Clearing out the gunk

Had a pretty fiery long weekend — and beyond. Several fights – one of them serious. That was Monday night, after the activity of the long weekend. Total meltdown/blow-up.

Felt like crap afterwards. Really awful. Talk of divorce. What else is new? My spouse plays that card, whenever they want to make me believe it’s serious. It is, and I know that. It’s just a brinksmanship thing they do to push me a little more than they already have.

Not that I would mind, some days. Some days, I wouldn’t mind just walking away from all of this — and I mean ALL of it — and starting again. There are a lot of things I would not miss, not least of which are the obligations that I am true to, for the sake of building up relationships with others… relationships which actually don’t do squat for me, because deep down inside I am a profoundly introverted person. And the social “thing” as most people do it, does nothing for me.

It’s not that I don’t need people. I do – but differently than most people I know. My life isn’t just built around a few key relationships with people with whom I’ve cultivated connections. It’s built around having good relationships with everyone I meet. That’s important to me. Because I don’t actually see a difference between all the different people I know. The “close friends” are as important to me as “casual strangers” — because I actually don’t experience people as strangers. They are just everyday people I don’t know very well yet. As for close friends, there is too much of them that I do not know and understand, for me to consider them close friends. I mean, I do see that difference, and I do feel more comfortable talking to some people than others, but my whole social world is very different from the world that I see so many others participating in.

Cliques don’t interest me. Little clubs don’t interest me. I’m not into the “membership thing”. It’s boring to me, and it shows a real lack of imagination, in my opinion. With me, it’s literally a case of all of us being brothers and sisters in one extended family (heaven help us). It’s not some airy-fairy hippie-dippie ideal. That’s literally how I experience the world.

And it is a pretty damned lonely perspective, too. I can’t think of anyone who feels the same way, who doesn’t strike me as an airy-fairy hippie-dippie poseur. They just don’t seem real. And the people who do consider me a close friend with that bond they feel… I dunno… They don’t feel any more close to me than others, most of the time. A lot of them are pretty wrapped up in their personal pain and unfortunate experiences, so they’re not even fully “there” when I’m around them. In any case, their feelings of friendship towards me just barely scratches the surface of what I feel and how I experience the world, so even their closeness is pretty much a faint shadow of what my experience is.

My spouse is the one exception to all of this. They know me better, have been with me longer and closer and more loyally, than anyone else I know, and they are the one person I actually feel a deep bond with. Everyone else in my life just flits in and out, and half the time I don’t really miss them, when they have other things to do. But my spouse has been there, through thick and thin, and they can hold their own with me, when I am at my best. Even when they don’t understand what I’m talking about, when I start going on about technology and science and what-not, they still appreciate that I have that knowledge. And they don’t push me away because of it. We have our issues, that’s for sure, and some days (like today), I can’t say it would kill me if we split up and I bought an old truck and a junkyard dog and headed out to the wide open West to see what life had to offer me there.

But to be honest, I’d probably turn around, 50 miles down the road, go pick them up… and take them with me.

We’ve been talking about doing that for a long time, now, and maybe someday we will.

Anyway, back to my present state of being. We have been under a lot of pressure around money and getting things done, for a number of years, now. It’s been over three years, since we started down the debt repayment, road, wiping out a ton of old debt that was burying us every month, and living so close to the bone for so long has really taken a toll. It’s pretty awful. When I think about how things used to be … it was much easier, when we had money, and both of us were active and really involved in our world.

But now, after years of poor decision making and relationships with troubled people, we find ourselves really stretched. Money issues can tax even the healthiest of relationships, and we’ve had our challenges along the way, in addition to the money situation.

So, it’s taking a toll. And things really flared up this past weekend. It’s the holidays, family are pulling on us, we’re doing the best we can under the circumstances, but nobody seems to understand just how broke we really are. It’s freaky, to be this close to the edge, and have nobody realize it. Of course, we can’t tell people about it, because then a hell of a lot of judgement is going to rain down on our heads, adding insult to injury.

No thanks.

So, we just keep plugging along, by ourselves… And the biochemical stress sludge builds up and up and up… until it boils over, and we both melt down — or one of us goes off, and the other chimes in. Then we really get rolling, and by the time all is said and done, we are both wiped out, feeling like crap, and feeling like we’re back where we started, all those years ago, when things were really, really bad between us.

Things have been getting progressively worse, over the past years — mostly because of money problems and also work issues. The more I am aware of how I want things to be, the more I’m aware that they’re nothing like I want them to be, and it just depresses the sh*t out of me. I used to be able to just work like a mad person and find some relief in that, but it’s not like that for me anymore. Now I’m just so tired all the time, I’m irritable, I get pissed off over every little thing, and I’m nowhere near as easy-going as I used to be, because now I have a much clearer view of my own self-worth, and I’m not willing to put up with just any old thing, for the sake of having peace.

It was like that with me for years. I didn’t make too much about getting yelled at constantly, at getting hounded and treated like crap. I was making decent money, and as long as I had enough to keep myself entertained and do the things I wanted to do, it didn’t matter how I felt about myself. The fact that I was earning a good living was enough.

Now, however, that’s totally different, and in the absence of money, I require a lot more respect and consideration, which my spouse isn’t always ready to give me. Plus, they’ve got severe anxiety issues, they don’t take care of themself physically, and that makes them even harder to live with.

So, things get bad… and then they get worse.

Main thing for me, right now, is just getting past all the biochemical sludge that’s built up over the last long weekend. And making plans for how to spend the next long vacation I have coming up — over a week between Christmas and New Years. I’m going to need to structure this time pretty well, if I’m not going to go off and get freaked out and end up in shouting matches, all the live-long day. Being off work and interacting with someone who lives like they’re on permanent vacation and expect me to do the same, is intensely stressful — especially considering the dire financial circumstances we’re in. It’s just not good, and I’m the only one here who seems interested in doing anything about it.

It’s a problem.

But I do feel like there’s a change coming. I found some errors I made on past tax returns, and I’m refiling, so I may get some money back from the government from that. I’m also collecting all my expenses and numbers from the past year, so I can do my taxes early and get a quick refund in February. That’s my plan. It’s the only one I actually have, right now, aside from some small business ideas I have brewing.

It’s all a process, of course…

The main thing, is to keep going, keep clearing out the junk, not overload my system with a lot of junk food, sugar, cheap carbs, etc. And get enough sleep.

I did that last night, and it feels phenomenal.

So, enough of all this talk of drudgery and sadness.

Onward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making room for more

And so another small chapter draws to a close, and a new one opens. Today I am finally going to start my vacation. The past few days have been pretty difficult for me, being off work notwithstanding. Since Friday night, we have been hosting a friends, in one capacity or another — there’s the friend who showed up on Friday night and has been staying with us at the vacation rental, whipping up drama along the way and generally being underfoot. There’s the other friends who came out for the evening last night and had dinner with us. And then there are the friends who are on the phone, calling and checking in and needing something when we get back next week.

It’s been a rough several days for me, with Saturday through yesterday (Tuesday) not giving me much rest or a break from constant stimulation. And it’s been driving me nuts. I am so exhausted, my spouse doesn’t seem to get how fundamentally fatigued I am — not just today, but in general — and that I need rest and quiet for more than an hour at a time. And for some reason they don’t get the idea of long-term sleep deficit.

How ironic. When they are just a little bit tired from an exciting day, they will sleep for 12 hours and not think about it. But when I’ve been going full tilt boogie for weeks on end, with maybe 5-6 hours of sleep a night, they still expect me to be part of their late-night plans.

Frankly, it makes me want to divorce them. I can’t live the rest of my life exhausted, and I feel like they have just used me up and are ready to throw me away. I was so tired the other morning, after being constantly pushed, and being woken up at 5:30 by them being up and about after staying up all night, I just snapped and flipped out at them in that way that makes them afraid of me, and has them “handling me with kid gloves” for days on end.

I just need a break. From them. From the people. From the distractions. From the social activities that give me no enjoyment, only drag me down and make me feel broken and inept.

I need some solitude. But at the same time, my spouse still needs me to help them do the most basic things, like put on their shoes and eat regular meals, because they either cannot reach their feet from back pain, or they cannot be bothered to keep on a regular schedule.

I don’t know. I don’t want to sit around bitching about situations that I have helped to create. I’ll have to find a way to work with this, if I want this marriage to work. For the most part, it does, but there are some things that are so critical as to be non-negotiable. At least, they should be. Like getting adequate sleep and recovery time.

The real problem is not with my spouse, however. The real problem is with me – not being clear about what I need to do and have to take care of myself, and not speaking up for myself. It just depresses the hell out of me when I have to fight for something as basic as a good night’s sleep. It seems like the sort of thing that should be self-evident and go without saying. That, and routine.

But my spouse doesn’t see it that way. From their perspective, my need for structure makes me a “Nazi” and it ruins their spontaneous fun. They like to just go with the flow… as though the world were made up of limitless time and money and resources. And if they don’t get what they want, then it’s a cruel crime being perpetrated on them to make them unhappy. Everything is personal with them. And they get very peeved very quickly… and they’ve very vocal about it, as well.

The thing is, I knew a lot of this when we first met. And back in the day, it wasn’t a problem. It was just one of the things that made them… them. And I loved them for it. Time change and people change, of course, and ever since my TBI in 2004, I have had less and less patience for that kind of behavior. Also, since commencing my recovery in 2007, I have really changed a lot, becoming less and less like them, seeing how a lot of our behavior has been really unhealthy and outright harmful.

And my tolerance has dropped through the floor.

Which is never good. Ultimately, as much as I carp and complain about the traits and qualities of others, the real issue is my tolerance level, and my ability to take care of myself without someone else thinking for me. It’s just part of being alive and being an adult, of course. And it’s not like I’m being held against my will in a horribly abusive situation.

Far from it. I just need to tweak a few things and more actively manage my own fatigue levels.

I need to keep myself from getting this tired, this delirious, this fragmented. Of course, the past several months have been sheer hell, and those types of conditions don’t happen all the time, so this is a bit of an anomaly. I know how to recover from this. And I will recover. It’s just a matter of managing it better.

And also making room for it, when it happens.

Some of the things that have made this time even more challenging than it has to be, are:

  • I haven’t made sure that I got enough rest each and every day. I haven’t communicated clearly to everyone that I need to rest, when I need to rest, and I’ve pushed myself harder than I really should have.
  • I haven’t worked out with my spouse the “terms” of my recovery. My exhaustion has sort of blind-sided them, when it’s come up, because they think about their own needs 99% of the time, and if I don’t tell them over and over what’s going on with me and what I need to do about it, they get very angry and resentful towards me.
  • I haven’t made it clear to people just how exhausted I am — most of all my spouse. I’ve just been pushing myself on adrenaline, and at the same time my gears are pretty much stripped, I’m still exceeding the proverbial speed limit — in 2nd gear. To all appearances, I’m still functional. I can still drive. I can still walk a straight line. So, I should be fine, right? Not exactly. Judging by my appearances, my spouse has been very unclear about the problems I’m having, which has made it tough to communicate to them and manage their expectations and also carve out any type of relaxation time for my recovery.
  • I am still pretty much in denial about living with a narcissistic borderline sociopath who lies and cheats and steals to get what they want out of life, and lives on the edge because that’s the only way they can every feel truly alive.

The last point is the main one, which makes things difficult. I just need to face up to the fact that I am married to and living with someone who has been deeply, deeply wounded in the past, and is still hobbled by their scars. I cannot even imagine the hell they went through as a child, even from the partial details I know (which is not everything, because they can’t remember a lot, themself). Their old wounds refuse to heal — in part because from what I can tell, they cannot bring themself to face the whole truth about their family situation. And they keep going in spite of it.

That last bit is what I need to focus on — the fact that they keep going, no matter what. Because as difficult as it can be for me to live with them, they actually do a lot of great work with people. The work they do with others to help them heal has literally saved lives. And there are countless people with a similar background, who have been helped — really restored to life — by their influence in their lives.

And this is what keeps me in this marriage, continuing on, despite the harm and pain and struggle. Because what comes out of this marriage is life-giving and restorative for many, many people far beyond the domain of our relationship. And as much as I complain about their negative traits, the positive traits are what help keep me alive. I wouldn’t still be here, if it weren’t the case. In fact, this blog is happening and helping people, because of the stability and support that comes out of the good parts of this marriage. My spouse doesn’t know I maintain this (as far as I know), but the support they offer and the help they provide does keep me going.

So, this marriage isn’t just about us, it’s about the work that we both do. And the stability of this marriage, for all its ups and downs, makes it possible for us both to do our work.

The main culprit in this dynamic is intolerance, judgement and fear. It’s me getting uptight when I hear them making up stories to make other people feel better, or to get their own way. It’s me focusing on the negatives instead of the positives, and making things much worse than need be. It’s me not taking care of myself, not accepting the fact that I need to sleep — a lot — and I need to be proactive in my management of my own issues. It’s me not including my spouse in my recovery and recruiting their help in getting me back on track.

Yes, they do have some serious mental health issues. But at the same time, they do an awful lot of good in the world and they help an awful lot of people on a regular basis.

Nothing is 100% good or 100% bad. There are up-sides and down-sides to everything. I just need to find the up-sides and stick with them.

Because ultimately, making room for the “bad stuff” helps the good stuff happen all the more.

 

Now is not the time to make any major decisions

When I woke up this morning, I wanted to:

  • divorce my spouse
  • quit my job
  • take off down the road
  • change my name
  • work my way across the country, moving from town to town, earning enough to survive on by fixing people’s websites, washing dishes in restaurants, and doing odd jobs

Every now and then I have this same impulse, and it usually involves getting a stray dog and a beaten-up old pickup. Somehow, it all seems so much… better... than what I have going on in my life now.

Then I think about winter. And I think about getting robbed. I also think about not being able to shower for days on end, and what that might mean for my job prospects.

And I realize how very tired I am.

The past several weeks of going non-stop has torn the heck out of my system. I’m definitely not myself, these days. Oh, I’m myself — but the parts of myself that I can usually manage to moderate when I’m reasonably rested, are jumping out all over the place, like they do when I am on Prednisone. Steroids make me a crazy-person, and so does stress and lack of sleep.

So, I need to factor this all into my world view. And not make any major decisions until I can sit up straight for extended periods of time and walk a straight line when I get up, without needing to rely on this adrenaline rush to keep me functional.

In 24 hours, I will be on vacation. This is good. I will have a full week to unwind, do absolutely nothing at all, if I so choose, and only do the things I really want to do. There will be none of this jumping to assist someone who has brought misfortune to themself and everyone around them… none of this fixing things that others break… none of this covering for people who are not interested in doing a complete job… none of this working overtime to decipher and accommodate unreasonable requests.

At least, I hope not.

But if there is, I will have had plenty of sleep to keep up with it all.

My plan… Sleep, get up and eat breakfast, go for a walk outside, stretch and exercise, come back to the beach house and relax… then sleep again.

Sounds good to me.

I will also have time to read up on some of the things I have been unable to get to, because of my schedule. I have some really interesting reading I’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t been able to, because of the mind-numbing stupidity at work. Seriously, the work is so mindless and rudimentary, it has not helped me at all. Plus, I’m surrounded by people who are far more consumed with food and shelter and feathering their nests, than with the intricacies of the human condition.

Looking back, I can see how the last three years have really dumbed me down — a lot. No, not dumbed *me* down, but the quality of conversations each day haven’t really held a lot for me, intelligence-wise. Come to think of it, my neuropsych is the one person I’ve been able to talk to about really transforming my life, at a level that I’m comfortable at. We’ve had some seriously good discussions — some of which have irritated the crap out of me, but that irritation has helped me define further in my own mind the things that I truly believe.

So, that’s been helpful. But I’m in serious need of more frequent mental stimulation than that — and along different lines than what to eat and how to fix up your house.

And for the next week, I can get exactly that — more stimulation of the type I need. I’ll have time to unwind and let my mind expand… get uncrimped from the contortions it’s been going through, and go in directions that are of my choosing, rather than necessity. I know, deep down inside, that I can make any situation into anything I want, yet I’ve been so tired lately, I haven’t had the ability to think outside the little box that I seem to be in.

So yeah, now is not the time to decide to change my life wholesale. It’s not the time to make any major decisions about relationships, work, living situations, or really any major aspect of my existence. It’s time to kick back, take stock, think about what I truly want my life to be like — what sort of qualities I want it to have — and give myself the freedom to just feel good in general.

Rest and relax. Unwind. Uncrimp. I’m sure there are better times ahead for me, I just need to make certain I don’t jump the gun and burn a bunch of bridges… and make things worse for me, just because I’m stressed and tired.

Onward.

Quick – before the snow flies

I’ve had an increasingly pronounced sense of urgency about getting my affairs in order. Could be it’s the end-of-the-year rush, or maybe it’s this sense of immanent change, or perhaps it’s the realization that my life is changing — yet again — but this time it’s changing for the better, and I need to be more mindful of how I manage my resources and energy.

Since I began my neuropsych testing and evaluation, over a year ago, I’ve been acclimating myself to the idea that disaster is not necessarily a given in my life. I’ve realized that the head injuries I’ve experienced, the mild traumatic brain injuries I’ve incurred over the course of my life (beginning in early childhood), have played a direct role in the course of my life. I’ve also realized that with the knowledge of how my brain functions (or fails to function), I can devise strategies to offset the after-effects of MTBI, and plan alternative strategies. And with the proper amount of mindfulness, I can follow through with them in a certain what that can — and does — help me head problems off at the pass before they become the kinds of catastrophes I’ve coped with my entire life.

Yes, I now have tools to help me make my way in the world. And I need to get my act together, to match the level of my mindfulness-augmented competence.

So, I spent the weekend cleaning and moving. Saturday morning, I cleaned my study. Finally. It’s been on my to-do list for months, now. The last time I cleaned it, two years ago, the space felt truly amazing. I just loved being in my study (where before I had dreaded it). But it’s gone slowly downhill over the past few years, which I knew I needed to fix. So, I worked on that consciously on Saturday morning. And while I didn’t complete the task (which took over a week, last time I did it in in 2007), I did make a sizeable dent. And it’s a deeper sort of cleaning now, than I have ever performed in any of my study spaces.

I really focused on doing it mindfully — cleared out a whole bunch of old files, filled several grocery bags with paper to be recycled, dumped old damaged items that needed to be “liberated” a long time ago, and the proceeded to rearrange the contents of my closet. I still have a ways to go. I’m probably about 10% along the path. But the point is, I started it. (And I continued this morning, cleaning out one of my over-stuffed, disorganized filing cabinet drawers.)

Saturday afternoon, I moved leaves. Raked. Used the leaf blower/vac mulcher. Moved 7 large tarps’ worth of material off the front lawn. I may need to make another pass before the snow starts to fall, but if I don’t, at least I’ve made enough of a dent to protect the grass from the effects of acidic leaves over the winter months. I also moved summer items from outside to inside, and I also fixed the dryer duct, which had  become too clogged for the dryer to work properly.

I should have fixed the dryer duct years ago, but that was one of the things that fell off my plate, after I fell down the stairs 5 years ago. You wouldn’t think that hitting your head on a bunch of steps would completely derail your life, but after that fall, I stopped paying attention to the list of things that needed to be done. I’d had a list I was working with — we’d only been in the house two years, up to that point, and the series of things I was planning to do over the coming years was starting to become more manageable and less clogged. Then I fell, and I stopped working on the list. I’ve been working hard to get back, ever since I realized, about a year ago, how badly I’d let things fall by the wayside.

Now my life consists of a whole lot of remedial stuff. Recover stuff. Rehab stuff. Life as rehab. Each and every mindful minute of paying attention to what I’m doing — and why.

Every now and then, I also get the chance to help someone else out with their list, which is what I did on Sunday. A friend of the family is breaking up with their partner of 7 years, and they needed to move some furniture and reconfigure their living space.

My spouse and I drove out to their place and helped them get a number of large, heavy items out of their living room, as well as from upstairs to downstairs. When we got there, they were looking pretty ragged and depressed and overwhelmed. But by the time we left, they were a whole lot more relaxed and up, and they had their home office set up and connected, so they could get their act together. I’m glad we could help. And it felt great — after several months of regular exercise — to be able to lift and carry the sorts of heavy furniture we were wrangling. Recliners, with all that steel, are NOT light items to move. And trying to angle stuff through two narrow doorways was not the easiest thing. But we did it. And it was good.

This friend of ours (I’ll call them C) has been struggling with getting ahead and staying that way, for as long as we’ve known them.  They make progress, and then they make poor choices and slide back… Interestingly, back in high school and college, C played team sports — the kinds of team sports that frequently result in head injury. In fact, they told my spouse onetime that they had been hit in the head a lot, so their memory wasn’t the best. But whenever I bring up the topic if TBI  — with reference to myself, as I’ve told them about my history — they shut down and stop listening.

The other interesting (and a little tragic) piece of C’s story is that their ex-partner of 7 years was in a car accident within the last year, and they took to the bed with overwhemling fatigue, irritability, wild mood swings… and more. It sounded an awful lot like things were with me, when I had whiplash in the past. Their change in personality was eerily familiar to me.

I tried to talk to C a few times about the possibility of MTBI playing a role in the relationship’s degeneration. I said nothing about C’s athletic history, but I focused on the car accident. But C couldn’t hear it. They just blocked it all out. They refused to admit that there had been a real change, or that the change was physical and neurological, rather than psycho-spiritual. C is very much into “energy medicine” and thinks about health in terms of karma and past lives and energy. They think they can address substantive issues with affirmations and intention.

Which is a shame, because they might have been able to get some relief and/or come up with some alternative strategies, by addressing the physical and neurological after-effects of that car accident, and developed real-world coping mechanisms, rather than realinging their chakras.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a strong believer in chakras and energies and intention and affirmations. But I’m also a firm believer in the power of the brain’s neurology to wreak havoc with one’s life. I know the domain of the brain can be very scary for people — especially people who don’t have good insurance and/or can’t get decent medical care — but by leaving out that very important aspect of our overall health, problematic situations can escalate and become even worse, on down the line.

Unaddressed TBI issues can literally cost you your job, your home, your marriage… and more. Especially if folks avoid dealing with them up front.

TBI — even “mild” traumatic brain injury — isn’t the sort of thing you can necessarily wish away or “clear with intention”. I’m sure there are people out there who are very capable mind-over-matter practitioners, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s prudent to give the brain its due and not just brush off a brain injury as something that time alone will heal. Brain injures don’t just go away. And left unaddressed, they can cost you a lot that means the world to you.

I’ve experienced that myself… And I spent most of yesterday moving heavy things with someone who is experiencing it, as well. My aching back and joints can attest to it.

Well, at least we got things moved while the weather was still nice. And for all the hard work over the weekend, it feels great to be this functional again, after years of ennui and inertia and neglect. I feel like I’m really starting to get back in the game, in many ways. My life and my attitude and my outlook is very different than it was, before things fell apart in 2004-2005. But I feel like my life force is returning — and it’s actually good for something.

By the time winter comes, this year, I might just be ready for it.