I’ve been thinking a lot about my work with my neuropsych, lately. My work has gotten past the basic survival stuff, where I’m just getting my head around what is going on with me. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m looking beyond my immediate issues and focusing on the big picture, to where I can make a difference in my own life — and possibly the lives of others.
I’ve always had a deep need to make difference beyond my own individual life, and so often my issues have gotten in my way. Susceptibility to distraction and short-term interference… the anxiety that would come up and completely turn me around. And of course the anxiety is fed by the cumulative effects of that “TBI Cascade”:
It doesn’t always happen like this, but the fact that it has happened in the past, makes me susceptible to anxiety about it happening again.
I think that’s the biggest thing hanging over my head – it happened before. Is it going to happen again? The fatigue, the confusion, the agitation, the busy-ness, the frustration, the pain, the distractability, the failure to understand, the failure to be understood. Anxiety over all this actually makes things worse, and it can be a real killer.
One of the ways that my neuropsych has helped me immensely is by helping me think through how to handle these things. The main thing they’ve accomplished is convincing me that I can handle these things. That I do have the resources and the capability to deal effectively with these problems. Before (as in, just about all my life), I would let them get the better of me, and I would get so turned around and upset by what happened — and the prospect of it happening again — that I would be completely thrown off track. Not good. Not good at all.
It didn’t help matters at all that people around me all treated me like the things that I had done and said in the past defined me in the present and also determined my future. What a load of crap. I see that now, but when I was 10 years old, being browbeaten by my father for being “stupid” and screwing up all over again, I couldn’t see that. The adults in my life couldn’t see it, and I certainly couldn’t, at that age. I mean, part of me knew they were all wrong about me, and I wasn’t stupid and retarded and mentally ill, the way they said I was. And I constructed a private world inside me (not unlike Marwencol) where I could be safe and act out in my own mind the kinds of scenarios where I was safe and secure and could be fully functional.
I had a very lively imaginary life, when I was younger. It was the one place where I could be safe and normal, and nobody gave a crap about the things I messed up. Nobody ever gave up on me in my imaginary place, they always gave me the benefit of the doubt, and I was always treated with respect and high regard by the imaginary personalities I invented and interacted with behind closed doors.
Even up till the time when I started my neuropsych rehab, I was engaged with this imaginary world. I would have some great conversations with people in the car, driving to and from work. Some people talk to themselves. And I guess I was, except that my conversations were always directed towards another person who I imagined was there. That person would always be attentive and respectful and treat me like an intelligent individual. I didn’t have to constantly prove myself to them. Maybe I was talking to my “better angels”. But at least I was interacting. Some people don’t even bother to pretend. They just shut themselves off and don’t even try. Or they find solace in playing roles in the outside world that someone else invents for them. They aren’t really there and the roles aren’t really them, but they find solace in them, and they are able to function in the world as a result.
It’s like I was role-playing for life.
But anyway, back to complaining… I have to say, after working with a neuropsych for the past three years, I have found my physical issues to be much more manageable. Fatigue can be managed by just being realistic and mindful about my energy levels. And the pain has been greatly alleviated by reducing stressors in my life (not to mention exercising more and seeing a network chiropractor regularly for several years). So many of my really BIG physical issues — tinnitus, pain, balance problems, sensory sensitivities — arise from fatigue… when I manage my fatigue with common sense and responsible choices, many of them let up. And so many of my cognitive issues arise from the physical issues that arise from fatigue, so having a way of dealing with the fatigue and sleep problems and energy levels, that I get to solve a bunch of different problems by handling that core issue.
So, where does complaining come in? Well, basically, it comes into play when I am feeling hugely sorry for myself, and I am thinking that I can’t do anything about what’s going on with me. I tend to complain when I am over-tired and in this mindset that I am “stuck” with whatever bad situation is in front of me. Instead of doing something about it, I belly-ache and whine and moan about this, that, and the other thing. And nothing gets done. Nothing changes.
Which is completely contrary to the truth of what is possible. The truth of the matter is that I do have the ability to change things. I can make different choices in my life that lead to different outcomes. I needn’t stay stuck in how things are, when they don’t serve me and my goals. Of course, in order to see that things don’t serve me, I need to know what goals I have, what I intend to accomplish, and how to bring that into being.
It’s all management issues. And when I get overwhelmed and tired and forget what I’m about, it can be all too easy to fall back into complaining-mode.
But why complain? Really? I have more power than I realize, to effect the kinds of changes I want to see in my life. We all do. The problem is when I/we get too fuzzy and foggy and overwhelmed with minutiae to develop a clear idea of what those changes can/should be.
That’s where long weekends like this come into play — an extra day to rest and rethink my life. I do a lot of rethinking on a regular basis. I have to back out of the busy-ness of the day-to-day and remind myself of what I want to do with my life, as a whole. It’s not just about what I want to accomplish at work, not just what chores I need to get done, what tasks I want to check off my to-do list. It’s about something much larger and more important, more lasting, more enduring, and ultimately more impactful, than just taking care of stuff that needs to be done.
Why complain, when I can create something far better?