“Often there are days I wake up and feel like I am standing in front of a very tall brick wall that extends across the horizon, and there is no way to scale it.” – Bill
Once we decided not to write my section in chronological order, we were a bit at a loss as to how to do it. Yet, we wanted to keep writing because we were processing everything we’d never had time to process before. The book we had read opened our eyes to new realities, which had been issues for our entire marriage, but we had never really looked at them up close. In some ways we were seeing things with new eyes. I was realizing some things I had been denying for a very long time, but in doing that, I was feeling relief and some freedom to know there was a legitimate reason for them. It became a journey of self discovery for me. I turned my thoughts toward finding out more. It was a very intentional process. Michelle said I had great courage to do this, and she was beside me the whole way through.
The quote above is something I wrote down so I wouldn’t forget it. It was an epiphany for me because it was a visual picture in my mind, which made me think about things differently. One day there was something I needed to do, but I couldn’t make myself do it. There were a pile of issues I was dealing with at that time in my life, like trying to find a job, paying a ticket, figuring out a way to provide for my family, getting with people about jobs, caring for and dealing with my elderly dad, and thinking about this book. With all of this thinking, I had an overload moment. I hit a wall. I just could not bring myself to move forward on anything.
Suddenly, I had this image of a long brick wall in my mind and the picture was so clear to me that I scribbled this sentence down on a slip of paper because it helped me think about my injury. “Often there are days I wake up and feel like I am standing in front of a very tall brick wall that extends across the horizon, and there is no way to scale it.”
I have a wall in front of me. Always. In stressful situations it gets even worse, or seems bigger. It is like I have to go somewhere, but I don’t know how. I have a loss of confidence. The picture encompassed a broad generalized emotion in which I am not competent to scale the wall of my life.
There was no event or anything specific that made me feel this way, other than my usual brain overload from daily life events. It happens often enough I should recognize it, but I don’t until it overtakes me. I can’t even see it coming; therefore, I cannot head it off before it hits me. It feels like a tidal wave of helplessness. There is a sense I can’t go anywhere in my life, because there’s nowhere to go. It’s an obstacle and there is no way around it. It doesn’t even occur to me there might be another path. There is anger and frustration just building up inside because I am incapable of moving this damn wall. I can’t seem to climb over it either. I am stuck.
I am helpless to help myself. A few years ago, when I watched the movie Dunkirk, I related to the pilot. He went down in the ocean but couldn’t get out of the plane. It was over. There was nothing he could do. He kept trying, but there was no option for him. When I saw the scene in the theater, I FELT his frustration, because I KNEW how desperate he was to change his circumstances and it was impossible for him. The only thing that could help him was something outside of himself. He was powerless to get out of the plane through no fault of his own. I felt strong emotion as I watched, as if I was the pilot. It moved me to tears and kind of shook me up a bit.
In my life, this feeling translates to I can’t think. I can’t develop a plan. There are no options. Other people can see options for me, but they don’t understand that I cannot follow through with them. It should be easy for me, but it is not. I am completely paralyzed. I get angry and frustrated at myself. The ideal me says, “How stupid are you? You have options. Just do something!” But then I don’t, I can’t. I hate it.
The wall is so huge, it doesn’t occur to me to climb it or go around it. It is insurmountable. It’s a terrible feeling. Sitting at the table one day, I wrote the sentence down about the wall. It was the first time I ever recognized the feelings I have all the time as something I could describe. This image is worth 1,000 words to me because it communicates my emotions and expresses what I am unable to say with words.
Writing my thoughts about an image I had in my mind, was a step towards understanding some things about myself. Working on this book forced me to look more deeply at my life. In this instance, I was feeling frustrated because my family circumstances could not remain the way they were. I couldn’t just sit there and do nothing. I was thinking about letting my wife down, letting my family down. I was so embarrassed. It was shameful to me and humiliating as to what my image of a man should be for his family…always working on things, finishing things, and a drive to succeed. I should have that drive, and I do sometimes, but then I can’t follow through. I want to do the right thing, but sitting there in the kitchen, I couldn’t bring myself to make calls or do anything. I was and am disgusted with myself much of the time. If any of my children or people I know saw me like that, paralyzed and agitated at myself, I would be so embarrassed. I regularly feel like everyone is going to find out the truth…I am a lazy butt. What is my damn problem?
I know everyone is self-critical sometimes. I know the thoughts I have go against what I say I believe about being loved by God, forgiven for my sins and all that stuff. But at the same time, I cannot be irresponsible. I’m hurting, frustrated, anxious, and then I think, ‘How dare I even be this way?’
I guess maybe seeing that wall, extending across the horizon, gave a visual to all the feelings I was having all the time. We all interpret things according to our own background, so my wall is different from other people’s walls. It is common for me to have bad self-talk, especially when I have an inability to process which steps I need to take. I am conflicted internally most of the time. In some ways when I saw the image of the wall, it relieved some pressure. Like a pressure valve was released. This wall is not something I contributed to and it is outside myself. It is separate from me, but it is still there and an obstacle. I only wish I could remember the relief of recognizing it isn’t me and hold onto it, because tomorrow I will start all over again.
5 thoughts on “Bill Chapter 2”
Reading this gives me a vision of visual art, not fully expressible. There is courage in the writing. Thank you, Bill.
Your imagery seems so “right on” to the context of your message.
Have you considered painting or some form of spontaneous, uninhibited artistic expression?
Mary, he plays piano. And when he does it spontaneously it is the most beautiful sound. He used to do it all the time, but not so much now. 😦
Whew! Bill your story created anxiety and frustration in me, and sadness. The tension that you feel in your day to day life is palpable. It hurts you, and I’m so sorry.
After reading your post, I am so darn proud of you for pushing back against the anxiety, frustration and fear. You’re giving so many others a chance to see their wall and work on ways to manage it. Millions of people read information that they find on the internet. Tonight, someone may be looking for the hope that is in your story. In being willing to tell your story, someone’s life is better.
And I’ll tell you a secret – many of us who haven’t gone through brain injury like you did have our own walls to figure out how to manage. So thank you for your courage in naming your fears.
Thank you for your kind words, Kathy!