#braininjury Q and A for today

head with brain opening and question marks coming outLooking at my site stats, here are some questions people asked or things they searched on — and then found their way to this blog.

  • are some people wired for failure

I think some people may be. I know people who cannot seem to help making one bad choice after another, who can’t seem to avoid screwing up, time and time again. “Failure” is relative, of course. If you look at all of your life experience as a series of opportunities to learn, failure is a great way to learn more than you ever thought possible. People who succeed at everything they do, don’t get the benefit of the lessons that come from failing to achieve your goals. Then again, some people never seem to learn. They seem almost addicted to messing up, and there’s not much you can do, when someone is in that state of mind. Of course, you can call their attention to ways they could do things differently, but not everybody can hear it, understand it, or put it into action. Unless they can, their failure isn’t going to do them much good, and that’s pretty depressing to watch.

  • can hot flashes be brought on by injury

Yes, I believe so. In the case of women, I believe menopause can be triggered by a brain injury. The endocrine system, which manages our hormones, is actually pretty easily impacted by brain injury, so it can really mess up how your body handles things. This goes for men, as well. We all have hormones. We all are affected by it. And it’s my understanding that the endocrine system manages our body temperature. So, if it’s affected, yeah – you can get hot flashes after injury. The other thing is that brain injury can put you in a state of persistent fight-flight, which pumps your system full of adrenaline and other stress hormones. I don’t know about you, but when I’m all hopped up on adrenaline, I heat up. So, that’s another way you can have hot flashes after injury — you system can run hotter, in general. And getting it to tame down can take a lot of work. It’s a good use of time to work on that, of course. It’s done wonders for me, I can tell you that.

  • zone out after brain injury

I did this for quite some time, after my TBI in 2004. I would sit in front of my computer at work, just looking at the screen, not even seeing what was there. It was bizarre. And people around me got pretty uncomfortable. One day, I was an over-the-top peak performer… the next, I was a zombie sitting in front of my computer, just staring at the screen. My brain was full of gunk that needed to get cleared out, so for weeks, even months, after my accident, I just zoned out. It took quite some time to get over that, but I did. I still zone out, now and then, but that’s usually because I’m over-tired or overwhelmed.

  • concussion and remembering names

Lots of things can keep us from remembering names. After my last concussion, I couldn’t remember names, nor could I remember faces. I’d have long, involved conversations at work with people, without any clue who they were or what their names were. Then I’d walk around the office, trying to find where they sat, so I could secretly check out their name plate and figure out who they were and what they had to do with me. In order to remember something, you have to make that memory, you have to encode it in your circuits. After TBI, your brain can be so scattered, you don’t have the concentrated attention to encode memories as well as before. This can improve over time. But then you get into remembering names… which is a whole other thing. Sometimes I can’t for the life of me remember who someone is, or what their name is — just last week, I couldn’t remember one of my relatives I knew quite well as a kid. I just drew a blank. But when I asked someone else who they were, it all came rushing back. It’s tricky. It’s kind of a minefield. But it can change. It can get better.

Shaking things up just a little bit

railroad tracks on a gravel bed, one of them ends in the gravel
Time to step off the track and improvise. It’s good for my character.

I took a break from my memory training yesterday. I need to let my system just chill out and acclimate. I pushed myself for several days straight. Now it’s time to let the new connections in my brain (and all-over nervous system) chill out and have a rest. I’ll come back to my exercises in another couple of days.

I’m changing things up a bit. Heaven knows, I love my routines. I have had a lot of trouble in the past with getting things done – especially everyday things – so I have routinized many, many aspects of my life. It’s to the point where I don’t even need to think about doing a lot of things that used to really trip me up — getting myself out of bed, showered, dressed, fed, and out the door to work. It used to be such a trial and a pain — and every morning started with rage.

That’s a terrible way to live. So, I did something about it. I developed a routine I would stick with, each and every morning. It was rudimentary. It was far beneath my actual capabilities. But it relieved me of the need to think everything through, each and every day. So, it served a truly valuable purpose. I credit that routine with giving me a functional foundation again. And saving my self-respect in the process.

Now it’s time to shake things up a little bit. Change up the routines to get my brain to work a little harder.

As helpful as it is to do things the exact same way, in the exact same sequence every day, it’s also easy for my brain to just check out and not have to work at things as hard. When you’re struggling just to get out of bed and out the door to work each day, routine helps. But when you’ve got that down, and you know how to do it rote, sticking to the exact same routine can be a little deadening.

Because if you’re not continuously moving forward, then you’re actually moving backwards. Maybe not right away, but over time, if you don’t move… you’re in trouble.

So, I need to switch things around a little bit. I’ve been doing that at work, where I’m getting there earlier in the day. And I’ve been handling a wider variety of work, interacting with different people, taking on a wider array of responsibilities. I’ve been stepping into the kind of role I want to play in the future, and it’s been good. I figure I have the next year to figure out where I want to go and what I want to do — and that includes money. It turns out, I’m under-compensated. I checked on Glassdoor.com, and apparently, people are making a lot more money than I am, for doing the same work. I tend to lowball myself, because I tend to think that expensive people get cut first, but I may be wrong about that.

Anyway, I’ve been doing a wider array of things in my everyday life, too — more cleaning around the house, organizing, freeing up space and seeing how I can improve my living environment. I’ve been exercising religiously each morning, which itself is a bit of a change (I used to do it every now and then). I’m lifting weights differently. And I’m working on my swimming, doing more strokes that are harder for me and demand more of me. I’ve also been pushing myself to do extended laps, rather than just floating from one end of the pool to the other. It feels great to be in the water. And it also feels great to be tired, when I’m done with my workout.

I haven’t been doing as much walking on the weekends as I should. The summer was so hot and buggy. I just didn’t want to go out. I was also pretty tired. But I have to push myself to do better about that. I need to get out and walk today. Just up the road and back. Maybe on the hiking trails. It’s been raining for the past day or two, so things are wet and slippery, so I probably won’t go into the woods, where I could slip and fall and maybe not be found right away. I need to keep safe.

My spouse has a business engagement tonight, so I’ll be helping them get everything together for that. I have been more involved in their work, lately. It’s not quite to the point where I used to be involved, but I am doing more than I had been, over the past few years. They have lost a lot of supporters, over the past few years. I think their erratic emotions and highly demanding nature has put people off. Plus, my spouse expects people to do a lot for free — or be compensated just with words of thanks and gratitude. There’s more to compensation than that, but the don’t seem to understand that.

Well, that’s not my problem. I just need to take care of my own stuff.

But that also includes taking care of them. Because they’re getting older, and they’re not going to be 100% functional forever. We’ll need to make some changes — as my spouse becomes less able, and I continue to need to keep my career going, keep working, keep taking care of myself. I can’t see the point in sacrificing my success for them — no, our success, since everything I do really benefits us both. I am the breadwinner, after all.

So, I’ve been doing some research with regard to in-home care. It’s a thing now. I’ve had people tell me I should put them in a home, right after they had their severe health collapse, about 10 years ago. I was having trouble dealing with their constant neediness and the increased responsibilities of helping them get back on their feet, and a number of people told me I should look into some sort of managed care — that I shouldn’t stick around and have their bad decisions and habits affect me.

It’s just so bizarre to me, how people can be so cavalier about just ditching people who aren’t 100% functional and able-bodied. And I also can’t believe how easily others give up — that they don’t see how you can help someone work their way back to functionality (at least, without professional help). What a shame and a waste. Maybe if fewer people gave up, and more people realized just how much you can really do, we wouldn’t have as much human suffering. Maybe…

Anyway, after months and months of concern about how I’m going to help my spouse if/when they are unable to care for themself, I now know — I will find in-home care. It will be someone who they like, someone who’s really good and helpful. And I think it will be affordable. My spouse is on Medicare, so that might help pay for some of it. If not, I will find another way. If I can just stay at my current earning rate for the next 20 years (even if I never get another raise), I can afford to pay someone to come for 4-6 hours a day, four days a week. And if Medicare can help, even better. Unless something terrible happens to me (which is always a possibility), I can maintain my own state for the foreseeable future, just as-is. And that will let me adapt to my spouse’s changing status, as well.

This is yet another reason why I need to change things up with myself and my daily routine. I need to be flexible and capable under a variety of circumstances. I need to know how to keep my cool and soldier through. I need to be adaptable and not lose it, when things shift around me — as they invariably do. My current job is not secure, it’s not stable. It’s there for the time being, but I am pursuing different opportunities within my role at the company so that I can add them to my resume and beef up my desirability in the job market. Everything around me is an opportunity to improve and make myself stronger, more valuable, and able to command a higher dollar amount. I need those higher dollar amounts. It’s just ridiculous, that I should be paid less than I’m worth, so I need to start doing something about that.

And I am. Both by doing new and different things, and training myself to do those new and different things without losing my cool.

Onward.

#Brain training test results – 10-20-16

Here are the results of my testing yesterday. I got my test sheet and folded it in fours, then I studied the image below, committing it to memory. I traced the lines with my finger, and I also stood with my shoulders wide and my hands on my hips, to have a kind of physical memory of it, because it looks almost like a robot standing with its hands on its hips. I tried to take my time, but I was distracted by my busy day ahead.

Starting Image
10-20-16-start

I noticed when I was starting out, I was a bit impatient. I was tired (still am), and I was running behind schedule. So, I felt very antsy while I was studying the image

About four hours passed until I did my first attempt at recollecting.

First Attempt
10-20-16-try1

I did pretty well, getting the lines and all the pieces correct. However, I was a bit rushed, and the proportions were not correct. The top bar was too “chunky” (even though I remembered that the bar doesn’t go the whole way across). And I remembered the location of the circles in the middle. But I crowded them, and the bottom squares are too small. For some reason, I start out big, then I get smaller. I get nervous. I get rushed. And it shows.

At the end of the day, I took another shot:

Second Attempt
10-20-16-try2

I was clearly tired and rushed — I started drawing the bottom squares too quickly and forgot that I needed to leave room for the circles. Then I caught myself and course-corrected. The bottom squares are still too small, proportionately speaking. And the right one is smaller than the left. When I’m tired and nervous, I draw smaller. And I was rushed. I didn’t take my time — I think because I was nervous about possibly forgetting what I had in my mind.

So, what does this teach me?

Mainly, that I need to come up with a more effective technique for remembering things and keeping them in mind. I also need to relax and not rush. Because that gets me in trouble. It might not seem like that big of a deal here — it’s just a drawing — but that generalizes to other parts of my life that I really need to keep clear and steady. The skills I build while doing this can come in handy in other ways.

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.

Yeah… and so it starts again

drift-boat-in-rapids
How my life feels, right about now

I’m going to restrain myself and NOT refer to the people managing the company where I work as “Lying sacks of sh*t”. Let’s just say, things have apparently changed, since they last told us that the rounds of layoffs were over, a few months back.

They’re not over. Not even close. And they will continue to happen, because the deal that’s supposed to be so sweet, is becoming a bit sour.

I just heard that there are supposed to be more layoffs in another 4 weeks or so. Wonderful. That will give me time to spruce up my resume.

Please, please, please, may I get a decent package and be released into the wild. I know I’m supposed to be careful what I ask for, but the way I figure it, I am eminently replaceable. The company that’s buying mine already has people working with the technology I work with, and they look to be 20 years younger, which means they are cheaper — and easier to let go, at some point. Now’s the time when they can let me go and not get dinged for it.

So, it’s back to the drawing board. Maybe.

Who knows? All I know is, my patience has run thin, and I really don’t feel like doing anything for anyone, anymore. The whole thing about trading my time and talents for a paycheck just seems like a bad joke. I’ve given enough. I’ve contributed enough blood to the cause.

It’s a strange feeling. I feel as though I’m in a motorboat, crossing a swift river. And my motor has died. I’m trying to get it started again, pulling and pulling on the starter cord, but I can’t seem to get my motor to start. And the river just keeps flowing.

I really feel like jumping overboard and swimming for shore… and getting off the river. I feel as though that’s what the whole corporate scene is like — going on a boat ride down a river. You can’t control the river, you can try to maneuver around rocks and through rapids, and you can alter your speed, but as long as you’re in the river, you’re never getting to the other side. Even the people running the show aren’t getting to the other side. They’re swept along, the same as the rest of us.

So, I think I need a different river. Or a smaller one. Once again, I remember why I always prefer to do contract work. People who run things at “stable” companies often seem to have different priorities than keeping the business running smoothly – especially when they’re huge. I’ve been working at top-10 multinational corporations for most of the past 30 years, and it’s always the same.

On it goes. I work with a bunch of people who have been through this a bunch of times. I’m not sure how they do it. Living with a sword of Damocles always hanging over your head… not fun.

So, it’s time to take action. Decide where I want to go, and what I want to do, and just do it. I actually have a project I was working on about a year ago, that sputtered out. But I really think it needs to be revived again. I have a handful of projects — all organized around a central theme — that I think could be good and useful for other people.  And I could also do some public speaking about it, as well. It could be an additional way for me to make some money, and it might even expand into something bigger. Now than I think about it, I actually have a number of things I can bring together… and actually build a business out of it. Heck, I have the start of an eBook that actually has a lot of really great content in it. I can use that as a starting point, and work from there. I know there are some places in the area that can use this — and I might be able to branch out, as well.

It’s funny — I had actually started to build out this business, in the few months before I got approached by my current employer, and it looked like I was going to be able to knock it out of the park. But when I got this new job, I put everything on hold, because I wanted to focus on this job. Now things are changing again, and it’s actually the perfect time to revive that business idea. Not only does it give me a good way to “channel” my anxious energy, but it also gives me something to work towards.

The more I think about it, the better this sounds. It really, really does. And I had forgotten how much work I had put into this, in the months before I started this new job. It’s pretty amazing, really — and once again, my “blinkered” perception rears its head. I get so hyperfocused on what’s in front of me, that I lose sight of the larger picture — and things that occurred in times that I’ve forgotten about. It’s a good thing I store everything on my hard drive — and on an external one, as well — and online in my web storage space. Otherwise, I’d just forget all about things.

Yeah. That’s it. I need something that’s actually mine, that I can call my own. And this is it. Other people have kids… or pets… or some cause they rally around, that brings meaning and purpose to their lives. I have no kids, I have no pets (not since the last cat died, 4 years ago), and my causes are personal and private — not the kinds of things I bring out into my outward life.

I just need to get creative and pick the direction I want to go — then go there.

I’ve already picked it. Now it’s time to go.

Onward.

It is so good to be reading books again

books-open-stackLast night, two books I ordered arrived in my mailbox. Very, very cool. I went on a “shopping spree” on abebooks.com a couple weeks back, looking for neuropsychological rehabilitation titles (that weren’t over $50 – not an easy task). After combing through listings, I selected a couple. I got both of them for under $25, which makes me incredibly happy.

And they came in the mail yesterday. As it turns out, it’s even better than expected, because they are in good shape, and they are hardcovers. It looks like one of them was a library book, because it’s got the call number taped to its spine and a checkout log inside the back cover. That’s cool. I don’t mind. The book is in good shape, and all the people who checked it out over the years were actually responsible about it.

So, now I have some reading to do. I used to read constantly — always had my nose in a book when I was a kid. My home office is full of books I have bought and read. It’s always been my preferred way to chill out and get my mind off the rest of the world. Plus, I’m always up for learning something new.

But when I got hurt in 2004, I couldn’t read anymore. Not books, anyway. I could read short blurbs, but remembering what I’d read a few pages (or chapters) back, and putting it together with what’s right in front of me… that was out of the question.

Over the years, I’ve pieced it back together again. I’ve read countless technical and scientific papers (most of them having to do with TBI and neurological issues). I’ve read more social media posts than I care to think of. I’ve read a lot of magazine articles online. And of course, there’s the daily deluge of emails that have to be read and responded to.

So, it’s not like I haven’t been able to read anything – just not full-length books.

A few years ago, though, that ability started to return. I had to work at it a bit, and I had to step away from my practice and come back later, many times over. But the practice paid off, and I got it back.

And now I have my books. My nice new books about neuropsychological rehabilitation. Just a little light reading…

Another day working at home

Sort of what my water heater looked like - not quite, but close.
Sort of what my water heater looked like – not quite, but close.

Over the past few days, I had an interesting thing happen with my water heater. I have the temp set to just below “normal”, because I don’t want to scald anyone who runs the water. But since last weekend, the water has been HOT(!) for no apparent reason.

It happened on and off for a few days, then it was always HOT.

I finally went downstairs on Sunday night to see what was up. I thought maybe the dial had gotten bumped. But when I got down there, the dial was in the right place — while the air vent was incredibly corroded, there was water pooling on the top, and there was a line of water going down the side and pooling on my basement floor.

I mopped up the water and turned on the dehumidifier (I turned it off, because it was making strange noises, and we probably need a new one, anyway), and then wrote myself a note to call the company that had installed it in the morning. I wrote the note on a bright pink stickie note and put it up on the kitchen door, where I couldn’t miss seeing it. That’s my go-to for things I have to remember — notes written on garishly colored stickie notes and put at eye level in a place where I always look — out the back door to the yard, to see how the day is going.

That was Sunday night. Why didn’t I call sooner? Because it was Christmas, and I frankly didn’t want to have to deal with it — or call the repair guy out on the holiday. And it actually didn’t occur to me to check on the hot water heater until Sunday night — might sound strange, but if something doesn’t have my full attention, it tends to not exist in my mind.

Anyway, Monday morning, the note worked — it caught my attention — and I called the repair company. They sent someone out later that day, and by mid-afternoon, it was fixed. At first, the repair guy thought I needed a new tank, full stop, but then he found out he could just replace the top well and the temperature sensor (the old one was fused, because it was sitting in water and rusted out), and I should be good as new. He left the top mechanicals unattached, so they wouldn’t get damaged by a possible leak in the tank. Then I’d have to get everything replaced all over again.

I’m to keep an eye on the top well for the next few days, and if it stays dry, I’ll call them and have them come out to replace the top mechanicals, and we can all get on with our lives.

So, that was yesterday. I worked from home, as nobody is at the office, anyway, and I had no meetings. Same thing today. No meetings, nobody is there. It’s practically a vacation week for everyone who’s officially working, because nothing — but nothing — is happening.

It’s time to review the past year, do our year-end assessments, account for our actions, report in on what we got right, where we need to  improve, etc.

It’s weird, because our company is getting acquired, so there’s a general sense of “what’s the point?” to all of this. Even if we do great work, we could get let go, because we don’t fit with the new vision of the company. Or if we do good work and we get kept on, the direction could change, so our accomplishments won’t mean anything. And it’s all just an exercise.

Well, it’s actually a good exercise. It’s not just about justifying my existence with my employer. It’s also good for me to look back on the year, see where I got things right, really appreciate the progress I’ve made, and look forward to what’s next. Seems like the usual for year-end, whether it’s for work, or it’s for me.

So, it’s all good — and I’m actually enjoying the process. It’s great to have the leeway to just breathe and think my way through everything, instead of rushing around like a crazy person. I have a few classes I need to take before the year is out — I have all of three days to do it, which is more than enough time — but I’m still cutting it close. I’m using the pressure to get myself to focus, as I often do.

So, after thinking I was going to go into the office this week — it’s quiet, after all — I realize that I really don’t feel like it. I can get everything done (and more) at home, and I get a break from the bad air and the deodorizer in the restrooms that covers me in an obnoxious layer of scent. The chemicals set off my spouse’s allergies, so I have to keep away from them until I take a shower, and it’s a huge pain in the ass. Of course, it’s a bit of a challenge for us to be in shared space all the time, for days on end (we’re old fashioned – we get on each other’s nerves). But we’re making do this week.

The weather is rotten, and I haven’t been feeling well — migraine again, for the past several days — so it’s safer for me to stay home, we both figure.

So, here I am. Again. Warm and happy and with plenty of discretionary time to use as I please.

And it’s pretty cool.

Onward…

Mixed day. Half day. Full day.

Well, there it is. It’s been a full day, but I got maybe half of what I’d intended done.

Of course I did. I am notoriously bad at estimating what I’ll be able to accomplish in my weekend time. For some reason, I always think I’ll be running at the same pace I do during the week, but weekends take on a pace of their own, so by 3:30 or so, I realize I estimated all wrong, and I settle in to just having a weekend.

Originally, the plan was to run some errands in the morning, mail out some Christmas presents to family, help my spouse get ready for a day trip they were taking with friends, do some work around the house, run some more errands, clean a little bit, take a nap, make some supper, set up the Christmas tree, and get a head start on another job I need to do tomorrow.

That’s almost how it went. Except for half of it. While doing one set of errands, I realized that I needed to run to the big box home improvement store and pick up a piece of lumber to patch a hole in the stairs of my house. I’ve had workmen step into that gap and nearly hurt themselves. And just the other day, another one broke  through the patch I created 10 years ago. I guess 10 years is about the lifespan of that particular patch.

I also needed to pick up some supper, so I ran to the store and got my supplies, along with some caulk. I stopped to ask some employees at the store about where to find caulk, and when they asked me what it was for, I couldn’t get the words out. I could see the pictures in my head, clear as day, but I couldn’t pull up the words “garage” or “trim”. I just stood there like an idiot, gesturing in mid-air with one hand, while I held the 2×6 in the other.

“It’s for outside,” I said. “Outside”. That was the best I could do. The lights were so friggin’ bright overhead, the space was TOO BIG, TOO LOUD, TOO MUCH, and I was still feeling sick — still am, right now.

Fortunately, they just told me where the caulk was (right behind me – d’oh), and they recommended the silicon type. I need to fill some gaps in the trim of my house around the garage doors, because mice keep getting in that way. I’ve seen them slip into that gap many a time, and I’ve had it with them. They’re dead.

I got home in one piece, trimmed the end off the lumber, patched the hole, and then set a bunch of mousetraps in in places where those little bastards tend to show up. When it gets cold outside, they come inside. And until I get those gaps filled (I need to wait till it’s warm and dry before I use it — it’s supposed to get that way, next week), it’s “killing time” for those little bastards.

One place I set the traps is along a veritable “mouse walkway” in my basement. There’s a high ledge along the outer wall where I’ve trapped them before with live traps. Once, I caught four of them overnight. Now I’m not bothering with live traps. They’re dead. Dead, I tell you. The thing is, with my snap traps, if they snap, they can go flying, and then they’ll end up God-knows-where, and I might not find them till I start to smell the little decomposing carcasses. It’s happened before.

So, I got all clever and tied some string between the traps and nails in the overhead joists. Now, if the trap goes off and flies off the ledge, it will just dangle there, instead of flipping into or behind a nearby object where I can’t find it.

Problem solved. We’ll see how that works.

After that, I took a long, hot shower and lay down for my nap, setting the clock for a couple hours later. I must have slept right through the alarm, because no less than 3 hours later, I woke up on my own. I guess I really needed the sleep.

I had a late supper, and then talked to my spouse who lost track of time and ended up staying four hours longer than expected. They’re on their way home. And I am done for the day. Tomorrow’s another chance to start again, which I shall do.

Onward… to bed.

 

Serious, not serious

serious-not-seriousI’m feeling better today – much better. Thank heavens for that. This bug I’m fighting off is likely just a sinus infection, but the aches and pains and sore throat had me down. I woke up in the night feeling really sick, choking on my coughs, the back of my throat burning. I wanted to get up and gargle with warm salt water, but I couldn’t rally. So, I rolled over and went back to sleep. My body’s been in a lot of pain, over the past weeks, what with all the driving and the disruption of my schedule over Thanksgiving – AND the break in my daily exercise during November, when I was so busy, each morning.

I’m paying for all of that. I thought I was doing fine and I didn’t need to keep up with my “maintenance”… but I was wrong. So very wrong.

I’ve been having a bit of trouble, lately, with my memory and reading. I’ve been mis-reading emails at work, which isn’t good. I put people through all kinds of extra work, because I don’t understand what I’m reading, or I miss some details. I need to just get in the habit of reading an email three or four times before I respond to it. Maybe I should read them out loud to myself.

I also got a text from a former co-worker last week, and I completely forgot who they were. They were at a conference I was supposed to attend, but couldn’t because of my dentist appointment (it went well, by the way – but my spouse wasn’t feeling up to eating out, so we just came home and I cooked us some fresh steaks, which was just as good as eating out — maybe better). Anyway, I got this text from someone saying “Are you here? We are –” and then they listed the names of the other people I used to work with. But because they didn’t put commas between the names, I thought it was all one name, and it didn’t look familiar to me. And didn’t I look like an idiot, texting back “Um, I think you have the wrong number. I have no idea who you are.”

So much for that.

I dunno, I kind of feel like I’ve been going backwards over the past weeks and months. My memory isn’t as great as I’d like it to be, and I keep missing small details in conversations. I also have lost ground on the stuff I’m managing at work, and I’ve gotten lost in the weeds of all the details. Big picture thinking is not my strong suit, these days.

Of course, it doesn’t help when you’re being threatened with layoffs, and you don’t know where you’re going to be in a few months’ time. I totally dodged a bullet on the most recent round of layoffs, but supposedly there will be more. And it’s tough to not let it bother me. I’m the sole breadwinner for my household. I have a mortgage and bills to pay, food to buy, and my spouse’s business to keep stable. My spouse does a good job at what they do, the market just isn’t always there for their products & services, and there have been issues with customers not paying, so that’s a problem.

I like not being homeless. Been there, done that, not going back ever again. When I was a little kid, I once struck up a conversation with a little old lady who was buying dog food (I used to be a really outgoing kid, before the TBIs started happening). I asked her what kind of dog she had, and she said she didn’t have one… and then she ran away from me. I asked my mom why, and she said the lady was probably going to eat that dog food, herself, because she didn’t have money, and dog food has a lot of good protein. I’ll never forget the look of shame and distress on that little old lady’s face. And I swear to God, I will do whatever it takes to prevent myself and my spouse from ever having to experience that.

It made an impression, to be sure.

So, that’s my focus in life – just keeping us housed and fed and healthy. Of course, there’s only so much you can do for someone who won’t help themself. And that’s where my spouse is — just neglecting themself and letting their health go to hell. Watching the love of your life fade away because they would rather die than provide themself with a sense of being loved and cared for, is not easy. But that’s exactly what’s happening. If someone isn’t waiting on them, they don’t feel loved. So, in order to feel that, they play helpless and victim, and they wait for others to wait on them… which is about the worst thing you can do for yourself and your health.

I blame their friends. They are all of that ilk. And it’s killing them all. Not good.

So, that’s adding stress to my life. Just a bit.

It’s hard to know what things I should stress about, and which ones I should just take in stride. I don’t want to keep having these memory and cognition issues, but I also don’t want to make too much of it. I need to be objective and understand exactly where I come down, compared to where I want to come down, and then take steps. The thing is, I don’t get a lot of help from others, figuring this out. It would be nice to have an objective outside opinion, but my neuropsych is very much into the idea that we make the lives we want to have, and mild TBI is not the sort of thing that should hold me back. Especially the kind of TBI(s) that I have had over the years.

They seem to believe that because my test scores are pretty good, overall, and I have just a few areas of difficulty, I should be fine. And the thing that makes it worse for me, is my interpretation of my experience as something that’s negative, rather than positive.

I get that it’s important to be positive about things. Absolutely. The thing is, when I am having issues, I need to be able to be clear about them. I need help getting clear about them. And their influence doesn’t help me, because I get very stressed and very turned around when I try to explain to them, and I can tell they’re not taking me seriously.

It’s been infuriating at times, and many’s the time when I nearly didn’t go back at all. I have a hell of a time verbalizing my issues out loud. And when I come up against the “disbelief field” of their attitude, everything gets all jumbled up. So, I’ve often wondered how much sense it made for me to even go see them. But they’re literally the only person I know who has a grip on brain injury, as well as what’s possible in life, so I’ve used that experience as a way to be more clear in myself about what was really going on with me.

And of course, I have this blog. And my notes. So, I can write my way through all this and make sense of it in writing, even if I can’t do it out loud.

It’s hard to know what’s serious, and what’s not. And the thing that makes it all even more stressful, is having pressure on me to be a top performer, when I am lagging cognitively. So, I just do what I see others doing – I just keep going. I pretend that everything is fine, and I’m getting it together, and I don’t worry about how I look to others, or if it’s compromising my position.

Just keep going. Focus on the basics. Stick with fundamentals and keep everything very, very simple. Ultimately, things will work out, if I just don’t give up — and I keep learning my lessons properly.

Onward.

The bathroom ceiling looks fantastic – Woo Hoo!

Here’s how my bathroom ceiling now looks:

No, it’s not a typo. My bathroom ceiling is no longer gray with patches of brown. The paint’s not peeling off it anymore, threatening to send chips down on the bathers below. It’s completely white. Sealed. Clean and crisp. As it was intended to be.

I really did a great job with the painting, if I say so, myself. I was systematic, deliberate, detail-oriented, but I didn’t obsess over things that used to derail me — like getting the painter’s tape lined up exactly right along the edge of the drop-cloth and the ceiling.

I’m really proud of myself — even over this “simple” job. Last spring, I did a lot of painting to deal with winter leaks in my roof that messed up the ceilings in a couple of bedrooms, and it was a laborious and painstaking process. I did okay, but it was a loooonnnnngggg job that lasted twice as long as it could have.

I think it was just lack of practice that slowed me down — and also having no energy from a very rough stint at work, my spouse’s car accident which knocked them out of commission for months and turned our home life pretty much upside-down, not to mention how hard last winter was and how much work I had to constantly do to just keep up with everything. Yes, there was plenty to slow me down, this past spring.

I’ve done other painting jobs in the house — the ceiling of the kitchen has a dark, peeling spot from leaks dribbling down from the bathroom above. That bathroom has always been an issue – it had spongy walls when we bought it, and it’s just always been an issue. We have a second full bath with a shower stall upstairs as well, but that’s been out of commission for years — the toilet seal leaked, the tiles popped out of the shower stall (and little shards of tile got into my diabetic spouse’s foot (we’re still pulling them out, as they work their way out, years later). We haven’t had the money to fix it all.

If I hadn’t fallen in 2004, these would not be issues. I could have kept my job. I could have cashed in the full value of the bonus shares I’d earned. I would not have spent all our money on … sorry, I can’t remember exactly what I spent it on. All I know is, hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings and hard work ceased to be in our bank account, within a few years after my accident.

If I hadn’t fallen, not only would we have had the money to fix it all, but I would not have been derailed and unable to piece ideas together in a logical sequence. Even more debilitating than the lost money, is the lost executive functioning, where I was able to make plans and make decisions and take action in a logical fashion. After my fall, everything turned into a jumbled mess.

And yet, all my MRIs show nothing of interest to neurologists or doctors of other ilk.

It’s pretty cruel, how that goes.

Anyway, now I’m back doing things in my house that I used to do before I fell. I’m making repairs. I’m patching things up. And the bathroom ceiling looks amazing. Yesterday after I was done, I would just go into the bathroom and look up at my handiwork, loving the smooth glossy finish that caught the light. It’s so satisfying. So amazing. After such a long, long time of looking at gray and brown splotches, this is magical.

Even more magical is the satisfaction I feel at being able to once again do things that I had thought I’d lost for good — or couldn’t actually remember ever having had. So, I’ll enjoy this while it lasts. This painting thing went extremely well, and I’m going to make the most of my appreciation while it lasts.

One of the weird things about how my brain works, is that I lose sight of things I have done before — especially the things I’ve done well. Life with a Swiss cheese memory is definitely interesting… and sometimes it takes me a while to remember past experiences and accomplishments that went really well. It’s not amnesia, exactly — just a very “reluctant” recall.

I may have done something a thousand times before, and I may have done it really well, but I don’t recall. So, I assume I need to re-learn how to do it. And then when it goes well, I’m elated. Overjoyed. Simply because I’ve performed in a manner true to my level of ability.

Funny how that works — but at least I have joy and elation. In some ways, it probably makes my life a lot more exciting and rewarding than it might otherwise be — if I could remember in excruciating detail everything I ever did and said. That would be unpleasant, I’m sure.

Anyway, I’m riding high on the results of my work. My spouse is delighted, as well.

It just looks so great, compared to before.

And with that,I shall start my work week.

Onward.