Knowing when to say “No, I’m not doing that”

Does it all NEED to be done? Probably not

So, you’re way into your life. You’ve got all these ideas you want to explore… and all these activities you want to try out. Indoor activities, outdoor activities, social activities. All of them sound fun and cool, and just thinking about them gives you a charge.

The only thing is, your brain-injured noggin is losing sight of how tired you are. And it also doesn’t realize that when you get tired, you get even more distractable, and you end up coming up with even more cool stuff you want to do and try.

I do this constantly. I get excited about an idea, and I dive into it head-first.

Then I over-do it, and I get tired.

Then I get even more distractable and scattered, and I find all sorts of other things to explore and do and study, and I end up in that classic spin-cycle where I’m dashing from one idea to the next, one project to the next, one new passion to the next, and-and-and-and… well, you get the picture.

And before I know it, I’ve worn myself out, gotten irritable and angry over every little thing, I’ve become useless to my spouse, I’ve holed up in my study, and I’ve come to really despise myself, the world, and everyone around me.

All because I found something really great to get into, and I overdid it.

When you’re dealing with an injured brain — even a mild traumatic brain injury — you can end up spinning in circles over every little thing — including the things you love.

That’s where I’m at right now — spinning, because I haven’t figured out how to say “no” to new things I’ve discovered that appeal to me. I’ve got so much energy going on, right now, it’s crazy. But it’s also making me crazy, because it’s blinding me to the things I’ve already started that I need to finish, which is just adding to my sense of overwhelm and frustration.

So, this is my focus for the month of March — to quit taking on all sorts of new and different activities, and just keep on with the things I started months ago. I’ve got several books about TBI in the works — three of them at are mostly done, based on posts I wrote on this blog over the years that have gotten a lot of interest and need to be expanded. I’ve got some really good ideas that have been on the back burner, just because my distractable brain keeps saying “oooh – shiny!” and running in all sorts of different directions.

That’s enough of that, thank you very much.

It’s time to say “Nope, not today,” and get on with the work I started months, even years, ago.

Onward!

Dealing with TBI Burnout – Part I

It can be a real pain in the ass, to constantly adjust to a mis-behaving brain. All that adjustment can burn you out. And that’s pretty much what’s happening to me. I’m doing a lot, and I’m making great progress. But I’m also wearing myself down, and the more tired I get, the harder everything becomes, and the worse my brain mis-behaves.

And the more I have to adjust and adapt.

Which takes more time and energy.

Man, oh, man… there is so much I want to do. And it’s all good.It’s not only for me- it’s for others, as well. But I’m pushing myself too hard and too long, and it’s burning me out. To the point where I just want to walk away from it all. Take the $700 I have in the bank and just split. Forget about everything I am planning, all the things I want to do and experience, and just say “screw it all”. Just leave. And never look back.

Part of me feels like it should be enough for me to just be functional. To just get through the day and  find some enjoyment in my life. Who cares about making a difference in the world?  It’s never going to work, anyway.

That’s what the tired-out voice in my head is saying, these days.

You know, it’s funny… Now that I look at things, I realize that I may be getting sucked into someone else’s idea of what “awesome” is. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time thinking about and planning launching a formal business for all my various undertakings… really becoming independent in whole new ways. The thing of it is, that’s probably not the way I should go. I should probably not aim for total independence, because I know as well as anyone that if I go solo and have the chance to withdraw from the world, I will. I’ll isolate. I’ll stop interacting with anyone outside my immediate circle. I will stop being social, and I will hide myself away like a hermit.

Is that really the best thing for me? Or my business?

No.

I need to be out and about. I need to be social. It forces me to improve, to be better, to interact. And it’s good for me and my brain.

My tired-out brain…. That gets fixated on a Single Idea — in this case, becoming independent in every sense — and telling the rest of the world to go screw. That gets worn out and desperate and frustrated and starts fantasizing about some pretty much impossible/implausible goal off in the future, which takes me away from my present.

Good grief. All along, I’ve been convinced that I was working towards a cohesive goal… when I’ve actually been burned out and pushing myself harder and harder to Get There, just to keep the pain and frustration and anxiety at bay.

I don’t want to be 100% independent and blocked off from the rest of the world. I want the freedom to experiment and try things and relax… and not have to work 18 hours a day, every single day.  I want to be able to kick back and enjoy the progress I’ve made… enjoy the process of doing all the things I love to do. I can’t keep putting all that pressure on myself to “execute my plans”, day after day.

I need to stop doing this to myself. I need a break.

From myself.

So I can quit burning myself out.

That’s a bad habit.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have fun, every now and then?

No talking. Please, no talking.

Huh?

I’m having a lot of trouble dealing with talking today.

Reading and writing is completely different — it’s the talking that’s a problem for me. My brain is not in the mood to process vocalized thoughts. It’s in action mode, and when I’m “seeing” in my head all the steps I have to go through, someone talking to me really disrupts my thought process and irritates the living daylights out of me.

I just don’t feel like I have the bandwidth — no, it’s more than that. I don’t feel like devoting the bandwidth to verbal discussion. If someone wants to talk to me, they can write it down or draw me a picture.

It occurred to me this morning, while my spouse was talking and talking and talking about all the things we need to take care of, that some people just talk to make themselves feel better. They aren’t interested in communicating. They aren’t interested in listening. They aren’t even interested in making sense to anyone else. They just want to self-soothe with words, because it makes them feel better.

Augh! Please. It’s so frustrating and irritating and counter-productive. Talking should be reserved for communicating ideas that need to be acted upon or processed by both people, not just soothing the frazzled nerves of the person speaking. It’s really inconsiderate and narcissistic to go on and on, without regard for anyone except yourself. It’s all about your nerves, your anxiety, your pain — not about anything necessary or productive or useful for anyone else.

Anyway, that’s my little rant for the morning. I’m having a good morning, actually — very quiet, aside from the chatter. And I’m working from home today, so we can go pick up the new car we got.

It’s all good.

Quiet is nice.

Onward.

 

Making the most of… everything

Focusing on the good… trying, anyway

Well, my time off is winding down. It’s Friday, and it’s my last day off work for quite some time. It’s been a good week, although being off my usual schedule has proven to be both a blessing and a real challenge.

It’s been so great to get things done that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. It’s also been great, getting some time in, just thinking things through, focusing in on what I want to do with myself this coming year, and getting clear on what I do NOT want to do.

The challenge has been spending a lot of time with my spouse. I’ve mentioned their anxiety a lot of times, so I don’t want to belabor the point. Suffice it to say, it’s not easy living in close quarters with someone who is afraid of their own shadow and has anxiety about every little thing, and spends countless hours stewing about their anxieties to justify them — and amplify them.

It’s pretty taxing for me to deal with their constant anxiety. It’s a total drain, and I end up fatigued — and incredibly cranky. It’s not much fun for either of us. I just need to remember that they’re not 100% like they used to be. They’re declining, and they need some extra help and assistance and patience. I just wish I didn’t get so exhausted by the whole thing.

Whew! In that respect, it’s going to be good to get back to work. I’ve caught up on my sleep, somewhat, and I’ve gotten a lot of ducks in a row, so now I can move forward with steady steps and progress. The main thing is, I’ve had time to think… and walk around in the woods while I’m thinking. That’s gotten my head on straight and kept me from veering off in a bazillion different directions. And that, in itself, is a very positive step for 2015.

I’m a little irked that I have to go back to work on Monday. But I’m also glad. I’ve missed the company of my “work tribe” and also the daily routine. If I had my own business and a regular routine around my own endeavors, it would be one thing, but this past week has been a bit of a mad dash to get in as much “extra-curricular” stuff as I can, while I can. Having a regular schedule, with a regular sleeping pattern is also very important, and I’ve had a few late nights, this past week, which have thrown me off. Including New Year’s.

That’s one of the reasons I really hate New Year’s. My spouse wants me to stay up, but I just want to go to bed at 10:00. One year, I got to do that, and it was heaven. But with my spouse… different story.

Anyway, in a few more days I can go back to my regular schedule, and it’s not all that bad. I’ve gotten my head screwed on straight about my priorities, and I’ve broken down a bunch of larger undertakings into smaller bite-size pieces, so I’m not so overwhelmed with all the details. I have places to start, and I’m starting. Heck, I’ve more than started. I’m well on my way. And I’ve made a good beginning already. I’ve been geared up for 2015 for a couple of months, now.

So, onward! I’m doing a road trip with my spouse today. We’ll see how that goes. The two of us are pretty tired of each other, right about now, but this is our last day to spend the whole day together. So, we might as well make the most of it, put our differences aside, and just enjoy each other’s company when we have it.

Today I don’t have to DO anything. I can just be. We’ll see how that goes ;)

Watch… and learn

Watching what happens

I’m having a strange morning. I got up a little later than usual, and I worked out — got in my five mile bike ride and did some stretching. My spouse woke up nervous and started to pull on my attention, which got me a little pissed off. I needed to concentrate, I hadn’t had my coffee yet, and they kept talking to me and asking me questions and haggling with me over various things, like what to eat for supper, what we’re going to do later for shopping, and how we’re going to manage our day. They’ve got a business thing they’re doing tomorrow afternoon, and I’m helping them with it. That will get me out of the house and give me some time to go do other things while they’re having their meeting. So, we have a fully weekend ahead of us, and they’re anxious. So am I. I hate to admit it, but I’m quite anxious about the prospect of spending a lot of time with them over the next two days. I really don’t want to do all of it. I want to just move at my own pace and not be pressured. I don’t want to deal with crowds and stores and all of that. It’s overwhelming, and it gets to be too much for me during Christmas shopping season. But it’s all got to get done. So, I’ll do it. I’ll do it, and be done with it. And try to have a good time, in the meantime. Keep my sense of humor. Not take things to heart. Keep it light. And watch my sh*t. I noticed that I was getting really bent out of shape with my spouse — I was getting very tense and irritable and starting to do little things to provoke them. Not good. It was not helping.  So, I backed it off and changed the subject. I told a joke. I quit doing those little things that I know bother them. I got a grip and extracted myself from the conversation before it escalated — as it so often does — into a full-blown argument that throws us both off for the rest of the day… sometimes longer. Backing off works. So does taking a close look at how things are happening with me… to make sure I don’t fly off the deep end and dig us deeper into a hole of antagonism and anger. The good news is, it worked. Backing off and changing the subject and making a joke, all really helped to diffuse the tension. And we are back on track to having a nice day together, without all the drama and agitation. If I can pay attention to what’s happening with me and modulate my behavior and responses, so much the better. I’ve been doing better about that, lately. Part of the impetus is that I’ve been mentioning my behavior issues to my healthcare providers, and they are all looking at me with that “meds” look in their eye. I don’t want to go on meds. I have nothing against other people using them. But I don’t want to have to take pills to keep myself on track. Sometimes they are medically necessary. I don’t believe they are for me. Or maybe they are, and I’m just digging in my heels and resisting the inevitable. I’ve never been comfortable with drugs — even when I was drinking heavily and smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, I wasn’t into drugs. They make me feel weird and off, and they mess up my head. So, no thanks. But if I become a danger to myself and others because of my volatility and aggression, then someone may put me on something. And I don’t want that. Because taking a pill for something makes it possible for me to live my life without developing the skills I need, in and of myself. If I have attentional problems, I want to solve them by developing my innate ability to attend to things. If I have cognitive issues, I want to develop my brain and my thinking techniques to improve. I believe that a whole lot can be achieved by developing the human system — the one we already have — and drugs distance us from that possibility. They relieve us of the duty to do so, as well as the impetus to change. We can take a pill and be done with it. No more work needed, other than remembering to take your meds. I’m oversimplifying, I know. There are many, many people who cannot help themselves or who just need meds to keep things sorted. And I’m really glad they have that option. For me, I’m just more comfortable working on things myself. That way, I won’t be dependent on insurance to get me my medications. And I have more freedom of choice about what I do for work and what benefits I need. I am fiercely independent, and it makes me really nervous to depend on anyone for anything.  Self-sufficiency is the way for me. Like I said, everyone has their own way of doing things, and I have no problem with people doing things differently. Whatever works for you… I’ve got no argument against it. And I reserve the right to keep my independence and improve where I can, as best I can. I watch. I learn. I adjust and fix what appears to be “wrong”. And I move on. Life goes on. Yes, it certainly does. Onward.

I think something is amiss

It’s not usually this bad

A couple of months ago, I had several episodes that really threw me for a loop. I had a couple of meltdowns and it felt like something in my head “popped”, and then I was numb and dumb for a number of days after that. I thought maybe I was having a stroke, but it didn’t seem like I was having all the symptoms, so I thought maybe it was a migraine. It’s hard to tell with me — I have so many sensory issues in the course of every day, it’s hard for me to sort out the exceptions from the rules.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve had some “jumpiness” in my left cheek, and for several days, a spot on the left side of my upper lip was twitching like a Mexican jumping bean. It was driving me crazy, but it came and went, so I didn’t want to make a deal out of it. Then, last night, I realized that my left hand is more numb than my right – I can feel things and I can move it, and I don’t seem to have any loss of muscle strength, but it feels a little numb, and I don’t have the same level of sensation that I do in my right.

Also, I almost cut the tip of my left index finger off, last week, when I was fixing supper. For some reason (and I never do this), my finger was extended, and I almost didn’t stop myself, as I was bearing down. I cut most of the way through the nail – fortunately at an angle, so it didn’t go into the flesh under the nail. And it freaked me out, because A) I can’t afford to cut off the tip of my left index finger — I need it for working on the computer, which is my bread and butter, and B) it’s very unlike me to not keep my fingers away from the knife while I’m cutting. It’s been years since I had anything like this happen to me.

Then, this morning when I was putting on my socks, I could not raise my left leg up as high as my right one. I just didn’t have the strength. I know I have had different levels of strength in my left and right, and I haven’t been able to lift one knee higher than the other for some time, but I can’t remember if it’s been the right one or the left I have trouble with. And it’s weird how I keep misspelling things.

So, I think I may need to get checked out. The only problem is, I don’t trust the hospitals that are closest to me, and the one my PCP is affiliated with has really sh*tty neurologists. I have dealt with them in the past, and the one in particular treated me like I was hostile, they kept asking about my history of drug abuse, and they basically just went through the motions till they got me out of their office. I’m sure they’re not a total asshole, but that day, they did a great impression of one.

The other problem is that I have gone through whole batteries of tests over basically nothing — just stress. I get diminished when I am tired, and I have been extremely tired, lately. I’m just going-going-going all day, every day, and it’s caught up with me big-time. So, I don’t want to go crying “stroke!” when it’s really just stress and will get fixed with a lighter schedule, more sleep, and taking it easier than I have been.

Fortunately, tomorrow afternoon I’ve got an appointment with a counselor whose office is closer to a nearby city that has excellent hospitals, including the one where I had my MRI and got checked out for possible seizure activity, several years ago. They’ve got an MRI on record with me, as well as an EEG, so they’ll have a baseline and I won’t have to request records from other hospitals. I have my appointment with my counselor at 5, then I’ll discuss the situation with them, and if it really seems like I need to get checked out, I’ll drive the extra 45 minutes to get to the hospital in the city.

I’ll need to prepare for this — make sure I have everything with me that I need — including my work laptop and stuff from home. I’m packing a bag, just in case. And I’m also packing up my cubicle tomorrow, because we’re moving to the new office building on Tuesday evening, so I need to have it all ready to go, in case I’m not in the office on Tuesday.

I just need to prepare. And make sure that my spouse is all set, in case I need to stay overnight, or things run late. Maybe I’ll go get some extra food today, to have us covered.

I’ve got a headache, but that could be anything. I usually have a headache. No surprises there. And concentrating on the thought that something might be WRONG, is not helping me.

I’ll check with my counselor tomorrow. And I’ll see if I can get hold of my neuropsych, too. It’s really hard for me to tell what to do, and how best to do it. I have a lot of responsibilities, and I need to keep up with them, because people are counting on me. It’s almost impossible to tell what’s a product of anxiety and worry and being all stressed out with concern, and what’s the real deal, so while part of me wants to go to the ER and get checked out, I’ve been there a bunch of times over things, wasting precious hours amongst sick people. And when all was said and done, I was told, “Oh, it’s nothing. You can go home now.” I get sick and tired of being treated like I’m malingering or am overreacting. I literally don’t know if what I’m experiencing is a legitimate problem, or not. I have had a lot of neck problems over the past year, which affected sensations on the left side of my body, so maybe it’s just that. It’s hard to know. There’s a lot of competing information coming up in front of me all the time, so how do I sort it out?

Anyway, I think I have a plan. I’m still walking and talking reasonably okay (that slurred speech and sensation of a drooping cheek isn’t much fun, but it comes and goes). I’ll put everything in place for what needs to happen, should I need to go into the hospital. I’ll get myself coverage, and I’ll make sure things are lined up, so I can just take care of business.

Like paying my mortgage. For some reason, I had direct deposit set up for one bank account, but not for my house mortgage account. I discovered that yesterday, when I was checking my bank balances online. So, I’m late on my mortgage this month. Fortunately I’m not terribly late, to the point of getting “love notes” from the bank. I set up the monthly deposit to go into my account regularly, so that problem’s solved.

I also discovered that I have $8,000 more in the bank than I thought I did. That’s enough to keep me afloat, if something keeps me out of work for a few months. It’s amazing how much money you can save, when you don’t pay your mortgage ;) Of course, that $8,000 is all the money I have in the world for a safety net. Compared to the $400,000+ I used to have saved for retirement before my TBI in 2004, it’s sad. But it’s a hell of a lot more than I’ve had for a number of years. So, I am grateful for what I do have.

Oh, this is annoying. I can’t seem to spell. My hands keep typing the wrong letters. I need to take a long, hot shower, then lie down and get some rest. Take care of a few errands, then sleep for a few hours… or more. As much as I need. It’s Sunday. I’ve had my walk in the woods and my breakfast, and it’s turning out to be a perfect day for sleeping. Gray. Overcast. Drowsy. With a breeze blowing in the trees. Nice.

After I get some sleep, I’ll make my list. I’ll type up my symptoms from the past few months, and I’ll print out a copy, in case I need it tomorrow. Everything may be perfectly fine — just stress — but it’s not feeling fine, right now.

Whatever. Time for my nap.

A fresh new day

Get out there and make the most of it!

I’m feeling pretty good, this morning. I have the whole weekend ahead of me, and I feel much more focused than I have in a long time. I think the move to the new location at work is going to really help me. I will be close enough to home, that I can come home over lunchtime and take a quick nap. I think that’s going to make all the difference in the world. That, and not having to deal with long drives down the freeway in bad weather. This past week has been very tough, because the weather has been bad, and the traffic going to and from work has been pretty challenging.

In less than a week, that’s all going away, and I can live my life again. For the first time, really. I’ve never worked this close to home before, and it’s about damn’ time.

Also, in another couple of weeks, I can quit working from 7 a.m. till 8 p.m. (with intermittent breaks in between to do things like, oh, take a shower, drive to work, and grab a quick bite to eat). I’ve been working double-duty, fixing stuff that got broken, during my last couple of projects, making sure that people know what to do — and are doing it. Managing projects where cannot manage their own time and workload is no friggin’ fun, and that’s how it’s turned out to be.

Here, I thought that I could rely on others to do their jobs and finish up in good order. Untrue. They apparently only do what they’re hounded to do, and while I can do the “hound thing” (arf, arf, arf), it’s not my idea of a fun time.

Plus, the farther I get from the old world, where I was so totally stressed out about everything in my life, and the more I relax and come to my senses, the more I realize that I’m really not all that keen on working in technology or working for companies that produce stuff that people want, but do not need. There’s something about working for a company that provides a needed service (rather than luxury/consumer products and services) which really gets me going in the morning.

I used to have a job like that — I used to work in an industry like that. It was an indispensable line of work, and what we did was desperately needed — essential — for people’s lives.

Not so, nowadays. I’m managing projects that are all about stuff that people find cool and interesting, but isn’t critical to everyday life. And it feels like a bit of a waste, to be expending so much time and energy on frantically selling stuff that people could really live without.

At the same time, I’ve got to count my blessings. This job — once I get the hang of it — will be ultra-cushy, to be sure. It’s not rocket science, and since we’re not exactly dashing into danger and saving anyone from a fiery building, there’s less of the intense pressure I was under at my past employers. In my past “professional incarnation”, I worked for companies that actually kept people alive and made it possible for them to live longer, more productive lives. And there was no margin for error. Now, there’s plenty of margin for error.

People kind of wonder why I get so tweaked about things not going perfectly. It’s probably because of my past experience, where everything mattered so intensely. I just got used to working that way.

Nowadays, I can take the pressure off and relax a bit.

Although… that comes with its hazards. Now that I’m not all stressed out, I have the bandwidth to notice how I’m really doing. I’m not running from tyrannosaurus rexes anymore, so I have some time and energy to check in and notice how I’m doing. And in all honesty, it was easier in some ways, when I was stressed.

See, the thing is, all the stress and pressure and discomfort kept me “ON” — engaged, focused, and it kept my mind off the general sense of my life, which was not always that stellar. I didn’t have the time or energy to focus on how I really felt in my own skin, or how my overall system was operating. I had to just focus on putting one foot in front of the other and keeping a fine balance to everything, because I never knew if I was coming or going, there was so much chaos going on inside my head and body all the time, and I couldn’t afford to lose focus… or else.

All that chaos was a bit of a blessing, because it kept my mind off all the confusion, the frustration, the pain, the discomfort… all of it.

Now that things are calming down, I’m noticing the things I didn’t have time to think about before. Like the fact that I’m approaching 50, with a spouse who is basically disabled and is a number of years older than me, and we have no retirement fund. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. We need to make some significant house repairs, and we are just now getting close to being able to pay someone to do the work. I’m working, yes, but I have no disability insurance, and without a safety net, we’re living kind of close to the bone.

We’re getting by, and we do have a pretty sweet life, all in all, and we have a lot to be grateful for, yet there are significant ways we’re at risk, and it’s no fun thinking about “what might happen”.

I’ve been so busy, just keeping it together, that I haven’t dwelled on that very much. I’ve been too busy just keeping myself upright and functional.  I haven’t focused on the pain I’m in, I haven’t had time to deal with headaches, other than getting acupuncture and stretching and not eating a lot of crap. I haven’t had time to focus on the weird sensations in my face, the twitching and jumping. It’s all nerves, most likely, so I just keep going. If it weren’t nerves – if it were something else – I’m not sure I’d have the time and energy and resources to really explore all my options.

Now, though, things feel like they’re closing in on me, because I have time to think about them – and I’m not liking what I’m seeing. Or feeling. It’s depressing.

So, screw all that, I’m going to get myself busy again. On things that I want to be busy on — writing books, getting out in the day to have my walks and explorations, taking care of chores and odd jobs (like getting my cars inspected — I overlooked the fact that they were both due for their stickers, two months ago — just got busy, I guess). And just live my life. Get into my life, see what’s there, and use this fine new day for what it’s worth.

There is so much screwed up in my life right now, so much that feels weird and strange and trying… It’s been that way for a long time, but I’ve been so stressed out, I haven’t had the bandwidth to really address any of it. Now I’ve got the time. Maybe I’ll be able to address some of it. Maybe I’ll just end up keeping busy instead, because trying to hang onto the horns of the bucking bull that is my life, is a losing proposition.

We all have our challenges, we all have sh*t we need to deal with. I’m no exception.

Now I need to learn to handle the good times as well as I’ve learned to handle the bad.

And with that, it’s time for a walk. It’s turning out to be a beautiful day.

 

 

 

Back from vacation, and doing things differently

Rowing through the fifth circle of hell – anger

So, my “vacation” was quite different from expected. My spouse got really sick, so I spent the bulk of the time taking care of them, running errands, and making sure they stayed fed and were headed in the right direction – towards recovery.

I did almost nothing that I had planned. I had thought I’d have time to do some writing, but to be honest, when I was there, I didn’t want to do anything other than just roam around, take long walks, and explore parts of the nearby national park I hadn’t seen in years.

One thing became very, very clear to me, while I was away — I have let myself get too complacent, too lax, too mellow. The net result of my chilling out, has been putting on some pounds and also losing my stamina. Keeping up with everything when my spouse is “holding invalid court” — as a sick person who needs to be waited on like some sort of royalty — is NOT easy work. It’s pretty draining, if I don’t stay on top of things.

So, it was pretty rough. But that’s not because of all the demands. The fact is, I am not in as good shape as I need to be, and all the running and juggling (figuratively speaking) showed me where I need to improve. I used to do all this — and a whole lot more — as a matter of course, each and every day. But over the past number of years, as I’ve focused more on taking care of myself and making sure I didn’t get overrun by the craziness of my employer(s), spouse, and TBI recovery, I’ve lost my edge.

And I need it back.

I’ve gotten way too lax about things, and I’ve “let myself go”, for the sake of just enjoying myself and taking things as they come. But you know what? That’s not me. I am by nature a very “on” person, who needs some “off” time on a regular basis to recharge. I’m not meant to be an “off” person who occasionally “turns on” to kick into gear. I need to stay active and involved in my life — to live my life to the fullest, and really keep my energy high. If I don’t, the feeling seems to backfire, and I end up having a whole lot of energy “double back” on itself… it eats me alive.

So, I need to live. And live fully. Not with panic, not with anxiety, but fully alive.

Just kicking back has become a way of life for me, which is not good at all. I’ve gotten into that habit in part because of my past job that had me commuting so much every day. It’s tough to stay active and engaged, when you start and end your day with an hour’s worth of driving. What a horrible life-suck that was.

All that sitting got me tightened up — my muscles, my fascia, my mind — and I was so full of resentment and anger that I had to continually manage, to keep it from wrecking my life — that I got sucked into a downward spiral that shot me straight into the doldrums, where I languished. Hoping against hope that something would change. Eventually it did, but what a miserable time that was.

It was like renting a room in Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell — Anger — and not being able to get the money together to move out to a better place, and having to make the best of it by getting to know my neighbors, have some barbecues, hang out… you know, make the best of it, all the while wishing to God something would give.

It didn’t give. For three long years. And it really was hell.

Now I’ve been out of that world for three months, and I’m starting to normalize… get my balance back… remember what is important to me. I don’t have to put all my energy into dealing with the emotional flack of a horrible workplace, barely being able to function on the weekends, just spending all my free time languishing like a glorious lump.

I can start putting my energy into the healthy things again. And I can get back to my practice — my martial arts of living.

Over the week when I was balancing work and vacation and my spouse’s illness, it became clear to me that I needed a better way of handling their mental illness. They have suffered from panic/anxiety and depression for almost 20 years, and it has wreaked havoc with their life. All the while, they have been unable to admit that they had a real problem, and that it was hurting them. They have treated it like it was protective for them — living less of a life was keeping them safe from untold dangers. I know where that comes from — their childhood, and also their family story, which is all about unseen threats which must be managed.

Over the years, I have dealt more or less effectively with their mental illness, seeing to various degrees, the depth of their dysfunction. I actually dealt with it pretty well, from the start, even when they were absolutely nuts with anger and rage and fear and a seething cauldron of hyper-fight-flight reactions to everything, including their own shadow. I could keep my own attention trained on my own activities and issues, and I could steer myself (and sometimes them) in a better direction.

Over the years, I’ve had my own issues to deal with, and many of them have been really hard for my spouse to deal with. The old anger, the rigidity in my own mindsets, my outbursts and unpredictability… I was a real piece of work, I can tell you. I’ve been brain-injured a number of times, which made me incredibly difficult to deal with, when I was tired or overwhelmed (which was a lot of the time).

But we had a kind of balance going on, that worked for both of us.

Then I fell in 2004, and everything came to a head. Everything really fell apart, and we were on the verge of breaking apart after 14 years. I didn’t even realize it, at the time. I was really out of it, had no idea what was going on with me.

Anyway, what I realize now is that things have often sucked with us, from day one. But the things that have been good, have been well worth all the suckiness. It’s like the suckfulness didn’t even matter, because the good was more than enough to offset everything. Plus, no marriage is perfect, so was I going to just ditch the love of my life because not everything was idyllic all the time? Nope. I dealt with it.

And now I need to deal with it again. I need to deal with my spouse’s demons, their mental illness, their panic and anxiety and encroaching dementia, with a form of martial art. Keep calm, keep centered, and be ready to deal with the demons that threaten to attack. They are very real demons, and making light of them doesn’t serve me at all. Denying that they exist doesn’t help. And avoiding confronting them is the worst thing I can do.

I need to deal with this. Because try as they might, my spouse has limits, and there are things they just refuse to do for themself that will make things better. They’re trying, yes. They’re really trying. But the demons are always there in the background, with an eye out to get hold of me, too.

They’re greedy demons — panic, anxiety, fear, aggression. They feed on the energy of others, and how they love to feed. They are insatiable, and they will stop at nothing, till they get what they need. I can’t forget that they exist. I’m not saying I have to live in fear. Far from it. I just need to live with awareness, and figure out how to keep my own essence safe and protected, while the demons swirl around, seeking madness.

It can be done. And I’ve been working out, first thing in the morning, for the past four days, strengthening myself and doing exercises to stir up my stagnant “chi” and get good energy flowing in me. It’s helping. And I need to stay with it, not get bored and go do something else, when it all feels too familiar and boring.

Life is waiting. Get strong. Be smart.

Onward.

Resting well

Note the smile on the resting face… :)

I had a pretty good day, yesterday. I got things done that I needed to do, and I got some good exercise. I also had a lot of alone-time, as my spouse was traveling for business.

Today we’re going to the beach, which I am looking forward to. It’s been tough to get out and get to the water, this summer. I’ve been really tired from work, and I’ve had some rough patches, when things seemed to be really falling apart on the inside.

On the outside, everything was cool and happenin’, with my new job and new responsibilities. My interior world was a little different, though. I had a lot of doubt and struggle that I never wanted to give in to. I just kept going and didn’t get bogged down in it. And it didn’t stop me.

At the same time, it was still very difficult, and I’m glad I’m getting to a balanced place, right now.

Rest has become really important to me. I’m realizing how much I need, more and more each day. If I’m not rested, my brain doesn’t work right. And now that I’m not running on pure adrenaline, 24 hours a day, I can feel how worn out I got from that old job.

It just was not a good fit for me, mentally, physically, philosophically. The philosophical aspect is really important, because it’s about my values and what I think of the world. If my workplace is not in alignment with my values, it sets up a huge amount of stress. I’m surprised I stayed as long as I did — but that was really because of the connections I felt with people there.

And the fact that I couldn’t find a decent fit anywhere else.

Now that’s behind me, and I am really shifting my energy sources to real things, instead of pure adrenaline and stress. I don’t need to use stress to dull the pain or give me energy, because I don’t have to friggin’ deal with those crazy people anymore. Geez, where they a piece of work. But that now falls into the category of Not My Problem, so let’s move on.

Moving on… now that I have the time, I can actually get some decent rest at night. I can get 8 hours easily, whenever I want. No 7 a.m. conference calls. No 9 p.m. conference calls. No global drama. No chasing down problems at breakneck speed, only to find a whole slew of other problems waiting in the wings. None of that, thank heavens. I can also spend an hour or so each morning reading and writing and thinking, which is a huge thing for me.

I can’t believe how little time I actually spent thinking, over the years. It’s like my brain wasn’t required on the job. Just show up, do as you’re told, and shut up about it.

Now, I’m “allowed” — even encouraged — to think on the job. And that’s a huge thing, because working with people who are anti-“intellectual” and make a point of never applying their minds to much of anything, gets to be pretty old. This happened in the last few jobs I had. Looking back, I can see how I gravitated towards positions where I actually didn’t have to think much about anything, because my brain wasn’t working all that well. In a way, those mindless jobs really stabilized me and provided an income to help me get back on my feet. They served their purpose, and for that I’m very grateful.

And I’m also grateful I’ve moved on. I’m grateful that I could move on.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful day today, and I have a few hours before we’re heading out for the afternoon. I got my Big Online Chore done last night in no time, which was completely awesome. I had allotted 2 hours to doing it, because that’s how long it always took me before. Sometimes longer. It was a huge chore, because I would have to block off hours of time to do it, and then check it, to make sure everything was uploaded and working properly. But I’ve recently changed internet service providers, and my internet connection is 20x faster than it was before — literally. So, what usually took me 2-3 hours on average, took me 20 minutes. I was done. And I had a couple extra hours.

So, I had some tea, read for a little bit, and went to bed happy.

Which is great.

I have to say, getting used to not being pushed to my physical and mental limits, each and every day, is pretty cool. For years, I’ve pushed myself really, really hard, because it kept me awake and feeling alive. But it turned into a drain that sapped all my energy and turned me into a zombified crazy person. And I didn’t like where I was going. I had a pretty shitty outlook on life — largely because I was so tired and maxed out all the time. Now that I’m not pushing myself like crazy, and I have a good foundation with a decent job that’s close to home (and getting closer in another 6 weeks — woo hoo!), I have the leeway to step back, look around myself, and see what else I have to live for, besides dulling the pain and distracting myself from all my troubles.

And rest has played a big role in this little success story.

Rest, and getting into a job where I’m expected to think for a living.

It’s an adjustment, but I’m sure I’ll manage ;)

Onward.

Good gone bad in a hurry

Bummer… and things were going so well

So, last night I was fixing supper, and I messed something up. My spouse was in the kitchen with me, and they started saying things that sounded critical to me, like they can do better than me. I got really agitated and frustrated, and I had a bit of a blow-up at them. I was really angry over them finding fault with what I was doing and comparing their own performance to mine. It was a double put-down. 1) I screwed up, 2) they can do so much better than me.

It really pissed me off, and I got so angry, and then they went into their usual behavioral “repertoire” of acting like I was a bad person for getting angry and yelling — like I was threatening them and being abusive. Oh Lord, oh Lord, oh Lord… I was upset and trying to express myself, and all they could do was make me look like I was the one at fault, and my anger was a threat to them.

I got pretty angry — not over the top, throwing-things angry, but so frustrated and agitated that I almost couldn’t see. And then POP, something in my head felt like it snapped, and I had this sensation of my brain locking up and slowing down to a crawl. It was like someone cracked open a smelling salts capsule — but it had the exact opposite effect. I instantly felt dull and numb, with my face numb and tingling, and my hands tingling. I could physically feel it in my head. I turned into an instant idiot — it was hard for me to understand what was being said, and I couldn’t put words together. My head felt like it had filled up with cotton, and I was suddenly so dull.

I didn’t think it was a stroke, because I haven’t been impaired on one side of my body or the other — and I stuck out my tongue to see if it bent from one side or the other, and it didn’t.

Then again, according to the National Stroke Association, here are the signs of stroke:

Stroke symptoms include:
  • SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body.
  • SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.

So, maybe it was one. I don’t know. One side of my body wasn’t weaker than the other, which is what I usually associate with stroke. I have a meeting with my neuropsych this afternoon, so I’ll check with them. I’m hesitant, because I don’t want trouble from all this. Plus, it has happened to me before — about 3 weeks ago after a meeting when I got really upset with the behavior of some of the folks in the meeting. It was very similar to that time — I felt something “pop” in my head, and I turned into an instant idiot — couldn’t put words together, had trouble speaking, felt slow, and had a low-grade headache.

This time I didn’t get nearly as angry. But the feeling was the same, and now I’m dense and dull and I’m having trouble putting words together. Three weeks ago, it passed. And it didn’t seem like a big enough deal to investigate. It was not much worse than other “episodes” I’ve had in the past, and when I tried to investigate them before, nobody seemed to think they were that big of a deal, and I felt like an idiot for even bringing them up.

I know I’m supposed to go to the ER as soon as I suspect I’m having a stroke, but how would that work, exactly? I can’t miss work, because then I don’t get paid. And my mortgage won’t wait. I’m the only one who’s supporting my household, and if I’m out of work, we’re all pretty much screwed.

I started to get a headache after a while, last night, and I took some Advil, but it didn’t really help. I still have that headache in the front and top of my head, and also towards the back where I hit my head on Saturday.

Seizure? Stroke? Whatever. I’m sounding a little nonchalant about this, I guess, but my feeling is that this kind of stuff has happened with me so often over the years, it’s just one more thing. And even if I did have a stroke, I know how to fix my brain, and manage my issues, so I’m not all that worried. Hell, even if I do become really hampered by my brain, I know how to live my life in a way that brings me happiness and joy. I know how to bounce back and keep going, so I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing.

I am reminded of a number of things I need to do is stay vigilant about:

  1. Remember that my spouse is actually mentally ill. Their panic/anxiety disorder has wreaked havoc, and it is a genuine mental illness. They seem to believe that their anxiety is keeping them “safe” from whatever dangers may be out there, and the “help” they are getting from friends and their therapist seems to only reinforce their fears and their devotion to their “precautions”. They are so absolutely imprisoned by their fear about every conceivable thing on the planet, that anyone around them has to abide by their brittle rules or bear the brunt of their wrath. They feel safe when everything is going their way, but it’s absolutely smothering and restrictive for anyone who does not share their view.
  2. Underlying all this anxiety is a handful of neurological issues which are screwing with their thought process. It’s not something I can take personally, when they go off on me. I love and adore my spouse and would love to spend more time with them. Still, it’s really hard to be around them. The other thing that makes it all hard, is that I’m just about the only one who can spend any extended time around them — they’ve chased off just about everyone else with their anxious control. And they don’t understand why that is. Explaining won’t make any difference, because to them, their fears all make perfect sense — and it’s neurological. So there’s only so much explaining I can do.
  3. I need to take care of myself and get what I need for myself to stay strong. I was tired, last night, and I pushed myself too hard. I need to back off and take some time to myself, especially when I spend extended periods with my spouse. My spouse and I had gone for a drive earlier, yesterday before my outburst, and they are so anxiety-ridden about just about everything, that it’s very stressful to be around them. It’s like a never-ending drama — over huge dangers and threats which seem like they’re nothing to me. When I do the driving, they constantly boss me and yell at me about how I drive, where I should turn, what I should do. It’s a total friggin’ drain.
  4. I need to keep to a regularly active schedule. I was out of sorts already, last night before my outburst, because I was off my regular schedule. I also did not expend enough energy over the weekend and wear myself out physically. I need that. I need to keep active and tire myself out, so I don’t think too damn’ much.
  5. My spouses’ way of living is not healthy — for them or for anyone. They spend a lot of time sitting around thinking about shit that makes them crazy, and they end up pulling me into their undertow. When I am around them, they use me as a “sounding board” which just sucks me into their downward spiral. This is not good. I need to keep myself up and elevated and healthy and take regular breaks when I spend a lot of time around them.

Truthfully, I actually need to protect myself from the one person I love with all my heart. It’s kind of tough, but there it is. If I can think of it as protecting myself from the demons that are eating them alive, that’s a better way to look at it. But it’s still very painful to watch them on that downward spiral, and be helpless to do anything about it.

Having extra days off can be good, but they can be be bad, too.

I just have to keep all this in mind and take the best care of myself that I can.

My head hurts. I’m foggy and dull… and a little bit afraid of bringing up the episode last night with my neuropsych. I’m afraid of what might happen if they tell me to go to the hospital and get checked out. But at the same time, if I don’t get the help I need, then what?

On the bright side, I’ve got almost four months’ worth of pay stashed in the bank, so if I do have to take some time off, I can. My mortgage is taken care of for the next month, and I’ve got enough to at least keep going, if I need to take some time.

Ideally, it won’t come to that. But when I think it through, the fact is, I can afford to take a week (even a month) off work, if I have to. I could even go to part-time for the short term, and we’d be okay for at least three or four months.

Anyway, speaking of work, I’ve got to get going. My fingers aren’t typing very well, and I’m fortunate to work with folks who have never seen me at my peak, so they have no idea just how impaired I am, right now. I’ll just get through the day, talk to my neuropsych, and try to keep as clear as possible, so I can make the right decisions and do the right things.

Main thing is to keep chilled out and cool. I’m really bummed out that I couldn’t even make it through a weekend with my spouse without yelling and getting upset. We were doing so well… that is, I was doing so well. They were doing really shitty. But all I can control is myself. So, I have to take care of what I can control — myself — as much as humanly possible.

Screw it. Onward.