Watching within

“You’re feeling sleepy…” No, I’m NOT!

So, this year is off to a roaring start. I’ve already had a few situations of hurting people’s feelings — that escalated from people being super-sensitive to something I said, or how I behaved.

I will admit, I have come on very strong at times, and I have had a little “scorched earth” action, where I felt like I was either being threatened or disrespected.

Yeah, I’m not much for being threatened OR disrespected, and I will react if it seems like that’s happening. I have to watch myself, though, because that can cost me — in damaging existing relationships or nipping new ones in the bud before they get a footing.

The thing is, I need to make sure I don’t over-react, which I can certainly do. Especially if I’m not paying attention to what’s going on inside my head and veins and autonomic nervous system, I can quickly switch into survival mode over some interpretation. In some cases, I need to be in survival mode, but I don’t need to completely scorch the people who I perceive as a threat, like Smaug laying waste to so many Middle Earth towns.

Yeah, gotta watch that. Particularly when I am tired and stretched.

I had a couple of tricky situations this past week, during the conference. Even before I left the airport, I had sent an email to a colleague who is also a good friend, which really hurt their feelings. I was reacting to them running their mouth and getting me in trouble because they don’t know how to be discrete about sharing information with upper management before it’s been fully analyzed. They let a few little factoids slip, and the uber-uber-boss got wind of it and proceeded to tear my boss a new one, over what was really nothing.

Geeze. And this after I’d specifically told this person to NOT share information with the uber-uber-boss. God help us.

Anyway, the email I sent was terse, abrupt, and pretty harsh. The situation called for it — something had to be done to keep them from continuing to run their mouth. But then they got all worked up over it and pitched a little hurt-feelings hissy fit, and then it blew back on me and I had to spend days patching things up. If they’d been able to keep their mouth shut, this never would have happened. But the individual who “over-shared” has impulse control problems. They always have. They get carried away and say and do things that make them extremely difficult to deal with. I don’t doubt for a minute that it’s due to them having sustained a severe brain injury when they were younger — they got thrown from a motorcycle and landed on their face and spent the next week in a coma, then had to learn to do everything — walk, talk, function — over the course of several years.

When they get tired and out of sorts, all the standard TBI stuff comes up — impulsiveness, outbursts, emotionality, aggressiveness, confusion, disorganization… and last week, when I sent that email, they were coming out of an extremely long week that was a prime recipe for TBI meltdown — for both of us.

Because I was tired, too. And under pressure. And I wasn’t minding my P’s and Q’s, and I let things get out of hand. I wasn’t the bigger person, and I took matters into my own hands, and the result was not pretty. It’s human, it’s to be expected under the circumstances, but I don’t want to do it again anytime soon.

The second experience I had was at the conference, when I met up with some old friends whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. One of them brought their new love interest with them, because they wanted to introduce them to me and my spouse. After an initial contact at the hotel that was pleasant and friendly, I had to run out and take care of some more things, then I came back, and we spent more time all hanging out together.

That’s when things got dicey. The new Love Interest started telling us about themself, and the more I heard, the less I liked. First of all, they had dredlocks, which is a huge flag for me with white people. Something about white people wearing “dreds” pushes a bunch of buttons with me, partly because every white person with dreds I’ve ever known has come from a privileged background and they live their “alternative” lives scamming off other people. This is only my own limited experience, but every white person with dreds has given me attitude about being part of the “system” and selling out for my full-time job and my house and my regular life.

It makes me insane. Partly because I work in the “system” and have a full-time job and house and regular boring life, because it’s the only way I can function under my circumstances. I need routine. I need predictability. I need a full night’s rest, or I cannot function. At All. This isn’t by choice — it’s by necessity. Certainly, I would love to be able to come and go as I please and be all alternative and what-not and “live my dreams” and “embody my passion” however and whenever I like.

But for me, that’s a recipe for disaster. My brain is such that if I don’t have regular routine and predictability and a whole lot of really boring stuff giving structure to my life, I lose it. It’s not pretty. I become extremely difficult to live with — as the Love Interest found out.

So, there I am, hanging out with people I really love and care about, and here’s this dredlocked person making snarky comments about “white people”. As though they’re not white. And they start talking about their past, moving around here and there. Back and forth all over the world. USA – China – South America – Europe – Asia – back to the US – all over. I guess I got a bit jealous, because that’s the kind of life I would rather be living, but circumstances demanded different choices from me. It’s a little rough to move around the world all the time, when your spouse is disabled and ill, they depend on you to survive, and you can’t keep a thought in your memory for longer than 15 minutes.

According to my spouse, I got pretty aggressive with this Love Interest, firing off questions about where they lived and when. Thinking back, it was definitely an Alpha-situation, with me standing over them, like some interrogator, bombarding them with questions. At the time, I was so caught up in learning more – I actually wanted to hear more about what they did, and when. At the time, I didn’t intend to be aggressive. At least, I don’t think so. I was actually really interested in hearing what they had to say. I wanted to hear more.

But it wasn’t perceive that way, and apparently I made everyone in the room very uncomfortable. I was clueless that people were uncomfortable. I was just focused on hearing more, because my life has been so incredibly uniform and established for the past 20 years.

At the same time, though, there were some alarms that were going off in my head — so maybe I was being aggressive.

The first alarm was the dreds. The second alarm was the Love Interest trying to sell my spouse on their services doing “neurolinguistic programming” — a/k/a hypnosis — to solve some of their mobility issues. My spouse has some serious and long-standing mobility problems due to back and leg pain, and many people have told them it’s because of some emotional block or unresolved issues. Personally, I think it has more to do with them just not moving enough and not strengthening the right muscles to support their frame. They also need to lose about 30 pounds. Most healthcare professionals we talk to, feel exactly the same way. But lo and behold, here’s yet another “alternative healthcare practictioner” trying to sell my spouse on mind control techniques to solve their physical problems.

Of course, it couldn’t be done in just one session. But after an “intake interview” they could continue to work over the phone at any distance. The rate was $100/hour.  No insurance coverage available.

So, yeah, here’s this individual who’s living on the margins, pretending to be something they are not, just flitting around doing as they please, subtly slamming people like me, and they’re trying to hard-sell my spouse into signing up for hypnosis, which of course I will be paying for out-of-pocket, if it ever happens. On top of it, they’re talking to my spouse about working together to create some sort of alternative event, and I’m getting a sickly deja-vu in the pit of my stomach about all the other marginal folks my spouse has tried to work with who started out seeming so alternative and progressive, and just turned out to be nutso, flighty, opportunistic users who thought they could take advantage of the “rich” people with the salaried job, the house, and the two cars in the garage.

Come to think, of it, I’m surprised I was as polite as I was, that night. If I had really been aware of how I was feeling at that time, I probably would have 86’ed them, or called it an early night.

But like I said, I was pretty clueless about just how threatened and aggravated and antagonistic I was feeling. I was in the “zone” — or so I thought. And my memories of the evening were totally different from how my spouse describe them to me later.

Anyway, the rest of that evening went slowly downhill. I was actually feeling pretty strong, that night, and I had a good time catching up with my old friends. But the Love Interest became increasingly withdrawn as the evening went on. They wouldn’t make eye contact with me, and when we rode back to the hotel, they made sure to sit far away from me. It was weird. I mean, I tried to reach out and talk to them, but they kept their distance. Maybe because I was a representative of “THE MAN”, and/or I wasn’t playing along with their alternative role-playing game.

In the end, they barely said good night to me, and they were obviously glad to get away.

I feel badly about the situation — mostly for my friends, who were obviously fond of the Love Interest. To them, they were wonderful, from what I could tell, and it seemed like they did really care about each other. But my shields went way up – to 110% – with this person around, and I was NOT going to have my spouse snookered into yet another boondoggle that was expensive, time-consuming, far from guaranteed, and happening on the other side of the country.

Yah, not gonna happen on my watch.

Looking back, I realize now that my instincts were pretty accurate. I was “tuned in” to what was going on beneath the surfaced, and I took corrective action without going ballistic. I could have gone ballistic, under the circumstances. The warning signs were written all over the situation. But aside from some pointed questions and uneasiness-provoking directness, I didn’t go all Rambo on the Love Interest. I just made it clear that I was not buying what they were selling, I didn’t just agree with every little thing they said. And I didn’t give a shit if I did piss them off.

My friends were certainly uncomfortable, now that I think about it, and they should be. Because here is someone they ostensibly love and trust, who is probably using them for their own selfish purposes. And I hate seeing that happen to anyone I care about. My friend who is dating them has fallen in with questionable people before, and they are extremely susceptible to users like this. I’ve seen it before, and it appears to be happening again. I think it has to do with some sort of guilt from their parents having money and being community leaders, and them wanting to reach out and help the less fortunate.

In my experience, the “less fortunate” can sometimes get that way because they would rather scam others than take responsibility for their lives. And I hate seeing good-hearted people used by those kinds of scammers. So, to stand by and do/say nothing and act like everything is hunky-dory… that’s not an option for me.

This isn’t a game, folks. This is life. I know that my friends come from money, so they will always have someone to help them, should things go sour for them. They can afford to fritter away their days and years without terrible consequence (like for me and my spouse). Their parents keep them well provided for, even well into adulthood. But can we really afford to squander our lives — our precious, precious lives — on people and experiences that constantly take, and do not give?

There is so much that needs to be done in the world, and it makes me absolutely NUTS to see the talented, gifted, intelligent people in my life frittering it all away on people who take advantage of their good hearts. They fritter it away to rebel… for entertainment’s sake… or because they don’t realize just how precious and rare their talents and gifts and intelligence really are.

What a waste.

Unfortunately, I can’t spare my friends from their poor choices in love mates. But at least, in this case, I didn’t allow the User to “attach” themself to my spouse and come home with us. Yes, people got their feelings hurt, and yes, people were really uncomfortable. But I can sleep better at night, knowing that there is no way in hell that predatory parasitic Love Interest is going to come anywhere near my family again.

They tried to work their NLP hypnosis magic on us, and it didn’t work. I saw through it and took corrective action. I wasn’t consciously aware of the details at the time, while it was happening, but I went with my gut and my instinct, and as it turns out, I was — as they say — Right On, Man… Right On!

Familiar music could help people with brain damage

I learned about this article at the TBI Survivor’s Network

Familiar music could help people with brain damage

Listening to a favourite song might boost the brain’s ability to respond to other stimuli in people with disorders of consciousness.

Music has been shown to have a beneficial influence on cognitive process in healthy people and those who have brain damage. For example, daily music therapy can help to enhance cognitive recovery after a stroke.

Fabien Perrin at the University of Lyon, France, and colleagues recorded brain activity in four patients – two in a coma, one in a minimally conscious state, and one in a vegetative state – while they were read a list of people’s names, including the subject’s own name. The list was preceded either by the subject’s favourite music – chosen by family and friends – or by “musical noise”. One patient listened to The Eagles’ Hotel California, another was played the Blues Brothers’ Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. The team then repeated the experiment with ten healthy volunteers.

In all four patients, playing the music rather than musical noise enhanced the quality of the brain’s subsequent response to their own name, bringing it closer to the brain response of the ten healthy volunteers to hearing their own name, whether or not it was preceded by music or musical noise. The work was presented at the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness meeting in Brighton, UK, last month.

Read the rest here >>


Some of my best friends have had TBIs – but don’t know it

The most interesting things can happen to our brains

A funny thing happened, the other day… I was online, checking in with friends, and one of my old school buddies from college years told me that when they were young, they were in a car accident that messed up their neck. They said they had had a lot of pain throughout their life, and that that pain had given them a greater capacity for compassion and patience for others. They didn’t talk at all about concussion or TBI – for them, the real problem was their neck.

And a funny thing happened, the other month… I was at work, talking to two colleagues about this and that, when they started talking about accidents they’d had when they were younger. Now, keep in mind that I haven’t told anyone in “real life” about my TBIs, aside from a few select folks (who I thought at the time would appreciate my situation – but as it turns out, didn’t want to hear about it), and I’m not one to run around in the offline world, telling people my woes.

Anyway, these two colleagues of mine proceeded to tell me how they had both been in motor vehicle accidents when they were younger. One of them had been thrown from a motorbike when they were 16. They landed on their chin, and they broke “everything that could be broken”. They were in a coma for a week, and they had amnesia for a while and were “retarded” (in their own words) for some time after that. The other had been hit by a truck, was knocked out for a while, and nearly lost their leg.

Pretty wild. I never would have guessed, from interacting with them. All three of them, in fact. Yet, when I look back on my interactions with them over the years, I can see behaviors and patterns that correspond pretty well with TBI.

My friend from college, so they told me, had been reserved and insecure and unsure of themself when they were younger. Meeting me, they actually said they found much more confidence in themself and found that they could follow their own dreams in ways they never thought possible. They even dedicated a performance they did to me, thanking me (in absentia) for having that impact in their life.

I found out about this effect I’d had on them, just a year ago, when we reconnected after many years of going our own ways. It really hit me, when they told me, and I was choked up for days. I’m not a really emotional person, but this was a kind of redemption that I never thought I’d find. It gave me an incredible sense of amazement that they had been influenced this way. Here, I’d thought I was just some dumb galoot who was making a mess of everything at that time in my life — I got into a lot of trouble, and I never finished college — but as it turns out, I actually helped someone just by being who I was.

As for my friend, I remembered them being a real fan of the theater. They performed in a lot of productions in school, and they loved to go to Rocky Horror and go through the esoteric motions of participating in the movie. I could never figure out what the attraction was, but now that I think about it, theater gave them a great outlet to safely explore the human experience according to a script that they could memorize and follow. And Rocky Horror provides a great outlet for those who feel chronically different, who need a way to witness other people being even more bizarre than they feel. I went to Rocky Horror once (not with them), and I left the movie feeling so very… normal. For someone struggling with TBI issues, and confused and afraid on the inside and not fully understanding what is going on with them, the experience is a great leveler — a kind of created reminder that there are many, many different textures to the human experience, which may seem bizarre on the outside, but are just ‘part of it all’.

When I think back on my college friend, I do recall them being a bit tentative. With plenty of reasons for playing it safe. They used to talk about their dad leaving their mom, and how that messed up the family — and them, especially. And I have to wonder if maybe they were interpreting some of their TBI stuff (the emotional upsets, the volatility, the restlessness of the brain that translates into uneasiness with yourself), as psychological. It wouldn’t be the first time someone laid TBI issues at the feet of emotional or psychological upset.

I also have to wonder if the childhood accident they had might have put a strain on the relationship of their parents. I know my own childhood injuries put tremendous strain on my own family. I was a real challenge a lot of times, and my parents had no idea how to handle me, other than disciplining me (which didn’t work). I wonder if things happened after that which caused their father to be less interested in being a husband and father… We’ll never know, but the thought crosses my mind.

As for the other two folks, my colleagues, I can now see definite connections between their behaviors and habits and their past TBIs. Knowing what I know about symptoms, as well as the cognitive behavioral effects that can happen, I can now better understand why they are they way they are.

My colleague who was thrown from the motorbike is a pistol. They’re always on the go, and they are probably one of the least organized persons I’ve ever met. They love to use gadgets to do things – like use their GPS and smartphone to go about their life. But they are incredibly inefficient in just about everything. When they set their GPS to go somewhere, they will only listen to the GPS, even if it’s sending them “around the barn” and making their trip twice as long and twice as complicated as it needs to be. But you can’t argue with them – they’ve got this literal, black and white thinking that seemingly forces them to ONLY do what the gadgets tell them. And then when I point out a different way of doing things, they get really upset and start saying how “retarded” they feel. They say they want to find someone, settle down, and start a family, but they always have at least 2-3 love interests in their life, and they weave this constant web of intrigue, suspicion, seduction, attraction, repulsion — you name it, if it’s on the emotional spectrum, they experience it… x100. They just can’t seem to get off the drama roller coaster, and they will spend hours talking about these situations they’ve gotten themself into — totally by their own doing.

It’s so exasperating, and they can’t seem to get free of their own web.

Colleague #2, the one who was hit by a truck and nearly lost their leg, is a completely different sort of person. They are deliberate and cautious and take their time working through anything and everything. They, too, are something of an extreme case, while their extremes fall on the other end of the spectrum — they are the polar opposite of the person who was thrown from the motorbike, and they are as settled and as domestic, as Colleague #1 is wild and uninhibited.

Between the two of them (they work very closely together on the same team), you can see the varieties of effects that TBI can have on a person. Reckless abandon and emotional variety on one hand. Over-caution and strict control of emotions on the other. They compliment each other very well, actually, and it’s interesting to watch their dynamics.

When I get in the “mix”, it’s interesting, too. I seem to relate to both of them very well, and we work effectively together. It’s wild how, of all the people I work with, these two individuals are the easiest for me to interact with. Or maybe that makes perfect sense. Because we recognize something common between us – I just never knew till recently, what that might be about. I’m not saying that’s the only reason we are sympatico. But I’m not ruling it out.

I’m not sure that any of them have any idea that TBI could be affecting them the way it does, even after all these years. It can, but I’m not sure they are aware. It’s not for me to tell them all about it (unless they would ask, of course), but it’s interesting informatin for me.

As for my college friend, we’ve been emailing back and forth, to see if we can catch up. We live several hours apart, but it’s within easy striking distance. Should be interesting when we actually do cross paths again.

Anyway, I’m feeling a little under the weather today. Time to get some rest… It’s Sunday, and I only have a few things to do today. So, that’s what I’ll do — a few things — and catch up on my rest.

The things we do to heal

I just learned about the movie Marwencol. Check out the trailer video and visit the site. Fascinating.

This kind of reminds me of my own retreat from the rest of the world, over the course of my life. Although my own withdrawal from the world where I got hurt on a regular basis was not nearly as labor intensive as Marwencol, it was in fact my own private Idaho. It was a place where I could pull back and experience my own life on my own terms without danger of being hurt or mistreated or dismissed. I have that place boxed up in tens of journals I’ve kept over the years, and stashed on bookshelves filled with subjects of  “study” that never came to anything.

My own removal from the world started when I was around seven or eight years old. And it stopped 35 years later. I can’t wait to see this movie, Marwencol — I’d like to see how someone else did it. And how it turned out for them.

It makes me wonder how many people are actually walking around with one foot in one world and one foot in the other.

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