Today, I Broke My Brain

Some days suck. Today, for instance.

I don’t talk much about mental illness. Not because of any stigma against it, or because I’m ashamed of having and handling mental illness, but rather because I just don’t have much to say on the issue. My car accident (see link above) sparked some serious brain issues for me, including anxiety, depression, OCD, and some symptoms that I’m not even sure what to call.

Today is a bad day.

I don’t have many bad days anymore. I’ve been on a medication for over a decade that works well to keep my brain in check. I’ve lived through enough rough times, that I can look back and see patterns, and know I’m not actually going crazy, and that this too will pass. That doesn’t make today better, really, but it does give me hope that tomorrow will be.

Today, I went grocery shopping with Donna. The store was busy. And really, that was it. My brain broke. For me, that means I was overwhelmed, for no really good reason. It manifests for me in a pretty predictable fashion:

  • I look scared and bewildered.
  • I can’t discern when people are talking to me over the din of background noise.
  • I stutter. (That’s really the one that gives it away to my loved ones. I can fake ’em out a bit usually, but stuttering is hard to hide)
  • I get confused easily. This is mainly due to the background noise thing.
  • I get VERY frustrated with myself, my stupid brain, my inability to be an effective family member, and my inability to pull myself out of it.
  • My hands shake.
  • I get odd facial twitches.
  • The worst part is, inside my head, I’m perfectly fine. I can think, I can reason — but it’s like I’m trying to function with 1,000 people screaming directions at me, and a layer of cotton between me and life.

I’ll be fine tomorrow. Really I will. And my family is incredibly supportive. They aren’t frustrated with me. They might be frustrated FOR me, but that’s different altogether. (It’s also not pity, for which I’m grateful) Unfortunately, Sunday night is our young adult ministry, and it means we’re feeding 20-30 college-aged people, along with coordinating music and discussion. I won’t be any help, which means Donna will have to do twice the amount of work. And THAT is the most frustrating part. Being a burden. (If Donna reads this, she’ll insist I’m not a burden, and I get it, she’s not upset with me. But really, it’s a burden we share, but a burden nonetheless)

ANYWAY, I post lots of silly photos. I share funny anecdotes. I smile a lot on the Internet. In my attempt to be as real as possible, I figured it only fair to share that sometimes I have bad days too. And that’s OK. Just think good thoughts at my wife. She totally deserves it today.

2 thoughts on “Today, I Broke My Brain”

  1. Thanks for your honesty. You really ought to consider writing more often. I enjoyed your work with Linux Journal even if they did go out for the final time just after I renewed. đŸ˜‰

    All joking aside, I don’t hold it against them though, and I don’t hold it against you. To be honest, it’s a damn tough world out there and I would imagine that magazine took a lot of work to produce, coordinate, vet and publish. It seems producing something profitable at the price that was offered would be quite difficult especially in this day and age.

    As far as mental health and IT, I have a few thoughts.

    One of the hardest things I have to deal with is the fact that most of my interactions with people at work come from them needing something. It’s not their fault, that’s what IT does, right? As a developer, I build them tools to do things. When I was working in a PC Service / Network Administration role, I was servicing their computers or network.

    The problem is I think that fosters a mentality where I feel like I have to always have the answer. The thing is, I often don’t and no one really sees all the studying and research goes into finding one. They see the ends to a process but not the actual process itself. It’s the utility syndrome. We open the refrigerator and we expect it to be cold. We don’t often (if ever) think about how it actually works.

    Just like an article of Linux Journal, right? The glossy (or digital) pages we ended up with as readers likely had a lot of work, a lot of trial and error from the authors, a lot of their time.

    Then there is the fact that anything one loves to do can be somewhat corrupted by doing it for some other entity. I went into programming because I loved doing it. I’ve envisioned it as the application of language to describe a process that produces results in the most efficient manner possible. As one writes code one can see the evolution in their thinking over time. It is much a constructive process as it is a creative one.

    It seems when actually working for a business that last part about “most efficient manner possible” is traded out with “as quickly as possible”. The old adage: quick, cheap, good. Pick two, I guess.

    The problem is, I care about the people I serve and I take it hard when I can’t give them what they need to put an end to the suffering caused by whatever problem they are currently having. Countless nights I’ve stayed up looking for solutions to a problem. I’ve spent hours learning new frameworks, new languages, new ways of doing things all so I can make the small company I work capable of competing.

    I know I’m getting a bit long winded but the point is I think that creative and service based work takes a lot out of people which may not be directly visible. I see you do a lot of work to help others, please don’t forget that sometimes you need to set aside time to help yourself. It’s really hard just being human sometimes, much less the superhuman roles the world demands of us.

    Once you figure out how to do all that, please write me back with an article that carefully and meticulously explains it. Just kidding. Though I am grateful for all the work that you put into doing just that for so many years. Hang in there!

  2. I love you Shawn.

    I had One of Those Days on Saturday, where I was totally freaking out and certain that I was incapable of completing the task I’d set out for myself.

    But we know–intellectually of not emotionally–that this too shall pass.

    Extra hugs to Donna (because that means extra hugs for you too)


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