SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger Jeff Sebell
Of all the behaviors and peculiarities I have adopted since my brain injury, one of the most infuriating is how disconnected I can become. Although I have improved substantially over time and have learned how to deal with them better when they happen, I have moments when I am just not there.
When I say “not there,” what I mean is that I am “not present” to what is going on. The end result of “not being present” is that, instead of living my life, I watch as others participate in theirs, or I stay strangely passive as things happen around me. It is the damnedest thing to be right in the middle of what is happening and yet to be so far away mentally and emotionally. Right then, I have this urge to call the phone company and tell them I have a bad connection – could they send a repairman right away?
Ah, if it were only that easy.
When I am in one of those states of either disconnection or passivity, I become accepting of what others say or do, and I nod a lot and I shrug. Afterwards, with the dust still settling around me, as I begin to recover my wits and I reflect on what just happened, I always wish I could live that little piece of life over again – this time with the wherewithal to participate or to make my wishes known.
Finding myself in a state of disconnection from what is happening around me is something that happens all too often. I feel as though I am a lamp that has had its electric cord disconnected from the socket. Where I was once shining brightly on the various conversations, activities and people in the room, I have had my juice turned off, and I am stuck in the corner as an afterthought. People I had once been speaking with move me to another corner and complain about my not being plugged in.
Being disconnected can be something that happens to me in a social situation, or it could happen to me when I’m trying to do something or accomplish something on my own. I’ve gotten used to having it happen to me in social situations, and I have gotten pretty good at being able to avert or mitigate those instances, mostly by using my nonsensical sense of humor – perfect for that kind of situation.
What throws me off most is when I am trying to perform some task and I become disconnected from a situation. This usually happens when I get confused or overwhelmed, or when I’ve done something a bunch of times and now can’t remember how to do it. Nothing seems to make any sense, and I sit dumbfounded, unable to put two and two together. Having the ability to put two and two together is a skill that enables you to understand why things happen the way they do, how one thing can lead to another, etc., and it’s important when figuring out problems on your own. Adding two and two is so easy, and that’s what makes it so infuriating when I just can’t do it – sort of like word-find problems.
You would think that by the time I reached 58 years old, I would be able to put two and two together in my sleep, but I’m not always able to. What could be causing me to be so removed from what is going on? Is it something I can control, or is that the normal way my brain behaves now?
The answer for me seems to be, as with so many other TBI-related issues, preparation. I do my best to prepare for situations that I know I’m going to find myself in, and my preparations include taking a futurist’s approach to what I am about to do by planning ahead for different conversations, outcomes and eventualities.
It takes work to not be disconnected. In addition to preparation work and getting yourself ready for different eventualities, there is the work it takes to be present in situational disconnects – doing your best to stay in the present by controlling your thoughts and emotions. One kind of work we haven’t talked about is the work it takes after a disconnection happens. Let’s face it – they are going to happen, so how do you get a grip on yourself when things seem to be slipping from you?
It is both easy and tempting to get on your own case and blame yourself or laugh at yourself for something you just did or didn’t do, but it is work to just accept it as reality and move on. The only way you’re going to learn not to do things is to do the following: first, accept the reality of where you are, and second, move forward with dignity and a clear head.
Thank you, Jeff.
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.