bothering to think, period. Rote repetition has taken over — it kicks in around Wednesday night — and it feels like salvation to me, because my brain is no longer working the way I want it to.

The last two days of each week find me “in a groove”, which is to say, I’ve abandoned creative, inventive thought, and I’m just chugging and plugging along in my rut. Something tells me that I’m quite happy there, but if truth be told, I’m exhausted and I have since stopped really processing much of anything. My reaction times are slowed. And I’m not thinking clearly enough to realize just how big of a hit it’s taking.

I’m also so low on energy, that I’m not paying attention to how this is making me feel. It’s incredibly upsetting to me, that my processing speed is slower than I’d like it to be. It’s noticeably slower than it used to feel, and it’s so frustrating to be forever two split-second “beats” behind everyone else. It’s like I’m that kid running behind the rest of the gang, calling, “Hey! Wait for me!”

And it’s crushing. Because it never felt like this before.

Though, when I think about it, it never felt like this before I started my neuropsych rehab, because I never really engaged with others directly, like I do now. It could be that I’ve been out of synch with everyone and everything for most of my TBI-riddled life, but it only really started to have an impact when I started engaging with the rest of the world. For so, so long, I kept to myself and simply played along. I chose friends and partners who were really good at interacting with the outside world — extroverts extraordinaire — who could do the social work for both of us.

But  now that I’m getting better about engaging with the rest of the world, it feels terrible. Because I really sense just how out of synch I am. Conversations are tough. They take a lot of work. I can do it, but it’s work. And since I’m involved with people every day of the workweek, by Friday, I am Wiped Out. Full stop.

Which makes my Friday plans to be ultra-productive over the weekend quite amusing.

But that’s not what I started out wanting to write about, today.

It’s Monday. Supposedly we’re going to get an announcement about layoffs in our division this week. I’m told that in the past, if people were getting laid off on Friday, they were told on Monday. So, if that is happening again, there will be some very unhappy people at work today.

I really don’t know where I fit in all of this. I know that I’m much more technical than anyone in my group (my boss told me so on Friday, as though feeding me a little spoonful of hope), and I have a wide variety of skills that make me versatile and easy to plug into different situations. I’m resilient and resourceful, and I get the job done.

But that might not mean anything.

You just never know.

The thing is, my head has been going crazy, coming up with all sorts of different scenarios. I’ve updated my resume and my LinkedIn status is current. I’ve been going through all the different scenarios in my head, figuring out what I’ll do, so I’m prepared.  And I really do feel prepared. The thing is, nobody knows how things will shake out, just yet, and like most people, my thinking can be very “creative” in the face of uncertainty.

It’s easy to make myself crazy. It’s easy to feel nuts, when there’s not enough information. And it’s so, so easy to fill in the blanks with past experiences, when the present situation is really nothing like the past.

It’s all part of our minds work, of course. We desperately need to feel we can predict things. Predictions make us feel secure, like we know what’s going on — when in fact, we know nothing of the kind. Astrology makes us feel more confident. Expert opinions and pontifications make us feel like we’re “in the know”. Basically, anybody who offers us a plausible prediction for what will be, is our friend. Even if those predictions are dire and wretched, they still make us feel safer — perhaps even safer than people who predict good things.

And when others don’t provide predictions and indicators, we make up our own. We’re really, really good at that. We’re experts at making ourselves mentally ill about it, too.

So, all these mental gymnastics have been keeping me busy for the past four days. Which gets tiring.

But at least I got rest over the weekend, which did wonders for my head. Just taking time out, getting things off my plate, finishing up chores early, so I wasn’t rushed late in the day, yesterday… an napping. Sleeping.Getting some rest. That’s exactly what I needed.

Not more productivity.

Oh, God — not more productivity.

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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