Today’s Rant: Some people think it’s laziness….

It’s 5pm and I’m about ready to fall asleep.  Yesterday was the same, as was the day before.  I think you get the idea.

Some people think it’s laziness…I mean, we all get tired after a gruelling day at work, right?  So how am I so much more tired than anyone else? Some go to the extent of talking slowly as if to a child, or in a condescending tone with obvious references so as to insinuate a misunderstanding.  No, I’m not lazy.  No, I’m not simple.  I have a brain injury.  I become tired more easily because I have to consciously “turn on my brain” to hold focus on anything for more than two seconds.  And then anytime I have to change focus or move from one activity to the next, that change alone takes another conscious effort and consequently another bout of energy (as does the planning of said activities, deciding which to do when – heaven forbid that plan not work out, which it rarely does).  It’s called executive functioning.

“Executive function refers to a set of mental skills that are coordinated in the brain’s frontal lobe. Executive functions work together to help a person achieve goals.

Executive function includes the ability to:

  • manage time and attention
  • switch focus
  • plan and organize
  • remember details
  • curb inappropriate speech or behavior
  • integrate past experience with present action

When executive function breaks down, behavior becomes poorly controlled. This can affect a person’s ability to:

  • work or go to school
  • function independently
  • maintain appropriate social relationships

Types of Executive Function

Executive function can be divided into two categories:

  • organization
  • regulation

Organization involves gathering information and structuring it for evaluation. Regulation involves taking stock of the environment and changing behavior in response to it.”

http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/executive-function

So we (with my type of injury) are taught to create as much routine as possible in life so as to minimize the effort required, given that the brain power involved in just remembering to brush my teeth in the morning is overwhelming. LOL. I laugh because I get how ridiculous it sounds.  And I laugh so as not to cry at the thought of how pathetic my life seems sometimes.

Every time I leave the house I consciously go through my list (did I lock the doors? did I turn off the flat iron? did I remember to brush my teeth?) And sometimes, because I can’t remember and to make sure I’ve done it, I go back and do it again. (Obsessive compulsive much?) Talk about exhausting!!

But a friend reminded me the other day…you are not pathetic! You own your own house! You lift weights at the gym three times a week! You volunteer with dogs, support others with brain injuries, you play the clarinet in a band every Saturday morning and you’re learning to play guitar! How is that pathetic?!

And yes…I have to actually remind myself of these things on a daily basis.  Because if I don’t, I will be eaten up by the cloud of negativity that swarms.  I liked this saying I saw on Facebook once: “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, surrounded by assholes.” 🙂 I’ve learned to eliminate these people from my life as much as possible, and to stand up to the ones I don’t want to fully eliminate.  But, again…it takes effort. It takes effort to control my emotions, to objectify the situation, and to be the mature one who speaks about the situation intellectually rather than getting caught up in the fact that the other person is treating me like garbage.  If I don’t, I will get sucked into the vortex of intense emotion.  I will try to soothe that intense emotion with unrealistic coping mechanisms, and I will hate myself because of it.  And, yes, that too is exhausting.  But the benefit far outweighs the costs involved.

So, having said all of that, I get to the crux of my discussion.  In reference to the title: Do people honestly think I have it easy?  That I’m being lazy with my lifestyle (because I’m not working at the moment)? or that with all my positive social networking posts, my life must be hunky dory?  It sometimes comes across that way.

First of all, hopefully from the above introduction, people realize that there is nothing “easy” about my life.  Everything from feeding my cat to brushing my teeth, planning my meals, grocery shopping, cooking my meals, planning my route, driving my car, getting to the gym class on time, lifting the weights properly…everything takes effortful energy to turn on my brain to that particular activity, remain focussed throughout, and change attention to the next thing.  How does that seem easy to anyone?

Secondly, I am not working right now only because I overextended myself in both of my last jobs over the past three years and I essentially went crazy – couldn’t be in public without breaking down crying at the drop of a hat, was experiencing extreme OCD and wasn’t looking after myself AT ALL (slept all day, no shower for a week, etc). And due to my now very limited income I have had to make some very serious budget cuts (including food intake some days) to be able to still pay my bills and meet financial obligations.  Do people actually think I WANT to have no money?!  Sure, not working allows me a few extra hours in the day, but I still have a house to look after, volunteer commitments to keep and self-betterment to think about.  Oh yes….and that talk we had earlier about energy and exhaustion? Having limited finances takes a LOT of planning.

Thirdly, most of what I post on my social networking sites are quotes and affirmations that I need to see to be reminded that I am going to make it through this day, that my life matters, and that I too can find success in life. I have a lot of days when I am grateful for my circumstances, for special people in my life, and for the “little” and not-so-little ways in which I am blessed.  I also have many days when the negativity overcomes me and I feel like an unaccomplished so-and-so with a pathetic existence.  But I know that’s not true.  I know that because I’ve had many experiences and known many people that have affirmed my existential value.

So whether I feel it on any given day or not, the reality is: I have a pretty great life.  I am blessed and accomplished with strengths and talents that make me happy and bring joy to those around me.  I am not lazy, I am not simple.  I have a brain injury that makes me more tired than most people, and it sometimes makes me more emotional and/or reflective.  That is all.

…end rant.

Image

…this is my life…and I really do love it.

Brutal Honesty

Today I hate my life. Sounds dramatic…I know. Emotional, over the top, a bit excessive…yes, yes, and yes. But you know what? It’s the reality of my experience lately. This is depression.

Have you ever been “stuck”? …on a thought, a feeling, or in a place in life? Have you ever felt so overwhelmed with negativity that you are literally immobilized with sadness? Have you ever wondered if people would actually notice if you were gone?

I think about it a lot. I often think about the fact that if it weren’t for my own exhausting efforts to connect with and reach out to others, I would probably never hear from anyone. In fact, I’ve actually put this theory to the test and have found it to be true.

We are such an independent, individualistic society. And while to some degree I find myself relatively confident in my independence because of my introverted personality, I am also very “relational” and find myself needing to connect with others for a sense of community. I love relationships, learning from others, supporting and encouraging those who need it and sharing a laugh at the world’s craziness.

But let me ask you something: How often do you express genuine gratitude to those people around you? How often do you check in on people – friends, family, even acquaintances on Facebook. How often do you freely offer a hug, a genuine smile, or a helping hand? It’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own world, rushing from one activity to the next, focused on your personal obligations, never considering how you can contribute positively to the world around you.

This is definitely where I’m at today…feeling like an island in a big nasty world. As I went about my day of errands and activities today, thinking about all of the things on my “to do” list, I was suddenly struck by an incredible emotional fatigue. I am tired of life, tired of the rat-race, tired of trying, tired of keeping face. The energy it takes to live life just seems like an overwhelming burden right now. I made it to band this morning, played for two exhausting hours, remembered to stop at the market and grocery store for food, and now I’m at home curled up with a warm blanket and my kitty.

In a world so interconnected with social media and instant communication, life-tracking with “check-in’s” and insta-photos, I think we are so used to people broadcasting their thoughts, feelings, and daily activities that we have lost our empathic ability to inquisitively and actively care about those around us. It makes me think about a really specific example from my concert band practice on Saturdays.

During our coffee break time, I have noticed that there are always a fringe group of members who line the benches or stand quietly against the wall. Then the other 75% mingle freely in the middle, enjoying the snacks and refreshments, debriefing the week between practices. During these times, there is a lovely retired gentleman in the band who regularly makes sure to check in on me. We carry on a genuine exchange of experiences and ideas, thoughts and reflections. It’s really nice. And I see it as a true example of community and well-developed social skills.

This is what I miss. I miss the connections of family and friends who actually give a shit (pardon my French)…people who miss you when you’re gone or when they don’t hear from you…people who actually wonder how you’re doing and what they can do to help you. It’s like people don’t have time to care about others these days because they are so wrapped up in their own stuff.

I rarely hear a genuine “how are you?” anymore – with the intent to listen and not just respond. In much the same way, I have even found myself apologizing for who I am or how I feel simply to appease those around me (knowing that everything I do and say seems to draw an “annoyed” response). My personal feelings don’t matter. But my-oh-my…if I don’t consider the position of someone else at certain moments, do I ever hear about it!!

In a world that supposedly values objectivism, we are losing our innate human ability to sense and respond to emotions. They are not acknowledged or valued or understood. Given this fact, then, I find we are becoming more and more disconnected as a society, and less and less capable of communicating with or relating to those around us.

No wonder I am in such a dark place today.

…this is my life…

Eliminate Drama

“But remember that you cannot change other people! Do not take their negativity personally. It is THEIR problem, not yours!” (Dani Johnson)

Great Article! http://www.danijohnson.com/2013/2-ways-to-eliminate-negativity-in-your-life/

This article discusses a lesson I have learned many times – and have dealt with a lot very recently. Substitute “negativity” for “emotionalism” and it’s the same concept. I would call it “2 Ways to Eliminate Stress (or Drama) in Your Life” – as the article says, eliminate those people from your life or learn how to deal with them effectively.

In this day and age emotional manipulation is very common because people take everything personally and expect that others should too. To some degree, I get it – I am an emotional person. But by letting our “feelings” or emotions dictate our actions, we never really take control of our lives. We become reactive and overwhelmed with that emotion (whether good or bad) which only contributes negatively to making consciously objective and effective choices.

How we deal with and process that emotion makes a world of difference. It is my choice to feel offended or effected by someone else’s choices. It is just as much my choice to respond with integrity and not allow another person’s emotions to dictate my behaviour (refusing to lash back at an angry person, or be guilted into making a choice that is not congruent with my own values).

You can allow others’ emotions to dictate your actions, or you can live your own life and let them live theirs. It is actually quite empowering to take control of your own life in this way. I no longer allow others to “guilt” me into a certain lifestyle or reactive response. People will use their emotionalism in an attempt to engage your emotions rather than your objective mind. Be aware, acknowledge the reality, and take back the power which is rightfully yours.

Emotional Girl

Another country song that depicts my life…imagine! This is one my dad has so lovingly associated with my personality. And all we can do is smile…because it’s so true. 🙂

As I alluded in one of my recent posts, one of my “blessings” in life has been my increasingly emotional nature and heightened sense of awareness or empathy. I have always been a sensitive person, but it seems that since my injury and over the years I have become even more so. This doesn’t just mean that I cry at the drop of a hat – which I DO, but that’s not all. It means I have a heightened appreciation for life, a deeper sense of gratitude, a more passionate sense of justice on behalf of others, and unfortunately a more defensive sense of responsibility for my own emotions.

I have learned to own my emotions, acknowledge their reality, but not give them the power to run my life. Of course, they motivate my actions quite often, but through some cognitive behavioural techniques I try hard to live beyond and despite them. And you can bet no one will dictate how I “should” feel in any given situation without my adamant response.

So today I am feeling particularly emotional. Why? Probably because of my monthly hormonal changes, because of stresses at work, and because my best friend’s mom just passed away. Crazy how all of these details collide to promote a seemingly unmanageable moment or series of them. So instead of letting the emotion immobilize me, I cry, I write, I pray…and I clean myself up, get some fresh air, drink a cool glass of water, and focus my energies on this present moment. Controlled breathing makes a world of difference in calming a rapidly beating heart, the tight anxious feeling in my chest, and the sore muscles in my neck.

I am preparing to take on my day, and this is the routine I face. Add to that the planning and preparation of my meals, what I will wear, and any errands on my way to work, and my mind is already tired before I even leave the house! But all that matters is this moment. I’m going to finish my second cup of coffee for the day and then I’ll deal with the next moment.

This is how an emotional and anxious person makes it through the day…all the while smiling to make sure the positive energy is the more prevalent influence. 🙂

…this is my life…

Making the “Impossible” Possible

Between the anxiety, borderline depression, an overwhelming mental/emotional fatigue and a body that aches all over, sometimes the days get to be too much. Sleep is intermittent, lack of routine and energy makes proper eating and exercise non-existent, and the will to do anything but lay here is gone.

Tomorrow will be a better day. The beginning of a new week and a fresh start in my “old” job will be just what I need to “get back on the horse” so to speak. I am very much looking forward to the familiarity and consistency – they are just what I need to feel a sense of “mastery” or accomplishment again. And I have really missed all my clients and co-workers.

But today is still today. And I find myself somewhat “stuck” in a negative mindset. In these moments it sometimes feels “impossible” for me to get past this, to get started at my cleaning – which is so desperately needed – or to finish the laundry and get it all put away. I know I will feel better once it’s done, but here I sit.

Today’s sermon talked about making the “impossible” possible with God’s help. I am always encouraged and motivated by the words of scripture. They breathe life and love into my tired, discouraged body. Even as I write about it I am already feeling a bit better in that I’ve got the dishes started in the dishwasher and I’ve had something to eat. Next will be a nap to supply the energy for some bigger tasks of laundry and cleaning.

The sermon this morning described Peter stepping out of the boat in faith. He’s the only human to successfully walk on water (even if it was just a few steps). That’s inspiring! But Peter was stepping out IN FAITH…knowing that if he responded to God’s call then God would provide the circumstances needed to get Peter there.

So, in much the same way, I’m living “by faith” these days. God brought me out of a coma, healed my seizures, and strengthened my mind and body to the point that I can work full-time and socialize like any other person out there. At one point in my life, as I lay in a hospital bed, hooked up to a million machines for life support, today’s reality seemed “impossible”. So I know I can trust that God will provide whatever support I need for this seemingly “impossible” moment. I just need to take the next step in faith.

…this is my life…