You see, I did leave my therapist — back in 2009

firecracker
Discussions can get fiery…

An interesting thing happened yesterday. I was going through some old posts that I had un-published for some reason, and I decided to re-post them. One was from 2009, where I was debating whether to fire the therapist I was seeing. That was almost exactly six years ago, today, and long story short, I did fire them. After I figured everything out.

With me, a lot of the stuff people say doesn’t sink in right away, so I have to take some time to figure it out. I have to ask questions — and I have to ask them the right way, so I don’t sound like an idiot. Truly, there are things that block me, that keep me from understanding what’s going on, and unless I can ask questions, I get lost.

That’s probably the issue with emails, lately. I don’t talk to real people enough, and I don’t get what they’re saying in writing. How ironic, that I need to talk to people.  Writing has been my preferred mode, for as long as I can remember. But the practice at having discussions with people has really paid off — and I’m a heckuvalot more functional at getting information and processing it now, than I was, at the time I wrote that post about my therapist.

I guess everybody’s like that, to some extent — we need to bounce ideas off others, get their opinions, see what they have to say, before we make up our minds about things. It’s not a TBI thing. It’s a human thing. For some reason, my brain tells me that I’m stupid and dull and not getting things. Then again, it’s not just my brain — it’s most people I’ve ever talked to about things I didn’t get, throughout the course of my childhood and youth. People just couldn’t fathom why I was so dense about some things, why I would miss details, why I would struggle with decisions that seemed so straightforward to them. And even when people helped me without questioning me, I had a hell of a time understanding their facial and vocal expressions, and interpreting how they really felt about me. It was safer to assume the worst, because I’d assumed the best about people so many times, and I’d been wrong.

If people tell you you’re an idiot (in so many words) — or you think they believe you’re an idiot — even if you logically know you’re not stupid, it starts to take a toll.

And you shut down. Which is what I did. I just couldn’t take all the frustration of trying to talk to people, trying to express myself, trying to make myself clear.

Truth be told, I still feel that way. I am definitely making progress with extracting needed information from others, but I’m still not  great at communicating in words. There’s too much going on, that can’t be translated verbally — it’s a whole world of sensation going on in my experience, that doesn’t lend itself to words.

And I’m sick of trying — and failing — to get my meanings across.

So, I’ll look to my writing to help me put things in order. It helps with my thought process, and it’s a huge help for my head. I feel much less alone, when I’m writing things down. Talking… that’s a very different thing.

Which is ironic, because I need to start looking around for another neuropsychologist. I know my current one is not leaving till March/April, but it takes time to find a replacement, and I need the time buffer to pick carefully. I’ve been ’round the barn with a handful of different therapists, all of whom eventually annoyed the living sh*t out of me — including the last one, who (I now realize) is just an a**hole with a license to do social work.

Caveat: I’m going to rant a little bit here about the last official therapist I had — cover your ears /scroll ahead if you don’t want to hear it…

Okay, so I was seeing this therapist, in addition to my neuropsych, to handle caregiver concerns about my spouse. The whole point was for me to get support so I can be a better caregiver, and also take care of myself. And that was my expressed intention, going it. But oh no… the therapist couldn’t just work with me on that — they had to spin my marriage into some sort of competition between my spouse’s needs and my needs, and they were actually gleeful, when they asked if my spouse noticed my behavior had changed to be less helpful, less sympathetic, since I started seeing this new therapist. The therapist was constantly talking about how my  needs were their concern, vs. my spouse’s — as though the two of us were competing parties vying to get our needs met from limited resources, and both of us couldn’t be served at the same time. They treated my marriage like a zero-sum game, where only one person could win, and my spouse was just taking advantage of me. They COMPLETELY disregarded the fact of my spouse’s neurological issues — the strokes, the diabetes, the panic/anxiety issues — and they treated them like they were a manipulative sociopath. When I told them about how my spouse would get upset over things, that therapist actually smiled and was pleased. Fuck Them. Fuck them and their self-centered, divisive bullshit. You go up against my marriage, and you go up against me. So, fuck you very much, you miserable, hard-hearted, shriveled-soul idiot.

Okay, enough. Obviously, I’m none too pleased with that therapist, and I’ve had a number of other experiences that have been similar. Everybody seems to take an over-simplified approach, where my spouse is either more disabled than they are (and getting worse, because after all, they are getting on in years and they do have their own set of issues), or they are not disabled, they’re just a manipulative narcissistic sociopath.

Granted, a lot of my spouse’s behavior could qualify as the latter, but they have neurological issues. And they’re not like that ALL the time. I need help managing myself and my relationship with them, and I need someone to understand that I actually do have some issues that I need to address.

And the approach that my current neuropsych takes — I have some issues, but I really blow them out of proportion because my thinking process is screwed up — that’s getting old.

Well, this post is turning into a longer one than I planned. It’s time to take a break. Give myself a breather. And chill out. I need to stay positive and pro-active, not get sucked into negativity from external circumstances. I’ve been sick. My resistance is down — and that includes my mental resistance to negativity. Best thing I can do, is look to the good lessons I’ve learned and focus on them.

Bad stuff happens all the time. But good stuff does, too.

And that’s where I need to put my attention. Hopefully, I’ll find someone to work with who feels the same way.

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.

Not dancing around it, anymore

Well, the job interview I was supposed to have today didn’t pan out. The company went with someone who was asking for less money and had more specific skills, even though they probably had less overall experience than I. Oh, well. Back to square one, I guess.

I’m getting a bit downtrodden about the job search thing. I have put myself out there in the market, but I haven’t gotten the kinds of responses I need — and what’s more, I feel like I’d have to really “shoehorn” myself into some of the positions to make them work. I am not finding the kinds of direct hits, I’d been hoping for.

Well, the economy is challenging, so that’s to be expected. At least I have a good job already. It’s stable and it gives me predictability so I can build up my skills — which I’m doing right now. The more people I talk to, the more inquiries I get for specific skills that I sorta kinda have, and that I can get up to speed with on my own time. It’s abundantly clear, what I need to do with my free time. Now I just need to do it, instead of dancing around it and trying to figure out something new and different to do with my life.

I’ve been shying away from technical work, because I’m not up to speed with a lot of new technologies. But that can change with time. The thing that’s stopped me, has been my trouble with reading and understanding and retaining information. I also run out of steam and get discouraged, because this is much harder than it used to be. It’s a combination of things — age and TBI and being out of the technical market for a few years.

Also, the last time I was in a highly technical job, I was really struggling and faking my way through a lot of what I did, and I just couldn’t do it, anymore. But now I have reason to think I’m going to do better than I did before.

One of the huge benefits of seeing all my old friends and family this past weekend, was realizing how well I’m doing — and how much better I’m doing than I was before. I literally did not recognize some of the folks, the last time I saw them. I had grown up with them, but seven years ago, just a couple of years after my TBI in 2004, I had no idea who they were. Their faces didn’t look familiar, and they had to introduce themselves to me.

That was pretty embarrassing, and it left a mark on my spirit. It was just one more thing that held me down.

But this past weekend, when I saw them again, I could recognize them up front and I knew exactly who they were. I was amazed at the difference — I actually recognized them. What a relief.

And if I can remember them, and my brain is working so much better than it was before, then I can certainly get back in the swing of things with working on my technical skills and making some progress there.

Surely.

The incentive is pretty big – all the jobs I keep getting contacted about, which are in my desired rate range, are technical ones for skills that I can — and should — have in my portfolio. And these are things I can learn myself. I’ve been doing this type of work for close to 20 years, so why the heck am I holding back on learning these things?

Here’s why —

  1. I have sorely struggled with things that I used to know how to do, which now give me trouble — things like reading and remembering. It’s demoralizing and exhausting.
  2. Fatigue knocks the stuffing out of me on a regular basis, so I can’t even begin to sit down to work on things I need to work on, after the day is done.
  3. I get started on one thing, then I get distracted and I end up doing something completely different.
  4. I lose track of time and forget what I’m doing, and that keeps me from moving forward.
  5. I had it in my head that the old way of making a living was cut off – I had to find a new and “better” way to do things. The only problem is, those new ways don’t pay as well as the old things, and that’s demoralizing, in itself.

So, all these are excellent reasons for my not moving ahead, but they’re no excuse. I know what the problems are, and I know how to address them. I’ve been meaning to… but I’ve been scattered and at cross-purposes with what I want to do with myself. Now I can do something about that, and just settle down and work on what I need to work on. Sharpen my skills. Showcase my talents. And get that job I have been wanting to get.

The other thing I’ve been dancing around, is the commute thing. If I’m willing to take the train to a nearby city, I can make a lot more money. And I’ll be in a city, which is energizing. But the monthly commuting costs — over and above everything else — will be close to $400/month, which means I need to make A LOT more money. That ups the ante, with the type of work I can/should do. It means I can’t settle for a lower-paying job. I need to go for the best I can get.

And I need to just apply myself wherever I can. Not spread myself too thin. Take things one at a time and do them in order. I have easy access to books and instruction materials and a computer, so there is nothing to prevent me from just settling in to do this work. And come out on top.

The only thing stopping me, is me. And that’s enough of that.

Onward.

 

Own drummer, own thing, own mind, own results

Here’s an interesting revelation that’s come to me slowly but surely, over the past several years of learning to talk to people and learning how to pay attention and understand what the hell is going on around me — lots of people are completely full of sh*t, and they actually have no idea what they are doing… they just put on a good show and hope that everybody buys their “personal branding”.

That’s it in a nutshell. And it’s taken me close to 50 years to figure this out — largely because between my hearing issues and my short term memory failings (I lose most of what I’ve heard within a minute’s time, unless I actively listen and feed back what I’m hearing at regular intervals). I mean, for most of my life, I either wasn’t hearing what others were saying properly, or I was promptly forgetting what they were saying to me… all the while faking my way through life, hoping nobody would notice that I was completely out of it and clueless about what was going on around me.

Then I realized that I was having huge problems that were TBI-related.

Then I got some help with learning to listen and talk and discuss and process information.

Then I started to pick up on what is going on around me.

And now I realize that all the people whose opinions I have been so concerned about, actually don’t count for a whole lot, because they are huge poseurs who aren’t really on top of their game, no matter how they may pretend they are. All those opinions from people who aren’t actually real, to begin with, don’t count for sh*t.

Not anymore.

A whole lot of people in my life are driven by insecurity and jealousy and emotions they don’t even realize they have, and rather than do something about themselves and their own condition, they’d rather tear down others. How pointless is that? Pretty pointless. They could be spending their time taking care of their own business and making their own performance and lives better, but they would much rather spend the time tearing everyone else down.

What.ever.

That’s my big revelation, which I have been aware of for a long time, but now it is really real, and now it feels real, and now I can confidently go about my own affairs, secure in the belief that I actually know better than others, what is best for myself and my own situation, and others’ opinions are not necessarily better, just because they say them forcefully.

One of the things that really brought this home to me, has been a project I’ve been working on, where I believed I needed to hire outside “pros” to do a certain job for me. As it turns out, some of the “trained professionals” who I was looking to, produced worse work than I would do myself. Total waste of time and a real disappointment. Lousy results. I’ve been talking to a lot of “pros” lately, trying to solve some pretty complex issues. But at every turn, it seems that I’m ahead of the game, and they are playing catch-up with me. I have had a number of in-depth conversations with people who have much more experience than me in certain domains, but I’m way ahead of them, in terms of strategic thinking and tactical approaches.

How ’bout that… Who woulda guessed it? I mean, seriously – I was really expecting much more from these folks. They present themselves so well on paper, and they have all the proper accoutrements to make a good impression, but when it comes time to thinking creatively and doing the work, they’re lagging far behind me. It’s crazy. These people get paid to do these things for a living, and I the amateur am actually more proficient at it than they.

If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re guessing that maybe I could go into those lines of business and clean up. Could be… But it actually makes more sense for me to do all these things for myself and save myself the professional services fees. I can literally save thousands of dollars this way, and that’s not a bad thing. I can also make sure things are done exactly the way I want them to be done, which is critical. I have spent so much time trying to explain really basic things to people, it would have been faster and cheaper for me to do it all myself. Getting the right results has been a huge challenge. But if I do it myself, I know exactly what I’m getting.

So there we have it — bottom line is, I should do a lot of things myself and not hire others. If I need to get into massive amounts of work, then I’ll consider looking to others, but they have to be extremely good at what they do. They have to be better than me. For the time being, it makes more sense for me to do things by myself. More control, more influence, less cost, more fun. More results. More satisfaction.

Enough talk. Let’s get to work. Onward.

TBI Issue #5 – Trouble understanding

What’s going on out there? What’s going on in here?

So, I had a pretty good Thanksgiving. It was good to be with everyone, but I also burned through my money on gas and incidentals. It was cheaper than flying, but it’s still expensive to drive all that way.

Anyway, now I’m back and I get to resume my regular routine. I can get back to my daily work and start eating the foods I prefer to eat, at the times I prefer to eat them. I can get back to my usual “grind” which isn’t a grind at all – it’s quite pleasant, actually. I have refined it and honed it, to where I am pretty productive everyday, but at the same time, I also have room to move and breathe and make plans and preparations for what’s next in my life.

I have been thinking a lot, lately, about the issues I have understanding others. I have especially been thinking about the time, back around 1988, when I was in a car accident, got hit on the driver’s side of the car, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t understand what people were saying to me. It was especially difficult with people who had non-American accents – when they were talking to me, it sounded like they kept “clipping out” — like an old movie that has a choppy frame rate. In and out, in and out, getting only small pieces of what they were saying.

It was a big problem especially because they were my boss, and I could not understand what they were saying at all. So, I quit. It was a temp job, anyway, but to quit work… that’s something that was very unlike me.

That’s one kind of trouble understanding – just not being able to hear.

The other kind of trouble understanding (as I think about it) is needing enough time to catch up with what someone is saying to you. That’s what I’ve got going on now.

I often have to ask people to repeat what they said, because I need a minute to switch gears and catch up with them. I’m not stupid. My brain just processes information a bit differently, and that takes a little more time. I’ve tried to speed things up, but it doesn’t always work. It’s especially bad, if I’m in an “open environment” at work, where there are so many, many distractions. That is truly maddening with all the visual and auditory stimuli crowding me, and it makes it really hard for me to understand what people say to me right away. I usually have to ask people to repeat themselves.

I used to never do this. And it was a huge problem for me. In fact, not being able to hear — and never asking others to repeat what they said — had me blocked into a dark corner, where I was pretty much guessing all the time at what people were saying to me and what we were talking about. I have to admit, I’ve gone back to a bit of that — faking my way through. But this time, I’m aware of how spotty my working memory is, and I’m aware of what a hard time I have understanding people the first time they say something to me, so I really work at making up for the lapses. I take steps to actually “get” what others are saying to me.

There are several factors that come into play with me:

  1. Not being able to make out sounds, the first time I hear them.  I actually can’t hear the sounds if I’m not listening closely — it sounds like a garbled jumble of noise, and I have to really attend closely to get what others are saying.
  2. Being subject to tremendous distraction in the environment I’m in. Especially at work, where everything is open and countless sights and sounds are competing for attention. Having visual distractions actually makes hearing harder, because it distracts me from what I’m listening to. It’s really hellish, and as much as I’d like to make the best of my current situation, there is no way. No way in hell. In the spring, I have got to go, if they don’t reconfigure the environment.
  3. Slower processing speed, thanks to multiple concussions/TBIs. It’s bad enough when you can’t make out sounds, and when you have to deal with heightened distractability. But when your processing speed is slower than you’d like… triple-whammy. Everything slows down – it’s just crazy. And it’s exhausting, because I have to work so hard at processing everything. I sometimes feel like people avoid dealing with me, too, because I have to slow them down and our conversations can be so plodding. What fun is that? Not much for them, and certainly not for me.

Small wonder I’ve gone back to faking my way through a lot of conversations. It’s just so laborious at times, and I feel like such an idiot, not being able to “get” things right away. I can fake it through many situations, but eventually people tend to figure out that I’m fudging my way through, and then things start to come down around me.

Small wonder, I do so well with computers and prefer them and their company to real-live people who have no knowledge or compassion about my situation. A computer won’t yell at me and force me to “keep up”. It just says “yes” or “no” and always gives me another chance.

Others try to reassure me that I’m doing fine, that I am not impaired but they cannot see or feel how slow it is for me, and how hard I have to work at things. I try to explain to my neuropsych, but they cannot imagine what it’s like because we always meet under ideal conditions — in a quiet office without any distractions or pressure, and no terrible consequences for screwing up. I would venture to say that I am a very different person in my NP appointments, than I am in the outside world. I just wish I could communicate that to them.

Well, anyway, my work day is about to begin. I am working from home this morning — have a few conference calls I need to make, which requires a lot of listening and understanding. The thing that works in my favor is that I’m talking to folks outside the USA, and we ALL have trouble being understood. In a way, my difficulties make me easier to work with, in that respect, and I can offer my colleagues a lot of leeway they don’t get with my other American colleagues, because most people don’t understand what it’s like to have trouble understanding what others are saying to you.

But I understand. Very well, in fact.

So, now it’s time to go and put that knowledge to use.