Yeah…this is not about ‘management’ as in ‘leadership’, and it’s not about improving one’s resume for a better paying job with keys to the executive washroom. Nope. It’s another sort of ‘executive’ ‘management’ altogether. The ‘executive functions‘ of the brain manage cognitive processes, such as (and likely not limited to) working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, problem solving, planning, impulse control, and in specific areas like the ‘orbitofrontal cortex’, things like evaluating subjective emotional experiences (and so much more). All very interesting, no doubt, but for me it’s a little more personal, and relevant…my TBI is a frontal lobe injury. The lingering impairments are mostly executive function sorts of things, and as with so many other people, and other TBIs, very interestingly individual – the brain is fancy, and the outcome of any given injury is equally individual. A whole new world of potential to heal and move on opened up when I started learning more about how these injuries work (don’t work?), and why, and how it changes my experience… and in so many moments, the experience of those who make their lives (or work) with me.

It is what it is, at least the piece where I look in the mirror every morning and I am… me. It’s not all bad. It’s better, actually, than it once was. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve grown. I’ve become more skillful at caring for this broken vessel, and at sorting out some of the chaos and damage that lingers.  It is, sometimes, a shit experience and I struggle. Very human.

How about this one for a great practical joke on one human primate by the universe… one of my ‘favorites’… my PTSD causes serious sleep disturbances, nightmares, sometimes insomnia, and diminishes the hours of restful deep sleep I can get; I’m easily awakened by the littlest noises, or novelty, in my nighttime surroundings… (waaaait for it…) and my executive function impairments are much more pronounced – to the point of being quite obvious – if I don’t get good rest, reliably, pretty nearly every night. So… yeah. A night or two of poor sleep, for whatever reason, and I start… declining. My temper is often the first obvious sign that ‘things are not right’ – I become irritable, and easily angered, and feel less positive, generally, when my sleep is of poor quality. Next up, I start struggling with emotional balance, and lose ’emotional regulation’ characteristics in my day-to-day experience most adults don’t even realize they have going on in the background; I feel them most particularly when they slip away unexpectedly.  The more tired I become, the more fatigued over time, the more prone to real tantrums, crying jags, and irrational mood swings I become – and (waaaait for it…) less able to sleep; my brain won’t shut down. When I do find sleep, I sometimes dream that I’m awake in such detail I wake exhausted to the point of tears. Yep. Pretty god damned funny. (Not)

Most of the time, these days, I still manage decently well overall…enough to pass as a grown up most of the time. There’s no real way to share what the subjective experience is like (you sort of have to be there). Every one of the many calming practices I’ve learned matters a great deal. Every choice counts. Every effort is meaningful. Every success – however fleeting, however limited the benefit, however difficult it is to recognize in the moment – every success builds the foundation for successes to come. My hope is that over time, that foundation grows substantial enough to bear the burden of the entirety of the chaos and damage…strong enough to hoist me above the pain, long enough to really see the view from a radically different perspective somehow ‘above it’… I would very much like to keep working at life and love to find that I have transcended what has hurt me most and become that woman – or more – that I might have been without the chaos and damage.

Please don’t tell me that’s wishful thinking. Tonight I couldn’t bear to lose the crutch of some shred of positivity to lean on. I’m tired. I know I am. My brain is buzzing like it’s noon on a sunny summer day; I’m not sleepy…but if I can practice good practices (meditation, and yoga are both very calming), and avoid becoming negative, or caught up in some random moment of weirdness, or a sneak attack by my own brain, I might sleep – or at least rest. Rest is okay. Rest is enough.

Enough is okay with me. Hell, I’m not even having to ‘do it alone’, really; my traveling partner checks in now and again. I welcome the closeness, the touches, the tenderness. The reassurance that love is, helps me find my way in the darkest darkness.

Wrapping this one up on a positive note; perspective matters, too.

Wrapping this one up on a positive note; perspective matters, too.