Laughing at the Missing Notes

In Productivity by Emerson Jane BrowneLeave a Comment


I have to take a break and write here while I have a cup of tea just to get my sense of the ridiculous back in place.  Humor is the only thing that gets me through some days!

A friend recently described his perception of me this way:

"Let's say you had been an excellent concert pianist. Listening to you play now, it's like your fingers know where to go but you can't get them to do it the way they used to; like there are notes missing or the dynamics are off.  You know the music but you can't get it to come out."

There are two reasons I want to write this entry about my noggin function:  One is to try to ease the frustration that I feel and the other one is to try to explain to friends and family (and any other readers also) what I mean when I talk about having a brain injury.

Many of the things I have trouble with are things that everyone does but I do them more; to the point that it effects my functioning.

To use words from a friend's letter about his own situation: "I find I can't keep up with everything I need to do. My reliable old brain is not quite right. For example, I can still ace the SAT, but if I try to sort and organize insurance papers I can't remember which pile is which or what the plan was. I feel overwhelmed by details and forget why I walked into a room. . . A couple of my friends joke that that this is totally normal. Maybe so, but not for me. It's a hard adjustment for a guy whose brain has been his strongest organ."

On good days it feels like everything is fine but then I will be brought up short by something.  For instance at one point yesterday I needed to multiply 6 X 9.  Anything with a 5 or zero is still there.  Any other multiplication gets dicey.  So I figured it out by adding 6+6=12, then 12+12=24, then 24+24=48 and I thought I had the answer.  I did the rest of what I needed to do based on $48.  It was not till I was in bed thinking about the day that I realized I was one 6 short!

My brain just shuts off when I am stressed or there is a lot of noise around.  Sometimes I will walk away in the middle of a conversation.  That mostly happens if I am in a noisy environment – which is almost anyplace out in public.  I can no longer multi-task and sequential tasks are even sometimes difficult.  What a tremendous change for a large scale project manager!   

To again use my friend's words because his description is so much of what I also experience: This loss of brain capacity has been the most difficult adjustment so far. In particular, it's not the making of mistakes or misjudgments in itself, everybody does that, but the fear of not being AWARE of how often I make them or of when I need to compensate. I have felt frightened to discover days later that I had written a bunch of dates wrong on the calendar, gone through a whole day thinking it was Friday instead of Saturday, or forgotten an entire conversation. I have also traditionally been quite externally disorganized, and kept order inside my memory. Now I have to keep external order meticulously.

There is always a silver lining to everything.  Because I can no longer trust my brain I have developed excellent habits for keeping everything track of details. Things like keeping accounts up to date and well organized on Quicken have greatly improved out of necessity and the fact that that ability is still intact.   My organization in my home is the best it has ever been but I still have trouble keeping up with it.  Everything takes so much longer to do than it used to. 

One of the hardest things for me is the "not knowing".  I joke that I am like Aged Swiss Cheese; the block is still sharp but has holes.  The problem is that I do not know exactly what is missing or how deep the holes extend.  It don't know how to market myself or what job title I can now fill.  I definitely cannot go back to being a Project Manager in charge of huge projects. I am hoping for some guidance from the Neuropsych result and a lot of guidance from my counselor at DVR (Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.)

2371465_blog_2 Well, I haven't done too well at laughing about this in the written content above.  But that is just where I am at right now.

I am able to laugh easiest at the silly things that I do like put the cordless telephone in the refrigerator. 

I think the humor and the sense of the ridiculous will come ever more easily as I understand my "current brain" better. 

Understanding is going to come with more information from the tests I am being given.  It will help me figure out what keys I am not hitting or dynamic markings I have become oblivious to.

And cognitive rehabilitation will hopefully help me forge new connections and pathways which will lead to better music for Dancing Upside Down!

Emerson Jane Browne
I am Emerson Jane Browne. I write about Brains, Apps, & Productivity, and many other aspects of Life. I speak to TBI support groups, speak and teach workshops at tech, music, and writer conferences. I consult with organizations on strategic planning and building a strong community.