Back into the thick of it

windrader foundationThe title of this post is probably a misnomer of sorts. Because I actually never really got out of the thick of it, this weekend… er… the past month. Day after day, it’s been one thing or another, to the point where I’m not even sure what day it is, anymore.

Except for my calendar, which shows me what I’m supposed to be doing, and when.

I feel like I’m continuously building on all my past experiences, which is as it should be, I suppose. The bad experiences, along with the good — but that’s how life should be, right?

I just wish I didn’t get so tired…

Fatigue and brain injury are not a good combination. And more than anything else in my life, fatigue has really torn me down. It’s made my moods unpredictable, even extreme, it’s made my behavior volatile, it’s impacted friendships and work relationships, it cost me jobs, and it nearly ruined my marriage.

So, what to do?

First, have a decent sleep routine. I’m not perfect, by any stretch, but I do keep track of how I’m doing, and I make an effort to get good sleep whenever I can.

Second, work on my endurance. Do my daily exercises. Pace myself. Build up my strength and my ability to go for longer periods of time doing what needs to be done.

Third, stop doing things that tear me down. Quit watching t.v. shows that stress me out. Stop eating food that isn’t good for me and spikes my blood sugar, then wipes me out. Quit hanging around with people who drain me. And stop all the negative chatter inside my head.

There are things I can do to get myself headed in the right direction, and that’s what my life has to be about. I can’t control what’s going on around me, so I need to strengthen myself to handle whatever comes.

And yes… watch other people do amazing things and perform well.

Like the Olympics. It’s been really good for me to watch the games, this month. Lots of great lessons there.

And now it’s time to get ready for work.

Onward… and upward.

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And… go. At my own pace and on my own terms.

human head with light switch and finger turning it on
I just have to think about things correctly

So, today’s the day we start our 36 hour project. I’ve got 20 minutes to prepare, then everything kicks off.

I’ll be working for the next 8 hours, then I get a few hours off to sleep, then I work another 6 hours overnight. I get to sleep in the a.m., then I may have to work in the afternoon.

My sleeping schedule is going to be completely screwed up, and that’s a problem. I don’t know why this job involves so much sleep disruption. Either it’s cross-country travel, or it’s off-hours work. Either way, it’s not healthy, and it doesn’t let me do my best work.

I haven’t done my best work in years.

Oh, well.

I’m not sure I even care, anymore. The company gives me a paycheck, yes, but I no longer have any emotional investment in them — or my work for them. They’ve made it clear what they think of their workforce. They’ve shorted us on our performance bonus, time and time again, and they lay people off whenever they like. I show up, I do the bare minimum — for the sake of self-preservation — and I collect my paycheck.

They still get more than they pay for, even when I’m not over-the-top productive and 1000% invested. I’m still a top performer, even when I’m not bothering to indulge in any loyalty to them.

It’s a shame, really. I used to be so invested and invigorated by my work. But that’s changed over the past years. And I have to say I’m actually happier now than I was, when I was anguished and fretting over everything I did, how I did it, and whether or not it turned out exactly the way I planned.

I’ve let a lot of stuff go, and it’s helped me.

But still, I do feel a bit of a void, where my personal investment used to be.

Oh, well. There are other things that brighten my day. Like my own interests and projects. Like my hobbies. Like my books.

There’s plenty of other things to fill that void.

Like taking the best care of myself, that I possibly can. No matter what everybody else does.

I just miss caring deeply about my work, sometimes…

Putting one foot in front of the other

footprint in sand with wave coming nearWell, this has been an interesting couple of weeks. I totally screwed something up at work, and I’ve been working overtime since the beginning of February to make it right.

It’s been so wrong, it’s been mind-boggling. How could I have screwed up that badly? Huh. It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything this egregious. In fact, I’m not sure I ever have.

But there’s a first time for everything.

Seriously, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. But it was bound to happen, eventually, under the current conditions:

  • Limited sleep
  • Additional travel
  • Intense pressure
  • No management support
  • Uncooperative coworkers who don’t keep me in the loop

The whole thing is really messed up, and I ended up at the forefront of it all. The good/bad news is that there are more pieces of this Monster Project coming not far behind that will have the same kinds of problems that my part of the project did.

So, I won’t be so alone, anymore.

Not that it’s any consolation.

I was pretty torn up about the whole situation, last week. Wrecked. But I’ve acclimated to this particular failure, and now… well, I just don’t care. What it means for my future… don’t care.

They’re going to re-org us, anyway.

Some people dislike my boss, and a lot of other people dislike my boss’es boss. And chances are, they’ll interpret this failure of mine as a failure of leadership (which would be nice, to not have to take the fall for a broken system). Everybody knows I’m smarter than the person who screwed up, last week. Something else must be wrong.

Well, anyway, it’s Saturday night, and I’m exhausted. Had a full day today, after a full week. Tomorrow might give me a break. We’ll see. I’m tempted to just stay in bed all day, but that will never work. I often think about doing that, and then 20 minutes after I wake up, I can’t take just lying there anymore. So, I get up. And get out. And put one foot in front of the other.

Some days, that’s all you can do.

 

Yeah, well, nobody ever said it would be easy…

pier and lighthouse in distance across a lakeI’m regaining my balance, after a pretty intense week. I’ve been working long hours, sitting for long hours, and that’s brought me a whole bunch of pain. On top of that, I attended a memorial service for a friend who passed, yesterday. They were very close friends with my spouse, who is taking the loss very hard. Death is never easy, but when it happens at a relatively young age, and the person taken is a central part of the community and people’s lives, it takes on a whole other dimension.

I’ve been up to my neck in one problem after another. It’s been like trying to stay afloat in the ocean during storm surges. No sooner does one wave ease up, and I catch my breath, than another one comes along.

It’s been pretty brutal on me, and having to juggle the logistics of the memorial service arrangements added to the overall stress. I was one of the people who spoke about the deceased, and I had to come up with something meaningful to say, which I did – and it was very well received. It was an honor. But it happened at a really bad time. Which, of course, I can’t control. At all. These things happen.

And I bottomed out. It was like driving down a rutted road and hearing the undercarriage of my car scrape every couple of meters. Nerve-wracking. Grueling. And I know my “miss” at work, which really screwed up the project I’ve been managing, is being taken very badly by others. Even though I’m not the only one working on it, I still seem to be getting the blame. And lo and behold, before my follow-up meeting yesterday, I was informed that my boss’es boss and his boss’es boss and his boss’es boss had a meeting. I’m quite sure they were talking about my project. How could they not? It was such a glaring failure, it’s breathtaking.

But hey, at least I go all-out, when I do things. There’s no half-measures for me.

All in all, looking at the project in whole, it occurs to me that one of the things that made my “miss” so dramatic was that I rolled it back. I pulled it back from the live website and went back to the technology that we were replacing. That doesn’t happen in the company that acquired my former employer. They roll stuff out and move on — even if it’s broken. They leave broken sh*t hang around on the website for years, and they don’t think twice about it. That will never do. And if they fire me over this, good riddance. I don’t want to work at a company that does that.

No wonder they’ve been losing close to a billion dollars a quarter. Not a million (with an “m”), but a Billion (with a “b”).  Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about why it hit me so hard, and I think the big reason was that it just wasn’t consistent with what I expect of myself. It went directly against my Sense-Of-Self, and the person I believe I am. It also went against the kind of person I present myself to be around other people. It was a flaming disconnect between Who I Am, and what I did. And I lost all sense of who I was, where I was going, and what was to become of me, in the process.

I had the same level of intense personal anxiety and despair that I had for years, after my TBI in 2004. And it was even more extreme, because I believed with all my heart that I’d gotten beyond the “lost-ness” of my past. I believed I’d trained myself out of my ineptitude, that I was keeping up, that I was on top of things. And when it turned out I wasn’t, it hit me hard.

And that’s exactly what happens to you after TBI, in general. You lose yourself. You lose connection to the person you were. And the more advanced you are, the more disorienting it can be. It can be absolutely crushing, to lose access to the Whole You that was so well trained in life, who could do things just by reflex before… but suddenly can’t manage the simplest things like tying a shoe properly or remembering more than 2 things on a shopping list.

It’s crushing. And I got crushed last week. Absolutely hammered. From the   inside, and the outside. Because I’m not supposed to do that. I’m not supposed to fail that majestically. People are relying on me to NOT screw up to the degree I did (and I fully admit it and take responsibility for that). I let them down. I let myself down. I messed up. And now I have to dig myself out of the hole I fell down.

Of course, it’s not all about me. It’s not 100% my fault. What happened was the result of an extended process of everything being supremely screwed up, and people in a position to help not doing anything — in fact, doing the opposite: withholding help, keeping me out of the loop, not communicating, not collaborating, and forcing me to do their damn’ job. I was the last best defense against those people, and I wasn’t up to the task.

So, we live and learn. I’m working my way back to firm footing, even though everyone around me (except for people in my immediate group) are backing away from me like I’m anathema.

Well, good riddance. They’re part of what’s made the company lose so much money over the past years, and losing their allegiance is no loss to me at all.

Life goes on. Some days are better than others. Some years are better than others. This year is off to a crappy start. So it goes. Here’s hoping it gets better. If it doesn’t, it won’t be for lack of my trying.

when things fall down

things are pretty much falling down for me, these days

i don’t want to complain, and i’ve done enough commenting about how things have been developing for me, over the past years

unfortunately, the things that i’ve poured myself into have not panned out

and it seems like pretty much of a waste

i’m not sure what the point is, in doing all of this

no matter how hard i try, things don’t seem to ever turn out the way i plan, or even the way i need

maybe in the short-term, it looks like it, but over the long term… nope

all the things that looked like they were doing great — it’s all very precarious and fragile, and it doesn’t take much to wreck something that took years to build up

so why bother building it up?

seriously, why bother? if everything is so precarious and so easily wrecked, why sink a lot of time into it?

it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me

so, i’m backing off on my investment in a lot of things around me

there’s too much that’s out of my hands and beyond my control

i have no use for people who set me up for failure, and i have no use for people who sit by and don’t lend a helping hand and watch others slip into oblivion

i have no use for people who profit from others’ failures

which means i have no use for a lot of the people in my life, these days

everybody wants something, yes

and what do i get in the bargain?

everything is falling down for me, right now

and i don’t even know if i care

I don’t have to do a thing… everything changes for me

In years gone by, I had a terrible time sticking with a job for longer than a year or two. I’d get so overwhelmed and exhausted, I’d have to leave before people figured out that I was, in fact, overwhelmed and exhausted.

I’ve had a tough time sticking with this current job, too. And now it seems like I’m going to get a reprieve from the monotony of same-old-same-old, because apparently the company is being sold… again.

It’s only been a few years, since they shuffled us from one company to another. From what I hear, there were a lot of layoffs. I haven’t been personally impacted, other than losing a couple of people who were occasionally really helpful to me. And I certainly haven’t had my world rocked by restructuring, the way others have.

But this time might turn out to be pretty significant.

Or not.

It’s impossible to tell.

All I know is, the change I’ve been craving is right around the corner, most likely.

We’ll see how this goes…

Onward.

Being realistic about my next steps

I need to be realistic about how I piece things together. There’s a lot to consider, and I’m not doing myself any favors by deluding myself.

I had a good conversation with a recruiter the other day about a new job opportunity that sounds like it would be a pretty good fit for me. Well, partially, anyway.

I tend to get so focused on Making Things Work that I can lose sight of whether or not I really should make something work.

In this case, the positive parts of the job opportunity quickly took precedence. The job involves leading a team of web developers and redesigning a website that’s in need of an update, and having long-term prospects at a local company – instead of having to travel across the country on a regular basis just to remind people I exist. And those parts sound really appealing to me.

The thing is, when I checked out the website I’d be working on, and I checked out the company, I realized I’d be starting a really awful commute. It would take me into the thick of some of the worst traffic in the region, on a daily basis.

Also, I’ve never been a huge fan of the technology they use. I’m not sure I want to be using it, each and every day. Especially after a long commute from home, in terrible weather.

So, the shine has kind of worn off the opportunity. And I’ll probably respond to the recruiter that I’m not interested because of the commute. Right now, my commute is relatively easy, and I can work from home pretty much when I like. Plus, I get a week off between Christmas and New Years, so that’s huge. Paid time off that doesn’t count against my vacation time. I know it’s concession bribe from the Overlords to keep us happy, but it works. It does make me happy.

Anyway, I have to be really realistic about what will work for me. Diving into a whole new work situation that involves more driving and (probably) more frantic activity, politicking, and is pretty much of an unknown… That’s not the right move for me, right now. It makes no sense to get a better job that makes my life worse. It’s supposed to help me all across the board, not cut into my quality of life, for a few more dollars.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of “embracing my limitations”, this is one situation where it only makes sense to be realistic and not indulge in that against-all-odds thinking that I CAN DO THIS!!! Other people can fight the odds and prove They Can Do It!

I really just want my life back.

Onward.

Back in the saddle again… and again… and again…

binary code - lines of 0s and 1s
Slowly but surely, my ability to learn to code has returned

That old Aerosmith song is playing in my mind, this morning. I’ve been working on my programming skills, over the past week, and amazingly enough, I’m actually able to make sense of things.

This is a huge change, compared to where I was 10 years ago.  Even 5 years ago, I had real struggles with maintaining my attention long enough on anything to learn it. I would get so tired, cognitively, that I couldn’t continue with my learning. And I’d just drop it. I’d learn a bit, then I’d just wander off and forget I’d even started learning something.

Memory is a weird thing, sometimes. I can be so immersed in something… then I’ll get distracted and go do something else, and I’ll completely forget that I was working on anything else.

This is something I definitely need to work on. Because it happens to me at work, as well as at play. I lose track of projects I’m working on, at my day-job. And then I fall behind, and it’s a problem. I get turned around and end up behind the 8-ball, which is a terrible situation to be in for me.

I want to stay on top of things and keep current. But somehow I always get lost in the shuffle. I get distracted. I get tired. My brain starts to shut down on me, even while I’m on auto-pilot, just getting through my days by rote repetition.

So, since I know about this, I need to do something about this.

That goes for my job situation, as well as my own personal situation. In my current job, I need to keep up with what I’ve got going on, so I can just get it done and move on. I don’t want to be with this company past the end of the year. I just want to get out of there, and I need to make a career change back to doing programming again. I’ve come to realize that dealing with people all day in a capacity as a project/program manager is NOT for me. It’s been a good experience, but it’s not for me. I need a break from people and their messed-up emotions. I really want to work with machines. They’re very clear. And they don’t play head-games with me.

Plus, I can listen to music all day if I’m coding. I can’t do that, if I’m doing the people-thing. I need to work in a space where I can see immediate results of what I do. I’ve missed being a developer, and I realize now — once and for all — that this is what I’m meant to do. Not manage shit. Not run projects and programs. Screw that. I just want to build things. Make things happen. Forget the rest. I know where I belong, and it’s not in the position where I’m at now.

So, I’m using my time and frustration wisely. I’m building stuff in my free time. I’m doing tutorials, watching instruction videos while I ride my exercise bike in the morning, I’m building stuff I’ve been wanting to build, but haven’t yet gotten around to it. I’ve got some great ideas, and now I just need to work my way through them. I have another 5-1/2 months till I plan to move on, so I’ll spend time each month working on the core skills I need, building cool stuff that I can show to others, and eventually get myself to place where I’m as confident of my abilities as I need to be, to move on.

There’s a lot going on with me that’s pretty exciting, and I’m looking forward to getting up and running in earnest. I’ll start putting my work out there, as it develops, and see what comes of it. It’s pretty fascinating, really, so this will be fun.

I could use a little fun, for a change.

And this time, I’m not letting myself get sidetracked by distractions. I’m on a mission.

Onward…

Less than two weeks left at this company

Just floating along...
Just floating along…

So, it seems the merger is speeding up, and I may be working for a different company in another two weeks. How strange.

The lucky thing is, I will have a little over a year logged at the existing company, so I won’t look like a “jumper” when the company name changes on my resume in such a short time. I need to have at least a year in at a place, so I don’t look like a “flight risk” later on.

So, unless I get laid off in the next week, that will happen.

And that’s good.

Things are really strange at work. Nobody’s really doing anything work-related. At least, not obviously. They’re doing online crossword puzzles, checking Facebook, answering personal email, walking around out in the far parking lot while they’re talking on the phone (maybe to recruiters), or just hanging out. It’s like everyone is just on hold, until the final word goes through.

As for me, I’m trying to accomplish one concrete thing a day — today I put together a plan of action to help some co-workers who need to do a certain task on a regular basis. Tomorrow I will concentrate on finishing up my goals for the coming quarter. Wednesday, I have meetings all day. Thursday I’m volunteering in the morning and then going to work in the afternoon, when I will run some reports and send out some announcements to people. Friday, I will do my retrospective on the week and figure out what I’m doing next week.

So, that’s figured out, and that’s fine.

All in all, it feels like a weird limbo-ish bubble at work. People are upset that the company they have loved for years and years is going away. Others are shrugging their shoulders, because this is what happens, these days. I think a lot of older folks on the brink of retirement are panicking a little, for fear they’ll be let go before they can just retire. As for me, I’m watching everything just kind of roll by.

Only time will tell how this all works out.

Only time will tell.

So, onward.

 

 

One day at a time, one experience at a time… TBI recovery over the long term

brain with lots of question marks
How DO you work your way back?

I haven’t been doing nearly as much blogging, lately, as I used to.

Time was, I’d get up, do my exercise, eat my breakfast, and then spend 30 minutes or so blogging before I got my shower and went to work. I did this (almost) without fail, each and every day. And on weekends, when I had more time, I’d blog even more.

I researched. I wrote. I commented. I actively committed to sharing information about my life to everyone who might find it useful in their own recovery from traumatic brain injury, or in helping someone else who was recovering.

And it was good. It kept me going. It gave me a sense of purpose — a mission, if you will. This went on for a number of years. And yes, it was good.

Lately, I find myself wishing I were blogging, more than I really am. There are a lot of thoughts in my head, but it’s hard for me to sort them out, these days. I don’t think I’m declining cognitively… if anything, I think I’m doing much better than I have in a long, long time — maybe ever. The difference seems to be that I’m handling more on a daily basis. I have more challenges in my work life and home life. I have more responsibilities and more accountability. And that takes more energy from me, to handle everything well.

So, as I volunteer more, as I take on more responsibilities at work, as I gear up for my next career move, as I read more and am more active, I get tired more… so, I need to rest more. And I also have less opportunity for blogging.

And from where I’m sitting, that’s a good thing.

Here’s the thing though — in the midst of doing all that I’m doing, I really need to check in and show the rest of the world that recovery after mild TBI is possible. Recovery of a really high-quality life is possible after multiple concussions. And even when you sink as low as you think you can go, there’s still the chance (however remote) that you can get back.

I used to be pretty active on Twitter, but not so much, anymore. Frankly, it depresses me. It seems like all the concussion and TBI talk is around sports, especially pro football, hockey, Aussie football, etc. Despite the fact that countless non-athletic folks sustain mild TBIs from falls, assaults, and motor vehicle accidents, the talk is still focused on pro sports. Lawsuits. Who’s to blame for CTE in football players… and all that.

And it does the conversation a disservice. Because not only does it accentuate the dire nature of concussion — which just puts fear in the hearts of people everywhere (and possibly makes people less inclined to report or seek treatment) — but it also diverts the attention away from actual recovery.

How DO you recover from TBI? Even Mild TBI can do a number on you (as I found out, 11 years ago). So, how do you deal with it? Work with it? Overcome it? Everyone’s recovery is different, clearly, and what I’ve done may not work for everyone, but for heaven’s sake, certainly we can do better than we are now!

When I say “we”, I should really be saying “I”. Because I’ve been to the “valley of TBI despair” — not once, but a number of times. And I’ve wished I could simply die and disappear into the cold, dark earth. At different points, I’ve lost my ability to read, to write, to understand what people were saying to me, as well as how to regulate my moods and control my temper. I’ve had miserable, terrible headaches that wouldn’t go away 100% for years. I’ve had balance issues, sensory issues, work issues, relationship issues… directly related to and resulting from repeat blows to the head. So, yeah, I know what it’s like — at least in part.

All these things have resolved with me, for the most part… although I do have intermittent issues with them, now and then. And if I don’t talk about that, well, then it’s my bad.

It’s my bad, indeed.

I’m not one for sitting around feeling terrible about myself, though. I’m in a position to make a positive difference, so I will. It’s probably not going to be at the frequency and intensity that I’ve been working at for years, but it’ll be a heck of a lot more than I’ve done for the past couple of months. (Hmmmmm… I seem to remember vowing to do that, a little while ago, but nothing much has happened since then… but I can’t be too hard on myself – something is better than nothing.)

Let me close by saying this: My job situation, as tenuous as it is, is kicking me into gear to really re-examine my job choices. There are things I do really, really well, and there are things I struggle to do. I’ve been urged to master the things I struggle with, for my entire life. Now I’m at the point where I feel like I should put more emphasis on what I naturally do well, and not sink so much time and energy into mastering the stuff that I have trouble with. That’s not to say I don’t want to constantly improve, but I think there’s a missed opportunity to make the most of my innate talents and strongest interests… I just have to figure out what those are, after so many years of swimming against the stream of things I have trouble with.

I’m using this job uncertainty as an opportunity to get to know myself better — not only remembering what I’ve done well in the past, but what I’ve really enjoyed doing in the past (whether I did it well, or not). I have a deadline to update my job goals by next week, probably because of the impending merger, and also rumors that a lot of staff will get cut (mid-level management, I hear — although they always say that, and then it’s the little guys who get axed). I need to state clearly what I’m up to, what I plan to be up to, and why that matters to the company.

So, today (with no meetings — woo hoo!) I can spend some quality time really thinking about them, examining what I’ve done, thus far, and taking stock of what I’d like to continue to do. I can then transfer that into my resume and update it with what I want to do, not just what other people have told me I do well (but I don’t really like to do). Seriously, I am so hard-headed and tenacious and perseverative, when someone challenges me to do something — even if it’s not a good idea — I do it. I pull out all the stops, and I GO FOR IT. But what I’m going for, is sometimes someone else’s idea of a good thing. It’s not always mine.

For the past several jobs, I’ve stepped up challenges and roles that I’ve been asked to take on. Not because I wanted to, but because I was asked to. And I did a fabulous job — better than I thought, actually. That looks good on my resume, and it’s gratifying to realize I did great, but it’s not how I want to keep spending my life. God help me, no. I want to do things that appeal to ME, and that don’t exhaust me like the stuff that other people tell me to do.

That’s my goal. That’s my plan. Now, it’s time to go examine my life, see it for what it has been, what it is, and what I want it to be.

It’s time to dream a little — and put the pieces in place that will let me reach my dreams.

Onward!