In the course of my life, I’ve run up against a whole variety of “interesting” complications that apparently came from my multiple Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries/concussions. And there have been times when I have been intensely tempted to just give up. Throw in the towel. Declare defeat. Get used to the idea that I’m disabled. Get used to the idea that there are lots of things I just can’t do anymore — like get enough sleep at night, understand conversations, control my temper, interact with friends and loved ones without pain and discomfort.
I figured, I’d have to adjust to it all, just like I adjusted to the tinnitus that used to drive me crazy when I was in high school. I used to sit in my room, crouched down in a fetal position, and hold my hands over my ears, praying that the ringing would stop. I would hit my head with my hands, shake my head, try holding my breath — try anything — to make it stop. It was driving me nuts, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I remember the day when I just quit trying to fix it. I quit trying to make it stop. I had been on the edge over that crap for weeks on end, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it through. Then I decided that if this was how it was going to be, it was how it was going to be, and I quit making myself nuts, trying to change it. I just accepted it. I wasn’t happy about it, but I just accepted it as something that was going to be part of my life.
I knew it wasn’t going to be there ALL the time, however — the constant ringing in my ears wasn’t maddening ALL the time. There were times when it bothered me less. And that was the thing I had to keep in mind. But the ringing just wasn’t going away, so I let it be.
And I turned my attention to other things. I learned to block it out, to focus my attention on what else was going on in my life. I figured — and I remember having this thought, one afternoon — that there was more to life than this ringing, and if I just turned my energies and attention to everything else in my life and made it that much more interesting and engaging than the tinnitus, that could save me.
And save me, it did. It didn’t stop the tinnitus, but it gave me reason to look above and beyond. It gave me cause to seek out what else there was in my life, besides this infernal ringing.
So, I guess I did accept the tinnitus on a certain level. But I didn’t accept the limitations it placed on me. I didn’t let it stop me, and I didn’t let it drive me mad. I just decided to quit focusing on it and use my energy on other things.
I reached a compromise with my situation (that inescapable ringing) and my own desires (to be free of the tinnitus), and I found a “Third Way” to go.
The First Way was to fight it with all my might.
The Second Way was to just give up and tell myself there was no hope for me.
The Third Way was to see that Fighting and Giving Up were both no use to me, and my time and energy was better spent focusing on other activities in life that didn’t make tinnitus the center of my attention. I could let the tinnitus be a part of the background, a part of my overall story. But wasn’t the thing that Defined me and set limits on me. It was just there. Not good, not bad, just there.
And that’s when I started getting the part of my life back that had been tied up in the first two Ways of approaching my injury.
Over the course of my life, I’ve been presented with many such choices, and time and time again, I have learned the wisdom of this Third Way. Although I’m sure I’ve read about this approach in some book somewhere, this approach has really emerged (and stuck) out of personal experience — it just works. The other two Ways don’t.
When I make my difficulties the central theme of my life, I cheat myself of the chance to experience life in all its fullness, its richness, all its potential and possibilities. Now, staying stuck in the fight can be tempting. As can giving in to “defeat” and giving up trying. But the Third Way offers something completely different — and far more interesting — that lets me actually live my life. And when I am focused on living my life, the obstacles and difficulties that used to be front and center, have far less power over me. It’s not that they’ve gone away 100%. Far from it. But they aren’t the sole focus of my life and my energy. And I can really, truly live.