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.


My memory is definitely better

It’s getting easier to keep it all in order

I just got a re-issued bank card, with a new expiration date and a new set of security digits on the back. It’s that periodic ritual that over the past 9 years has come to intimidate me. Back about 5 years ago, my brain was not working very well, and I had a hard time remembering even the most basic things. An expiration date and three unique digits had about as much chance of lodging in my brain, as a chemical recipe for artificial sweetener.

It just wasn’t going to happen.

Heck, I had trouble even remembering my parents’ home phone number, which I had been using since I was 12 years old – over 35 years. I had a heated argument with my spouse about the correct number, while we were trying to get in touch with my parents back around 2005 — and wouldn’t you know, the number that I swore — up-down-left-right — was the correct one, was actually wrong. Didn’t I feel like an idiot, when I had to ask my parents again, what their phone number was…

Well, anyway, I have been working on “that numbers thing” for some time. For work, I have a random security code I have to generate and then type in, whenever I want to access the system. Random codes get generated by the system — a new pair of three-digit numbers shows up every minute or so — and then I have to remember those numbers when I switch to a different screen to login, before the numbers get changed by the system.

It used to be sheer hell for me, because there wasn’t enough time for me to write down the number and then punch it in before it changed. I used to really struggle with figuring out how to do things in a specific order, so that I could do them quickly and smoothly. I would either not have my paper and pen nearby to write it down… I would get confused by all the different windows on my computer screen… I would feel pressured and rushed to write down the numbers… and when I wrote them down, sometimes I would get them turned around. And then when it came time to punch in the numbers, I would get them turned around in my head and would mess up.

Six digits — two sets of three numbers — how hard can it be, right?

Well, for me, about 5 years ago, it was well nigh impossible. It was pretty demoralizing, and my neuropsych exam showed very clearly that I had serious issues with short-term memory when there were distractions around. Distractions could be anything from a sound I picked up in the background, to a flash of light on the ceiling from a traffic driving by in the afternoon sun. Or an itch. Or a stray thought. I was scattered — and dismally so. It was just not good.

I wasn’t content to stay that way, though. Cripes, that was just no good. So, I really worked at things, trying to keep numbers in my mind — when I went to the library, for example. I would look at the online books listing, pick out two different books with two different call numbers, and then write them down on a piece of paper. I would tuck the paper away, and using my memory alone, I would try to locate those two books. I still do this, and I think it’s helped me. I can remember numbers much better now, than I could before. When I’m really tired, things don’t work so great, but when I’m going about my business at a natural, usual pace, things go much better.

Much, much better than ever before.

So, that’s encouraging.

And now that I have my new bank card, when I go to update my account information and order things, I can actually remember the expiration date and security code, which is pretty freeing. It takes a lot of time and energy and motivation and coping strategies, to live your life without being able to remember basic things like a few digits. We live in a world that’s run by digits. And relying on always having a piece of paper around, so I can write things down, was at times a challenge in itself. I usually had a little notebook with me (still do), but a lot of times, I forgot to keep it with me, so I lost that aid, as well.

It’s been much easier for me to work on my memory for small amounts of digits, than remembering to keep my memory aids with me all the time.

So, that’s helpful. And being able to remember people’s faces and names… that’s helpful, as well. I’ve been actively working on that, too, so that I can interact with people better. It’s helping, to do all this. It gives me something to focus on, something to work towards on a regular daily basis. All of my other issues come and go, but my memory issues have remained pretty constant – and at very important times – so I have had plenty of opportunity to focus on them… and get better.

And I have.

It’s shaping up to be a beautiful day, and I’ve got a nice “wide” weekend open ahead of me. I am looking forward to moving at my own pace, and making progress on some projects that have been waiting in the wings for about a month, now. I have been continually frustrated with how much time it’s taken me to recover from the push at work I went through starting a couple months back. But now I’m finally feeling like I’m human again, and that’s a good thing.

I’ve got a bunch of yard work I need to do, and it looks like the weather is going to hold.

It’s Friday, too.

Life is good.





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