Monday, February 27, 2017

This


The other day there was a stuffed, heavily taped envelope in our mailbox. The address was familiar, a friend's house. What did I forget?

Inside was actually something new!

Normally I'm not into gifts and the sender is the same way. For us it's about laughing, telling stories and jokes, eating, and maybe doing something outdoors. The good feelings top up everyone's tank for the work week and whatever the next fight may bring.

Sometimes too much comes all at once. Lately it's been raining major stressors, serious life events that have needed dealing with, like death of a family member, job change, chronic injury/pain. None of it within my control.

It doesn't come naturally for me to reach out to another human and talk about suffering. For lots of reasons. Instead I go quiet, silently buckling down.

A friend noticed. She collected all the data points, little factoids, and put everything together and just came out and said I had a lot going on. It would be all right to feel overwhelmed. At that point, I might have exhaled for the first time in months. Someone saw what I was going through, someone was a witness. There's no stronger antidote to difficulty and pain and no better way to survive it.

So I'm thinking that this delicate silver thing, lovely and almost shocking in its optimism, is not even the real gift.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Two worlds

In January, over lunch at work, a new colleague shared that she'd read every inch of this blog.

Then after searching for me on Facebook, all that came up was a damning podcast from Trailer Talks. She recommended I take a good look at my social media profile. In a way that left no doubt, hey - you don't look that credible. You should do something about that food on your face.

OK...

That was when it began with this colleague. I guess you could call it political behavior. Hints about making audio recordings of meetings. Writing things down. Look you forgot to lock your monitor! Not quite meeting the bar, performance-wise. (Too bad, damaged by a brain injury.) She'd found the dirt on me, on the Internet, and dirt can be politically useful.

After all, I do work in a truth-free zone, a utopian bubble where no one can admit to anything. My colleagues can't be vulnerable with each other, or quirky, or flawed. We pretend to be strong all day long.

For a few weeks, I thought ill of this person. I let the conversation and the behavior that followed percolate for a while. Went on a few bike rides, in case there was something to salvage from the experience. Maybe she was a lost cause (or not). But maybe, just maybe, there was something to be learned here...

Despite my anger, this week I found something. The story of my recovery is not told that well. The hopeful part of the story. This blog tells (some of) the dark stuff, the outpouring of disbelief and disappointment that I needed to express. If you have a brain injury, even best case scenario you can expect everyone who is supposed to be helpful, family, doctors, employers, insurance companies, to slide out from under you or lash out. Guess we can add colleagues to the list....

That's just the way it is right now. We know so little about brain injury, and how to diagnose and heal it. In the face of uncertainty people are not altogether good. Some of these people act brain-damaged when they are not.

Yet the story as it's told here doesn't say enough about the light. How far I've come and how far everyone can go, with effort and self-reliance, not to mention a few tips from someone who's been there. I was scrambling and trying and working so hard at the time. I didn't know how to put that into words.

I'll work on it.

It might take a little while. After all I have a demanding full-time job with at least one colleague who believes what people believed 20 years ago: that brain injury is a permanent, intractable thing. A stigma.

In the meantime, a strategic tip for everyone. If you want your brain to work well and be healthy for the long haul, consider incorporating aerobic exercise into your daily routine.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Baggage


To be gluten free, and to travel (outside your house) you need props.

This GF bun from Trader Joe's has seen a whole lot of the local area. It was carried in my bike bag 170 miles before this photo was taken. (Only 2 rides, folks.) It's my ticket to being able to roll up and order a sandwich or burger pretty much anywhere, and not turn into a sad sack excuse for a living thing who can't turn the pedals.

Yeah, it's cool. And it's been places. On a ride of any length these days, you'll find one of these in my bike bag.