why is my brain injury causing me to not understand what people say on tv

Somebody found their way to this blog by searching for this, the other day.

I think that problems sequencing — getting things in order — can cause you to not understand what others are saying. The words get turned around, and they can sound jumbled up.

Also, being distractable can cause you to miss parts of what people are saying.

I don’t know if there’s one exact specific cause for this, but I can relate. Years ago, I was in an automobile accident that shook me up pretty badly — mostly physically. I got t-boned on the driver’s side by a traveling salesman who was late for an appointment. For days after that, I could not understand what people were saying to me. It really threw me off. All of a sudden, I couldn’t understand what people were saying to me. At all.

So, I quit the job I was at and decided to make a career of drinking. That didn’t sit right with my spouse at the time (we parted ways over 25 years ago). But it was fine with me.

Other times I’ve had trouble understanding people after other accidents, and I suspect that some of the times that my parents got the angriest at me, when I was a kid, was when I was actually struggling to understand what people were saying to me, but I was coming across as contrary and disobedient.

It really sucks, being punished for something you cannot control. Something that’s not your fault.

But it happens all the time.

Anyway, it’s been a long week. It’s time to relax and get ready for a long night’s sleep.

Good night.

Wake up call #392

Time to sit up and pay attention

Okay, it’s been a few months since I really applied myself to one of my big projects, and now that I’m back in the swing of things, I can really tell I’ve been away. I had to produce a little side-project, this past week, and it turned out to be a lot harder than I remembered it being, a few months back. That’s basically because I stepped away from that activity for a while — and anytime you’re away from something that you do, even daily, you get rusty.

And rusty I was. It was a pretty humbling experience, and I was definitely feeling the burn 48 hours ago, because it turned out to be a challenge I hadn’t counted on being that hard — and I almost didn’t get it done in time.

That’ll teach me to wander off and distract myself with other side projects, while I’m getting the Big Project up to speed.

You know, it’s funny. I made really rapid progress with my Big Project for about 10 months running, then everything ground to a halt. I made great strides, and everything was looking awesome. I mean, I was booking. Seriously. People I talked to were amazed at how much progress I was making. I was focused, I had a vision, and I had the drive to make it all happen.

Then I hit a few big bumps in the road, things got crazy at work, and everything with my Big Project stalled. Just stalled. Like I threw a rod or something. The work, the thinking, the progress, the innovation… everything… suddenly, where there was once focus and drive and determination, there was nothing – zip, zilch, nada. 

And I went into a kind of hibernation — a sort of depression — not feeling up to much of anything, and just wanting to hide from the new world I was moving into, and resuming residence in the old world where I lived for so many years… a world of books and reading and writing and words and thoughts and plans and very abstract, non-solid kinds of thinking. Fluid… general… pie-in-the-sky, without much actual work going along with it. Just thinking in the abstract, high-level. I went back to my books, back to my studies, back to writing pretty much non-stop about new ideas I had.

Comfort zone. Sweet spot. And it felt great to be away from all the new-to-me activity I’d been caught up in. It felt great to take a break from that new sort of busy-ness, the anxiety of figuring things out from scratch, and get back to the old familiar. Ironically, it wasn’t a slowing down of my pace — if anything, it speeded things up. But it was a different kind of speed, which was familiar to me and gave me some relief from the stress of newness and uncertainty.

I actually did do a lot of really good work at that time, but it had nothing concrete to do with the Big Project I started, about a year ago. I need to follow through on some important steps, to bring it to its logical conclusion, but there was nothing — and I mean nothing — happening.

So, anyway, after 2 months away, I got a new client who wanted me to do some work for them related to my Big Project, and I said, “Sure – I can do that.” I had a hard and fast deadline to meet, and I had every confidence I could easily do it.

But — surprise — it took me about three times as long as it used to take me, when I was still in practice. I thought it would take me a day, at the most, and it took me three days of regular work, some of it really frustrating because things were not fitting like I expected them to.

And in the end, some of the results were not ideal. I also found some holes in the process I was following, and I needed to scramble a bit to get them all in order.  I can check in with my client later, to see how my product is working out for them, and I can certainly make needed adjustments, no problem. But it was a wake-up call for me, to see how much I was struggling with things that I was expecting to be very easy.

Without getting into a lot of fine detail, basically, I need to follow specific steps to deliver my new “product” — and if I do the steps out of order, it screws everything up. I have a number of different pieces that need to fit together, and I was having a hell of a time seeing how they all fit, and figuring out where to start.

It was the weirdest thing – I could see it all in my mind, at a high level, and I knew this was all very straightforward and I’d figured things out. But when it came to actually doing it, things just didn’t “gel” the way I expected them to. And I got so overwhelmed with the jumble of details and steps, I hesitated and held back on moving forward as quickly as I could have, and I lost a lot of valuable time in delays, as well as confusion.

So, the one day turnaround that was logically realistic, turned into three days of recalculating and reconfiguring and hassling over details I thought I had worked out.

The thing is, I had worked out those details. I know how to do this stuff. I’ve done it tons of times in the past, with great success. I was just out of practice after two months of not much thinking about it and even less doing it… and I underestimated the degree to which that time off affected my performance.

Well, now I’m back. And I’m practicing anew each day. After working hard for the past few days, I’ve got my motivation back, and I’m moving forward. I have my ducks in a row better than in a long time, and I’ve made some important decisions about how to move forward, that will help me in later times.

I’m also back into getting as much practice as possible, doing and doing and doing some more — at a steady pace, instead of fits and starts — so I won’t get into the situation I was last week. This has been an important wake-up call for me, and yes, now I’m fully awake and alert and back “on point”.

I’ve got my notebook with the steps I need to take each day, and I am taking them, systematically and regularly. And it feels great to see how much I’m able to do each day. I’m getting more organized every day, and I’ve got a clear path ahead of me.

So, it’s good. I’ve taken my lumps — which fortunately were only my lumps, not someone else’s — and I’ve learned my lesson(s) so I can keep going, regardless of bumps in the road.

Yes. Onward.


Good day, good progress

It’s been a very busy day today — full and just about as complete as you can get. I started with waking up around 6 a.m., which gave me about 6 hours of sleep. Not great, so I lay in bed for a while and just relaxed, drifted in and out of sleep. Then, by 7, I was awake and ready to get up and go. I got a little bit of exercise and stretching, then had my breakfast and sat down to catch up on some reading I’ve been meaning to do — as in, reading I haven’t been able to do for years. There’s this book that I’ve needed to read, but I just couldn’t manage to start it, for some reason. I started it yesterday, after years of just looking at the book on my shelf. And today I continued — got the first chapter read — and understood.

So, that was pretty huge. I have really struggled with reading, and I’ve been missing it; I used to be an avid reader, just about all my life, but after my fall in 2004, I wasn’t able to really sit down with a book and read it the whole way through. It’s been slow going, getting back into the swing of things, with some fits and starts. But now I’m feeling pretty strong and optimistic — this book is about things that really interest me, that I can use in my everyday life, so I have a lot of incentive to read it.

The morning just flew by, and I made a lot of great progress, so to celebrate I went out for a walk in the woods near my house. I got a little turned around and lost my way once, but I just kept going until I recognized something. The woods are not that big – I can just keep walking and eventually come out to a road or a pond or a stream which I recognize.

Such a great way to spend a few hours on a beautiful fall day. I took it all in — the colors, the sights, the sounds, the scents — I got more exercise, going up hill and down…  and I had a few more decent ideas that built on what I read this morning, which is always nice. I also had some time to just sit in the sun and see how I was feeling — and I wasn’t feeling that great, when I stopped to think about it. I was shaky and sick to my stomach, my head hurt, and I felt really foggy. It wasn’t stopping me from going about my business and doing what I needed to do, but it wasn’t me at peak. Not even close.

I was tempted to spend the whole afternoon outside, but I needed to come home, have some lunch, and have a nap. I’ve been so wiped out — I need to make extra effort to sleep when I can. So, I walked home, had some soup and crackers, and then slept for about an hour.

I got up feeling pretty good, and after I cleared the fallen leaves off the driveway, I helped my spouse load the van for an event they were going to. They were having a little trouble focusing in and getting everything together — they’ve been distracted thanks to another upcoming business trip next weekend which promises to be quite challenging for them. So, my evening was spent coaching and reassuring and gently nudging them in the direction they were supposed to be going.

After they left, I had a little leftover barbecue chicken from last night, and I caulked the seams of our kitchen counters, which have been cracking and separating, now, for years. I’ve been looking at those seams, promising myself I’d do something about them. And tonight I did just that.

I’m pretty happy with the result, too. It’s neat, it’s going to look great when it all dries, and I managed to get through the job with only a couple very minor freak-outs, when I was dropping things and having a hard time holding the caulk tube steady. I managed to finish the job without melting down, which is nice. Even though I’m on my own tonight, and there’s no one to hear me flipping out, it still feels like crap when I lose it, and it takes me some time to recover from the outburst.

I don’t want to focus on the flipping out, though. I want to focus on the fact that I’m back to taking care of the house and doing right by it. I have not been keeping up with things at all, over the years. It has just been too much for me to get my head around. Now, though, I seem to have regained my ability to take things one step at a time and not get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things that need to get done. I’m not panicking at the sight of a stack of firewood that needs to be split and moved. I’m just grabbing the axe and having at it.

I’m also doing much, much better at being “editorial” in what I do. In the past, I have been so bogged down by distraction and details that didn’t matter at all, that it kept me from starting things and getting them done — it was all just too overwhelming, and I didn’t know which things mattered and which didn’t. In the past year, however, I’ve learned how to cut through all the static and focus on the core things that need to be done.

Now, instead of being overwhelmed by thinking through the minute details of every single step I need to follow, I am “roughing out” my chores and just cutting to the chase — focusing on the essentials, like grabbing one piece of wood and splitting it cleanly, then tossing it on a pile to move later. In the past, I couldn’t even grab a piece of firewood, because I couldn’t figure out which one I should pick out first, how I should place it on the chopping block, how I should place my feet, how I should stand, exactly, how I should hold the axe, what angle I should strike with the axe, and where I should toss the wood when it was split. I had so many competing details rattling ’round in my head, that I couldn’t even get started.

Now that has changed dramatically. The sequencing is much clearer and cleaner — less static, more flow. I honestly believe all the cooking I’ve been doing has been helping me with that. So, I continue to cook. And more good things follow.

Yep, it’s been a good day, all in all. I’ve got a few more little things I need to do tonight, but it’s no big deal. I can do them while watching a movie, which I plan to do shortly. With any luck, I’ll get to bed before midnight and get some real rest.

It’s all good.

Yes indeed, it’s all good.

The key is thinking it through

Well, I got about 8 hours of sleep last night, which is great. I had meant to sleep on Sunday, but I got busy so I never got the chance. On the bright side, I figured out how to finish something I started a number of years ago, and haven’t been able to finish, for some strange reason.

I’ve got paperwork I have to complete for my insurance company, so they can properly adjust some of my old records. I have not been able to finish it, for some reason — I think it’s just seemed way too complicated for me to complete. It’s not… hundreds and thousands of people do this paperwork every day, but I haven’t been able to do it. I just haven’t been able to figure it out.

But now I have. It just came to me, one day — all of a sudden, it stopped being an impossible problem. Like the window fixture that was hanging off a loose nail for more than a year, that I would just look at, then walk away from. Strangely, it seemed like an impossible task. Then one day, I just got the step stool and a hammer, and I fastened the fixture in place the way it was supposed to be.

When I got down from the step stool, I felt this strange combination of elation and dismay — on the one hand, I was overjoyed that I’d figured out how to do it. On the other hand, I was a little dismayed that something so simple should have taken me so long to figure out. Over a year, this fixture was hanging loose. It took me a year to figure out how to get the step stool, climb up, and nail the hardware in place.

Was I really that damaged? I had to wonder.

Anyway, this paperwork thing is a little like that. I had an epiphany the other day, where I suddenly realized how I could handle it. And now I just need to go to the motor vehicle registry and turn in the simple form that I couldn’t figure out how to fill out. I have tried reaching out to my neuropsych for help with things like this, but they tell me I don’t have a problem with them, and when I announce with glee that I figured something out that everybody should know how to do, they just look at me like there’s something wrong with me.

Yeah, no kidding. It’s weird, how truly simple things can just not get done… but complicated things like finding and changing jobs can come pretty easily to me.

But of course it’s the simple things that are the most common and the most necessary in life, so I guess I just have to keep going with it.

The main thing for me, these days, is thinking things through. Figuring out how to get things done — really investing the time in walking through the steps I need to follow. I tend to get so overwhelmed in the course of everyday life that when I get home at night — or over the weekends — I just need to take a break from the focused activities and recharge my batteries with some unstructured activities (like naps and reading). But then I don’t get everything done that I was intending to.

Oh, well.

I guess I’m working on my everyday living skills… figuring out, again and again, how to take care of things that need to be taken care of. I sat down yesterday and walked through my finances for the rest of the year, using a spreadsheet to show how much money I would be bringing in with my job and counting how much I was going to be spending. The rest of the year looks pretty good, and I’m going to be paying off some old debts early, in fact, so I’ll have more money in my pocket in another few months. It feels good to work through all that, to think it through and see what’s coming down the pike.

Even if I didn’t get those little tasks done that I’d intended to over the weekend, I got something really great done that I’d been needing to do — calculating my personal finances and figuring out a good way to go with my life.

And it’s good.