attention, cognitive overload;, overstimulation

Michael and I attended Circle of Mercy’s family retreat this weekend at the Hinton Center, a Methodist retreat center about two hours away from Asheville. Retreats are always difficult for me since I do much better when I know my surroundings. I decided to attend this one because I was particularly interested in the program. One family in the program spent a year in Cuba helping set up a prison ministry while the other spent two years in Columbia as MCC volunteers. In addition to hearing about both trips, I got to know my fellow Mercites much better.

Since I no longer have to take a nap at noon, I don’t have to worry about making sure I have a place to lay down then. This has freed up my daily schedule but it still hasn’t taken away my over stimulation, “resting my brain” or my attention challenges. I always sit in the front at both churches I attend so I’m not distracted by the various sounds around me. Children wiggling and whispering are particularly difficult for me. Children have a lot of energy and this is a positive thing. It pains me that I often cannot enjoy this energy since it pushes against my deficits. I can only imagine how difficult having a brain injury would be when one is trying to raise children at the same time!

We had our meals and our programs in a large “live” room. Often we broke into small groups which was very difficult for me. I had to filter out all the other groups as they talked which I could not do. These type of events always overstimulate me and I then I experience cognitive overload. On Saturday morning our breakfast and two sessions really pushed on all my deficits and my brain was very tired. I spent part of the afternoon sleeping and just getting away from the stimulation.

My spatial orientation issues came into play as well. The main building was in the middle while families with children slept in one building and those of us without children slept in the building on the other side. I couldn’t get straight which side my building was on. Every time I left the main building to go back to my room, I turned the wrong way. I must say, it really was sort of funny. I still worry about what people think of me (I’m working on this!) and I imagined people seeing me turn around several times and thinking I was some sort of space cadet!

I did get to know several Mercites much better. It was a great retreat and I’m glad I went. Ken Sehested, one of the co-pastors quoted someone (I can’t remember the person’s name) who said, “The opposite of poverty is not plenty, but sharing.” While we in the United States have much to learn from people who live in poverty, I took this quote very personally. “The opposite of being alone and misunderstood as a brain injury survivor, is to reach out to others and share my struggles.”

That is what I did this weekend. Of course there is a danger of complaining about them endlessly but I’m careful to avoid this. There also is a danger in expecting everyone to change for me and I try hard not to do this as well. As Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Every day, I’m learning how to manage my TBI and live life abundantly.

One thought on “Retreat

  1. tamara, i was experiencing the same thing during the small group sessions. when there are a lot of people in the background talking, i can't hear ANYTHING that is being said. my hearing aids only magnify the sound, and i am unable to filter anything out. guess i'll just have to learn to live with this, or maybe ask my next small group to move to somewhere quieter (the porch?) thanks for bringing this up. food for thought!


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