Catching up with an old friend.

picture of neurons with flashes of synapses connectingI’m having breakfast with a friend in a little bit. We’ve been on-and-off friends for close to 20 years, and we come from similar backgrounds. Our families are very similar, and we might even be remotely related, because parts of our families come from the same area. We also have histories of TBI, which makes things interesting.

We first met at a job where we were both contracting. Actually, I was contracting – doing technical work that was on par with my skill level – and they were temping – doing clerical work, which was several grades beneath their ability and education level. They just needed a job to pay the bills. I was the job – it was my life.

There’s always been a disconnect between the two of us. In many ways, we get along, but in other ways, we conflict and grate against each other. Or rather, they grate against me. They strike me at times as being incredibly arrogant and self-satisfied, because of their multiple degrees and their “station” in life as an intellectual and an educator. They have said a number of things to me that I found dismissive of me and my abilities — as though they could see my TBI issues as clear as day, and they judged me for it… while they were blind to their own issues, and they never thought for a moment that they were “off” in some way.

But they clearly are “off” — to an extent that puts off people around them. Like the time when they were recovering from surgery and they needed some help taking their dog to the vet to get checked out. I gave them and their dog a ride, and when I showed up at their condo, they were a disheveled mess. They looked more than a little unwell, but I wasn’t sure what to say to them about it. At times, I’m not great about coming up with commentary, especially when I’m “locked on target” to get a job done. In my mind, I was there to give them a ride and get them to the vet safely, not figure out how they should make themself more presentable. So, off we went, with my friend looking like they were living out of a cardboard box under an overpass.

We went to the vet, and everybody in the waiting room was pretty uncomfortable. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea for them to comb their hair, but then the vet called us in. We got in, got out, and I dropped them back at their place, safe and sound.

The whole time, they seemed to have no idea of anyone else around them having a problem with them.

I learned a while later that they’d sustained a brain injury during their surgery, which would explain a lot. And if I’d been more aware and more on the ball, I might have helped. But I didn’t. They weren’t. And that was that.

I’ve tried to connect with this individual a number of times, but they’re extremely self-absorbed. And I found out a number of years ago, that they sustained a moderate/severe TBI when they were in high school. They got hit by a car while riding their bike, and they ended up in the hospital with a pretty intense brain situation and a part of their life missing.

In many ways, they are a classic brain injury survivor. Rigid, self-absorbed, unaware of themself in how they relate to others, clueless about dressing properly (even when they’re dressed up, they still look a bit bedraggled, as though they don’t know how their body is shaped, so they choose clothes that don’t fit them at all), and they definitely have a slower (sometimes plodding) processing speed.

It can be very uncomfortable for me to interact with them, at times. I think it’s a combination of both of our difficulties intersecting and heightening each others’ shortcomings, as well as them mirroring my own tendencies to be rigid and self-absorbed. It’s hard dealing with someone who’s caught up in themself, when you really want them to pay attention to you 😉 And the slower processing speed can be challenging, because I’m slow enough, as it is, so interacting with someone who’s also slow, sometimes drags our conversations to a near-halt.

But I really do appreciate what friendship they do have to offer. And to be quite honest, they’re so clueless about how grating they are, they’re happy and chipper, even when they’re insulting and annoying the crap out of me, so I know it doesn’t happen because they’re mean-spirited or intending to be hurtful. They’re just a little blind to things, that’s all.

And I’m no picnic, myself, to be quite honest. I’m sure they feel the same ways about me at times. So, turnabout is fair play, I suppose.

Anyway, we’re meeting for breakfast in a couple of hours, before I go in to the office. I’m looking forward to it, I have to say. I don’t have a lot of friends whom I’ve known for more than a few years. Not many people know my history – especially about the mild TBIs. And they haven’t seen me go through all the problems with my spouse. This is one person I’ve known since the very beginning of 1997, who I actually have wanted to keep in touch with. We’ve dropped out of each other’s lives for months, even years at a time, and we always come back.

I guess that’s how it is with real friends. I sometimes drift away out of frustration… or they get too busy to bother with me… but then I get over myself… and they remember I’m still around.

And we have breakfast. Talk about this and that. And we take it from there.

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.

2 thoughts on “Catching up with an old friend.”

  1. Interesting. I have one of those friends. Well, two actually. Both have many things I don’t have. One, has a permanent home, a significant other, the freedom to travel and work. He has all the ‘toys’associated with having financial freedom but he complains about what living costs him. The other has a permanent home, family close by who support him, the ability to work and study. Neither requires the assistance from a Carer or such but both make it clear their brain injuries are worse than mine. And the reality is they are correct as neither has the sympathy or empathy for others. I know my ABI is not as bad as theirs but it’s also not a competition. Proof that every ABI/TBI is different. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

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