Archives for category: Brain Injury

So far…, so… I’m not perfect. Not even close. If “perfection” were the measure of human success, I would be an abject failure. Just saying, there’s something to appreciate that a. the bar is way lower than that and b. we even get to “set the bar” for most values of “success” in life ourselves and then also score the results. “It’s not that bad.” describes a lot of things. Pro-tip: there’s real value in pausing to reflect on how good it is and how bad it isn’t now and then. The results may surprise you.

“Good enough” has to be good enough, sometimes. 🙂

Are you wondering why I linked that track in paragraph 1? Here it is again with the lyrics. 😉

Last weekend I was ill. Like, dragging myself to the bathroom for multiple episodes of all manner of biological disaster through the night on Friday, and running a bit of a fever all day Saturday after my guts were utterly emptied from both ends. Yick. Horrible. My fever finally broke in the early evening on Saturday. Yesterday I was exhausted (in spite of drifting in and out of a restless sleep most of Saturday), and a bit faint and dizzy feeling. I managed to push a couple loads of laundry through the machines, and even put away most of that, but anything more was honestly beyond me. My Traveling Partner was super helpful and supportive and kind, and the only moment of discord between us was a bit of frustration with me over my relative incompetence in that state that made it super difficult to do the one “thinking task” (and it was a way easy ask) that he called upon me to do late in the afternoon. Thankfully, he saved me from possibly bricking an expensive laptop by being more aware than I was that I had “gone down the wrong path” on that task. My own frustration with the situation resulted comically in being mad enough to “storm off” to take a walk… which amounted to going to check the mail because I did not even have the strength to take a real walk of any distance. Hilarious. Had to come home and fucking behave myself and work on making things right with my partner like a grown-up.

Today feels like “just another work day”, but with a helping of “why did I think I would actually be fully up to this already?”. I didn’t sleep well, either. I had slept so much (I suspect) in the prior days (without drinking much coffee) that I ended up “over slept”, and since yesterday I did have coffee… I couldn’t sleep. Since I didn’t have quite half my usual amount of coffee, I also ended yesterday with a wicked headache (or was still sick…?), and the medication I took for that tends to result in not being able to sleep deeply. The result was a restless night. Funny… I’m okay though. There are things that matter more. Life? Love? Beauty? This quiet contented moment of reflection? The grocery list I don’t want to forget to shop for later. lol

I yawn and rub my eyes. I pause and write my Traveling Partner a love note. I fucking love that guy. I also appreciate him. I take a sip of coffee and a big drink of water and get ready to begin again.

I am sipping my coffee and… yeah, just sitting here quietly, sipping my coffee as the minutes tick by gently. It’s pleasant and easy on my consciousness. Feels nice. I’m not pushing hard in any particular direction. I’m not trying to provoke suitably shareworthy words, or insightful thoughts. I’m just… being. Nice morning for it. I’m not specifically meditating. I’m also not not meditating. I am simply sitting here quietly with my coffee. Well, I was. Now I’m writing about that moment. lol

One of the things I’ve been wrestling with internally, for the last week particularly and also since I destroyed 20 years of pen & ink journals, is the question of “who am I?” or, more particularly, to narrow that grand question down a bit, who am I when I’m alone – the “real me”, the me that is mostly truly me, without the add-ons of external inputs, fears & doubts, insecurity in my relationships or professional role… the real actual me person that I am because this is who I have chosen to become over time. My “me”. How I see myself. As near as I can get to an understanding of this self that I am, and the woman I most want to be… without regard to what anyone else thinks about me – or her. It’s a surprisingly difficult exercise in self-reflection. It “feels important” right now.

…I’ve been through some shit over the course of a lifetime. A lot of it has “changed me”…but now I’m wondering what does that really mean? Changed how? Some of the changes that trauma makes on a human being, in addition to being “lasting” changes, could be described as “involuntary”, and potentially “undesirable” – what does that mean for “who I am” – or who I want to be? What parts of me aren’t “really me” or feels as though they “aren’t mine”? How much of me is me, and how much of me is “chaos and damage” and evidence of lasting trauma? Is that a fair question to ask – and what does the answer even mean? Yeah, I find myself going deep on this one. Not sure why it keeps coming back to me among all the many things upon which I could choose to reflect, but there it is. I want to understand this better.

Why should anyone at all – or any event – have more say over who I am than I do myself?

I think about it awhile longer. I don’t have any answers today. It’s just a Friday morning and a good cup of coffee in a quiet place. Seems a worthy opportunity to reflect on this journey of self.

I glance at the time. This doesn’t end here…but it is time to begin again.

I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about my recent meltdown, and the later realization that it may have been connected in some way to the recent clutter-reducing destruction of many years of paper journals. After so many years of working to improve my emotional wellness and heal whatever I can of my PTSD, it took me by surprise to have such a bad episode so recently. I was completely taken by surprise – and frankly, that’s almost comical; intellectually, I know not to just “tick a box” and call myself “well”. Mental illness doesn’t work like that – it’s more a journey taken over time. A lifetime.

When I began talking it over with my therapist, it became pretty clear that the chaos and damage that surfaced in those painful moments sourced with some of my earliest adult trauma in my first marriage, and I know that that had its foundation in the childhood traumas that are older still. I was (and am still) dealing with the lasting effects of family violence. In the here-and-now, where such traumas are not part of my current experience, I was nonetheless “primed” for panic because the daily news is filled with stories of family violence, family killings, and domestic violence related femicides (I do my best to avoid reading those articles, but the headlines are everywhere).

Firstly, let’s just get this out of the way; don’t kill people you say you love. (This seems obvious…?) Don’t raise your hand in violence outside the explicit requirements of actual fucking warfare. Just… don’t. Violence is ugly, unnecessary, and the outcomes are unpleasant and often quite permanent. If you are an American in the United States, our social contract with each other states – in writing – that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are “inalienable rights”, and this means you are explicitly agreeing that these things are sacrosanct and not to be taken lightly. So… yeah. Don’t fucking kill people. Especially do not kill your fucking family. Jeez… who are we that this has to be said??

So, yeah. Here I am almost 60, and I am still dealing with the traumas inflicted on me as a child, and those inflicted on me as a young adult. We’re talking about horrors of many years ago… more than 30 years ago. Fucking hell. You’d think spending something like 30-40 years in therapy (on and off, and most recently a pretty consistent 10 years or so) would mean… no more chaos and damage. No more panic attacks. No more freak outs. No more tears.

It doesn’t work that way. It’s more like the crumpled paper analogy suggests (used as a lesson for anti-bullying, but quite relevant). The damage is done. The lasting outcomes are… lasting. The lost trust. The peculiar defensiveness. The hyper-vigilance. The thinking errors. Some of it can be corrected and eased over time… with practice. Some of it… maybe it’s always part of who we are as survivors. Scars that tell the tale.

Note: having been hurt doesn’t get us out from under our own obligation to be the best human being we know how to be. Being hurt is not an excuse for inflicting hurts on others. Just saying… adulting is hard.

I’m not sitting here feeling gloomy or tragic. I mean, fuck yes it’s a major bummer, and frustrating as shit… but… there’s hope for further improvement over time. I come back again and again to the tools that work, and to the lessons learned over time. I take a moment to reflect on how much progress has been made, and how much easier things actually are. So many new beginnings. The chaos and damage doesn’t tell the whole story, and living mired in my nightmares is no longer my way. That’s something. My results still vary. I still need practice practicing the practices that shore up my wellness and promote healing. That’s just real. It’s a commitment to healing – and to living well.

The harder part here may be balancing what I know through experience and study with what I achieve through my words and my actions – making the understanding a living experience isn’t an instant win. There are so many verbs involved. Try, fail, try again… repeat. Very human. (Don’t give up, just keep practicing and improve over time.) While I’m not personally to blame for the horrors or violence inflicted on me, I am personally responsible for those that I inflict on others subsequently – whatever the hurts that shaped me.

I sip my coffee enjoying the quiet time to reflect on the powerful impression trauma makes on our entire being, and the way it can shape who we become and color how we see the world around us. Worth a moment or two of self-reflection and I find myself wondering if it is too soon for another trip to the coast to watch the waves pound the beach on a stormy afternoon while thinking about the lasting effect of trauma, and how best to begin again? If not that, well then, it’s another work day, and other beginnings have my attention.

Another day, another new beginning. 🙂 Time to choose my adventure…

My Traveling Partner and I recently watched a video that made some bold claims about the “harms of mindfulness” as a “culture” or as a self-help service available for anyone… at a cost. I rather expected I’d disagree throughout; I’ve gotten a lot out of mindfulness practices. Instead, I found myself nodding along. See, here’s the thing, “mindfulness” practices really don’t need to cost a single cent. Google “mindfulness”, watch some unbranded professional quality “not selling you shit” content, and start practicing – it could be that simple, and that close to being wholly free. It gets expensive when you start adding on self-help “professionals”, new age “gurus”, spiritual “healers”, and their many mindfulness centers, methods, systems, and… fees. What’s so crazy to me is that in general, much of this seems to come out of a genuine interest in making mindfulness practices available for the betterment of people who are suffering. (Scammers will always do what scammers have always done; grab an idea, gloss it up with an emotionally engaging pitch, and start raking in the profits at the expense of many who can’t legitimately afford that.)

Break free of the sales pitch, the expensive retreats, and the costly subscription service. Just be. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. No, it’s not a cure for everything. Hell, it’s maybe not a “cure” for anything at all. Does it feel good? It can. Is it helpful? It may be – it is for me, personally.

Maybe you think you are “doing it wrong” and that’s why it “isn’t working” for you? What do you mean when you say “working for you”? If you think it is going to solve all of your challenges, stop you ever shedding a tear or feeling hurt or knocked down in life, you may want to reconsider what you expect of this simple humble healthy practice. Let it do what it can, and stop right there.

…I’m saying this because I have considered, now and then, the monetary potential in having a successful mindfulness blog…what would that take? What would it look like (for me)? I always come back to the place I started; I don’t have a hunger to make a profit on the suffering of folks who are struggling to find balance or peace. That just seems like a shitty thing to do (to me). I mean, seriously? I’d be writing anyway. I write. I’d be meditating anyway. It has worked for me. The concepts are not new, and aside from the price of a handful of books, they haven’t cost me anything much. Why wouldn’t I share my knowledge (whatever I’ve got) and my words freely? I’ve considered writing a book. If/when I take that step, sure, pay me. LOL Fair.

One thing I didn’t like about the video we watched was the way the content was written to explicitly mock certain concepts or exercises used in one program or another to teach mindfulness practices. I found that unnecessary, misleading, and in poor taste generally. (We live in a world that seems to place value on misleading words in poor taste that are not helpful or necessary… which sucks, but that’s a different bit of writing for another day, I suppose.) I’m thinking specifically about the “eating a raisin” exercise that appears in MSBR coursework and other places.

As for “doing it wrong”…? Are you?

Any comfy cushion will do.

Here’s the thing about the “eating a raisin” exercise (in my opinion) – it isn’t at all about the raisin. Nothing to do with raisins in any way. Choose your fruit. Choose whatever taste or sensation you care to explore more deeply. The exercise itself is about being present, aware, and engaged entirely with that sensory experience. That’s it. You could do it with… oh, say… a cup of coffee. (If you’re a regular reader, is it now dawning on you that perhaps my frequent starting point of observing that “I am sipping my coffee…” may have significance you didn’t previously realize?) Yep. I practice this exercise often – with my coffee – to become more engaged, more “grounded”, more present in my physical reality, more “awake and aware” – because I frankly need the fucking practice. I was irked that the content creator we were watching tear down the simple (and admittedly somewhat silly) “eat a raisin” practice missed the whole fucking point of the exercise.

…I did appreciate that the video was explicitly opposed to financially exploiting the emotional pain of people seeking solutions through mindfulness, though. Don’t spend money on free shit, people. You don’t have to put yourself through that. If you want professional mindfulness coaching and you have the money and are willing to spend it on that? Get a good therapist. Period. Pay for what has legitimate value. Want to take a luxury retreat and practice meditation and mindfulness? Book a comfortable hotel on the coast somewhere, and take yourself there and be mindful. Enjoy. It doesn’t need to cost thousands of dollars, have a “name brand guru” smiling on the brochure, or require a waiting list. lol Seriously. What did you think my “going coastal” adventure days were about? That’s me taking a “meditation retreat” more often than not. 🙂

Sufficiency. Perspective. Mindfulness. Wrapped up in a bow. 😀 Enjoy. Please don’t just give your hard-earned money to charlatans, fake gurus, or slick salespeople. It’s not necessary.

I take one last sip of my ill-chosen coffee. It has gone cold – a fitting fate for a lavender Americano (turns out I do not enjoy the flavor of lavender in my coffee as much as I enjoy the scent of it). I sit with the feeling of a quiet start to an ordinary day for a moment longer.

Now I begin again.

Thinking about a question of perspective, of sorts. I occasionally have experiences where it is clear that the understanding of me held by the person I am interacting with is very much not at all consistent with how I understand myself. I often wonder how that comes to be, and whether it is their misunderstanding (of me) causing the mischief or my own potential lack of awareness of how I present myself: how my behavior is received, and how the words I say are understood. Are they “speaking with a golem” of the woman I actually am that stands somehow between us? Is it me? Am I so thoroughly lacking in understanding of my words and actions in a practical way? Is it both? Neither?

…Am I the woman I understand myself to be, and if so, is that true only when I am alone, or also when I am interacting with others? If I am not she… who the hell am I? A construct of the expectations and assumptions of others? That doesn’t seem quite right to me, so I keep thinking about it…

I think about it during the commute to the office. I think about it over my morning coffee. I think about it while I bite my nails. I think about it as I walk down the hall to a meeting. I think about it in the break room. I think about it at my desk while I work.

I think about this question now and then – and today is definitely one of those times. I think about it without gaining wisdom or coming to some sort of reliable conclusion. I think about it…

…Then I put it aside and begin again.