Archives for the month of: August, 2017

I woke with a headache and a snarl, and I also woke rather slowly and with great effort. I slept poorly, both restless and wakeful, I didn’t get the rest I need. It is a new day.

My pounding head reminds me that although there are no loose bits rattling around inside, this fragile eggshell is cracked. I smirk at myself, aware that some of my tendencies – things like linguistic complexity where none is required, “being deep” in casual conversations, the peculiar awareness of and communication via living metaphors, the likelihood that I will take something sarcastic at face value, the difficulty ending a conversation, oh, just a whole bunch of things, really… “quirks”, eccentricities, moments of weird – are complex outcomes of a brain injury, of PTSD, of surviving some nasty shit by learning to cope with it. I can say I’m “broken” with something like a comfortable feeling of familiarity. I used to let it define me… differently.

For awhile I fought it. I refused to define myself in terms of the chaos and damage. I refused to “be” broken. Other times, I wallowed in it. Yielded to the damage. Gave in to the chaos. Gave up on changing anything.

Time passes. Change is.

This morning I woke up snarling at myself. Frustrated by the headache. Annoyed by feeling so groggy. Eager to get to the coffee…

I am unsure whether it is the caffeine, the comfort of the hot mug, or the slow familiar waking ritual of making it, then drinking it, that serves so well to put the day on track. It does though. It does put the day on track, generally. This moment of warmth – literal and metaphorical warmth – enjoyed alone each morning, a moment to “get my head right”, and get past the headache, or the arthritis stiffness, or the stuffy nose, or the lingering recollection of a bad dream, or… well, whatever the waking moments of consciousness throw at me. I’ve got that cup of coffee to help me turn things around. Does it actually matter to me what the mechanism of action actually is? Not in the slightest.

Be broken, if it helps. Grieve if you are hurting. It’s not especially helpful to squash down all the feelings with a lot of “shouldn’t” and “don’t” and extra helpings of criticism taken from the words of others, and reformed in your own words and returned to your narrative as your own thoughts. No one needs guilt or shame on top of the things that already suck so much – and those things don’t only weigh us down and hold us back from going on with things, they also tend to stop us embracing what is authentically good about who we are – chaos and damage and all. Some of this broken shit frustrates me, daily. Some of this broken shit is part of who I am.

“Broken” 14″ x 18″ acrylic and mixed media with glow.

Some of my most cherished individual qualities are very likely specific to my brain injury – or my PTSD. Some are things I like most about myself, others are things that other people have indicated they really appreciate about me. I’ve no intention of “fixing” those things. Don’t want to. Don’t need to. What if fixing the rest would also, by necessity, fix those things as well…? This thought is one underlying my focus on “being the woman I most want to be” rather than focusing on “fixing all the things wrong with me”; some of the things I may think are “wrong with me” in one moment, or from one perspective, may actually be very “right with me”, after all. πŸ™‚

I’m rambling. Sipping my coffee. Grateful to have taken the time to really wake up before going on to other things. I take time to appreciate the value in waking up early enough to let myself really become my best self before I go on with my day. I pause to wonder how I got through so many years of launching myself from bed first thing, and immediately dressing and getting out the door quickly; it seemed efficient at the time. It was a grueling and fairly punishing routine, in practice, and I often treated people who are unfortunate enough to interact with me very early in the morning fairly badly, especially in that first hour after waking. I’m not suggesting that getting up at 4:30 am to depart for work at 7 am would be “the right choice” for everyone, there are other needs, and other ways. This just works for me. By 6 am, I am feeling mostly human. Awake. Aware. More able to respond, and less likely to react. The headache has dissipated. It feels like a lovely morning.

It feels like I can begin again. πŸ™‚

…Or is it a tickle? I’m not sure, and really, does it matter? (Okay, okay, I won’t be flippant; it would matter were this medical, rather than metaphorical. πŸ˜‰ )

The soft fine nearly invisible hair that surely must grow on my shoulder (cuz the tattoo artist made some point of running a razor over it) is starting to grow back. It itches ever so slightly, ever so temptingly. As soon as my fingertips touch the tender skin, I jerk my hand back as if I’d touched a hot stove; I don’t want to scratch it, and risk damaging either skin or artwork. I know the sensation will pass. It’s good practice to resist the potential comfort and satisfaction of mindless scratching. I like this new art too much to do that, so I commit to awareness with real ferocity.

Most likely unrelated, the mental or emotional “itch” of restlessness and discontent – something like a strong craving for, say, french fries… only not at all about food. I want. I hunger. I yearn. I’ve no idea what it is (yes, I do), though, although it feels vaguely urgent (it’s not vague at all), and just out of reach (oh, I could reach it… ahem… but that’s not what satisfies, is it? lol)… as if… if I just could name it, I could have it. But… what is “it”?

…I’m pretty sure I know… lol. I totally know. Β I’m a fairly simple creature in some respects. More than likely this is either frustrated artistic inspiration (not quite moved in enough yet to break out the paints, honestly, and no it isn’t), or… something… else. Still quite human. πŸ˜‰

Lust

Ah but there actually is more to life than that particularly excitingly deliciously fun bit that occupies far too much of my attention; it took me awhile to catch on. Still, if it’s a physical sort of urge, I do find physical sorts of solutions to be most helpful. I get home from an early shift at work, and before I sit down to write, I take care of the woman in the mirror. Yoga. A lovely cup of tea in the garden. A shower. Dinner. Great music. I don’t try to bullshit myself that any of that can in anyway really meet the specific need, but it’s lovely time, well-spent and pleasant, and for now that’s enough. It has to be; at least for now, I’ve only got one partner. lol It may be awhile before I see him, although I do have plans to head down his way soon… it doesn’t feel soon enough.

The music continues. The stereo is hooked up, and I dance through some evening chores and tidying up, singing along with favorites, feeling energized by what I can’t have in this moment, instead of feeling beat down by my frustration. Lovely bit of progress, that. It’s enough. πŸ™‚

We’ve all got something, right? Something broken, something that doesn’t work the way “everyone else” manages the thing? Some quirk or bit of eccentricity? What the hell is “normal”, anyway?

I sat with the results of yesterday’s handiwork more than a little frustrated to be so thoroughly stalled by “a hole in my thinking”. It happens. I just couldn’t actually make knowledge and action cooperate in the necessary way. The stereo and TV are hooking up now, the connection to the digital world is established. The sub-woofer – trust me, necessary with the music I favor – is not yet hooked up. I couldn’t quite get it done. Another day perhaps, or with help from my Traveling Partner – if he ever does make it over to see the new place before I eventually, some day, move out. (The lingering mild bleakness is simply that shred of personal frustration that I need help with something I know how to do, because knowing how is not itself enough to get past my injury every time.)

There have been moves which resulted in quite a lot more disruption over hooking up the stereo. This time? No tears. No panic. No anxiety – just that last moment, there at the end of the day, when my brain just completely failed me, sitting there staring at the back of the amp, the back of the sub-woofer, cables carefully laid out… and I couldn’t make sense of any of it. I had marked all the other cables so it was more a color matching game than anything else, just to keep things fairly efficient. For some reason, perhaps feeling rushed, I didn’t mark the sub-woofer or tag the cables when I readied them for the move – and I didΒ do something I make a specific practice of not doing these days… I had unplugged both ends of all the cables associated with the sub-woofer. Oops. Shit.

I’ll tackle the sub-woofer again next weekend, early in the day. I often find my injury is a bigger deal cognitively when I am fatigued, so my next step is try again, in the morning, a couple hours into the day. No point being stressed out about it; I live with this. πŸ™‚

I bitched about the moment on Facebook, and a friend commiserated in a healthy way. I felt less alone with my issues and grateful to be a social creature. I sip my coffee and smile. Learning to be kind and to be compassionate, myself, has definitely paid off in more good relationships that are mutually nurturing and supportive.

My sleep is wreckage this weekend. No idea why. I’ve managed to sleep in both yesterday and today – but it’s merely been the consequence of prolonged wakefulness during the night, and needing to get more sleep after being wakeful. My nights are currently like two longish naps. lol I feel pretty well-rested though.

I’ve ended up with this nagging sensation that there is “a great deal to sort out”, but when I attempt to turn my attention to it, there’s nothing there, really. It’s strange. I end up feeling highly distracted, this morning. It’s reason enough to begin again. Breakfast? Coffee on the deck? I think so. πŸ™‚ It’s a good day to take care of the woman in the mirror.

I’m not sure what the hell happened… it’s a tattoo. Just a tattoo. Sure, emblematic of my political thinking. Possibly a bit more “meta” than that – even quintessentially “me” in some way I can’t quite describe with ease. I painted it more than a decade ago. It was intended to be the “other” piece – the left shoulder and the right shoulder – my softer side on the right shoulder, my harder side on the left… how I got where I am, versus why I made the journey, perhaps. Layers of meaning speaking volumes about the fundamentals of the woman I am.

Today is weird. I got the tattoo yesterday. I’m still enjoying an exceptional “whole body” experience of pain relief since then, which is quite wonderful, and rather unexpected…but… What the ever-loving-fuck is going on with my headspace??. I feel… cracked open… and somehow more complete. I feel… more myself for having the new tattoo there. But… I also feel less reserved, less restrained, less well-controlled… ah, but perhaps that makes sense; it’s an emblem of anarchy. A personal statement of who I am – a statement I have not made so boldly, firmly, or publicly, before. Permanent ink. This? This is me. This won’t wash off. It is inarguable. lol

I feel somehow freed. Unchained. I mentioned it to a friend, who suggested it sounded like a great idea for a blog. I don’t think I agree there; I already have so few filters and so little ability to be measured, careful, discreet, subtle, or diplomatic. I don’t really see that I do myself any favors by straight up embracing the disaster that would surely follow abandoning what little I do have. LOL So. No. But I can write about this peculiar morning, this strange moment, these odd conversations I have been having today that seem somehow to suggest that a few people are only now waking up to some of what I’ve been saying all along… and one of them may be… me. How extraordinary.

It is a day to listen deeply to the woman in the mirror, before she surprises me further. Apparently… we need to talk. πŸ™‚

The news? Pretty nearly all bad. The song in my heart? Pretty much, most of the time, all good. The way I get that done? I choose. You can too.

But wait – am I so cruel and clueless as to suggest that people struggling with mental illness can just “choose” to be okay? “Choose” a happier song? “Choose” to get over it? Omg – no. Not really. When we’re sick, we need care. We may need appropriate medicine to treat our illness or injury. We may need a visit with a doctor, or a stay in a hospital. We may be offered a treatment plan to follow… and a different one when that doesn’t quite work out… and another after that… and then… more verbs. Fuck. And results will vary. We each walk our own hard mile. It’s so not as easy as “pick a different song to sing“… except… It’d probably help though, and why would we not, if we can make the effort, choose to do the things that help?

So… I choose. I am, myself, among the “mentally ill”. PTSD is a real thing. My TBI on top of that (or underneath it, as it were) complicates things. I struggle with anxiety. I struggle with emotion, generally. I’m very human. This is a journey in progress. I have hard days. I also choose better practices than I once did. Meditation really works well for me, helping me find that chill space in my own head that prevents me descending into despair on some spiral of tears and rumination. Taking better physical care of this fragile vessel has been of value; I am less likely to quickly exhaust myself due to lack of sleep, or poor nutrition. I have fewer nightmares, and I have learned better “sleep hygiene”. Developing better emotional intelligence has incredibly worthwhile; my relationships are more fulfilling, and less fraught with confrontation, because I am more able to take time to listen deeply, to avoid becoming fused with someone else’s emotional experience, or to be manipulated by their expectations and assumptions. I am more able to avoid coloring my experience with an internal narrative built on my own untested assumptions or implicit expectations. These things have value. All of these improvements required making choices, and changing some behavior and thinking. Turns out that isn’t so hard, in most cases – although it also isn’t as easy as just saying words, either. There’s been quite a lot of practice involved – there always will be. Β I’m even okay with that. Incremental change over time is a real thing; we become what we practice.

It makes sense that choosing our practices in a willful way, understanding of our needs, and who we most want to be, would result in eventually getting to that place.Β It ends up also being very helpful, along the way, not getting overly attached to that vision. Outcomes don’t always look quite the way we planned them out in our heads. πŸ™‚

I have an appointment with my therapist next week. Yep. It’s a journey. I still make choices. I still practice practices. I am still walking my own hard mile. Sometimes I still need help. πŸ™‚ I’m okay with that too.

My “stay-cation” destination.

I sip my coffee and consider the short work shift ahead. Change is a thing. I’m back to Monday through Friday, but I have firm plans for today (at the start of the week, it was my day off), so the weekend begins at 11 am, and is a bit longer than usual. πŸ™‚ I hear sleeping in is nice – I’ll try that sometime. Maybe tomorrow. πŸ˜‰ The weekend unfolds ahead of me rather gently. It feels good to contemplate staying home, doing some more moving in stuff… maybe a walk to the Farmer’s Market (it’s time to start trying to put reals miles on these feet, again)… morning coffee in the garden on the deck… just generally saying “yes” to life.

I’m ready to begin again.