Archives for posts with tag: TIA

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.

Putting the week on pause for a health challenge (in this case a transient ischemic attack), however briefly, can be a powerful reminder of mortality, and the preciousness of my brief mortal life time. There’s a small hole in my Wednesday, from sometime after 1 pm until sometime around 4 pm, but I remember the head ache, and I’ve had them before, although this one was possibly the worst one.

There's a lot of ground to cover on this journey.

There’s a lot of ground to cover on this journey.

In the past I’d have spent many of the upcoming days pissed off, freaked out, and struggling with additional stress over ‘where will new damage be?’, more than ‘is there any damage?’, or just taking care of me quietly, gently, and without much fuss. I have grown, perhaps. There may or may not be ‘new damage’; it’s not relevant to taking care of me in this moment, and that is the priority for now. For now, I am making a point of stepping back from stressors, taking exceptional care of my health, gently re-committing myself to my fitness goals (particularly those around losing some weight – it’s not helping me right now to carry ‘extra pounds’), staying the course on healthy calories and managing my blood sugar on fewer of those. It is critically important that I get adequate rest, manage medication carefully, and watch my blood pressure. It is equally important that I allow myself awareness that I am okay right now, and give myself a chance to feel the relief (still here! still conscious!), and gratitude that go along with ‘thank goodness I didn’t have an actual stroke’.

My traveling partner is ‘there for me’ in so many small ways. He provides comfort and nurturing care when my health is an issue, going beyond any expectation to do simple things that he knows will be of value – like seeing me suddenly struggle to find a word I commonly use with fair frequency, noticing the panic and embarrassment on my face, and imminent tears (frustration being my kryptonite), he takes the science-based steps of providing some hints (without being mocking or discourteous), and gives me time to find the word, and once found reminds me to restate the sentence with the now-found word in it. He ensures it doesn’t become a big deal, and doesn’t tease me, or belittle me; he knows the value of words, and how tender a human heart can really be. He is patient with me. Sometimes more patient than seems reasonable. It’s a small thing, and it matters. Bigger things too, he reminds me to take these things seriously, to get medical care, to document new issues – I forget without help sometimes; it is the remnant of other damage, and he is skilled at slipping reminders into the context of conversations so that it does not feel like ‘parenting’ or in any way diminishing.

When it feels like it's all stairs, it's nice to have someone sharing the journey.

When it feels like it’s all stairs, it’s nice to have someone sharing the journey.

I feel very fortunate to have a partner on life’s journey who is so well-prepared a traveler. We’ve figured out a number of these practices together on the way – a good practice in itself since we’re each having our own experience. Love benefits from explicit boundary setting, explicit statement of limitations, frank discussion of fears, needs, doubts – and what makes it all feel better. Leaving love to guess at who I am and what I might need or benefit from has destroyed a number of potentially promising past relationships – I don’t do that now. (Well, not by intent, but sometimes by oversight – here, too, mindful awareness of self matters a great deal.)

Why yes, thank you, I shall.

Why yes, thank you, I shall.

I am okay. The week ends on a comfortable note, and the weekend ahead has some fun planned, and a bit of work – I get to brunch with a dear friend, and move the A/C into storage. I will window shop in a neighborhood I enjoy. I will take care of me. It’s a good weekend for it, and it will be enough.

I woke this morning, but I’m not actually sure when. I checked the clock at 2:38 am, but didn’t get up. I may have slept more, I don’t recall being wakeful, but I recall many moments of being awake. I don’t know whether they are consecutive (and I was awake until I got up) or separated by sleep (resulting in sleep, however restless it may have been). I got up at 6:38, 4 hour later, when I next checked the clock. If it had been, say, 3:11 am, I’d have gotten up to pee and gone back to bed afterward – and perhaps that would have been a good choice at 2:38 am. 🙂

I see signs of autumn everywhere on my walks lately.

I see signs of autumn everywhere on my walks lately; time to get back out on the trails.

I’m not sure what sort of morning this one is, so far. I’m still sore from more than usual miles of walking yesterday (a reminder to get back on the trail). I woke in pain, stiff from my arthritis, and since that’s primarily in my spine, it affects most movement, even breathing feels subtly impaired, as I fight the pain to find posture that allows deeper breaths. (Many of my headaches source with a damaged cervical vertebra (C7) and its adjacent arthritic siblings, rather than with my TBI.) I put on music first thing this morning, even before I turned on the aquarium lights, which is unusual. More unusual still, I didn’t do so with deliberate purpose and awareness, it was the action of someone just being and doing, action following impulse without intent. I’m not unhappy with the choice, but the ebb and flow of my emotions seems more connected this morning to the music than to my experience. Highs and lows come and go with the changing tracks on my playlist. I made my coffee, and forgot about it on the counter in the kitchen. My memory seems very clear on details that are often sort of vague and challenging – but I am peculiarly inattentive to other sorts of things I generally track well. And… Yesterday there was this moment when it was entirely and rather publicly clear that I had entirely lost any ability to manage simple math – I couldn’t calculate 44 days from the current date for a simple forecasting scenario, even using a calendar, and the calculator on my computer was beyond me (cognitively), at that moment. It could have been an embarassing moment – it wasn’t; I was frightened, and felt very vulnerable and insecure. The feelings passed, the concern did not. I’m sort of … following myself around observing myself in the background today, with concern and curiosity.

I write awhile. I retrieve my forgotten coffee. I change the playlist when I find myself feeling some borrowed emotion that doesn’t fit the circumstances of the day. And I wonder. I try to avoid worrying, but find myself thinking of things like “Flowers for Algernon”, and the neuroscience of cognition, and the progress on A.I., and how fragile this meat vessel really is, and how many people in my family have died of strokes… and my injury. Suddenly my fears become liquid and the tears are quietly slipping down my face, and I weep to face my mortality so starkly. 52 isn’t old. Neither am I a child. I carry enough damage to this fragile vessel from years of punishing circumstances, trauma, casual thoughtlessness, and mischance that I probably ought not expect it to be without consequence where longevity is concerned. It’s a good call to take care of myself if I earnestly want to stay around – but, realistically, so much of whether I stay around isn’t actually up to me in the moment, at all. Strokes do happen. Will I know, when the time comes? Will it be like some of the TIAs I’ve had, looking out through my eyes as windows, aware but unable to say – but for longer than a moment? What’s next? Will everything just… end?

I didn’t understand yesterday how profoundly affected I was in that moment, with a colleague, utterly unable to do the simplest math, looking up from my desk so helplessly – and asking for help. That was hard. I didn’t lose face, and the moment passed. I’m open about my issues, and learning to ask for help when I need it has had a lot of value. I’m frightened, though, and that’s harder to be open about. I let myself cry, and face the fear. I am okay right now. My coffee is hot, well-made, and tastes just right. The morning is a pleasant one. The music is all music I like very much. I live well, comfortably, and meet most of my day-to-day needs easily. I am human; emotions like fear and uncertainty are part of the experience. I guess I’m just not ready to go now, and the fear hits that yearning for more time – now that I seem to be sorting some things out. It’s a complicated feeling.  Tears and more tears, no sobbing or hysterics, just this momentarily ceaseless flow of tears, blurring my vision. And this fear. I have so much more love to give…

The tears slow, and eventually stop. My head aches from the crying… or…was the headache already there? I’m not sure this morning. This morning I lack certainty about a great many things. Will I see my traveling partner, or is he still sick? Will my housewarming later today be fun and relaxed, or will I mess with my head foolishly getting overly worked up over small things and stress myself out? Will I continue to find, over the course of the day, that other things ‘aren’t working’ as I expect them to, in my ability to think, to do math, to spell, to write,  to reason, to recall, to plan, to communicate, to feel…? Will I rise above the small challenges to engage this lovely moment, or find myself faltering and failing to find any secure emotional foothold? Will I take care of me, quite tenderly, and recognize that at any age being reminded of one’s mortality can be ‘a tough  moment’, or will I treat myself callously, with disregard, self-deprecation, and mockery? Will I “be okay”, or can I find sufficiency in being okay right now? I momentarily feel as though I might trade actual death from whatever nasty virus my traveling partner picked up for 15 minutes in his arms, feeling comforted, cared for, and alive. Fear sucks.

My playlist comes through for me in the most amazing way some times. My heavy heart starts lifting listening to Atmosphere remind me how human life is. I remember, again, that I am okay right now, and that – truly – there is nothing in this moment right here that warrants these tears. I start letting it go, and gently finding my way; mortality isn’t really something we can fight skillfully (yet) as human beings. I may not live to see us achieve near-immortality through the advances of science. I have ‘now’, and it can’t be taken from me. Today isn’t a bad one. The morning isn’t difficult. I didn’t sleep badly. My coffee didn’t disappoint me. I am not out in the cold, or without nutritious groceries in my pantry. I am not lacking in love. I don’t have to go into the office today. I am, in fact, okay right now. “All is well” is approximately accurate – at least as far as any details I can be clearly aware of in my own experience, myself, in this moment.

As suddenly as they came, the tears – and my fear and uncertainty – dissipate. I am okay, right now. It’s enough, isn’t it? 🙂

I clean my salt-spattered glasses, sip my remaining now cold coffee, and notice again the lovely morning ahead of me, requiring only that I take care of me, practice good practices, and live well and mindfully in this moment, on this day. Now.