One at a Time, Please

I’m sitting at my usual coffee joint, having a drink as usual, with headphones on as usual.  Everything is in place except for an idea worth putting on screen (I can’t remember the last time I wrote anything besides a grocery list on paper).  The pattern until now has been to look for themes or ideas during the week, something I can shape with words to illustrate some aspect of life with brain damage.  These connections are typically quite easy to make because every perception, observation, and revelation I experience is with my damaged brain. But today, I have nothing.   I’m typing, but at this point I’m just hauling stuff out of my, um, I mean, thin air.

I feel tired.  But not just tired.  Tired is the feeling that gets the door open, before the rest of the gang storms in: Frustration and Annoyance quickly show up and start making a scene, racing around and causing general chaos.  Uncertainty and Doubt begin yelling, and then, along with Low Self-Esteem and Negative Self-Talk, set about beating the shit out of Confidence and Trust.  Fortunately, this gang sticks fairly close to its leader, and if I can manage my fatigue, the rest of the crew stays at bay.  But today I am tired so, as usual, I try to figure out what led me here and how to clean up the mess.

In order to manage the craziness of my brain’s faulty wiring, I’ve set up turnstiles in my brain.  The same way they manage lineups at concerts, amusement parks, and, for some reason, Canadian Tire, these mental turnstiles allow me to process each concept, event, responsibility, dynamic, motive, etc… in an orderly manner.  They slow life down to a manageable pace, one where I can navigate each challenge with a greater chance of success.

But I get cocky.

And lazy.

And distracted.

And next thing I know, it’s a cognitive free-for-all and I start losing things.  I lose track of thought patterns I need to be aware of.  I lose track of untruths and outdated thoughts that keep my self-portrait from evolving and progressing.  I lose track of motives, why I’m thinking what I’m thinking, and I lose track of my big picture.  The mental mob mentality takes over and virtually any thought goes, haphazardly validated and fuelled, in part, by my noble but misplaced goals to worry less and take chances more.

The obvious answer, then, is to get more sleep but it’s not that easy.  I have difficulty managing parallel thought processes simultaneously so whatever I’m doing, that’s all I’m thinking about.  This means that while I’m at work I’m not thinking about life.  I’m not analyzing my tendencies while cleaning a 10-speed cassette.  I’m not coming up with social strategies while tweaking a disc brake (I’m a dream employee, I know).  I physically can’t think about these things until I’m in bed with no other stimulus requiring my attention.  Sometimes I’ll let the reins loose and let my brain go to work on those other ideas for a while, but more often I have to shut it down until the Gravol kicks in so I can have enough rest to function the next day.  That means more thoughts piling up behind the turnstiles, waiting for consideration.

And that’s why I have nothing to write about this week.

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About jaybrandsma

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4 Responses to One at a Time, Please

  1. Lindsay says:

    Imagery of creating mental turnstiles to slow life down is apt. I could have used some internal speed bumps on Friday. I got cocky — “Sure, I can do that. No big deal. No need to plan.”– with my superwoman complex. Bizarre how accepting our limits doesn’t come naturally.

  2. For not having anything to write about I’d say you did pretty decent!
    But seriously though, what is with the turnstiles at Canadian Tire???

  3. LV says:

    This post is everything I’ve been trying to say for a long time, and you say it perfectly.
    I “got” my severe right-sided brain injury in 2009, I am so blessed at how far I’ve come so quickly, but fatigue is definitely my largest battle at this point. I get asked a lot what my “side-effects” are (as nothing can really be seen by anyone), but I can never find the words to amount to capture it.
    Thank you.

    • jaybrandsma says:

      I’m glad I could help, LV, and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment – it was very timely and is greatly appreciated. My goal with this blog was to help others understand brain-damage better, and comments like yours mean I’m on the right track or at least close to it.

      Thanks for reading.

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