Life is rolling, rolling along and I feel fine.
Things are good. I am here. Life is manageable.
I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve magically healed from my brain injuries. Nor that I’ve even had a jump in healing or a marked improvement in the last few weeks. Rather, life is feeling good because who I am and who I expect myself to be have lined up just a little bit more completely.
I figured something out. Another little piece of the puzzle, another little help along the way to making my mTBI recovering life just a bit more bearable. Want to know what it is?
It is this simple truth:
I can only do one thing at a time.
That’s it. That’s the long and short of it.
I can only do one thing at a time.
Now, I’ve known that’s true on the small scale. I can’t multitask around the house. It just leads to headaches and frustration and tears. I don’t try anymore.
What has changed my life is realizing this truth on a larger scale. On a big scale, I can only do one thing at a time. Large actions, large ideas, large issues can only be handled one by one. Any significant action or life changing decision can only be considered and felt and dealt with one at a time. Period.
I know, I know. You don’t have to tell me. That’s not how life works.
But that’s how I work, now. And the sooner I can acknowledge that, accept that, and plan for that – the happier we will all be.
There is a reason I have been labeled impaired, disabled. I don’t think Social Security is sending me checks every month just because I felt like a few years’ vacation. Hah.
No, they’re paying me because I can’t work. I’m not working because there are things I just can’t do right now. A lot of things.
What’s amazing is that even after four years, I am still discovering the ways that I am impaired. No, I’m not getting worse. No, I haven’t re-injured myself. Rather, I mean I am becoming more skilled. I am becoming more able to first perceive I have an executive functioning issue and second to articulate it to myself and others.
Gods, that is like 95% of the challenge in brain injury world. First to perceive what it is that is off, and then to find words to tell someone else.
If I could have told myself, or told Mary, what was wrong with me after I was injured… that would have saved both of us years of anger and frustration and resentment. She didn’t understand the level of help I needed. I didn’t understand why she wasn’t helping me, but I couldn’t explain what I needed or why I needed it because I was too confused.
Gods, what a nightmare. For everyone.
Okay. Now, back to what I was originally talking about. I have realized I can only do one “big” thing at a time. So how does that play out in my life? Let’s look at the last bit of time.
From the beginning of the year until the date of my injury anniversary (January 25th), I was dealing with the reality that I experienced a life-changing injury four years ago. I was angry, I was sad, I was bitter. I had all sorts of emotions and thoughts bubbling beneath the surface of my consciousness, and I did my best during that time to hear my inner self and process through my emotions. During that time period, that was the only big thing I could focus on. I wrote a blog post, the day came and went, and I put that anniversary to bed in my mind.
Once that was taken care of, I could move on to the next thing. I spent from about January 26th to this past Friday integrating my entire self behind changing my name. I have been considering changing my name on and off for the past five months or so. I’ll write more about this later in another blog post… soon. This past Friday, I initiated the name change process. Another big thing done. Now it can sit on the shelf until the court does it’s part and it’s time for me to take further action.
That meant I was free to move on to the next issue in my life – my car. My damned car. It is a lemon. Not a legally-actionable-level lemon, but definitely a lemon. It just turned over 100,000 miles and it needs thousands of dollars worth of work. A new noise, a new smell, a new vibration seems to pop up every week, and I feel like it is a ticking time bomb. I need to trade it in or sell it, and get an affordable, working, reliable car as soon as possible. That is what is currently taking all my mental energy, and likely will for a while.
Once I’ve dealt with that issue, there will be something else to take its place. New medical treatments, taxes, a new bed, travel to see family, money management, house repairs… on and on and on. All of it needs my attention. Half of it needed my attention last month. And none of these things can be dealt with right now. Because I am dealing with one thing – and only one thing – at a time. Because that is all I can do.
So I set aside all concerns, thoughts, problem solving urges, and actions for all other situations in my life, so I have the energy and capacity to handle one situation in my life.
I now, truly, have a one track mind.
And now that I know that, I – surprisingly – feel a lot better about everything. It suddenly makes sense. I don’t need to figure out a bunch of things. I just need to figure out what is most urgent or most important to me, and focus on that. As long as everything else won’t explode or kill anyone – it can wait. Really. It can wait. I know that isn’t pleasant for the people in my life, or people who want or need things from me… but that is the best I can do.
I remember a time, a time long ago now, where I could figure out my car repairs, roller derby practice, divorce papers, medical care, and the plans for my next trip all at once. All at once! On and on and on, I just kept adding things to figure out. And I did it. I could juggle it all, keep all those balls in the air.
And now I can’t. And that just is. It bothers me, when I think about it, that it takes me a year to do what a healthy person can accomplish in a month. Hell, in two weeks. So I don’t think about it.
I just accept what is true for me now, and focus on that. Now that I’m not trying to do more than one thing at a time, I am a lot happier. I feel so much more in control of my life. It is simpler, when there are fewer choices. My main choice is what problem I will deal with. It isn’t how I will manage all the stuff that needs to get done. It isn’t me trying to use every moment of every day to make what I want happen. It isn’t complex and energy intensive.
It’s one thing. One thing at a time. That, my friends, I can handle.