“Protection Mode”

For all but maybe two years of my life until the age of 38, there was at least some sort of abuse to which I experienced.

I am not one to banter about the past without there being a solution to a problem/ / fault about myself that I have learned. In other words, this is not a “Woe is me,” hand-wringing post.

Again, I survived and experienced abuse of every sort over the first 38 years of my life except the 2 years I was single.

This bred something underneath my awareness.

My mother did not like me writing, so I would hide my papers that I wrote in various places in my closet: in pockets of my clothing, etc. This was because I wanted to not be so robbed of me totally losing a facet of my life that was both therapeutic and exercising my individuality.

My first husband was physically abusive, so I hid my keys and cell phone in similar ways. The whole purpose was to have a way to leave if things were that bad based on my assessment.

Then, I left my first husband. Abuse ended with him. My parents were mostly out of my life, so that was less likely as well, not to mention, Dan (my present husband) knows and knew and guarded against anything happening to me or my children.

After I left my first husband and later connected with Dan, I WOULD STILL hide my keys ad phone! I was STILL SCARED even though my environment was immensely altered. I slowly shifted when my trust grew, and I realized everything was okay.

THEN, I fell twenty feet and obtained a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). On a side note, I loathe mentioning this as I do not want to have it sound like AN EXCUSE. THE THING IS THE BRAIN CHANGES after such an event. FURTHERMORE, it often relapses with memories, emotions, etc. I will say I did not lose my memory of the present; however, my emotions relapsed.

What does this mean? Well let’s go back in time, BEFORE my fall, I did try to protect Dan, the love of my life of… disappointments, etc. I did not share all information with him that I had come to know or of what I was in control.

Was this maniacal, and was I attempting to be deceitful? No, believe it or not. You see, I love this man far beyond what I ever felt for my first husband (note to those who do not know me: I did not say I loved my first husband). Finding Dan has been the best part of my life, and I value finding him and his love for me so much that I ERRONEOUSLY was not straightforward with all of the woes life brings. It’s like… I wanted to protect him like one of my eight children.

BECAUSE this was so much a part of my life in the past before Dan MIXED WITH the cognitive / cerebral transitions, I took this “Protection Mode” regarding him BEYOND what should be. More and more I am believing that “Protection Mode” should not exist so much amongst life partners.

My point in this post is to communicate one of the errors in my ways along with provide insight into how others may also have learned to cope and survive.

Please, if you are with your Soul Mate and he / she is good to you, this way of living should not be a part of how you operate. IF YOU DO NEED THIS to survive, please consider how unhealthy your life is and seek a way to create a new pay.

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Changing Oneself Alters Perception of Others

It has been a little over twenty-eight months since I obtained a TBI, traumatic brain injury. Within the first year of my return to my family, it was apparent to other close loved ones that I changed; but it was not so evident to me. Upon returning home, I was given a list of restrictions, etc. which was very difficult to appreciate. The goal of the medical staff was for me to continue to improve and not have another “unhappy surprise.” Outside of being directed to wear a brace, I physically felt largely the same. Furthermore, my wittiness was as strong or grew stronger, meaning that it was EVEN LESS evident that there were changes.

I am very honored to have my husband, Dan, to have ever been a part of my life, let alone to endure through all of our trials and tribulations. One of the most traumatic and dramatic hurdles has been my recovery physically, mentally, and emotionally. (Note: I AM NOT claiming I am recovered to the point of being exactly the person I was before I fell.)

Through this time since my return home, my husband has, on occasion, told me what I “need to do,” whether it’s based on emotional changes or financial struggles. He and I have always been a team, but somehow, I lost part of “the we” (not to be confused with the Wii). In essence, when I have been told what I need to do, it has felt like there is / was a focus upon how I have changed, etc. I LOST SIGHT OF THE WE. This means that I lost sight and perspective of he and I still being a team. It has, until this week, always seemed like just another way to articulate how I am different and what I NEED TO DO to improve things.

Part of this discombobulation is that this was not articulated as a mindset of teamwork until very recently. For there was no onset focus stated in a way that kept me feeling secure and calm as I am coached on what I need to do for THE TEAM.

My reason for focusing on this is, just like with anything else, there are two sides to every coin. Furthermore, as my husband states, “What you focus on, you create.” I felt isolated along with feeling that there was focus on how much I need to change versus new goals for us as a team. This is because this was how I placed my attention. The flip-side of this is that my husband did not remind me that we as a team STILL ARE A TEAM.

I feel that with many physical changes that  there is a tendency to feel isolated. The thing is that the one feeling this way is often the one causing it him/herself, taking away the union that he/she has with someone. We mustn’t lose sight that we still are the same person, even if we have changed. Furthermore, those people who are advising us down a different or altered road means that those persons ARE STILL ON THE JOURNEY WITH US!!!! It is even good to inquire about that team still remaining. This would help the caregiver understand part of the fight; furthermore, it offers emotional support along with confirmation logically that this IS NOT something lost. (Otherwise that person or people WOULD NOT be communicating with you, let alone offering advice as to what should be done to improve life (for all parties involved.)

When we can become more in touch with whom we have not lost and not thwart ourselves away from them, due to feeling rejected, this adds to the comfort we have along with help the supporters to not lose love or appreciation for us.

Redefinition, Reinvention, and Stumbling on the “Old Me” Who is Still There

In many ways, there are injuries and events that change who we are. I could write about TBIs and all the changes that occur physically, emotionally, behaviorally, and more. However, I am going to slant this outside of the medical world before formally venturing there.

Twenty-six years ago I was a waitress/server. After I became pregnant with my oldest, I quit work so I could be a stay-at-home mother. After that, her father and I eventually visited the restaurant franchise where I was a server. Even though I was not in uniform, my mind and emotions took on that role, as if I was on shift at that very moment. I heard the orders being called to the cooks, the salad bar’s containers that needed to be refilled and more. I could not relax. Here I was a server and could not be a leisurely patron at this restaurant. I even found that at many restaurants I would still mentally be working. It was void of being able to relax.

After a while, I thought to myself how ridiculous this was and how I should place myself in the role of being a patron/customer. It developed to the point that every once in a while I request the server for something I would prefer, which took some gumption, as I always saw it as making the server be put under more demands and stress. In other words, I had to reinvent how I saw myself along with my actions at a restaurant. I have always been independent and have never reveled in being served. That waitress is still in me.. the older version of me is still there. I stack the plates, etc. when my party and I are preparing to leave and pay the bill.  Actually, it is comforting for me to do this for the server. I have had that sort of job.

So, I have a new me, whether I want her or not. When you have had a brain injury, things change. For some, there can be loss of limbs or ability to move a portion of their bodies in the same way they could. I have that a little but not as much as emotional, psychological and behavioral changes. I used to keep my thoughts and feelings totally to myself. I still do that some; however, I don’t do it all the time. I have come to learn that some of these changes are healthy for me, whereas “stuffing” all thoughts and feelings may be more amiable to everyone else, it is more unhealthy for the person doing this. So, the first step is to see the good sides in the “new hand” that life has given.

My injury took place August 24, 2014. My battle for the “old me” unknowingly began around October 3, 2014, as that was the day I was released from the hospital. I did not know I was fighting until around May 16, 2015. All I saw for so long is everything I am not anymore. It is as if anything I appreciated about myself seemed to be gone. HOWEVER, this is not true. I was a daredevil from the time I was a little girl. I pushed the bar with the restrictions with my return home. Yes, I know that going beyond what is recommended/advised by the medical field is not the wisest choice. I wanted to be free, and felt like all of these rules were caging me. Upon a recent conversation with my husband, I revealed all the different ways I have crept beyond the line or attempted to do so from decades ago. These are all fun moments to remember BUT NOT ONLY THAT! Just speaking about them HAD ME REALIZE SHE’S STILL THERE!!! Sure, I’m more vocal and I see how that can be frustrating. Yes, my daredevil side is there; however, THAT’S PART OF THE OLD ME! What that means is I’m not an alien to myself. Sure, there are facets about me that have changed, but I have loved music and singing since I had a gym set. I have been a daredevil for most all my life at least a little. So, I have changed. The grief is a lot less coming to grips with the facets and characteristics/traits of me that HAVE NOT CHANGED.I am not saying all my “old ways” are the safest or even advisable to maintain; however, there is more inward peace and acceptance of myself between the combination of understanding the good things that have developed and the fun ones that are still there.

The other beauty in this is the ability to dream and not only be redefined by the event itself but also to reinvent oneself. Part of my reinvention is to write about such things to help others.. not for accolades, just to help others in ways I may or may never know. In the past, I only had hats relating to my family (friends are family too) and not others. Now, I have invented the idea of creating a firsthand voice and responding to those I know and do not know. I would not be writing about anosmia or all these changes if it were not for that TBI. However, there is NEW compassion and NEW comraderie along with a NEW zeal to write my positive experiences to help all those others out there fighting their own battles. As aforementioned, no accolades are sought. Giving with no expected results is quite wonderful.

Appreciation Vs. Loss

I was released from the rehabilitation center for my TBI on October 3, 2014 after my accident happened August 24, 2014. Since that return home, there have been many battles. The primary battles have been regarding loss and change. TBI survivors often acquire Alzheimer’s or dementia. A local chiropractic neurologist linked that to depression. Upon talking to my husband, he stated that when one is depressed it takes all that person’s attention and that person becomes forgetful of everything outside of the topic causing depression. Ironically, patients with Alzheimer’s are better with schedules. They become adapted to the schedules and even less accustomed TO CHANGE or the feeling of LOSS.

I have not appreciated my husband enough lately. I have not tried to show this; however, I have pined and longed for “how we were” and “how Dan was.” However, how can Dan be the same? He almost lost his wife. He had to play both the mother and father role suddenly without his wife for about six weeks. I cannot be the same even if I try, at least not totally. How can Dan be the same? Why should I pine for something that cannot happen?

Amidst all this pining, appreciation has been diminished. Many TBI couples divorce. That TBI survivor does not act exactly the same or maybe that survivor cannot physically do what he/she did, whether math, see, smell, taste, hear, read, move, etc. Surviving such a thing and having cognitive skills with no new reference markers to who and how we are, there is a slower understanding of changes to the survivor. There is a slower understanding of to whom and what our loved one/s have lived and adapted.

Today, I talked to a friend about my fall and how my husband had to plan meals, be the business secretary again (I proudly took that role early in our relationship), adjust to a more confined, smaller house in the middle of the chaos while not knowing i I would keep breathing or have cognitive skills. I then relayed how I miss “that look” he would give me and some of “the feelings” that seem to outwardly be gone. They’re not gone.. they are changed.. in a new light, but they are not gone. However, without “the look” it has felt that way. However, coffee on the porch, calls when he is returning home, and even a milkshake now and then on his arrival.. those scream the love is still there and is shown in ways and methods that were not there in the past; however, back then, he did not have a job away from home. My point is I am on a path to regain appreciation of the “changed” Dan due to the “changed” me. I’m more outward with my feelings, and he is more outward with his. It may feel worse; however, if he stuffed his emotions like I had my whole life, THAT WOULD BE WHAT IS WORSE.

It is saddening to know I accidentally took him for granted and have not appreciated him as much as I can (and should).  Maybe I don’t give him a certain look and will give it again without ever knowing it was there or gone. Regardless, appreciation is a much better focus than on things and relationships that cannot return to how and what they were.

Living in the Present and Watching the Present Pass Exercises

I took a walk today and reminisced about my time admitted at West Florida Rehabilitation Center on the 2nd floor. I remembered some of the patients with whom I was closeby eating a meal and how some of them seemingly did not know I was next to them. I was puzzled as to why this was, but today it dawned on me that they could have been overcoming TBIs as well. Due to this, I called the receptionist and asked if the second floor was where brain injury patients and other patients with brain conditions stayed. She basically agreed this to be true. Upon the end of the phone call, I caught myself nearly in tears.. I didn’t know there were others like myself, and to be honest, I did not understand at that point how traumatic my accident was.

So here I was walking down the road and nearly crying. Then, I remembered the idea of “living in the now” and not the past along with mindfulness exercises. So then, I began focusing on my walk, the breeze, the trees and the cars passing by me.

I, then, pursued an exercise focusing on the cars, watching them pass by me and then not looking behind me to see them. The idea was to help me live in the present and to train myself that the past cannot be changed, and it does not live in the present. From that point, I began to note the present traffic passing by me and how seeing it was only momentary and then became part of the past. There were times I thought of turning my head, but I did not. I recalled the story of Abraham, Lot, and Lot’s wife. They were told to move away from Sodom and Gomorrah and not look back. Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. As I mulled this idea, I realized how unfruitful it is to look back on the past and not be focused on the present.. that I, myself, am as productive as a pillar of salt when I do this. Here we are focusing on the past and future which do not exist and do not focus enough on the present. I believe I am going to continue exercising in this fashion on my walks to help train my thought process to be in the present and mindful of each moment as it happens versus causing wear and tear on my mind and body through depression and anxiety over the past and future.

Living Life Like I am Human

Note: Some of this has been written previously;however, I have added new insight to this post.

As aforementioned, I have been living a life according to my own expectations along with the hopes of others. When one does this, it can be quite robotic. I have always resisted feeling much negativity, whether sadness, anger, depression, etc. However, since my accident, my inhibitions have been lightened and freed. The consequence is that I am more connected  to my deeper emotional side and less inclination to hold onto my old or present luggage. Being that my world is far more emotional, the managing of these feelings is at times quite complex. However, focusing on the present aids the ability to feel weighted and loaded with antiquated drama. There are many parts of my life on which that I could visualize, and it would be stifling to experience the memories. Howbeit, fixing my attention on the present allows me to retire these old memories that torpedo my effervescence. Mindfulness helps avoid emotional debilitation.

Another aspect is learning and creating one’s boundaries to oneself. It has been easy for me to create boundaries for the children; however, I have never outlined to myself what is beyond what I should expect myself to do. For instance, when it comes to doing things that are strenuously arduous, BREATHE and take a break in between one goal and the next. Otherwise, I become quite irritated and grumpy. I have rewritten “These Boots are Made for Walkin’.” The content is my old poor habits followed by me creating ones that allow me to live an emotionally healthier life. For instance, instead of pushing my workload when it is stressful and no more productive than me taking a breather, I have begun to understand my weaknesses to the point of “taking breathers.” This does not mean procrastinate for a nonsensical amount of time. However, taking the time to breathe deeply and settle my emotions from intense task to another makes the next job easier with me in a more amiable disposition than pushing myself to the point I am stressed and more cantankerous.

Forgiving Myself for Being Human

My  sister, Becky,lived with my parents and me until I was nine. Then after much struggle with learning about retardation, my parents admired her into a center for the mentally challenged/retarded individuals.

When Becky lived with us and throughout my childhood, I always wanted to sit in the front seat when traveling and commuting. My maniacal solution was to elbow and pinch her until she audibly displayed discomfort. My mother would then pull into the outside of the right lane so I could be separated from her by placing more in the front seat. I would gloat with satisfaction.

However, that ended when she was registered and placed in the rehabilitation center. Even the night she was given to the state department, I cried. My cunning act of getting my way plagued my life for over a decade. I would tell oder people how bad I was as a sister and what I did that had me haunted.

Finally, one man told me I was acting life a child while being one. This was very enlightening to hear. My response to this knowledge was forgiving myself. Afterwards, I no longer felt stifled by acting like a child at the young age range of four to nine. As my Love days, “Forgiveness is the willingness to experience something you are unwilling to experience so that you can let it go.”