Back in the saddle again… and again… and again…

binary code - lines of 0s and 1s
Slowly but surely, my ability to learn to code has returned

That old Aerosmith song is playing in my mind, this morning. I’ve been working on my programming skills, over the past week, and amazingly enough, I’m actually able to make sense of things.

This is a huge change, compared to where I was 10 years ago.  Even 5 years ago, I had real struggles with maintaining my attention long enough on anything to learn it. I would get so tired, cognitively, that I couldn’t continue with my learning. And I’d just drop it. I’d learn a bit, then I’d just wander off and forget I’d even started learning something.

Memory is a weird thing, sometimes. I can be so immersed in something… then I’ll get distracted and go do something else, and I’ll completely forget that I was working on anything else.

This is something I definitely need to work on. Because it happens to me at work, as well as at play. I lose track of projects I’m working on, at my day-job. And then I fall behind, and it’s a problem. I get turned around and end up behind the 8-ball, which is a terrible situation to be in for me.

I want to stay on top of things and keep current. But somehow I always get lost in the shuffle. I get distracted. I get tired. My brain starts to shut down on me, even while I’m on auto-pilot, just getting through my days by rote repetition.

So, since I know about this, I need to do something about this.

That goes for my job situation, as well as my own personal situation. In my current job, I need to keep up with what I’ve got going on, so I can just get it done and move on. I don’t want to be with this company past the end of the year. I just want to get out of there, and I need to make a career change back to doing programming again. I’ve come to realize that dealing with people all day in a capacity as a project/program manager is NOT for me. It’s been a good experience, but it’s not for me. I need a break from people and their messed-up emotions. I really want to work with machines. They’re very clear. And they don’t play head-games with me.

Plus, I can listen to music all day if I’m coding. I can’t do that, if I’m doing the people-thing. I need to work in a space where I can see immediate results of what I do. I’ve missed being a developer, and I realize now — once and for all — that this is what I’m meant to do. Not manage shit. Not run projects and programs. Screw that. I just want to build things. Make things happen. Forget the rest. I know where I belong, and it’s not in the position where I’m at now.

So, I’m using my time and frustration wisely. I’m building stuff in my free time. I’m doing tutorials, watching instruction videos while I ride my exercise bike in the morning, I’m building stuff I’ve been wanting to build, but haven’t yet gotten around to it. I’ve got some great ideas, and now I just need to work my way through them. I have another 5-1/2 months till I plan to move on, so I’ll spend time each month working on the core skills I need, building cool stuff that I can show to others, and eventually get myself to place where I’m as confident of my abilities as I need to be, to move on.

There’s a lot going on with me that’s pretty exciting, and I’m looking forward to getting up and running in earnest. I’ll start putting my work out there, as it develops, and see what comes of it. It’s pretty fascinating, really, so this will be fun.

I could use a little fun, for a change.

And this time, I’m not letting myself get sidetracked by distractions. I’m on a mission.

Onward…

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Why have I been away?

Sometimes it's hard to see the path ahead
Sometimes it’s hard to see the path ahead

I just jump-started my TBI blogging again. Looking at my archives, I have only posted six times, so far this month. That’s quite a difference from my past. It’s been for good reasons. I’m getting a lot of things done that have languished for some time.

But I also have been depressed. I get really busy… I exercise regularly… I tick items off my checklists… then I get really tired and feel depressed. No joy left, by the end of the day. No enthusiasm on the weekends. Just slogging through my daily life, pin-balling between hyper-productivity and not wanting to have anything to do with anyone, not wanting to go anywhere or talk to anyone… just waiting for the day to be over.

It’s an odd combination. Because I’m pretty well scheduled, and I’ve got a lot of discipline and focus for the things I need to do. My upbringing stressed getting things done, no matter how you feel about it. Your state of mind was really beside the point. You just got on with life and did your part, even if you had no joy in it. Even if you didn’t care about it. Even if it had nothing to do with you.

If you were depressed, so what? You just got up and got on with your day, anyway. If you were in pain, so what? You just picked up where you could and did your part. Personal feelings and emotions had nothing to do with anything. Getting the work done and playing your role was the critical thing.

I think it went hand-in-hand with being in a rural area, raised by parents and grandparents who’d grown up on farms. When the cut hay has been lying in the field for two days and is dry, and rain is threatening for the late afternoon, you don’t get to lie in bed and say, “Oh, I don’t feel like baling today.” You get your ass up out of bed, and you go bale the hay. You work through any and all weather conditions. You do what is needed by the community, and you pull your weight, so that even if it does rain at 4:00, the hay is all baled and in the hay mow of the barn.

It’s non-negotiable.

And I suspect that’s why depression and mental illness have become more prevalent in society. It’s not that there’s so much more of it, now. There’s just more recognition and acceptance of its very existence. I’m sure there have been many, many people over the eons who have been depressed or had some other mental illness. It was just never allowed to be seen. Or if it was so extreme that it couldn’t be eclipsed and covered up by strict roles and duties, you just got sent away.

Anyway, I haven’t felt much like interacting at all, this month. The shootings in Orlando really upset me. To me, it’s an assault on diversity and community. It’s an attack on human nature and our freedom to simply be who we are and gather with others like ourselves. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re gay or straight — everybody has something about them that is different, and we need to gather with like-minded people to remember who we are. It’s just that the people in Orlando who were killed and maimed aren’t in the mainstream, so many people don’t know how to talk about it or think about it, without looking for a way that “they brought it on themselves.”

I don’t see it as a religious or political thing. I see it as the product of our society that encourages people to take violent action against others, to relieve their own pain. And the politicizing of it by the very people who believe that same thing, really angers me.

And that’s all I’ll say about it. No more comments. There’s too much of that, already.

But back to my present. I really need to start blogging again. Regularly. It actually anchors me and helps me collect my thoughts. And I don’t need to get all rigid about the “right” and “wrong” ways to do it. I just need to do it.

Because the voices crying out that people with brain injuries are broken and can’t be repaired, are too strong.

Because all the fear about concussion often seems to completely overlook the chance of recovery. Concussion is turning into a sort of delayed-action death sentence, and I think that’s wrong. It’s a terrible message to send. But of course, that’s what gets the funding flowing.

Because despite having sustained 9+ concussions in my life, things are going really, really well for me, and I need to bear witness to that. To show that I’m good. That I’m recovering. That it’s not by accident, and it’s not a fluke.

Because, well, this is a huge part of my life. And in the midst of getting everything done, exercising, trying to get my sleeping schedule in order, and generally feeling down, it’s the one thing that can get me out of my head and lift my eyes above my current challenges to show me the precious long view.

I can’t make any guarantees, but I’ve just given myself some really good reasons to re-kick-start my TBI blogging.

So, I expect to see you soon.

Good to be home – and figuring out next steps

That feeling of being all alone in the crowd... is shared by many
That feeling of being all alone in the crowd… is shared by many

It’s been a good week.

A challenging week.

But still a good week.

Sometimes you just need to step away to get some clarity on your priorities in life, what you want to do with yourself, how you want to do it… and perhaps most importantly, how badly you want to do it. There are some things that I’ve been meaning to spend more time on — projects that actually do look like they have good potential to widen my employment prospects, as well as bring in some money on the side.  And it’s given me more motivation to really work on them.

It’s also important to figure out what you don’t want to do, and this trip made that abundantly clear. It was a pain in the neck, dealing with all the prejudice and pressure — the prejudice that came out when people started drinking and stopped being on their best behavior, the stifling biases against women and gay people, the “jokes” about so-and-so having romantic relations with someone of their own sex, when they’re not even gay – har-har-har (not funny for gay or straight people)… as well as the constant pressure from my boss to stay up late with everyone and party, even though they know I don’t drink… and them joking about getting me drunk (I wouldn’t put it past them), which is not only stupid, it’s dangerous.

I don’t know which would be worse for me – to lose too much sleep, or to get drunk. In both cases, I can fall, which could be catastrophic. In both cases, I can get in trouble with other people, including the police. And it’s not the sort of trouble that I can just get out of easily.

When I get in trouble — I get in trouble. As in, get combative towards law enforcement and other authority figures. And at the conference, I was not shielded by local folks knowing who I am.

I was also not shielded from sensory overload — all the crowds, the noise, the lights, the big open expo hall where I was working, and the constant movement and hustle. I felt like a zombie, much of the time, and it was miserable at moments, but then I got to step away to the restroom, or to get something to eat, or walk to a quieter part of the expo hall. There was music pumping, lights flashing, constant streams of people walking by who I had to engage and hopefully bring into our booth, and it was cold in that hall. I felt like I was going to lose it, a couple of times, but I regrouped and chilled myself out by focusing on something specific – like checking my email on my smartphone.

The area that the conference was in, was crazy, too — all the lights and motion and crowds and music everywhere. It’s perfect for sensation-seeking people, but for me it was just too much. At the concert they had on the last night, I thought I was going to flip out and hit someone. I was pressed up against the very front of the cordoned-off area, with people pushing in close behind me, whistling and clapping right beside my ears, and all of them wearing some sort of perfume. I’m not terribly sensitive to scents, but when I’m tired and overwhelmed, I get that way — and yeah, I got that way. I had to leave early, when I realized that I was on the verge of punching someone — anyone. That wouldn’t have been good. Plus, there were security guards about 10 feet away from me.

So, I skipped out and got in bed by 9:30 that night. Pretty good, I have to say. Considering that I had to fly out, first thing in the morning, it was ideal.

The main thing is, I managed to make it through the week without A) drinking, B) losing too much sleep, or C) getting in trouble. I held my tongue and didn’t respond, when intoxicated people were running their mouths about stupid things. They probably don’t remember saying it, anyway. I also didn’t let it get to me personally too much. All the “frat boy” shenanigans, which I have never related to, anyway, didn’t throw me. Mercifully, “frat boy” types have usually ignored me, instead of singling me out and beating me up. So, I just kept clear of the grown-up versions of “nuggie”-giving football players, and stuck with a few other like-minded folks.

Most important of all, I made it home in one piece.

And that’s a huge accomplishment for me. Not only did I navigate all the alcohol-soaked dinners and social events without so much as a sip of booze, but I also got in bed by 9:00 p.m. on two nights… at 10:00 on one night… and not long after 11:00 on another night. All in all, I think I lost maybe four or five hours of sleep over the whole five days, which is pretty amazing, considering that my boss was telling me I had to stay out with the team till 3 a.m., and then stumble back to get a few hours rest before morning.

Yeah, it was amazing that I got out of all that B.S. in one piece.

I just wish it didn’t have to be so amazing.

Overall, though, I’m feeling pretty good about my progress and everything I accomplished. Unlike other similar conferences in the past, this time I did not freak out, I did not lose it back in my hotel room, I did not space out or check out. In other years, at these big user conferences, I was fried by the end of the first day, and I was isolated and alienated for the rest of the trips. But this time, I was all there, I was just “riding” the situation, and I got some good things out of it, as well.

My big discovery at this event is that I am actually really, really good at engaging with strangers and getting them to open up to me. I have a ton of experience and a lot of “war stories”, and when I share them with others, they open up about their own experiences.

It’s funny, because I never really thought of myself as that kind of person – outgoing and engaging – because I am such an introvert. But even introverts can be engaging and outgoing, when we are in the right situations. And in fact, I was interacting with a lot of introverts, myself — one of whom was pretty drunk at 11:30 in the morning on the last day of the conference… probably completely overwhelmed like I was, and using the mini-bar in their room to ease the pain.

Yeah, it was overwhelming. But I made it through.

I realized some new (and important) things about myself and the kind of work I want to do. I also realized the kinds of things I can do, that I never thought I was good at, before.

So, that’s helpful. Despite the challenges, I still got a lot out of the experience.

So, that’s something.

Boy, oh boy, is it good to be home!

Listen first… then talk

Here's the drawing practice for the day
Here’s the drawing practice for the day

So, this new neuropsych is kind of a pain in my ass. And that’s fine. Because the last one could be a monumental pain in my ass, sometimes, and it did me a lot of good to meet with them regularly.

Why, pray tell, would that be so? you may ask?

Well, because dealing with people who are completely off-base is good for my reasoning faculties. And it also shows me how on-track I really am, when someone I’m talking with is clearly not recognizing what’s right in front of them.

This new neuropsych, as I’ve mentioned, is 30 years younger than my former neuropsych. They are 15 years younger than I. And it shows. One of the ways that they really show their age, is that they don’t stop to listen and really understand what’s going on with me, and they jump right into fixing things before they have a strong grasp on what the situation is.

For example, I’ve been talking about how I need some help getting to-do items off my list. I have a ton of things I’ve been wanting to get done, and many things that I intended to do in the first 5 years that I had my house. But less than 2 years in, I fell and got hurt, and I was “checked out” for some time after that. I’m just now — almost 12 years later — getting back to a level that’s near (in some ways) to where I was before. In other ways, I’m nowhere near, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be again. But the basic gist of it is that I need to gear up and take care of things that have been languishing and neglected, lo these many years.

And what does my neuropsych give me, but a sheet of paper where I should write down my goal, figure out my motivation, and then do a visualization about what the reward will be, if I get it done. And then write it down in my planner, and just do it… after doing a little visualization about how rewarding it will be to get it all done.

Oh. My. God.

Someone please help me.

I am so beyond that rudimentary approach, and I need something completely different. But when I tried to explain that to them, they just dismissed me — and insisted that visualizing rewards is a cornerstone of making progress.

Okay. So, that’s their opinion. That’s fine. There’s some truth to it. But I really need help just walking through my priorities and seeing where everything fits in my life. I don’t need motivational help. I need organizational help — and getting my head around the big picture of what I’m doing — and why.

It’s not just about getting things off my plate. That’s important, so I can free up my thinking to handle things that are bigger than a breadbox. But it’s also about prioritizing and getting my head around the complexities of my day-to-day.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of confidence in them, with regards to that. I’m not sure I have a lot of confidence in anyone in the healthcare professions, right now. At least, not that I’ve encountered. I’m sure there are excellent doctors and providers out there, but the only one I found who could actually work with me effectively died last year. And even they didn’t exactly do a bang-up job of covering all my bases.

Ultimately — and this is the amazingly profound irony of it all — it’s the people who need help who are on the hook for making sure we get what we need. The very people who don’t have the comprehensive knowledge about all the physiology and possible conditions that might be at work… and who are having trouble thinking and functioning, to begin with… are the ones who have to manage our situations, be our own advocates, and so forth.

If nothing else, as frustrating as my situation is, it’s good practice for me. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like people could really wrap their heads around my situation, anyway, so this is not new. I just had unrealistic expectations that I could pick up where I’d left off with my old neuropsych and start there with this new one.

Nothing of the kind. They’re even farther back than the last one, and I feel a bit like Kevin Costner’s character in Bull Durham where he has to train an up-and-coming athlete who has a better chance than he at going to “The Show”.

But I guess that’s how things go, as you get older. I’m just not used to interacting with people younger than myself – especially healthcare providers. But news flash – that’s going to continue to happen, so I might as well get used to it.

Okay – pause – let’s see how my memory for that starting image is doing:

memory-test-4-29-16

Not too bad — I just forgot the hash marks on the left line, and the circles are a little far apart, with the lines longer and the circles smaller.

I’ll try again later.

Anyway, it all comes back to the idea that when it comes to our health and recovery, we are often on our own. It’s sad, but true. And some days, I feel as though I’d be better off just not even dealing with any trained professionals, because the benefit I get isn’t equal to what it costs me.

Sometimes, it is equal. But you know what? Those are the times when I pull out all the stops and put my focus into my own direction and my own program, just using the experts as a reference point.

I’ve got a few weeks before I see them again. And I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. I’ll figure something out, I guess.

Onward.

Training my new neuropsych – and myself

circles-3-lines-2-1-r-up-circx-5-hash-UNeven
Here’s my memory exercise for today – look at it, memorize it, then try to draw it later, when I get to the end of this post.

Don’t get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for my new neuropsych. They have great intentions, they are smart — brilliant, really — and they are driven and determined to help people who are in need of assistance. I’m lucky to have been connected with them.

Here’s the thing, though — they’ve got 30 years less experience than my former neuropsych. And that really shows. It shows in their pacing, their approach, their focus. It’s my understanding they’ve been working in clinical settings that have been largely academic, for most of their career, so far, and they’re relatively new to individual clinical practice.

My former neuropsych had 40+ years experience in clinical and rehab settings. I believe they once ran a rehab center, in fact. Or two or three. Anyway, they had decades of high-level experience in rehabbing brain injury survivors, and I benefited from that for the past 8 years or so.

Now I’m working with a “spring chicken” — it’s not the most professionally respectful term, I know, but that’s how they seem to me. They’re 15 years my junior, which just amazes me… And it shows.

Good God, do they have a lot of energy. It’s that kinetic, over-the-top-can-do kind of enthusiasm that people have before they hit a lot of walls, personally and professionally. They have an exuberance and optimism that I used to have, too.

Then I got hurt. And life happened. And a lot of crap came down the pike for me. And now I am where I am now — with a pretty big deficit where all my own exuberance and optimism used to be.

Although… maybe that’s not entirely true. Maybe I still do have that energy — just not to the same willy-nilly degree that I used to. Or maybe I do, and I just need to bring it back. Access it again. Play off the energy of this new neuropsych, who is in some ways like a breath of fresh air, compared to the dour pessimism and personal cynicism that sometimes “leaked through” with my old neuropsych.

Oh, another thing just occurred to me — I’m working around a lot of people who are my age or older. And that’s affecting my perspective, too. I work in an older environment, very established and staid, and compared to my peers, I feel like a spring chicken, myself.

So, I’m balancing out the energy of youth, as well as the balance of age. My new neuropsych is clearly still learning about things like how to pace their speaking, and how to give me space to sort things out. They move too fast for me, at times, and it’s frustrating.

But it’s good to get pushed. Again. After years of being accommodated. I need to be pushed. Quit feeling sorry for myself. Really work on my reaction time. And get back to my memory exercises. See above.

Here, let’s try to draw what I had at the start:

memory-test-4-28-16

Not bad – I just had the proportions off a little bit, but all the elements are there.  The right circle with the “x” is higher than it should be, and the vertical line off it is longer than the original. Also, the hatches on the left line are longer than they should be.

I’ll have to try again later today, and see how it goes.

Gotta get back to doing my exercises. Get myself going. And continue to make progress. Keep moving forward. Keep at it – give myself time to rest – but keep at it.

Onward.

Or… I could have fun with it

roller-coasterWhat a roller coaster. One day, we’re up. The next we’re down.

Sigh.

I started out yesterday feeling pretty great. Then came the speed bump.

My employer announced its quarterly numbers about a week ago, and they just missed their projected numbers by a smidge. But they still missed.

So, yesterday we found out that our bonuses will be affected by the shortfall, and there are a lot of unhappy campers walking around. The holidays are coming, and there’s going to be a little less Christmas cheer for some.

The crazy thing is, I’d bet good money that none of the people actually responsible for running the company will have their personal financial situation affected. A lot of them have a ton of money, already, so even if they do share in the bonus payout reduction, they won’t feel even a 10% drop — whereas the rest of us “on the ground” have a very different story to tell.

I think it would be much more fair for the people in charge of the big decisions to take the hit, rather than passing it along to us. It just feels like a sort of punishment. And that on top of the ongoing negotiations about the company being acquired… It’s all very exciting.

And my back and hips are killing me, because the chair they gave me is for sh*t… and I have been sitting too much. I used to have a self-constructed standup desk at my old office.  Four cases of seltzer water with a shelf on top. I think I’ll reconstruct that. I have the room in my new cubicle, and it’s the exact right height for me. We’ll see. I do have a shelf that’s the right height, as well, so maybe I don’t need to reconstruct it.  Bottom line is, I need to be standing, not sitting. Sitting is bringing the pain.

So, my bonus is messed up, I have no idea if I’ll have this job in another 6-8 months, and people around me are getting tweaked… emotionally needy… upset… And it’s just the beginning. The acquisition/merger won’t be done for some months, yet, so we’ve got a ways to go. There are a number of acquisitions and mergers going on in the tech world, right now. Some of them have epic proportions. All these people being moved around and nudged/pushed out of their comfort zones…. It’s like the whole world is in flux.

But at least I’m not in the dire straits that people in the Middle East and Africa are. All those people being displaced… Holy crap, it’s just crazy.

In the midst of it all, I can count my blessings, which is fortunate. And I am actually in a really good space. I have a line of work that I love so much, I do it in my spare time. I just love it, and it really is a natural progression of my skills, abilities, and interests. Compared to where I was, just a year ago, my situation is much more stable — and this, in spite of being on the verge of possible displacement.

The thing that’s more stable is my prospects of employment. I have a killer skillset, with the right kind of experience at the right kinds of companies (home-grown global corporate success stories that everybody in the region knows about and respects). And my skills are portable across a number of different industries, so that bodes well for my ongoing employment. I’m less concerned about working for only one company for the long term. That’s never actually been my ideal. I’m much more concerned about staying viable — especially as I’m getting older in a field where employers favor people who are 20 years younger than myself. And the happy fact is that my skills and abilities are still very much in-demand, and they meet a lot of needs very neatly.

No need to “shoehorn” myself into a position – I’m flexible enough to fit in a lot of places, which has really been my goal all along. While I do love the work I do for a living, and I do it on my own time as well, I still have a lot of other interests that I need to pursue without financial pressure. I have research to do and writing to do. I have blog posts to write. And I need to do that all without having to worry about where my next meal is coming from. That kind of stress is a killer.

So, I’m looking on the bright side and just having fun with things. I had a dark time on Sunday, when all the excitement of the past week caught up with me, and I started to sink into that dismal place where I didn’t feel like going on. At all. Of course, I had to, because I had things I needed to take care of, but I just didn’t feel like it. And that, after feeling so strong and clear for many days…. depressing.

But I took it easy, got some rest, and yesterday looked very different to me. Today looks different, as well. I’m getting back on track, having fun with things, and really digging into my work. I have no idea what they will be doing with me or anyone else on my team, in the future, so I’m just “doing my thing” and doing the work that’s meaningful to me — and also valuable in the market. I’m doing my research via online job boards, to see who’s paying the most — and for what types of work/skills/interests.

I know I’m supposed to follow my bliss, but it’s a lot easier to be blissful, if you have a roof over your head and a belly full of nutritious food and a healthy body… not to mention hope for the future.

I do have all of the above, and I plan to keep it that way. It hasn’t been easy, and if I didn’t work at it, I could easily be in very different straits. But I don’t feel like struggling and hassling with basic survival things, so I’m laser-focused on finding where I can improve… and doing just that. It’s all trial-and-error-and-success. And some days I have huge setbacks.

Today, I can see how all my setbacks can set me up for a better future.

Every piece of info I get about how I screwed up is valuable. It gives me more info about how to move forward in a different way. Story of my life. My mistakes are my own — and they can be the most valuable possessions I have. When I realize that, it frees me up to do more things.

And have fun with it all, as best I can.

Onward.

After so many years in confusion and pain…

coming out of the dark
It’s been a long time coming… but it’s here

I can honestly say that life is leveling out for me, and I now have what I would consider a “regular” life. And starting from there, things are becoming truly exceptional.

The “regular-ness” is amazing and phenomenal in its own right. I have been thinking about how many years I spent in confusion and frustration, always playing catch-up, always struggling to keep up appearances of normalcy, always feeling — and being — so behind. And never knowing why that was.

Little did I know, concussion / mild TBI had knocked the crap out of me. I’m not like folks who go through their lives at a normal pace, then have a concussion / mTBI screw them up. I was always screwed up by brain injuries. I started getting hurt when I was very, very young (maybe even having an anoxic brain injury – from having my air cut off – when I was an infant, according to my mother), and I continued to get hurt regularly over the years. I never got hurt badly enough to stop me from diving back into things. And nobody around me knew that I was hurt badly enough for it to throw me off.

I kept all that pain and confusion inside, for as long as I could remember. It was just one day after another of working overtime, trying to keep up with everything… and failing. Always coming up short.

Now, suddenly, I feel like I’ve come out of a long, dark tunnel into the light. No, not suddenly… It’s been a gradual process, so my eyes have adjusted to the light. But the realization of where I am and how I am now, is sudden. It’s like I’ve at last joined the land of the living.

And I am amazed.

How did this happen? How did I get here? It’s been a slow building process, with pieces of the puzzle floating around in the air… taking their sweet time getting plugged back together again. But once they click into place, they click.

Phenomenal.

So, now I have to ask myself — how did I get here? How did I manage to do this? I had all but given up on myself and figured I’d just be struggling and battling, all my born days. But I don’t feel like that anymore.

How did this happen?

I think there were a number of factors:

  • Having someone to talk to on a regular basis – first, my neuropsych, then another counselor who has been able to talk me through stickier emotional things that I don’t like to discuss with my neuropsych. Having someone to just listen and then get to interact with, has had a hugely positive impact.
  • Deciding that I needed to get better. Even when everyone was telling me I was fine, and I didn’t seem at all strange or brain-damaged, I could feel that something was off. I just wasn’t myself. Nobody else seemed to get it. But I did, and I was determined to do something about it.
  • Getting my Sense-Of-Self back. This was the biggest piece of things, by far. It’s been the key, because restoring my Sense-Of-Self makes everything else possible. It absolutely, positively, is the biggest piece of the puzzle.

How did I do that? I’ll be writing about that in the coming days and weeks, as time permits with my schedule. But basically it’s this:

  1. Find a small but significant way I am struggling — a day-to-day required activity that “shouldn’t” be difficult for me, but which is a huge challenge. Getting ready for work each day is a perfect example for me.
  2. Develop a system and a routine for doing that small but significant thing the very same way, each and every day. Making this system into a routine not only makes it predictable and comfortable, but it also keeps my brain from being overtaxed by having to reinvent the wheel each and every day.
  3. Really pay attention to that routine, and really dive into it with all I have, sticking to it like glue.
  4. That routine then “rewires” my system — brain and central nervous system and autonomic nervous system — with familiar and recognizable patterns.
  5. These patterns become something I can then rely on, to know who I am and what I am about… and what I can reasonably expect myself to do under regular circumstances.
  6. In times of uncertainty and insecurity, I can go back to those patterns and find comfort in their familiarity. So that not only gives me confidence in myself, but it also gives me a refuge where I can find some self-assurance again — even in the smallest of ways.

It’s all about building confidence over time.  Predictable patterns. Predictable behaviors. Predictable reactions. And that can lead to predictable outcomes.

Our brains are pattern-seeking by nature, and when we don’t have predictable patterns, we have the sense that we are in chaos — we are threatened. Building in predictable patterns is the key, for me, to a healthy recovery from PCS / mild TBI / other brain injury issues. And anybody can use this. Anybody can do it.

That includes you.

Try, try again

Yes

So, the course I have been taking, has had some surprises for me.

First, there are quizzes. I had been watching the lectures and I’ve found them pretty straightforward. And there were some reminders about things I needed to do. But when I took another look over the weekend, lo and behold, there are quizzes I need to do, and I missed the first two of them.

The first one I can’t retake, because it’s too long ago. The second one I took, and got a 100% on it (on my 2nd try), but I’m not sure I’ll get full credit because I was late. The third quiz I took, I got 40% — which is actually good, because it is forcing me to rethink my answers and more fully understand the materials and the reason for the answers being correct.

I’m kind of upset with myself for spacing out — not knowing how things go. But that’s how things often are with me, and it’s how I learn best. I mess things up, the first time through, then I go back and take a second look and make sense of it all.

And I do much better in the end.

Ultimately, I believe that the measure of your intelligence is NOT how you do on one-time tests, but rather how adaptable you are… how well you learn and incorporate new information and adjust to changing situations. That, for me, is what intelligence is all about. And the folks with the Feuerstein Method agree with me.

I’m really happy I found them. Not because they are telling me anything I didn’t already believe in my heart, but because they provide confirmation and additional context for this way of understanding what it means to be intelligent. It’s not how you do on one single test, that you take one single time. It’s how you learn from it and apply the knowledge you gain from the whole experience.

So, I’m going back into the course and taking a second look… giving more thought to things and realizing where I went wrong. That’s half the battle – figuring out what to screen out, and what to take in.

And it often takes me a second try, before things start to make sense. So, I’ll just do that, and learn – learn – learn.

 

After TBI – how do we get our sense of self back?

imageI’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking (and writing) about what it’s like to lose your Sense-Of-Self to TBI – click here to see posts I’ve written about this subject.

And it would be remiss of me, if I did not write (and think) about what can be done about it.

Because after over 10 years of being so very, very lost, having no idea where the person I was had gotten to, and being so far removed from any sense of who I was, and what I was about… I actually started to feel like myself again, this past spring.

It only took me 10 years and 5 months… but it’s here.

It’s tenuous, and some days I still wonder WTF, but I have to be honest and say, I’m feeling more like “myself” than I have in a very long time.

Maybe ever. After all, I’ve been recovering from repeat TBIs, since I was a kid.

So how do we do it? How do we get there?

For myself, consistency is the key. It sounds simple, I know, but there it is.

Consistency.

Doing the same things the same way, over and over and over again, until the wiring in my brain is re-routed to the newly familiar tasks, and it can do things by rote.

Of course, there are many thing I still have to really work at — my memory and resistance to distraction, among others — but for basic everyday tasks, and routine functioning… I’ve got an amazingly stable sense of where I’m at, and how I can get there repeatedly, each day.

I’ll be sharing more about this in the coming days and weeks. It wouldn’t be fair for me to withhold that information.

Onward.

Memory test image for the day - pretty close, actually
Memory test image for the day – pretty close, actually

And here’s how I did with the drawing today. More on this later.

 

Image memory training seems to be changing things

It’s been about 5 days, since I started training myself with image memory exercises.

I am noticing that I hear music better. I catch more of the details in songs I have been listening to for years. It’s like I’m hearing them for the first time.

I am getting better at picking up details and noticing textures and variations in visual experiences.

I am also very, very tired. Brain is tired.

More on this tomorrow, when I do my next image memory practice.

I created a new page with all the images on it, so you can use the ones I have:

Images for Memory Practice – click to go to the page (warning – it’s a big page, there are lots of images, but I hope it’s worth the wait for you)

Onward