When feeling bad is a good sign

feel-bad-goodI’ve been feeling not so great for a little while now, and it’s kind of been dragging me down. Then, I realized yesterday that this is actually a very good sign. Feeling bad is part and parcel of life – at least every now and then. And when you’ve got persistent post-concussive issues, including sensory overload, light-and-noise sensitivity, chronic pain, headaches, and general fogginess and delays, it’s not much fun.

The thing is, the fact that I can actually tell I’m not feeling great is a sign of progress.

A) It means I’m not pushing myself beyond the beyond with all sorts of busy-ness custom-made to trigger shots of adrenaline and stress responses to dull the pain. When you’re under extreme duress (in a life-and-death situation, for example), your body unleashes torrents of hormones and other biochemicals that mask pain and give you a sense of well-being. This kind of stress-induced analgesia has been my drug of choice for a long, long time,  and it’s really done a lot of damage to me over the years. It’s made me a crazy person at this time of year, and it’s driven a wedge between myself and others. It’s also completely exhausted me and made me less healthy — even while seeming to take the edge off my pain. It’s fine, to feel better – but not at the cost of my long-term health. And it seems to me that a number of my cognitive issues may have been exacerbated over the years when I was driving myself on-on-on. In fact, the last TBI I had was a direct result of that driving urge. I have done a lot of thinking about this, over the years, and I’ve really worked at NOT resorting to that. And it’s helping. A lot. The downside is that at times like these, I have a lot of discomfort and really struggle with things.

B) It means that I’m able to differentiate between my types of experiences, and rather than having one long continuous “I dunno” kind of life experience, I know when I’m having ups and downs. Back in the day, before I came to terms with my TBI / PCS issues, I wasn’t really that aware of my emotional and physical state. I mean, I was to some extent, but if someone asked me how I was doing, I figured I was fine. I didn’t have the “personal literacy” to understand the various issues I was having. Seriously, it was like walking around in a dumb fog, all the time. But I was keeping busy (See A above) and I was making money at a job that kept me so busy I couldn’t think straight, if I tried. So, I figured it was all fine.  Far from it.

C) It means that I can take action and actually do something about it. You can’t fix something, if you don’t know it’s broken, and frankly, with my sensory issues – and just trying to keep my head on straight during the holiday season, blocking out all the lights and sounds and hubbub – I get tunnel vision and I cannot focus on anything other than what’s right in front of me. Now that I have a pretty clear idea about the areas where I’m struggling, I can do something about it. This ties in with my executive functioning, that lets me think things through and approach them in steps, rather than just staring blankly at a “sheet of glass” of a situation, with no clue how to start. Knowing that I am in pain, that my sensory issues are out of control, and that I’m foggy and dense, lets me strategize and take things in bite-size chunks. Like when I do my Christmas shopping tonight. I’ve been so sick and out of it, I haven’t had a chance (or been in the mood) to get out. Tonight is the Big Night for me, so I’m taking steps to prepare. Eating healthy food. Starting my days with exercise. Making lists. I just need to adapt.

D)  It means I’m not putting myself in danger. That’s a big one. See A above – pushing myself like mad, really puts me in danger. As I would get more and more overwhelmed, I used to seek out increasingly stressful situations where the stress-induced analgesia would kick in and numb the pain. I don’t do that anymore. I just do what I can to alleviate the pain, accept what I can’t change, and I take steps to try to prevent it in the future.

So, feeling bad is not necessarily a terrible thing. It happens to us all, and it’s no fun. But it just comes with the program. At least I am otherwise healthy and productive and happy. I still have a job, the office is going to be quiet for the next couple of weeks, and Christmas promises to be mellow and low-key. My spouse and I may even get out on a road trip, one of those days next week. The weather has been so mild, it might just happen.

All that being said, I am very grateful for everything I have. And I’m gearing up to start volunteering at a local arboretum. I don’t have enough social contact outside work, and unstructured social interactions makes me nuts. I need to be doing something, not just sitting around and shooting the breeze. I need to be working. With others who are working, too. For me, that’s why we’re here. To work. To make the world a better place. And to connect. So, I’m hoping this volunteer spot will fill that bill in my life and give me a good outlet for my energy and also my social inclinations.

It’s all a process. And it’s always changing. Just gotta keep on… learning… living… learning some more.


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.

9 thoughts on “When feeling bad is a good sign”

  1. What they term now as TBI,wasn’t a term even used in 1980.The head injury I got was the result of working on a refueling rig on Navy ship.Now understand something I was a carrer sailor with almost 8 years in the Navy.Injuries of this sort are rare,but they do happen.TBI’S cause extreme attitude change that’s what happened to me in the military.It sounds ironic to use that term but that’s what happened. The meds I first used were Dilantin and Tegretol.The side effects of Dilantin were brutal take to early loss of equilibrium, your gums would bleed.MRI’S were first being used as diagnostic tools in the V.A.(and it was new good for about 2 patients,then malfunction) Never new MRI machines had parents or that they could perform a variety of acts that even humans wouldn’t try.But fortunately the meds got better and MRI machines don’t break down after 2 patients. When I meet Vets with TBI.the first thing, I tell is read and learn everything you can about seizures. Depend on no one to tell you about it,Ask Questions, Take notes.Its easier now internet, my day you had to use the library and a lot of books and notebooks. I was also very,very,lucky married a nurse who worked for the V.A.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I swear I could pin every single article on your blog! Everyone could benefit from following it.
    I resonate personally to this one – and it has offered some much-needed reframes.

    Since my move to Cincinnati I don’t have enough social contact PERIOD! Almost immediately upon my move, the 2 colleagues I moved here FOR (to make business activities easier) have been MIA due to tragedies of their own – one has since died of bladder cancer. So much for my hopes of meeting their friends and building a social network from there.

    I need to follow your lead and find some places to volunteer. Virtual relationships, while certainly wonderful, don’t scratch the same itch – and isolation is unhealthy for ALL human beings, IMHO. I also like the idea of seeking a volunteer opportunity that is NOT related to anything I have ever done professionally (except, possibly, for my first career acting/directing).

    Great article – thanks for the self-disclosures especially.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    -ADD Coach Training Field founder/ADD Coaching co-founder-
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, that is unfortunate. If I were a religious person, I’d say that “God has brought you to Cincy for completely different reasons than you thought, and now you have the opportunity to discover what else is possible”. But I’m not religious, so I’ll just say, “That’s a rough turn of events.” I hope you can find something beneficial in it, and get on your feet. If you were into acting/directing, then I’m sure there are plenty of opportunities to connect with folks through community theater. A lot of my friends over the years have been theater people, and they are quite the social types! And if you have a background in it, then you’re already “part of the tribe”. Sounds like a real opportunity there.

    As a matter of fact, check this out: https://www.google.com/search?q=cincinnati+community+theatre+auditions&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8 🙂


  4. WOW – how supportive of you. Thanks for the link – and for your kind response to my comment. I WILL check it out.

    Since I’m not currently leading classes (which have to happen at night for attendance), I could actually make it to evening rehearsals. Even auditioning would be fun.

    Now, to locate & update my theatre resume and get a recent headshot made! Always something, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Awesome – it just seems a shame to have all that background and not use it… as for updating your resume and headshot, why wait for that? Just to audition and see who you meet in the process. All my theater friends loved to just hang out after auditions/rehearsals and share each others’ company at local diners… a great way to meet people who are on the same wavelength — and find the places with good, cheap eats! You never know – this might work out really well for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Auditions BEGIN with a review of submitted headshots & resumes – long done that way. The only way to get in another way might be to volunteer for the crew, which doesn’t immediately appeal.

    I may put a feeler out to a person who graduated from my undergrad theatre program, if I can locate her thru FB. I do recall reading a comment about her working here now.

    She attended after I did, but my work was fairly well known there (and the Knoxville theatre community is fairly small and close-knit), so she is likely to recognize my [maiden] name and give me some kind of in (or at least invite me to join the cast at one of the after parties.)

    Thanks for the nudge.


  7. Ha! Well, that shows how long I’ve been out of the theater scene… 30 years, or thereabouts.

    You should totally look up your contact there — could be the start of something very cool. At the very least, it will be fun. I’m sure she’ll be delighted to hear from you.


    Liked by 1 person

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