Type A Personality with a TBI? You’re a GREAT candidate for recovery – Part 2

Improvements in total time to complete the pin-plugging test using long pins for subject CC. Improvements were found after 9 weeks of intervention for the affected hand.

This is a continuation of an extended thought process – click here for the first part.

Science (especially imaging) is starting to reveal what has always been true of the human system. It changes over time, responding to stimuli. The idea that brain injury is permanent and can’t be overcome is hogwash, as evidenced by research, studies (like the one referenced in the image on the right, which shows how Long-term sensory stimulation therapy improves hand function and restores cortical responsiveness in patients with chronic cerebral lesions), and recorded experience. The weird thing is, despite all the studies that are coming out (and have come out for decades) about how the brain does change and adapt, if challenged, there are still those who believe that brain injury is irreversible, and once you lose certain functions, you’re screwed.

Oh, hell no. Sorry, I don’t buy it. I don’t care what anyone says.

Brain injury survivors do NOT need to resign ourselves to living less-than. We do not need to “adjust down” our expectations to a “new normal”. That’s ridiculous. And the fact that so many people have been told they had to do that, and have just given in to doing that… it makes me a little sick to my stomach.

Of course, there are many reasons for this. Lack of information. Overwhelm. Cynicism. Defeat. Lack of imagination. Rehab industry bias against brain injured folks. Etc.

Also, Type A people tend to intimidate people. And Type A people with unresolved TBI issues can be a real terror — hell on wheels. So, small wonder that folks in the rehab business so often encourage us to just accept the “new normal” as “what it is”. We can scare them. Accepting our limitations is sometimes their way of telling us to back the f*ck off and quit intimidating us. It’s a way of seeding doubt in our minds that makes us less confident, less sure, less cocky. It’s a way of making them feel less inadequate — and shifting the power structure of the working relationship from Alpha Us to… them.

Plus, all too often, they have lacking information and poor practices, so they are unable to produce the kinds of results their clients/patients need. They keep trying to achieve results with crappy tools and partial information, which is like trying to run a marathon wearing on sneaker and one roller skate. They keep trying, of course, because that’s what the insurance companies tell them they have to do, and that’s what their peers are telling them to do, and that’s what their industry is instructing them to do. But they can never get the results they’re looking for… which is no wonder, if they’re not willing to test the limits of what is “known”.

So they give up. Because they won’t look any further. Maybe they’re actively discouraged by the insurance industry, which only trusts “tried and tested” approaches. Maybe they’re put off by their peers who are jaded and cynical and uninformed. Maybe they lack intelligence and imagination. Or maybe they just get tired.

Personally, I suspect it has more to do with belief system and poor information, than it has to do with malicious intent. People are just ignorant, in the objective sense of the word. They just don’t have the right information. And not all of them are Type A personalities. So, good luck getting help from someone who is not Type A, when you are a person who’s ambitious, driven, and bound and determined to succeed…

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way — or stay that way — if you’re a  Type A personality.

The Give Back program, which I discovered in December, 2010, has played an important part in my recovery. Just the stated belief that it is possible to recover from Brain Injury was a revelation, after being immersed in a sea of depressing messages like “Well, the brain can’t be changed past a certain point in childhood”… “You might get some of your functionality back, but don’t expect much more” … “You’ll just have to lower your expectations from life” and “Just be happy you’re doing as well as you are.”

It sorta kinda makes my blood boil, hearing all that weak-ass drivel.

Because none of it is true. Just because the charter members of Underachievers Anonymous can’t figure out brain injury recovery, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

The Give Back materials really overcame those lame objections with actual case studies of folks who recovered successfully and went on to achieve great things. The program also gives you specific information and things you can do to recover. The most helpful tip had to do with building in a feedback loop for my daily life — recording things that didn’t go so hot, and figuring out how I could do them differently next time. I was really into that, for the first few years after I found the materials, but then I backed off on it. I’m starting up again, now that I’m beginning a new job that’s going to put new demands on my system, because it really helped me a great deal in the past, and I have every expectation that it will continue to help me as I move forward.

If you’re a Type A person with drive and ambition and the need to be constantly improving, you’re a perfect candidate for taking your recovery into your own hands and actually succeeding at it.

One of the things that’s really bothered me, over the past several years, is how people tell me now that I’m more mellow than I was, less edgy, less “Type A”. Now, I get that it’s an improvement that I’m not always gunnin’ for a fight, and I’ve backed off a lot of the aggression. But I have also lost the edge that used to keep me on top of things and moving forward. This, to me, is not an improvement. And the longer I recover, the more functionality I get back — and the more I realize I still lack — the more motivated I am to really kick it up a notch.

Discovering Reuven Feuerstein and the Feuerstein Method has been just the boost I’ve been needing to really move forward — possibly by leaps and bounds. Fundamental to the system is a “belief system that holds individuals to be modifiable, as well as amenable to registering and detecting adaptive changes.” That’s a belief I share — it’s more than a belief, it’s a known fact for me. It has been since 1983, when I came across a picture of rat brains that had been changed by being in an “enriching” environment. I’ve been convinced of the mutability of the human system for over 30 years, and I’m living proof that positive change — recovery — is possible.

And just as it’s possible to positively impact our own recovery, it’s also possible to impact others’ recovery, as well. It’s possible to create positive change — transform our surroundings — by our direct engagement. We have to know what we’re looking at, of course, and we have to know how things work. And we have to know how to effectively act for change. The beauty part is, by observing and being open and objective, we can learn as we go and adapt ourselves to our surroundings.

When you’re Type A, you have a certain kind of personality. You have a proclivity for achievement. Why the hell any non-Type-A person would tell a Type A person that something like brain injury recovery isn’t possible, is beyond me.

Never mind all that — On-Ward!

Here are the materials I downloaded in 2010, which you may find useful:

 

5 ways mental slowness is less of a problem

Source: http://www.braininjury-explanation.com/unseen-consequenses-of-brain-injury/brain-injury-and-cognition

For the past month or so, I’ve been feeling mentally slower than I’d like. Almost as though I was wading through mud. I tried explaining it to my neuropsych, but I didn’t do a very good job of it.

This week, though, things have seemingly lifted off me. And while I’m not feeling 100%, per se, I’m not feeling as burdened by my slowness as I was before.

First, I’m not feeling as slow as I was a few weeks back.

I started exercising again. That might have something to do with it. Either it’s getting my mind off things, or I’m genuinely feeling healthier. I think it’s the latter. In addition to not feeling as slow I as I was… I’m also feeling comparatively sharper than a lot of people around me. I’ve been watching others around me, and they are not holding up very well. So, I know it’s not just me. And that makes me feel a lot less self-conscious.

Second, I’ve got too much going on, to notice how slowed down I am.

I am doing so much that’s new for me, these days — or that is a combination of old things that are showing up in new ways, that I almost have no way of knowing if I’m actually thinking more slowly than usual, or if I’m just taking my time to make sure I don’t miss anything.

Third, I realize that my old “need for speed” was pretty much of an illusion.

I had it in my head that I needed to be going 500 mph all the time, when in fact “haste makes waste” and I was bumbling all over the place, screwing up, messing things up so royally that I was constantly scrambling to catch up. I wasn’t necessarily operating at a higher speed, I was having to back-track and retrace my steps a whole lot, which had me in a frenzied panic state, a lot of time. I thought it was speed, but it really wasn’t.

Fourth, I’ve realized that while my processing speed may be slower than it used to be, that has its advantages – namely, that I can slow down to sift through more information.

I’m 10 years older than I was when I had my last TBI. And a whole lot has happened to me, since that time. I’ve been through a lot of upheaval and struggle, and I’ve had some big wins and losses along the way. I now have more “data” to sift through in my head, and that means it’s going to take me longer to put things in order and make sense of them. Even if I’d never gotten clunked on the head along the way, I would still need more time to parse through everything and make sense out of it.

Fifth, I may feel slow today, but I am pretty sure that can change.

I haven’t been sleeping as well as I should, and I know that has an effect. It’s also been a long winter, and I’m foggy and dull. I have seen my mental performance turn around in the past, and with the right hygiene and exercise and just getting all the gunk out, I know from past experience that that can have a positive effect on me.

I’ll just keep trying. Everything changes, and this can get better. I just need to keep a positive attitude, use my head, not be stupid about my sleeping habits, and do the best I can each day.

Somehow, it works out.

Focusing on our strengths

Pick your direction

TBI is a funny thing. It can take so much away from us. And it can also add more things that we never had before.

I’m not sure if it’s me or my brain or just the normal parts of ageing, but I seem to remember less and less of my past, as time goes on. I can’t really remember what I have talked about with my neuropsych, in the past. I don’t know what I’ve mentioned to them, what issues I’ve worked through… it’s kind of fading away in a fog.

And I’m not sure I care. Because at the same time I’m losing connections with that not-so-happy past, it sorta kinda frees me up to enjoy a much happier present. And it’s the things in front of me — the blue sky overhead, the warm temps today, the taste of my tea saturated with butter and honey (it’s completely awesome – you should try it sometime), and the feel of just having time OFF from the grind for a week and a half.

All the aches and pains of my day-to-day haven’t disappeared. In fact, they’re coming on pretty strong, now that I’ve started stretching and exercising more. It’s been tough getting to sleep with all the pain in my lower back going on. And I’ve been dizzy and off balance and have had these headaches… but what-ever. That’s not the only thing I have to pay attention to.

So, I don’t. I look elsewhere. And I can find so much more else to focus on. How amazing is that.

And I think about how incredible it is, that I was raised in a time when the main goal of educators and people who were sent to help others, was to get everybody in a central zone of ability — to bring the weaknesses up to snuff, and not focus so much on the strengths — just fix what was wrong, and leave the rest alone.

But now I’m living a life that’s focused on the strengths I have — making them better, and not letting the weaknesses dominate my life. We all have strengths and ways we can contribute in the world… we just get caught up in trying to fix the things that are wrong, and we end up having our lives revolve around them.

The thing about focusing only on all that’s WRONG in the world (and our individual lives), is that we can always find something that’s wrong. No doubt about it. But while we’re concentrating on what’s WRONG, we so often miss what’s RIGHT. And then we miss out on the chance to strengthen the good, while we’re chasing down the bad that never ever seems to end.

I’m feeling pretty fortunate, actually. Looking around, I can see a lot of my peers who have been held back by that old mindset we were raised with. So many of them are still caught up in negativity and trouble-shooting states of mind, while the good they have right in front of them is rarely seen and fully appreciated. A lot of people my age still think of themselves as deficient… chasing after accomplishments and trophies to smooth over their lingering sense of inadequacy and prove to themselves that they’re okay after all.

And I totally understand how and why they feel that way. I’ve been there, too. Especially me, who has so many things I can quickly and easily point at and say, “Ah ha! That’s messed up!”

I guess I just count myself as incredibly lucky that I don’t always feel that way anymore. Some days I do, but on the whole… it makes more sense to me to focus on the things I can change for the better and move ahead… instead of just running around filling up the divots on the proverbial golf course of my life.

Well, it’s all a process and a journey, and I may feel completely different tomorrow. For today, though… right now… I’m feeling pretty good, and I’m not going to wreck it by hunting down what might be wrong that needs fixing.

Onward.

Sweet life – very sweet

The weekend is working out well for me. I’m resting, and I’m also getting a lot of things done… one at a time. Without rushing and without making myself nuts.

I’ve got things pretty well planned out, so I can take them one step at a time, getting it all done in a systematic and calm manner.

I’ve also had time to kick back and relax and look at the big picture of my life… where I want to be in the next six months, the next year, and beyond. What kind of life i want. Where I would like to improve, and where I want to keep steady.

I’m feeling really positive, these days. Better than I have in the past few months. There’s a chance I’ll be able to connect with a neurologist who can help me with these headaches and all the other stuff that goes on with me.

It’s not horrific, but if I could get a little help dealing with my physical symptoms (which all exacerbate my thinking and behavioral issues), it might be nice.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful day, and I know a back road that has my name on it. Time for a nice long walk.

Pick your perspective

It’s all in the eye of the beholder

My new project, these days, is working on my perspective. I have fallen prey to a lot of anger and bitterness and also resentment about things which are actually nobody’s fault. They just happen. And it doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to get all tweaked about them.

Things at work are very tense and stressful for a lot of folks. I know that they will be okay, and everything will turn out okay over time. But there is a lot of stress and strain going on, and a lot of people are very nervous about their team’s ability to do the job — and do it right.

It has been getting to me, too. That much has been clear, in the past several weeks. I’ve been having episodes where I suddenly get tunnel vision, and then I have a headache for days after that. I also feel foggy and dull – numb and dumb – and I’m very low, physically. I need to address this, because my physical health directly affects my point of view. My neuropsych focuses on my thinking and how it stresses me out. And that’s true — my crappy perspective doesn’t do me any favors, sometimes. At the same time, my physical health plays a huge part in it, and I have been feeling very low and dull and lethargic.

I seriously need to jump-start myself. I’m just so blahhhh… I’m in a new job that’s closer to home, which means I don’t have to work as hard to get there. But having things be easier that way has not translated to my energy improving. The thing is, all my energy used to come from adrenaline and extreme stress, and now that it’s not there anymore, I need to replace it with something else.

Like physical fitness. I worked out more this morning than I have in a while — lifting weights and focusing on my arms, which have become flabby and fat. I usually wear long sleeves, so I don’t see my arms as they are, but lately I’ve been noticing them.

I think things will turn around in another couple of months, when we have moved to a new building that has a gym I will be able to use. Also, the location is 10-15 minutes closer to my home, so I will have more time to exercise, in addition to the other things I do.

I also need to start doing something when I get home from work in the evenings. Last night, I was so exhausted when I got home, I had to lie down for an hour before I made supper. Fortunately, I got home early enough that I could do that. I was wiped out. Completely done. Feeling sick and stupid. And later I had an argument with my spouse that really bothered me, because their cognitive decline is starting to show more and more. They had trouble speaking, and they got really angry over something I was doing — and I just didn’t feel like taking the brunt of their anger after such a long day.

So, I really need to work on my outlook and my perspective in life. I need to find a way to make peace with things turning out as they do — and not fight it all the time and turn it into a tragedy in my head. Or maybe just let it be a tragedy and accept it as such. Shit happens. And it happens to all of us.

So it goes.

Not for me, though. I’m determined to not let myself go down that route. My spouse lives in a very different world than mine — very paranoid and suspicious and antagonistic. It’s like we live on different planets; yet theirs is every bit as real for them, as mine is for me.

There’s no point in arguing about whether or not it’s true — it’s true for them, it’s real for them, and that’s the experience they’re having. The real problem is that I can’t accept it, I feel really judgmental towards it, and it makes me so uncomfortable. And when I’m tired, I get very rigid and am quick to anger.

That doesn’t help.

Anyway, I’m feeling good that I got in that exercise, first thing this morning. My arms are tired — and that’s a really good sign. It means I’m making the point to do something right, that I’ve been neglecting for a long time.

Happy Saturday, everyone.

Onward.

Focusing on better things

Lose some... and win some too
Lose some… and WIN some too

This is my last week at the hell job I’ve been stuck in for the past four years. In so many ways, it has tested me. That’s not a bad thing, and maybe I needed to be tested in a lot of those ways.

But I’m done with that particular gauntlet now, and I’m ready to move on.

Before I go, though, I need to do what I can to really remember the good that has happened to me as a result of working there. That job gave me stability and a sense of continuity with the people around me (if not with the company as a whole) that was a good foundation for me.

I did an awful lot of recovering there — getting on my feet logistically… and socially, too. The environment is highly social, so I was really forced to connect with people in ways I had never done before, and on a scale much wider and deeper than I ever needed to before.

There’s something about everyone battling the same obstacles that brings a team together… though I think that it’s more effective to have actual obstacles, rather than artificial ones. Focus on the real enemy — the competition — rather than manufacturing artificial obstacles, such as an inefficient workspace, a long commute, difficult working conditions, inadequate budget, and a “lean” workforce that is so over-taxed, they don’t have time to actually enjoy the goodness of life.

But I’m skewing to the negative again.

Of course I’m doing it because I’m regretting having to leave. Or am I?

I know I’m regretting that I’m leaving my colleagues in a really tough spot. They have to do even more with even less, and it’s bothering me that they’re not getting the help they need. Then again, they’re all free to go as well. Anytime they like. Nobody is keeping them there, and they can leave, as well. It’s their choice. We all make our choices.

And in looking back at the last four years, I need to remember that — it was my choice to stay there, it was my choice to keep making a “go” of it. I could have thrown my full attention into developing the skills and abilities I needed to leave. It would have been slow going, but I could have done that and really made that the focus of my attention and energy.

But I didn’t. I chose to stick around. I chose to stay and make the best of it. And the opportunities that came my way… I said “no” to a lot of them. That was my choice. I had my reasons. I might not remember exactly what those reasons were, on down the line, but I have to trust myself that there really was a reason for staying.

Indeed, there was. And up until a month ago, plan as I might, there was not a good exit path open to me. I was actually committed to sticking out the summer with these folks — and possibly beyond — to get those major projects off the ground and to help with the usual summer rush work. The summer is an intense time at that company, because there are huge projects in the works that have a September deadline, and people all over the world have to pull together to make it happen. I have been sacrificing my summers for the past three years, to help make that happen, and I can’t say it’s been all that gratifying. It’s been good experience, which has paved the way to this new job. But it wasn’t much fun when it was happening.

Still, it served its purpose, and that’s what I have to believe about everything I’ve done at this company for the past four years. It’s all served a purpose, teaching me hard lessons, and paving the way to what’s next. For all the difficulties, I’ve become more resilient and resourceful. And for all the challenges, I’ve come to appreciate the good things in life all the more.

Before I started at this company, I just took certain things for granted — like technical expertise, adequate resources for critical positions, executive recognition of What Matters Most. And autonomy. I really took that for granted, because I’d been working in self-directed circumstances for over 20 years.

Seeing the other side of things, and realizing that no, things aren’t always organized in effective, efficient ways, has given me a new appreciation for those things — teamwork amongst team members… everyone pulling together as one. And now I value it so much more. Going on to this next job, I’m incredibly excited to be back in my “natural habitat” again — back amongst my professional peers who aren’t all making the same mistakes I made 15 years ago, and wondering “why did THAT happen?”

Oh, god…

Anyway, that’s rapidly disappearing into my rearview mirror. I’m sure there are things about the company I’m leaving, that I’ll really miss, later on. Or perhaps not at all. Who knows? All I know is, I’m moving on, and I have the whole world ahead of me. I have a new lease on life, and my other projects are picking up steam in a very big way. In another week, I won’t be glancing at the clock, dreading an hour-long commute. I won’t have to juggle my morning to schedule my drive to the office at a time that will strike a balance between minimizing my time in traffic and maximizing my productive time at work.

And I won’t have to hassle with that horrific open space plan.

Holy crap, those two things alone will make it more than worth the change.

Now I’m even more excited… and I’ll start getting ready for work in a few, to make one of my last drives into that office. I’m only going into the office one day this week, so this is #4… 3… 2… 1…

Time to get the game-face on and get into a good mindset. The past four years have seen tremendous growth for me, and I’ve come so far — in no small part because of my coworkers and the pressure they’ve put on me to integrate and socialize and be a real part of their team. They really have been a huge part of my life — my only social life, in fact. And I will miss them.

Well, some of them, anyway…

Regardless, in the next week, my primary purpose is to look for the good, find the good, see the opportunity, buckle down and finalize things that need finalizing. And do my best to tie up whatever loose ends I can, so I can leave my soon-to-be-former teammates with at least a fighting chance.

The day is waiting. Onward.