Drink water, eat regularly, get exercise, rest

Soon...
Yes.

My sleeping has normalized, at last. After 3 days of vacation, I finally got to bed by 10:30, and I slept till 7:00. That’s progress.

I’ve been getting good exercise, getting out in the mornings to walk the beach or roam around town, and I’ve been able to nap… and relax.

Nice.

It’s really important for me to keep on a schedule. If I’m not, I can get tired. When I get tired, I get cranky. I’ve had to catch myself a number of times, yesterday, to keep from getting “snappy” with my spouse. I hate when I get short-tempered… especially when my spouse needs my help. I seem to get more short-tempered more quickly when they really need my help. That’s the worst time of all. I want to be patient and helpful, but my patience runs out when they are most in need.

That’s something I’m working on. It’s come up drastically in the past, and it weighs on me with the guilt. It was worse when I was first dealing with my TBI stuff and wasn’t getting any help, yet. My spouse had fallen and hurt their back, and I was so angry and confused and turned around, that I just walked up to them, yelled at them, and walked away in a rage. I couldn’t figure out how to handle the situation, and I left them lying by the road in pain.

I’m not proud of that. But I know now it was the TBI that made me do that. I would never do that myself by choice. And I think of that situation often, when they are truly in need of help with something, and I am feeling short with them. I don’t want to be like that ever again. The injury they sustained that day has worsened over time, and now they are nearly disabled by it at times.

I sometimes blame myself for that — especially because I didn’t help them in the following days and weeks and months… as their injury worsened and their back ache spread down their legs to their knees and the whole way to their ankles, but I couldn’t figure out what to do about it — and neither could they.

At least I got some help, when I did. If I had never gotten help, things would be even worse now, I’m sure. But it’s hard to face my own role in making this situation what it is. Fortunately, my spouse is getting physical therapy, but it’s been years since they could walk and move without pain.

Of course, they’re responsible, too, for much that happens in their life. They make unhealthy choices and resist common sense, so it’s not all on me. Still and all, I do feel a responsibility for this situation. And it’s incumbent upon me to manage myself properly, so I don’t pose a risk to them anymore.

I’ve had enough of that for one lifetime.

This vacation is about us being here together. Being a couple again. Being partners again. This is the first vacation we’ve had all to ourselves in a long time — for the past several years, they’ve always wanted friends to join us. But this year, no one can come, so it’s just us. And that’s fine with me. It’s easier for me to take – and it’s more of a vacation for me.

Drink water, eat regularly, get exercise, rest… and reset.

It’s important.

Back from vacation, and doing things differently

Rowing through the fifth circle of hell – anger

So, my “vacation” was quite different from expected. My spouse got really sick, so I spent the bulk of the time taking care of them, running errands, and making sure they stayed fed and were headed in the right direction – towards recovery.

I did almost nothing that I had planned. I had thought I’d have time to do some writing, but to be honest, when I was there, I didn’t want to do anything other than just roam around, take long walks, and explore parts of the nearby national park I hadn’t seen in years.

One thing became very, very clear to me, while I was away — I have let myself get too complacent, too lax, too mellow. The net result of my chilling out, has been putting on some pounds and also losing my stamina. Keeping up with everything when my spouse is “holding invalid court” — as a sick person who needs to be waited on like some sort of royalty — is NOT easy work. It’s pretty draining, if I don’t stay on top of things.

So, it was pretty rough. But that’s not because of all the demands. The fact is, I am not in as good shape as I need to be, and all the running and juggling (figuratively speaking) showed me where I need to improve. I used to do all this — and a whole lot more — as a matter of course, each and every day. But over the past number of years, as I’ve focused more on taking care of myself and making sure I didn’t get overrun by the craziness of my employer(s), spouse, and TBI recovery, I’ve lost my edge.

And I need it back.

I’ve gotten way too lax about things, and I’ve “let myself go”, for the sake of just enjoying myself and taking things as they come. But you know what? That’s not me. I am by nature a very “on” person, who needs some “off” time on a regular basis to recharge. I’m not meant to be an “off” person who occasionally “turns on” to kick into gear. I need to stay active and involved in my life — to live my life to the fullest, and really keep my energy high. If I don’t, the feeling seems to backfire, and I end up having a whole lot of energy “double back” on itself… it eats me alive.

So, I need to live. And live fully. Not with panic, not with anxiety, but fully alive.

Just kicking back has become a way of life for me, which is not good at all. I’ve gotten into that habit in part because of my past job that had me commuting so much every day. It’s tough to stay active and engaged, when you start and end your day with an hour’s worth of driving. What a horrible life-suck that was.

All that sitting got me tightened up — my muscles, my fascia, my mind — and I was so full of resentment and anger that I had to continually manage, to keep it from wrecking my life — that I got sucked into a downward spiral that shot me straight into the doldrums, where I languished. Hoping against hope that something would change. Eventually it did, but what a miserable time that was.

It was like renting a room in Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell — Anger — and not being able to get the money together to move out to a better place, and having to make the best of it by getting to know my neighbors, have some barbecues, hang out… you know, make the best of it, all the while wishing to God something would give.

It didn’t give. For three long years. And it really was hell.

Now I’ve been out of that world for three months, and I’m starting to normalize… get my balance back… remember what is important to me. I don’t have to put all my energy into dealing with the emotional flack of a horrible workplace, barely being able to function on the weekends, just spending all my free time languishing like a glorious lump.

I can start putting my energy into the healthy things again. And I can get back to my practice — my martial arts of living.

Over the week when I was balancing work and vacation and my spouse’s illness, it became clear to me that I needed a better way of handling their mental illness. They have suffered from panic/anxiety and depression for almost 20 years, and it has wreaked havoc with their life. All the while, they have been unable to admit that they had a real problem, and that it was hurting them. They have treated it like it was protective for them — living less of a life was keeping them safe from untold dangers. I know where that comes from — their childhood, and also their family story, which is all about unseen threats which must be managed.

Over the years, I have dealt more or less effectively with their mental illness, seeing to various degrees, the depth of their dysfunction. I actually dealt with it pretty well, from the start, even when they were absolutely nuts with anger and rage and fear and a seething cauldron of hyper-fight-flight reactions to everything, including their own shadow. I could keep my own attention trained on my own activities and issues, and I could steer myself (and sometimes them) in a better direction.

Over the years, I’ve had my own issues to deal with, and many of them have been really hard for my spouse to deal with. The old anger, the rigidity in my own mindsets, my outbursts and unpredictability… I was a real piece of work, I can tell you. I’ve been brain-injured a number of times, which made me incredibly difficult to deal with, when I was tired or overwhelmed (which was a lot of the time).

But we had a kind of balance going on, that worked for both of us.

Then I fell in 2004, and everything came to a head. Everything really fell apart, and we were on the verge of breaking apart after 14 years. I didn’t even realize it, at the time. I was really out of it, had no idea what was going on with me.

Anyway, what I realize now is that things have often sucked with us, from day one. But the things that have been good, have been well worth all the suckiness. It’s like the suckfulness didn’t even matter, because the good was more than enough to offset everything. Plus, no marriage is perfect, so was I going to just ditch the love of my life because not everything was idyllic all the time? Nope. I dealt with it.

And now I need to deal with it again. I need to deal with my spouse’s demons, their mental illness, their panic and anxiety and encroaching dementia, with a form of martial art. Keep calm, keep centered, and be ready to deal with the demons that threaten to attack. They are very real demons, and making light of them doesn’t serve me at all. Denying that they exist doesn’t help. And avoiding confronting them is the worst thing I can do.

I need to deal with this. Because try as they might, my spouse has limits, and there are things they just refuse to do for themself that will make things better. They’re trying, yes. They’re really trying. But the demons are always there in the background, with an eye out to get hold of me, too.

They’re greedy demons — panic, anxiety, fear, aggression. They feed on the energy of others, and how they love to feed. They are insatiable, and they will stop at nothing, till they get what they need. I can’t forget that they exist. I’m not saying I have to live in fear. Far from it. I just need to live with awareness, and figure out how to keep my own essence safe and protected, while the demons swirl around, seeking madness.

It can be done. And I’ve been working out, first thing in the morning, for the past four days, strengthening myself and doing exercises to stir up my stagnant “chi” and get good energy flowing in me. It’s helping. And I need to stay with it, not get bored and go do something else, when it all feels too familiar and boring.

Life is waiting. Get strong. Be smart.

Onward.

When things turn around – for the better

I recently realized I needed to change my tax withholding information for work. I wasn’t taking enough deductibles each year (as evidenced by the refunds I’ve been getting for years), so I submitted a new W4 form a few weeks back. The results are in, and it’s pretty amazing – I actually got a 10% “raise” in the process.

If I were my mother, I’d be shouting “Praise God!” to the heavens, Praising His Name to everyone within earshot. And I’m almost there, myself.

It’s just now sinking in. The more I think about it, the bigger news this is for me. This changes everything. It’s pulling me back from the brink in so many ways. Even just that little boost is making the difference between a barely-scraping-by subsistence frame of mind, and actually feeling like I can plan my life.

It’s pretty phenomenal. I have now gone from being strictly hand-to-mouth… pinching pennies each week, sweating it out about how much I run the heat and electricity, driving on fumes till I’m almost out of gas by the side of the road, postponing necessary car repairs that will prevent larger problems later, and buying those $2.94 lunches at work each day.

For the record, it’s actually pretty filling, considering how cheap it is, and I can buy at the cafeteria cheaper than I can make it myself, but now the thought that I actually have a choice, is just phenomenal.

Holy crap. And all of a sudden, the world looks that much more friendly. I have been seriously stressed about money for years, now, and after realizing my mistake, I did something about it. This is all coming from my troubles after my TBI in 2004, when my brain stopped working the way it was supposed to… and it’s coming at a time when my spouse and I have been pushed to the absolute limit of our endurance. The money situation has been literally tearing us apart, and this break comes at a critical juncture, when we are going into a winter season that promises to be cold, with neither of us able to afford getting sick from not having enough heat.

Now, with just this little boost, I can quit hovering over every cent they spend, harassing them over every cup of coffee they buy on the road, instead of making it at home, fussing over ordering a large size versus a medium or small size, and worried over which utility is going to threaten us this month with shutoff.

Just a little bit can make a huge difference. And looking back at my tax forms, I realize that I didn’t do the math correctly there, either, and I did not get the full refunds I was entitled to. So, I’m going to be refiling my taxes from the past three years in the coming weeks, and it looks like I’ll get something from that as well.

Which means I can pay off some debts that are sucking us dry each month, a little bit at a time. I just might be able to fix my 15-year-old car with the radiator problems, iffy starter, and bad struts. I might just be able to have an electrician come in and fix the wiring in the dining room that’s been out for the past several years, because we didn’t have the money to get it fixed. And I just might be able to buy some new pajama bottoms — the ones I wear are about 10 years old, and they’re getting threadbare. When I look around the house at everything we have here, most of it has been given to us, and the rest has been cobbled together, piece by piece. We have very few truly nice things. We don’t live like paupers, and we have almost everything we need to live like normal human beings, but it’s a humble existence, truly.

I’m not complaining. I’m just noticing.

And the thought of things turning around… well, that’s just phenomenal. Indeed, coming out of the past three years of severe lack and limitation — every “extra” dime we’ve had has gone into paying off the mountain of debt we acquired over the years (especially since my TBI in 2004), and it has been hard. We have done without so very much. So very, very much. Basic medical care. Basic necessities. And the opportunities to see family, who are all several states away. I’ve had to pass up job opportunities, too, because I did not have the extra money to front the airfare to go to the home office and get “face time” with the higher-ups. It’s been hard. Really, really hard.

But this is changing. Which means I need to shift my perspective away from just survival, to how to manage this new “windfall”. 10% more money in the bank might not seem like a lot, but it’s actually even more than that, relatively speaking. See, a good 2/3 of my paycheck goes to paying off the mortgage as well as old debts, each month. So, that leaves 1/3 of my paycheck for us to live on each month. (Nothing like trying to buy groceries, the night before payday and having the cashier tell you your debit card was declined. Horrible.)

But now with this “raise”, taking the amounts set aside for mortgage and debt payments out of the picture, I am actually seeing over 40% more takehome pay, each paycheck. That puts it in a better perspective. Relatively speaking, after the money is allocated to the house and those creditors, I am seeing almost 1-1/2 times as much pay, as I was seeing before.

Yes, that makes all the difference in the world.

And that means I need to make some adjustments. I need get out of the hand-to-mouth way of thinking, and squirrel some of this money aside. I need to beef up the house and car repairs fund that we had (and drained) earlier this year. I need to look at the long-term plan for getting rid of the debit load and saving for the future. I know I need to get a new (to me) car, because my trusty little commuter car is having more and more problems, so I need to plan for that, as well.

Long story short, I have some thinking to do. And planning. My spouse and I need to sit down with the numbers and make a plan — that’s based on future prospects, rather than just a knee-jerk reaction designed to ease the pain of daily existence (as has been our tendency for many years, now). I’m coming out of a very dark place, and things are turning around for me, and I need to adjust accordingly.

So, it’s time to sit down and look at numbers. And get priorities together. And move ahead. Just move ahead.

The crazy thing is, I woke up early this morning – around 4:00 a.m. – feeling incredibly down. I was so depressed and felt so hemmed in, it brought me to tears. I felt like there was no way out, that I was stuck, and I was never going to get free… and that part of my brain that loves to give in to despair started thinking about how much my life insurance was worth, and how I was worth more dead than alive. That comes up, every now and then, when I am feeling stuck in a corner with no way out. It’s horrible.

Then I called my bank and checked my balance, since my paycheck went in at midnight. And everything started to look brighter. As in, blindingly.  Everything turned around, just when things were seeming their darkest. And it went from the abyss to the mountain top.

Now, granted, there are still challenges, and I still have a lot of work to do, but this is a start. It gets me out of the red and to a place where I’m doing slightly better than just breaking even. I have years’ worth of backlogged obligations to take care of, and now they don’t have to hang over my head anymore. I can take care of these things, one at a time. Systematically and regularly and with a good plan that makes sense and as my spouse’s cooperation. I don’t have to live in horror and dread because of a bad credit rating, because now I can suddenly afford to pay for things when they come up.

And life is good again.

How quickly things can turn around. How quickly they can change. I just need to keep steady and not lose my head over things… and make sure my spouse is in synch with reality. Already, they’re starting to talk about skimming a little bit off the top, here and there, so I need to nip that tendency in the bud, before it puts us back where we’ve been.

I’m tired of being here. I need to get out. I need to move on. Make the most of what I have — however much or little that may be — and get back on the good foot.

Use my head. Be smart about things. And go. Really go.

The bottom line is, I must never give up. Because things might just turn around radically without me ever expecting it. Never give up. Never, ever, ever give up.

Keeping sharp during the holiday seasons

So, I’ve had a few days to simmer down after the last weekend of blow-ups, and now I’ve got another weekend ahead of me to sort things through and do a better job.

That’s about the best that I can expect of myself, under the circumstances. What’s done, is done. And I have to just let go of it, even though it still bothers me and I get sick to my stomach, thinking back about how rough it was last weekend.

New weekend, new chance. New lessons learned.

The big lesson I learned — once again — is that “time off” isn’t always such a good thing for me to have. I can rest, certainly. And I can take some time off. But spending too much time resting and relaxing… that’s a recipe for disaster.

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, as they say, and I have so much I need to do, anyway, that taking too much time away just stresses me out and makes me even more irritable and difficult to live and work with. I need discipline, and a planned approach, which will let me not only budget my time and get things done, but also allow me to rest. It’s all a balance. It’s when I have too much time on my hands and I’m not extending myself to do something meaningful, that I get into trouble.

The same thing goes for the week between Christmas and New Years. I have the full week off — 8 days total, plus Christmas Eve, when they close the office early. So, I have all that time, and I’m not traveling anywhere. I need to keep things pretty structured during that time, and I also need to give my spouse some space and room on their own, so I’m not underfoot and they’re not walking on eggshells around me.

My spouse is convinced that I am dangerous, and that I could go off at any time. They tiptoe around me and placate me and act like I am a monster, and that really drags me down. I still feel pretty crappy from the whole thing, and them dragging it on, just makes it worse. We both try to keep it light, but it just feels like they’re back to where they were for years, not giving me the benefit of the doubt, really trying to “handle” me and keep me in check, so I don’t go off.

It just sucks when the environment is like that. It gets old quick, and I don’t feel like being around it.

So, I need to clear out, at least a few of the days. Keep busy. Keep it light, for sure. Maybe not spend that much time around them, since they don’t really want to be around me. I dunno. I just wish it were easier. But then it wouldn’t be the holidays.

Anyway, I need to keep pretty sharp during the holidays — not get sucked into the whole junk food thing, keep getting my exercise, stretch regularly, not get bogged down in a lot of busy-ness, and keep my mind and spirit clear. I can’t stand feeling rotten all the time, and I hate how I tense up, whenever my spouse is talking to me. It’s stupid and painful for both of us, and I don’t know how to make it stop.

I guess these things work themselves out with time… We’ll find out.

In the meantime, I need to take care of myself and stay as clear and cool as I can.

What my spouse does, is up to them.

Clearing out the gunk

Had a pretty fiery long weekend — and beyond. Several fights – one of them serious. That was Monday night, after the activity of the long weekend. Total meltdown/blow-up.

Felt like crap afterwards. Really awful. Talk of divorce. What else is new? My spouse plays that card, whenever they want to make me believe it’s serious. It is, and I know that. It’s just a brinksmanship thing they do to push me a little more than they already have.

Not that I would mind, some days. Some days, I wouldn’t mind just walking away from all of this — and I mean ALL of it — and starting again. There are a lot of things I would not miss, not least of which are the obligations that I am true to, for the sake of building up relationships with others… relationships which actually don’t do squat for me, because deep down inside I am a profoundly introverted person. And the social “thing” as most people do it, does nothing for me.

It’s not that I don’t need people. I do – but differently than most people I know. My life isn’t just built around a few key relationships with people with whom I’ve cultivated connections. It’s built around having good relationships with everyone I meet. That’s important to me. Because I don’t actually see a difference between all the different people I know. The “close friends” are as important to me as “casual strangers” — because I actually don’t experience people as strangers. They are just everyday people I don’t know very well yet. As for close friends, there is too much of them that I do not know and understand, for me to consider them close friends. I mean, I do see that difference, and I do feel more comfortable talking to some people than others, but my whole social world is very different from the world that I see so many others participating in.

Cliques don’t interest me. Little clubs don’t interest me. I’m not into the “membership thing”. It’s boring to me, and it shows a real lack of imagination, in my opinion. With me, it’s literally a case of all of us being brothers and sisters in one extended family (heaven help us). It’s not some airy-fairy hippie-dippie ideal. That’s literally how I experience the world.

And it is a pretty damned lonely perspective, too. I can’t think of anyone who feels the same way, who doesn’t strike me as an airy-fairy hippie-dippie poseur. They just don’t seem real. And the people who do consider me a close friend with that bond they feel… I dunno… They don’t feel any more close to me than others, most of the time. A lot of them are pretty wrapped up in their personal pain and unfortunate experiences, so they’re not even fully “there” when I’m around them. In any case, their feelings of friendship towards me just barely scratches the surface of what I feel and how I experience the world, so even their closeness is pretty much a faint shadow of what my experience is.

My spouse is the one exception to all of this. They know me better, have been with me longer and closer and more loyally, than anyone else I know, and they are the one person I actually feel a deep bond with. Everyone else in my life just flits in and out, and half the time I don’t really miss them, when they have other things to do. But my spouse has been there, through thick and thin, and they can hold their own with me, when I am at my best. Even when they don’t understand what I’m talking about, when I start going on about technology and science and what-not, they still appreciate that I have that knowledge. And they don’t push me away because of it. We have our issues, that’s for sure, and some days (like today), I can’t say it would kill me if we split up and I bought an old truck and a junkyard dog and headed out to the wide open West to see what life had to offer me there.

But to be honest, I’d probably turn around, 50 miles down the road, go pick them up… and take them with me.

We’ve been talking about doing that for a long time, now, and maybe someday we will.

Anyway, back to my present state of being. We have been under a lot of pressure around money and getting things done, for a number of years, now. It’s been over three years, since we started down the debt repayment, road, wiping out a ton of old debt that was burying us every month, and living so close to the bone for so long has really taken a toll. It’s pretty awful. When I think about how things used to be … it was much easier, when we had money, and both of us were active and really involved in our world.

But now, after years of poor decision making and relationships with troubled people, we find ourselves really stretched. Money issues can tax even the healthiest of relationships, and we’ve had our challenges along the way, in addition to the money situation.

So, it’s taking a toll. And things really flared up this past weekend. It’s the holidays, family are pulling on us, we’re doing the best we can under the circumstances, but nobody seems to understand just how broke we really are. It’s freaky, to be this close to the edge, and have nobody realize it. Of course, we can’t tell people about it, because then a hell of a lot of judgement is going to rain down on our heads, adding insult to injury.

No thanks.

So, we just keep plugging along, by ourselves… And the biochemical stress sludge builds up and up and up… until it boils over, and we both melt down — or one of us goes off, and the other chimes in. Then we really get rolling, and by the time all is said and done, we are both wiped out, feeling like crap, and feeling like we’re back where we started, all those years ago, when things were really, really bad between us.

Things have been getting progressively worse, over the past years — mostly because of money problems and also work issues. The more I am aware of how I want things to be, the more I’m aware that they’re nothing like I want them to be, and it just depresses the sh*t out of me. I used to be able to just work like a mad person and find some relief in that, but it’s not like that for me anymore. Now I’m just so tired all the time, I’m irritable, I get pissed off over every little thing, and I’m nowhere near as easy-going as I used to be, because now I have a much clearer view of my own self-worth, and I’m not willing to put up with just any old thing, for the sake of having peace.

It was like that with me for years. I didn’t make too much about getting yelled at constantly, at getting hounded and treated like crap. I was making decent money, and as long as I had enough to keep myself entertained and do the things I wanted to do, it didn’t matter how I felt about myself. The fact that I was earning a good living was enough.

Now, however, that’s totally different, and in the absence of money, I require a lot more respect and consideration, which my spouse isn’t always ready to give me. Plus, they’ve got severe anxiety issues, they don’t take care of themself physically, and that makes them even harder to live with.

So, things get bad… and then they get worse.

Main thing for me, right now, is just getting past all the biochemical sludge that’s built up over the last long weekend. And making plans for how to spend the next long vacation I have coming up — over a week between Christmas and New Years. I’m going to need to structure this time pretty well, if I’m not going to go off and get freaked out and end up in shouting matches, all the live-long day. Being off work and interacting with someone who lives like they’re on permanent vacation and expect me to do the same, is intensely stressful — especially considering the dire financial circumstances we’re in. It’s just not good, and I’m the only one here who seems interested in doing anything about it.

It’s a problem.

But I do feel like there’s a change coming. I found some errors I made on past tax returns, and I’m refiling, so I may get some money back from the government from that. I’m also collecting all my expenses and numbers from the past year, so I can do my taxes early and get a quick refund in February. That’s my plan. It’s the only one I actually have, right now, aside from some small business ideas I have brewing.

It’s all a process, of course…

The main thing, is to keep going, keep clearing out the junk, not overload my system with a lot of junk food, sugar, cheap carbs, etc. And get enough sleep.

I did that last night, and it feels phenomenal.

So, enough of all this talk of drudgery and sadness.

Onward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another early morning, and life goes on

I woke up early again today – got about 6 hours of sleep, total, which is not great, but at least I slept at all. Funny – when I was back from my weekend road trip, I slept 8 hours straight, which was pretty amazing, but since I’ve been back… well, not so much.

That’s to be expected, I guess. I was very, very active, last weekend, and I didn’t get a ton of sleep. But now I’m less active, just dealing with the day-to-day, as well as additional irritations at work. So, that’s getting to me a little bit — waking me up and keeping me up, no matter how I try to get back to sleep.

That whole adrenaline business is a trip. My head gets going, and before you know it, my body is awake, and there’s no turning back. The melatonin that was working for me, the first few days, is not working anymore.

Oh, well. Whatever. I’ll just use the time to catch up with some things that are hanging over my head. I have a lot of things I have to do, which are nagging at me. I’m sure that’s not helping me at all. It’s just this constant stream of to-do items that never seems to give me a break. Plus, my spouse is going out of town on a business trip this weekend, so I need to help them get their act together. They’re seriously spinning… have been a basket case for weeks, now. It’s pretty much of a drain, especially because all that spinning is coming from inside their head, with them creating drama and conflict where none existed before, avoiding uncomfortable truths about difficult situations they are creating with others, spending so much time justifying things that could easily be faced and fixed… holy crap – the things we do to ourselves and others…

But this weekend, I will have some peace, and I’ll be able to move at my own pace, get some work done, and not be intermittently distracted by their need for constant stimulation. How the hell did I end up with such a needy person? I swear. … Oh, actually, I know how that happened — once upon a time, I needed to feel needed, so marrying a profoundly needy person was just the ticket to make me feel good about myself. Now, I’m older, more experienced (I won’t say “wiser”), and I’ve dealt with a lot of the things in my life that ran me ragged, so I don’t have that same need to be needed.

Funny how that happens.

My spouse, however, has not changed much. If anything, they’ve gotten more needy over the years. They haven’t been helped at all by two decades of mental health issues, as well as increasing physical issues, thanks to all those years of poor habits (no exercise, poor food choices, etc)  I’ve stayed positive and supportive over the years, and I continue to be — encouraging them to make healthy choices and handle things more pro-actively — just being as supportive as I can. Yet, for some reason, they don’t seem very interested in being positive and pro-active. Unless they’re around other people. With me, it’s all about being a drain and a drag, from what I can tell.

I’ve been sorely tempted to leave them, many times over the past several years. Their bad behavior, their abuse and neglect of self and others, their freeloading (if you want to call it what it is)… it all gets to be a little much, after a while. At the same time, though, that’s not all there is to them. Like anyone, they are a mixed bag. And I’ve reached the conclusion, many times over, that the pluses of staying with them far outweigh the minuses. So, I stay. Plus, I don’t want it on my conscience that I ditched them when they were declining — which they are. I’m looking at a lot of long years ahead, if they hang in there… slowly spiraling downwards, mental and physical capabilities decreasing, thanks to continued poor choices.

I wish I could see another path ahead — maybe there is one — but short of us becoming independently wealthy to pay for the level of care they need to get their physical and mental house in order, I don’t have much hope.

Funny, how much your health can depend on whether or not you can pay for it. To do more than survive (and keep your teeth), you’ve got to be pretty much made of money. Or know how to work the complicated, convoluted system.  I’m in neither camp.

I’ve become a bit philosophical about my situation — kind of watching it from a detached distance. They make all sorts of really bad decisions about the people they do business with, and how they interact with people. They’re a bit of a sociopath, actually, with a hefty dose of narcissism tossed in there for good measure. All they seem to know, sometimes, is their own pain — and how to assuage it. If that means they take advantage of others and use them and take-take-take, then so be it. At lest

I also never know, when my spouse drives somewhere, if they will come back alive, or if I’ll get a knock on the door with a couple of cops telling me my spouse was involved in an auto accident, and can I please come down to the morgue and identify the body. They’re not a great driver, and they have trouble seeing at night, and something about the way they drive infuriates other drivers, who have actually chased them down the road, threatening them — for reasons my spouse cannot fathom. They also love to talk on the cell phone when they’re driving, which is a pretty terrible habit for them to have, considering that they have trouble driving even without a cell phone glued to their ear.

I often feel sick to my stomach, when they go away, because I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I have to let that one go. It’s beyond my control. There’s no point in me making myself sick over them. I have to take care of myself. I have to keep my own act together, or we both go down.

It’s just part of getting older, I guess. Couples often experience one partner losing their capabilities before the other — this past weekend, when I was visiting a relative in a rest home, I saw a number of couples where one was visiting or taking care of the other. It happens. Mild cognitive impairment sets in. Issues come up. Accidents happen. But people hang in there. I saw spouses sitting with spouses who’d had strokes, as well as couples sitting together on park benches – one obviously doing better than the other. It happens.

And we deal with it as best we can. In the case where there’s an injury that heals over time, that’s one scenario. But in the case where there’s no substantial recovery imminent, and what lies ahead is basically a long, slow slide downhill…. that’s another. And that’s the scenario I’m looking at, right now. My spouse is declining. That much is clear to me. So I’d better brace myself for the coming storms.

It’s funny — I’ve been denying this decline for some time, now. I haven’t wanted to think the best, I’ve wanted to be supportive and hopeful and positive. But a few weeks ago, I just quit staving off the sneaking suspicion that I’m married to someone who’s just not going to get all that much better — and is probably going to get a lot worse, in the coming years. Who knows if it will be 5 or 10 or 20 or even 30 years? It could go on that long. Granted, I’d be living with the love of my life, so that’s a plus. Yet, after a certain point, do they stop being the love of my life and become someone different?

I don’t know the answer to that. I guess I’ll find out.

If they don’t kill me first, with the stress…

Assuming that I don’t go to an early grave from dealing with a crazy person, I’m starting to look at my different options. I have always been deeply opposed to rest homes — they depress the crap out of me, and I can’t stand the thought of just “dumping” someone there. At the same time, though, after seeing my relative in the home where they’re at, and realizing that they actually are receiving good care and are more engaged on a daily basis, than when they were living at home full-time, I’m of another mind. It might turn out to be a good idea to make arrangements for them to go to a home, if they get to be too much for me to handle, personally. It all depends on the home.

Then again, if we could simply develop better community connections and be more social and have more access to people — instead of living off in the woods in this house, miles from our nearest friends — that could be a better alternative. Of course, none of the changes would happen without money, and since we have almost none of that anyway, it’s premature to be talking about any of this.

Still and all, it’s a relief to be thinking it through up front. At least I’m not denying it anymore. If this change is going to happen — and it has already started — then I need to keep fit and stay strong and take action on my own behalf. There’s no sense in me losing my own quality of life, because of issues someone else refuses to face and deal with. When all is said and done, I’ve got to look out for myself and make sure I’m as fit and as healthy and as strong as I can be.

Speaking of which, I’m going to join a gym. There’s a special they’re advertising that ends at midnight tonight.

Onward.

 

Relationships after TBI – the road back

tbi-and-marriage-1
Coming to terms can be difficult

Here’s something a reader just shared — a web page full of informational videos on Relationships after TBI from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center – a site which shares information on TBI and how to address and recover from it.

The featured video is a great one – about a couple who have made tremendous progress since the husband’s TBI. It’s truly inspirational to see them, and it’s clear that things haven’t been a bed of roses for them.

One of the great things about this is that there’s actually work being done on helping couples to handle the changes and challenges after TBI. It’s absolutely true that TBI affects everyone, not just the survivor, and having people out there who can share the information and help others to do something meaningful with it, is very heartening.

The road is long, but it can be so rewarding
The road is long, but it can be so rewarding

It’s also very heartening when I see and hear stories about spouses who step up and really work at things, instead of just giving up. This varies from person to person, of course, and everyone’s resilience level is different, but TBI doesn’t have to be a death sentence for marriage.

I encourage you to check out the videos at the MSKTC

Doing it differently today

Okay, so I learned my lesson yesterday. After a full day of some pretty intense pressure, discussions, negotiations, and eventual agreements to a truce and conscious change of our dynamic, my spouse and I averted what looked like a pretty good chance of splitting up.

It’s fortunate we didn’t, because this marriage is by far the best and most beneficial thing I’ve ever had in my life, and to trash it now would be little more than self-destructiveness, and giving in to the craziness that comes up because I’m tired, stressed, and running out of good ideas. It’s my lifeline. And I’ve been far too lax about engaging fully with it, for many years. I’m married to a very strong personality who tends to prevail. I’ve not lived up to my own part of the bargain by letting them take the lead on so many things.

A lot of this comes back to my history of TBI — it’s so easy to step back and let someone else take the reins, when I’m tired and turned around and just not feeling up to the rigors of keeping things going. But I’ve let them down, time and again, by not engaging, not being more involved, just keeping to myself, and not being fully present. There’s a fair amount of resentment for some old things, which just bogs me down and is so pointless. The resentments I feel are over things I allowed — even encouraged — to happen. It’s no one’s fault but my own, and here I sit, blaming others for what’s taken place.

Long story short, I got to bed an hour earlier last night, than I have in a while. And it was good. I still need to work on that. I am over-tired and running at a pretty big deficit right now, so I’ll need time to build back up. I can’t function when I am overly fatigued. It’s just really, really bad. And it backs up in ways that just hammer me and everyone around me — of course, the people I care most about.

But change is possible. And I am committed to making a change in my life, taking more of a stand in how I live my life, and doing more to direct the action around me.

That change starts with how I structure my time and how I take care of myself. If I don’t take care of myself, I get myself into trouble. If I don’t rest sufficiently — even after fun things — the fatigue builds up and takes a huge toll, on me and everyone around me. And it’s just not good. All the work I’ve put into getting my act together just flies out the window. And I’m back to square one.

So, time to make a change. I started yesterday with just talking things through, then getting to bed early. Today is another chance, another start. I have to be prepared to start and re-start as often I as necessary, to create a life I can be proud of. Some things may never be the same for me, but at the same time, that’s not keeping me from making the things I can affect the best they can possibly be.

Each day, I have a chance to start fresh. Each day, I have the chance to create the kind of experience I want to have. It’s nobody’s fault but mine, if I’m stuck – I can get un-stuck. Things may not always be perfect, and sometimes they can truly suck. But I do have control over how I experience them, and with that knowledge, with that focus, I’m ready to begin again. Fortunately, so is my spouse.

Life happens. And life goes on.

So, just keep at it

Yesterday was a very up-and-down day.  I had to get some medical tests done last week, and I didn’t get the results back till yesterday, so it was a tense weekend. The tests came back with some non-standard results — but nothing to be concerned about on the extreme end of the spectrum. It’s just one of those wait-and-see types of things.

So, I’ll be waiting and watching and making notes about things that happen that seem unusual or unexpected.

Yesterday went pretty well all day — my spouse and I have been having a lot of trouble with arguments escalating into shouting matches, and we’ve been working pretty hard, trying to restore some civility to our relationship. We’ve been having a lot of troubles, as tends to happen with families that are in financial straits, and who have additional health issues. The pressure is pretty intense, and we both often feel as though we’re just there for the other to hound and hassle.

So, we made the extra effort yesterday, and things were going pretty well. Until later in the evening, when we started to argue about health choices my spouse has been making, which are really impacting their life. They have several conditions they have to be careful of, and they just haven’t been careful. At all. Things escalated, and the evening went south pretty quickly.

Not nice.

And today I’m feeling pretty hungover from the emotional drama. It was so friggin’ pointless — unbelievable, what some people will do, to avoid looking at their habits and admitting they are making bad choices. Not just poor choices, but BAD choices that can have lasting consequences.

I’m pretty sick about the whole thing, and given how many times they’ve agreed to change and seemed really intent on changing… then went right back to what they were doing before… I don’t have much hope. On the “bright” side, I was able to take out life insurance for them through my work. No reasonable insurance company would insure them, but my work offers free, no-exam-required life coverage up to a certain amount. I hate to sound cold, but given the path they’ve been on, it’s about the only thing left that I have to cover me, in case all their chickens come home to roost.

I’m not one to look on the dark side, but at the very least, I can be prepared for the worst. The person I’m married to has absolutely NO interest in getting life insurance — they think it’s “depressing” and don’t want to dwell on potential misfortune. So, I’ve got to protect myself. ‘Cause they’re sure as hell not going to do it. Hell, they won’t even protect themself.

It’s maddening. When you love and care for someone who is neglectful of their health and then attacks you when you ask them to change their ways, what the hell can you do? Makes no sense, to be stuck in some kind of emotional vortex, avoiding dealing with reality just ’cause it’s unpleasant.

Then again, they’ve pretty much always been this way. It’s only in the past several years, as I’ve gotten my own act together and really focused on dealing with my own issues, that I’ve become less tolerant of this kind of foolishness. In fairness to them, I never had a problem with it before, so why should I now?

Because I really, really want to live a healthy life. And I would like it very much if they would join me in that commitment. But they may not. So there we have it.

Oh, screw it. I’ve got to get back to work. I’ve just gotta keep steady with my own life. If they choose to screw themself over and wreck themself, there’s only so much I can do. I just have to take care of myself. ‘Cause they’re not going to do it for me.

Soaking it all in

Source: seemsartless.com

I’ve decided that it makes no sense for me to take the ruminating rumblings in my brain very seriously, these days. Fact of the matter is, I’m tired and I have a lot of old crap rattlin’ ’round in there that is just taking up space. And that crap distracts me from the truth of my life — that I am in a living, breathing relationship that has stood the test of time and looks likely to do so in the future… that I am doing really well at work and advancement looks like it’s in the not-too-distant future for me… that I am more physically fit than I’ve been in years, and I continue to improve.

There is no point in me focusing on the rough patches. Everyone has them. They exist. I’m not saying they don’t matter and don’t require work. But they’re not all there is to the story.

Life is a big place, and it’s often all too short. Why spend my time fomenting discontent over whatever comes to mind?

It makes no sense.

So, rather than stay stuck in the gray nether regions of my more twisted parts, I’ve been making an effort to look around at the world around me, engage with it, and soak up as much extra input as I can get. That means I turn off the radio when I’m driving home and roll down the window and put my elbow out to catch the breeze. That means I run my hands along the walls of the rooms in my house to feel the textures of the different surfaces. That means I look — really look — around me and take things in — the colors, the shapes, the sounds. All of it.

In a way, it’s eclipsing the dread grayness that’s been creeping over me for no apparent reason. Maybe it’s the change of seasons. Maybe it’s that it’s getting colder. Maybe it’s that we just don’t have enough money to make ends meet. Or more than that — things I barely recall.

In any case, as valid as those feelings and concerns may be, they’re not all there is to me, and I cheat myself of a full experience of life if I let them get the upper hand. Life has a way of working itself through, if you give it its due. And that’s what I’m doing.

Call me a sponge. For the good stuff.