Trying to find the positive

The past few weeks were tough, mentally and emotionally.  I try to keep a positive attitude and not focus on the negative.  It’s not easy.  I know I’m sliding down the depression hole again.  However, I think there are things I can do to prevent going totally to the bottom- again.  Thus, trying to be positive.

Currently I have two real issues that are pushing the depression.  I’m still grieving losses from the brain injury.  It’s ongoing.  There are things that improved but so many that haven’t- and probably won’t.  This may be what I have going forward.  So, as I learned in the Marines, “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.”  How do I adjust for and accept the changes?  There’s a difference between acceptance and giving up.  I still hope for improvement.  I work towards it.  But, I want to fully accept that this is where I am now.  There may not be changes.  The other problem is fear for the future.  I put in my medical retirement paperwork.  Work is one of the things that needs to change.  At least for now, working is not a healthy activity.  I am worried about what will happen with the retirement and after.


Mindfulness: focused awareness of the present moment.  Staying in the now rather than worrying about the past or future.  They can’t be controlled.  We can only take action in the present moment.  The awareness allows us to experience life in the fullness- the feeling of sun on our faces, the smell of the campfire, the bite of autumn coolness in the morning, colors of the leaves, and other.  It’s a stance of acceptance of the moment.

Be where I am; be still in the moment.


Please Understand

We live in a fast- moving world.  We eat on the go, text, rush everywhere. People often get angry or frustrated with people who slow us down for whatever reason.  Today, I met a true asshole.

I went to WalMart today to buy a couple of things I needed.  I hate WalMart and places like it.  The high ceilings amplify sound, there are florescent lights, random beeping back up alerts, screaming children, and other sensory input.  Still, sometimes I have to go there.

The asshole of the year stood behind me in the check out line.  I only had 5 things to purchase and chose the express lane.  I have problems with focus and attention in busy places, such as stores.  Multitasking is hard for me in the best settings.  It becomes nearly impossible in stores.  The cashier talks, you have to process and respond- often when trying to pay for the purchases.  Needless to say, I need extra processing time and move slowly in lines.  Of course, today I had to forget my PIN and needed to enter it more than once.

I heard the guy behind me making comments.  At first, they were mild things like “I don’t have all day” and “hurry up.”  I didn’t get angry.  This could apply to the cashier as well.  Then he said, “Retards like you shouldn’t use this lane if you’re so slow.”  That went over well.  I have quite the four letter vocabulary when angry.  That comment was all it took.  My first response was actually fairly mild, “Shut the F up.” Now, I was really distracted and frustrated.


I wore an Army backpack to have room to carry home purchases.  My speech and language processing also slow when I’m stressed or overstimulated.  He made a comment about me being too stupid to have served in the military. I am proud of my military service and miss it.   Here we go.  Unfortunately, he managed to pile enough insults on me that I started to cry out of sheer anger and frustration.  He “won” the argument.

judge judy

The manager stepped in to stop the situation.  The guy was told to leave and escorted by security outside the store.  I was so upset that I wasn’t able to understand the pay process anymore.  The manager slowly walked me through it.

This happened two hours ago.  I am shaking as I write this and trying to hold back tears.  I really want to hurt that guy.

Please, if you see someone struggling in line or anywhere in public, be patient and understand: not all disabilities are visible.  Treat the person with respect.  Or at least keep your mouth shut.

I came home to them:

Kaliyah love



Things will be better.  Cuddle time with Brigid and play time with the ferrets (Bobby and Kaliyah) is therapy enough.

What It’s Like

I wish I could send this post and article to my HR and coworkers.  

I fought as hard as I could in the years following the injury. I’m stuck. What I have now is what I have although I might improve slightly.

It was never easy. Even when I was doing hard things, they were an attempt to rehab.  
There are days I feel more energetic and can do more. I notice there is a pattern. If I do more one day, I’ll be more fatigued the next.  
That’s one of the major issues at work. Every day it’s a fight against overstimulation and fatigue. Every day is harder. I slept 12-13 hours a day so I could work part time. And I was always exhausted, stressed, and anxious. I never was “who I was before.” Most days, I hid it fairly well. My office is a cave. You’re right. I needed quiet, dim, non stimulating environment. Remember all the tears? And me walking away from meetings? Or getting so frustrated in meetings because I couldn’t keep up or express myself? Think it was easy to work? I couldn’t process the information. It was too much, too fast. Sometimes, I just zoned out. I needed to survive, I wasn’t trying to be rude or unprofessional.   

Too many coworkers either didn’t notice or excused it. I know some people were trying to help and didn’t know exactly what I needed. I didn’t know either. And if I’m emotionally, mentally, or physically flooded or exhausted, I won’t be able to tell you. I’ll walk away or break down. If I get there, take me somewhere quiet. And know if I’m emotionally melting down, “processing” won’t work. It’s more emotional stimulation. Just sit with me quietly or leave me alone. I figured that out with the help of my cognitive therapist. I won’t be able to ask at that point. You have to recognize it and help.

When I worked part time, I slept 12-13 hours a day. Think about it. What was my life? I never had the energy to cook. I lived off oatmeal, maltomeal, cereal, delivery, sandwiches, salads, or whatever microwaveable meals I had. I never had the brain energy to cook, either. It was too hard to manage anything involving multiple steps. I barely kept my house clean enough to be sanitary. My day: work, sleep, warm up dinner, take care of animals- let ferrets play, sleep. Repeat. Some days, I made myself get some exercise. Short runs, that people critize me taking. After all, if I can do that, I can work. It can’t be that bad. Running was sanity. Weekends, I slept and usually shopped and tried to do chores. Usually I got back enough energy to at least show up to work the following week.
Now add in seizures and migraines. And no longer being able to drive. Still think it’s easy? Still think I’m faking?  
Walk a week in my shoes.  Or even a day.  Deal with the sensory stimulation of normal life being like living in a rock concert 24/7.  Earplugs, sunglasses, hats can only do so much. Know why I cringe at a sudden noise or loud voice?  It physically hurts!  It confuses me!    

Since I’ve been off work, my diet has improved. Im still as disorganized as ever but my house is cleaner. I sleep only 10 hours a day. Maybe 11 if I was really busy. I can actually do the cognitive improvement exercises every day when before I might have managed them 2 days a week. Things are better.
I love working with veterans.  I wish I could do my job like before.  Or at least in some meaningful way that contributes.  I tried.  


Brain Injury Need to Know

Simple Gifts

The Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts” (Joseph Brackett) is deceptively simple.  The melody and harmony lines are uncomplicated.  The verses are sweet but speak to deeper meanings.  The original and additional verses speak to my life over various times, especially post accident. 

The original version was written as a dancing song.  

‘Tis the gift to be simple, Tis the gift to be free.  ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.  And when we find ourselves in thr place just right,               ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed. To turn, turn, will be out delight. Until by turning, turning we come ’round right. 

After the accident, I gained confusion and fear not simplicity.  Life was complicated and I lost all sense of peace and freedom.  I was locked in a mind and body that just didn’t work right anymore.  In a job that didn’t fit and fighting to try to gain my life back.  I fought to hard to be the place I was before.  I missed the place “I ought to be.”  My life changed.  I needed to change with it.  As I find the simple gift of being free of trying to be who I am no longer, the gift to let go of fear, to be, I gain a larger gift of peace, love, and delight.  Such as the full moon, the stars, the winds, friends, family, running…just being who I am.  There is no shame in who I am now.  To lose much of my mental intelligence was humbling.  Being intelligent and talented was important before. I have to accept the changes and realize with humility, I am different, with different things I can do.  I have  To keep turning away from negativity and fear until I come ’round right.  Humility is something often seen as weakness.  It is truly seeing who you are, strengths and weaknesses and loving yourself anyway.  And being willing to change and grow.

We all have the moments of needing to be humble and turn our lives in a different direction.  Sometimes, it takes a thump on the head to get our attention.  I hope  you listen better than I did.

Simple Gifts on You Tube

One alternate version speaks of love and relationships.

‘Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return.  ‘Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn. And when we expect from others what we try to live each day, then we’ll all live together and all learn to say:

‘Tis the gift to have friends and true friend to be. ‘Tis the gift to think of others and not only think of “me.” And when we hear from others what they really think and really feel, then we’ll all live together with a love that is real.

Things we should have learned in grade school that would make the world and our lives much better: Learn, teach, listen, respect, honesty, putting others in front of yourself.  Friendship is a balance between give and receive.  Friends love and support each other.  One does not take more that you give back.  Balance.  Community and relationships are work.  We have to hear from others bravely, and they must speak truely and with respect.  Then, you can build on the foundation.

  Simplicity is hard, as challenging in some ways as our daily complicated, “meaningful” lives.

Love is found in simplicity.  There are two additional verses I’ll talk about later.


TBI and Cogintive Function

In May, I underwent a battery of tests in regards to the impact the TBI has on my brain.  The testing included an EEG, a contrast MRI, and neuropsychological testing.  I received a mix of good and bad news.  

The good news is that my EEG showed no seizure activity.  The epilepsy specialist did not recommend changes to my current treatment.  It appears that my seizures are controlled.  I might get my driving privileges reinstated in 4 more months.

The MRI (with contrast) showed changes in my brain indicative of brain injury.  Thanks, I knew that before.  On the other hand, I’m happy something finally showed up on my physical testing.  It was extremely frustrating to know things weren’t right but have no medical confirmation on testing.

The neuropsychological testing was brutal.  It consisted of 6 hours of testing over 2 days.  It was totally mentally exausting and aggravating.  It was designed to push me and it did.  The testing looked at overall intellectual functioning such as language usage and comprehension, memory, visual spatial function, problem solving, math, and reading.

  I did well on basic knowledge and vocabulary.  However, on the rest of the testing, I scored between the third and tenth grade level.  I have a Masters in Social Work.  This is a significant drop in function.  My IQ is now low average , close to below average.   It used to be much higher.  This result wasn’t unexpected but it was hard to hear.  I still haven’t really accepted it at all.

I also showed low levels of frustration and stress tolerance. I have no idea where that came from.  I only told the examiner to F off once.  And broke a pencil.  And was 15 minutes late coming back from lunch because I had no intention of continuting.  My sister managed to get me to return.  

It was noted that I cognitively fatigue and perform much worse in the afternoon.  I also have focus and attention problems.  And, gee, I have issues with depression and anxiety.  Go figure.

The overall recommendation was that I do not return to work at the VA in any capacity.  This is both good and bad for me.  I enjoy working with veterans and being a social worker. I want to return to work. On the other hand, work is extremely frustrating and I am unable to perform much of my job responsibilities.  It’s both sad and a relief.  My prognosis is that there will be no significant improvement at this point.

On the positive side, the information provides my cognitive therapist with target areas for treatment.  She thinks I can have a limited amount of improvement, enough for me to do some volunteer work in the future.  She also thinks it may be worthwhile to do vocational rehabition after I’ve done more cognitive therapy.  

The outcome of Traumatic Brain injury varies greatly between patients.    Some brain injury victims end up in vegetative states or have extreme difficulties in mobility and even basic functioning.  My outcome is much more hopeful.  There may be more optional for me in the future.

Be well, friends.  Take nothing for granted in your lives.  It can change in a second.


Hope, Courage, Determination


Hope. Courage.  Determination.  Without these three qualities, I would have quit striving for healing and improvement.

Hope is elusive.  There are dark spots in life where it seems nothing will ever get better.  The road of brain injury recovery is filled with potholes and valleys.  Yet, there are also the mountain peaks, where I see how far I have come.  Hope allows me to see the possibilities I still have in life.  It allows me to dream of the future instead of only seeing my past and what I lost.

Courage is facing fear and adversity without retreating.  Fear:  constant anxiety that never quite leaves.     It’s a backpack of rocks, weighing me down, but it can’t be dropped or left behind.  I can only work to reduce how much it affects my life. If I want to continue to function and have any sort of meaningful life, I have to ignore or work through the anxiety of being. Just being is anxiety.  I face it every day.  Some days are harder than others and there are days I hunker down in my house most, or all, of the day because I just can’t face being outside.  Yet, I still run and complete life chores.  It’s exhausting but needed.

Determination.  When I was first injured, I faced a long and uncertain recovery.  No matter how much I wanted to quit, I kept moving forward.  I still move forward.  I don’t want to stay where I am right now.   Running marathons before I was injured developed a strong sense of determination.  There are times in training and the race that the body is spent.  What is left is determination to complete the run.  Now, it’s determination to live life to the fullest, not allowing fear or uncertainty to trap me in the quagmire of fear.

I may never improve beyond what I have now cognitively and physically.  Hope.  Courage. Determination.  I may come out the other side stronger and wiser than before.