Saturday, August 27, 2011

My latest BIM

I was so proud of myself yesterday because I actually cooked my own dinner. I made a frittata with spinach and cheese. I know how easy it is for me to forget what I am doing so I set a timer. Unfortunately, when the timer went off I went to the kitchen to find the pan filled with raw egg and cold spinach sitting on top of the stove. I forgot to PUT IT IN the oven.

Taking it in stride, laughing at myself, at least today.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back from vacation!

I wish I could say my mind was rested. My body is. I exercised. I stuck to my diet, at least until the last two days. I read a lot. I got along great with my SO. But, I had nightmares. Kicking, screaming, crying in my sleep nightmares. I told everyone we met that I was a retired teacher. That was so much easier than saying a teacher on disability. I would not know how to begin to explain to a stranger that I was on disability. I know I do not have to explain but I am basically lying. Why would I retire? I loved my job. I still wish I could do it. I have to begin to accept that I cannot. I still feel so much anger towards the people who stopped me, even though they did not stop me.

It was my brain injury that stopped me. The only thing the people I keep blaming did was make me see that I could not teach and even now, I refuse to see it. I would rather focus my rage on them than accept where I am. Why is it so difficult to admit my own limitations? Why is it easier to make it seem like these limitations were imposed on me by others? I struggled and fought and failed and suffered trying to teach for four years after my surgery. Yes, I made a huge difference for some children. Yes, I contributed to the education of some students. Yes, there were some parents who were very grateful for what I did for some students. As a teacher, I was supposed to be able to teach many children. In previous years, I was able to teach over one hundred children in a year. I was able to collaborate with colleagues and contribute to the growth of the school. I was able to mentor new teachers, speak eloquently at parent forums, inspire minds, advocate effectively, and so on. Such is the life, the job, the expectation of a teacher. The thing is I was really good at it so when I was injured everyone just expected me to continue doing it but just not as well.

My doctors, my family, my boss, everyone just said that it was fine to just be an okay teacher. Just phone it in. Do the job and then go home. You don't have to be fantastic at it anymore. Just do the minimum and even then you will probably do a good job. A good enough job. Just say yes to whatever you are asked to do. Just agree with what you are told. Follow the plan. Stick to the basics. Go along with the crowd. It sounds so easy, doesn't it? I just couldn't do it. It was not because I am stubborn or defiant or a perfectionist. It is not because I wanted to fail or lose my job. It is not because I am in denial about my injury. It is not because I did not have help. I just could not do it. I tried really hard. No one can say I did not try. I gave up piece after piece of my job to make it easier to do the minimum. I relinquished control, I took on less, I rested, I accepted accommodations, I demanded even more accommodations but I still could not do it. It seems counter-intuitive that if I was a great teacher, I could not be a good enough teacher.

Maybe only another teacher can understand how incredibly complicated a job it is. Perhaps, there is no such thing as a good enough teacher. Every teacher is a great teacher. It is just that kind of job. It demands every ounce of your energy and every cell in your body. It demands all of your patience, compassion, intuition, creativity, ability and strength to go on every day. People envy the vacations a teacher gets but it is hard to imagine how essential they are and how often they are not enough to fully recharge the batteries.

I am not the same person I used to be. I need to begin to mourn the loss of that individual. Right now I know that it is important for me to let go and be sad. I will try to be respectful of those who tell me to be grateful for all that I still have but I know this is a period of intense letting go. It is going to be hard work and it is going to be painful but i have to mourn before I can move on. Please let me do that. Please help me to be sad, to bury what once was, to cry over what I lost. It is okay. I will emerge a stronger person after this. I promise. What was killing me last year, what I could not handle, was trying to be something I am not. I will be okay. I do not know when and I do not know how but I know I have to cry right now if I am going to smile some day.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What are you doing?

What a disaster! So much drama!

This morning at 8 AM I employed this excellent system to keep me on track. Excellent until the next BIM gets me into trouble or even worse.

My post-it said "clearing the floor" and my timer ran for 20 minutes. I got distracted at times but kept seeing that sign and that timer and getting back on task. Then I wrote "clearing your work table" and in another 20 minutes of the timer, my sewing room was beautiful.

Next, as I said in my previous post, I decided to blog about my success. Well, the picture I took with my phone would not transmit through bluetooth so I researched Apple posts about said problem and discovered it was not uncommon. I SWAPSed that problem and chose to use the digi camera but the battery was dead. While I was getting the charger, I heard a woman threatening someone outside my window. The woman being threatened said, "I am going to call 911." I HAD TO GET INVOLVED!

I will not stand idly by and allow crimes to be committed on my street. I am a responsible upstanding member of the community and I really do care. I am not joking here. A lot of people do nothing and advise others to do the same because it draws unwanted negativity. I don't want the attention or the focus but I cannot stand by and allow others to be bullied.

So, I open my window to a woman yelling. "Keep it up! I'm going to f@*k you up bitch!" from her car to another woman standing on the sidewalk with her doggie.

I tell the woman in the car (I live on the second floor, like Luka) that I am calling the police and she threatens me too. She says, "I know where you live. I am gonna to come back for you. I'm gonna send my cousin here and you better watch out. It may not be today or tomorrow but you gonna get f@*ked up!"

Well, if that does not bring out my crazy I do not know what will. I grew up in this neighborhood when it was bad. I went to school with this woman (not literally, although I may have). I let kids hit me, kick me, call me names, pull my hair or put gum in it, knock my books down, take my candy, and warn me that I better run home after school or they were going to... I did not fight back. I don't know why. Maybe, because I had my sister to defend me or maybe because I was terrified or maybe because I was tiny. I was so tiny. In sixth grade, I still wore a kid's size 13 shoe. In seventh, my Super Pro Keds were an adult size 1. My bathing suit was a size 6X. I could still fit into the shirt from the shorts set from Sears that my grandmother gave the summer I went with her to live in Puerto Rico three years earlier. Here I am in sixth grade wearing the polyester shirt. 

I have a lot of bottled up anger inside me and there are times when adrenaline takes over and subconsciously, I recognize the opportunity to unleash my rage and I seize it. With a TBI, those emotion are very close to the surface. I know this because when it was over I did a quick emotional cycle, and I realized besides fear, anger, and outrage, I felt exhilarated. I scream back, "BRING IT ON! I can't wait. I am ready for you anytime. You have no idea how crazy I am. Do you want me to come down right now? Let's do this! You picked the wrong bitch to mess with!" I do not even hear her response. I call 911 with the window still open and report that a woman is outside my window threatening to kill me. I knew the dispatcher was not taking the call seriously at all. She asked, "And how did you come to be involved in this incident?" When I tried to give her the license plate number, she said I could give it to the police when they got there. I made her take it down anyway. She took my apartment number down and assured me that the police were on their way.

Well, no patrol car came. Then I hear horrible screaming from the street and a dog barking and the woman saying something about getting the other lady up in that window too. I look out and the bully has come back without her car, bearing a pipe. The other woman ran to the safety of a neighbor's car while her Javanese-mutt blend barked menacingly to protect her. The bully did not see me and I started to feel afraid. I could not believe the police had not come yet. I had tried my local precinct to no avail by then so I call 911 again. The dispatcher tells me a patrol car came by and did not see anyone so they left. WTF! He says he'll send another car. When I go downstairs, I ask my doorman and some neighbors if they know the woman who was threatened or if the police came. My doorman talks to me like I am paranoid and my neighbors refuse to make eye contact. Nobody heard anything.

 When the police arrive, I have to will myself to calm down because the moment I start talking, they roll up the windows and get out of the car and I realize I am the one who is going to get arrested if I do not figure out how to make myself clear. It was useless. They do not understand that by not responding right away, the woman had the opportunity to go park her car, find a pipe (where? in the conservatory?), and come back to attack us. The fact that there were a couple of dozen people on the street who did not seem to even notice anything scares me even more. Kitty Genovese, here we go. I could be murdered in broad daylight in front of several witnesses and no one would do anything. And I am the crazy one? There was a lot of. "Ma'am I am trying to explain to you..." and "If you will just listen, you will understand..." They would not have even written anything down if both the other woman and I had not insisted. They gave me a slip of paper with the blank claim number area circled and all my information on it and told me to call the precinct in 24 to 48 hours to get the claim number. What? Why are they giving me back the information I just gave them? It was not even a duplicate form. They wrote nothing official down just put some stuff on the back of a piece of paper and folded it up. When I asked about this, PO Toro asks me if I am trying to tell her how to do her paper work. "I am going to copy it over. I don't like my reports to be all sloppy." I gave them the license plate number too. I want to put it here in my blog but I guess that might be stepping over the line. At least I have a line somewhere.

Four hours after I came up with an excellent plan, life and my brain injury got in the way. I need a vacation. Fortunately, I have one coming up and from the weather forecast I just read, I may be spending a lot of time indoors blogging.

Useful Systems

Yesterday my neuropsychologist said,

"You seem to have some strategies for doing things. I am wondering how successful they are."

My response, "Is that your way of asking me if they work or are you just thinking out loud," while mildly amusing at the time sent me off on a tangent.

I had just completed the cognitive testing following the completion of the exercise study in which I participated. One of the tests is to listen to a list of 12 words and repeat back as many of them as you can remember. (SPOILER ALERT: If you ever have to take a nueropsych evaluation test and you are afraid you might come across as smarter than you really are do not read the rest of this paragraph.) I find and have always found this an incredibly easy test because the words always fall into exactly 3 categories each of which has exactly 4 words. For example, there could be 4 vegetables, 4 gardening tools, and 4 jungle animals. Apparently, most people taking the test don't see this and just try to memorize a list of 12 random words. 

Later during the session after a few other sub-tests, the tester says, "Do you remember that list of words I gave you? How many do you think you can remember?" Well, to me, the obvious response is "12," or "All of them." If they want me to list the words why not say, "Please list as many of the words as you can remember?"

So, off we went on a tangent, that led to another tangent and Dr. T's query was never addressed. At least not that I can recall. When I reflected on the session during my walk home, I felt embarrassed that instead of taking advantage of my therapist's training and wisdom to learn something new, I was paying a rapt audience of 1 to practice my stand-up routine. Oops.

It left me thinking about my strategies. I am a creative problem solver and do generate many excellent strategies but do I use them enough to make them habit? No, probably not. I like to think it is the curse of the creative mind that the ability to generate many solutions is linked to the inability to execute them successfully, thoroughly, or repeatedly. A never-ending loop is developed because as one strategy is forgotten a problem is created generating the opportunity for yet another solution. Often in my infinite wisdom, I pat myself on the back for coming up with a great "new" idea, and then the mocking disorganized mess of my computer's Documents file reveals that there exists a file last modified on February 15, 2009 with evidence of that same novel concept. Yes, another BIM. That is my new acronym for brain injury moments. Without the sisyphean battle trying to hold on to my job as a teacher occupying all of my energy, I am finally able to notice, reflect on, and even laugh at some of my BIMs.

Today when my husband left for work, he said take care of what you need to do. Of course, he was referring to my effort to create a packing list for my upcoming trip. Here I am blogging. Earlier this morning I decided to try a new strategy and was so excited by how successful it was, I came up with another strategy to help me use it again. Blog about it.

Here it is:

Okay I just wasted 15 minutes (maybe more) trying to figure out why bluetooth sharing will not allow me to turn it on so I can send the photo of the awesome new system I created to my computer. I am off to use the new system to re-photograph it with a digital camera. Timer set for 5 minutes.

Well, the best laid plans... blah blah blah. My battery was dead and I got involved in a street incident and so now the police are on the way.