How may I dismiss you? Let me count the ways…

blah-faceI read something really bothersome this morning – so bothersome, it’s tweaked my last raw nerve and put me in a mood.

It’s an article entitled “Top Ten Psychosomatic Symptoms” and apparently, it takes ~1 minute to read.

That should have been the first red flag. Nothing good can come of a diagnosis “aid” that takes 60 seconds to read.

Lo and behold, here are the top 10 symptoms created by your mind when the brain “attempt[s] to throw a person’s consciousness off guard by inducing physical changes in the body, in order to prevent the person from consciously experiencing difficult emotions, such as rage, sadness, and emotional distress.”

Oy. Here we go… all the ways that we’re not actually suffering from a real illness. The following may be all in your head:

  1. Chronic Pain Syndrome – not real pain… you just don’t want to deal with your emotions
  2. Fibromyalgia – odd… I thought it was settled, that it’s a real thing.
  3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – because repetitive stress injuries… nah, not really a thing.
  4. Gastrointestinal syndromes – maybe you should just try to relax
  5. Migraine headaches – apparently, the top-trending medical issue on Twitter is a chimera
  6. Frequent need for urination – because yer innards would never shift south and put pressure on your bladder, now would they?
  7. Tinnitus and Vertigo – okay… clearly the person writing this has never dealt with this crap on a daily basis… for years. I invite them to walk a mile in my shoes.
  8. Allergic phenomena – ’cause, like, our world is completely hypoallergenic. Not.
  9. Skin rashes (Eczema, hives, acne, etc.) – okay, possibly…
  10. Eating disorders – it’s been a long time since I read a more gross oversimplification

So, that’s the Hall of Shame for today, folks.

Be glad you don’t have the author for your therapist.

I sure am.

The things we do to our heads – and our lives

losing-the-raceI pretty much took the weekend off. I had been planning to make some progress on one of my projects, but it turned out to be a better use of time to just relax — and let my mind go where it will.

All week long, I have to keep myself on point. And that gets old. By Saturday morning, I know better than to continue with the compulsiveness of the past five days.

Funny how, on Fridays, I am always so convinced that the weekend is going to be filled with productivity… as soon as I get away from the time suck of my day job. But in fact, there are two things that play into that internal dynamic, which both send the wrong signals.

First, I am tired. And when I am tired, my mind gets rigid. I get locked into very narrow ways of thinking, and I lose sight of anything else.

Second, by Friday, I have forgotten what freedom feels like. My routine has taken over and is propelling me forward. I’m no longer thinking clearly. I’m no longer bothering to think, period. Rote repetition has taken over — it kicks in around Wednesday night — and it feels like salvation to me, because my brain is no longer working the way I want it to.

The last two days of each week find me “in a groove”, which is to say, I’ve abandoned creative, inventive thought, and I’m just chugging and plugging along in my rut. Something tells me that I’m quite happy there, but if truth be told, I’m exhausted and I have since stopped really processing much of anything. My reaction times are slowed. And I’m not thinking clearly enough to realize just how big of a hit it’s taking.

I’m also so low on energy, that I’m not paying attention to how this is making me feel. It’s incredibly upsetting to me, that my processing speed is slower than I’d like it to be. It’s noticeably slower than it used to feel, and it’s so frustrating to be forever two split-second “beats” behind everyone else. It’s like I’m that kid running behind the rest of the gang, calling, “Hey! Wait for me!”

And it’s crushing. Because it never felt like this before.

Though, when I think about it, it never felt like this before I started my neuropsych rehab, because I never really engaged with others directly, like I do now. It could be that I’ve been out of synch with everyone and everything for most of my TBI-riddled life, but it only really started to have an impact when I started engaging with the rest of the world. For so, so long, I kept to myself and simply played along. I chose friends and partners who were really good at interacting with the outside world — extroverts extraordinaire — who could do the social work for both of us.

But  now that I’m getting better about engaging with the rest of the world, it feels terrible. Because I really sense just how out of synch I am. Conversations are tough. They take a lot of work. I can do it, but it’s work. And since I’m involved with people every day of the workweek, by Friday, I am Wiped Out. Full stop.

Which makes my Friday plans to be ultra-productive over the weekend quite amusing.

But that’s not what I started out wanting to write about, today.

It’s Monday. Supposedly we’re going to get an announcement about layoffs in our division this week. I’m told that in the past, if people were getting laid off on Friday, they were told on Monday. So, if that is happening again, there will be some very unhappy people at work today.

I really don’t know where I fit in all of this. I know that I’m much more technical than anyone in my group (my boss told me so on Friday, as though feeding me a little spoonful of hope), and I have a wide variety of skills that make me versatile and easy to plug into different situations. I’m resilient and resourceful, and I get the job done.

But that might not mean anything.

You just never know.

The thing is, my head has been going crazy, coming up with all sorts of different scenarios. I’ve updated my resume and my LinkedIn status is current. I’ve been going through all the different scenarios in my head, figuring out what I’ll do, so I’m prepared.  And I really do feel prepared. The thing is, nobody knows how things will shake out, just yet, and like most people, my thinking can be very “creative” in the face of uncertainty.

It’s easy to make myself crazy. It’s easy to feel nuts, when there’s not enough information. And it’s so, so easy to fill in the blanks with past experiences, when the present situation is really nothing like the past.

It’s all part of our minds work, of course. We desperately need to feel we can predict things. Predictions make us feel secure, like we know what’s going on — when in fact, we know nothing of the kind. Astrology makes us feel more confident. Expert opinions and pontifications make us feel like we’re “in the know”. Basically, anybody who offers us a plausible prediction for what will be, is our friend. Even if those predictions are dire and wretched, they still make us feel safer — perhaps even safer than people who predict good things.

And when others don’t provide predictions and indicators, we make up our own. We’re really, really good at that. We’re experts at making ourselves mentally ill about it, too.

So, all these mental gymnastics have been keeping me busy for the past four days. Which gets tiring.

But at least I got rest over the weekend, which did wonders for my head. Just taking time out, getting things off my plate, finishing up chores early, so I wasn’t rushed late in the day, yesterday… an napping. Sleeping.Getting some rest. That’s exactly what I needed.

Not more productivity.

Oh, God — not more productivity.

Onward.

Annnnddd we’re back

laugh-at-confusionToday I am up early. I woke up early, and despite needing to rest, I could not get back to sleep. So, I got up. And here I am. Thinking about Thanksgiving and the lessons I’ve learned from the whole experience. It’s just experience, after all.

Thankfully, the mechanic came through, yesterday. Woot. They finished up the repairs to the disabled van yesterday afternoon, and now we’re good to go for the return trip home. I don’t have to renegotiate my vacation plans with work. I don’t have to explain an unfortunate adventure to my parents, and shift the times when we were planning to see aging relatives. I don’t have to calm down my spouse over every little thing that comes along. They can relax, now.

Well, supposedly. On this trip, they have been on edge for much of the time. Their cognitive impairment and behavioral problems are really standing out, their anxiety really running the show.They’ve yelled and cried and harangued and exaggerated and done a very poor imitation of someone who is 100% functional.

And their side of the family, ironically, are the ones who are having the most trouble dealing with their behavior. My side of the family practically oozes compassion for the needy and marginalized, and my spouse is acting very much “out of bounds” of respectable behavior. With my parents, my spouse’s difference are not as pronounced and extreme. But at my in-laws’ place, their behavioral issues really stand out. And it frustrates and angers them.

I don’t think my spouse’s family realize that there’s some cognitive impairment going on, and I’m not comfortable telling them, because they just don’t handle that stuff well. They’re very mainstream — different from my parents — and they don’t have a lot of diversity where they live. People who are cognitively impaired are “retarded”… or deserving of pity, rather than respect. There’s a lot of superstition here around the brain, which just makes things harder. Plus, they have very aggressive, mainstream ways of dealing with things — basically, take a pill, have a drink, follow along with what everyone else is doing, and don’t question too closely how things are done. If a pill or a drink won’t fix things, they sometimes believe a gun will. And they don’t have a lot of patience for all the gray areas that surround brain injury and cognitive impairment. Plus, they do not know anything about my spouse’s cognitive issues. We’ve never told them, and I doubt I ever will. Unless I have to. They just aren’t much help, when it comes to that stuff.

Maybe they would be, if I told them and they learned, but I just don’t have the patience or the fortitude to manage their adjustment along with everything else.

So, it’s a multi-source challenge, coming here. First, I have to deal with  my spouse. And then I have to deal with  my in-laws. And I have also had to deal with the broken-down van, negotiating social situations where I cannot understand what people are saying to me — because of their accent, and also their pacing. I’m not hearing clearly. And I’m tired. I’m slowed down, and it makes me nuts.

All the while… I do my best to keep calm. I hold firm and don’t let my head run away with me. It’s not easy. And it’s not verbal. When I’m pressed to use words, everything gets scrambled up, and I get angry. Enraged in passing moments. Because when everything is hitting the fan, and I’m pressed to verbalize, the solutions I can see in my head start to dissolve. And I lose my way.

I hate losing my way. Especially when things are tough.

But of course… It could have been worse.

The van repairs could have cost me three times as much — essentially draining my bank account.

The work could have take three days, instead of the better part of one day.

The one repair could have created even more problems that rendered the vehicle undriveable.

And all the while, my spouse could have had a nervous breakdown, as they have done several times in the past, while visiting this area, so full of unresolved issues, so full of pain and excruciating family memories.

But none of that happened. And now I don’t have to carry that with me, anymore.

Of course, the residue is still there. I am tired out, worn out, wrung out. I’ve been tired ever since the start of this trip… but I’m not sleeping well. Oh, the pain. Holy crap – if I don’t move regularly throughout the days, I am in so much pain. And people here don’t move. They sit in front of televisions. They sit in their cars. They sit in front of computers. They don’t move around, except to move from one seat to another. And my left hip and back are killing me. Plus, the mattress… Good lord.

I’m dizzy and slowed down, with a reaction time about half of what it usually is. I’m not hearing very well, but I am extremely sensitive to noise. It’s like I’m walking around in a bubble of static, floating 6 inches above the earth in a jittery envelope of electro-charged plasma. Light sensitivity is less of a problem for me, right now, but the whole spoken word thing is a real challenge. And when I stop talking, everybody gets nervous. Because that’s how they allay their fears — by talking. And I’m not doing that.

Also, when I get quiet, they seem to think I’m going to blow up. Because in this family, the signal that someone is going to fly off the handle, is when they get very, very quiet and don’t say more than a few words at a time.

I’ll get some relief today when we drive back to my family, but that’s not much solace. My side of the family are the polar opposite of this family here — in constant motion, constantly thinking, constantly interacting, no television, just a lot of heady talk. Most of it about God.

Oh, great pain and suffering… great wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Then again… Ha. I just have to laugh. It’s kind of ridiculous, this whole thing, and what I really need is to keep my sense of humor about me…. And get myself out of my foggy head.

Good Lord. Everything gets so heavy, here. And when we leave, I’m sure the tongues will wag about all the things that are wrong with both me and my spouse. It’s recreational, the fault-finding and judgment. It makes people feel better about themselves and their lives. So, in that respect, it serves a purpose. For them, anyway.

It really has nothing to do with me. My life will go on, regardless of what others think and say. They’ve been talking about me — and my spouse — and both of us together — for as long as we’ve been together, and that has never kept me from living my life. Not one bit

Am I rambling? I feel as though I am. The sun is rising over the mountains to the east, and I’m completely out of it. But life goes on. I know to be careful. I know to take my time. I haven’t felt this bad in a long time, so that’s something to be grateful for.

There’s a lot to be grateful for. And in the end, it’s really just a matter of where you put your attention — on the good, or on the bad. Bad will always happen. It can’t help BUT happen. If nothing else, I’ve got a hell of a story to tell.

Onward.

Covering my tracks

This really is a turning-point time for me.

I’m in the process of cleaning out nearly 50 databases for websites I created over the past 15 years.

This is not a small thing. It’s saying good-bye to a lot of labors of love (well, farewell, really, because I’m getting backups of them all before I delete them).

It’s a little nerve-wracking. But it’s high time I did this. I have been building websites as a way to keep myself occupied and technically sharp, for many years, but I’m at the point now in my work and profession, where the stuff I’ve been doing is really old news.

I really belong out in front. Not following along, using what other people have built for mass consumption, and getting stuck with managing the fruits of their misinformed labors.

I don’t want to be mean-spirited. I’m just kind of sick and tired of mass-consumption “content creation tools” that were not properly designed, to begin with.

I’m kind of “over” mass-consumption anything. Maybe I’m just getting older, losing patience, getting a little slow on the uptake, but it seems to me that I’ve never actually been all that comfortable in the mainstream, flowing along with everyone else.

I need to be true to myself and get back to the frontier — where I belong.

It’s funny. Once upon a time, I was out in front — building websites before most people even had email. Then I got a good job doing that, and I got pigeonholed by the corporate overlords who wanted to keep me in my place. I never quite got used to being in that place, and I moved around a lot in that good job I had — taking on different responsibilities and challenges.

Then I fell. I got hurt. My head wasn’t working properly. I couldn’t see my way forward, and I spun around in circles a lot. A whole lot. In fact, all these websites that I’m taking down are really a symptom of my malaise and frustration and lack of direction, over the past 12 years — and even a few years prior to that.

I’m past it, now. And taking down all these sites and starting fresh — with only the ones I want to keep, moving forward — is a definitive step towards cleaning up my past.

And making way for my future.

Onward.

They say it’s the brain, but it’s also the body

It's ALL connected
It’s ALL connected

TBI can seriously mess you up in the head. That’s a given.

But it can also seriously mess with your physiology.

In fact, out of all the problems I’ve had over the years, the physical issues I’ve had have far outweighed the cognitive ones – if anything, they contributed to my cognitive and behavioral issues.

  • Fatigue – bone-crushing, spirit-sapping exhaustion;
  • Problems keeping my balance, which messed with my moods.
  • Heart rate increase – or decrease, as well as blood pressure changes.
  • Light and noise sensitivity.
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Sensitivity to touch, which really messed with my head, as well. Imagine never being able to have human contact… it’s not much fun.
  • Constant adrenaline rush that wired me out, something fierce.

When your brain gets injured, it can affect your whole body. Because as we know, the brain is mission control for the rest of the works below the neck.

 

why is my brain injury causing me to not understand what people say on tv

Somebody found their way to this blog by searching for this, the other day.

I think that problems sequencing — getting things in order — can cause you to not understand what others are saying. The words get turned around, and they can sound jumbled up.

Also, being distractable can cause you to miss parts of what people are saying.

I don’t know if there’s one exact specific cause for this, but I can relate. Years ago, I was in an automobile accident that shook me up pretty badly — mostly physically. I got t-boned on the driver’s side by a traveling salesman who was late for an appointment. For days after that, I could not understand what people were saying to me. It really threw me off. All of a sudden, I couldn’t understand what people were saying to me. At all.

So, I quit the job I was at and decided to make a career of drinking. That didn’t sit right with my spouse at the time (we parted ways over 25 years ago). But it was fine with me.

Other times I’ve had trouble understanding people after other accidents, and I suspect that some of the times that my parents got the angriest at me, when I was a kid, was when I was actually struggling to understand what people were saying to me, but I was coming across as contrary and disobedient.

It really sucks, being punished for something you cannot control. Something that’s not your fault.

But it happens all the time.

Anyway, it’s been a long week. It’s time to relax and get ready for a long night’s sleep.

Good night.

Yeah, I’m definitely better

NOW it makes sense to me. That’s a relief.

I just got done with recalculating my taxes for a couple of past years. I had tried to do it last year but process had me completely confused and intimidated, that I first messed it up pretty badly, and then I avoided it… and missed out on recouping thousands of dollars that were rightfully mine.

This is not so difficult, after all. And compared to how confused I got before, trying to organize my thoughts around it, the process this time was much more straightforward.

It’s been over a year, since I last tried to do this. I must be getting better, because this time I was able to do it with very little angst, anguish, and confusion.

Yes, there is progress.

I don’t even care about the missing thousands of dollars. This obvious progress is worth far more than that to me. And I’ll make up the difference in the coming years. I’m determined to do it.

Onward.

Calling the insurance company

Not looking forward to this. I am very tired, and my speech is slurred, my face is numb and twitching, I’ve been sleeping on my arms wrong, and the fingers on both hands are stiff with pins and needles, and I’m having difficulty putting ideas together coherently.

I’ll give it a try and go ahead and make the call. I tend to get better, once I get warmed up, anyway. I’ve got my notebook where I’ll keep my notes and keep everything organized. I have some slips of paper I wrote notes on, and I’ll transfer them to my notebook, so I keep organized. I’m really out of it and disoriented. Things always get worse in the days after. When you’re in the thick of things, everything is a blur. Later, when things calm down, is when the extended problems start.

Fortunately, I got some great tips from someone I met yesterday who told me to go to www.nada.com and get the “Clean Retail” value of my car, then call the insurance company and definitely do not settle for their offer, if they total the vehicle. They told me about different tricks the insurance company tries, like telling me they’ll pick up the vehicle and taking it to their lot, and then just sitting on it, while I wait for my settlement. I also need to find out if I have rental coverage.

I’m not sure how this will turn out. I don’t know if the car is worth saving, or if we should just get a new(er) one. I really don’t know. I don’t have enough information yet.

The airbags went off, so apparently insurance companies tend to total vehicles when that happened. Also, when I went to the tow yard and cleaned it out, there were pieces of interior that were twisted and bent, that shouldn’t have been, so that looks to me like frame damage. If you hit the front of your vehicle, and one side of the back bumper is pushed out and back, I’m guessing there’s more going on than front-end damage.

Anyway, I have a huge day ahead of me. I have some critical meetings happening, and I also need to make some important calls. It’s not a small thing, this day, and I’m not really feeling up to it. But I’ll do it anyway, as best I can.

Off I go, to talk to the insurance folks.

Endless headaches … continual symptoms… life goes on

What lies beneath – I live down there

For the past several weeks — on and off — I’ve been pulling together descriptions of what my symptoms are, Headaches, dizziness, nausea, feeling drugged and “doped up”, tremors and twitching in my face and hands… I usually don’t think about these things. I just get on with my life and don’t let them stop me.  Now that I’m putting them all down on paper to discuss with the new neuro, as well as review with my neuropsych.

You know, it’s funny… all this time, I’ve been really actively involved in my own recovery from TBI, and my neuropsych has had a very big positive influence on me, but not in ways that they probably intended. I think they’ve been thinking they’re helping me develop better skills and approaches — and they have.

But the real way they’ve helped, has been just being there reliably for me each week, to turn to and discuss matters of importance to me. Just being able to talk about my life to another person who can get it, is hugely helpful.

The only thing is, now I’m going down this path of digging into all these symptoms and complaints, and it feels very foreign to me. I spend so much of my time looking past the problems, disregarding the issues, coming up with ways to not have to deal with them explicitly – just work around them or do a variety of things to relieve them – that now I’m feeling the burn pretty intensely.

All the things I don’t talk about with others — because A) they can’t believe that it’s true, and B) they get all freaked out that I feel the way I do — is getting put down on paper. And it’s a trip.

God, I have a headache. And I’m sick to my stomach. Migraine? Who knows? And who cares?

There’s no sense in getting all depressed and upset about it. I can’t always do anything about the headaches — they don’t always respond to Advil, and the rest of the supposed “headache medicines” are like sugar pills to me. I’m much better off, just finding something I can focus my full attention on, and sticking with that.

Like my writing projects. Like the books I’m writing. Like the variety of things I have to occupy my attention. Fun things. A heck of a lot more fun than thinking about my headaches.

Anyway, life goes on, regardless. Or it doesn’t. Who knows how long any of us has, and why not make the most of it, while we can? I have my ways of dealing with headache that may even be more effective than medication. If you can’t feel the pain, you don’t have pain. So, if I can keep my focus on something that really captures my imagination and lifts my spirits, why not do that… instead of fretting about the headaches that never go away?

So long as it’s not something that’s life-threatening, why let it wreck my days? There is so much to do, so much to see, so much to experience… why let headaches stop me, when I know how to stop them?

Onward.

Stopping. Just stopping.

Sometimes you gotta hit the button

The holiday season is upon us. All the pressure to BUY-BUY-BUY and run around doing what everyone else is doing, is at an all-time high.

I feel unusually immune to it, this year. Nothing much has changed outside of me — the commercials on t.v. are all the same, the urgency is the same as in other years, and everyone is as busy as ever for this time of year. The world is the same as it ever was, things are just as messed up, we’re getting just as much news about how sh*tty the world is, along with a lot of pleas for financial help (that — just to be clear — is tax-deductible), and pressure to use the last weeks of the year to make up for the last 11-1/2 months of general negligence.

But while everyone else is running around like a chicken with their head cut off, I’m not. I feel pretty calm, actually, and I’m not running around to all the latest sales, spending hours online looking for presents, and going from party to party.

Even if I wanted to, I can’t run around and buy-buy-buy. I don’t have the money, which is kind of a relief. I’ve got to improvise. Come up with other ideas. And I will. I received a book in the mail that looks like something my mother would enjoy. And I’ve got some other ideas for things I can get for other family members for very low cost. I’m not worrying about it. I know how to handle things. And I am. Just handling them.

I also think it has a lot to do with the everyday pressure being off me, thanks to my short commute. I now have the time to get up in the morning and do what I please for an hour or so, before I start doing what the rest of the world wants me to do. I can move about, run errands at lunchtime, come and go as I please, and still get all my hours in at work. I can live my life without having to plan and think through everything I do in detail. And since I’m not a permanent, full-time employee, I don’t have to be existentially affected by changes at work and what they mean for my future.

I can just get on with my daily life and not worry about things like that. I’ll be updating my resume over the next few days, just to log the different thing I’ve accomplished at work, and make sure my resume is current and in good shape. And I’ll be taking time to just relax and enjoy myself.

Having a long commute, along with a demanding job, is a killer for me. I realize that now. I’ve had to work so hard for so long, to get where I am, but now I’m finally at a place where I’m comfortable with myself, professionally and personally. I realize that I’ve been in a good place for some time, now, but for the past number of years, I’ve been really on edge and nervous about where I am and how I’m doing.

Part of that nervousness was due to all the debt I was carrying and the pressures of just paying bills on time. I wiped out my debt over the past four years, so that pressure is off.

Another problem was that I was in a line of work that pays really well, but is inherently tension-producing, high-pressure, and precarious. Just the nature of the work — which is all about keeping current with the latest technology developments — was personally and professionally pressurizing. I got out of that side of the industry, turned my focus to people management, and now I’m in much better shape, overall.

And of course there’s the commute. I keep mentioning it, but it was such a huge factor in my life, I can’t even begin to say. Other people just take it for granted — and in fact so did I, for the last 25 years. But now that I don’t have to travel 45 minutes to an hour (or two) each way, every day, my life has literally turned around. I can rest. And even when I don’t get a full night’s sleep, it doesn’t wreck me like it used to. Long commutes used to seriously mess with my head.

No more. No more to all of the above.

The wild thing is, so much of what was making me miserable, I just took for granted. I figured that was how things were supposed to be. That’s what I knew, and that’s how I figured things were supposed to be. It wasn’t until I was pushed to my utmost limit, that I changed things up. Lots of suffering, lots of years of pain. Lots of change — needed change.

Ultimately, I’ve come out on the other end feeling strong and clear. It’s just such a huge difference. Even when my head is fuzzy and foggy, like today, my ears are ringing, my body is wracked with pain, I’m off balance, my thoughts are jumping all over the place like little jumping beans, and every little sound and light hurts me, I still feel strong and clear. And I know I can adapt and deal with the things that are getting in my way.

I’ve got a lot to do this weekend, but before I do, I’m stopping — just stopping — to take a breath, to get myself in a good frame of mind, and get clear on what needs to happen, before I charge forward into the fray. I’ve got my list — I wrote it out last night, while I was waiting for supper to warm up — and I’ll organize it for the best and most sensible direction to take, so I don’t waste time, and I can really focus on what I’m doing.

And I may even get a nap in there, somewhere.

This is good. This is very good.

Onward.