A sense of self is a uniquely human trait, we are capable of recognising ourselves when presented with our mirror-image we get that instantaneous feeling of familiarity and self-assurance so whenever something seems out of place we quickly try to fix it. Besides knowing how we appear, we know our hobbies and interests, who matters […]
What does ‘brain injury’ mean? A term describing an injury that has occurred to the brain or a neurological condition resulting from an injury to the brain? In truth, the term is used when describing both scenarios – event and condition. So what? I hear you say. But, an injury is a finite phenomena with defined healing stages and timeframes. Once an […]
Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in an event at Salford Royal Hospital to discuss and set the standards for neuro-rehabilitation services in the Greater Manchester area where I live. This rare event brought all manner of people from the neurological community including lead clinicians, managers, clinical commissioners, therapists, charity representatives, patient support groups, […]
When I take contracts to work, instead of doing the permanent full-time thing, I have some actual control over my destiny. I also get compensated fairly for what I do, and I don’t have this blurred line of “exempt” status, which ropes me into working overtime and never being properly compensated for my work.
I can’t even count the number of times when I was “perm” that I pulled out all the stops to fix stuff other people had broken, really put myself through hell, and expected that my contribution would be recognized. But no. They just treated all the work like it was a normal thing for people to do, and they moved on. The promotions never came. The special consideration never came. Not even a bonus, for my over-and-above-the-call-of-duty work.
So, why bother? Seriously. I can make more money contracting, and since I don’t have any kids to put through college and my spouse is covered by their own insurance, I’m not bound to a permanent job for the benefits. I need the money more. And I need my freedom. The permanent full-time thing is a scam that works in the favor of employers, not the minions.
They can have it. They can keep it.
It’s time to break out of this annoying little mythology about “job security” and get on with making some serious coin. Yes, I need to pay for my own insurance. But if I land the right work, I can totally cover it. And I’ll be free to come and go as I please.
I looked at my savings over the weekend. By the end of this week, I actually will have four months’ worth of living expenses in the bank. Sweet. That means I have some leeway — not to quit work entirely, but to take a little time off between assignments. And also pursue some of my own interests on the side.
Please – please – please – let me get laid off this week AND get a severance package. So I can get on with my life. Contracting. Making the big bucks. And not roped into a life of indentured servitude, stuck with the spoiled fruits of other people’s screw-ups.
I’m really sick of this sh*t.
I’m getting organized. I’ve got a lot of nervous energy in general, so I’m using it to collect the music I want to listen to into a central area. I’ve got a lot of music files in different places, on different thumb drives, here and there. I tend to forget where I have stuff, and now I’m going through my drives to see what’s what, and what’s where.
Yeah, I’ve got a lot of nervous energy. Yesterday, I was in overdrive with my list — I got about 3/4 of it done, till I ran out of steam. My goal was to finish everything on the list, and then take today OFF. But that’s not going to happen. I need to pace myself. Even if it means I never have a day off.
I’ve got to figure out how to get some of this stuff done during the week, so I can just take care of the really essential stuff on the weekends. And possibly — just possibly — rest. I’ve been doing better about watching my stress levels. I’m noticing just now tense I’m getting — at any point in time, I feel myself tensing up. And then I make myself relax… which is good. Time was, I couldn’t tell when I was really tense. Now I can. And it helps to just chill. At least, I think it does.
I’m nervous about the job situation – mostly about not knowing WTH is going to happen in my current position, how it affects me, and if any moves I make are going to make me worse off. I don’t know if the changes are going to favor me or not. It could be that I get a promotion. It could be that I just get moved to a different group. But I do know for sure that they are consolidating… and I’m in a role that’s a duplicate across organizations. I’m “long in the tooth” — an older employee who will be harder to get rid of, the older I get. I’m probably also more expensive than the folks at the acquiring company. They’re notorious for not paying their people well, and their offices are in a part of the country that’s much less expensive than here.
So, no matter what happens as a result of this re-org, the fact is, I’m never going to feel secure. I’m never going to feel safe. This is the second time in a row where I’ve been in this kind of situation — with a company going through downsizing and “right-sizing” (I hate that term). The company I was at before just laid off enough people to trigger the release of millions of federal dollars for retraining. So, that should tell you something.
And this existential anxiety is just not going to change, anytime soon, as long as I’m at this company. They are notorious for offshoring jobs. And their HQ is out in the middle of nowhere, where it’s cheap to pay people. And my position is duplicated elsewhere. And I haven’t been in front of other people long enough to have them truly value my work enough to go to bat for me. I’m not “in” with the right people. And this is an awful situation to be in.
So, I’ve been looking around for another job. It’s the only thing that makes sense. I found a couple of really good prospects, actually. And I’m updating my resume to fit each different scenario.
I contacted the hiring manager at one of my old companies about a position they just posted, which would be perfect for me to do, quite frankly. It’s basically fixing all the problems with the old website I used to manage. I can’t imagine why they would hire anyone else for that position. I’m pretty much of a no-brainer, actually. I also filled out the online application. I should tell the hiring manager that I applied.
God, how I would love to be able to fix all of the things that used to be wrong. I understand the problems users have, I understand how people work with technology in general, I understand how people at that company work, I understand the overall culture, and I really do miss the people I used to work with. I miss them so much, it pains me physically. And I would love to go back to work with them again.
The parent company is a problem. I really struggled under their overlordship for three of the four years I worked there. The one year I didn’t have troubles with the parent company, I struggled with my peers, who I never really connected with. There was a lot of animosity between us, at times, in part because of the direction I got from my bosses about how to interact with people.
And it really took a toll on me. It took a toll on our working relationships. It also fried my health. I was in a lot of physical pain, when I was there. And I didn’t do a good job of managing that.
The thing is, I was there from 2010 to 2014, when I was still in the relative beginning stages of my formal, organized, focused TBI recovery, and there were a lot of things wrong in my life (including major money problems which I thought were gonna kill me, at times). I wasn’t nearly as together as I am now. And I also didn’t have a good attitude about things. I was too brittle, too rigid, too stressed about too much. That took a toll. I was difficult to work with, at times.
And I wonder, considering how “all over the map” I was at that point, if they’re even going to consider me for the position, now. I left on touchy terms, and I wonder if they’ll hold that against me. They never got to see the full range of what I could do, partly because my bosses kept me from standing out and really shining. They kept opportunities from me, they didn’t tell me about things that people wanted me to do, they didn’t give me much help at all. It was all sink-or-swim with them, and mostly, I sank.
So, if it works out, great. I think. Or it could be horrible. In any case, I’ve reached out. I submitted my resume today, just to get in the system. And I sent a copy of it and my cover letter to the hiring manager, who probably has no idea about the depth and breadth of my experience, based on how I performed in the past.
If this works out (and they are willing to pay me what I’m looking for), it will truly be a testament to my recovery. I’m under no illusions about how fabulous it would be. And in fact, they may have no interest in me, because I don’t have a college degree. That would be too bad. But if that’s how they are, then I really don’t want to work there, anyway.
It feels good to get my act together and take action on my own behalf. It’s quite clear to me that I need to find a better, more stable situation than my current one. And I’m taking steps, which feels good.
Meanwhile, my music is getting collected into a central place, and I can start enjoying all those old songs I used to love, but forgot I had.
It’s all a process…
So, I’m thinking about the impending changes… how I can make the most of them… or at the very least, not let them get the best of me.
I’d been thinking that with the timing of this next week, the convergence of different events (pay period, end of quarter goals, layoff announcement in the news) means I’m going to be let go. But I realize (after a good night’s rest) that I might be completely wrong about that. Maybe the timing means nothing, and something else is in the cards.
Here’s the thing – my boss sent us all a Powerpoint presentation on Friday morning, showing us the chosen direction of the group I’m with. We’ll discuss it this coming Thursday.
There are four different paths possible:
- keep things as they are (not gonna happen – everything sucks, as it is now)
- hand over control to one group (not the best route, from what I’ve seen of their work)
- hand over control to the other group (also not the best route – they’ve screwed everything up, too)… or
- combine and move forward together.
According to the presentation, the decision they picked is #4 — to combine and move forward together. That could be a great opportunity for me, considering this is what I do — get involved in technology “transformation initiatives” and lead the way. That’s what I do. It’s what I do best. If the people running things know what they’re doing, they’ll keep me on, so I can help move that forward. If they don’t, then good riddance.
I sorely need a change, anyway.
I’m thinking that if we weren’t being kept around, there’d be no communication about what’s coming down the pike. That presentation is company confidential information, so why show it to people who may be out on the street in less than a week? Or it could be that we’re being shown the reasons why we’re being shown the door. Either way, it fits in my overall pattern of expectations.
Or there could be something completely new cooking behind the scenes — something I never guessed could happen. That’s entirely possible. Entirely.
I honestly don’t know what to expect — the distribution of the presentation could mean we’re all laid off and the company is moving on with out me/us. Or it could mean that we’re getting rolled into the organization differently — splitting up, or reporting to someone else. Who can say?
Anything could happen, really. I can’t just assume that it will be for the worse.
At this point, my main concern is with keeping solid and centered, and not letting the circumstances get the better of me. I have a household to support, a spouse and multiple other demands to provide for. I can’t afford to be lackadaisical about this. I’ve just got to be realistic about it and not succumb to depression. I’ve been depressed for the past few weeks, but I keep going. Even though nothing has much interest for me, I still keep going. And then the depression lifts, and I’ve still moved on down the line a ways.
There’s always progress.
So, I’m updating my LinkedIn profile and I’m collecting evidence of success from my past 16 months at my current position, to make the case for why I’m an asset to just about any organization.
The question is, will they be an asset for me? I need to make sure that whatever situation I get into makes sense for me, as well as for my employer. I’m not impaired like I was for all those years. I have built up my executive function skills. I have come a long way. I have matured. And I have a much stronger sense of myself, who I am, how I am, and what I’m truly capable of. I have a lot going for me, and I can’t lose sight of that.
There is a chance I may get laid off next Thursday. I don’t know what that means.
I just found out there are layoffs planned for my company… it’s in the news. This comes at the same time as being ordered by my boss (in a bcc email) to turn in my end-of-quarter goals report by next Thursday – a week earlier than usual… as well as them calling a team meeting on Thursday afternoon (which is also the end of a pay period).
Correlation does not imply causation, and of course this is an uncertain time, all around, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but there is a chance it might happen.
I imagine I will have insurance coverage for the short term afterwards – at least till the end of the month – but I don’t know.
But things are up in the air.
I just don’t know what this means.
I’ve been hoping for this, to be honest. But now that it looks possible, I’m less enthusiastic.
Oh, well. I needed to update my resume and LinkedIn profile, anyway. So, I guess that decides what I’ll be doing this weekend.
It’s no secret to people who read this blog regularly, that I’m not a fan of the “you’ll never recover from brain injury” proponents.
I mean, sure, there skills and abilities that will change — some of them drastically. And we may never be able to do certain things again.
But how damaging to talk about “recovery” only in terms of those things.
Recovery is about more than motor abilities. It’s about more than cognitive abilities. And behavior. It’s about quality of life, adjustment, getting yourself back, regardless of how much of a stranger you may feel like.
In fact, I would say that brain injury recovery is far more about recovering your Sense Of Self, than it is about re-learning how to walk and talk and do the things you used to do.
Because think about it — throughout our lives, we change. Our capabilities change. Our capacity changes. Our cognitive reserve changes. But we don’t declare ourselves disabled and incapable of having a real life, when our memory starts to “sputter” and we’re not able to run a 12-second 100-meter dash anymore. When we start to creak and ache in the morning or after a long day’s work, we don’t say, “Oh, well that’s it. I’m done for. I’ll never be any good again!” and give up our humanity, or our aspirations to living our lives.
And yet, that’s what we’re expected to do, when our brains change after an injury.
Because supposedly “there is no full recovery after brain injury”.
I don’t even want to think about how many people have been deeply harmed by this statement… how many people have been stripped — from the inside out — of their dignity and hope, because some individual in a white coat had a skewed vision of what “recovery” is all about.
We can recover from brain injury.
We DO recover from brain injury.
I — and many, many others — are walking, talking proof of that.
And nobody can convince me otherwise.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks. No – wait – three weeks, actually. Ever since the middle of September, things have been… exciting.
And I’ve been getting emotionally overwrought over little things that shouldn’t even be “moving the needle”. It’s costing me sleep. And it’s very intrusive. I’ll be going along, going about my business, just living my life… then all of a sudden, this rush of thoughts and emotions over stuff I have no control over (and don’t really understand) wash over me, and I’m hijacked by all that.
I’ve tried tamping it down, but that’s not working very well. It’s really bothering me, too. So, I have to do something different.
And I’m using that rush of emotion, the intrusive thoughts, the “riled” state I get into as motivation and propulsion to do good things. There’s a lot I want to do with my life, and there’s a lot I can do. So I’m using that unwelcome energy in welcome ways.
Getting my act together — cleaning up my work spaces… doing fall cleaning around the house… working out… really kicking it at work… being incredibly productive — far more than in the past… and finding ways that I can elevate myself. Somehow. Some way.
And also doing my mindfulness meditation, my zazen, just sitting and breathing, slowing down my racing mind and focusing on the in-breath and out-breath.
I can’t always control my thoughts. I can’t change what’s happened to me. But I can control what to do with it, and I can use the energy to accomplish things that I’ve been wanting to do. There are a bunch of things I’ve been wanting to do, so now I can use this rush that I get for something productive.
It’s all a learning process, of course.
This isn’t my favorite thing, but at least there’s something I can do with it all.
I had a good session with my new neuropsych on Monday. They’re a little concerned about all the stress going on in my life. Between job craziness and the challenges my spouse is having, and the ever-present danger of me actually injuring myself… sheesh, I’ve got a few things to manage.
And they’re not alone – I’m worried, too. Not so much worried… no, actually worried. I have to stay steady, I have to keep my act together. This is no time to fall apart. The thing is, life isn’t going to get any less exciting anytime soon. Everything feels like it’s ramping up, and I’m being forced to learn a lot. I’m not adverse to learning. I just get very rigid and brittle when I am under pressure, digging in my heels, walking away from challenges, and being generally difficult with others — who are relying on me to step up and play my part. On the outside, I seem fine, but inside, I’m freaking out, going through all kinds of mental “gyrations” over how unfair everything is, how much trouble I’m having, and how nothing ever works out in my favor. It’s a pity-party extraordinaire.
And that makes it difficult to change and adapt to the extent I — and others — need me to. I need to be there for people. I need to step up. But I get tired, and that rigidity kicks in. I push back. That’s not helpful. I need to just go with it.
That rigidity and brittleness is such a problem. But I know what can help assuage it… take the edge off… relieve the pressure. It’s called extreme self-care.
As in — doing my stretches each night before I go to bed. Doing some modified yoga stretches for my back and stretching my legs and arms and shoulders. If I don’t stretch, I wake up in the wee hours in all kinds of contorted pain.
As in — doing my intentional breathing after I’m done stretching. I sit on the edge of my bed and focus my attention on a spot on the wall across from me, and I do slow breathing — 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out — for a little while, till I feel my system relax and my breathing becomes easier. When I first start out, my system is all tight and tense, and I have a hard time just breathing regularly. But after about 10 in-and-out breaths, my system starts to relax, and I can actually do it without forcing myself. It doesn’t come automatically. It takes a while to get going. But it happens. And then I can relax.
I have also started doing measured breathing in the morning when I wake up. I don’t want to get out of bed, anyway, so I might as well work on my breathing and also relaxing. I lie there and relax my body and breathe. And after a while, I’m not as stressed out, and I actually want to get up. Then I go downstairs, get my exercise (cardio every day, weight lifting every other day), have my breakfast, and get into my day.
So, I have my ways of dealing with my situation — regulate my fight-flight response and keep my heart rate in a healthy range. Strengthen both my body and my mind, and keep making continuous progress.
One thing that is throwing me off, is that I have to do this at all. Most of the people I know don’t have to go to great lengths to rise to the occasion and deal with these crisis situations. They just do it. And they adapt without a lot of apparent pain and suffering. It seems like everyone else in my group is able to adjust and “jump on it”, while I’m still struggling to just get out of bed in a proper frame of mind.
It’s a little discouraging, but I’ve got “stuff” going on with me that nobody can see, and I know how much it affects me. So, I can’t lose sight of that — of my own issues, as well as my spouse’s issues. I’ve got a lot on my plate, even when everything isn’t falling to bits around me. And when everything gets that much more “exciting”, I have to take extra steps that others seem to not have to bother with. They can skip their exercise. They can eat anything they want. They can go without more than 4 hours of sleep, night after night, and it never seems to block them. They keep on.
Of course, it only goes for so long… No matter what, the human body can only take so much abuse. But in the meantime, they’re quite unaffected and love to wax eloquent about how much abuse they’re taking, and how much they’re getting done, regardless.
It’s all a smoke-screen in many cases, of course. At least I know my limits and I know how to work around them. It’s just a little demoralizing that I have to, while others can sail along without problems — getting the favorable attention of everyone who makes decisions about promotions.
In the end, though, all I really want is to lie down in peace at the end of the day. And that’s something I can control and manage on my own. The fact that nobody else really knows I have as many problems as I do, is testament to how well I’m doing.
And I want to keep it that way.
Because letting everyone around me know how much I’m struggling isn’t good for my career prospects, position on my team, or my life in general.
Just keep on… keep on…