My sleeping has normalized, at last. After 3 days of vacation, I finally got to bed by 10:30, and I slept till 7:00. That’s progress.
I’ve been getting good exercise, getting out in the mornings to walk the beach or roam around town, and I’ve been able to nap… and relax.
It’s really important for me to keep on a schedule. If I’m not, I can get tired. When I get tired, I get cranky. I’ve had to catch myself a number of times, yesterday, to keep from getting “snappy” with my spouse. I hate when I get short-tempered… especially when my spouse needs my help. I seem to get more short-tempered more quickly when they really need my help. That’s the worst time of all. I want to be patient and helpful, but my patience runs out when they are most in need.
That’s something I’m working on. It’s come up drastically in the past, and it weighs on me with the guilt. It was worse when I was first dealing with my TBI stuff and wasn’t getting any help, yet. My spouse had fallen and hurt their back, and I was so angry and confused and turned around, that I just walked up to them, yelled at them, and walked away in a rage. I couldn’t figure out how to handle the situation, and I left them lying by the road in pain.
I’m not proud of that. But I know now it was the TBI that made me do that. I would never do that myself by choice. And I think of that situation often, when they are truly in need of help with something, and I am feeling short with them. I don’t want to be like that ever again. The injury they sustained that day has worsened over time, and now they are nearly disabled by it at times.
I sometimes blame myself for that — especially because I didn’t help them in the following days and weeks and months… as their injury worsened and their back ache spread down their legs to their knees and the whole way to their ankles, but I couldn’t figure out what to do about it — and neither could they.
At least I got some help, when I did. If I had never gotten help, things would be even worse now, I’m sure. But it’s hard to face my own role in making this situation what it is. Fortunately, my spouse is getting physical therapy, but it’s been years since they could walk and move without pain.
Of course, they’re responsible, too, for much that happens in their life. They make unhealthy choices and resist common sense, so it’s not all on me. Still and all, I do feel a responsibility for this situation. And it’s incumbent upon me to manage myself properly, so I don’t pose a risk to them anymore.
I’ve had enough of that for one lifetime.
This vacation is about us being here together. Being a couple again. Being partners again. This is the first vacation we’ve had all to ourselves in a long time — for the past several years, they’ve always wanted friends to join us. But this year, no one can come, so it’s just us. And that’s fine with me. It’s easier for me to take – and it’s more of a vacation for me.
Drink water, eat regularly, get exercise, rest… and reset.
I think I found a new way to get a grip. I’ve written a bunch of times about how I’ve lost it over little things — dropping a spoon while I’m making my morning coffee, not being able to hold something firmly in hand, getting stuck in traffic, navigating tough situations at work, arguing with my spouse and having the argument spiral wildly out of control and escalate to the point of madness…and more.
It’s been an ongoing struggle for me, and it’s cost me plenty, to lose my grip and be reduced to an adrenaline-soaked pile of skin ‘n’ bones, shaking and sick to my stomach and regretting what I did or said for hours… days… weeks… sometimes years. Regret is a usual and customary part of my life.
In some ways, it’s the glue for my past. If I didn’t have regrets, and all the strong feelings that go along with them, I’m sure my perception of my life and my past would be very different from what it is right now. In some ways, I’m not sure my memory of my past would be as clear — the emotion of regret has pretty much locked some experiences in my memory for all time. Take away the regret, and you take away a big part of how I recollect my past.
Some folks say, “I have no regrets – I would do it all again the same way.”
These folks have no imagination.
I can think of a million different things I would do differently, if I had them to do all over again. And I can think of a million different outcomes that I wish had happened, versus what actually did. It’s not that I’m being hard on myself, it’s just that I see and recognize my limitations, and I am very clear about those instances where things did not go the way I wanted them to, because I “lost it”, sometimes for no apparent reason.
Do I wish I had not flipped out at my boss, back in 2005, and given him a piece of my TBI-addled mind? You betcha.
Do I wish I had not harangued and browbeaten and hassled my spouse, till they finally broke and threatened to divorce me — not once, but many, many times in the course of the past years? You’d better believe it.
Do I wish I had not gotten into those fights with the neighbor kids that got me in trouble with adults and other kids — who were older and bigger and meaner than little ole obnoxious me… and outnumbered me on top of it? How could I not?
Do I regret flying into road rage over nothing, really, and chasing people down a highway or side street to “show them”, several times, just a few months back? Absolutely.
My past is littered with poor decisions, as well as good decisions I couldn’t make good on, because of some stupid-ass impulse control issue or some idea that felt great at the time, but was a really dumb one, once I thought about it with a clear head. My life has been punctuated by overly emotional outbursts where my frustration and confusion got the best of me and turned me into someone I did not recognize. My memory is spotty to begin with, and the pieces I actually do have in place are anything but uniformly good.
So yeah, regret.
A lot of people tell me that regret is a “bad” thing to feel. They say it’s negative and it holds me back from really enjoying my life. They say the same thing about shame, but in all honesty I have a lot less problem with shame than with regret. I’ve heard shame defined as a humiliating sense that you should have done better, or somesuch. And then there’s guilt, where you make things that sucked into things that were your fault — as though you had so much control over those things to begin with. Shame isn’t such a big deal for me — sure, I usually have the sense that I should have done better, but it’s not that humiliating. It’s just a little embarrassing. Guilt isn’t such a huge deal for me, either, because things that suck are often just notmy fault, and I often have the very clear sense that I have no control over what happened or what resulted from it.
But regret? Yeah, there’s no lack of that with me.
But does it hold me back? Sometimes it does, but it doesn’t always have to. In fact, regret is probably one of the things that holds my life together. It might sound strange, but think about it — it’s a powerful emotion, and it’s always lurking right around the corner in my mind. I am keenly aware of all the things I’ve screwed up and how I wish I had done them differently. And that makes me even more keen to figure out how to NOT screw things up the next time.
See, that’s an important part of my recovery — being able to assess the outcomes of my behavior, see where I’ve screwed up, and then make an extra effort to get it right the next time. There is usually a next time, and when I’m using my head, I can make the most of new opportunities when they arise. It hasn’t always been easy, and I’ve often been humbled (and humiliated) by circumstances. But it’s paid off. Regret has served me well.
I’m currently having a new opportunity to re-do things that I’ve screwed up in the past. This is a big-time do-over, and I really want to make the most of it.
Basically, I have discovered that a very close relative of mine really screwed me over a couple of years ago. I won’t go into the details, because it’s complicated, but basically it’s about them pushing me out of the way (behind my back) and trying to cut me out of the family, because they believed I was “damaged goods” and I was a hindrance and a waste of time to my family. Things have been pretty touch-and-go with my family, over the years, and I’ve worked really hard to make up for the things I messed up — and I thought I was doing pretty well, a couple of years ago.
Now I find out (through old correspondence and writings) that there were some serious “operations” going on to push me out of the family, string me along on the surface, but keep me clueless about what was really going on. I come to find out that there were all kinds activities my family members were doing with each other over the space of a couple years — they had a great time and really enjoyed themselves, and never said a word to me. In fact, they hid it from me and pretended it never even happened. I thought something was up, a few years back, and I asked about it, but everyone flatly denied that anything was going on that I didn’t know about.
Two individuals, in particular, were driving the whole thing, and they kept me in the dark while organizing activities and having a grand time… while I was working my ass off at work, just trying to make ends meet, and generally struggling with so much on a daily basis without any real moral support.
Funny, I thought people were more distant than usual.
Now it turns out, I was not only right about something going on, but I vastly underestimated the extent to which I was cut out of things. There was even talk of some large-scale activities which involved people very close to me, to whom I have turned for support many times. Basically, they were going to ditch me and go traveling, see sights, do lots of different things… a full roster of family activities, to which I would not be invited. In the stuff I read, I was dismissed as an impediment to their fun, with talk about how so-and-so “handled” me and “talked me down” when I was upset. Like I was some kind of mentally deficient village idiot they just couldn’t be bothered with.
God, cut me, why don’tcha… When I read this stuff over the weekend, it really threw me for a loop. There was this whole other world that people very close to me were developing, and not only was I not invited, but I was un-invited, deliberately pushed to the side, like I was some kind of human flotsam. Dismissed. Disposed of. Like I didn’t matter, and they couldn’t be bothered. I had been feeling bad about feeling a bit pushed to the side, but I didn’t want to make that big of a deal out of it before. Now I realize that it was a much bigger issue than I ever imagined, and in addition to feeling hurt and betrayed, I also feel like a complete idiot for not realizing what was going on, and basically fulfilling their expectations that I was a clueless, brain-damaged idiot who would never know the difference.
And that stings.
Yesterday was a pretty rough day for me. It was like Day One of the new world… and I had a hundred different ideas about how to confront people and let them know that I KNEW what they had done, and although I never pressed the issue before, I still knew that something was going on. I’m not thatdamaged. I wanted them to know that I had a lot more details now, than they ever thought I would… and I wanted to take ’em all down. Cut them out of my life. Just dispose of them, the way they’d tried to dispose of me.
The only thing is, they’re my family. And when I really thought about it yesterday, I realized that over the past six months, they’ve been trying to do better with me. I think the guilt just got to them. And shame. The realization that what they were doing was really pretty shitty must have sunk in, and they decided to change their ways. They’ve been trying — noticeably — for the past six months or so, to make room for me and include me in things.
And now the question comes down to this — do I let myself fly off the handle with them, confront them, and try to punish them, for what they did before… or do I let it go and allow them to make amends for their callous unkindness? They really seem to be trying, and they seem to have had a real change of heart, and I don’t want to screw that up. It might make me feel better to confront them and make them “pay for what they did to me”, but in the long run, how will that help? I know what they did. They know what they did. Who knows why they did it, and who knows — maybe it was just one bad idea that someone had once, which then took on a life if its own… and then they all got carried away in the heat of the moment and continued to make those unkind decisions just ’cause it seemed like the thing to do.
I will never know that. Nor will I ever know what changed their minds about things and caused the change of heart.
All I know is this — years from now, when I look back on this time, I don’t want to remember flying off the handle and going off the deep end, doing my “scorched earth” meltdown freak-out thing with people who are my family and my main support. I don’t want to think back on this time as one when I lost it, when I trashed the attempts to make things right, out of my hurt and pain and insecurity and need to make others hurt the way I am hurting right now.
No doubt about it, this is very painful. It’s been excruciating. To be so dismissed and so marginalized and just pushed aside like a piece of trash… it just reminds me of all the other times in my life when that was done to me, and it just feels terrible. But even more terrible would be to let that pain and hurt take over my life and proceed to cause more pain and hurt in the lives of others.
That’s the kind of memory I don’t want to make. That’s the kind of experience I don’t want to have. Because no matter how justified I am in my hunger for revenge and vindication, no matter how much right I have to eye-for-eye justice, the long-term fallout of that kind of thinking and behavior is much worse than the original cause for it. It’s bad enough that I was deceived for over a year about things that mattered so much to me. It’s bad enough that the people I trusted most turned against me and made fun of me and treated me like just some tool. But if I let loose with a rampage, then any recovery from that is going to be delayed — for a lot longer than a few years. And knowing me, when I get going, I say and do things that can never be taken back. And if I let myself get to that place of uninhibited attack, I can do more damage than I intend to.
I should know. My past is littered with experiences like that.
And I don’t want to do it again.
So, I’m just letting it go. I have to. I am overworked and over-tired, and if I indulge my outrage, I’m going to be even more overworked and fatigued as I try to clean things up on my side. I’m doing my best to turn my attention to more positive things and focus on the good stuff in my life, not dwell on the bad. I know what it’s like to have a bad idea and then let it spring into life and let it get out of hand. I know what it’s like to not be able to stop myself from doing and saying those things and hurt someone I care deeply about. I know what it’s like to be human, and that’s what happened with my family — they just got really human, a couple of years ago.
And now they’re trying to make it up to me.
They’re being really nice to me. Considerate. Caring, actually. More than ever. I’m not going to push that aside, I’m going to let them do it, regardless of the reason. The past is the past, and while it hurts like hell to find out the inside story, it’s still the past. And I have a present and a future I need to take care of.
I can’t let the bad decisions and behavior of others dictate my own behavior and state of mind. I’ve let that happen in the past, and this time I have a chance to do it over — do it differently. I have a lot of really great prospects ahead of me, and if I let this revelation get the best of me, then Ilose out. And I don’t want to do that. I have been through some pretty tough things, but this is one of the toughest… and when I look back on this time, I want to look back with pride that I handled myself well, that I dealt with everything as a sovereign adult, and that I chose to rise above it and not wallow in petty hurt and pain, which only serve to make me unhappy and unhealthy in so many ways.
Life can really suck, sometimes. Pain happens. Betrayal happens. So does deceit and scheming and all kinds of sick little games. Freak-outs happen, too. As do meltdowns and breakups. But in the midst of this upheaval, I’ve got a new chance to handle the old shit in a new way. And I will. Because when I look back, years from now, I want my memory of this time to be full of pride, not only pain. I don’t want to have this be the kind of thing I regret and carry around with me as yet another example of how I can’t keep my act together. I want the moment to belong to me, not to others who tried — once upon a time — to ditch me and treat me like I was nothing.
They’re trying to make it up to me. They’re still not admitting anything, and they’re still hiding what went on, but at least they’re trying to make it up to me. And that’s a positive change for the better.
Life is waiting, and it has a lot in store — lots of it very good stuff indeed.
8. Agitated, can’t settle down – I’m all wound up and can’t seem to get myself to chill to get to bed at a decent hour each night. I’m way agitated, and fidgety and am having trouble focusing in to get shit done. 9. Angerrrrrr!!! – I’m pissed off. At work. At my spouse. At myself. I’m just angry. It’s driving me — it’s driving me crazy. 10. Anxiety – Feeling vague fear, worry, anticipation of doom – Yeah, when I go back to work tomorrow, I have the feeling that I’m going to be so totally screwed by my workload and the “lost week+” that I’ve had away. Not that it’s any different than it’s been for the past year or so, but now the sense of doom is really coming in. 11. Depression, feeling down – My mood has actually been pretty good… but I have to really fight back the depression. It sets in quickly if I don’t stay on it. 12. Excitability! – I get all worked up over stuff, then I come back to it later and I can’t see what all the excitement was about. The worst thing about the excitability is that it distracts me and takes me off-course, so it takes me longer to get where I’m going. 13. Everything feels like an effort – Yeah, pretty much. It feels like everything is a massive effort, and I can’t figure out where to start. 14. Feeling unsure of yourself – Yeah, pretty much all the time, these days. I know better (rationally) and I fight it back, but that feeling is always there… like I never know what’s going to come out of my mouth or what I’m going to do next. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don’t, but I’m never 100% sure what’s going to happen. 15. Feelings of dread – Yeah, that. Dread and anxiety. Like I just can’t deal with sh*t. 16. Feeling like you’re observing yourself from afar – This is a weird one, because it’s really like that. It’s like I’m standing at a distance and watching myself do and say things that don’t make any sense to me. 17. Feelings of well-being – On and off. It’s not all bad, all the time. Sometimes I have these sudden rushes of feeling really good, really solid, really sound. It’s a nice break. 18. Feeling guilty – Guilty over what I’ve done and what I haven’t done… what I should have done, what I forgot to do. 19. Feeling hostile towards others – Yeah, this is a tough one. I’m not feeling that great today, and we have a friend staying over, and I have to watch myself to not come across as hostile and aggressive, because they’re pretty sensitive and have a hard time making and keeping friends, as it is. My hostility has nothing to do with them, but they could easily become a target, if I don’t manage this. 20. Impatience – Yeah – what’s takingeverything so long? 21. Irritability – Like the hostility, I’ve gotta keep a handle on this. Others shouldn’t have to pay for my issues. It has nothing to do with them. 22. No desire to talk or move – This one set in when I woke up, and it’s still there. The antidote? Get the hell up and do something. Anything. Just move, goddammit. 23. Feeling lonely – Yeah. That. The consolation I get is that I’m not alone in feeling lonely. Plenty of people do. I also need to focus on the fact of what I’ve got in common with others, and that helps. 24. Nervousness – Nervous about work, nervous about money, nervous about life. Nervous. 25. Feelings of panic – On and off. This is much less extreme than it was several years ago. I’ve learned how to relax. I’ve learned how to recognize the signs that I’m just panicking, and it has nothing to do with actual reality. Breathing helps. 26. Rapid mood swings – Yeah, gotta watch that. I’m sick and tired today, so I know I’m more susceptible. 27. Restlessness – I want to run, I want to walk, I want to jump in the car and drive away. I want to go out and pick a fight. Not my best ideas… and I know it’s just the fatigue, the fogginess, the feeling of being “off” that’s doing this. Adrenaline and novelty blocks out all the distracting what-not-ness that’s swirling in my head. Surely, doing something extreme will take my mind off it. Well, sure – but at what cost? 28. Tearfulness, crying spells – Not so far, which is good. A few days ago, when I was feeling really sick, I had this. Thankfully it passed. Of all the TBI issues that come up, the tearfulness is the worst for me. 29. Feeling tense – Yeah. That. Like I’m wound so tight, I’m either going to snap, or I’m going to shoot straight to the moon. Tense. Really Tense. Black Flag Tense. 30. Feeling vague longing/yearning – Absolutely – for something I want and need, but can’t quite put my finger on. I used to have an antidote for this: daily meditation and breathing. Then I got sick of it and stopped doing it, because I just wanted to get on with my days with out having a lot of ritual and sh*t to do, first thing in the morning.
And as a result of these things, I’m also grappling with the follwing:
Day-to-Day Activities 31. Being overly busy (more than usual) – I’ve got all this stuff I want to do, and it’s piling up. I’m making myself crazy with it. 32. Feeling like you can’t get moving, you’re stuck – And under this pile of stuff, there I am, pinned down and feeling like I can’t move. 33. Feeling like you can’t get anything done – It’s just a feeling, I know, but that’s how I feel right now — nothing is moving, I can’t get anything accomplished.
Geeze. Enough of this. Yeah, things aren’t great right now, but once I get moving, I’m sure they’ll loosen up. That’s the thing that I’ve had to learn, over and over again. I can’t start from where I want to be (feeling great and having a lot of stuff done). I need to start from where I am — even if it’s sick and tired and foggy and aggressive and a bit ragged around the edges.
Gotta get out of my head and find something to really focus on. Just gotta. I’ve got to get my mind off this headache, this nausea, this fogginess, and all the above-mentioned crap. I’ve got to just get moving and do what needs to be done today. I do have things I need to take care of, and I just need to do them. I’ve had two days to recover and recoup, and that’s been good. Now I need to kick it again and get a move on. No matter how I feel, just do what needs to be done, and then enjoy having done it.
Yeah, it’s turning out to be a beautiful day, so I can get some work done in the yard and hang out with this friend. I will need to watch myself today, to make sure I’m not all edgy around them, so I don’t chase them off the way I have chased off many other people. I just need to keep cool, keep focused on what needs to get done, and do it.
And then sleep this afternoon. Get some rest. And get ready to go back to everyday normal life. Things will take care of themselves, if I’m just honest with myself and keep an eye on myself. This is not rocket science, it’s just life. Everybody has to contend with this, TBI or no. So deal with it, I shall.
What a word… I’ve been thinking I need one, and sure enough, here it is. Today and tomorrow I’m OFF work (employment work, that is – I actually have a lot of chores I need to take care of).
All in all, it’s turning out to be a fairly active vacation. I’ve got guests coming from out of town, the same weekend that my spouse is going away on a business trip. I had originally planned to kick back for four whole days, maybe head to the beach, maybe hike some woods that I haven’t explored yet, maybe go for some long drives, maybe visit an old friend in the next state who I haven’t seen for 20+ years… lots of non-work-related activities to get my head back on straight. Oh, yeah – and get some rest, too.
But then I got a call from some family members who are traveling through on their way back home. They’re retired, so they have extra time. And guess what – they’re big into outdoors activities, exploring, etc., so they will actually make the perfect company for the weekend. They’ll arrive later today, after my spouse gets on the road, and then they’ll stay till Sunday morning, when they’ll head back. So, I’ll have three days with family members who frankly do not give a damn about work and working, who are into just enjoying their lives and seeing what all life has to offer. Things have been so intense at work, lately, it will be good to take a break from all that.
Honestly, folks, wouldn’t it be good to just ease off on the gas pedal, now and then?
Yeah, I think so. And it will be good to rest, too. These relatives of mine, being older, have slowed down a lot compared to how they were when they were younger, so they move at a much more deliberate pace — none of this high-powered frenzy sh*t that I have to deal with every day. My work situation is go-go-go, and that sucks-sucks-sucks sometimes. Maybe it’s fun for people who need to drown their cares in a steady flow of adrenaline, noradrenaline, ephinephrine, and norepinephrine, but I’ll pass on that heart attack cocktail, thank you very much.
It will also be nice to get out of my head for a few days. After my meeting with my neuropsych this past Monday, all sorts of emotional stuff got stirred up, which makes me very uncomfortable and uneasy. I hate to admit it, but I’ve been breaking down intermittently — in the car on the way to/from work, in bed before I go to sleep or before I get up, fortunately in private, out of the way of notice by people who would say, “Dude –WTF?” My NP wants more specific examples of the times when I’ve done the kinds of things I talked about on Monday, and man is it stirring up a lot of old memories that I’d rather put behind me. All the times I said and did things that pissed off and alienated people I really cared about… all the times I said and did things that got me in trouble and I couldn’t figure things out and/or speak up quickly enough to dig myself out of that hole… all the times I was accused of things I didn’t do (like stealing a co-worker’s leather jacket) because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and had to blurt out something that sounded like I was admitting I did it. I couldn’t even remember what the jacket looked like — and I was certainly not going to steal it. But I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, no matter how much I kept telling myself to shut it… something in me just had to blurt out a lame comment about “not being attached to material possessions”. Geez. Smooth. And about 15 minutes after my little counseling session, I realized everyone was looking at me weirdly, and they kept looking at and talking to me suspiciously the rest of the time I worked at that place.
Nothing like having all eyes on you.
The worst part is, I didn’t steal that jacket, but when I was a kid, I used to steal from the other kids at school. I went through a period of about a year when I would steal lunch money and things they’d brought in for show and tell. If they had something really nice or something that they really needed (like lunch money), I was compelled to steal it. This was in first grade, when I was six. Fortunately, the compulsion didn’t last — the straw that broke that camel’s back was when I stole something and felt so much remorse that I vowed to never, ever do it again. I knew I caused my classmate tremendous pain and suffering because I took something they really loved — and I hated that feeling. I “got it” at that time, and although I’ve had a number of compulsions to steal over the years, I’ve managed to keep that at bay and not act on it.
But when that co-worker’s expensive leather jacket was stolen, even though I didn’t do it — and wouldn’t have, even if I’d had the chance — all the old guilt came up, and all the old feelings about “being a thief” took over. And I ended up taking the rap (even though they never pinned it on me, they were sure I’d done it) for something I did not do.
All those years of struggling with that old way. All those years of fighting it tooth and nail, but still feeling like I was carrying around a handful of hot coals that would never lose their heat. Those old ways, those old experiences just burn themselves into me, day in and day out, and I can’t seem to get them out of my hands.
And I wonder how many other people out there are walking around carrying those kinds of hot coals — especially people in prison or people who allow themselves to be trapped in a way of thinking and doing and living that reinforces their “worthlessness”. I think about all the folks out there with sketchy histories who can’t seem to shake those old habits, those old ways, and who have worked so very, very hard to overcome their past… only to have instances come up when they just can’t shake/fight/out-run it anymore… and it gets the best of them.
Or the worst of them.
All these things stay with me — the past words, the past deeds, the past mistakes and mis-steps and screw-ups… the glowing hot coals of past experiences that I cannot undo.They stay with me always, lurking under the surface, always waiting… waiting… for the instant when my guard is down or I’m not paying close enough attention, or things get tight and tough… and then they rise up again. I say things that peel back the veneer I’ve worked so hard to create, and once they’re said, there’s no un-saying them.
In a way, I wish I’d never brought up these issues with my NP. But I know that if I don’t deal with them, if I don’t find ways to manage them and work with them and better understand them, they will stay as hot and as burning as ever, and I will probably never get free. At least with my NP, I have a chance at understanding what makes this kind of experience “tick” — what causes it, and what can help me manage and/or prevent these kinds of outbursts, these kinds of experiences in verbal incontinence.
My strategy over the years has been to just shut the hell up as quickly as possible and move on, pretending I never said what I said. But sometimes there’s no denying it. And the cumulative results of these screw-ups have aggregated into a mass of intense discomfort. There’s only so long I can ignore and overlook the elephants stampeding through my proverbial living room. Gotta suck it up and deal with it.
But christalmighty does this take it out of me.
Well, it’s a beautiful day. I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do before my company gets here. Run some errands, clean up around the house, and get ready for an actual vacation.
Well, I got to bed by 10:00 last night, and I was able to sleep through till 6:30 or so, which is an improvement over what I’d been able to do over the last weeks.
I’ve been kept up by anxiety over what my neuropsych evaluation is going to reveal — that’s coming up this week — me being terribly afraid that I had given wrong information or I just couldn’t think my way through certain things… I’ve been second-guessing myself for days and days, wondering if I answered as accurately as possible… of if maybe I’m more crazy than head-injured… or that my head injuries have led to some sort of mental illness that’s invisible to me because of my anosognosia… or maybe I’m just on this wild goose-chase that will end up being all for nothing.
I try to be level-headed and logical about this and remind myself that my neurpsych has been doing this for many years, and they have certainly seen worse cases than me. But still, not being able to be a full participant in the process and being a subject of examination and enquiry… well, that makes me uncomfortable, and even if I do trust the doctor. I just don’t know what to expect, and I cannot manage my wild rang of emotions, if I don’t know what I’m managing for.
Fortunately, I do feel better this a.m. — not so much pain, not so much tenderness. I got a bit of a massage yesterday p.m., and it really, really helped. Even if it was painful at times — I don’t care. Short-term pain for long-term benefits. I’ll take the pain in the short-term, if it will help me feel this much better in the a.m.
I still have discomfort when I move – especially in my hips and lower back. And my elbows are still sore. And my thighs are still tender. But I can push up my sleeves, so they’re not chafing my wrists, and my body isn’t screaming so loud I can’t hear myself think.
I tried the Arnica yesterday. i can’t say I noticed an immediate effect, but I’m going to keep trying it — 4 tablets dissolved under my tongue 4 times a day, for a few days. I’m going to take it again after I finish my cup of coffee. (I’ve heard that you have to be careful taking homeopathic remedies when you’re eating or drinking. It’s my understanding that the remedy needs to be the only think you can taste… or I could be wrong.) I’m not off caffeine entirely — that would be too much. But I am cutting back. I only had one cup yesterday, which I think helped me sleep.
This arnica experiment is definitely going to be totally screwed up by my other changes I’m making. In a “real” test, the only thing I would change would be taking the arnica, not getting more sleep or changing my diet or getting more exercise. But dude, I’m in pain, and I need it to stop, so I can get on with my life.
Thinking about the role that pain has played in my life, I think there’s a definite trauma aspect to it. I have friends who specialize in treating trauma, both in medical and psychological environments, and they talk a lot about it. They also love to tell me I’m a “trauma survivor” — having had a whole bunch of accidents that left me progressively more impaired, as the years went on, along with the social, interpersonal, and physical after-effects of my impairments that haven’t helped me get by in the world.
And since I have a history of trauma — physical, as well as psychological — I have to admit I do show signs of PTSD.
The diagnostic criteria for PTSD, per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (Text Revision) (DSM-IV-TR), may be summarized as:
A. Exposure to a traumatic event – multiple head injuries over the years, along with other accidents and fights/clashes with people that threatened my safety
B. Persistent reexperience (e.g. flashbacks, nightmares) – I’ve had lots of them over the years… where do I begin?
C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma (e.g. inability to talk about things even related to the experience, avoidance of things and discussions that trigger flashbacks and reexperiencing symptoms fear of losing control) – some things I just will not talk about… you can pump me for details till the cows come home, but I’m not talking about certain things that have happened to me, unless I can know that it’s not going to ruin my life, if I do
D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (e.g. difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger and hypervigilance) – well, yuh, I’ve had more restless nights and being jolted awake at 3 a.m. with my heart racing and my body soaked in sweat… than I care to think about
E. Duration of symptoms more than 1 month – try months and months… sometimes years later, after the initial event is over
F. Significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (e.g. problems with work and relationships.) – just ask my friends, family, and co-workers… just ask my 17 former employers
Notably, criterion A (the “stressor”) consists of two parts, both of which must apply for a diagnosis of PTSD. The first (A1) requires that “the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.” The second (A2) requires that “the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.” The DSM-IV-TR criterion differs substantially from the previous DSM-III-R stressor criterion, which specified the traumatic event should be of a type that would cause “significant symptoms of distress in almost anyone,” and that the event was “outside the range of usual human experience.” Since the introduction of DSM-IV, the number of possible PTSD traumas has increased and one study suggests that the increase is around 50%. Various scales exist to measure the severity and frequency of PTSD symptoms.
Now, this is all pretty thick stuff for me to get into. Personally, I don’t feel like I can take on much more to process, other than just dealing with my own pain… but I have to say, the pain is worse, when I’m feeling the after-effects of some past trauma. When I’m dealing with people who have really physically hurt me in the past — like adults who used to really knock me around — or I’m interacting with people whom I have hurt in the past because of my bad behavior and poor social integration.
When I think back on being a kid, I remember a lot of pain, both from internal sources and from without. My pain issues date back to fairly early childhood – I was not a very limber kid, and I had a lot of difficulty doing things that other kids could just do, like touching toes and climbing and jumping and doing cartwheels and such. I had a lot of trouble with my balance, and I couldn’t do a somersault until I was about 5 or 6. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but I do remember the day I did my first “real” somersault — I didn’t fall off to the side, but was actually able to just roll right over and keep my balance. When I tried to stretch and extend, like other kids could, it was very painful for me. But I kept trying, and I just forced myself to stretch and extend… until the pain was too much, and I had to stop… which was usually far short of where I wanted to be.
I wanted so much to participate, to take part, to be a part of what was going on. I hated being on the outside, not able to do what other kids could as easily as they could, so I pushed myself — very hard. There was a lot of pain, but that was just the price I paid for being able to be a part of what was going on.
The other source of pain was from the outside. I was raised by parents who didn’t know how to relate to me. I tended to get over-stressed and over-extended with all the stimuli going on around me (including the pain), and they tended to discipline me. Grab me. Jerk me around. Take hold of my arms and pull me to where I was supposed to be. It was excruciating, and it was shocking. My memories of childhood are full of instances where my mom would grab me out of the blue — I wasn’t following what was going on, and I didn’t understand what she wanted me to do, so she would yell and/or grab me and pull/push me to where I was supposed to be. With my sensitivities, it was like just being pounded out of the blue, time and time again. I could never prepare for it, I could never brace for it. And I didn’t really “get” why it was happening, a lot of the time.
I wasn’t able to explain my “bad” behavior to them, and they didn’t seem much interested in finding out if I was having problems, or if I was just a bad kid who needed discipline. I think, because of their religious orientation and the role that my very religious grandparents had in our lives, they “went with” the religious explanation that I was a “sinner” and that “sin” or the “devil” had taken hold in my life, so I needed to be disciplined to stop my acting out.
So, they did. I got called a lot of names, when I was little, because I couldn’t keep up cognitively or physically — spaz, space cadet, bugger, doofus, spastic… that was my dad. My mom preferred to call me pathetic or disgusting or asinine (asinine was her favorite). I was actually shielded from their wrath a lot, because I didn’t understand till I was 7 or 8 or 9 (?) that they were actually talking to/about me. I thought they were just saying what they were saying into the blue. It didn’t occur to me, till I had been in school for a few years, and other kids were calling me names, that my mom and dad were calling me names, too.
Actually, come to think of it, it didn’t occur to me that my mom was calling me names, till a few years ago. Somehow, being mistreated by my mother is a lot harder to take than being mistreated by my dad.
Even when they showed affection, my family’s hugs and touches were extremely painful. My family — for whatever reason — loves to give big, hard hugs, and it hurts like crazy when they do! I don’t know what it is that makes them think it’s okay to just throw their arms around someone and squeeze so hard… or maybe they can’t really feel it, themselves, so they have to have hard hugs and forceful contact, to even tell someone is there. My grandparents were hard huggers, and my mom was/is, too. She loves to reach out and grab people as a sign of affection, which is a double-whammy — I don’t want to shut her out, but I cannot take the force of her contact. Just over Thanksgiving, she was walking by me, and she reached out and grabbed my arm as a sign of affection. And when I was getting ready to drive home, with the weather being as rainy as it was, she got scared for my safety and she just threw herself at me and hugged me really hard, which really hurt.
I still haven’t figured out how to tell people that when they touch me, sometimes it feels like they’re pounding on me. It’s embarrassing, it’s troubling, and I dread people knowing just how much pain they’ve caused me. Being in pain is bad enough, but then “spreading it around” by telling others about it — and telling them there’s nothing they can really do, but keep their distance — is just awful. I’ve done it before, and it’s awful. Awful to be pushed out to the margins. Awful to be forced to push people away. Awful to have to hold them at arm’s length and never let them close, without pain.
Thinking about growing up in constant pain, raised by people who repeatedly hurt me terribly, is definitely not easy to take. I have to tell myself my parents weren’t fully aware of the effect that their behavior was having on me, and that if they’d known what it was like for me when they grabbed me or hugged me, they would not have done it. I have to tell myself that they had no idea, that they were innocent. Believing that my parents would intentionally harm me, is more than I can process right now.
But it’s probably worsening my pain, to hold back from that belief. Now that I’ve been away from them for a whole day, I’m starting to relax, and I’m starting to be able to adddress my pain. I think when I was in the midst of it all, I was so shut down that even if I’d been in terrible pain — which I may have been — I wasn’t aware of it. I was up in my head. I was too busy talking. I was too busy trying to stay out of arm’s reach of both my parents.
I rarely notice until days after the fact, but when I am in the midst of family at holiday/Thanksgiving time, I hold as still as possible for long periods of time — both as an attempt to not draw attention to myself, and to keep myself from acting out when I get stressed. When I’m stressed, my brain stops working really fluidly, and I end up needing to take more time to explain myself. But when things are all wild and woolly, like at my parents’ place at Thanksgiving, I don’t have the time to fully explain myself, and I end up hurting people’s feelings from a poorly told joke, or an attempt to josh around with others, and then I start flashing back to all the other times I said/did things that people took the wrong way.
Yes, I hold very, very still during the holidays… both for my own protection and that of others.
And it probably doesn’t help my pain — because of my rigidity and my disconnection from my body.
And it doesn’t help my PTSD. Because I go back to that place where I’m on auto-pilot, where I’m just keeping my head down and keeping moving, where I’m just doing what’s in front of me, and not aware of whether or not I’m hungry or tired or anxious or stressed. And when I’m not aware, when I’m just soldiering through (as I do so well!), I tend to push myself even harder — do more stuff, take on more tasks, be more manic, be more forceful, be harder on myself and add more things to my to-do list — and that cuts in on my sleep, it cuts in on my rest, it cuts in on my physical well-being.
And I have pain. Lots of it. Tearing, ripping, screaming, shooting, chafing, burning, crazy-making pain.
So, in a way, the pain is like my barometer for how I’m doing, stress-wise. It tells me if old stuff is coming up that’s making me do things and make choices that aren’t healthy. It tells me if I’m falling back on old patterns, letting my fears and anxieties and old hurts stop me from living my life. It tells me if I’m tired — and it tells me that I’ve let myself get over-fatigued and ill-nourished.
It’s an objective measurement of how I’m doing psychologically and physically. And it gives me a great “excuse” (in my mind, when a simple reason won’t suffice) to step back and cut out all the shit I’ve got on my plate… focus in, take care of basics, talk over my issues with my therapist, and make sure I get plenty of rest. It tells me, loud and clear and in no uncertain terms, that I’m totally f’ed up, and I need to stop doing what I’ve been doing, and just take a break. Take care of myself. Have a long, hot shower. Take care of myself. Now.
Unless I do, I’m going to stay in pain. That’s just the way it is. And it’s my choice.
In a way, pain is my friend — but only because it’s my mortal enemy.