Archives for posts with tag: headaches

Time to get back to the office. I’m okay with that. My Traveling Partner is pre-occupied with work right now, and when I am at home working, focused on work, the day-to-day communication challenges associated with my brain injury can be a little more obvious, and, I guess, a little more frustrating. Neither of us need that headache right now.

…Having a TBI that affects how I communicate is more than annoying, sometimes, for everyone dealing with it (not just me). It’s doubly hard when so much about “me” makes it super easy to forget, most of the time, that I have some of these issues…then… fuck. There they are. “Issues”. Damn it. I’m not sure which thing is more frustrating… is it that I often ask for clarification because context is not enough to narrow down the meanings of words to just the one thing intended? (So many words have multiple, or nuanced, meanings, and I “hear them all” when people are talking.) Maybe it is that I sometimes “answer the wrong question” (Okay, I do this a lot, and it is super comical until it becomes super aggravating.) – meaning, that, if you ask me a “when” question, I may give you the “why” – and yes, if you humorously reply by asking me the “why” question, indeed, without skipping a beat, you’re likely to get the “when” of it, without me immediately noticing what I’ve done. :-\ I wish it always just stayed funny, though. It’s not like I’m “doing it on purpose”.

…Then there is the seeming “evasion” when asked a question, and I literally just… go blank. Overloaded trying to both understand and answer, usually in circumstances where there is a clear expectation that I will “get it right” because it is “easy” and “should be right there”. I catch up, sure, but by then I’ve somehow communicated a lack of trustworthiness that can seep into even those interactions with people familiar with me for a long time, and aware of my injury. Aggravating for all concerned. Super painful for me to deal with. Way too many opportunities for hurt feelings, all around.

…And how about those opposites? Omg, yeah. I work with numbers – and this particular challenge is painful, and common; I sometimes say the literal opposite of what I am actually thinking (positive vs. negative, yes vs no, even “opposite colors”, and concepts). Like a cruel prank on myself. Fuck that shit. At least this is one I commonly catch, in the moment, myself. It’s just so hard, sometimes. I want to be heard, valued, and accepted, and I want my words to do credit to my thinking. Realistically, I’m not going to get that any more often, or any more easily, than anyone else. Sometimes, it’s just not there for me. Real talk. Sometimes I sound like a complete dumb ass.

My head aches with trying to manage my headaches, on top of staying on top of all the cognitive disarray, get complicated, and although I do okay sitting here at a keyboard… if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ve probably seen it, too. :-\ It’s not getting better as I age, I assure you. In fact, in spite of continued rehabilitative work, specific to improving these sorts of things, I recognize that there are some indications some of this is getting worse, very slowly, over time. Certainly, that last transient ischemic attack (July? 2013? 2014?) was notable, and obvious, in my writing, and I still see it in “wrong endings” of words – a type of “spelling mistake” that isn’t about spelling at all, and cropped up immediately after that TIA, and persists, to a lesser degree, even now. Brain damage? Yeah. Brain damage. It is what it is.

…How long before the frustration of friends and loved ones isolates me completely, relegated to fond memories, and deliberately patient, tolerant, excuses for putting up with me… or… just… not. Just quiet sorrow, and regrets…

I sigh heavily in the quite room, listening to David Bowie, “I’m Afraid of Americans” (but only because it was next on this playlist, although… yeah). Glum thoughts over good coffee. Feeling a bit anxious about life, generally, and about aging, specifically, and what it may mean for my relationships. My brain attacks me immediately, and with real force, “he’s not going to love you forever, not like this, not if you can’t communicate; you’ve already lost your looks, what’s even left now…?” My brain whispers my worst fears and insecurities to me.

“Fuck. For real? Right now? I’ve got work you know.” I silently chastise my personal demons, and have another sip of coffee as the tears slide down my face. “I’m not having it, you vile bitch, just go ahead and head on back to The Nightmare City, I just don’t have time this morning.” I frown into my coffee, annoyed with myself, my insecurities, my vulnerabilities… my humanity.

I switch up my playlist to something lighter, and hope for the best as my tears dry. It’s a place to start…and it’s time to begin again. This morning, that’s got real meaning; it’s an opportunity to acknowledge my fears and insecurities, accept that these are experiences and feelings I need to address in an authentic, honest, and gentle way with myself. I take a couple of deep cleansing breaths, exhaling slowly and evenly after each, until it feels comfortable. I feel myself relax a bit. I make a point to fill my thoughts with recent positive interactions with my Traveling Partner, and the delight of a recent long email from a dear friend, and the recent triumphs and achievements at work… there’s a lot to be grateful for, to be satisfied with, and to enjoy.

I finish my coffee. I start my day.

I woke smiling this morning, although in pain, and feeling light-hearted, balanced, and calm. This would seem almost commonplace, except that last night, at the end of a wonderful evening with my traveling partner, some particular turn of phrase, repeated several times in conversation in relatively quick succession, triggered my PTSD symptoms. My emotions quickly spiraled out of control, and somewhen in the midst of it, I directed my dear love to go, to leave, to walk on…and found myself alone and crying; he respected my boundaries, which sucked then, but this morning it is something I cherish. I can count on him so utterly.

p.s. I love you.

p.s. I love you.

He phoned me after he left, upset and concerned. He pointed out my symptoms (because I am not always aware that I am interacting with some other experience). We talked. ¬†Afterward, I took time to meditate. I calmed and soothed myself – relying on emotional resilience and self-sufficiency that I am building over time through all manner of practices (like meditation). I reflected later on what went down, and how and why. Moments like last night are outstanding for monitoring growth and progress – but they still suck completely and entirely. I emailed him an unreserved heartfelt apology, making no excuses for my behavior (let’s be real here, it’s been much much worse in the past, and that’s not relevant to treating someone I love badly now!), which was uncomfortable for both of us, and unpleasantly emotional. I was already over it such that I could also express gratitude and appreciation for what he was attempting to discuss and help me with, and I had taken time to follow up on our shared concern and the practical relevant details… like a grown up. ūüôā

I made a note for myself to follow up later on developing more effective ways to gently communicate that some particular detail, phrase, approach, or behavior has the potential to trigger me – not in the hope of having it avoided, but because in real life these things come up, and one by one I must move past them, for my own emotional well-being, and as a loving investment in my relationships, and wouldn’t it be nice once in a while to just say ‘Oh hey, could you rephrase that one this time? I’m still working on that and I’ve got some challenges with that verbiage’. It takes time, but I no longer view improving on¬†these things as unachievable; I may have some measure of PTSD for the rest of my life, but there is nothing about that which suggests I can’t continue to improve, to grow, and to become the woman I want most to be.

We've all got some baggage.

We’ve all got some baggage.

When my traveling partner had gone, and I was sifting through my chaos and damage, it was quickly very clear that the entire problematic exchange wasn’t at all about¬†or with¬†him (or us) in any way at all; I could feel my violent first husband standing in the room with me. It was an eye-opening moment to be so able to clearly sense the anachronistic miasma of ancient fear and pain. It was also part of what allowed me to move past the moment – and my symptoms – so quickly last night, once I was alone. I could really feel that it didn’t source in my real experience of the moment in any way at all. I had been triggered – and I don’t mean mainstream press too-pc-for-adulthood-don’t-say-things-I-find-discomfiting- “triggered”*. ¬†I mean no bullshit, I was having a post-traumatic stress¬†flashback. Generally, in the past I have had no way of clearly discerning that such is the case until well afterward. This is growth. I don’t know what to do with it, but it is very promising, anyway. I haven’t had a flash back in a long while (months, and well before I moved into my own place, back in March).

Every moment of growth is as a rainbow in a stormy sky; a promise of better things.

Every moment of growth is as a rainbow in a stormy sky; a promise of better things.

Last night – and a couple of times early in the day – I was having a strange very severe headache in a weird location, that throbbed with a deep dull nauseating ache that pulsed every 10-15 seconds or so. I’ve no idea if it was related, causal, or worth consider a serious concern… except that any headache that is unusual is also of great concern for someone with a TBI and a family history of stroke. This morning I made a point of emailing my physician to make note of the headache, and ask if I should make an appointment. I haven’t felt it yet today, so perhaps it was just a headache.

Today I'm not making this complicated.

Today I’m not making this complicated.

I am okay right now. Love is okay right now. Human beings persist in being human, and life offers opportunities to learn, to fail, to grow, and to connect our hearts through what is difficult more often than through what is easy. It’s worth becoming skilled at managing my worst moments more¬†skillfully; I can count on most of the best moments to take care of themselves.

It helps to have the right tool for the job.

It helps to have the right tool for the job…

Today is a good day to practice good practices. Today is a good day to take care of me – and to take care of love. Today is a good day for listening deeply, and connecting honestly. Today is a good day for authenticity and vulnerability. Today is a good day to say thank you, when love shoulders the heavy load my post-traumatic stress carries every day. Today is a good day to walk on, and enjoy blue skies. I am okay right now. ūüôā

...and perhaps a change of perspective.

…and perhaps a change of perspective.

It's a journey. Each step I take is my own.

It’s a journey. Each step I take is my own.

*Just an afterthought…Can I just say that I find it damned inconvenient that people have undermined the value and meaning of the word ‘triggered‘ by diluting it for their everyday over-sensitivity or bad-tempered moments? For someone with post-traumatic stress the experience of having symptoms triggered is not a mildly uncomfortable moment, or inconvenience – it’s a pretty big deal, associated with brain chemistry, volatility, mood, physical experiences, and isn’t something that can be easily turned away from or ‘managed’. By mis-using the word to cover feeling uncomfortable to read the ‘fuck’ in a news article, or because a moment of provocation caused a bit of temper, people who really need to express an experience are robbed the language to do so. Knock it off – go find your own words. Seriously. There’s a big difference between being a bad-tempered over-sensitive little bitch, and being having one’s post-traumatic stress triggered – trust me, I’ve had both experiences, and I’m pretty clear on the difference. ūüôā

I woke with a nasty headache this morning. It rises from locked up muscles alongside my arthritic vertebrae, like parallel columns of pain, becoming one just at the base of my neck and feeling rather ‘braided’ with tension up my neck, cradling my skull with an embrace of even more pain that wraps the lower back portion of my head. It is not acute nor pulsating, it is a more dull steady presence with more than necessary intensity. I have this headache relatively often. Generally, expressed in words, it sounds like this “I have a headache”. Other headaches sound more like this “I have a headache”. It isn’t possible to tell from words how severe someone else’s pain is. Pain doesn’t show much; by the time pain can be easily seen on my¬†face, I am¬†in so much more pain than can be easily managed that it’s not likely sympathy can do much more than offer a few kind words. I cherish the kindness.

Much¬†of the time, because pain is not easily visible, my experience is one of being haplessly mistreated by well-meaning people, even people who know me well, and profess deep affection for me; they don’t know I am in pain, moment to moment. Simple requests sometimes sound quite ludicrous to me… “Can you just go ahead and…”. I have not yet learned to say “No, actually, I can’t ‘just’… I’m in too much pain to do that.” The amount of pain I am in this morning is well beyond the day-to-day pain I know so well. It’s hard to consider other things and look past the pain…and when I succeed in turning my attention elsewhere, I quickly find that whatever I am thinking over becomes tainted by the pain; my negative bias increases, I feel discontent, angry, frustrated, emotional, resentful… and it so easily changes from an experience of physical pain, to an experience of emotional pain. The result is often that I find myself blaming some circumstance for my feelings. My subjective emotional experience becomes the focus of my attention, distracting me from the pain but leading me down a rabbit hole of mis-information, negativity, doubt, insecurity, and fearful speculation not tied to my actual experience of events. Pain is a mind-altering drug, and it’s¬†always a bad trip.

I woke early today. I woke because of the pain. This headache is that bad. I meditated quietly until the alarm went off; two hours passed pretty quickly. I feel reasonably calm, content, and balanced; I know that the pain has the potential to mess with my mind, and destroy my fragile lovely moment. Mindfulness, self-compassion, kind treatment of this mortal vessel I inhabit, and patient attentiveness to self-care basics will be incredibly important while this headache lingers. I know what to expect when I speak up about the headache, too. “Well, have you…?” and “When I have a headache, I…” or “What have you done for it?” People tend to be pretty well-meaning about headaches. It’s frustrating to wade through the helpful suggestions; I’ve been doing this awhile, and at 52 there’s not much in the way of new stuff to try for this headache. I work on staying calm and focused, and not crying over small bullshit simply because I hurt too much to handle real life well. It’s the best favor I can do the world on a morning like this one.

Choose your adventure. Choose your perspective. Choose your experience.

Choose your adventure. Choose your perspective. Choose your experience.

Oddly, this isn’t really a post about pain; it’s about the very subjective nature of perspective. Pain is a metaphor, but I’m finding it challenging to move on from the pain itself, this morning. Tedious.

I recently read some writing an associate did regarding a shared experience. The subjective nature of perspective being what it is, I reacted to the words before I remember to take a few breaths and approach the words mindfully and aware that the unique perspective presented has nothing whatever to do with my experience of those same events. It took some time to move past my initial reaction of irritation at the ‘obvious’ dishonesty, the ‘irresponsible minimization’, and [to me] clear use of the opportunity for image management; my perspective is also subjective. I managed to set that baggage down pretty easily, and reconsider the words as nothing more than personal narrative, subjective and likely well-intended, without judging the words as ‘truthful’ or ‘honest’. Regardless of any of that, they are the words this associate chose to describe the experiences we shared. While it does say something about my associate’s experience – and my associate – those words have nothing to do with my experience, at all. If¬†I react, buy in, become angry and express my anger with demands that my associate change their perspective of¬†the shared experience we had, I give up my own experience to own theirs as the valid reflection of events. It was a pretty joyful moment when that¬†hit me; all I have to do to enjoy my experience from my own perspective when someone else’s perspective causes me discomfort, alarm, distress, or anger, is to go ahead and continue to have my own experience, from my own perspective! I validate my own experience fully by simply having it. Wow. Simple and powerful.

Every one of us has our own perspective. Being able to comfortably listen and hear another person’s perspective improves my ability to be compassionate, to be kind, to be wise… and it also eases me into a lovely place with myself, too; more able to treat myself well, by honoring my own experience as real and true, and mine. It isn’t about who is ‘right’ – ‘right’ doesn’t enter into my¬†subjective perspective of my own experience – nor does it feature heavily in yours. Arguing about a subjective perception of events isn’t helpful – because we choose our experience, and have no obligation to choose what someone else has chosen. Facts are facts – and I have learned caution, even there; very little of what we share with each other has anything at all to do with ‘facts’. Thoughts are not facts. Emotions are not facts. Values are not facts. Narratives of experiences are not facts. Memories are not facts. Each of those things are entirely subjective, and mostly pretty made up. We are attached to our own, sometimes to the point of being completely irrational about holding on to the ‘rightness’ of them without regard to the pain we cause others.

One beautiful moment, so many ways to enjoy it.

One beautiful moment, so many ways to enjoy it.

Today is a lovely morning, from my perspective, in spite of pain. Today is a good day to live my experience awake, aware, and mindfully. Today is a good day to show the world kindness – because I can, and it’s simply a better way to enjoy my experience. Today is a good day to brush off the things that distract me from love, with an understanding smile; we are each so very human. Today is a good day to be the change.

Yesterday was cold – winter-cold, as in to say ‘it’s winter’. Yep. It’s generally the time of year for winter holidays in the northern hemisphere. I went to work bundled up in weather appropriate garb, and still felt stiff and cold by the time I got to the office. By the end of the day, I was in a nearly unmanageable amount of pain, and chose to bring my evening to an early close after a hot shower. I didn’t get to sleep any earlier, really, but I also didn’t treat anyone poorly. This morning I wake, stiff and hurting. Winter often brings more pain, and I find myself aware that my own awareness of that isn’t helping…I set that thought aside and reach for another, and my coffee.

On my way in to the office yesterday, I explored the recent significant increase in my anxiety level (work related), and used a variety of new tools and skills to take a look at more closely than I have. I used perspective to give myself an improved sense of scale and recognized it isn’t actually as severe as it once was. I used walking meditation to remain engaged in the moment, and aware of my emotional experience without judgement, and the seeming profundity of the feelings diminished considerably. I used body scan practices to sort out the emotions from the sensations, which tends to change the sense of an emotion from being very significant, to simply being, further alleviating the anxiety. I used cognitive practices I learned using SuperBetter – like a ‘reality check’ – to decrease my tendency to escalate internally based on untested assumptions, and each practice I practiced took me a step further from being anxious. The root cause was clear and obvious as soon as my heart was calm and my thinking was clear; it’s really just work anxiety. Hardly noteworthy; I’m sure everyone has occasional anxiety about work, career, employment…something in that area.

Work anxiety isn’t pleasant, and it does keep me up at night and messes with my sleep…but…what if my messed up sleep is actually causing the anxiety? What if it isn’t ‘real’ at all? Thoughts…emotions…both rather astonishingly lacking in substance…maybe I shouldn’t be so ready to attribute cause and effect, or be haphazard about assigning relative importance? As I walked I allowed myself to consider the extreme…what if ‘the worst’ happened? I startled myself to laugh out loud when I realized I was – even now – holding on to ‘losing my job’ as some¬† pinnacle of misery, some worst case scenario. It isn’t. My employment, what I do for a living, may well be the very least important, significant, or defining quality about me as a human being; its damned near irrelevant…particularly because of the person I am, and the values I hold, and what I hold most dear about myself, and life. Work? It’s a characteristic, and changeable. I’m a human primate; I’m adaptable. The loss of any one job doesn’t have more significance than any other change – unless I allow it to.¬† I felt a bit of vertigo as my values kicked my anxiety in the nuts. The work day was just fine – other than the pain I’m in.

It's all about perspective. What we choose to look at changes what we see.

It’s all about perspective. What we choose to look at changes what we see.

I woke this morning, stiff, and with a headache. The air feels too dry. I’m a bit cross. I do what I can to set clear expectations and boundaries with regard to mornings; it takes about an hour for my medication to be fully effective, for my brain to really come back online, and for my stiff joints to regain some mobility.¬† I take active steps to avoid interacting with people until I can more easily and reliably treat them well. Funny how often – even in the face of that very clear, very specific expectation and boundary setting – some human primate or another will crowd me, or try to have reasoned dialogue about…well, damned near anything. I’m just not ready. My traveling partner knows me well. He too is a human primate, and the recipient of some of my boundary and expectation setting. Tip for other free-range human primates: if you are going to step across that line, arriving with a hot tasty latte is an excellent success strategy. LOL My Americano was tasty, and hot… but there’s nothing ‘creamy’ about an Americano. As it turns out, I find ‘creamy’ an extraordinary delight in the morning. I still hurt. I still have this headache. Now I also have this tasty latte, and a really charming funny guy to hang out with before work!

Today is a good day to take things as they come. Today is a good day to be adaptable, flexible, and to make the best assumptions of others, where assumptions must be made at all. Today is a good day to change the world.

Right now, I hurt. ¬†My head aches. My arthritic spine is screaming to be torn free of it’s moorings and replaced with something¬†Teflon-coated. Did I mention my headache? ¬†I’d like to be as vibrant and poised and positive at 5:30 pm as I am at dawn. Today, I am not. Not even close. Not even a little bit. ¬†I am, however, doing my best with what I’ve got, and still feeling generally pleasant as a human being, and capable of ‘getting the job done’, more or less – whatever that may turn out to be.

My head aches, though. ¬†I might have had more to say. I have things on my mind. I had a wonderful moment of … something profound… night before last, with one of my partners. ¬†A seriously healing moment that was significant. A ‘very big deal‘ sort of moment, actually. I want so much to share it explicitly, graphically, analytically – in detail, with TMI, technicolor, an a triumphant shout to the heavens… but I am tired right now. Right now my needs, and the needs of my loved ones, are different. ¬†I feel disappointed that I don’t have ‘more to offer’ – to myself, or the world.

My head aches.

It didn’t ache this morning, when I enjoyed a coffee and some conversation with one partner, who was up unexpectedly early… but I also wasn’t sure how, or whether, to share my experience of two nights ago. ¬†I may have missed my moment. ¬†It was profound – for me. ¬†Now I am tired, and uncertain of what to share with ‘the world’ and what to withhold for myself… and I feel muddled and confused. ¬†This is the part of most days when I am able to observe the most obvious effects of my TBI in action; when I’m tired, when my head aches, at the end of a day. ¬†Just the fatigue alone is enough to have me sitting on the edge of tears – and not for any reason. ¬†I am simply tired beyond emotional regulation. ¬†It sucks. ¬†“Loss of executive function” doesn’t even begin to describe the experience.

I took a picture on the way to work this morning; it makes the morning seem somehow so very far away from now.

The day from another perspective.

The day from another perspective.

My head aches. The day is nearly over. Tomorrow is something entirely new.