<<This is the second part of a really long post. I decided to separate the two main points and this discussion below is more focused on the need to recognize honest mistakes and have a little more self-compassion,>>
I make jokes at my expense all the time and one of my favorite ways of doing this is to tell stories about all the stupid things I’ve done. I’ve done some really dumb things for someone who is supposed to be so smart and here are a couple highlights. There was that decision to try climbing Mt. Greylock on a cold & rainy afternoon. Before that there was this time I rode the 1997 Pan-Mass Challenge a week after I broke my arm. I completed all 192 miles and got away with no permanent tissue damage. When my wife learned I had gone out to Sturbridge anyway (she was away on business) and decided to ride she was quite mad. After saying she forgave me (probably? maybe?) she told everyone she was drawing up the papers to (no, not divorce me) start the Jenny Fund – dedicated to the search for the cure for testosterone poisoning. She’s so funny…
Those were plain, willful, stupid things to do. Supposedly I was old enough to know better but did them anyway and I have to make a distinction here. They were definitely mistakes AND truly idiotic things to do. However, I have made many mistakes in the past that were just that, honest mistakes. I think I know the difference but I have the habit of making fun of those events just like the stupid things I’ve done on purpose. Things are different now and I’ve really got to stop that.
Sure, I’m still choosing to do some stupid things but I’m now making all kinds of mistakes and I have no idea I’m making them until it’s too late. A lot more mistakes. I tried to come up with a funny way to exaggerate the multitude of errors here but you get my point. In the therapy sessions I have difficulty with some cognitive exercises and I get upset at the errors I’m making. The list of ways I have made mistakes in my appointment calendar continues to grow with each passing week. I’m also not reading social cues correctly (even more than before my crash) and crossing boundaries I shouldn’t. And God knows what else I’m goofing up that hasn’t been brought to my attention yet.
Should I make fun of these things the same way? Probably not, especially because these things I’m thinking and saying about myself out loud are affecting me to a greater extent after the brain injury. I’m told that I’m too hard on myself but I don’t necessarily agree. Do they mean now or before the crash? Are they saying that because of the crash I should lower my expectations for myself? I want to get back to where I was. I don’t want to be this different person. I still feel defective and I don’t like it at all. Right now Peter Wick A.D. (After discharge) is not making the cut. I still prefer Peter Wick B.C. (Before crash).
Every time I hear the “You’re being too hard on yourself…” speech begin the above jumbled mess of thoughts and questions immediately starts playing, like it’s already cued up and waiting on turntable #3.
A medical person actually said “What do you want? You’ve had a brain injury…” This confuses me, especially since I’m doing all this therapy to get better. I have to try to improve on every front but really, it’s up to that person to decide what I ought to shoot for or expect? So I’m too hard on myself. Just what does that mean? I’m expecting too much and I’m just not aware enough yet to know better? I don’t have a complete answer to that but there is one aspect of that statement that does ring true. The way I talk about myself is harmful. In that way I am being too hard on myself.
Not many people are electing to say anything directly to me about the mistakes I’m making but sometimes I hear about it later when there’s nothing I can really do about it I’d like to have some gentle feedback if and when I’m messing up. That would go a long way but is it realistic to expect friends, much less acquaintances, to make efforts like that? That sounds more like what a therapist would be expected to do, not some friend I don’t see so much anymore wondering if this is what I’m like now? I can fill in all the questions for them (and usually do) like “Is he really okay?”, “What happened to him?”, “Why is he doing that?” and on and on. But what’s nice about it is I don’t even have to try to explain. They’ll draw their own conclusions without me having to lift a conversational finger. It was especially fun when I was having a lot of trouble speaking smoothly.
I’m not satisfied with my progress right now and If I could just encourage myself to adapt and improve instead of tearing myself down I wouldn’t be so frustrated and depressed. Now that I’m feeling stronger I’m handling adversity better but even last month small things would get me into a tailspin. I still need some outside input from therapists to help me stop lumping all my unintended mistakes in with the really stupid things I know I’m doing.