Bad dreams…

Except it was much darker in my dream...

I had a lousy dream the other night. I’ve been having a number of unsettling dreams lately. On the one hand, it bothers me, because I’ve been doing this new breathing practice, and I was hoping it would help me rest better. On the other hand, it probably means I’m doing better, because I’m not too exhausted to dream. And when I have these dreams, I get to find out what’s bugging me, and see if I can do something about it.

I dreamed the other night that I was going with some friends to Europe. I was really excited – we all were – and we got so caught up in packing and getting ready, that we got to the airport with just a little extra time to check in. (I have had this same kind of dream a number of times, actually — planning to fly out, and barely making the plane). Anyway, when we had checked our bags, I realized that I had forgotten my passport. It was back at my apartment. I looked at the clock and thought I might be able to make it home and back in time, but I had to keep recalculating the time, I couldn’t get clear, and by the time I figured out how long it would take me to get back home, get my passport, and come back to the airport, it looked like the plane would be long gone. I told the others to go on without me, but they wanted to stay with me. They didn’t want to leave me. If they did that, we were all going to lose our money on the tickets, and it was very upsetting for me.

The rest of the group didn’t seem bothered by the idea of losing their money, but I was distraught. I couldn’t believe my absent-mindedness had cost them this. I spent a lot of time at the airport, pacing up and down, berating myself for my stupidity, trying to figure out if I could make it back home and back to the airport in time… as the clock kept ticking away…

I’ve had similar dreams, in the past several months, where I was late to go to the airport, and I forgot my passport. It seems to coincide with my fatigue and forgetfulness, where I am working overtime trying to keep up at my day job, and all the while feeling like I’m falling farther and farther behind…

In these dreams, the airport is always small and the equipment is old, like it’s from the 1950’s. The main halls are cavernous but the check-in counters are low. Metal. There’s a lot of metal. And shadow. The scenes are dark and gray and shadowy, and the people I interact with are courteous, but they all seem to be speaking with thick accents I cannot completely understand. They want to help me, but they can’t. And I am stuck in my head, with all the jumbled up thoughts rattling around in them, making me feel like I’m insane… trying like crazy, trying to get the thoughts organized in some useful way.

But I can’t. I’m stuck. My head won’t work. I’m stuck. And I can’t get out.

One dream I had, I was actually able to go back home and get my passport and then I made it back to the airport in a huge rush and just barely was able to get on the plane. I was able to finish my trip, but when I got to the country I was visiting — an Eastern European country that had a lot of mountains — I had no idea where I was, nothing looked familiar or meaningful to me. I got lost, and I can’t recall getting un-lost in my dream. That was pretty nerve-wracking, too.

This is what it’s been feeling like for me, lately. I know I’m doing really well on the surface, but under the surface, there is this constant undercurrent of nervousness, this borderline confusion that is always threatening to get the upper hand. I have to fight it back with all my might, keeping my composure and holding it together for my own sake and everyone else around me. It’s exhausting. And I just want to run away. Disappear. Fade into the distance and not come out ever again. I want to just be done with the confusing crap, the disorienting crap, the perpetual guesswork, feeling like I’m getting lucky, time and time again, because I have no idea — ever — if I’m 100% right or maybe I’m wrong.

I get sick and tired of feeling like it’s all a gamble, all the time, and it’s just one big game that I may or may not win. I get tired of gambits, of pushing the envelope, of taking it to the next level. I want to find a simple job that I can do to completion — get something tangible done every day. Mow a yard. Or cut some hair. Or paint a house. Or wash a car. I long for work that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and which lets me know if and when I have completed it.

But of course, then it would be nothing like my life. It would be an easy way for me to interact with the world around me, without really dealing with the truth of the matter — that there is tremendous uncertainty in all aspects of life, and that the “work” is never really “done”.

If I let myself fall into thinking that “done” is ever possible, then my bad dreams could become a bad reality.

Enough of this. It’s time for bed.

84 ways TBI can make your life really interesting

Some time back, I compiled a list of possible issues TBI can introduce into your life. I combed through a bunch of sources and then put them all together, took out the duplicates, and came up with a list of common complaints related to traumatic brain injury. I’ve refined the list over the past couple of years, and I’m sure there are more issues I’ve missed, but this is what I’ve  been working with, thus far.  These apply to mild, moderate, and severe. And a lot of them are problems I have dealt with on a regular basis throughout the course of my life.

Here’s the list, broken down by category:

Behavioral
1. Impulsiveness
2. Aggression (verbal/physical)
3. Raging behavior

Communication
4. Trouble being understood
5. Trouble understanding
6. Trouble finding words
7. Trouble communicating in general

Emotions/Moods
8. Agitated, can’t settle down
9. Angerrrrrr!!!
10. Anxiety – Feeling vague fear, worry, anticipation of doom
11. Depression, feeling down
12. Excitability!
13. Everything feels like an effort
14. Feeling unsure of yourself
15. Feelings of dread
16. Feeling like you’re observing yourself from afar
17. Feelings of well-being
18. Feeling guilty
19. Feeling hostile towards others
20. Impatience
21. Irritability
22. No desire to talk or  move
23. Feeling lonely
24. Nervousness
25. Feelings of panic
26. Rapid mood swings
27. Restlessness
28. Tearfulness, crying spells
29. Feeling tense
30. Feeling vague longing/yearning

Day-to-Day Activities
31. Being overly busy (more than usual)
32. Feeling like you can’t get moving, you’re stuck
33. Feeling like you can’t get anything done

Mental
34. Altered consciousness
35. Aura or weird reverie, trance
36. Trouble concentrating
37. Trouble making decisions easily
38. Trouble reading
39. Analytical skills suffer
40. Trouble telling what’s real or not
41. Being easily distracted
42. Being forgetful, can’t remember
43. Nightmares
44. Worrisome thoughts

Physical – Eating
45. Food cravings
46. Eating less / more than usual
47. Heartburn / indigestion / upset stomach
48. Losing weight

Physical – Head
49. Headache(s)
50. Stabbing pain(s) in your head

Physical – Hearing
51. Hearing music others don’t
52. Ears ringing (tinnitus)

Physical – Pain
53. Backache or back pain
54. General body aches
55. Joint painf or stiffness
56. Neck pain
57. Touch feels like pain

Physical – Sleep
58. Waking up too early
59. Being fatigued / tired
60. Difficulty falling asleep
61. Waking up during the night
62. Sleeping too much

Physical – Vision
63. Trouble seeing at night
64. Being sensitive to light
65. Double/blurred vision
66. Spots, floaters,  or blind spots

Physical – Sensations
67. Your skin feels like it’s crawling
68. Feeling like you’ve gained weight
69. Sensitivity to cold
70. Sensitivity to noise, sounds
71. Smelling odors / fragrances that others don’t smell

Physical – General
72. Feeling dizzy / have vertigo
73. Your heart races or pounds
74. Hot flashes or sudden feelings of warmth
75. Losing consciousness / fainting
76. Metallic taste in your mouth
77. Muscles spasms or twitching
78. Muscle weakness
79. Seizures
80. Nausea
81. Sexual desire feeling “off”
82. Skin breaking out / acne
83. Hands or feet swelling
84. Vomiting

Now, some of them might look like they are duplicates — #3. Raging behavior should be grouped with #9. Angerrrrrr!!!, right? I’ve actually split them up because one is behavioral, and one is emotional/mood related. Just because you’re angry, doesn’t mean you’re going to have raging behavior, but anger can still be a significant problem.

One thing that struck me, as I was compiling this list over the past few years, is how many of the symptoms are physical. It almost doesn’t make sense. You injure your head, you hurt your brain, and your body starts acting up? Where’s the sense in that? Well, considering that the brain is like the command center of your body, I guess it does make sense.

The other thing that has jumped out at me, as I’ve considered this list over the years, is how the non-physical issues can often arise from the physical. Being dizzy all the time can really mess with your head, and it can make you cranky and mean and short-tempered. Likewise, having constant ringing in your ears can shorten your fuse and make you much more temperamental. And chronic pain has a way of depressing the heck out of you.

Now, not everyone with a TBI will have these issues, but lots of people will have one or more of these problems, and lots of them can come and go over time. It’s just one more handful of pieces to the puzzle that is TBI. A big handful, actually.