Adapting… and realizing how much good it does me

I have had a few days to “decompress” after my trip to see my family. Two full days of driving — 8 hours there, 8 hours back — did a number on me, and I’ve been foggy and dull since I got back. Also, the pace was relentless while I was there. My family goes at top speed, pretty much all the time (except when they’re sleeping, which fortunately happens more often, these days).

So, all in all, it was a very challenging time — a challenge which I nonetheless rose to, with all good results.

The thing is, now that I’m back, I need to re-acclimate to my everyday life, which is very, very different from how things are at my parents’ place. It’s much quieter here, much less active, and a lot more contemplative. It’s ironic, because my family is very religious, and they consider themselves very spiritually connected. Yet they are so busy going-going-going, they hardly have any time to deeply consider their thoughts and their actions and the consequences of them. I love my parents dearly, and it pains me to see them declining — a little more, each time I see them — because they simply won’t take a close look at what they are doing and eating and drinking and living, and accept what it’s doing to their health and well-being.

My father considers himself a self-made man, which is true in that his diabetes has worsened because of the choices he makes. He thinks he can wish the condition away, but his actions and choices of foods make that all but impossible. My mother considers herself a socially connected person who cares deeply about others, while at the same time she buries herself in busy-ness whenever close friends of hers are in trouble.

I got a good look at my potential future, visiting my parents. And I also got a good look at how things could have turned out for me, had I taken the same path as my siblings. My brother has done well for himself and his family, yet he’s living in a place that is hostile to his deepest beliefs and convictions. My sister-in-law once had big dreams, though over the years she’s limited herself more and more and more, till the thing that means most to her is having a part-time job that lets her take care of house chores. Their kids are doing great, which is gratifying, so there is a whole lot of good that’s come out of their choices. And yet, I wouldn’t trade my life for theirs for any amount of money. Parents make sacrifices for their kids all the time, and I have no argument with that. I do have a problem, though, with completely throwing big parts of yourself and your hopes and dreams and internal convictions out the window, to fit in and be safe.

Of course, people do that all the time. That’s for them to live with. It’s not for me to judge. For myself, though… I choose something different.

And coming back from the trip, I look around and realize that the life I have really does fit me exactly. I’m doing great. I have my limits and my challenges, but I can adjust to overcome them. I have been in a lot of pain for the past few weeks — not headaches, but a lot of back and leg pain — and my mind has been foggy and dull. I have forgotten some things I really needed to remember at work. Other people needed me to remember them, too.

I made a couple of really unfortunate choices at work, the day I was back, and I feel like I’ve been scrambling to catch up, ever since. I mean, one of the mistakes I made was the exact opposite of what someone had asked me to do — and entrusted me with — just 15 minutes before. And I dropped the ball. I was supposed to “buddy up” with someone new at work, and have lunch with them. Their usual buddy had a lunchtime meeting they had to attend at their desk, so they couldn’t do lunch. I managed to keep it together and get the new person down to the caf, then for some reason I spaced out and went to sit in a different area — completely forgot about them and my mission to buddy up… I basically left them to fend for themself among virtual strangers, which would have been a crappy thing to do if I’d intended to do it.

Of course, I didn’t. But that’s what happened. Instead of staying down in the caf, I went back to my desk… across from the person who had asked me to sit in for them. And I didn’t remember what I was supposed to be doing until after I sat down at my desk and realized that I was sitting across from the person who’d asked me to fill in for them.

So, I was feeling pretty stupid at that point. Talk about dull and clunky. And then I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to make up for it. I still am. I can’t very well go to the person and say, “Dude, I totally forgot all about you,” because how would that make them feel? Un-memorable, that’s how. And I can’t explain that I have short-term memory issues, especially when I’m exhausted, because that’s going to hurt my prospects at work.

All I can do now, is adapt and go out of my way to be helpful as best I can, and hope that I can develop a decent working relationship with this new person — despite that first faltering interaction.

Realizing how dim and dull I have been, I’ve been turning to my lists again for help, and it’s really doing me some good. I’m actually getting things done, that have escaped me for weeks. I finally got my COBRA insurance papers together and sent them off with the check, so my coverage is re-instated. I had read the paperwork when I first got it, but I missed the part about how you’re not actually covered by ANY insurance, between the time when your coverage ends, and it’s re-instated retroactively. So, the doctors visits that have been happening may not be covered by my COBRA. And I may need to pay out of pocket for them.

That really upset me, and I was thrown off all day yesterday. I also got anxious about the possibility of some medical emergency happening. I expect my coverage to be reinstated next week, and the idea that something serious could happen between now and then was weighing heavy on me.

Then I decided to just roll with it and let things happen as they will. I’ve got no credit card debt, and if I need to set up payment plans, I’ll do that. I’ll figure something out. I’m making enough money now to hold me in good stead.

I also need to sort out some other medical coverage stuff that is so confusing to me, I don’t even know where to start. I have been sweating it out, thinking I’m never going to figure any of it out, and it’s kept me from stepping up and doing something about it. The thing is, I’m not alone in figuring it out — at least, I don’t have to be. There are toll-free numbers for people to call, and I am planning to do that. I just need someone to walk me through the details and explain them to me. It could be that I incur a penalty because the timing of leaving my job and terminating my regular coverage and getting signed up for new plans is all screwed up, but at this point, I’m not sure I care. I’ll just make the money I need, to get by.

Or I’ll adjust in some other way.

The idea of having someone to talk to about this, is really helping me a lot. I’m not alone. I don’t need to figure it out by myself. Nobody is going to know how impaired I am, if I’m asking for clarification. I’m sure even the most brilliant people need help with all this insurance complexity. The whole system is convoluted and filled with veritable land mines, and it’s been that way for a long, long time. I just have to use my head and keep moving — and use the help that’s offered.

That being said, I need to set up time for my spouse to give permission for me to talk to the insurance folks on their behalf. I have to figure things out for both of us, and since my spouse is a few years older than me, issues like Social Security and Medicare are on the horizon. Not sure how that happened so quickly, but there it is. It’s hugely confusing for me, but I have to handle it, because my spouse cannot even begin to approach all the details — they’ve got even more impairments than I do, and their biggest one is panic-anxiety, which pretty much keeps them hostage and immobilized in a self-perpetuating prison.

So, I need to get on the horn with the SSA and other folks to talk about what’s to come on down the line, eventually. There are fees and penalties or some-such, if we do things wrong, and I think we already have stepped over the line. Oh, well. I guess I’ll pay the fees and penalties, then. The good news is (I think), my spouse has been so marginal for so long, not paying into Social Security, but 10 years out of their entire “career”, so that if the government takes a percentage of their SSI payments, it’s going to be close to nil. There are some benefits to living on the margins, I suppose.

Anyway, it’s all a grand adventure, and even if I am dull and foggy and in pain and out of sorts, I have tools I can use to get me by — making lists, and also getting someone on the phone to help me understand everything. There’s also the Web… there’s that.

Speaking of which, I need to sign off now and go check out some websites, in hopes of making sense of things. I suspect I’m going to be a bit screwed by the system, because I don’t know the ins and outs and I don’t have a lot of people in my life who are in the same situation who can help me avoid penalties and fines and all that. But I’ll adapt. At least I have my life, I have my independence, and my life is pretty much how I want it to be.

It’s all good. It really is.

Onward.

Keeping even more focused

Lots to focus on… tough to keep a single point in mind

What I learned over the weekend is that sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I cannot keep my mind focused on what I know I should be focused on. I was really consumed by concern about my upcoming job change, and I was so worried about backlash and people giving me a hard time — and the possibility that I would not handle it well, that I would lash out, that I would start to yell and get into a fight with someone. There is always that risk, when I am feeling pushed, and I really had to keep myself chill, thinking about how I would handle things and coming up with different options, in case things got nasty.

As it turns out, things did not get nasty. And I am quite certain that my mental preparation helped. But what a time-sink. It was exhausting. I’m still wiped out.

I also didn’t take care of some things I was supposed to do over the weekend. I did not get hardly any exercise at all, aside from some juggling. I slept, but not as much as I wanted to. I have a presentation I am doing to a community group in another week, and I was supposed to have some slides and the outline done by today, so I can review it with one of the organizers.

This did not happen – completely, anyway. I have the outline done, and I have some presentation slides done, and I know what I’m going to say, but I have not practiced – practiced – practiced, as I promised I would, and I have very little time today to get myself together for tonight.

So, I am going to wing it. I’m going to put together what I can, and then check in with this person, and then really dive into things this weekend. My spouse is away for a business trip from Thursday afternoon till Sunday – maybe Monday. And I am taking two days off work on Thursday and Friday. And I have Saturday and Sunday to work. So, that will be fine.

But I’ve had a heck of a time keeping focused on anything other than giving notice at work.

Yesterday went really well, all things considered. And people I work with are being decent about me leaving. So far, anyway. I think that the vast majority of people I work with would do exactly the same thing as I, so they do not begrudge me this. Plus, they know that I have been overworked for years, and it doesn’t surprise them that I’m moving on.

Now I have to stay focused on collecting everything I’ve worked on, over the past months, and organizing it, so that the person(s) who pick up the slack will have what they need to move forward.

I will be also thinking about what will make someone successful in the role I’ve held — much more than any specific skillset (although certain skills do come in handy) is a real passion for learning, a focus on acquiring new skills, and an open mind to try new things and be resilient. The specific skills are maybe 30% of the abilities required. Much more critical is openness to trying new things and a positive attitude.

Without that, the job is hell.

Actually, even with it, the job is hell. But others don’t need to know that up front. They can find out for themselves.

So, there is a lot to do in a very short period of time. I need to keep focused and centered and stay productive in this short (and getting shorter) timeframe. I have made up a little Q&A sheet for people who will be visiting my desk over the coming days, so I don’t have to stop and talk every 10 minutes. All the interruptions are bad enough without this added point of interest.

I also need to be gearing up for transitioning into my new role, which will allow me to sharpen a specific set of skills that make sense for me in the long term. I have decided to put my programming on the professional back burner and just do it for fun on the side, and focus on project management for my professional activities. It brings together things that really challenge me in many, many ways — some challenges seem overwhelming to me at times, and I need to really push myself into the midst of it and work at overcoming those challenges, rather than hiding out and avoiding them.

This will surely be a test for me, and the times that are the most testing are the ones that teach me the most.

I have also realized, over the past months, that for certain skills, I have not really applied myself to sharpening those abilities. I have just relied on situations to teach me how to move forward by trial and error. I need to fix that, and teach myself up front how to do things. I need to get properly trained. And that means studying and reading books and materials that are in ample abundance, but I have just dismissed because A) I thought I didn’t really need them because of my work experience, B) I was having trouble reading, and that threw me off, and C) I get blocked when I am tired, and I have been tired an awful lot, for the past three years.

Now my reading has resolved, to a large part. And I realize that I need to put more effort into concentrating on what I’m doing. Something in me seems to think that I have trouble learning… but I think it’s just because I go about learning in the wrong way. Or I expect things to sink in a lot sooner than they do. Or I think it’s going to be easy, so I don’t apply myself, and then nothing really sticks. I’m thinking about the whole “Perceived mental effort changing tonic arousal” concept, and I’m going to keep a “beginner’s mind” in this new job, so that I don’t get so overconfident that I can’t do a good job.

I don’t have to tell myself I’m stupid — just that things are more difficult than I initially think they are. That will get me to take it seriously and focus.

Focus.

Focus.

All this talk about focus is making me tired. I also need to rest.

Rest.

Rest.

This is a big change for me. I’m a bit nervous about it. But once I get going, I am quite certain I will find my “sea legs” and be just fine. It’s all wide open. Plus, I’m not going to spend all my time driving around, I will have more time to take care of myself and the things that interest me. I’m gonna get my life back.

And that’s worth the extra attention.

Onward.

 

 

Knowing why is half the battle

Take a closer look and get clear on why

It’s been said that people take a job for the company and leave because of management. They join up because of the company reputation and all that being part of that team promises… and then they decide to leave because their boss is a nightmare.

With me, it is kind of the opposite.

Oh, to be sure, I have had my differences with management. But the real reason for my leaving is because of the company itself. The way things are done, the way decisions are made, the way people are hired and fired and promoted and demoted and paid and given (or denied) bonuses… it’s just ridiculous, looking at it from an American standpoint.

The company is based overseas, and the way they do things is fine by their standards. It works for them, within their own cultural framework. But it’s not up to my standards, and I’m not about to change what works for me and my undertakings — and has worked for 25+ years — because the overlords are in love with themselves and want to prove how fabulous they are.

Heaven help us.

Actually, heaven help the people I’m leaving behind.

Because I am out of there soon enough.

And I know why.

It’s not personal, it’s professional.

It’s not because everything is horrific, but because there is something much better for me.

It’s not because I think it will solve other people’s problems (that will never happen)… it’s because this will solve some of my problems and make it easier for me to deal effectively with other people’s problems.

I’m working through all my reasons for moving on, this weekend, so that when I sit down to talk to folks tomorrow, I will be clear and confident. I am doing my training this weekend, then I am going to trust my training tomorrow and just let things flow.

My focus is this: To not get all worked up. To not get all emotional. To not allow them to stonewall or bully me or get me upset, which is something they are pretty good at doing. I have some strategies in my back pocket to use — like making sure that HR is involved in every discussion I have with the uber-boss, who is a bully and has a bad habit of saying one thing to one person and something quite different to someone else, and doing it in a very threatening way.

Come to think of it, I’m going to make sure HR is involved in discussions I have with my immediate manager, as well, because they have a bad habit of saying one thing to one person, and then saying something completely different to someone else. And they love to say things that upset other people, because it gives them a psychological edge.

I’m not going to have any private conversations with anyone who’s proven themselves untrustworthy. That’s a given.

Obviously, I need to give notice in person to my immediate manager, but after that, HR is going to be involved. No behind the scenes operating. No testing my limits. None of that. I’m going to spare us all the conflict and drama around mixed messages and maneuvers, and keep it clean and clear.

As much as possible.

So, for today, clarity is the top priority. Clarity and calm. I’ll be writing things down and thinking about things throughout the day today, always with a mind towards keeping things clear and clean. And making this transition out of my old job to new one as smooth as humanly possible.

I’ve learned a ton of things over the years, all of which I can put to good use tomorrow and for the next two weeks.

Knowing that — and knowing why I’m leaving — and being able to communicate that clearly and calmly … that’s half the battle, right there.

The littlest change is setting me off

Ooops – they did it again. “Upgrading” something that seemed fine to begin with

Okay, now I know I am tweaked and nervous about my upcoming job change. Firefox has just updated their browser style / interface, and I am freaking out on the inside. I try to stay calm and take things as they come, but this is yet another change I was not expecting, and as good and fine as it might be, it’s still pissing me off.

Why does everyone have to change everything… all the time?!

I mean, c’mon people – we don’t always have to have the best and brightest and newest and improved-est thingamajiggie on the face of the planet. Some continuity might be nice. Some of the old stuff still works fine, and we stick with it, regardless of your “Upgrade Now to Get What’s New!” prodding. I still like Windows XP — it just works. I still prefer music on CDs — the sound is better and richer than MP3s. I and many others still love classic Coke… in classic style glass bottles. People actually LIKE having some things stay the same, and from where I’m sitting, Firefox was working just fine, the way it was before.

Okay, so maybe there are additional enhancements that took place behind the scenes that I don’t know about. Maybe this new look is more “modern”, and it makes all the magpie-minded hummingbird-memory-span teenagers of the world take Firefox more seriously, but is that who should really make the decisions about what works and what doesn’t? Heaven help us.

Anyway, enough of my rant. I am stressed, because of the crazy movies I’m playing in my own head about giving notice tomorrow. I am really doing a number on myself, and it’s got to stop. I need my strength for tomorrow — to be calm and centered and confident, and have a plan that will show the way forward in the transition time. I need my strength for the next two weeks — and beyond — so I can navigate this change and do it well.

There are going to be a LOT of people who are extremely put out because I’m leaving, including some who consider me a mentor and an advocate for them. In fact, I AM a mentor and advocate for them, and when I am gone, who will be on their side? A lot of folks are going to be going through a lot of grieving emotions, so I’ve got to stay strong, keep my strength up, keep my head on straight, and steer a direct course through the storms to get through this transition time in a calm and centered manner.

The good/bad part about this, is that there are folks whose future success depends on my performance. And now I am leaving. At a very critical time. But that will never change. Folks are locked into a continuous cycle of perpetual agitation and upgrades and improvements and radical changes that require everyone to be ON … all the time. If I use my current status as a reason to stay, I will never, ever have a chance to move on. Because my situation will never be any different. At all.

I’m not the one who decided to have only one person in charge of any given critical function in the organization. It makes for a lot of personal power, but it’s not very practical. I don’t want to be part of an organization that depends so heavily on the “Army of One” mentality, where one person handles everything in one specific “sector”. It’s actually an organizational issue — there are multiple instances where the company has only one person (manually) doing a job that is critical to the business, but nobody thinks of adding staff. The company is more geared towards individual wishes and whims and consolidating personal power and influence, than collective success.

That’s a recipe for disaster, from where I’m sitting.

So, there’s really nothing I can do to save them from themselves. I’ve never been able to do that — though I’ve tried.  God knows, I’ve tried.

Anyway, eventually I will calm down about the Firefox change. In my experience and observation, it’s still the best browser around.

IE is a horror and has been slammed by many security experts, including the Department of Homeland Security. There are so many things wrong with Internet Explorer, I don’t have room to list them all here.

Chrome is all very sexy and whatnot, but it eats up so much memory on the system. Every time you open a new tab, it adds a process to what the computer is doing behind the scenes, rapidly eating up memory. It’s a system resources hog. And all the “intuitive” Chrome features are … well… not. Plus, it can be hard to customize. It’s fine, if you’re a web developer — it has a lot of features you need when you’re building websites and apps, especially mobile apps. It’s great for that. Then again, Safari is even better, so I’m not sure why Chrome is so beloved — perhaps for the same reasons GoDaddy is beloved. Awful product with real limitations, but the sheer force of numbers of people who don’t know anything better, who are suckers for a good marketing campaign, and who just do what everyone else is doing has made them into pet favorites.

That’s fine. It’s actually always been that way. The mob has typically ruled, and decisions in the market-driven world are dictated by sheer mob numbers. I’ve never been an integral, integrated part of the mainstream world, I’ve never listened to the mob, and I’ve always been on the outside a bit, so there are a lot of things that I’ve disagreed with over the course of the past 48+ years.

And I’ve always had difficulty with change, which is ironic, because very little has ever staid steady in my life. I’ve changed schools and classmates many times, I’ve moved around a lot, I’ve had a bunch of different jobs (close to 20 employers, total, over the past 25 years), and people and situations have come and gone from my life like a cosmic revolving door. I’ve also had to adjust to a bunch of TBIs in my life, and there’s no change like a brain change to make your life more interesting.

So, one would think I have gotten the hang of it by now.

At least, I would.

And in fact, maybe I do have the hang of it, but I’m just in this old, outdated mindset that tells me I still have a problem with change. Yes, I am sad to see things change. Yes, I am sad to be leaving a lot of people whom I’ve worked with very closely and very productively over the past four years. Yes, I’m concerned about what this might mean for my future prospects, and I’m concerned about backlash at work and possible retribution by people who are upset.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to do a bad job handling this change. Being uncomfortable and nervous doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of making the switch. No matter how good the circumstances, there would never ever be a good time for me to go, or conditions where everyone around me would be fine with me leaving — unless, of course, I was doing a truly shitty job. And I would never willingly let that happen.

So actually, now that I think about it, the fact that this is so hard, is a sign that I’m doing something right. It means that I am a top performer, and I am a valued and trusted member of the team (at least, I’m trusted for now). It doesn’t mean that I’m doing something wrong — on the contrary, it means that I’m doing something right. And in fact, it’s time for me to do something right for myself, not only for the company.

I really have sacrificed a great deal for this company over the years. In the start, it was worth it to me, because there were benefits and payoffs, and I had very little to do with people on the other side of the world who had their own ideas about how things should be done. But over the past year and a half, things have gone rapidly downhill, and things seem pretty much unredeemable to me. If they were redeemable, I’d hang in there.

But now I have an opportunity to go somewhere else. Somewhere better — in significant ways. I know there will be some things that will be the same, or worse, but at least I’ll be doing it only 20 minutes from home, with ample time in the mornings and evenings to catch up with myself. So, whatever foolishness happens at work — and there usually is a lot of foolishness, since people work there — having the extra time to rest and relax and have some time to do other things for myself, will go a long way towards buffering all that.

I’m still feeling conflicted about leaving, as you can tell… talking myself through what I already know to be true. I just need to settle my mind, and calm myself down. Do some measured deep breathing… and trust my own judgment. Not get set off by all manner of distractions, settle into a “trusting mindset” like pro athletes and top performers do, when they are facing an extreme challenge, and rely on my inner resources to guide me through.

Overthinking this is not helping. It’s tweaking me even more than need be. Things are probably going to be pretty challenging for the next couple of weeks, so I’ll just have to settle in and do my best under the circumstances, not drive myself crazy trying to solve everyone else’s problems, and make what recommendations I can, to move things forward after I am long gone.

Once I start this process moving, and things are rolling right along, I’m sure I’ll hit my stride. As is often the case, the anticipation is even worse than the real thing. So who can say what will happen?

Just gotta stay positive, focus on what IS, instead of what movie is playing inside people’s heads. And be smart. Use my noggin.

Calm down. The new Firefox isn’t so bad, after all.

Onward.

Making the most of all the adjustments

Every now and then, we all need to make adjustments

I had a very productive weekend, despite feeling pretty rotten and not getting everything done that I was supposed to. I actually did do some very important things which I’ve been unable to do for weeks, so that was a real accomplishment. There were multiple steps to each of them, and they took a fair amount of effort, but once I started and dug in, I was fine.

One Big Thing in particular I completely forgot — it’s something I must do every single week, but it completely slipped my mind yesterday. My spouse asked about it at 11:30 last night, and I started to panic a little bit when I realized I’d spaced out. I was going to turn the computer back on and take care of things before I went to bed, but then I realized I could take care of it this morning, and it would go a lot better. I would be rested, and there wouldn’t be the same time pressure. And I would be able to do it at my own pace, instead of rushing and cramming it in before bed — and in the process waking myself up when I was supposed to be winding down.

So, that’s what I did — I went to bed, got myself a good night’s sleep, and when I got up this morning I remembered I needed to take care of this thing, and I did. I’m mid-way through the first phase of the 3-step job right now, waiting for the computer to finish its work — it needs to do a lot of processing, which can take about an hour. Step 1 takes a lot of intense focus up front, to tell the computer what to do and how to do it. Then when I’ve “told it” what to do and started the process, I get to take a break, catch my breath, and do other things, until it’s ready for step 2 of 3. Step 2 takes a little while – about 20 minutes – when I take another break. And then Step 3 takes about 15 minutes of intense concentration. Then I’m done. And I can get on with the rest of my day.

The day ahead of me looks quite bright. I have my list made out for what I’m planning to do, I have my schedule mapped out with everything in the order that I can do it, and where I’m going to do it.

Keeping a list really takes the pressure off. It lets me figure out what I’m going to do ahead of time, so that when the time comes, all I need to think about is how to do things. It frees up my mind to concentrate on “higher-order” thoughts, rather than spending all my time trying to figure out “what’s next?”

A list lets me make the most of the opportunities in front of me — it frees up my mind from the drudgery of day-to-day organization and lets me get more involved in what’s going on at any given moment. It also gives me a sense of orientation throughout the day, showing me how far I’ve come and what I’ve accomplished. And that feels pretty good. I so often get caught up in the minutiae of the moment, that I lose sight of the big picture, and I get despondent and depressed — for no good reason.

But my lists keep me on track and they also show me how much I’ve managed to do with myself over the past hours, days, weeks, months.

I’ve been thinking a lot about many of the adjustments I’ve had to make in my life, over the past 9 years. The anniversary of my Thanksgiving fall down that flight of stairs is coming up, and I’ll be visiting the house where it happened. I fell down a very steep flight of stairs in 2004, smacking my head a bunch of times and knocking myself for a loop. It’s pretty surreal, when I think back on it. And sometimes (like this morning), it seems like it was just yesterday that it happened.

Then again, it seems like a million years ago, and when I think back about all the changes I’ve been through — both forced and voluntary — since then, it’s like it was another time and another world. Another planet, even.

The thing about that fall was, it wasn’t my first mild TBI. It was probably my 9th — at minimum — maybe more. And it kicked off a speedy downward spiral that pushed me to the very edge of my abilities and capacity to cope. And at some point, I had to cross a line where I started on the upward spiral, instead of being in a perpetual holding pattern of living in shadow and faking my way through life. If it hadn’t been for that TBI in 2004, I might still be living in the shadows of a TBI-influenced state, muddling through and screwing up, and never knowing exactly why things weren’t working out for me.

But after that fall — by 2007 or so — it became undeniably obvious that I had some serious issues and I needed to address those issues. Or else.

So, there’s been a ton of adjustments going on with me, over the years. And it’s been a gradual, fits-and-starts kind of process, with a bunch of plateaus, interspersed with quantum leaps ahead. It has not been a steady progression, rather an irregular collection of successes and failures, trials and errors, realizations and setbacks, that have kept me moving forward. It’s all kept me moving forward, fortunately, although sometimes it seemed like I was going backwards.

Bottom line is, I’ve had to let go of a lot of things along the way — a lot of old ideas about who I was and what I was about… jobs, career options, friends, activities, favorite foods. And the future I once dreamed for myself is now fading into distant memory (along with a lot of other things).

At the same time, though, I’ve had a lot of new opportunities open up to me. New job choices, new directions, new interests that I never bothered with before. In getting rid of some things — like endless hours of reading, studying, writing, pondering — I’ve gotten other things in return. I’ve taken up new projects and hobbies that are much more hands-on and involve more manual work. And I’ve really gotten into caring for my property and exploring the trails near my home in a much deeper, more involved way. For as long as I can remember, spending time in nature (which I have done a lot, ever since I was a kid) was a very heady experience — I was always up in my head, inventing imaginary scenarios that dominated my attention. As a kid, I was always imagining a fantasy world filled with fantasy characters with whom I interacted with. As an adult, my walks in the woods or on the beach or on the back roads around my home involved more thinking about my life and muddling through things, than actually enjoying the world around me.

I realize now that it was because of my sensitivities — being so bombarded by all the light and sounds and smells of my environment — and since I have learned how to modulate them, I’m now able to go out and enjoy a walk in the woods for what it is — a walk. In the woods. Not up in my head, but out in nature. Simply getting enough sleep, wearing sunglasses, adjusting my diet to cut out allergens and toxic crap, and exercising regularly, have all done wonders for my ability to function.

So, in that way, the adjustments after TBI have truly benefited me — and everyone around me.

Of course, there are still challenges. There are still issues along the way. And some of the changes I have to make, like not eating some foods, not doing a lot of things, and adjusting my job plans, have been difficult and painful.

But the payoff is well worth it. For everything I’ve had to give up, I’ve gotten a lot in return. And when I get my head out of that resentment swamp and think about how much I have, how much I’ve received, and how much I have to look forward to, a lot of the adjustments seem like minor bumps in the road, rather than full-on detours into oblivion.

So, as I look forward to this day, I am incredibly grateful for the gifts I’ve received, especially those that came to me after my fall. If I had not had everything fall to pieces after that accident, I might still be living in the twilight, stuck in my addled head never guessing for a moment that there was anything I could actually DO about my situation.

It’s a mixed bag. And it’s not easy. But it sure as hell is worth all the trouble and effort.

Onward.

Another Simple Day

Back to basics

Well, I simplified my day yesterday, and no animals were harmed in the process.

I went back to sleep in the morning and got another couple of hours rest, then after I woke up, I laid in bed and checked in with friends on my smartphone. If it weren’t for my job, I would not have a smartphone. I don’t have the money to have one of my own, I don’t generally see the need for them, and I’d just use my computer for Facebook and email and whatnot if I didn’t have one. But the smartphone makes it so much easier to keep in touch – especially via FB. So, I do. When I need to.

Even when I don’t need to, I am getting in the habit of reaching out, just to stay connected with people. Usually, I keep to myself and isolate. A lot. But having social media makes it easier for me to keep in touch. I also have made a point of taking out the “friends” on FB who drag me down, are negative and whiny, and I’ve liked a bunch of positive motivational pages, as well as amazing pictures pages, so I have a steady stream of optimism and encouragement and downright beauty in my life on a regular basis.

It really is addicting, the beauty and joy. In the best of ways. Whenever I’m feeling down and lost, I check in with FB, and the pictures of nature or the positive sayings lift my spirits. If nothing else, they get me out of my own head, which is a dangerous place to be.

I’m feeling better this morning than yesterday. It was a little rough at first, but I got myself up, had some breakfast, moved around a bit, had some vitamins, a warm drink, and some Advil. Now I’m working on my cup of coffee, slowly… thinking about how I want the rest of my weekend to be.

I was feeling incredibly low, on Friday night. Just burnt out and wiped out from drama at work and how hard it has been to actually connect with other job opportunities. This is a tough job market, if you don’t have easy-to-plug-in skills or a degree, and that’s me. I have been doing what I do for a long time, but I’m not some easy-to-pin-down, cookie-cutter worker bee anymore. And I don’t have a degree and all sorts of certifications, so that disqualifies me in the running, from the get-go.

I was reading an article last week, about how the automation of job searches is passing over some really great candidates. I think I’m falling into that category, and I suspect that I’m getting passed over because I don’t list any degrees on my resume. The thought has occurred to me to just make something up and lie about my qualifications, to get past the automated “gatekeepers”. People would probably believe me, too. But with my luck, I’d get caught. And anyway, I can’t live with that hanging over my head.

All that thinking and reading about how bad things are didn’t actually help me. And it really dragged me down. I get locked into one way of thinking a lot, which is not good, and then I get stuck. It’s worse when the one way is depressed and suspicious and anxious.

So, I broke it up yesterday and got out and did things. I wrote down a lot of my frustrations and got them out of my head and onto paper, and that made me feel much better. Then I took care of some chores and just tended to the day-to-day, and that felt better, too. I moved, I took action, and I did a few things for my Big Project last night, that I’ve been meaning to do. It felt good to finally check them off my list.

By the end of the day, yesterday, I was feeling much better. In spite of simplifying my day, I got a lot done, and I made steady progress. And I even had time to watch a little television before I went to bed.

An interesting thing happened last night as I was getting ready for bed. I looked outside, and it looked like it was still evening, with the sky still light and the world around me still lit up. I could hardly believe it — it was nearly midnight, and it looked like it was 4 p.m.

I went downstairs and walked out on the back deck, and the full moon was bathing the whole world in a bright silver light. It was much milder last night than it’s been in weeks, and the stars overhead were phenomenal. So, I pulled on a couple of layers, got my hat and gloves and a flashlight, and I went for a walk.

The evening was so quiet, the roads were empty, and the moonlight was just amazing, flooding the world with silver light. Everything was lit up, and shadows of great trees sprawled across the road in sharp, craggy relief. Outdoors it was totally silent, except for the sound of distant traffic and the rustling of little creatures under the autumn leaves in the woods along the road. It was as though the whole world were there for me alone, with all my neighbors either tucked in and lights-out for the night, or staying up late with all their house lights on.

What an amazing walk it was. I wanted to keep going, but I was really tired and I hadn’t had a nap yesterday. I needed to get back, and not so far off in the distance, I could hear coyotes calling. So, it was probably best that I head back. The coyotes in this area don’t usually bother people, but why take a chance of surprising them at midnight.

Back home, I could feel myself so much more relaxed after my walk. Just having the silence and the space and the room to move — all under the brilliant moon and stars — what a gift it was.

Which brings me around to the topic that has been on my mind a lot, lately — gratitude. I’ve realized that with all the changes at work and all the reorganizational challenges, I’ve lost sight of the good that’s come with the changes. There are a number of things that have gone away, that we’ve lost — a lot of autonomy and freedom to move and make our own decisions, as well as the amazing commute that was a real blessing when I had it. In the midst of seeing all the things that are wrong, I’ve lost sight of the things that are right.

A part of me has been stubborn about admitting that some things are right, because part of me thinks that will validate the stupidity that seems to reign supreme, and somehow make it alright. It’s not alright, and there are some serious issues at play in that place, but when I focus on the bad, it blinds me to what good I can find. And it drains me. It doesn’t only hurt the company (which many folks at work would actually like to hurt), it also hurts me. It saps my energy, it taints each and every day with bilious resentment, and it makes the already difficult things that much harder to handle.

And that will never do. So, I’m finding a new way of approaching thing — Seeing the bad (the awful, actually) and seeing how it can lead me to something new and different. There are so many different options available to me — new paths to explore, new ways of interacting, new ways of working, new projects — why get dragged down by the sh*t, when I can be looking to a new way, a new approach, a new chapter of my life?

Indeed, the fact that things are so bad right now, can actually make my life better. I can see them for what they are, not fight and resist and resent them, but simply see them for how they are — plain and simple. I don’t need to complicate matters with all sorts of mental gymnastics that keep me locked in place because I’m gyrating through all kinds of emotional drama. I can simply — very simply — see things as they are, accept that they suck, objectively move on to what is next in my life, and be grateful that they provided the impetus for me to do more with my life.

It is taking me a long time to move along to what’s next, but maybe that’s for the best. Maybe I have not been thinking about things as expansively as I should be. Maybe I have not been considering all the options in front of me. Maybe I really do need more time – and I need to stretch.

These are all things that have been rattling ’round in my head for some time, now. Plain and simple, I’m in a kind of a holding pattern, and I need to find ways to use this time wisely. I’m not sure that making myself more “plug and play” is the answer — I’m capable of more than that, and being slotted into a cookie-cutter position is not going to do it for me.

The thing I also need to remember is that I have a number of different projects in the works, and some of them are really taking off. So, if I start a new job, that’s going to suck a lot of time and energy away from my overall “supplies.” Yes, it will stress me and “wake me up” and make me feel alive again, but long-term, this is not sustainable, and it’s a recipe for eventual pain and suffering.

So, simplify, simplify. Keep things basic and focus on the fundamentals. Apply myself in intelligent ways, and don’t get caught up in distractions that feel like they’re “taking the pressure off” when they’re just distracting me and interfering with what I should really be doing.

When I think about it, I have plenty to keep myself occupied, plenty to add meaning and purpose to my life. I can let the job situation just BE, for a while, focus on other things, and think about where else I want to go with my life.

It’s all good. I just need to stop complicating things for the sake of the drama adrenaline rush, and let myself be grateful for what I have.

It’s not all about what I’ve lost. It’s also about what I’m gaining.

And another simple day is waiting.

So, onward.

Getting my house in order

The pieces will fit together, if I pick and choose and let some things go.

Just got up from my afternoon nap. I had an early start today, waking up at 4 and working for a bit, before helping my spouse and some friends get out the door to go to a business event they are attending. Lots of movement, lots of activity, lots of coordination, lots of details to remember for things that had to be remembered.

After they got on the road, I took the opportunity to do some yard work. I usually can’t start yard work till late afternoon, because my spouse usually sleeps till 2 p.m., and they don’t much care for waking to the sound of a lawn mower or leaf blower. So, I had some freedom to just work, and I got a lot cleaned up. Then I had some lunch and ran some more errands, came back home, took a long, hot shower, and collapsed for almost 2 hours. I could have slept longer, but I decided against it. The days are getting so short, and I have a lot I want to be doing with myself, while there are still daylight hours.

Anyway, it’s better if I don’t sleep too long – I don’t want to hose my ability to get to sleep tonight. I’ve been waking up at 5 a.m. regularly, so the sooner I can get to bed at night, the better. Obviously.

Now I’m figuring out what I’m going to have for dinner. I think I’ll make myself some lamb, which my spouse doesn’t like, but I love. Times like these, when I’m flying solo, are perfect for me to eat foods I can’t normally have when I’m cooking for us both.

The one challenge with the lamb is that I’ll have to prep and cook it. I toyed with the idea of subsisting on crackers and caramelized onion goat cheese spread, which is like a crazy drug to me, for some reason. But I really need some protein. I worked a lot today, and I’m sure I’m going to be sore tomorrow. So, I need to get some meat in me.

So, lamb it is. I won’t have to hover over the stove, just prep it, put it in a pan on the stove, and set the timer. And get some more work done in the meantime.

I’ve got a handful of things I want to do with myself in the next couple of days — I’ve already done one of the big things: yard work. I also need to reconstruct my study, which I now realize has to be re-stocked with certain books I had taken away a couple of years back. I have a lot of books on my bookshelves which do not reflect where I’m at these days, or where I’m going. I’ve been back and forth about my next steps and where I want to go with my career, etc., and I’ve been clinging like crazy to the technical angle, like my life depends on it.

News flash – it doesn’t.  The technical angle is something I recognize and remember loving. But my career has moved on — and I need to just admit it and accept that. In fact, my career is very much in flux, right now, with nothing absolutely certain about where I’m going. The only thing certain, is that it’s in flux and it’s headed in some new direction that I still have to figure out. I have an idea about where that direction is — and if I can stop preventing that from happening with back-pedaling to the technical stuff every other day, so much the better.

Seriously. It’s like I have amnesia. I need to make a sign for myself

YOU ARE NOT A TECHNICAL WORKER BEE ANYMORE

And be done with it.

I guess I just get nervous and try to head back into the arenas where I used to feel safe and secure. The thing is, I felt safe and secure, because I knew what I was doing. That’s not the case, anymore.

Part of the issue is that I’m being contacted by old friends and colleagues who “knew me when” — before my fall, before my life fell apart, before I stopped being able to pick up new things at a moment’s notice and run with it. The inner workings of my brain are so very different, now, and none of them saw me go through that flame-out over the past 7 years. For all they know, I am still the technical whiz kid they used to know.

But I know better.

I guess I need to do a better job, too, of communicating to folks what my new life is. It’s kind of embarrassing for me to “admit” that I’m not highly technical anymore. And it’s also bothering me a good deal. But that’s the fact of the matter. It’s just how things are, now. Time to move on.

This is a theme in my life, these days — moving on. Getting my act together and just moving along. There’s a fair amount of grief that is going with this, because I’m having to let go of things that used to be such a big part of my life and my outlook. It’s like I have to stop hanging onto parts of me and my life that died years ago, but I have still been pretending exist. I’m kind of like one of those people who can’t let go of a beloved pet, so I keep their ashes — or their stuffed body — up on a mantle, so I think that part of them is still with me.

It’s kind of creepy, actually, now that I think of it.

Yeah, it’s time to get my house in order and let go of things. Just let ’em go and move along. Gid-along little do-gie and all that.

Because when I think about it, I have a bright and shining future ahead of me that’s well outside the bounds of where I used to function. I got into technology as a reaction to hating my old effing job that I had back in 1995, and it’s been good to me. But the changes over the years have not been positive and the job market has shifted away from me in a very big way. I need to move along in this new direction I’ve identified — do some good work, make some good progress, and let my life transform itself.

Hanging onto the past, no matter how well it once treated me, is no good for my future.

So, tonight after I have my lamb dinner, I’ll move the old books out of my study and make room for the new. It’s gonna be a whole new day.

Onward.

 

Finding “normal” again, after all the … TBI “stuff”

So much depends on our view point

Okay, I know that when it comes to recovering from traumatic brain injury, the concept of “new normal” is not my favorite. I have heard so much advice from well-meaning individuals to “accept your limitations” and “get used to things not being as good as they used to be”.

Please. I’m not saying anything more than that, other than that.

Please.

Even the concept of “normal” is not my favorite. I think especially when it’s defined by others, it can be a trap that’s almost impossible to get out of. So, let me define “normal” for these purposes as being a state of mind and body and spirit that is balanced and feels usual — a way of experiencing and being in the world that doesn’t freak you out and put you on edge and make you miserable or anxious… but is part of your regular everyday life. It doesn’t have to do with others’ definitions of how you should being, but rather it’s about how you know yourself to be — and accept yourself. “Normal” life can include stresses that are customary and expected in the course of your everyday life. It can also include an incredible sense of well-being, in spite of all obstacles or difficulties you must overcome.

That’s where I’m at today — it’s not a “new normal” for me. It’s a new take on the old “normal” that used to be part of my everyday world. It’s taken a lot of work and time and energy, but it’s happening for me.

I wish it could happen for more people. Too many individuals give up too quickly, too soon, in the face of seemingly “permanent” conditions — those supposedly “it is what it is” circumstances are anything but permanent. But life is impermanent by nature. Nothing stays the same. And the only reason things remain permanently “effed up”, is if we just stop trying to turn them around.

That’s what so many of us do after a hard loss — whether it be the loss of a loved one, a job, a home, a planned future, and yes, the “normal” life we had before TBI. We just give up. Or we decide that we’re not really cut out for a regular life anymore, because either we don’t deserve it, or we don’t think we can deal with it, or we can’t see our way through to the other side, or we simply run out of steam and get way too tired to deal with much of anything.

And then we adjust to our “new normal” and hope for the best. As though that will help anything.

To me, that kind of acceptance is murderous. It is the exact opposite of what we should be doing after TBI, or any other kind of hard loss. The brain is “plastic” — it adapts and changes based on our surroundings and what we demand of it, and it needs to be retrained. It needs a lot of rest and water and glucose (and I suspect that the main reason for my splitting headache this morning, is because I didn’t give it enough of any of those three things all day yesterday), but if it receives the right TLC, it can — and will — learn to do new things in new ways — or learn to do old things in new ways.

See, that’s the thing — with TBI your thinking can get very rigid and literal and stubborn, and your brain can start telling you that there is ONE WAY AND ONLY ONE WAY TO DO THINGS (and yes, it will tell you that in a very loud voice). The old ways were “right” and the new ways are “wrong”. The old ways were the “only” way, and the new ways will “never work”.

Silly. There is never only one way to do things. There is never only one right way to get from Point A to Point B. There are lots of different ways — we just need to take it upon ourselves to find those different ways, and train our brains to handle life in a slightly different way.

Of course, you tend to get tired, in the midst of all of this. And when you get tired, your brain tends to work less well. That’s a struggle I’ve had for years. However recently, I’ve discovered a way to mitigate the effect of fatigue. It’s not that I’m less tired — I’m pretty wiped out, right now. But I don’t get as bent out of shape over being tired, as I used to. I recognize it, I take it in stride, and I get on with my life anyway. I do what I can, when I can, and I don’t worry about the supposed disaster that may come on the heels of being wiped out and mentally out of it.

I just accept the fact that I’m dog-tired, and I deal with it. I live my life anyway. If I can catch up on my sleep, then great. If I can’t, I don’t worry about it. I factor in the fatigue in my daily life, and I make the necessary adjustments.  I can tell that things aren’t nearly as peachy as they used to be for me. I can tell when I’m a lot less sharp than when I’m rested. And I can really tell when fatigue is really chipping away at my patience, my self-control, my manners. But I don’t let it derail me like I used to. It’s not a tragedy anymore. It’s a pain in my ass that I just need to recognize and deal with, and do the best I can in spite of it all.

This is a monster change for me. The whole realm of physiological after-effects of TBI really threw me for a loop for a long time. I have been hung up on how much my cognitive state suffers from fatigue and stress and anxiety and physical pain. I guess it was pride, really — I don’t want to seem stupid or be the brunt of others’ jokes and ridicule, and when I’m tired and in pain and not doing well, I’ve not been able to handle myself well in the past, so I’ve ended up taking a lot of sh*t from people who didn’t know better. And so, when I would be over-tired, or in pain, or practically deaf from the ringing in my ears, or dealing with some other TBI-related problem, it would make me really anxious and upset… which made everything worse.

In the past months, however, I’ve let a lot of that go. Maybe I just let the whole pride thing go, because I realized it wasn’t worth it, and the only one who has really been keeping tabs has been me. I think that stretching my back and neck on a regular basis has been very good for me. When I crack my back or neck (and it doesn’t take much – I just need to bend or lean in different directions), I get this rush of really great energy and relief, like my brain is actually able to communicate with the rest of my body through my spine. And my head clears, I’m less foggy, and suddenly the colors are a lot brighter than they used to be.

Nice.

Also, I shifted my focus away from remediation of my issues (like trying to catch up on my sleep after the fact), to the Bigger Picture — just living my life the best I can, under all conditions, good or bad. I’ve gone from managing every single aspect of my day…. to letting it all just fly free… to learning how to pick and choose the things I’m going to concentrate on each day. I’ve trained myself pretty well to do the basics again. I can get myself out of bed, have my breakfast, and get ready for work without losing my temper or forgetting if I’ve washed my hair. I’ve figured out how to get myself to work without incidents from my light and noise sensitivities, and I’ve figured out how to structure my days so that I’m doing the things I care most about when I’m the freshest and most with-it.

Now that I’ve got that basic functionality down, I’ve been focusing on relaxing and getting myself in a good space… or, if I’m not in a good space, realizing it and training myself to just deal with it. I used to be pretty good at keeping it together under 85% of difficult conditions. Then, after my TBI in 2004, that slipped to about 15% of difficult conditions, and that’s when my life started to fall apart.

I would say now that I’m getting closer to that 85% I used to be at. I’d say I’m probably doing pretty well under about 75-80% of difficult conditions — I’m not yet performing at my peak, but I’m holding it together and keeping my sh*t together much better than in recent memory, and I’m not having hardly any of the meltdowns that I was having, only a few years ago.

Which is good. I had a bit of a blow-up, the other night when I grilled up some killer steaks, and my spouse decided to take a shower just when all the food was ready to be served. I ended up with a tough piece of meat, because they waited till the last minute to do something they could have done all day, and I lost it. I lost it even more when they acted like I had no reason or right to be upset. I had a long day at work. I was hungry. It was late. I just wanted to enjoy my steak. But no… Oh, never mind. What’s done is done. The thing I need to realize and remember is that sometimes I have every right to be upset, and sometimes I am going to get upset. It’s just that I can’t let it take over and run me the way it used to. I need to let it be about being upset — not being upset about being upset, which is what gets me. And after all is said and done, I definitely have to let it go. And see how I can possibly avoid that next time.

Management issues. Hm.

Well, speaking of management issues, I’ve got to get going and get into my day. I’ve been working on my “stress hardiness” training — consciously trying to toughen myself up and not be so sensitive to the ups and downs of the everyday. I’ve got to get tougher, that’s for sure. Not “ram tough” and all aggressive and over-the-top, but resilient and able to take a hit without collapsing into a heap. I need to get a thicker skin and do better about just dealing with stuff, instead of letting it take over my head and make me crazy. I used to be like that — as I said, 85% of the time. And I am getting better at it.

It’s all about conscious practice — training myself to deal. In some ways, I feel like when I was a kid, and I was learning to do all kinds of things, like handle myself in the adult world. That’s how it feels right now, and while it is kind of strange and deja-vu, it’s like I get a second chance to learn how to do all this stuff. The “first time around”, when I was dealing with TBI stuff and didn’t realize it, so much of what I learned was inaccurate or just plain wrong.

Now I get a “do-over” and I can get my act together in ways that I thought I was before, but actually wasn’t. I can take a new shot at things and lay another foundation for myself, starting from scratch in many ways. It sounds strange to me — I’m nearly 50 years old, and I feel like a 10-year-old kid. But in so many ways, all of us needs to reinvent ourself in one way or another over the course of our lives. Some of us have to do it many times over. So, it’s not so strange or unusual. It’s actually pretty normal — perhaps the most normal thing of all, when it comes to being human.

I think maybe this is what my neuropsych has been trying to explain to me for years, now — that it’s in the nature of human beings to change and grow over time. We don’t always have a say in the areas where we need to change and grow, but we do have a say in how much we accept and adapt to that need for change, and the energy and determination we bring to that change.

How we define “normal” is up to us — if we don’t do it ourselves, someone else’s “normal” can end up defining us.

Onward…

So what if it’s awful? That will change. No doubt.

The past couple of weeks have been pretty rough for me. Oh, hell, the past few months have been intense. Family issues, relationship issues, work issues. The whole gamut. And I’ve been feeling like crap, for the most part.

Pretty awful.

So what? It will change. I will change it. And that change starts with me actively amping up my responses to the events of my life in ways that I choose, and that suit me best.

One of the life-changing developments of my life, in the past while, has been using my 90-second clearing to take the edge off my anxiety, anger, fear, adrenaline rush. I learned about how stopping and breathing slowly will stop the downward slide and it gives me a chance to let the stress biochemicals in my system clear out – replaced by ones that are better suited to thinking things through in a rational and adult manner, instead of like the crazy person I can quickly become when I’m pushed too far.

I’ve been doing this 90-second activity for a couple of weeks, now, and it’s pretty amazing. And it shows me — up close and personal — how even in my most frantic state, I can get myself back to some balance. I don’t have to teeter on the brink of madness. I can take a bunch of slow breaths, step back, and turn around and head in a completely different direction.

Which is good.

It puts things in a whole new light. Because now, not only do I know that I can get myself back to feeling human again, but that generalizes to other parts of my life, and I can see how things can change so quickly. For the better. Or, even if they don’t get better, at least I can feel better, and when I feel better, I think better, and things can be improved.

Maybe not overnight, but I can at least make a start…. or, to be more accurate, make another start.

Some days it feels like I’m starting from scratch every single day. It’s weird — and a little wonderful at the same time. I believe it has to do with my working memory issues. I just don’t retain things really close to the surface of my memory — I have to revisit over an extended period of time, preferably with someone in the room. That’s where my neuropsych has come in, for the past four years or so — they’re someone I have checked in with regularly, once a week, to review my progress and keep me on track.

Well, money is short these days, and my copay went up, so I can no longer afford to see them every single week. I’ve switched to every other week. This is — again — weird and wonderful. On the one hand, I feel like an important support for my life has been removed; on the other, I feel like this is an important step for me, to be able to be more independent and draw on my own resources. I cleared out a bunch of old papers from my bookshelves this morning, and I found a lot of notes from my past sessions, and it’s remarkable how much progress I have made. Seriously, I have come a very long way, and I need to give myself credit for that.

Reading those notes is a little disconcerting — I can see how diminished I was, how limited I was letting myself be. But it’s also encouraging, because I’m not that person anymore. Not by a long shot. I think about how hard things were for me, once upon a time, and how awful they were, and I can see how much things have changed. So that is good. And it is encouraging.

The tough times I’m having right now are partly “withdrawal” from my weekly sessions, which have been safety valve for me. I’m adjusting and adapting and coming up with my own ways of releasing pressure and getting my bearings. It’s not easy. It’s very painful and confusing and fear-inducing. But so what? This will change. With practice and concerted effort, it will change. The tough times are also due to some real difficulties I’m having with my environment — and I know it’s not just me. I know it’s not just my attitude. The situations I’m in really do suck — by design by forces driving towards short-term maximum profitability, with long-term detriment to everyone involved. I have been stuck in this short-term frantic hell-hole of a workplace for almost three years, now, and it’s time to go. It just sucks so awfully, and I am simply accepting that as how things are — with a view towards changing it in just a few months.

These are all adjustments. Difficult adjustments. Problems with integration and assimilation — which should be problems, because when sh*t is f*cked up, well… sh*t truly is f*cked up. And there is no logical reason a person should stay in that situation, try to adapt to it, make it feel better, etc. I’m invoking Kasimierz Dabrowski now, who was a Polish psychiatrist who survived the Nazi and Stalinist eras and developed his Theory of Positive Dis-Integration (the “-” is mine in “Dis-Integration” because without it, the word to me means “dissolution” or “falling apart” in an internal sense, which doesn’t mean anything good to me). This theory states that people with high personal development potential, who are able to develop their own identities independent of the crowd, will necessarily go through some dark nights of the soul, as they develop and realize that they really don’t fit in with the crowd, and indeed they should not.

This dark night that people experience is often diagnoses as a form of depression which should be treated – or it’s seen as a disease that has to be cured. Our standard-issue popular response to people who don’t fit in and don’t cotton to the pressures of the “normal” world, is to pathologize and/or medicate and/or institutionalize this state of mind, rather than working through it and seeing it as a sign that there is something more this person can — and should — be experiencing in their life.

That’s kind of where I’ve been for the past while — being keenly aware of how effed up things are around me, seeing the part that I’ve played in making all that possible — how I’ve enabled people to screw me over… how I’ve undercut myself with poor habits and lack of discipline… and most of all how I’ve numbed myself to the raw facts of things not being as they could be, simply by “changing my perspective” and looking at things from an angle that allowed me to make them all right, while ignoring the angles that showed that things were anything but right… and of course seeing how not managing my TBI symptoms and after-effects has made me a lot less effective and with-it than I could have been all along.

Probably the hardest thing to stomach has been realizing how I’ve made things harder for myself, by zoning out in a state of bliss that blocks out any pain or discomfort. I’ve been able to put myself in a state of bliss — total physical, mental, spiritual ecstasy — for many years, now, and I’ve been using that to dull the pain that comes from my everyday life. I also know how to direct my focus to one thing — and one thing only — effectively blinding myself to the troubles at hand. Because I’ve been able to do this — total focus and ecstasy without drugs — I’ve been able to keep myself from falling apart. But I’ve also been keeping myself from coming in full contact with my life and seeing clearly what needs to change.

I’ve been in a lot of pain for a long time, and I’ve managed to find a way to get my own relief. At the same time, that ability to cut the pain and block it all out has held me back from making the kind of progress I really need to make.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do think that things have been so intense and potentially overwhelming that I have HAD to block them out and dull them. I fall apart over little things way to easily, and I have to stay functional. It’s been useful. And I do think that after the years of teetering on the brink of collapse, post-TBI, I needed to normalize and get to stable footing, which is where I am now.

So, in a way, this pain and discomfort is a good thing. It’s a sign that I’m ready to head to the next level and do some more great work, refashion my life, and do away with the things that keep me from living the life of my design. When I can sense the pain, I can take action and move away from it, thus living up to my potential. But when I cannot sense pain, well, I’m destined to be stuck with it for as long as I can tolerate it. Intolerance is a good thing, no matter how awful it feels.

Yeah, I’m intensely discontent and I’m in pain. Good on me. It’s a positive sign that I’m alive and ready to do something different with my life. Do doubt.

Onward.

I love my chiro, but…

Source: wellcome.ac.uk

… sometimes they make me nuts. Like when they start talking about me being “stuck” as though it’s an emotional issue, or there’s some deep-seated drama that’s broiling just beneath the surface of my psyche that needs to be exorcised, in order for my back to be flexible.

Ugh. Good gaawd.

I suppose it couldn’t possibly be all the falls I’ve experienced over the course of my life, or the cumulative effects of having had to keep myself ramrod straight, to keep from falling over, those many, many, many times I’ve been so dizzy, I didn’t know what to do.

Don’t get me wrong. My chiro has helped me immensely, and I credit them with helping me along the path to an amazing recovery from multiple traumatic brain injuries. The constant headaches that I had for years… gone. The difficulties with turning my head and back… pretty much gone, too. And I’ve had this amazing energy and sense of well-being that is almost unprecedented.

Now, I have had plenty of times where I felt energetic and truly well. But since I started seeing this chiropractor, my level of wellness, not to mention the duration of my sense of well-being, has jumped way up.

And that’s good.

I just wish they’d knock off the talk about mind-body connections that makes the mind and the psyche into the Master Controller of the body.

Lately, I’ve been increasingly sensitive to this mind-body orientation (which a lot of my friends have) that the body is an outward expression of what is going on inside you. There’s this “meme” that runs through my social circle that dictates “a strong body indicates a strong mind” and which equates physical illness with psycho-spiritual imbalances — or “dis-ease”. It’s kind of arbitrary and heady, and it seems to tie in with a modern American version of the “everything is an illusion” school of thought.  It’s like folks believe that if your mind and spirit are well, then you won’t “manifest” any outward difficulties. As though physical pain and issues are “lessons” we concoct for ourselves to teach us what we need to know… and when you’re psycho-spiritually “fit” and you know everything you’re supposed to, you won’t experience any bodily pains or aggravations or stiff back or whatever other physical dis-ease seems to correlate with an inner problem.

I wish to high heaven people in the healthcare/caring professions would have compulsory traumatic brain injury training (ahem – that’s standardized and based on fact and the latest research, not all that blather that passes for neuroscience that we’ve been belabored with for the past 50 years or so). Seriously. How many people have concussions every year —  let alone full-on traumatic brain injuries — and how many doctors and nurses deal with them each and every day? It’s just crazy, that we have this all-pervasive health care phenomenon (I won’t say “crisis” as the word is way too over-used), which touches countless lives — millions upon millions of people each year. But nobody can seem to get a clue as to how brain injury “works” or what the right thing to do about it is.

It makes no logical sense to me. Maybe it’s all of my own head injuries that make me so idealistic and make me crave a common-sense solution to a vast and lives-altering part of our culture — even our whole world. Maybe it’s my broken brain that thinks this should be a no-brainer. People, it’s serious. It’s a priority. It’s important. Get it?

But no…  instead, we have a health care system crammed full of people who are so busy prescribing drugs and procedures, that they can’t see what’s right in front of them. We’ve got alternative health care providers who are getting farther and farther out in left field, looking for some guru-defined explanation for why we’re all so screwed up and can’t seem to get any better.

Good grief. And now I hear my chiro talking somberly to me about my back being “terribly stuck” and needing to get some relief — as though this stiff back of mine were a terrible torture I can’t even begin to endure… and it’s due to some hidden wound that I haven’t faced up to yet.

Hidden wound… yeah — how ’bout nine of them? As in, concussions. Have I got wounds for you! But in all seriousness, framing my difficulties as some sort of psycho-spiritual phenomenon isn’t going to help me through the logistics of my days. It’s not going to help me remember to shampoo my hair in the morning, or put my socks where I can find them (I wore my driving Tevas all day at work today, because I forgot one of my shoes in the car, and after I went out to get it, then I couldn’t remember where I put my socks). It’s not going to help me deal with the vertigo that has me teetering at the tops of staircases (as my life passes before my eyes). It’s not going to help me keep my mouth shut when I’m this close to chewing someone out or making an inappropriate comment to a co-worker.

Anyway, I’m venting this evening, I know. I’m starting to annoy myself.

What’s my point? It’s that sometimes our physical issues are just that — physical challenges that come up as a result of injury or just life, not due to some inner moral or psychological deficiency… and I get tired of feeling judged for having these issues — especially the physical ones, which my chiro loves to lecture me about. I’ve been in a bunch of car accidents, I’ve been attacked, I’ve had a number of falls, and my head got hurt a lot. As far as I’m concerned, I’m extremely fortunate to be as well as I am, and I get a little frustrated with people judging my condition as being terrible and awful and untenable… and due to some deep-seated psycho-spiritual morass I can’t haul myself out of.

Oh, screw it. What-ever. I’m tired and I need my rest. Of course my chiro is going to tell me I need more work. They need the work. I just wish the helping professions could just… help. Without the lectures that go along with it all.