For the past several years, I have been increasingly sedentary, not spending as much time outside in the summer, and then not in the winter. Now, I’ve been living in my current house for close to seven years, and the first couple of years, I was very active outside, in all seasons. In the winter, I was always out, working on the ice and snow that built up on my driveway… snowshoeing in the woods nearby… raking snow off my roof… and more. In the spring, I was out in my yards — front and back — working with the plantings there, making plans to put in a garden, getting to know the place, negotiating the vast amounts of mud that replaced the snow. In the summer, I was usually out mowing or working on some fixer-upper project… hiking in the woods, riding my bike, and generally being active. And in the fall, there was even more work to do, to get ready for the winter. Putting up firewood, raking all those leaves, weatherizing the house, getting the furnace cleaned and the snowblower serviced.
It was engaging, necessary work, and I loved my house — as I do now — so I was happy to do it all. It gave me something to talk about at work. It gave me something to keep me busy and active and healthy.
But then something changed. I stopped being as enthusiastic about taking care of things. I stopped being as engaged with the maintenance and the general work it takes to keep a place running. I stopped mowing religiously every other weekend. I stopped being as diligent about clearing leaves from the yard and snow from the driveway. I stopped going outside to work on the plantings, and I let things just grow up wildly in all directions. There were repairs that needed to be made, but I let them go. I just didn’t pay any attention to them. My mind seemed to always be somewhere else.
I couldn’t seem to muster the enthusiasm to do much of anything around the house, and the things that did get done — the painting, the snow removal, the cleaning — seemed like monumental efforts that usually involved some sort of emotional crisis, either before, during, or after.
And I hardly even noticed the change. It sounds strange to say, but the neglect and the ennui just sort of happened, and I barely noticed. In fact, it took a couple of years for me to even get a clue about how I’d just let things go. It took me some time to figure out that all the drama around doing what were once simple things, wasn’t actually the way it always was before. But something was different. I couldn’t feel it, but when I thought back about how things had been before, I knew — rationally — that there was no way I could have kept the house in good working order for the first few years, if I’d been this lax about everything.
And I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I’d let everything go. It didn’t make sense. But until about a year ago, whenever I’d start to puzzle over the “why?” of my increased neglect and unusually sedentary way of life, I would get hung up on the confusion, and then give up before I could puzzle my way through to any sort of answer.
But when I think about it now — and for some reason, things have become clearer to me, over the past months — I realize that my neglect and ennui and abandonment of my “post” as the head steward of this house coincided with the fall I had in 2004, when I hit my head on those stairs.
Again, it’s really hard for me to get a sense of where and when and how it all changed. It seemed very subtle to me, and perhaps it seemed that way to others, but the snowball effect has become increasingly difficult to handle. I’m now at a point where the basement is full-up of all kinds of stuff that I just tossed there, we can’t use our attic, because of an invasion of flying squirrels, we can’t use one of our bathrooms because the leaks are too intense, and the tile is falling off the walls, and the other bathroom — the usable one with the shower — is in danger of falling apart, since the walls are very soft and spongey. The shower walls are literally being held together in places by thick lines of caulk.
This is not good. And I have to do something about it. I’m working on it, for sure — trying like crazy to get the money together to do the repairs
Looking back, I can see how, in 2005, the year after the fall, I became increasingly non-functional. I was having tremendous difficulties at work, things were really unraveling for me there, and I stopped going to the gym. I stopped being social, period. I did less and less hiking, I didn’t do much snowshoeing in the winter, and I didn’t mow as religiously as I had. Being a lot less social, I had fewer people to talk to about my life, and things that people used to remind me to do, by telling me about their activities, just fell by the wayside. I spent more and more time inside, writing in my journal, or trying to read or … what was I doing? I can’t quite remember what I was doing. I’ll have to go back and look at my notes.
I do know what I wasn’t doing, however — taking care of my house and my health.
It was like my brain went on vacation.
Interestingly, I find myself suddenly starting to re-emerge from that old fuzzy place. I’m not sure if it’s because of the new therapist I have who really holds my feet to the fire and forces me to account for myself and behave like a normal human being (my other therapist treated me like a poor victim of circumstances, which did not work for me, really). It may also be because of the neuropsych I’ve been working with who is really focused on problem-solving over the long term. It could be the exercise, which has helped me get my act together — perhaps better than any other thing I’ve done, or help I’ve received. It may also be because I’m pushing myself to do more, take on more responsibility, and really live up to my potential, rather than wandering around in a daze, aimlessly drifting from one activity to another without understanding what I was doing, or why. Or, it could be that my tracking activities are paying off, and I’m managing my own cognitive-behavioral health better as a result. I think it may be a combination of all of the above. That, and the fact that my spouse has a better idea about what it is I’m dealing with, as a multiple MTBI survivor, and they can not only cut me a little bit of slack, when I’m drifting or falling back, but they can also now support me better in getting on the right track again.
I think it’s a combination of all of the above, plus time. TBI can take a while to sort itself out, and everyone is different. For me, it may have taken me five years to get myself back together to this level. I have a lot more progress to make, and every day, I learn something new about what I need to improve. It’s a constant process, and it’s a good one. And the better I do, the better I want to do.
So, it seems my brain is coming back from its vacation. I’m doing more around the house — I’ve actually been helping to clean, if you can imagine that. I’m doing more with myself that’s productive and focused. And I’m making excellent progress in my work. I’ve got a great new opportunity I really want to pursue, and I have to keep on my toes to do it — and myself — justice. This is really, truly big. It’s huge. It could mean the difference between competing with lower-priced professional peers for increasingly scarce work, and rising to a different professional level, entirely, where I can use more of my conceptual thinking strengths, and not be held back by my nitty-gritty detail-ridden complexity-mired weaknesses.
Onward and upward. It’s good to be back.
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