Executive function issues just blend right in
Ouch. I was pretty active yesterday, for the first time in a long time, and now all the muscles that I usually don’t use (and I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t use them) are complaining. Funny, I didn’t think I pushed myself that hard, but my body says otherwise.
It’s just as well. It will start me down the road to get in shape for the spring and summer. Spring is only 2 weeks away, after all. It can’t come soon enough. Of course, I say that now… I can only imagine how in a matter of months I’ll be looking forward to summer… then fall… then winter… then spring again…
All in good time. I think it’s best if I just enjoy now for what it is.
I’ve had some hard thinking and soul-searching to do, lately. Reading about executive function — and how common it is in TBI, and how it can really screw with your ability to live your life and have “positive outcomes” (the official term for “getting your sh*t in order and just being able to live your life the way you intend”) — I’ve had to back up a little bit and really consider how much my life has been screwed up by executive function issues.
It’s weird. I haven’t even given this a whole lot of thought – I tend to think of my issues as being lower-order. Things like tinnitus (which was out of control the other day — really driving me crazy… come to think of it, it’s worse than normal and bugging me in the background, right now, too)… and light and sound sensitivity… and touch being painful, or tactile defensiveness, where I recoil if anyone touches me (that’s been happening lately, too)… and the aches and pains, headaches (those have been around, lately)… lack of coordination… trouble sleeping… a whole host of physical issues that mess with my mind, because they are so damn’ distracting and take considerable energy and focus to keep them from taking over my every waking moment.
But reading the paper on “Higher-Order Reasoning Training Years after Traumatic Brain Injury in Adults” is turning out to be a wake-up call. And I am realizing — years after starting my neuropsych rehab — that I have considerable issues with executive function. I have had these issues for a long, long time.
And I haven’t really realized it. Not fully, anyway.
Let me clarify — I do know that I have issues with:
You know, it’s funny – when I write all this down, I can see that there are areas where I would really like to improve. But when I’m going about my daily life, they don’t just pop up in plain view when I need to see them. Now, I know that there are plenty of other people walking around out there with similar issues, and not all of them are related to TBI. The thing with me is that no matter what the cause, I still want to get a better handle on these things and not have them disrupt my life the way they have been. In so many small, seemingly insignificant ways, they get me down… and then they snowball, till I have no idea how to handle any of them, aside from leave and go on to the next thing.
The issues aren’t just small things, here and there. There are some significant ways that my life is disrupted by these things — and I believe a lot of my issues can be traced back to concussions/TBIs I sustained as a kid. Over the years, I just got in the habit of doing things a certain way — or NOT doing things at all. And as a result, I just haven’t developed the “muscle” for the kind of executive functioning I (and others) expect of myself.
Seriously, I’m a smart cookie, and I have my moments, but my life and my career and my financial state do not reflect even a portion of what I’m truly capable of — and what I have tried — with all my might — to be capable of. I want to change this. More than just about anything.
So, yeah — executive functioning. Frontal lobe stuff. I have a pretty good understanding of my physical issues, and I have my ways of coping with them. Now I need to look at the higher-order issues I have, and actively participate in them.
Yes, actively participate. Because I’ve been seeing a neuropsych for a number of years, now, but to be perfectly honest — and I feel like an idiot saying so — I haven’t really understood what the hell we were doing each week, just talking about my life. Seriously, how interesting can it be to hear about my stupid projects at my stupid job? But that’s been the (somewhat tiring) topic of conversation — in great and thorough detail — for some time, now.
But in all honesty, I haven’t given it all I had. I’ve glossed over things. I’ve covered up problems I’ve had with my reading and writing and comprehension and planning and follow-through… to the point where my neuropsych never realized how much I was struggling with my reading and comprehension and planning and follow-through, and didn’t realize that I switched those several jobs when I did because I got so friggin’ confused that I just couldn’t do it anymore. It wasn’t just about “seeking new opportunity” which is a great way to describe “get me the hell out of here” — it was about avoiding dealing with the difficulties I was having and just couldn’t deal with, before everyone found out how much I’d let things slide and ended up pissed off at me — which is what’s been going on in my current job for over a year, now.
Thinking honestly about a lot of things in my life, I instinctively avoid certain things I really need to deal with. Things like fixing a leaning lamp post in front of my house that I can’t figure out how to shore up. Things like paying bills. Things like financial planning in general. Things like getting my chores done. Things like sorting all the papers I’ve thrown on my desk. Things like planning and completing project tasks that confuse and frustrate me and I can’t figure out how to handle. I don’t waste my time sitting around feeling insecure and anxious — I just avoid them completely and think about other things.
Which is great in the moment… but later on it’s a big problem.
It’s cumulative. So, here I am, with a seeming ton of little things I need to sort out, all sitting around in the wings, as I go merrily on my way, paying attention to other things that seem much more interesting to me and give me some relief from my overwhelm. Eventually it does catch up with me, and I have to dig myself out from under… which is kind of where I am now. And where I am now, is realizing that I can’t just run away from things, I can’t just avoid them. I have issues that are hiding in plain sight — the only reason I don’t see them, is I’m not looking. And I’m not admitting to them, to the person(s) who can help me.
I really need to stop and stand my ground and just deal — with the things I’ve put off, as well as my own executive function issues. I need to stop looking at all the tasks and to-do items as hindrances and problems, and see them as ways to improve my executive functioning overall.
‘Cause I need to address it. Before it gets the better of me. Again.
I’m changing jobs. I’m changing my life. If I don’t address these executive function issues, I’m just going to make a tough job harder — if not impossible.