No sooner do I say I need more movement, than my day fills up with meetings

brain with arms and legs walking on a treadmillToday there is not one minute of my day that is not scheduled for a meeting. Non-stop. Eight hours. No fun.

But that’s the deal, today, so that’s that.

Fortunately, I’ll be working from home today, so I can walk around the house while I talk on the phone. I can’t do that at the office… at least, not on the scale I can do it here. I can’t walk around the halls, talking on the phone. I can reserve a conference room and then walk around it, while I’m listening. I could even project the meeting proceedings on the big screen, so I can watch what’s happening as I pace. But it’s not the same as being able to walk around my house.

So, at least there’s that.

And man, do I need that today. Yesterday I was stuck in an all-day workshop where we just sat… and sat… and sat. It started early, so I didn’t have time to exercise in the  morning before I went. But it ended earlier than my normal days typically do, so I was able to get to the pool and go for a swim. That was productive. And much needed. So, it’s all good.

I noticed that I was getting really tired towards the end of the day, and I was starting to get cranky and a little confrontational. But I managed to pull up and not blurt whatever came to mind. There was this module we were working through that just seemed like such B.S., and I wanted to say so. But I held my tongue and said nothing. Mission accomplished. I got out of it without wrecking my reputation, which is what I often do at those kinds of things, towards the end of the day when I’m tired. I blurt out crap that makes me look belligerent and confrontational, when I’m just tired.

And then all the work I put into cultivating rapport with others goes out the window. Fly away, little reputation. Fly away.

But yesterday, I held my tongue, and that was good. It was very, very good.

And today… Well, I’m looking at another day of non-stop paying attention to important stuff, and potentially being virtually motionless the whole time. I can’t let that happen. Not two days in a row. I just have to get creative and think outside the box. Find ways to keep myself moving. Heck, maybe I’ll even ride my exercise bike while I’m on a call — except that I get out of breath, and speaking up when I sound like I’m in the middle of an exercise routine is not the most professional thing to do.

So, scrap that. No riding the bike while I’m on a conference call.

I’ll just pace in my living room, walk around the downstairs. Do some movement… knee bends… stretching… anything to keep my body awake. ‘Cause if my body isn’t awake, neither is my brain.

And not-so-great things happen when my brain is foggy and asleep.

Onward.

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Watching within

“You’re feeling sleepy…” No, I’m NOT!

So, this year is off to a roaring start. I’ve already had a few situations of hurting people’s feelings — that escalated from people being super-sensitive to something I said, or how I behaved.

I will admit, I have come on very strong at times, and I have had a little “scorched earth” action, where I felt like I was either being threatened or disrespected.

Yeah, I’m not much for being threatened OR disrespected, and I will react if it seems like that’s happening. I have to watch myself, though, because that can cost me — in damaging existing relationships or nipping new ones in the bud before they get a footing.

The thing is, I need to make sure I don’t over-react, which I can certainly do. Especially if I’m not paying attention to what’s going on inside my head and veins and autonomic nervous system, I can quickly switch into survival mode over some interpretation. In some cases, I need to be in survival mode, but I don’t need to completely scorch the people who I perceive as a threat, like Smaug laying waste to so many Middle Earth towns.

Yeah, gotta watch that. Particularly when I am tired and stretched.

I had a couple of tricky situations this past week, during the conference. Even before I left the airport, I had sent an email to a colleague who is also a good friend, which really hurt their feelings. I was reacting to them running their mouth and getting me in trouble because they don’t know how to be discrete about sharing information with upper management before it’s been fully analyzed. They let a few little factoids slip, and the uber-uber-boss got wind of it and proceeded to tear my boss a new one, over what was really nothing.

Geeze. And this after I’d specifically told this person to NOT share information with the uber-uber-boss. God help us.

Anyway, the email I sent was terse, abrupt, and pretty harsh. The situation called for it — something had to be done to keep them from continuing to run their mouth. But then they got all worked up over it and pitched a little hurt-feelings hissy fit, and then it blew back on me and I had to spend days patching things up. If they’d been able to keep their mouth shut, this never would have happened. But the individual who “over-shared” has impulse control problems. They always have. They get carried away and say and do things that make them extremely difficult to deal with. I don’t doubt for a minute that it’s due to them having sustained a severe brain injury when they were younger — they got thrown from a motorcycle and landed on their face and spent the next week in a coma, then had to learn to do everything — walk, talk, function — over the course of several years.

When they get tired and out of sorts, all the standard TBI stuff comes up — impulsiveness, outbursts, emotionality, aggressiveness, confusion, disorganization… and last week, when I sent that email, they were coming out of an extremely long week that was a prime recipe for TBI meltdown — for both of us.

Because I was tired, too. And under pressure. And I wasn’t minding my P’s and Q’s, and I let things get out of hand. I wasn’t the bigger person, and I took matters into my own hands, and the result was not pretty. It’s human, it’s to be expected under the circumstances, but I don’t want to do it again anytime soon.

The second experience I had was at the conference, when I met up with some old friends whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. One of them brought their new love interest with them, because they wanted to introduce them to me and my spouse. After an initial contact at the hotel that was pleasant and friendly, I had to run out and take care of some more things, then I came back, and we spent more time all hanging out together.

That’s when things got dicey. The new Love Interest started telling us about themself, and the more I heard, the less I liked. First of all, they had dredlocks, which is a huge flag for me with white people. Something about white people wearing “dreds” pushes a bunch of buttons with me, partly because every white person with dreds I’ve ever known has come from a privileged background and they live their “alternative” lives scamming off other people. This is only my own limited experience, but every white person with dreds has given me attitude about being part of the “system” and selling out for my full-time job and my house and my regular life.

It makes me insane. Partly because I work in the “system” and have a full-time job and house and regular boring life, because it’s the only way I can function under my circumstances. I need routine. I need predictability. I need a full night’s rest, or I cannot function. At All. This isn’t by choice — it’s by necessity. Certainly, I would love to be able to come and go as I please and be all alternative and what-not and “live my dreams” and “embody my passion” however and whenever I like.

But for me, that’s a recipe for disaster. My brain is such that if I don’t have regular routine and predictability and a whole lot of really boring stuff giving structure to my life, I lose it. It’s not pretty. I become extremely difficult to live with — as the Love Interest found out.

So, there I am, hanging out with people I really love and care about, and here’s this dredlocked person making snarky comments about “white people”. As though they’re not white. And they start talking about their past, moving around here and there. Back and forth all over the world. USA – China – South America – Europe – Asia – back to the US – all over. I guess I got a bit jealous, because that’s the kind of life I would rather be living, but circumstances demanded different choices from me. It’s a little rough to move around the world all the time, when your spouse is disabled and ill, they depend on you to survive, and you can’t keep a thought in your memory for longer than 15 minutes.

According to my spouse, I got pretty aggressive with this Love Interest, firing off questions about where they lived and when. Thinking back, it was definitely an Alpha-situation, with me standing over them, like some interrogator, bombarding them with questions. At the time, I was so caught up in learning more – I actually wanted to hear more about what they did, and when. At the time, I didn’t intend to be aggressive. At least, I don’t think so. I was actually really interested in hearing what they had to say. I wanted to hear more.

But it wasn’t perceive that way, and apparently I made everyone in the room very uncomfortable. I was clueless that people were uncomfortable. I was just focused on hearing more, because my life has been so incredibly uniform and established for the past 20 years.

At the same time, though, there were some alarms that were going off in my head — so maybe I was being aggressive.

The first alarm was the dreds. The second alarm was the Love Interest trying to sell my spouse on their services doing “neurolinguistic programming” — a/k/a hypnosis — to solve some of their mobility issues. My spouse has some serious and long-standing mobility problems due to back and leg pain, and many people have told them it’s because of some emotional block or unresolved issues. Personally, I think it has more to do with them just not moving enough and not strengthening the right muscles to support their frame. They also need to lose about 30 pounds. Most healthcare professionals we talk to, feel exactly the same way. But lo and behold, here’s yet another “alternative healthcare practictioner” trying to sell my spouse on mind control techniques to solve their physical problems.

Of course, it couldn’t be done in just one session. But after an “intake interview” they could continue to work over the phone at any distance. The rate was $100/hour.  No insurance coverage available.

So, yeah, here’s this individual who’s living on the margins, pretending to be something they are not, just flitting around doing as they please, subtly slamming people like me, and they’re trying to hard-sell my spouse into signing up for hypnosis, which of course I will be paying for out-of-pocket, if it ever happens. On top of it, they’re talking to my spouse about working together to create some sort of alternative event, and I’m getting a sickly deja-vu in the pit of my stomach about all the other marginal folks my spouse has tried to work with who started out seeming so alternative and progressive, and just turned out to be nutso, flighty, opportunistic users who thought they could take advantage of the “rich” people with the salaried job, the house, and the two cars in the garage.

Come to think, of it, I’m surprised I was as polite as I was, that night. If I had really been aware of how I was feeling at that time, I probably would have 86’ed them, or called it an early night.

But like I said, I was pretty clueless about just how threatened and aggravated and antagonistic I was feeling. I was in the “zone” — or so I thought. And my memories of the evening were totally different from how my spouse describe them to me later.

Anyway, the rest of that evening went slowly downhill. I was actually feeling pretty strong, that night, and I had a good time catching up with my old friends. But the Love Interest became increasingly withdrawn as the evening went on. They wouldn’t make eye contact with me, and when we rode back to the hotel, they made sure to sit far away from me. It was weird. I mean, I tried to reach out and talk to them, but they kept their distance. Maybe because I was a representative of “THE MAN”, and/or I wasn’t playing along with their alternative role-playing game.

In the end, they barely said good night to me, and they were obviously glad to get away.

I feel badly about the situation — mostly for my friends, who were obviously fond of the Love Interest. To them, they were wonderful, from what I could tell, and it seemed like they did really care about each other. But my shields went way up – to 110% – with this person around, and I was NOT going to have my spouse snookered into yet another boondoggle that was expensive, time-consuming, far from guaranteed, and happening on the other side of the country.

Yah, not gonna happen on my watch.

Looking back, I realize now that my instincts were pretty accurate. I was “tuned in” to what was going on beneath the surfaced, and I took corrective action without going ballistic. I could have gone ballistic, under the circumstances. The warning signs were written all over the situation. But aside from some pointed questions and uneasiness-provoking directness, I didn’t go all Rambo on the Love Interest. I just made it clear that I was not buying what they were selling, I didn’t just agree with every little thing they said. And I didn’t give a shit if I did piss them off.

My friends were certainly uncomfortable, now that I think about it, and they should be. Because here is someone they ostensibly love and trust, who is probably using them for their own selfish purposes. And I hate seeing that happen to anyone I care about. My friend who is dating them has fallen in with questionable people before, and they are extremely susceptible to users like this. I’ve seen it before, and it appears to be happening again. I think it has to do with some sort of guilt from their parents having money and being community leaders, and them wanting to reach out and help the less fortunate.

In my experience, the “less fortunate” can sometimes get that way because they would rather scam others than take responsibility for their lives. And I hate seeing good-hearted people used by those kinds of scammers. So, to stand by and do/say nothing and act like everything is hunky-dory… that’s not an option for me.

This isn’t a game, folks. This is life. I know that my friends come from money, so they will always have someone to help them, should things go sour for them. They can afford to fritter away their days and years without terrible consequence (like for me and my spouse). Their parents keep them well provided for, even well into adulthood. But can we really afford to squander our lives — our precious, precious lives — on people and experiences that constantly take, and do not give?

There is so much that needs to be done in the world, and it makes me absolutely NUTS to see the talented, gifted, intelligent people in my life frittering it all away on people who take advantage of their good hearts. They fritter it away to rebel… for entertainment’s sake… or because they don’t realize just how precious and rare their talents and gifts and intelligence really are.

What a waste.

Unfortunately, I can’t spare my friends from their poor choices in love mates. But at least, in this case, I didn’t allow the User to “attach” themself to my spouse and come home with us. Yes, people got their feelings hurt, and yes, people were really uncomfortable. But I can sleep better at night, knowing that there is no way in hell that predatory parasitic Love Interest is going to come anywhere near my family again.

They tried to work their NLP hypnosis magic on us, and it didn’t work. I saw through it and took corrective action. I wasn’t consciously aware of the details at the time, while it was happening, but I went with my gut and my instinct, and as it turns out, I was — as they say — Right On, Man… Right On!

Weekend break : Food and travel and doing

This was like my weekend break – more fun than it looks like

I took a break this past weekend. Actually, I worked my ass off around the house, and I didn’t have my nap, either day, and I didn’t get a couple of of important things done that I *had* to do (oh, well…)

But I still took a break. I took a break from the crazy confusion, the frantic ad-libbing, the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants improvisation that wipes me out and depletes me and makes me feel worse than ever by the end of the day.

To be honest, I am pretty fried. I’ve been fried since Saturday morning, actually… I was in really rough shape — Woozy and out of it and really confused and off balance. Forgetting things left and right. Having to double back and do things over and over and over, till I actually do them correctly. Literally not knowing where I was or what I was supposed to be doing… till I stopped and took a breath and looked around, and then — oh, yeah — then I remembered. But in slow motion. Everything in    v e r y   s l o w   m o t i o n… Crazy.

Feeling all weekend like I was being dragged behind a horse with my foot jammed in the stirrup, and there’s no end in sight to the gallop. I woke up feeling sick and tired, Saturday  morning, and I’m still feeling sick and tired. The main difference is that this sick and tired is a whole lot less stressed than I was on Saturday morning, 48 hours ago.

Because I took care of business. I made my lists. I mean, I was brutal to myself this weekend. No Mercy. NO DISTRACTIONS. NONE.  ZIP. NADA. ZILCH. Not Even Going There. I had a lot to do, and the whole lot was a confusing mass of must-do’s, to-do’s, better-do’s, and what-not, some of the things more mandatory than others, but all of them feeling mission-critical.

Yeah, mission-critical. Whatever. I got my notebook out with my to-do list in it, and I sat down each morning, yesterday and today, with my special pen that I always use when I am writing Something Important, and I waded through my lists, culling the things that could wait, and making damn’ sure that I did the things that Couldn’t Wait. I felt like a blithering idiot, needing to write down each step:

  • Go to the post office
  • Check whether mail has come
  • Pay box fee
  • Go to the bank
  • Deposit one check in one account
  • Deposit the other check in the other account
  • Go food shopping and buy [insert items here, grouped by the section of the store where they are located]
  • Eat lunch
  • Take the trash to the dump

… and so on, but I did it. Because if I didn’t write it down exactly the way I needed to do it, it wasn’t going to get done. I was going to get pulled in a million little directions by a million little distractions. And I needed to get things done.

I took that to-do-list notebook with me everywhere, and I checked in with it every few hours, to make sure I was still on track and not wandering off into never-never land.

And you know what? It worked. As fried as I was, as sick, as confused, as turned around and impulsive as I was, I soldiered through. And by the close of Saturday night I had completed the last of the Ultra Critical items that Must Be Done, and I could finally wind down the evening with some hot tea and a glass of cold water. And some Advil, of course.

Not that the weekend wasn’t without mishaps. I jumped the gun and ordered a $30 replacement battery for my cordless drill before I thought to check the Home Depot website, where they actually had the exact same battery for $9.97. That’s an expensive mistake. I can’t afford to just spend $30 at the drop of a hat. But I can’t cancel the first order. Screw it. I’ll justify it because I’m supporting a local business instead of a massive big-box chain store, so I’m fine with spending that $30 (almost). I went ahead and ordered a second battery at the great price, and now I’ll have two batteries that hold a charge, instead of one little weak one that peters out after I drill a couple of holes in some plywood.

It took me forever to get going in the mornings. I couldn’t settle down and get myself in the right direction for hours. I was incredibly distractable, both mornings, going in circles at top speed. Crazy. But when I reined myself in and got myself back on track, it was okay going.

Get that list together. Check that list.

Right now, it probably doesn’t sound much like a weekend break. But it was — with my lists. Sitting down and figuring out what I was going to do – and when – and then just going through the steps of doing it all, one piece at a time, really took the pressure off. It let me stop thinking about what I was going to do, and let me focus on the things I was doing, when I was doing them.

Trying to figure out what to do next is a big problem for me, and it’s a huge time and energy suck. I can literally run in circles, trying to get things done — and getting nothing done at all. It’s also a big source of stress for me, because I can get caught up in the logistics and trying to figure things out and trying to think through what’s next – what’s next – what’s going to be next after that.  Caught up and confused. Crazy. And then I end the day feeling like crap because I got nothing done that I intended to.

Fortunately – and thanks to my lists – I managed to get a bunch of stuff done around the house that I’ve been meaning to do for years. I did a bunch of work in the yard, clearing out a ton of weeds and invasive plants that have been wreaking havoc with my grass for years,  but I never got around to addressing. I also cleaned out my garage and gave it a good sweeping-out, which it has also been needing for years, but hasn’t happened. Till yesterday. I worked in my basement, rearranged things that needed rearranging, managed to hook up my web cam on my computer, fiddled a little bit with video, moved some files around on computers, did some research, and got just about everything important checked off my list.

Amazing. Pretty fantastic.

So, what’s with the food and travel? Well, this weekend I was flying solo. My spouse was traveling for work, and I had the house to myself. I also had the kitchen to myself, and I was able to experiment a little with the meals I made. Friday night’s experiment was pretty much a disaster. It didn’t taste bad, but the house smelled terrible all night, and I was concerned it might still smell bad by Monday. I aired the place out on Saturday, so that helped. I also decided to try my hand at making barbecue pork in a slow cooker. On our recent trip to see family, my sister-in-law made pork and onions in her crock pot, and it was amazing. I couldn’t remember what all she’d put in it, other than pork and onions, so I looked up some slow cooker recipes, combined some of the simpler ones that sounded good, and by 8 o’clock Saturday night, I had a killer batch of pork BBQ that was out of this world. I mean, it was good. Very sweet and mellow with just a hint of tang. I bought the cheapest ingredients I could find — it was an experiment after all — and I kept it super simple. But the end result was nothing short of phenomenal, and I dined on that all weekend.

And the travel? Well, both Saturday and Sunday nights, Anthony Bourdain was on CNN (in between the tornado alerts from the network), exploring regions to the north and mid-east. So, two nights in a row, I got to see parts of the world I may never get to see in person. And I got to see the food. The chances of me ever going to any of those places is slim-to-none, so I’m happy to let him go there with a camera crew and bring back his impressions. He seems to be one of those guys who just goes to soak it all in, enjoy it, and let the experiences affect him – be that positive or negative. He just is, in the midst of all that crazy doing and happening and activity. Sure, he does along with folks, but what strikes me the most about him is that he just IS.

And when I watch him just BE in the places where he is, talking to folks, exploring, taking it all in — and eating — I get to do that, too. I get into the spirit of his adventures and get to watch how he does it. It’s a good model for me, because that’s the kind of spirit I want to bring to my own work and life, and watching someone just be open to what happens, and then talk about how it is for them, reminds me that it’s possible to be that way — even when I am dog-tired and in pain and am running out of ideas about how to be in the world.

Not that I want to make myself into Anthony Bourdain. I’ve got my own ways, my own personality, my own take on things. It’s the spirit of his work that speaks to me, and that’s what I look for.

… Not to mention, learning about amazing new foods… most of which I may ever make, but some of which are giving me ideas.

Anyway, after a very full and productive weekend, I am feeling a little better, but I’m still feeling sick and woozy. So what — I’ve got to get on with my day. The thing with me, these days, is to not let feeling bad hold me back. I might be dizzy, confused, disoriented, distractable, forgetful, and have almost no impulse control, but I have my ways of dealing with it:

  • dizzy : take it slow, keep one hand on a stable surface at all times, don’t make any sudden moves, and think about what I’m going to do before I do it
  • confused : make notes about what I need to do, keep refining my list, striking off the unnecessary things, and using post-it notes to remind me of what I’m doing
  • disoriented : again, use the notes, and don’t get too bent out of shape about being so disoriented
  • distractable : keep things simple, keep one task in mind at all times, repeat to myself — out loud and silently — what I’m doing and why I’m doing it
  • forgetful : see disoriented and distractable above
  • almost no impulse control : take it easy, and when I screw up (which I often do), just take a deep breath, think about what I should really be doing, and do that, if I can.

It’s not fun and pleasant, and if I think too much about it, it’s pretty depressing, but in the face of all of the above, I can still get on with my life and be productive and effective. It might take me twice as long as I’d like, and it might make me nuts at times, but it can be done. And in the end, I’ve got something amazing to show for it.

I now have a clean garage and a mowed yard, and a lot more hope and peace of mind. Not bad for a weekend’s work.

Do-Over Alert – How do I want to remember this time?

Ouch – that stings

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.

If only….

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 not my 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 that damaged. 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 I lose 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.

Onward.

This is Your Brain on No Self-Control

Click here to learn how to “painlessly activate the self-control muscle”

Check out this article. It sheds a lot of light on a problem that plagues many of us – loss of self-control.

MRI images show what the brain looks like when you do something you know you shouldn’t.

New pictures from the University of Iowa show what it looks like when a person runs out of patience and loses self-control.

A study by University of Iowa neuroscientist and neuromarketing expert William Hedgcock confirms previous studies that show self-control is a finite commodity that is depleted by use. Once the pool has dried up, we’re less likely to keep our cool the next time we’re faced with a situation that requires self-control.

But Hedgcock’s study is the first to actually show it happening in the brain using fMRI images that scan people as they perform self-control tasks. The images show the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)—the part of the brain that recognizes a situation in which self-control is needed and says, “Heads up, there are multiple responses to this situation and some might not be good”—fires with equal intensity throughout the task.

However, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)—the part of the brain that manages self-control and says, “I really want to do the dumb thing, but I should overcome that impulse and do the smart thing”—fires with less intensity after prior exertion of self-control.

Two fMRI images of brain activities are shown.
fMRI image of brain activity when people exert self-control. Image adapted from University of Iowa press release image.

He said that loss of activity in the DLPFC might be the person’s self-control draining away. The stable activity in the ACC suggests people have no problem recognizing a temptation. Although they keep fighting, they have a harder and harder time not giving in.

Which would explain why someone who works very hard not to take seconds of lasagna at dinner winds up taking two pieces of cake at desert. The study could also modify previous thinking that considered self-control to be like a muscle. Hedgcock says his images seem to suggest that it’s like a pool that can be drained by use then replenished through time in a lower conflict environment, away from temptations that require its use.

The researchers gathered their images by placing subjects in an MRI scanner and then had them perform two self-control tasks—the first involved ignoring words that flashed on a computer screen, while the second involved choosing preferred options. The study found the subjects had a harder time exerting self-control on the second task, a phenomenon called “regulatory depletion.” Hedgcock says that the subjects’ DLPFCs were less active during the second self-control task, suggesting it was harder for the subjects to overcome their initial response.

Two fMRI images of the brain are shown.
Brain activity after people have been engaged in self-control tasks long enough that their self-control resources have been depleted. Image and description credit to University of Iowa.

Hedgcock says the study is an important step in trying to determine a clearer definition of self-control and to figure out why people do things they know aren’t good for them. One possible implication is crafting better programs to help people who are trying to break addictions to things like food, shopping, drugs, or alcohol. Some therapies now help people break addictions by focusing at the conflict recognition stage and encouraging the person to avoid situations where that conflict arises. For instance, an alcoholic should stay away from places where alcohol is served.

But Hedgcock says his study suggests new therapies might be designed by focusing on the implementation stage instead. For instance, he says dieters sometimes offer to pay a friend if they fail to implement control by eating too much food, or the wrong kind of food. That penalty adds a real consequence to their failure to implement control and increases their odds of choosing a healthier alternative.

The study might also help people who suffer from a loss of self-control due to birth defect or brain injury.

“If we know why people are losing self-control, it helps us design better interventions to help them maintain control,” says Hedgcock, an assistant professor in the Tippie College of Business marketing department and the UI Graduate College’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience.

Hedgcock’s paper, “Reducing self-control depletion effects through enhanced sensitivity to implementation: Evidence from fMRI and behavioral studies,” was co-authored by Kathleen Vohs and Akshay Rao of the University of Minnesota. It will be published in January 2013 in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

Vacation!

I may not be around for a few days 🙂

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.

The three ways “it” gets hold of me

We’ve all got our monsters

I had a good talk with my neuropsych today about the issues I’ve had (for many, many years) with impulse control around things I say. For many years, I’ve gotten myself into trouble by saying things that were either hurtful towards others, or were so out there in left field that people genuinely thought I was losing it. After discussing several examples today, we identified three distinct ways I get into trouble:

  1. Blurting things out that don’t go over well, and then scrambling — in vain — to patch up the rift in the social fabric, and digging myself deeper into a hole by not being able to shut the hell up.
  2. Getting carried away on an emotional jag, being unable to manage my state of mind and behavior, and flipping out at people when I’m extremely overwrought.
  3. Getting caught up in talking a blue streak, pissing people off, alienating them, boring them, driving them nuts, and being utterly unable to stop myself, even when they tell me I need to be quiet.

These three phenomena are like the Three Stooges of my post-TBI experience. And at last I’m getting some help for them. It took me a while to be able to discuss them openly with someone — and with plenty of hesitation, too. So much in my experience has been dismissed, and my neuropsych has been pretty quick to label things that happen to me as “interpretations” I have of events, that I was really concerned that they would just brush me off and tell me I was making things harder for myself than need be.

But ahead of time, I thought things through, and I came up with some examples of the kinds of impulse control issues I’ve been having for many, many years. I was already starting to see patterns and differences between some of them. And when we started talking about it all, I was able to organize my thoughts pretty well, and I was able to press ahead on points that they wanted to dismiss as “interpretations”. Ahem — when something happens as a direct result of something else, it’s not just my interpretation. There’s an actual correlation between them. So please don’t just brush me off like I’m crazy or looking for reasons to get worked up about something.

In the end, they did actually see that one of the three problems is something I need to work on. It’s something I need some tools and techniques to deal with. And I was able to see that the other two were things that just about everybody does, or are things that happen naturally when such-and-such takes place, and that in some ways I was already dealing with them.

Let me break it down.

#1 above – Blurting things out that don’t go over well – is something that everyone does, now and then. Scrambling — in vain — to patch up the rift in the social fabric, and digging myself deeper into a hole by not being able to shut the hell up is very likely little more than my classic inexperience at interacting with people. Remember, I never really interacted with people in a social way, prior to working with my neuropsych. I said things to them, pretended to listen, then spent countless minutes and hours afterwards trying to figure out what just happened.

#2 above – Getting carried away on an emotional jag, being unable to manage my state of mind and behavior, and flipping out at people when I’m extremely overwrought – is something that will happen when I’m overrun with emotion, I’m tired, and I’m stressed. It’s also something that happens intermittently and isn’t a constant factor with me.

#3 above – Getting caught up in talking a blue streak, pissing people off, alienating them, boring them, driving them nuts, and being utterly unable to stop myself, even when they tell me I need to be quiet – is the thing that I need some tools for. I need to find ways to stop the momentum, to not go into that downward slide into incoherence and social marginalization. I’ve done this so many times — knowing I needed to stop talking or doing something, knowing I needed to quit running my mouth, knowing I needed to just HALT and back away from the situation… only to watch myself keeping on doing and saying the things that got me in trouble. This is the biggie — the one that has the greatest potential to wreck me in life. It’s the sleeping giant — or perhaps the sleepless giant — that lurks ever behind the scenes and threatens to pull me down-down-down into a spiral of uncontrolled verbal incontinence, possibly ending up (as has often been the case) with me tearing away at the social fabric that holds me up and contains my life.

Bit by bit, piece by piece, undermining me.

Thankfully, my neuropsych can see this. And they can see that I really don’t like to talk about it, but that I have to, because my life is going to stay stuck if I can’t figure out how to handle the almost overwhelming conviction that I’m going to screw something up. And that I’ll pay.

The higher you climb, the farther you fall.

And I’m really sick and tired of being convinced I’m going to fall, and having no way to prevent it.

But now that can change. Now I have a chance.

The irony is…

Of all the people to ask for help and turn to others for assistance, I’m the last person who actually likes to do it. I hate to ask for help, in fact. I also hate having to consult with experts and see professional assistance with anything. It’s beyond frustrating and it feels humiliating.

So, when doctors assume that I’m malingering, or I’m trying to get attention, it’s the ultimate irony. I would much rather suffer in silence than have to discuss any of my issues with anyone.

But for some things I have to seek help. I just dislike being dismissed or categorized as a “faker” when I try to reach out and get some assistance.

I’m talking to my neuropsych today about this godawful tendency of mine to not be able to stop myself from saying and doing things that hurt others or make them feel uncomfortable. I’ve done it more times than I can count, and it’s actually been quite disabling, because in the face of uncertain circumstances when I don’t dare offend or hurt others, I keep my mouth tightly shut and don’t speak up. On the other hand, when I’m not careful, I tend to say and do things that get me or others in trouble.

Things like mouthing off to police officers or chasing them down to give ’em hell because they (rightfully) pulled me over… or keeping on talking when every fiber of my being is telling me to SHUT UP, and I’m pissing off people increasingly by the minute… It’s been a problem for a long, long time. And it’s really held me back in many ways.

I just don’t want my neuropsych to dismiss this or make light of it. It’s a real problem, not something I’m making up to get attention. And it would be nice if I could get some help without having to grovel for it.

Keeping track

Keeping clear, keeping up

Lately, I’ve been having some issues with losing track of things. Important things, like car registration papers, bills, and notebooks that have information in them I need. Fortunately, I’ve managed to get hold of the critical pieces. If I have a copy of something, there’s an excellent chance some bureaucrat has a copy filed away somewhere.

It’s a little troubling — but it’s also a good reminder that I really need to make some extra effort at times… often when I am least inclined to do so.

But it’s gotta be done — that extra effort. And I’ve gotta keep steady with keeping track of things. Who else will do it, if I don’t? No one, that’s who.

I’ve been doing some things lately to keep me better organized — things like cleaning off work spaces that are covered with papers that may or may not have any use or meaning for me, anymore. I have a general rule — if something has laid in plain view for six months or more and hasn’t been picked up or moved or referenced, it needs to find a new home, usually in the trash can.

Clearing out my work spaces is the first step in keeping track of my life. I need to regularly clear out the stuff that’s taking up necessary room in my life, to make more room for the things that I care about and want to spend time on. It’s the tangible equivalent of not doing a bunch of stuff that serves no purpose in my life in general. It frees up my attention from having to parse through a lot of crap that just gets in the way.

In many ways, keeping track is as much about deciding what I need to keep track of, and getting rid of the rest.

Okay, time to switch gears with this post. This morning I was looking at my blog stats for what people are searching for, and one search led me to a site that featured someone I met years ago, who I met around the time when I was first coming to terms with my TBI experience(s). They had a story similar to my own, though with fewer injuries. The impact to their life had been dramatic, and they had a long road of recovery after what had been a “minor” car accident.

We met a couple of times for mutual info sharing and support, and then we went our separate ways. When we met, back then, they seemed like they were “with it” for the most part. A few blips here and there, and a lot of hidden issues they talked about overcoming. To all appearances, they actually looked pretty normal — as so many of us mTBI survivors do.

But when I saw their picture online this morning, I was pretty shocked. They didn’t look like they were “all there”. If anything, they looked disoriented and a little frightened. And this was an official publicity shot for some sort of presentation they were doing about brain injury.

Holy crap. It’s only been a few years, and they’ve gone downhill that quickly? How is this possible? Had something else happened to them? Had they been injured again? Had all hell broken loose?

WTF?!

Thinking back on the interactions I had with them in the past, I do recall that they were pretty “into” the drama that can accompany TBI. They were also into highlighting the difficulties and challenges they and other BI survivors face, and when I talked to them about my situation, I got a hefty dose of pity, which didn’t sit well with me. It’s like they felt sorry for me and all my difficulties. “I’m sorry it’s been so hard for you,” is what they said. And I actually stopped checking in with them after that, because I don’t want pity and I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me, even if they think that’s what they should do.

Make no mistake, this is NOT an easy thing to live with. But I’d rather be completely ignored, than have anyone’s pity.

“To show pity is felt as a sign of contempt…” is what Friedrich Nietzsche said, and while I’m sure I’m not quoting the whole concept, and it’s out of context, that’s how I feel — pity is a sign of contempt, assuming that the person facing down a challenge is unable to deal with it, and somehow needs special treatment and consideration as they cope with what comes along.

The last time I had contact with this person, they showed me pity, which felt like contempt. Don’t make me out to be less than human — that is, open to all the variety of life and able to meet my challenges with all my resources — just because I’ve sustained a number of TBIs.

And now I see their picture — of them looking somewhat disabled, actually. I’m really upset by this for a number of reasons.

First, it’s like they deliberately took a step back and they took on this persona of a BRAIN INJURY SURVIVOR, where (even if they are a survivor), the first part of their identity is about Brain Injury. It’s like they’ve made this who they are, and they’re going with it, without questioning it.

Second, it feels like they’ve sacrificed their own health and well-being for the sake of others. They were pretty active in brain injury support activities when I met them, and I believe their involvement has deepened in their own community. When I met them and other people they were working with, there seemed to be a lot of talk about everything they had to give up, because of their injuries. And when I talked about just wanting to live my life and get back into my life, one of them actually said, “There’s nothing wrong with you!” as though my unwillingness to give in to traumatic brain injury meant that I didn’t have any issues going on.

I’m still a little miffed about that comment. The person that said that had no idea what it’s like to have to learn to look as normal as possible, ’cause you’re gonna get yer ass kicked, if you let on that you’ve got problems, and you spend your life faking it till you make it… but you never quite make it.

Anyway, it also really bothers me that the people promoting this presentation would run a photo like that — like they had to find a head shot that made the person look a little on the disabled side. You could have taken that photo in different ways, or chosen a different one from the batch. But no, they chose one that made them look like an addled deer in headlights. How this is helping, I’m not sure. Unless it’s intended to make everyone feel bad for this person and treat them differently because they’ve had such a hard time of it.

Personally, in my own life, screw that. I do my best to present as best as possible, each and every day. I might have chronic pain, insomnia, sensitivity to light and sound, awe-inspiring levels of distractability, anger/rage/temper issues, impulse control, and a piss-poor working memory, but goddamn it, I’m not going to walk around with my ass hanging out just ’cause. I still have my pride. Certainly, it gets me in trouble at times, especially when I over-extend myself and I’m not making the effort to pay attention, but I’d rather push myself and see what all is possible, than give in to how I’m “supposed” to look or act, or whatever, and end up with less of a life than I could have.

I guess at the bottom of it, I feel badly for this person. Not because I think they can’t do better, but because I really think they can. And I hate seeing them slipping away because “that’s what happens to TBI survivors.”

Screw that. And screw anyone who says that it’s inevitable. My God, there is so much evidence all around us, each and every day, that all we think we know about the brain and how it adapts is not nearly enough… it’s a waste of time to succumb to assumptions that are based on past research and public opinion. I’m probably going to piss off some people in the ranks of those who believe that TBI relegates you to a life of permanent disability on some level or another, but this is my opinion and my belief. And I’m entitled to it. If I’m wrong, I’ll find out. But in the meantime, I — and many other people — truly believe in possibilities beyond our wildest imagining. And that’s not going to stop anytime soon.

That being said, I have errands to run in my regular life. There’s trash to take out, and a pet to take to the vet. And this afternoon, I’m going to get together with a bunch of friends I lost track of after my fall in 2004, when everything went to shit. None of them know anything about this, and that’s the way I’m going to keep it.  If anything, I want them to see that I’m doing even better than I was before I lost it in 2004.

Onward.

Whew – that was close!

Last Friday I had probably one of the worst days at my job. I got lectured by my boss about having done something that got them in trouble with their boss, and it threw me for a loop. So, I wrote this angry, rambling post about what a jerk they are, telling the world that I realized that many of the issues I’ve been having at work with them may be less about my problems, than theirs.

At the time, it felt really good to vent. I felt 100% justified, and I felt like I was coming to my own defense against injustice. It felt good to announce to the world that my boss is a jerk (I used much harsher terms, actually) and vindicate myself in the face of their (seemingly unwarranted) criticisms.

Fortunately, it turns out, I never published the post. It’s in draft status in my blog. And I plan to keep it that way. The thought occurred to me to delete it, but it’s a good reminder of how I can get really carried away when I’m tired and feeling pressured.

See, here’s the thing — the whole rage and temper and meltdown business is one of the particularly problematic things about TBI. At the time, when all the fight-flight chemicals are rushing through my veins, it makes perfect sense to my brain to fly off the handle. Impulse control goes right out the window, and the idea of NOT doing something rash is the farthest thing from my mind. It feels right and good and justified — it feels so right, how can it be wrong?

Well, it CAN be wrong. If only because feeding into it is going to cause even more trouble, on down the line. It’s bad enough that I had a bad day. But if I’d managed to publish that post, I would have not only spread the badness to everyone who was reading it, but I would have also had egg all over my face. Because in retrospect, they were a little right about what they were lecturing me about. They just did it in a way that I found humiliating, disrespectful, condescending, patronizing, and all the other attitudes that are hot-buttons for my temper.

And that will never do.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this list of questions people have been typing into search engines that get them to this blog. Rage and anger, temper and road rage, are frequent items. I think I’ll step on over to the post Quick responses to loaded questions and continue adding…