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.

Knowing when to get out

Gotta know when to make a run for it

I can’t believe it’s Sunday, already. Seems like it was just last Tuesday.

I’ve been pretty tired, over the past week – lots going on. Plus, I’m working out in the mornings again, so that’s making me more tired, on top of everything else that’s going on.

So, I need to factor that in, whenever I go about my business and interact with others. I need to track where and when I’m doing not-so-well, and take steps to correct my situation, when I see/feel myself going awry.

Like this morning. I got to bed late, last night, because I lost track of time in the evening and I had to run out and buy supper late. So, we ate late. And we watched a movie that kept me up till midnight. And true to form, I woke up at 6 a.m. — so, I’m operating on 6 hours of sleep.

Not great. I’m feeling sick, and when I got started this morning, I made the mistake of getting into an extended discussion with my spouse about things that need to be done. I only wanted to make a cup of coffee before I went out on my morning walk. But within minutes, we were both sparring, and the conversation rapidly spiraled downhill, with my spouse perseverating, accusing me of perseverating, followed with angry accusations from them, and finally petulant tears.

I didn’t help matters any, by finding fault. And in the end, I managed to get out for my morning walk and work off the aggravation.

Lesson learned. When I am over-tired and not feeling well, I need to just excuse myself and get out of an angry conversation as soon as humanly possible.

It’s the only way. My spouse has their own neurological issues, which they cannot seem to see, and when we are both tired — like at 6:00 a.m.– and I’m trying to get out of the house for my walk, while they are trying to get me to spend some time with them, it’s a volatile situation that’s just no good.

The crescendo develops in a few predictable ways.

First, I am tired, and when I am tired, I am more irritable.

I’m more likely to get tweaked over every little thing. Something as minor as the sun peeking up over the hill behind my house can set me off… let alone getting sidetracked from my activities by my needy spouse. Plus, when I’m tired, it’s hard for me to think and I am less coordinated, so that irritates me all the more.

Second, to wake myself up, I often use anger.

I discovered this little “trick” about 20 years ago, when I had to get up at 4:00 each morning to drive my spouse to work. I would drop them off and then head over to my job… and as I was driving, I’d start to nod off. I discovered that if I made myself angry about things, it woke me up. And it did it quite effectively. So, I have been doing that for many years, and while it’s effective, it’s also a bad habit I need to break.

Third, my spouse loves to wrangle when they are tired, too.

So, the two of us can rapidly escalate to the same-old-same-old nagging and grousing we’ve been doing for years. When I was 10 years younger, it didn’t bother me as much. But now, it’s just a pain in my ass. And a total waste of time.

And I know better.

So, I need to do better. I got myself out of the house without indulging in more drama. I didn’t go back and try to smooth things over, when the tears of frustration started to flow. I just walked away, because I’ve been pulled into that many, many times. It’s just my spouse’s way of trying to pull me back in, and it never ends up well — for me, anyway. They’ll be fine. They’re just worked up, and they need some time away from me. Just like all the other times, we’ll reconverge later in the day, and things will be fine. I’m not getting into it, just getting on with the day.

I’ll take a quick nap around noon to recharge — and another one later in the afternoon. That will keep me going.

And I’m not going to engage. Because I don’t feel well, I’m fatigued, I’m behind on my sleep, and I still have a lot to do before the next week starts.

Lessons learned — yet again.

ONward.

 

The slow return to normal – and beyond

Kind of what it feels like

So, the upheaval over the accident a week ago has begun to settle down. I truly cannot imagine a worse time for life to be disrupted. It’s been a roller coaster of tears and anger and frustration and confusion, with some pretty intense extremes.

I really don’t have time for this sh*t.

I’m not being selfish and insensitive. I really feel for my spouse and all they are going through. It was a really traumatic experience, and I totally understand the reasons for the tears and the anger and all the emotional upheaval. I truly do understand. And I’m there for them to support them as they heal. And I have to deal with my own emotional stuff, too.

The thing is, life goes on, and I have a lot going on with me, just to keep the ship sailing in the right direction. I have to keep functional at work. And I have to finish my own personal projects which are a way for me to A) earn some extra money now, and B) set me up for future income in the years to come, when I cannot do this 9-5 work thing anymore.

I’m feeling less and less capable of dealing with the workaday world, each day, and I know I need a change. I’m not happy with how my brain functions at work – I’m forgetful and distracted and I am not functioning at the level I want to be at. I feel so marginal. I think it’s a combination of brain injury stuff and motivation and the general environment. When you’re dealing with TBI, you have to put in a lot of extra effort and find the “special sauce” that keeps you actively engaged in your life. Then things can go relatively smoothly (on a good day).

But if you take away the motivation and the joy, the sense of purpose and connection, everything gets harder. A lot harder. People at work are very nice, and I’ve had worse jobs, but they’re cliquish and petty and we have very, very little in common.

It becomes more obvious to me, every day, that I cannot continue to make a living, doing what I do the way I do it now. I am wearing so thin, it’s a challenge just to keep my head in the game and show up 100% each day. I really friggin’ hate the 9-5 scene, with the cubicles, the pettiness, being stuck inside all the time, and being in an artificial environment. It also makes me nuts that the people running the show don’t seem to be interested in actually running the business for profit, so when they come up short, people get cut, and it leaves me feeling quite vulnerable and exposed.

That will never do. Someone else who can’t run their business is going to dictate how my life develops? Oh, I don’t think so. It’s really wearing thin with me, and I need to get out. I’ve started counting down to when I can leave — not sure when that is, but I’ve got this countdown going in my head.

So I’ve been putting a lot of my time and energy into developing concepts and projects that can get me out of that environment. I continue to get up each day and go through the process of living my life and building the pieces I need in place for myself in the future. I’m very clear about my ongoing direction — there’s a lot of writing and publishing and “information marketing” in the cards for me — and I’m very clear about how to get there. Plus, there are a lot of resources online to help me get where I am going. So, I’m fairly confident these ideas will take flight.

It just takes a lot of work and a lot of focus. Every extra hour I have, when I’m not eating or sleeping or trying to relax for just a few hours, gets funnelled into my Great Escape. And having this car accident intrude on my focus and having to process all the drama around this event has really been sucking the life out of my activities.

I’m not feeling like I have the wherewithal to go through this whole post-traumatic process with my spouse, and deal with it along with the rest of my life. It was traumatic for me, too, because whatever happens to my spouse, happens to me, and it was pretty intense, being at the hospital and not knowing what the hell was going on. And the car being wrecked… that’s not so great, either. Working through it all… it takes time, and time is something I just don’t have much of.

The thing is, in the back of my mind, I am absolutely certain that things are going to turn around for us. My personal projects are solid and valuable, and I know a number of businesses which have a real need for them. It’s only a matter of time, till I can break free of where I’m at.

It’s the getting there that takes so much time and energy. So, I’m just keeping steady… slowly returning to normal… sitting through the tears and anger and fear and anxiety… looking for every opportunity to change and improve, picking and choosing how I spend my time.

I’m also continuing to grow and expand and develop. Getting new ideas. Following through on them. Testing and seeing what works and what doesn’t, and just staying steady. There’s none of that old haphazard approach, where I would just throw something out there and hope for the best. I’ve got plans in place, and it makes all the difference in the world.

And so it goes. I have to keep current with my sleep, as well as my nutrition. I need to keep on with the everyday, as well as reach beyond to what’s yet to come. I’m feeling really positive about the direction I’m taking.

I just need to get through the fallout from this accident in one piece.

Onward.

The worst thing about trauma

It hits at all levels

Just a tip — if you have a weak stomach, don’t Google “trauma” and look at the images. I just did, and I regret it.

Anyway… I’m writing this ahead of time and scheduling it to publish while I’m way. By the time you’re reading this, I’ll probably be on the road, off to collect the rest of the crap from the smashed vehicle my spouse was in. Again, I am so grateful things didn’t turn out worse.

Still, it’s a sh*tty way to spend my day off. Especially when I was in such need of downtime, having been really sick all last week.

So much for that.

To be quite honest, the hardest part about the whole thing was that everyone had to emotionally process everything. They had to call their friends, talk to everybody they met about it, recount the experience, get sympathy from people, have an “emotional release”… and do it all over again. And all the while, the friend’s smartphone kept going off and dinging with every text that would come in, setting off the most irritating set of ringtones I’ve ever heard, and not giving me a moment’s rest. Driving a long distance on very little sleep, having that smartphone go off every 15 seconds was nerve-wracking, to say the least. It was startling and jarring, and no sooner would they settle down from one emotional conversation with someone, than someone else would call them, and they’d launch into their hysterics all over again.

Oh. My. God.

I am so tired. I went to bed when I got home last night — about 6 p.m. And I slept till 4:30 this morning. It felt great to get 10-1/2 hours of sleep, and I have a massage later today, which will be fantastic. I also need to drive back out to the tow yard, halfway across the state, to pick up the rest of the equipment in the trashed vehicle, so it’s not a total loss. I just need to work today, to move and go about my business, work around the house, call the insurance company, and take action, without constant processing going on.

Please. I need a break.

Now, I know that I do a lot of talking, myself. And I have to consider my own approach to talking things through and processing everything. I like to think that I process and move on. That I speak my peace and then make necessary changes to ensure those things don’t happen out of my negligence or stupidity or lack of preparation. It’s one thing to go through difficult times. It’s another, to never shut up about it, and “get stuck” in the whole experience, because you want others to feel sorry for you.

If I ever sound like the friend who kept replaying that experience… somebody tell me to shut the hell up. I am truly sorry, if I ever put any of you through that.

Truly, I am.

The crux of it for me, really, is that when we experience trauma, our bodies are put into shock, and on a physical level, we get primed for startle and hyper-alertness. Our bodies are trying to protect us, and they think they have to keep being alert. But they don’t. Our minds pick up on our body’s hyper-alert state, and they get tricked into thinking that they need to be hyper-alert, too… rehashing the experience, so they can “learn” what the situation looked like, to avoid it in the future.

The thing is, for some situations — like a punk in a fast car being an asshole — you cannot predict and anticipate it, so all the “learning” you are doing is just sucking up your energy that could be spent on healing from the whole hellish experience. And rather than making you safer, you’re re-traumatizing yourself and making everything that much worse.

That’s my argument with people who insist on telling everyone about their awful childhood experiences with abusive parents/uncles/siblings/caretakers, etc. It doesn’t change anything, it doesn’t solve anything, it just keeps spreading the trauma around to everyone who had nothing to do with it, and who don’t deserve to be sucked into what was a truly horrific experience.

Trauma needs to be handled in other ways, not talking. It’s a physiological experience, and it needs to be dealt with on the physical level. The body takes over the mind — hijacks your executive functioning — and you have to get it all to settle down, before things in your mind can calm down.

That means resting and eating right and moving. You cannot heal without some sort of movement. You just can’t. You’ve got to get out of your head and get your ass up out of the chair/bed, and really move it. Because if you don’t, your body is going have a backlog of stress chemicals that convince it that it needs to be on HIGH ALERT, and you will keep reliving your shitty experience as though it were still true.

Okay, enough of my rant. It’s time for me to do something constructive with this energy. Time to move.

Time to go juggle. And get on with my day.

Onward.

 

So much for my weekend off

Where’s my damn’ car?

Well, it was a nice thought. I had three days to work on my projects and pretty much unwind, catch up with myself, and sleep… get healthy, etc.

That was the plan, anyway.

Then my spouse got into a really bad car accident on Saturday afternoon, and I had to drive out to a country hospital to meet them and the business associate they were traveling with. The hospital was really old-fashioned – like something out of the 1950s, and the ER physician was about as dynamic as a brick. I’m not sure that he did a thorough job checking out my spouse, who hit their head on the door frame. They said they just had a bump on their head, and they didn’t have a headache. My spouse kept trying to charm the doctor, while he was doing the examination, which can’t have made his job any easier. I didn’t know what to do, other than keep them from lying to the doctor outright. They’re terrified of doctors, and they were completely freaked out by the whole experience. So, there was only so much I could actually do.

My spouse and their friend had their doubts about driving — road conditions were not good, and visibility was poor. But they had committed to the trip, and their destination had good weather, so they thought it would be fine, once they got out there. None of us factored in the weather between our home and their destination. Ultimately, thought,the real problem was no so much the road conditions — rather, the poor judgment and behavior of the person who caused the wreck.

They were not hurt badly, but they had to go to the hospital to be evaluated, and then because of their states of mind and body, they couldn’t get back in a car and drive home. So, we spent Sunday hanging out at a chilly little country motel, wrapped in coats and blankets, trying to stay warm, eating Sunday brunch, finding the tow yard where the car was, collecting their personal items, trying to fit them all into my little hatchback (with three people in it), and getting everyone home safely … from quite a ways away.

They are both truly lucky to be as healthy as they are. They’re lucky to be alive. They both could have easily been killed, if they’d been in a smaller car, or there had been more traffic on the road they were on. For that I am truly grateful. There are a lot of things to be thankful for in this. The car may be totaled, but I kind of hated that car, anyway. It was too big for my spouse — or just about anyone — to handle safely. Especially in low visibility. Or where the space is tight. They felt safe in it, but that’s a grand illusion.

I have no idea where or how we’re going to replace the vehicle, but I’ll figure something out. I just got some money from an estate settlement from a relative who died within the past year, and I was going to use that money to fix the house. But it looks like it may go to either fixing this car or buying a new (to me) one.

My insurance company already hates me, because I’ve filed claims for damage to the house that was actually my fault, rather than an accident. I didn’t realize you can’t file a claim if it’s your fault, or if you didn’t call a repair person to look at it before. I thought you could file your claim and then have the repair person come. I guess it’s the other way around. And now I look like an insurance fraudster. Nice.

But this accident was not my spouse’s fault, and it’s a legitimate claim. Basically, a young kid driving a fast car got “adventurous” on a very narrow road and caused 13 cars to pile up. 7 of them had to be towed (including ours), and a whole bunch of people went to the hospital, including my spouse and their friend/business associate.

And I spent Saturday evening and all day Sunday dealing with the fallout.

I know I’m rambling here. I’m tired and still out of sorts. It’s going to be a few weeks, till this settles down, I’m sure. I just have to keep on — steady on — and take care of myself. Keep balanced. Just deal with it.

Well, anyway, it’s time to take a break. This whole thing has got me thinking a lot about trauma and how to deal with it. I’ve already written a whole long rant about it — I’m going to split it into another section and publish it later. For now, I’m going to focus on being grateful that things didn’t turn out worse.

Because they really could have.

Well, THAT was interesting :)

Just let it go…

So, last night I went to bed in intense pain, almost unable to breathe.  I couldn’t move, without searing pain shooting through my muscles, so I got in bed early and tried this new “somatic” approach I found by accident while looking for an image to use for one of my posts. The image said “Fine tuning the nervous system will have your body respond in a different and more positive manner”, and it struck a chord with me.

I checked out the site, and I discovered this different way of moving and relaxing and releasing which was unlike anything else I’ve found. It’s not about pushing and pulling and making the body do things it “doesn’t want” to do. It’s about retraining the body to do what it “wants” to do, but has forgotten how, over all the years of use and misuse.

It’s about making a movement gently and slowly, then un-making that same movement much, much more sloooowwwwllllyyyyy… and then relaxing, so the brain can release the chemicals the body needs to release. Pretty amazing, actually. It sounds good, but logically (based on my past experience), it doesn’t seem likely.

Still, I tried it. What else could I do? Just lie there in excruciating pain, struggling for breath?

Well, whatever it is that makes this approach work, it worked wonders for me, last night. I really did feel amazing — the pain was actually gone. And I could breathe. I could really breathe — deeply and slowly without struggling.

Pretty phenomenal, actually. And when I really paid attention, I could tell that I was using extra muscles to move different parts of my body. When I arched my back, for instance, I could feel my legs pushing — which is totally unnecessary. But I guess because my back has hurt for so long, I just got used to pushing with my legs.

So, I stopped that and backed off on the effort, and it actually became easier for me to move.

And it’s good. A vast improvement. I did sleep wrong on my arm and I woke up with pins and needles and swollen hand, but that happens. I got up and worked it out, and now it’s gone. So, that’s good too.

The idea of being able to move without excruciating pain is, to put it lightly, very exciting to me. It’s like getting a whole new lease on life. Just being able to breathe last night and relax… pretty phenomenal. I’ve never been very good at relaxing — always too tense, always too wound up. Until several years ago, I couldn’t see the point in relaxing — probably because I didn’t yet know how to do it in a way that really released the tension and pain. Whenever I relaxed, the pain would become overwhelming. So, my solution was to just keep going, just keep pressure on, and not give myself enough time to stop and check on how I was feeling.

That works… to some extent. But the real change comes from actually knowing how to relax and breathe and also release the tension. It’s all come together relatively slowly for me, after years and years of pain. I guess I’d gotten to a point where I figured it was permanent. But now it seems that it might not be… And that’s pretty exciting.

What could I do with more energy? More flexibility? More movement? I know it would definitely take the pressure off… and also simplify my life. When I’m in pain and I’m stressed, I do things like adding way too much crap to my plate that I think “must” be done. It doesn’t have to be done. I just think it does, because my brain is looking for more stimulation to keep its attention off my discomfort. I’ve been doing it for years, so it’s habitual.

Because I hadn’t found a better way.

Here’s hoping this new way continues to work. I have a feeling it just might.

Onward.

“Just breathe” is sometimes easier said than done

Okay, now that I have opened up the Pandora’s box on this chronic pain and have started paying attention to my muscles when they move, I’m realizing that one of the reasons I don’t always breathe evenly, is because it hurts to breathe.

How unfortunate.

The simple act of filling my lungs causes my shoulders to lift, which hurts.

It ties into my neck, which also starts to hurt.

And my ribs expand, which also is painful.

Good grief.

Oh, well. I’ve been pretty active, physically, which has something to do with it. I’ve really been pushing myself, lately, lifting heavy weights and doing movements I haven’t done in a long time. I feel much better when I lift heavy weights. I find it very soothing.

At the same time, thought, I tend to be physically active a lot – especially in the winter, when I try to get out and get active as much as possible. I actually do better in the winter, since I can warm up — while in summer I can’t always cool down.

So, I’ve been pushing my body, exercising muscles a lot, and all the extra lactic acid along with the micro-tears in my muscle tissue… well, it’s adding up to a whole lot of pain. Especially when I breathe.

So, I need to really work on that. It’s hard to relax, when I’m not breathing regularly, but my body instinctively tenses up and avoids the pain that comes with deep breathing.

You see my quandary.

Oh, screw it. I’m going to eat some dinner, have some more Advil, take a long hot shower, and crash. I’m pretty wiped out, so I should be able to sleep reasonably well. And when I sleep, I’ll be breathing regularly, so my body will be able to settle back into a rhythm.

Here’s hoping.

Using adversity as fuel

Sometimes these situations just come up

I’ve been complaining a bit more than I would like, lately. The space bar thing has thrown me off, to tell the truth. I really need to be able to type quickly, and it’s stopping me from doing that.

Maybe I’m in too much of a hurry, anyway.

It’s Monday. I’m tired from watching the Super Bowl last night and getting so pumped up at the end. But I did sleep till 7 a.m., which is a recent record for me. I’ve been waking up at 4:30 a.m., over the past few weeks, which has not done much for my energy levels.

I don’t have a lot of meetings today, so that’s good.

It will give me time to think things through with work.

It will also give me time to work on my coherent breathing, which has become much more important to me in the past weeks.

I have let my breathing practice slack off, for some reason. Maybe I got to a comfortable place and figured I didn’t need to do it so much anymore. Or I got lazy. Or I got bored.  Whatever the reason, I have been feeling the effects of having an out-of-balance autonomic nervous system, with my fight-flight way up there.

I think I let myself get into that state when I need the energy. I need to get pumped up to make it through,and I run out of steam with my daily schedule that is a long slog, each and every day. So I resort to stress to keep myself alert.

This is a common strategy throughout our culture. I’m not alone. But for someone with TBI, it can be a killer. It screws up our thinking process, and it makes it harder for us to function, even though we feel like we have all our ducks in a row. Too much fight-flight blocks your ability to learn, and that learning is the keystone of a solid recovery.

We have to retrain our brains to do many things — sometimes even the simplest of things. Learning is key for us. If we can’t learn, we’re screwed.

So, where does the energy come from? I’ve felt for a long time that we have massive stores of energy within us, waiting to be released. We just don’t always know how to release them. The trick is, figuring out how to release them. Figuring out how to access them.

One way to access the energy is through adversity — facing down situations that are tough and threatening, and rising to the occasion. And then really celebrating, when we come through to the other side in one piece.

My hands are getting tired, so I’m going to leave off now, but that’s just something to think about.