My first drawing attempt after writing a post with lots of images in it

Here it is – what I just drew, about 30 minutes after posting the original at the top of my post… writing a pretty long piece with a bunch of similar pictures in it, and really trying to remember what I’d seen:

First memory drawing attempt - 30 minutes after study
First memory drawing attempt – 30 minutes after study

Now, here’s the original I was trying to remember:

Memory training test - day 3

That diagonal line on the right is… wrong. And I didn’t realize it was wrong, till I thought about the black dot I needed to draw. So, I think I need to spend more time thinking about the whole picture, rather than focusing on the individual pieces. That can probably help me.

I’m going to keep studying this — and also work on the width of that bar at the top and the placement/size of the big white dots.  I’ll keep working throughout the day… and also see if I can replicate the images from the past few days. These are quick little things I can do to see how I’m faring, overall.

Onward.

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Things that get lost along the way

Here’s your image-drawing memory test for the day. This is going to be a challenging one, because there are other “competing” images in the post below. Study this image very carefully for a few minutes, then read the post, then get a pencil and piece of scrap paper and try to draw it from memory. Good luck! I’m throwing you (and myself) a curve balloon this one.

Memory training test - day 3
This is a little more challenging than the others.

What is it with my memory? Seriously, it’s just weird how things get lost…

This post is about how being tired and overwhelmed just screws with my memory — cutting into my self-control and also confusing ideas in my head. I find it fascinating how, even 10 years after my last TBI I still have these issues. It doesn’t worry me – I know what to do about it.

So, yesterday as an experiment, I re-drew the picture that I showed a couple of days back. Here it is:

3-circle-2-plank-double-slash-l-r-boxes

Later in the day, I drew the following:

wpid-wp-1436569763807.jpegEach one got a little bit better, and by the end of the day, I had it down. I could draw that sucker from memory.

Then, yesterday, I had a very busy morning — and I wasn’t feeling well, to begin with. I had been having migraine-y symptoms for the past couple of days, with Friday being particularly tough with my left side feeling like it was carved from block of wood or hardened lava… feeling like it was made of brick. My balance was really off, and I felt like I was being pulled to the left. But then when I closed my eyes, I leaned to the right, so that was even more confusing.

Saturday morning, everything was very trippy – it was like I was seeing through a filter that makes the colors more garish and all the lines separating objects were more pronounced.

trippy-sky
Like this – but not nearly as much fun

I had to work extra hard to keep my mind on what was happening, and I found myself skipping ahead in a number of tasks, and I needed to force myself to stop and back up and think things through in the order they were to happen in.

For example, I needed to get my haircut, and I needed to get there early before the rush. On Saturdays, the place is usually packed with men, women, and children, all needing to neaten up for the week to come. The thing was, when I thought about it, my thoughts immediately went to the convenience store across the street. And then I thought about paying for my haircut at the cash register.

It’s weird, when this happens, because my thoughts are not in sequence, and I have to deliberately put things in order. I have to work backwards, step by step.

  • Last thing: Pay for my haircut
  • Next-to-last-thing: Get up out of the chair
  • Before that: Get my hair cut and interact with the barber (depending on the person, it can be very intensive)
  • Before that: Sit down in the chair
  • Before that: Find a seat at the back of the store and wait my turn to be called.
  • Before that: Buy a snack at the convenience store across the street to get change (because the barber only takes cash)
  • Before that: Stop at the ATM to get cash
  • Before that: Drive to the town where my barber is located
  • Before that: Go out and get in my car
  • Before that: Gather everything I might need for the trip, remembering to take the stamped letters out to the mailbox

The thing is, it didn’t got that smoothly. My brain was jumping around from “node” to “node”, piecing together the day in slow motion, and it was a real challenge to A) put the big ideas in order, and B) make sure I was doing everything in between in sequence, so I wouldn’t have to backtrack and re-do things.

The whole morning was wild — surreal colors and weird visuals, with everything seeming to move in slow motion. But no terrible headache. That would come later, after my afternoon nap.

Anyway, bottom line is, by the time I got back from my errands, I was bushed. I figured it would be a good time to try out my image drawing exercises, so I drew the image I’d practiced in the morning:

First memory image test of the day
First memory image test of the day
Second practice of the day's memory training image
Second practice of the day’s memory training image

All good, right?

Then (at 1:55 p.m.) I decided to redraw the image I’d done the day before and had “down pat” by the end of the day. Here’s what I drew:

Image memory test - 2nd day, and very tired
Image memory test – 2nd day, and very tired

This is close, but I don’t get a cigar. That bar across the top has “snuck” the whole way across again, and for some reason, I immediately drew a vertical line in the middle. I realized after I’d drawn it, that it was wrong, but I couldn’t back up, because I was writing in pen. Also, I drew the diagonal line on the left pointing in the wrong direction, but it didn’t occur to me till after I was starting to draw the other line that something was amiss. And my squares are “off”. I can’t blame the scrap paper. I had plenty of room to write.

What screwed me up was heavy-duty fatigue, being impulsive, disorientation, and not using strategies to do the construction. I worked too fast and didn’t stop to think it through before I did the job.

The really, really interesting thing about this, for me, is that it illustrates in very plain ways, how my brain can get confused about details and come up with other ideas that are based on partial information. My brain “inferred” that there was a vertical line in the top bar, because I was using the gap between the squares at the bottom to orient the top circle. And I didn’t stop to question myself. Also, I drew the line wrong on the left side, mirroring the one on the right, partly, and not realizing till later, that they should be going away from each other, not towards each other.

As for that bar “sneaking” across the full width of the top again. I don’t know what’s up with that. It’s like my brain demands consistency and symmetry, and it doesn’t want to “allow” differences. If I get too rigid in my thinking, it’s a problem by all accounts. So, I have to remember that happens with me.

And here we have an illustration of how — even after all these years — my brain can get things turned around.

Like the other day, when I solved two problems, when I was only supposed to solve one.

On the surface, it’s a good thing, and people are deeply thankful to me for taking both those problems off their plate. But what if one of the problems — the first one I thought I had to solve — was not a problem at all, and I spent all that energy (which was a lot) working on fixing something that wasn’t broken. Then I’d have less energy for fixing the problem that did need taking care of.

I’m starting a new job in a few weeks, and I need to be strong and capable, which I am. I also need to catch up on my sleep and not let the situation in the job I’m leaving get to me. Four weeks is probably too much lead time between jobs, but there it is. It’s taking that long for them to get their act together to replace me. Of course, that falls into the category of “their problem – not mine”, but still…

Main lesson: Don’t let others’ drama get to me. Stay the course. Stay strong. Keep focused. It’s not worth the price I pay, if I don’t.

I’m not getting down on myself — this is just something I need to think about. And I suspect that these image redrawing exercises can help me improve.

Now… it’s time to draw the image you first looked at above. If you can do it, then bravo. I’ve showed you a lot of different images in the past paragraphs, which have similarities to the study image. Let’s see how you do… I’m going to draw it, too.

Focusing on our strengths

Pick your direction

TBI is a funny thing. It can take so much away from us. And it can also add more things that we never had before.

I’m not sure if it’s me or my brain or just the normal parts of ageing, but I seem to remember less and less of my past, as time goes on. I can’t really remember what I have talked about with my neuropsych, in the past. I don’t know what I’ve mentioned to them, what issues I’ve worked through… it’s kind of fading away in a fog.

And I’m not sure I care. Because at the same time I’m losing connections with that not-so-happy past, it sorta kinda frees me up to enjoy a much happier present. And it’s the things in front of me — the blue sky overhead, the warm temps today, the taste of my tea saturated with butter and honey (it’s completely awesome – you should try it sometime), and the feel of just having time OFF from the grind for a week and a half.

All the aches and pains of my day-to-day haven’t disappeared. In fact, they’re coming on pretty strong, now that I’ve started stretching and exercising more. It’s been tough getting to sleep with all the pain in my lower back going on. And I’ve been dizzy and off balance and have had these headaches… but what-ever. That’s not the only thing I have to pay attention to.

So, I don’t. I look elsewhere. And I can find so much more else to focus on. How amazing is that.

And I think about how incredible it is, that I was raised in a time when the main goal of educators and people who were sent to help others, was to get everybody in a central zone of ability — to bring the weaknesses up to snuff, and not focus so much on the strengths — just fix what was wrong, and leave the rest alone.

But now I’m living a life that’s focused on the strengths I have — making them better, and not letting the weaknesses dominate my life. We all have strengths and ways we can contribute in the world… we just get caught up in trying to fix the things that are wrong, and we end up having our lives revolve around them.

The thing about focusing only on all that’s WRONG in the world (and our individual lives), is that we can always find something that’s wrong. No doubt about it. But while we’re concentrating on what’s WRONG, we so often miss what’s RIGHT. And then we miss out on the chance to strengthen the good, while we’re chasing down the bad that never ever seems to end.

I’m feeling pretty fortunate, actually. Looking around, I can see a lot of my peers who have been held back by that old mindset we were raised with. So many of them are still caught up in negativity and trouble-shooting states of mind, while the good they have right in front of them is rarely seen and fully appreciated. A lot of people my age still think of themselves as deficient… chasing after accomplishments and trophies to smooth over their lingering sense of inadequacy and prove to themselves that they’re okay after all.

And I totally understand how and why they feel that way. I’ve been there, too. Especially me, who has so many things I can quickly and easily point at and say, “Ah ha! That’s messed up!”

I guess I just count myself as incredibly lucky that I don’t always feel that way anymore. Some days I do, but on the whole… it makes more sense to me to focus on the things I can change for the better and move ahead… instead of just running around filling up the divots on the proverbial golf course of my life.

Well, it’s all a process and a journey, and I may feel completely different tomorrow. For today, though… right now… I’m feeling pretty good, and I’m not going to wreck it by hunting down what might be wrong that needs fixing.

Onward.

A wall full of stickie notes

Some of my best friends in the world

My memory not being what it was — can’t remember the last time I had great recollection… true story — sticky notes are my best friends.

I have them posted in places where “they should not be” — namely, on the glass pane of my back door, where I see them whenever I leave the house. I always leave through the back door, because the front door is broken and even if I could use it, it’s a longer walk to the garage, than if I go out the back – or just down through the basement. So, I always see notes that are stuck on the glass — right at eye level — when I leave to go anywhere.

There are notes for remembering to turn down the heat, to turn off the modem, to remember this, that, and the other thing. There are notes for communicating with my spouse, like when I’m out and about running errands, and I have my cell phone with me. Whatever the common situation I might forget to handle, there’s usually a sticky note for it.

I don’t keep them all on the door. That would defeat the purpose. Instead, I have them stuck to the wall beside the door, and I pick the one(s) I need, based on the situation.

Modem Off?
Heat
Bag for the gym
Going for a walk – I have my phone
Running errands – I have my phone
Lunch in the fridge

Everything I regularly forget, but don’t want to, I have a sticky note for.

It really works well. At first, my spouse was resistant to me using them. They said it made me look like I had Alzheimers or something. They said it reminded them that I have problems remembering. At first, I had to use a lot of sticky notes in a lot of different places — near the stove, in different rooms. It was a little excessive at the start, but over time I got rid of a lot of them, and now it’s just by the back door that I need them.

I’m glad I used them, though. I still do in other places, like work. Nobody knows that I can’t remember much of anything for long — my tools and tricks cover for me quite well.

You do what you must. And sometimes you must. There are worse things than having a bunch of notes around — like forgetting the things that the notes remind you of.

Anyway… Onward.

 

Not every memory is worth keeping

We only have so much room in our brains…

So, one of my old high school buddies messaged me on Facebook a few weeks back and apologized for treating me so badly during high school. They were genuinely sorry. For what, I’m not sure.

Seriously, I could not remember anything that this person had ever done to me, let alone something that required an abject apology. I guess what was in their heart and mind at that time was something they now realize was not right.

But here, all these years, I’ve been thinking we were good friends and parted ways on good terms.

So, there’s one benefit of having a bad memory. I also tend to forget instances of bad experiences in my past — though I can often recall them later, if I think about them. They’re just not front and center in my mind.

Which, I suppose, is good. I don’t need to have all my “cycles” used up by negativity and regret and anger and resentment. Life has enough challenges, as it is, without adding my own baggage to it.

So, there it is.

Not every memory is worth keeping. And not every recollection is worth dwelling on. Sometimes the best thing for me to do is give people the benefit of the doubt — even when they don’t really deserve it — and free up my mind for more positive things.

YOLO, after all. Pick your fascination.

 

 

 

 

Just keep trying…

So, I’ve been noticing a couple of things lately —

Keep on keepin’ on…

First, how I can never seem to wake up feeling really rested, and I usually feel hungover when I get up in the morning, even though I’ve not done anything to warrant that.

Second, I sometimes completely forget where I am and what I’m doing for a few seconds, then I “come back” and I know where I am and what I’m doing again.

Each of these, in themselves, have the potential to trouble me. Greatly. In fact, they have really bothered me before, and I have seriously wondered if that circling specter of dementia that is often hanging over my head, is finally coming home to roost.

What I’ve realized, is that if I just keep going, I manage to find some resolution to them.

It has been a long, long time, since I woke up feeling really rested. I generally feel hungover, foggy, and not really great. I feel like I mixed cheap wine, light beer, and three different kinds of liquor, and it’s a hell of a way to wake up in the morning, every day.

It’s been bothering me that I can never seem to get on the good foot, and I feel so crappy. I try getting to bed at a decent time, then I can’t sleep through the night. Or I try to sleep in, but that’s never a guarantee. On days when I can’t sleep in, I over-sleep. On days when I can sleep in, I can’t. It’s incredibly frustrating.

I try to take a nap when I can, but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I literally can’t get to a place where I can lie down. Other times, I can get to a quiet place, but then I get a second wind when I’m about to step away, and before you know it, it’s the end of the day, and I’ve pushed through and kept myself going – to my own detriment.

What I have realized, after a whole lot of trial and error, is that if I can just get going in the morning, eventually I don’t feel so terrible. Especially if I can focus my attention on something that makes me feel good, like exercise and a healthy breakfast and the things I plan to do for the day, I can get myself going and get out of my funk. It’s not permanent.  And even if I feel wiped out and exhausted, if I promise myself I will rest if I need to later, that makes me feel better.

As for resting during the day, I do what I can, and if I can’t get a nap in, I don’t break my head over it. It’s bad enough being tired, without being all tweaked about it, too. Sometimes I’ll just step away to catch my breath, and that helps. Or I’ll take a brisk walk and that will make me feel better. In any case, breaking up the monotony of a dronelike day usually makes me feel better, even if I don’t get any additional rest.

It’s a fine line. It’s all a fine line. I just have to keep going.

As for losing my way and forgetting where I am, I periodically lose track of where I am when I am walking or driving. It can be very disconcerting for me to have no idea where I am, and not know what to do. Visions of “On Golden Pond” come to mind, and my head starts to race  with all my fears about Alzheimer’s and dementia and CTE. I wonder if this is the beginning of the end for me, and I can’t help but think about all the stories from friends and acquaintances about their aging parents “losing it”. I also start thinking about what I’m going to do, if I ever get to the point where my mind is completely gone, but my body is still in good shape. I think about going skydiving and not opening my chute. I think about getting a wing suit and flying into a cliff face at full speed. I think about going to see and letting myself just fall into the ocean during a storm.

The last thing I want, is to live out the rest of my days in a diaper with someone spoon feeding me. Where’s the point in that? I’ve watched elderly relatives end up in homes, nursed back to health at very advanced ages, and then lingering on, with ever-decreasing quality of life.

I’m not sure I’d ever want that. And talking to others about this, we agree — it’s better to take matters into your own hands and put an end to things that are never going to get better, than live out the rest of your days in a “twilight state” where the only ones benefiting are the retirement home coffers.

Yeah, no thanks.

Those times when I forget where I am and don’t know what’s happening are — thankfully — brief. And I find that if I just keep going, I can always find my way again. All I have to do is trust that if I’m headed in a certain direction, it’s for a reason, and that will become clear to me… eventually. I haven’t lost my marbles yet. So, I just keep going. I just keep trying. I just keep looking, keep thinking, keep engaged. And things work out. Either I find a new way, or I figure out how to make the old way work again. It’s never a clear-cut one or the other. But if I just keep trying, I can always find a way.

Of course, a day may come when things don’t work out, but that’s not here yet.

So, for today — for the moment — I will focus on what I have, the good that is in my life, and I’ll do what I can to make the most of it. Right here. Right now.

Onward.

My memory is definitely better

It’s getting easier to keep it all in order

I just got a re-issued bank card, with a new expiration date and a new set of security digits on the back. It’s that periodic ritual that over the past 9 years has come to intimidate me. Back about 5 years ago, my brain was not working very well, and I had a hard time remembering even the most basic things. An expiration date and three unique digits had about as much chance of lodging in my brain, as a chemical recipe for artificial sweetener.

It just wasn’t going to happen.

Heck, I had trouble even remembering my parents’ home phone number, which I had been using since I was 12 years old – over 35 years. I had a heated argument with my spouse about the correct number, while we were trying to get in touch with my parents back around 2005 — and wouldn’t you know, the number that I swore — up-down-left-right — was the correct one, was actually wrong. Didn’t I feel like an idiot, when I had to ask my parents again, what their phone number was…

Well, anyway, I have been working on “that numbers thing” for some time. For work, I have a random security code I have to generate and then type in, whenever I want to access the system. Random codes get generated by the system — a new pair of three-digit numbers shows up every minute or so — and then I have to remember those numbers when I switch to a different screen to login, before the numbers get changed by the system.

It used to be sheer hell for me, because there wasn’t enough time for me to write down the number and then punch it in before it changed. I used to really struggle with figuring out how to do things in a specific order, so that I could do them quickly and smoothly. I would either not have my paper and pen nearby to write it down… I would get confused by all the different windows on my computer screen… I would feel pressured and rushed to write down the numbers… and when I wrote them down, sometimes I would get them turned around. And then when it came time to punch in the numbers, I would get them turned around in my head and would mess up.

Six digits — two sets of three numbers — how hard can it be, right?

Well, for me, about 5 years ago, it was well nigh impossible. It was pretty demoralizing, and my neuropsych exam showed very clearly that I had serious issues with short-term memory when there were distractions around. Distractions could be anything from a sound I picked up in the background, to a flash of light on the ceiling from a traffic driving by in the afternoon sun. Or an itch. Or a stray thought. I was scattered — and dismally so. It was just not good.

I wasn’t content to stay that way, though. Cripes, that was just no good. So, I really worked at things, trying to keep numbers in my mind — when I went to the library, for example. I would look at the online books listing, pick out two different books with two different call numbers, and then write them down on a piece of paper. I would tuck the paper away, and using my memory alone, I would try to locate those two books. I still do this, and I think it’s helped me. I can remember numbers much better now, than I could before. When I’m really tired, things don’t work so great, but when I’m going about my business at a natural, usual pace, things go much better.

Much, much better than ever before.

So, that’s encouraging.

And now that I have my new bank card, when I go to update my account information and order things, I can actually remember the expiration date and security code, which is pretty freeing. It takes a lot of time and energy and motivation and coping strategies, to live your life without being able to remember basic things like a few digits. We live in a world that’s run by digits. And relying on always having a piece of paper around, so I can write things down, was at times a challenge in itself. I usually had a little notebook with me (still do), but a lot of times, I forgot to keep it with me, so I lost that aid, as well.

It’s been much easier for me to work on my memory for small amounts of digits, than remembering to keep my memory aids with me all the time.

So, that’s helpful. And being able to remember people’s faces and names… that’s helpful, as well. I’ve been actively working on that, too, so that I can interact with people better. It’s helping, to do all this. It gives me something to focus on, something to work towards on a regular daily basis. All of my other issues come and go, but my memory issues have remained pretty constant – and at very important times – so I have had plenty of opportunity to focus on them… and get better.

And I have.

It’s shaping up to be a beautiful day, and I’ve got a nice “wide” weekend open ahead of me. I am looking forward to moving at my own pace, and making progress on some projects that have been waiting in the wings for about a month, now. I have been continually frustrated with how much time it’s taken me to recover from the push at work I went through starting a couple months back. But now I’m finally feeling like I’m human again, and that’s a good thing.

I’ve got a bunch of yard work I need to do, and it looks like the weather is going to hold.

It’s Friday, too.

Life is good.

Onward.

 

 

 

Finding full range of motion

This week has been crazy. I’m six weeks away from leaving this wretched job, and I’m full-speed-ahead on finishing everything that I need to finish, so I can go in good conscience. I friggin’ hate the company and its hare-brained policies. Not the people.

Well, most of the people I work directly with. The folks at HQ elevate being an a$$hole to an art form. They really seem to delight in it and take pride in it, which is not very smart on their part. I guess they didn’t get the memo that you can’t treat other people with disdain and disregard, and still be productive and get things done.

A$$holes.

Anyway, enough about them. I’m done with them in seven weeks — less than two months. Ha. No longer will I need to be hindered by their lack of vision and foresight. No longer will I be held back by their delusions and autocracy. No longer will I be subject to their silly little games and jockeying for position in a domain that is nothing to get excited over.

Seven weeks, and that’s it. I’m done. Finis.

I’m back into doing my daily exercises, with a somewhat different approach than before, when I was really focused on cardio and strength training and specific exercises to strengthen specific parts of my muscular structure. As it turns out, even though I am stronger than the average desk jockey, my range of motion sucks. I’ve got a lot of pain that I need to get rid of, so I’m taking time in my mornings and evenings (when I get home from work), to stretch and do some light yoga and body-weight-bearing exercises. I’m making it a priority to MOVE first thing in the morning, no matter how creaky and painful I feel. Just moving, getting the blood going, getting the muscles moving over bone, and getting all the tendons and ligaments engaged… it’s made a big difference in how I start my mornings.

Back a few years ago, when I was working out every morning, it really gave me a boost. Then I hit a plateau and I didn’t want to shake things up. I was comfortable and familiar with the routine I had in place. It helped me get going, and it was a valuable jump start. But after a while I got locked into that routine, and it actually started working against me, limiting what I was willing to do, physically, first thing in the morning.

Now I’ve got this focus on movement. On seeing how my body feels, first thing in the morning, and doing something about it, if I’m not liking how I’m feeling.

The first step is being able to tell how things are going with me, physically. In the past, I have had a hell of a time actually feeling what was going on in my body. I tend to be so “up in my head” that I don’t pay any attention to how I’m feeling physically. This is also the case because I have been in pain for so long, and I haven’t been able to do anything about it, so I just ignore it and move on. Seriously, what’s the point in “getting in touch with my pain,” as so many have encouraged me to do, when there’s not a damn’ thing anyone — including doctors and chirpractors and all sorts of experts — can do about it?

Trust me, I’ve checked. They either don’t believe how much pain I am in each day and tell me I’m exaggerating, or they launch an all-out pharmaceutical offensive on the offending experience, doping me out of my mind in the process — and accomplishing nothing, other than destroying what quality of life I have left.

It’s infuriating — not least of all, because they have a mixture of hubris and cluelessness about how the body actually works, that makes them uniquely qualified to completely f*ck up my life, along with the lives of countless others who have the great misfortune to cross their path. And magically, it doesn’t seem to bother them that they’ve done far more harm than good. Hey, at least they tried, right?

Idiots. The scary thing is, I have relatives who are freshly minted doctors, and you can see the “Stepford” progression with them — they just become so taken with themselves and so enamored of medicines and chemicals and what-not, that it totally blinds them to any real ways they could help.

But enough of my ranting and venting. That’s just how things are, and the one thing I can do about it, is remove myself from the presence of any offending individuals. I’m actually in a good space today, and I’ve got a ton of energy (hence the energetic ranting).  I have a full list of activities planned for this weekend, that are all interesting and engaging and will take me down a path to something better than where I’m at today.

Now, plenty of people will pooh-pooh me and say, “Be careful what you ask for… things don’t get better, they just get different” but they can go pound sand.  My life is getting better. My memory is for shit, I’m completely wiped out half the time, and I’m having a hell of a time following conversations, but that’s largely a function of me putting a whole lot of my energy in specific areas and not really making the effort to pay attention to the same-old-same-old that I’m getting away from. I’m nominally functional in tons of ways each day — but that’s for a very good reason: because I’m hyper-functional in a few select ways, and I need to save my energy.

Save my energy and build it up, too. With my morning (and evening) exercises. I also nap regularly — not for long periods — maybe 40-60 minutes at a stretch, tops. I just step away, lie down and crash into darkness, then get up and get back into everything. It makes a huge difference, and when I come back from my naps, I feel like a whole new person, ready to do what needs to be done.

You know, it’s funny. It’s nearly 10 years after my last TBI — the one that nearly did me in. I still don’t really “feel like myself” and half the time I feel like I’m walking around in a daze, trying to figure sh*t out on the fly. Nothing I plan actually seems to turn out the way I plan and expect it, but I am adapting much better and much more quickly than ever. And in a way, I feel like I’m adjusting to that state of being. It’s not throwing me for a loop anymore. I’m learning to expect it. I can’t say that I’m all that happy about it, and I can’t say that anyone is actually helping me deal with this loss of my old self and the experience of walking around in a life that feels so foreign to me, nearly every waking moment. But it’s not taking me by surprise anymore. And I’m finding moments where I can have some actual peace in the midst of it all.

What’s more, I’m finding ways to get where I want to go… I’m discovering new ways to identify and pursue my dreams, and deal with the surprises that crop up, every single day — sometimes by the hour. And despite not feeling like “myself” anymore, and not recognizing the person I have become, I am a whole lot more functional than I was 15 years ago, when I was struggling on a daily basis with the long-term after-effects of multiple mild traumatic brain injuries. I was really, really struggling. Even though I was making good money at a good job, and I had all these “secure” situations around me, my head was a mess, my relationships were superficial and extremely rocky, I got roped into doing a heck of a lot of crap I had no interest in doing, and I struggled on a regular basis with debilitating panic/anxiety, violent mood swings, crippling depression, and suicidal thoughts.

I was no friggin’ fun to live with, at times, I can tell you that.

Now my situation is completely different. Learning about TBI and how it affects me, has literally turned my life around.  It gives me information I can use to manage my situation, know what to look out for, and continually improve. It’s not just learning about TBI and all it brings with it — it’s also learning how I individually experience and react to my TBI symptoms, and learning how I can do something about it. There’s a ton of room for creative problem-solving in this new world, and the results I see are often instantaneous. It’s really gratifying — like mowing my lawn and seeing how much better everything looks after the fact. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of effort to make a big difference.

That being said, this morning moving exercise routine of mine is really working out well. I do something different each morning and evening. I have a few core exercises I do, and then I improvise around the others. It gets me out of my head and gets me “in touch” with my physical sensations — which in turn helps me for the rest of the day, because the clues that I am becoming tense or stressed or frustrated, are physical clues — before anything else.

So, knowing how my body feels and being able to “check in” to see how I’m doing, helps my mental health and my interactions with other people. Each and every day. So that my range of motion improves — not only physically but also socially as well.

Speaking of motion, it’s time to get going. The day is waiting.

Onward.

Got the list…

And it’s a good one. I have a lot to do, this morning, but I sat down and mapped out everything I’m going to do, in the order they need to be done and the geographical areas I need to do them.

  • First I need to drive about half an hour to pick up an order at a store. Then I need to swing by an office supplies place to pick up some printer cartridges.
  • Then I need to pick up some food items I forgot while shopping yesterday.
  • Then I need to gas up the car and buy ice.
  • Then I need to swing by the local farm stand and stock up on some local foods.
  • Then I need to come home, get the car ready for my spouse’s trip, pack it, and get them ready for their departure around 1 p.m.
  • Then I’ll take a nap… and get on with the things I need to do tonight.

The timing is good for this trip — I need to do some repair work with power tools that my spouse hates the sound of. This way, I can make all the noise I need to, and not worry about disturbing anyone.

It will also be good to have a few days to myself. I need some down-time, to just chill and get clear in my head about where I’m going with my work in the future. I need silence and peace and no worries, which doesn’t often happen with a spouse who is in a chronic state of panic-anxiety. I’m generally the “rock” in the household – it will be nice to have a break from that and get to just be solid — and silent.

In the midst of all the preparations, having a list makes it super-simple to just handle things. I figure out where I’m going, when, what I need to do there, and then I’m done. None of this lollygagging or futzing around.  Just staying focused and on-target and moving from one thing to the next.

It’s a world of difference from the way things used to be, when I was still trying to keep everything straight in my head – and failing miserably at it. There was this idea in my mind that if I couldn’t keep everything in order in my head, I was a “failure”. Turns out, I was failing exactly because of that. When you think about it, we have so many distractions and so many interruptions, TBI / concussion or not, that it’s all but impossible to keep clear at every moment of every day.

Something’s gotta give. And anyway, having a list all made out ahead of time frees me up to think of everything else — more fun things, more interesting things. Other stuff. Yeah. Good stuff.

So, I’ve got my list, and now it’s time to get moving.

Onward.

When memory fails

Something interesting happened to me, about 3 weeks ago. It was pretty heavy and it almost threw me for a loop, but I made it through — and I discovered something about myself that I had really underestimated. I’m not exactly sure how to feel about it — there are good aspects and bad, I suppose.

Anyway, several weeks back, I was gearing up for my business trip. I was going to be away for about a week and a half, with very limited access to phone and home. Less than 48 hours before I was to fly out, I got a call from my mother that my father had passed out, had been admitted to the hospital, and was going to have a heart procedure done the next day.

Talk about a fire drill. Not to mention all the other emotions that come up when a parent is ill or in danger. I share powers of attorney with two of my siblings — with one, I share financial responsibilities, with the other I share medical responsibilities. (And I actually have no idea where the paperwork is, come to think of it… I must do something about that)

My mom was pretty freaked out. She and my dad live alone, and although they have friends who are nearby and they are very connected with others, they still don’t have anyone actually living with them, so she was alone, while my dad was in the hospital. The procedure itself wasn’t supposed to be that huge of a deal – something that’s done pretty frequently, but still… they were working on his heart, and he’s had some issues in the past.

I spent a lot of time on the phone with my parents and siblings, up until when I boarded the plane. I had my Plan B ready to go, and I had all the numbers I needed, in case I needed to get down to my parents’ place in a hurry — they live a day’s drive away from me, but I know different ways to get there much faster. I spent a lot of time conveying information and calming folks down and just keeping tabs on everything.

Long story short, my dad came through the procedure with flying colors, which was a huge relief and we’re all so grateful. The doctors also informed him that he was extremely lucky to be alive. Most folks who have the kind of episode he had don’t make it. At minimum they need to be resuscitated, which my mom could not do when he collapsed in front of her, because she didn’t know CPR and she didn’t know what to do, and she wasn’t near anyone who could help.

So, all in all, somebody up there was looking out for him. And now both my parents are on the road back to normalcy.

And I got on the plane and flew to my 10-day business trip, which went pretty well, all things considered.

The weird thing is, when I got back from my trip and met with my neuropsych, and they asked me how things had been since the last time we met, I had no recollection at all of the episode with my father. I talked about work and the business trip, which was minor and paled in comparison to what had gone on with my family just 48 hours before I left. I talked about the everyday stuff, and I ran out of things to say. There was no glimmer of memory that anything out of the ordinary had happened in the meantime.

And I didn’t remember that it was something I should discuss — all the steps involved, all the progress I’ve obviously made because of handling the situation as well as I had — it has completely slipped my mind, as though it had never, ever happened.

On top of that, considering all the emotion and fear and drama and upheaval that was going on, you’d think that I’d have been at least a little impacted by the experience, both during my trip and after. I would think that it would leave at least some “emotional residue” from the experience, to color my world and my sense of life around me.

One would think…

But no, there was no palpable “residue”. There was no lingering upset. No emotional fallout, no drama, no tears after the fact, and no ongoing dread and uncertainty. I guess maybe it happened so fast, that it didn’t make a huge impact on me. That, and I didn’t dwell on it so deeply that it disrupted my life. It was just something that happened and that turned out well, and life went on.

Weird. At least, it seems that way to me. Maybe not weird — but unexpected, in any case.

So, I’ve been really pondering this for some time, now. Why didn’t I remember? Did I block it out because it was so overwhelming to go through it, and I didn’t want to have to relive it? Was it one of those deeply personal things that I don’t like to discuss with anyone, so I instinctively suppressed it? Or am I just able to focus so intently on things in front of me, that I can block out everything else around me and immerse myself 100% only in what is “required” for me to focus on? It might also be my neuropsych’s office, which usually has a fan running that distracts me and puts me a little bit on edge. I’ve noticed that that fan bothers me a great deal, at times, and I have to really work at blocking out the sound of it, so I can think and focus on our sessions. That could have been part of it, too.

I think it could be a combination of all of the above — I really do immerse myself in the present moment, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. I can get so distracted by everything around me, that keeping focused demands everything I have — and everything I can’t spare, I push off to the side, so I can do and think what I need to do and think. I also notice that when I step into my neuropsych’s office, it is like a little bubble that takes me away from the rest of my frustrating, irritating, distracting, exasperating world, so I don’t always want to dig down into the muck. Their office is quiet (aside from the fan) with a door that closes, and the sessions are structured in ways that help me think better than I usually do, and I don’t like to disrupt that with my real-life dramas, most of which seem to be made of nothing and evaporate in thin air at a moment’s notice and hardly seem worth the time and energy to pay attention to them. We’ve wasted a whole lot of time in the past, trying to figure out how to address stupid-ass episodes that have come over me, simply because I was tired and stressed and wasn’t managing my energy and physical state very well. So, I guess I’ve built up a block against discussing emotional subjects with them, because those emotions just come and go on a whim, and I don’t want to waste the time pondering something that’s usually not real to begin with.

I didn’t have my neuropsych appointment this week because of feeling unwell and unable to drive, so I didn’t get the chance to discuss this memory thing with them. Tomorrow I have an appointment, and I’ll have to write it down, so I remember to talk about it. It’s a little unsettling to me, that I flat out didn’t remember that really important piece of my life — like it never existed. It’s not that I want to feel broken up about things – I would just like to be able to remember them and discuss them, especially when they are real. But apparently, my memory is not to be trusted at all times.

It would be nice if I could remember the things that really matter to me… the things that affect my life. I guess I’ll just have to write these things down. Some days, it seems like so much is happening to me that I can’t keep my head on straight, and I suspect that few people would be able to remember everything that happens to me, anyway. Some weeks, I go through more than some people experience in a month — or a year. I can’t keep track of everything, and it’s often difficult for me to figure out which things that happen are really impactful and significant, and which ones are just passing pains in my ass. Maybe I’ll just make a list of things that happen, each week, and have that with me when I go see them. Now I just have to remember to show them the list. I’ve kept lists before, and completely forgot to produce them at the time I should have.

Well, it’s all a process. If I figure out how to manage this type of thing, I’ll definitely let you know – because I’m sure others could benefit from it as well.

So it goes… onward.