Improvements all around

I've got some work to do...

It’s raining today. And lots to do. I’ve got leftover work I couldn’t get finished this past week that won’t wait — I have to square it away for Monday. And I’ve got other work I’ve got to get finished for some folks I’m freelancing for. There’s a lot on my plate, and there’s usually someone at work pissed off about things not going they way they’d like.

Not that they help. The directives tend to come from four levels above me, and they keep changing. Every week something different comes up, and I get the distinct impression that the people who are running things either don’t know what they’re doing or they don’t know what they want — or both.

This could be maddening, if I let it drive me crazy. I know my boss’es boss is easily pushed by the Person Who Is Constantly Changing Their Mind (who happens to run the show). I think most people in middle management are easily pushed by this person, who seems to have some Svengali-like hold over their minds, hearts and gonads. It’s very odd. The interactions I’ve had with this Terror have never struck fear in my heart. If anything, the “Terror” has been open to listening to what I had to say, they could be reasoned with, and when I stood my ground on principle, they backed off.

In some cases, they even told me that they would defer to my judgment, which is nice. They thanked me for keeping them honest, when I wouldn’t back down.

And yet, the folks who report directly to the Terror are all running around in a state of high anxiety and crisis, apparently due to pressure from THE TOP.

Hm.

Kind of reminds me of the Elvis Costello song – I used to be disgusted… now I’m just amused. It gets a little wearing, being so tweaked over the volatility of someone else. I could certainly do that, but what would be the point? I just need to keep steady with my own agenda and my own work. And to remember that I have an agenda… which would be looking out for myself within the context of the broader company, which spans many countries and continents, and within the context of my broader life.

There is, after all, more to my life than making my superiors happy.There has always been more to it for me, than that. It’s one of the things that’s made me both useful and a little dangerous — the fact that I stay true to myself and my vision and my goals, even in the face of external pressure. If something matters to me — and I mean really matters — I stick with it and don’t let anything or anyone stand between me and that goal. The only thing that can keep me from achieving it, is me — and I’ve done just that more times than I care to think about.

I literally am my own worst enemy, in so many ways. I’ve pushed myself, driven myself, exhausted myself, undermined myself, and done so many counter-productive things that made it much harder than necessary, to get from Point A to Point B… let alone Points C – Z. And when things didn’t work out, I was all too quick to just throw up my hands and say, “Oh, well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” and just walk away.

Crazy. What’s even crazier, is that I’ve gotten used to it and I’ve developed a whole repertoire of sour-grapes-type “explanations” for why I never followed through.

I’m working on that. I’ve figured out a bunch of issues and patterns I tend to follow, and I’m coming up with better ways of handling situations as they arise… and avoiding them to begin with.

One thing I’ve become keenly aware of is how I have traditionally made bad choices in friends — people who didn’t treat me right, who made fun of me, who gave me a hard time, who really dragged me down, and cost me a lot in terms of money and time and energy, not to mention reputation.

Thinking back, I have not had many good friends at all, over the years, who really treated me the way I deserved to be treated. And the people who have treated me well, I ran from.

I mean, it’s bad enough that I have spent so much time dealing with bad friends, but why the hell would I run from good ones?

Why indeed?

Well, I think I’ve figured it out. And it has to do with the same things as procrastination — but in a much darker way.

See, with people who treat me like crap, I’m much more alert. I’m awake. I’m on guard. Every bit of my mind and attention is pumped. And I feel alive. I feel like I’m actually with it. In fact, the worse people treat me, the better I feel like I can function. Because I’m so ON, thanks to the constant threat of ridicule and mistreatment at the hands of these “friends” of mine.

As for people who treat me well, I have almost no use for them. They don’t wake me up. They don’t make me feel like I’m “on”. If anything, they relax me and that makes me feel dull and dense and not entirely with it. Maybe it’s that general level of wakefulness that’s missing, or that slower processing speed. All I know is, people who are nice to me don’t hold my attention. If anything, they make me feel kind of bad about myself. Because I’m just not as present with them as I am in situations where I’m under constant threat.

Here’s a picture of the situation, as I understand/experience it:

Sad, but true

I hate to say it, but there’s something about being treated badly, that makes me feel good — and I really feel it’s due to the level of wakefulness, which is also connected with my agitation and restlessness that sets in even more when I’m not all awake. When I’m not awake, I become itchy and anxious and agitated. This does not make me feel good — about myself or the people I’m around. If anything, it makes me feel worse.

So, bad friends make me feel good, and good friends make me feel bad.

How’s that for a TBI after-effect?

Pain in my ass.

Anyway, at least now I’m aware of it. And now I can come up with some alternatives for handling the situation. Because you can’t go through life all alone and isolated… and surrounded by people who mistreat and take advantage of you. Something’s gotta change, so it’s time to take a look at this and see what I can do.

I think I really need to find connections with people who I can DO things with — structured activities, rather than sitting around and “relaxing” — which doesn’t relax me at all. I need to be doing something, learning something, engaged in an activity that holds my attention — but doesn’t tire me out too much.

Here’s an idea — I’ll join a Meetup for a language I’m learning — French, for starters. I’ve been checking out meetup.com and it looks like there may be some meetings in my area, which is a great thing. Who knows? I may make some good connections.  At least I’ll get out and meet new people.

And keep an eye out for the people who are pretty rotten. There are always some. Not that I plan to go into this with an attitude… just keeping in mind that I tend to gravitate to people who are not particularly nice to me, is helpful, and I can then manage to it. It’s when I’m not aware of the potential for getting caught in another web of destructive human interactions that I get into trouble.

Not that I’m very pleased about this aspect of my life. I’d like to think that I am surrounded by people who give a damn about me and will be there when I need them. I’d like to think that I have friends I can count on, who will stand with/behind me when need be. But as long as I prefer the company of people who treat me like crap, that will remain an elusive goal.

There is some good news, though.  Again, here I am looking at the fact that certain patterns in my life — which were always interpreted as being a sign that there was some deep-seated emotional/psychological issue at work — actually have a lot more to do with my neurology than my psychology. I don’t seek out the company of jerks because I think less of myself or I have some deep-seated self-loathing going on. I do it because it wakes me up and makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like myself, where being around people who relax me and don’t put me on edge, actually make me nervous and agitated.

So long as my brain isn’t fully engaged and fully charged up, I feel a lot less “human” than I would like to be.

And that’s no fun.

So the challenge now is to find ways of being fully engaged, fully awake, fully with-it, when I’m around people who treat me with respect and consideration. To find ways of being fully “on” when I’m not in constant danger. To find ways of getting myself in the game, without compromising my chances of developing positive, productive relationships with people who genuinely appreciate my company and input.

It’s a fairly tall order. Old habits are hard to break. But now that I’m aware of the fact that I need to make some improvements… well, I can.

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Ruminations of a high-fuctioning mtbi survivor

Okay, so this post is purely self-serving, in that I need to remind myself that I am indeed a high-functioning mild traumatic brain injury survivor, who has managed to build a pretty incredible life for myself and my family, despite my injuries at age 7-8 and three years ago at age 39.

I’m in the job market again, and I’m looking at my job prospecting with a whole new eye — keeping tabs on my stressors and trying to navigate the world of recruiters and headhunters, who are all so incredibly DRIVEN and don’t give themselves, let alone me, a chance to breathe. Take a deep breath, folks. Honestly…

I’ve been talking to headhunters, on and off, for a few days, and they’re starting to make me crazy. All that go-go-go stuff and the constant pressure to schedule something with them… to make it happen… make it happen! Can-do shit and all that. I have to admit, I’m a bit tired of all that pushy crap, and it’s making me antsy and short-tempered. I actually snapped at a headhunter today who was just pushing too hard. People can’t push me hard, anymore. Not anymore. No thanks. Give it a break.

Still, one must work, one must earn money, one must pay the bills… If only I could find a job I could do from home, instead of going out into the world. I’ve been thinking I really need to work for a company that can offer me structure and reliability and some sort of regular schedule. I’ve been in and out of the regular job scene for a while, back and forth to a part-time job and futzing around for the past year or so. I’ve been thinking that I need more than that — more structure, more involvement…

But the more I talk to people in the working world, especially recruiters for technology companies, the more it gives me the willies. And I don’t relish the idea of going back to a 9-to-5 position. Especially if it involves driving an hour each way. Just too much.

Especially since I’m starting into dealing with this TBI stuff. I really don’t want to have to put my diagnostic testing and rehab on the back burner, while I try to figure things out. I don’t have an unlimited amount of money in the bank, so something must be done. But really, I’d prefer to work at home… telecommute. Work remotely. Not have to go into an office.

Better yet, I’d prefer not to have to work at all.

But that’s not really in the cards, at this point. Unless people buy so many of my headache journals that I can retire. Or they purchase more of my writing/research/resource guides. That’s always a possibility. A slim and distant one, but a possibility, no less.

But seriously, folks, there must be a better way for tbi survivors to make a living, than having to schlep into an office and be surrounded by people who neither understand nor care about your condition. I’ve worked with disabled people before, and while our employer did accommodate them, and they were great friends with everyone they worked with, the simple fact is, they had to work like the dickens just to get by “normally.” And while people did help and reach out to them, there was always that undercurrent of pity that makes my skin crawl.

I just can’t bring myself to “play the disabled card” as a tbi survivor. I’m still up in the air about whether I’d even mention it to an employer. I certainly will not mention it to consulting clients. That would totally work against me, I believe.

I just need to keep it to myself, unless there’s an expressed need to let people know what’s going on. I guess it’s all in a day’s work for a tbi survivor… trying to figure out how to navigate the working world. Or the world in general.

But I don’t think I started this post to bitch and moan about my job situation… where was I? Oh, yes, now I remember: ruminations of a high-functioning mtbi survivor. That means I’m supposed to focus on my strengths, I suppose 😉

The oddly conflicting fact of the matter is, being a high-functioning tbi person can make things all the more difficult, because if you don’t “present” like a tbi person (like me), it can be pretty difficult to get people to take your limitations seriously. I’m having a getting-to-know-you meeting with a counselor who’s seeing a friend of mine, who’s really struggling with my newly discovered tbi status. This counselor knows a bit about tbi, and they don’t think I look or act like a tbi survivor, whatever that may be like. So, I need to sit down and explain things and hopefully elucidate my situation.

I’ve invested a whole lot of time and energy in making sure that nobody, but nobody, realizes I’ve got a disability, and now I have to sit down and explain to someone how my front is often just a front, which makes me a fraud and a fake, I suppose, on a certain level. I’m not nearly as smart as I pretend to be. Or as quick. Or as inspired. I just do a great job of imitating someone who is. Or maybe that makes me a highly resourceful survivor extraordinaire, who just doesn’t want to miss out on life and sucks at self-assessment, so they can’t see that they’re not quite as smart/quick/inspired as they think they are.

It’s all very confusing, and I’m not helping myself any, right now. I’m actually very tired. And stressed. And worried about these interviews I have coming up over the next few days.

Just remember, on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog…

Technorati Tags: brain damage Brain Injury cognitive-behavioral issues Emotional Fallout Family Issues Head Trauma journal Mild Traumatic Brain Injury military Motivation and Inspiration mtbi Neurology Neuropsychological Effects of TBI neuropsychology Personal Experiences with TBI psychology psychotherapy rehabilitation Social Issues TBI Physiology TBI Rehab TBI Resources tbi survivor TBI Symptoms tbi traumatic brain injury

When they think your TBI is PTSD

I just checked my blog stats, and somebody came over to this site while Googling for info on soldiers and PTSD.

I want to quickly put in a word for military folks who are seeking help for post-combat/deployment issues, who may be headed down the PTSD treatment road, but may miss TBI treatment in the process.

I started professional counseling about six months ago for “coping issues” that I couldn’t get my head around. Everything in life had just gotten so difficult, and I couldn’t understand why I kept running into dead ends with jobs and relationships and why I couldn’t seem to advance in life. All my peers have “moved on” and “grown up” — many of them now with grandkids and advanced careers, long-term homeownership, and all the accoutrements of adult life… while I languished in a no-man’s-land of false starts, scattered ideas, and a long line of failed or aborted attempts at living a normal life.

Now, don’t get me wrong — on the surface, my life looks like it’s highly advanced. I’ve got a great home, a wonderful marriage, and two cars in the garage. My resume looks fabulous, and I’ve got a lot of respect from folks. But my external circumstances don’t match my internal state… and they haven’t for a long time. Nobody really knows just how deep the self-doubt, anxiety, self-criticism, abysmally low self-esteem, and constant invisible struggle really goes.

Except me. And I don’t breathe a word of it to anyone. Not if I can help it.

So, when my health and career and personal life all started to tank in a very big way, this past year, I sought professional help. The counselor I found is highly experienced, compassionate, insightful, kind, caring, and very adept at what they do. But I found myself over time feeling as though they were looking for some sort of horrific trauma in my past that would cause me to lose big chunks of my memory, be uncertain around people, and erode my emotional and behavioral (and cognitive) foundation.

I got the distinct impression they were looking for emotional trauma. Abuse. Neglect. Some sort of terrible thing(s) others did/do to me that cause me to have PTSD. Or some life-threatening event that brought on PTSD.

We had talked about post-traumatic stress a good deal, and both of us accepted that it could have a part in my difficulties. But no matter how closely I looked at my life, I couldn’t for the life of me find THE Event(s) that had wrecked me for “normal” life.

It just didn’t make any sense to me. And when I dug deep and did my own research and realized that sustaining a traumatic brain injury at the age of 8 (and possibly other times), as well as another TBI three years ago, did actually fill in a huge, gaping missing piece of the puzzle.

It’s not that my counselor was incapable or incompetent. They were just looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place. They’re a wonderful resource for me, and I really value their input, but in the case of TBI, I had to come up with my own diagnosis.

This article was very helpful:

Concerns grow about war veterans’ misdiagnoses – Brain injuries can defy easy detection” – I passed it along to my counselor, and they found it very helpful… as well as a bit disconcerting.

And the blog “A Soldier’s Mind” has some more info.

If you’re in the same boat I am/was, you may need to do your own research & preliminary diagnosis, too. After all, TBI tends to make it very difficult for people to tell what’s going on inside our heads — and it can make it tough for us to figure that out, too. Doing research online is a great way to make a start.

I’m finding that TBI is not particularly well-known in the psychotherapeutic community — I have a bunch of friends and associates who are therapists, and when I’ve talked about TBI, I’ve gotten blank stares. That’s not entirely their fault. They aren’t always trained to look for physical ailments, which are the domain of medical doctors. If anything, they’re taught to look away, in terms of medical issues — liability issues, I suppose. Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of highly trained individuals who simply don’t have the kind of physiological orientation that treats cognitive-behavioral symptoms as possible neuro-physiological phenomena. They are accustomed to looking at emotionally traumatic life experiences as the root of PTSD problems. They’re looking for the right thing… but they’re looking in the wrong place.

I really want to devote a fair amount of time and energy on this site to explaining to psychotherapeutic professionals the personal realities of living with TBI, as it relates to trauma. There are different aspects of the condition that both mask post-traumatic stress and exacerbate it. TBI adds another wrinkle to the whole scene that complicates matters and requires greater sensitivity to our situation.

When I informed my counselor about my TBI, they seemed a bit concerned that I wouldn’t need their help anymore… or that I’d terminate my sessions with them. They seemed to think that TBI work would replace the cognitive-behavioral work I was doing with them. But in fact, the TBI aspect makes it even more important to do cognitive-behavioral counseling. It doesn’t make counselors superfluous. If anything, it makes them all the more essential.

Other posts about PTSD:

Better today… of pain and ptsd

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