About brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who had falls and car accidents and sports-related injuries in 1972, 1973, 1982-83, 1995, and most lately 2004. 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 for 35 of my 43 years. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained that injury at age 8… 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.

Fixing what I couldn’t fix before

It’s time to replace the hydraulic lifts on my hatchback. They’ve been out of commission for several years, now, and my garage quoted me $140 to replace them. Really? A hundred and forty dollars?

Heck, the squeegee I carry with me to swipe off rainwater does the trick nicely. It’s just the right length to prop the hatch open.

But lately, I’ve become paranoid about the handle breaking. The hatch is not light — it’s a heavy sucker, and it seems to get heavier, every time I lift it up.

So, before I go out and run all my errands, I’m going to replace the lifts that I ordered online last week. They’ve been riding around in the back of my car for all this time, neatly packed in their box.

Time to do something about this. I don’t know exactly how to do it, but I know how to go about figuring it out. Then, when I’m done with that, I can get on with the rest of my day.

This is a new thing for me. I used to have so much trouble figuring out what things went in what order. As recently as 5 years ago, I literally could not figure out how to fasten a sagging curtain rod. I just sat and looked at the rod… and then got up and walked away, because the whole thing about seeing the process through from beginning to end was beyond me. So understanding what tools I needed to gather to get it done (just the correct screwdriver and a step-stool) was out of the question.

Looking back, I can’t believe it was that hard for me. But it was. Then, one day, I realized that I knew how to fix the sagging curtain rod, and I did it. In 15 minutes. Triumph.

Little by little, things like this are coming back to me. Stuff that used to baffle and defeat me, is slowly but surely becoming exercises in patience and persistence… and learning. Learning, learning, and learning some more.

Now it’s time to stop talking and get on with taking care of this  Onward.

“An interesting experience for me today, a first.” – or – “Yes. ‘You promised to help me with my education.’ No. ‘You will not disrespect me.'”

brokenbrilliant:

Here’s a great post from a blog I just discovered today. Not sure how I missed it for so long… But now it’s here. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Originally posted on warmbeverage:

( edited only as composed )

“The Alaska Brain Injury Network is a non-profit advisory board dedicated to improving the lives of Alaskans affected by traumatic brain injury. Our board meetings are open to the public. Come join us!”

I did. Yesterday.

It was my first of any such “Brain Injury” meeting.

Kind of hard to believe, perhaps, considering the fundamental impact my getting kicked in the head at 15 has had on my living – but I recovered as well as I did quite specifically because I was not around nor a part of any such support, expectations, etc.

I’ve been intending – “making intentional” – these last couple of years, my own kind and process of a more integrated life with all that my injury was, and is,…and what I might look forward to it being. I shouldn’t say it was the “injury” there….the injury was the tap…

View original 3,050 more words

After so many years in confusion and pain…

coming out of the dark

It’s been a long time coming… but it’s here

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.

Phenomenal.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Really pay attention to that routine, and really dive into it with all I have, sticking to it like glue.
  4. That routine then “rewires” my system — brain and central nervous system and autonomic nervous system — with familiar and recognizable patterns.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Wiped out and feeling great

Got home from work at a decent hour tonight – and that was after working out for half an hour and then going for a swim… in the company pool.

Yes, that’s right. They have a pool. Olympic sized with 5 or 6 lanes, and just the right temperature. And clean. Very, very clean.

I cannot tell you how good it felt to get in the water again.

Phenomenal.

Now I’m completely done. Happy – done. Very happy – done.

 

New job is going great

So far, so good. I’m about to start Day Four, and I’m feeling really strong and positive about the whole thing. My current cubicle is down in another part of the building, and the floors are pretty “interesting”. The building used to be a manufacturing facility, so there are huge areas that are full of equipment, and then there are other levels that were built in, that house cubicles.

The walls of the cubicles are all high – which is amazing. You can actually have a conversation with people without disrupting everyone else. People appear to get it, when it comes to creating spaces where people can actually get work done. What a relief.

And there’s a gym… which is a whole lot better outfitted than my own home workout space. And there are mirrors at the free weights area, so I can make sure of my form. That’s important. This means I can get a heck of a lot more fit than I am, right now. I worked out yesterday morning before work. Amazing. Even better, I’m really feeling it today.

So, this is good. And I’ve figured out how to do some work in the gym. I have pages and pages of data I need to review, and it’s actually easier to review them on paper than on a computer screen. So, I’m printing out my numbers and taking them to the gym with me, where I can ride the bike and listen to music while I work.

Not a bad way to live, at all.

So… yes. Onward.

Gearing up – got my bag packed, and ready to roll

I wrote this early this morning.

Checked my calendar, put my necessary paperwork in a folder to take with me, got my numbers to call, once I’m all set, got directions to the place where I’ll have orientation. And I’m running pretty much on time. And yes, I do have clean socks.

So far, so good.

It’s a new chapter to a new day.

Onward

Then my computer froze. G*dd@mn Google was trying to update Chrome in the background again. I  *&)#$(%* hate when they take liberties like that. Just sail right on in and take over my system, like it friggin’ belongs to them. Makes me want to uninstall Chrome, actually.

Bad things come to mind, when Google hijacks my system. I think very uncharitable thoughts about that pack of 20-something ignoramus nincompoops in Palo Alto.

No, I didn’t get to post that note.

My first day went really, really well. The one thing that went wrong, was that I ducked out of the room to empty my bladder at the time they were wrapping up and doing a group photo. So, I didn’t get in the group picture. But that’s okay, I guess. I hate getting my picture taken. Still, it would have been nice to be involved… Bad timing, but not the sort of thing that should ruin my day.

My head is full — so full — of a lot of stuff. I’ve got to get to bed early tonight. I’m incredibly excited about this new job. I’m being introduced as the new “resident expert”, which is phenomenal. I’ve worked for this. I’ve earned it. I’ve saved my past — and my future — from being permanently ruined by TBI. I have another chance. It’s taken me 10 years to get to this place… no, 40-some years, considering all I have been through.

And I’m owning this. Because no doubt about it, I have earned my place.

I have earned this, for sure.

Getting the Gunk Out – Again and Again

Here’s your memory training image for the day (sorry I have forgotten to include these in the past days)

memory training image

Study this image for a few minutes, then read the post below… and then draw it afterwards.

Get that gunk out of the gears

So, I’m starting my new job tomorrow, taking it easy today, catching up on my rest, and not going too crazy with everything. I had some errands I intended to run, but I went to bed, instead.

Just as well. Those errands can wait.

I’m pretty excited about my new role, and I can’t wait to find out how it’s going to go.

I got myself some really nice, fresh food for dinner, and I’ll start cooking that up in a little bit. I need to get my things together — make sure I have clean socks, as well as a formal suit to wear. It’s my first day. I want to look my best. I’m sure it will prove to be a lot less formal than I’m dressing for, but I’ll just take off my jacket. Roll up my sleeves.

Problem solved.

I’m trying to drink a lot of water, so I’m clear for tomorrow. The last few weeks were pretty action-packed, and I need to settle my system. Yesterday I ended up being pretty busy and active, which wasn’t my ideal. I really wanted to have yesterday off, but that’s not what happened. Oh, well. That’s what Sunday’s for, right?

I spent a lot of time, this afternoon, relaxing and stretching and breathing. I did that after my nap, while I was lying in my warm bed, feeling comfortable and easy. I am having more trouble with my upper back, shoulders, neck, and trapezius muscle. I’m really stiff and sore, and not feeling great. All that lifting and moving yesterday didn’t help. Oh, well. I stretched, rolled on a tennis ball to work out the knots, and I “breathed into it ” as my chiropractor tells me to do. In the end, I felt better than when I started, but it’s still tight and painful to move at times.

The main thing for me is to work on clearing out the stress sludge from my last job. Let by-gones be by-gones, and also help my body clear out the biochemical leftovers from all the ridiculous dramas and conflicts that people seemed to dream up to keep themselves entertained. It’s not a small thing, clearing out the sludge. We have to do it, in today’s world, because nobody else will do it for us. We live in very stressful times (especially as the new political season picks up), and our systems are deluged with all kinds of conflict and strife and perceived threats.

If we allow it to build up and stay there, it takes a toll. It puts additional stress on our systems, and it drags us down. I dunno about you, but I don’t need anything else dragging me down. Especially if I know how to clear it out.

So, I’m breathing – steady as she goes – count of 5 in… count of 5 out… nice and even, relaxing all the while. It balances my autonomic nervous system and gets me out of fight-flight mode. It backs down the stress response and makes it possible for me to clear my head, so I can think properly.

This is important. This is critical. I know how to do this, and I must do it. It’s no longer optional for me. Not just some interesting thing to try out, here and there, but a discipline I need to regularly do.

Like the image memory exercises.

Both help. In different ways. They really help.

 

 

And now, get your pencil and paper and draw the image you just looked at above. No peeking. It’s important to see where you come up short. If you succeed each and every time, you’ve learned nothing. Good luck.