5

Unmade like a bed

Whilst thinking about this months post and what to write about I found myself in the midst of a bit of a deep funk (not like Bootsy Collins, the other kind). I was questioning myself and how I approach relationships (or my lack of them). Then out of nowhere articles kept popping up about loneliness and people in my support group began talking about it so it was making itself the very obvious candidate for a blog.

I’ve touched on the subject of loneliness a few times in other blogs but it was something I only ever really glossed over, I think that’s because admitting you’re lonely is hard. It’s another of those things like jealousy that we don’t talk about. There’s no place in this ultra connected society with lots to do for being lonely and if you are, well then there must be something wrong with you. What I’ve found is that we seem to be more lonely now than ever, there are reasons for this such as online connection replacing personal interaction, don’t get me wrong social networks can be a lifeline for me to be around others when I don’t have any energy; they help us connect with people from all around the world and that’s a wonderful thing BUT it’s very easy for it to become a crutch and replace physical connection. I fully admit I often kid myself that I don’t need people around me because I have the Internet. Trust me, being around other people is good for you.

So far, so logical right? Well this is where it gets complicated. Brain injury survivors and their caregivers (and other chronies too I’m sure) are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea (no idea what that really means, but I like the sound of it). Firstly there’s the distinction between solitude and loneliness. Solitude is good, I choose solitude, it’s a recharging place, a place to be at peace and gather and fill up with good juju. Loneliness is its flip side, the naughty cousin, the place of sighs and sadness and frustration. Brain injury for me is an awkward dance between the two, as a brain injured earthling I need solitude often to help me heal. I can’t cope very well without it and this is how my problem started, it is at times an avoidant behaviour something that keeps me safe because ‘out there’ is mean and nasty. I use solitude like a shield to push away anything that might make me uncomfortable, I’m often telling myself ‘no I can’t do that thing today with that person because it will make me tired and I need my solitude to balance’ sometimes this is true and sometimes it’s the fear talking.

I’ve been quite happy to let the fear disguise itself as meaningful recovery because it’s suited me, it’s stopped me doing anything that ruins my equilibrium. As I have so often discovered throughout my healing, sometimes the equilibrium NEEDS ruining. I need it to be pushed so I can grow. So as you can see I’ve painted myself into a very lonely corner. I fully admit to you here and now I am terribly lonely and terribly frightened to do anything about it. I know I need to shake it up and that’s what I’m shakily walking towards over the coming months. But I’m not ashamed to confess the sadness that overwhelms me as I realise how isolated I am, how the tears fall easily and how unlovable it makes me feel (this I know isn’t a fact, I am lovable but it can FEEL that way after being alone for so long).  I know this a problem of my own making but it is also a feature of brain injury, it is not something that I can just ‘do’ sorry positivity junkies but brain injury life doesn’t always work that way. My brain and therefore my ‘self’ has changed, I became a very different person and finding my way back is rocky and tentative.

I know Mr Braingirl is the rock with the lighthouse to which I anchor and I’m very grateful he is here but he has his own life and I want my own life too. Aside from him and online friends I don’t really see much of anyone on a day to day basis. I crave belonging, I want to feel like part of a group, I miss having people to talk to and feeling connected enough to people to be vulnerable with them and laugh with them. Everything has to be so carefully done, I have to ration my energy but also ensure that the people I choose to spend time with are not energy drains. Authentic, realistic, good and upbeat, I can’t tolerate people who are excessively pessimistic not because I think I’m better than them but my energy just can’t absorb that kind of vibe anymore.  This is another new step for me and one I’m sure will do the inevitable brain injury shuffle, that special backwards/forwards dance that serves to drive you crazy. I hope to continue to have healing solitude but to also begin to mix with others again.

I always think of this quote by Thay whenever anything new has to be assimilated into my life, try it, it’s a great way to be.

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5

Stuck with thoughts of the buttercups

 

Today was going to be a video day. I was going to talk to you about a different topic but being on enforced bed rest means I’m typing from under the duvet of inpenatrable safety and writing about something else.

I want to talk to you about how selfish I am.

Yes, selfish.

Before my brain injury, I was prone to a bit of navel gazing and lived a lot of time in my head. Overthinking, problem solving, fortune telling and micro managing all from the confines of my noggin was a regular occurrence. I wasn’t one for being emotionally free and open (there’s a whole story of myself about this but that’s for another day).

Post brain injury I have taken that tendency to internalise and turned it into an art form. I am the gold medal winner in the rumination Olympics.  Brain injury has MADE me an introvert, I’d be interested to hear from others who have also experienced this. I used to be fairly socialble and outgoing, I liked being around people and I was usually pretty adept at holding a conversation. Now, I’m quiet, alone and conversation has become a very confusing and tiring team sport.

Intially in those dog days soon after my injury my brain had gotten the message deep down in its primeval level that life was pretty dangerous, so in response to the threat of being alive my brain turned inwards. It blanketed itself in a layer of self absorption to protect itself. Well done brain! It was doing the best thing it could think of to keep the host (me) safe. I had no time for anything except survival. This is why my anxiety became very sensitive and why I got health anxiety and agoraphobia and depression and fatigue. Keep very still Braingirl and nothing will happen. To all intents and purposes this was the absolute best course of action so soon after such a trauma BUT the problem starts when that switch doesn’t dial back down again and stays at 11.

Us brain injury survivors become experts at rumination, shoe gazing, cerebation, contemplation, introspection whatever you want to call it. We are constantly thinking, churning and looking for danger. This does not make for a great social life. I feel like I can’t fully listen when people talk (factor in sensory overwhelm and it’s difficult),my radio is constantly tuned to ME fm. It’s never been more apparent than recently when I’ve needed to be on the ball due to a family tragedy and all my brain can do is shout about how terrible this is for it and how I need to hibernate. Instead of turning me into superbraingirl ready to leap small buildings, it said ‘hey, sod this, let’s get REALLY tired’. Believe me, I’ve done what I can to be of help but I just can’t do stress anymore, my brain does not like it. It’s not something I have any control over, it’s something I’d love to change but I can’t so here we are. Mr braingirl gets it, he knows I’m trying my best but I just feel so selfish and useless, even though it’s not my fault it can still trigger that part of me that wants to do, to be there but can’t.

I’d like to believe as resilience builds, this will lessen. It’s not as bad as it used to be but it’s still a hindrance in my daily life (no day off remember). It doesn’t respect conventions and norms and the polite way to behave, it just does its thing. Quite refreshing in one way to just be the metaphorical equivalent of sitting on someone’s sofa in your pants with your feet on the table, no f***s given. But hard when I want to be human and kind and helpful.

There are times that selfish is good of course, I needed a bit of it in my life. Saying no is a good skill in taking care of yourself, I just wish I could choose when to use it.

At least now my inner absorption is of a slightly more pleasant nature these days, I still have times of thinking everything is screwed and a big swirling vortex is coming to consume us all but I also get days and days of sitting and thinking about how my buttercups are growing or how to kidnap a lamb and keep it without the farmer noticing or whether Groovy Bruce the bunny knows what love is. I think there’ll always be a part of me that sits and broods, it’s in my nature, I’d just like to engage a little more with people. I miss people. The nice ones who are smiley and kind and remind me of summer.