I've been writing this blog for a while now and I have a few observations. Some were expected, others surprising.
Occasionally (either while I'm just thinking about what to write or, much less often, while I'm actually writing,) when something happens that reminds me of mychildhood - a smell, a sound, etc) I burst into tears, reminded of how I felt as a kid. It's been happening several times a week. This usually only lasts a few minutes. I feel profoundly sad for the young RR. It's like I'm feeling all this now because I'm allowed to feel this now. Sometimes I don't know what the mystery trigger was but often I can figure out what it was. This doesn't happen everyday, and I've talked to my T about it. I think I'm just working through some things. Lol. It seems so obvious when I type it out like that. Obviously I'm working through a bunch of things. 😁 Overall I feel a lot less anxious than I did before I started this blog. I still have anxiety, it's just been reduced quite a lot.
In the beginning I was massively worried about sharing. I was worried about well-intentioned people pitying me. I didn't want to feel belittled. That seems kinda silly now, but I was worried about it a lot a month ago. This fear was based on my past experiences sharing parts of my story with people. Some people never look at you the same again when you share details of your survivor story. They said things like "that's unbelievable" and seemed like they cared but really I wondered if they weren't just thanking their lucky stars they never experienced something like that.
I think that my concern on this came from not liking to feel like a little kid. I do not like feeling powerless. Others pitying me sets up an unequal power dynamic that makes my skin crawl. I do not like feeling pitiful. Here's the thing though, even if someone says something like that, I don't have to feel like that. I can choose what kind of support I listen to.
I can ignore well-intentioned people who say unhelpful stupid things, even if they are not trying to harm me. Just because someone is trying to be nice doesn't mean I have to listen to them. I don't have to take it to heart. It doesn't have to trigger me. I don't have to be worried about that trigger. People will say unhelpful things. I don't have to listen. I can choose not to. That doesn't mean I'm rude. It means I can curate who gets to be on my personal support team. I have a personal cheering section just for me and I get to choose who's on it. If you are well-intentioned but obtuse...sorry, you didn't make the team.
Incidentally, absolutely no one on AS has said anything like this. Everyone has been super supportive. So this was an unfounded concern I had. All of the pity reactions I've been subject to have happened in real life, face to face, situation s.
Writing for me is a long process. It is kindof a jumbled mess with lots of first draft errors. Because of the aphasia, understanding written words is much harder than it was before for me. I read better and understand more when I read out loud. I also catch my own mistakes better when I read out loud. I do a bunch of writing at night, after everyone else has gone to bed. So often I find myself sitting on my bed whispering quietly to myself as I read and edit and read again, sifting through the mess to find grammar mistakes and homonyms. Freakin homonyms, man! I'm sure it looks crazy, but it works.
At first I genuinely hated this. I hated everything about it. I used to be great at writing. I compared my post-TBI writing skills to my pre-TBI skills and only saw what was missing. I judged myself for the mountain of mistakes I found after the 7th, 8th, 9th reading. But then...an unexpected thing happened. In a strange way having to go over it so many times I think has been helping me face it. It's helping me validate my childhood self. Yes, this happened. Yes, it was real. Yes, it's safe to tell, safe to talk about now. Telling it over and over to myself helps me kind of slowly digest it, before I hit the button and send it out into the universe. It's odd because I rarely cry during the actual writing process. I feel vulnerable, hurt, and alone, but I don't usually cry. I think going over and over it helps me really feel the pain completely before letting it go. Before, I saw this brain injury as a massive disability, but now I'm starting to see it as a series of speed bumps. It's reminding me to slow down and helping me slowly get through all this shit. I have to repetitively go through it or it just wouldn't be readable.
That leads me to the next unexpected thing - I never realized just how much shit there was. What I mean is, I had a general sense of having lived through a shitty childhood. There is far more bad and shitty memories than there are good ones. But I didn't really understand the sheer volume of crappy things I've endured. Just a mountain of it. How did I not realize there was so much pain? Possibly this is because I packed it all away in little boxes and chose not to open them all at once until now. It is seriously a lot of shit, just a fuckin lake full of it. No, not an lake, bigger than that...a childhood full of it.
I need to be a less judgy friend to myself. My yoga teacher last week had us think about something untrue that we say to ourselves, and then later had us reword it. My thing was "I shouldn't feel...." I scold myself because I think that I shouldn't feel a certain way about something. However, if someone else was in the same position, I'd be gentle to them. My gentler self reworded it to "it's ok if I feel...." For instance, a few days ago I forgot to take a medication in the morning. It's one I have only been on for a few weeks, so it's just not part of my routine yet. I felt awful and just generally lousy. But by the time I realized I had forgotten my pill it was already early evening and too late to take it. Then I started with the negative self talk. I'm such a fuckin idiot... What the hell, RR?... You can't even remember one simple little pill??... The thing with negative self talk is I really shouldn't trust the source. Lol. But really, my negative talk comes from using my depressed brain. My depressed brain doesn't give me great advice. It expects me to be superhuman or something. To never make simple mistakes. And, although I am on the upswing as far as the depression goes I should really just not listen to that voice that whispers shitty untrue things inside my head. The scary thing is that sometimes I believe the things, even though I know they are not true, I fear they might be. Maybe I am a blooming idiot? Maybe I am just a jumbled mess of things I used to be able to do, but can't anymore? A collection of vacuums where there used to be skills?
"I shouldn't feel so bad about my struggles." The thing is that I'm a shitty friend to myself. A good friend wouldn't talk to me this way. I need to get better at this. I need to remember to be a better friend to me.
-It's ok if I feel sad about my TBI and how some things are harder now. That's a normal reaction to a loss.
-It's ok if I missed one pill one day. That's still a greater than 95% success rate. 😁
-It's also ok to feel good about my writing. If anything, positive feedback about my writing now means so much more to me because I know the effort I had to put into it. It used to be easy. It wasn't something I had to work at. It's like getting a compliment about your eye color. Ok, it's nice I guess, but I had to put in exactly zero effort, so.....is that even a compliment? Now I actually have to put in the work.
Another surprising thing that has happened is I've been remembering a few more good things that happened in my earlier years. Going on this trip down memory lane has uncovered a couple of goodmemories that I'd forgotten.
I'm a very visual thinker. Here's what I envision almost every time I hit the "publish" button. Me whispering a secret into my closed fist, then holding my hand out, palm-up, in front of my mouth to blow it out into the universe. The way a little kid blows a kiss. I picture myself sending that secret away. Some of them are heavy, dusty secrets. Some are less so. But always my chest feels a little lighter for having given the secret back to the universe. It's not mine to hold anymore. It's not mine to shame myself about any more. I no longer need to keep it locked away. I can release it. I can set it free. Once I set it free it becomes a non-secret, no longer weighing heavy on my heart and shoulders. It becomes weightless.
I've always had some pretty wild dreams, but lately they seem quite metaphorical. I've had this one a few times in this past month. I stand in front of my closet. I take a deep breath and open the door. I stare at the chaos inside. A tangle of clothes and hangers above a jumbled mess of old clothes. Boxes bulging with forgotten memories precariously stacked on the shelf above. Slowly I start to clean out all the old shit that doesn't fit any more. Sorting through boxes and piles of too big or too little stuff, and using some of it to make something useful to me now. Like a denim rag rug made from the memories my body still remembers but my mind had almost forgotten. Now they are flooding back as I dig through the pile. These clear memories of the sights and sounds and emotionsof my childhood. And maybe I will make something useful out of them. Something useful to me, or helpful to someone else. I'm trying to make a quilt out of my old clothes. Maybe it will keep someone else warm? I am trying to use sunlight to turn my pain into beauty.
I've got part 2 coming, just don't know how to word it just yet. I'll let it sit at that for now.