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?

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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.

Ah, the brain fog…

Ooof – I am so fogged over, it’s not even funny. Kind of like the weather this morning.

It’s Monday morning, I’m on the next-to-last day of my week’s vacation, and I am really ready to get back to normal. I have done a ton of traveling across multiple states, driving as long as 8 hours (taking occasional breaks, of course), and trying to spend as much time as possible with the family I didn’t get to see over the past holidays, when I was sick as a dog and felt like I was dying.

The net result of it all has been way too little sleep (I think I got about 4-5 hours last night), and more demands on my system than usual. Pain. Pain and suffering. I’ve been sleeping in beds that are too soft for me, and my body just aches. My head is so foggy, I feel like I’m only half here, and I’m dizzy on top of it.

Yes, I know better than to push myself, but I’ve been doing the best I can under the circumstances. I’ve been napping when I can, and resting whenever possible. Sleeping in the car while someone else drives. Stepping away to just catch my breath and chill.

I joked before leaving on this vacation that the best thing about going, will be coming back, and it’s partly true. My daily schedule is completely whacked. The foods I usually eat are out the window. The sleep-wake schedule is, well, not much of schedule to speak of. And all the while, there’s the energy that comes from being with family again after so long, all of us feeling like we have to make up for lost time, which we do.

One family member almost died a few months back. Another one may be dying soon. Others are going through all sorts of changes — jobs and family and legal matters and finances… The whole modern American experience, to be sure.

Overall, even though I’ve felt like old meat on a cold slab for most of this trip, I’m still having a good time. It’s good to see everyone. I haven’t lost it. I haven’t melted down. I’ve been pretty chill, overall, with one or two minor exceptions. I’ve kept my act together on the outside, even as on the inside I’ve been crumbling to bits. So, that’s something.

I’ll just be so glad to get back to regular, everyday life, and resume my routine. And eat my favorite foods — that are really good for me, too. And sleep in my own danged bed. And work around my own danged house.

Dang, I can’t wait to go home.

But for now, I’m here. With family. Getting ready to hit the road again to see another set of folks before the long trek back tomorrow. It’s been a good trip — a long and arduous one, but good.

Onward.