What conscious breathing changes

I have been consciously working with my breath for about a week, now, and I have to say, the changes I’m noticing are remarkable. These are changes for the better. Changes to patterns and aspects of my life that have been entrenched for a pretty long time. In fact, the patterns and aspects of my life that I feel shifting are ones that I had actually been resigned to having to deal with, for the rest of my born days.

I had thought that I would just always have to deal with things like constant agitation, anxiety, fear, and avoiding the things that freak me out. I had thought that I would just have to get used to restlessness running my life, a perpetual undercurrent of manic-ness flowing in the background of my life, 24 hours a day. I had thought that relaxation was something that other people could do, but not me. I had even thought that conscious breathing was not something I’d ever  be able to practice fully.

Turns out, I may have been wrong. All the stuff that I’ve been battling against, for as long as I can remember — especially the behavioral things, and the hidden, underground state of anxiety, despair, and agitation that stokes them — may not be as unmoveable as I had thought. And a very important piece of this puzzle, perhaps the one missing number in the combination that would unlock this mystery that is my life, has turned out to be mindful breath.

In just the past week of doing just a few minutes of conscious breathing a day — and I’m not joking about the “just a few minutes” because I am at this point unable to focus exclusively on my breath for more than about 3-5 minutes — this amazing change has taken place. I’m actually relaxed. Loosened up. Not nearly as rigid as I had been. I’m so relaxed, in fact, that it’s taking some doing, for me to get moving in my current daily work. And looking closely at that pattern and examining why that is, I am realizing more and more each day that it’s not because there’s something wrong with (only) me — I’m just not in a good job. The position is not a good match for me. And I need to change that.

So, I’m revising my resume and I’m reaching out to talk to recruiters. And you know what? The whole way I’m doing that, is changing, too. I have been more present, more confident, more secure in my dealings with recruiters, than I’ve ever been in my life — and I’ve been dealing with headhunters for over 20 years. I’m actually clear and relaxed and centered, and I’m not on constant guard all the time.

This is amazing. Nothing short of phenomenal. During one of my job interview discussions last week, when I couldn’t understand what people were saying to me, I didn’t just sail on past it and assume I would figure it out later. I actually stopped the conversation, made sure I understood what they were asking/saying, and then I responded to the actual question they asked. In the past, I would have just rushed it and fudged it. And I would have ended up either looking a little “off” or getting into a job that I had no business getting into. I’ve done that more times than I can count, but this time I didn’t do that. I actually held my own, and I participated fully in the conversation.

That, because I was calm and centered and focused. I was consciously working with my breath.

Which amazes me, because for years, I’ve been confounded by people who tell me “Just breathe…” in response to traumatic situations. It’s so friggin’ annoying, being told to “Just breathe” when all hell is breaking loose. Seriously. It seems like such a slap in the face, such an over-simplistic, dense, “dumbed down” (if you’ll pardon the expression) response to what can be complex and mind-boggling situations in life.

I mean, honestly…  I’m in extreme existential crisis, and you expect me to “just breathe”?! Come on – gimme a break.

But taking a closer look at it, thinking about what mindfulness can do for the physical system*, and thinking about the breath in terms of what it does for the parasympathetic nervous system (the “PNS”) (I wrote an extended post about the importance of the PNS here), I had to reconsider my attitudes towards conscious breathing, and give it a try.

And it’s paying off. In a very big way. Whether it’s the stimulation of the vagus nerve by the expansion of my lungs against the inside of my chest cavity, or it’s bringing my full attention to the act of breathing and blocking out everything else, or it’s the delivery of more oxygen (prana, according to some of my friends) to my physical system — including my brain… it’s working. I could tell something was different, almost from the start. Literally. Within a few days of doing a “piddly” little bit of conscious breathing, I was noticeably more relaxed in my mind and spirit and body, and people around me could tell there was something different.

On Friday night, a long-time friend of mine told me it was good to see me “back” to my old self again. “You’ve been so serious for such a long time,” they said. And others around us agreed.

Yes, it’s good to be back.

And all over the breath. The missing piece of my recovery process. Something I do, every single minute of every single day. It sounds almost too simple to my complexity-hungry mind. But maybe it is.

Anyway, I’m not bothering to doubt the importance of this. These changes are very similar in nature the improvements I’m experiencing as a result of regular (daily) exercise. But they’re happening a whole lot more quickly. I’m quite certain that several things have helped with this — they’ve laid the foundation:

  1. I see a chiropractor regularly, and they have been really helping me get my central nervous system in shape.
  2. I exercise each morning 99.99% of the time without fail.
  3. I am intent on changing my life for the better and I am determined to overcome the obstacles that get in my way.
  4. I eat the right things and stay away from lots of junk food, including drugs and alcohol and cigarettes.
  5. I have help from a great neuropsych.
  6. I have the support of people who love and care about me, who want the best for me.

There are more factors, of course, but these are really the foundations for my own improvement, and my own experience of the breath. I suspect that if I didn’t have these, I might not have the kind of success I’m experiencing. But the fact is, I do have them, and I am experiencing a radical shift for the better in my life, as a result of conscious, intentional breath.

Amazing. Truly amazing.

———————————————-

In a . . .  study, Montreal University researchers from the lab of Pierre Rainville, PhD showed that meditators experienced an 18% reduction in pain sensitivity compared to their non-meditating counterparts.

Building on this earlier study, researchers have found that Zen meditation can decrease sensitivity to pain by thickening brain matter.

In an earlier study, Montreal University researchers from the lab of Pierre Rainville, PhD showed that meditators experienced an 18% reduction in pain sensitivity compared to their non-meditating counterparts.

Building on this earlier study, researchers have found that Zen meditation can decrease sensitivity to pain by thickening brain matter. (Source: NICABM Website at http://www.nicabm.com/nicabmblog/?p=751)

Chillin’ out the anger thing

Interesting couple of weeks… periods of remarkable calm, interspersed with intense anger. Almost like I have to re-learn the whole anger management thing periodicially, to have it make sense to me over the long term.

It’s not easy on my loved-ones, of course. And I’ve been actively working with this anger-business over the past week, to get it in line.

I’ve been having a lot of good results from working with my breathing and practicing a more mindful way of life. And I think I finally understand:

  1. How I can identify what the source of my anger is, when it’s coming up.
  2. Why the anger/rage/irritability comes up so intensely.
  3. How to diffuse it in a timely manner before all hell breaks loose.
  4. How to think about anger/rage/temper issues in ways that don’t make me feel like a complete inept idiot who can’t keep their act together.

The last piece of the puzzle is, by far, the most problematic one. But I believe I’ve found a way to get my head around it.

Lucky for my loved ones… And for me.

Making myself work (again)

Just a quick note – one of the other pieces of information I’ve come across lately is that when you face your fears and do things that you normally shy away from doing, you actually improve the quality of your brain. And you help to create new connections in your neurons/axons/synapses that make you into a different person than the one you are in that moment.

Hopefully, the different person is an improvement on the prior “version” ;)

That’s what I’m hoping, anyway.

All this stuff I’ve been reading lately about how we can modify our brains through conscious exercise, create new synaptic connections, and modify not only our behavior, but our experience and our neural makeup, has really got me enthused.

And it prompts me to renew my work at… working. I must admit, I’ve gotten a bit lazy, lately. Maybe it’s the new springtime weather. Maybe it’s the job changes I’m going through. But suddenly, the old anxiety and franticness I felt for so long, has lifted. And in its place is this new equanimity, a more calm and centered approach.

Then again, it could be the conscious breathing exercises I’ve been doing, lately. Ever since I came across Dan Siegel, I’ve been quite motivated to try the things he talks about, to see if it really helps.

I will say, at this point, the conscious breathing exercises, as well as my conscious stretching exercises, and my intentional workouts (I’ve been a lot more present with them, of late) … it’s all improving, and I’m feeling better about myself and my place in the world than I have in quite some time.

Ironically, one of the side-effects of this new equanimity, is less hyper-awareness of my “self” (that is, the “problematic” parts of me I “need to fix”). I’m less fixated on my issues and more focused on my life… my bigger life, my outer life, my whole life — body, mind, spirit (and yes, brain). And I find myself needing to press myself to do things that used to just come naturally to me. I’m finding myself needing more and more discipline, and more and more thoughtful involvement in my life, to do what I need to do.

It’s not a bad thing. But it does require more focus. More intention. More discipline. Not in a bad way. But a deliberate way.

I have to say it’s nice, having a bigger sense of who I am and what’s possible. But this new equanimity is making me into a person who is a lot less amped up about getting the work done for work… keeping up with my “duties”. It’s kind of mellowed me out in a way that makes me less apt to go nuts over my day job. That sets me apart from the rest of the crowd at work, though in a good way.

I’ll have to think about this some more. But for now, the first thing that comes to mind is that I do need to find a different group to work with. Maybe I need a different industry… I suspect that’s the case.

Anyway, it’s  the weekend, and I’m off to visit with some friends.

En-joy, everybody.

Brain experts develop game plan for football concussions

Just found this:

If international expert Robert Cantu had his druthers, football teams would practice without helmets.

That would be the best way to teach players to avoid head-to-head collisions, utilize their shoulders and bodies more in contact, protect against the concussions and later-life brain maladies the brutal game creates at rates such scientists find alarming.

The same notion would apply for players from preps to pros, too.

“There may be one day a week you put them on,” Dr. Cantu said Friday in the first of a two-day, Duquesne University seminar entitled “Is Football Bad for the Brain?”

Dr. Cantu is a noted neurosurgeon and co-founder of the Boston-area Sports Legacy Institute that has helped to lead the NFL’s recent reform movement through its study of long-term brain damage in middle-aged or older athletes.

“Keep them off, so you don’t use your head as a battering ram,” said Dr. Cantu.

. . .

Also on the first day of the seminar, presented by the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law:

• Dr. Cantu revealed his research found that a fatal form of follow-up concussion, called Second Impact Syndrome that kills three to four high-school players annually, can be detected by a CAT scan. Sports-related brain injuries never before revealed themselves in imaging.

• His co-worker at the Sports Legacy Institute, Dr. Ann McKee, announced the finding of another protein — TDP43 — that causes degeneration in the brains of such older athletes diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the disease that results from a history of head trauma. The protein called tau also does that.

• Dr. Maroon’s research echoed Dr. Bailes’: Gobble up Omega 3 fatty acids, and they may help to prevent and cure the inflammation of a traumatic brain injury.

“Quite frankly, I think everybody should be on it,” said Dr. Maroon, who was part of a January 2009 study in which an NFL team showed reduced cardiovascular risk factors when regularly ingesting them

He proposed downing 2 to 3 grams of such fatty acids as DHA or EPA daily. “I think it’s like Vitamin B — it’s a natural anti-inflammatory.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10072/1042511-66.stm#ixzz0jPWG3R1P

Interesting, that they’re talking about Omega-3 fatty acids. I’ve been taking them for (I think) about a year, and that may be one of the things that’s really helped me. I haven’t taken 2-3 grams (more like 1,200 mg, or 1.2 grams). But I have been taking some.

Between that and my daily exercise, I’ve seen a big difference between how my brain functions now and how it functioned just a year ago. It’s also helped that I’ve been getting regular help from my neuropsych, and that I’ve had some really great breakthroughs in how I perceive my life and my place in it.

I only wish I had known about this, when I’d had my last head injury. For that matter, I wish I’d realized that I’d had a head injury, which affected me as much as it did.

Oh, well. I guess progress is better late than never. And I’m glad to see the football community getting on board with addressing concussion.

Beyond the “skull-based brain”

I’ve been watching the videos of Dr. Dan Siegel, over the past couple of weeks, and he’s really got me thinking. He talks about “the embodied brain” — the physical experiences of life and how they interact with the neural networks in our heads to produce certain firing patterns, which make up the fabric of our lives. He also talks about the brain being more than the organ that’s in our heads.

As I now understand it, the “brain” as we know it, is the organ inside our skull which directs the activities of the central nervous system, but it’s not the only brain in the body.

We have other masses of neural connections throughout our body, in particular, in the gut and around the heart. They look very different from what’s in our heads, but they do the same type of work – regulating the system they are attached to in ways that are responsive to our surroundings.

The brain in our gut, the “enteric nervous system” manage[s] every aspect of digestion, from the esophagus to the stomach, small intestine and colon.

enteric nervous system

Just like the larger brain in the head, researchers say, this system sends and receives impulses, records experiences and respond to emotions. Its nerve cells are bathed and influenced by the same neurotransmitters. The gut can upset the brain just as the brain can upset the gut.

The gut contains 100 million neurons – more than the spinal cord. Major neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, norephinephrine and nitric oxide are in the gut. Also two dozen small brain proteins, called neuropeptides are there along with the major cells of the immune system. Enkephalins (a member of the endorphins family) are also in the gut. The gut also is a rich source of benzodiazepines – the family of psychoactive chemicals that includes such ever popular drugs as valium and xanax.

And then we have the heart, which has a complex intrinsic nervous system that is sufficiently sophisticated to qualify as a “little brain” in its own right. The heart’s brain is an intricate network of several types of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells like those found in the brain proper. Its elaborate circuitry enables it to act independently of the cranial brain – to learn, remember, and even feel and sense.

The heart communicates with the brain and the rest of the body in three ways documented by solid scientific evidence: neurologically (through transmissions of nerve impulses), biochemically (through hormones and neurotransmitters), and biophysically (through pressure waves). In addition, growing scientific evidence suggests that the heart may communicate with the brain and body in a fourth way – energetically (through electromagnetic field interactions). Through these biological communication systems, the heart has a significant influence on the function of our brains and all our Systems.

The Little Brain In the Heart
The Institute of HeartMath has a great page here showing pictures of The “Little Brain In the Heart”

Most of us are familiar with the concept of “gut feelings” or “following your heart” — and those ways of orienting ourselves in life play a huge part in how we manage our lives. It’s almost like we have two extra “backup” brains in those areas of our bodies, which work with the brains in our skulls to keep our whole system moving, breathing, living.

And these two “extra” brains communicate freely with the brains in our heads. We feel it in our bodies when our head-brains observe our surroundings and reach certain conclusions about what it all means. Our guts get turned around, as do our hearts. Or quite the opposite takes place, with the butterflies in our stomachs subsiding and/or our hearts slowing down their frantic beating.

On top of it all, we have the central nervous system with all its amazing connections, the nerves, the ganglia, the axonal connections, the neurons, the constant flow of energy and electricity throughout our systems. We are literally electric, with charges and pulses carrying messages from one microscopic member of the system to another… all of us comprised of millions and billions of neurons, each of which makes 10,000 connections and on-off firing patterns that provide us with infinite potential to become what we most desire.

If you think of the “brain” as a central processing unit of neurons and axons and synapses and all the controlling activity that goes on in them, then our entire body is filled with our brain. It’s just just inside our skulls —  it’s all through our bodies.

Now, knowing more about this brain stuff today than I did a month ago, I have to say it changes my perception of “brain injury” a bit. All along, I’ve been thinking about brain injury as being something that happens only to the head. I’ve been thinking — and saying — that brain injury and head injury are the same thing. But now I have to rethink this. And I have to start saying “head injury” a whole lot more than “brain injury” because while my head may have gotten banged up over the years, my gut brain and my heart brain have not taken the same sort of beating — they’ve taken different ones, of course, but they haven’t had the same specific sorts of physical impacts that my head has had.

At the same time, I have to consider other injuries I’ve had — such as when I fell out of a tree when I was 14 or 15 years old and landed across a log on my back — that affected my spine, which is chock-full of nerves and connections. And let’s not forget the car accidents. Don’t want to leave them out of the picture. I need a broader view of what makes my life more “interesting”. And I need a broader view of what makes my life more whole.

Indeed, when I think about the brain as encompassing body experience and knowledge and processing, as well as what’s in my head, it offers some pretty good clues as to how I’ve managed to stay in the game, so to speak, despite these injuries. If there’s more to my brain than what’s in my head… if my brain is actually distributed throughout my body… if I have other “backup brains” that are able to jump in and help out with information and energy processing throughout my whole system, then it relieves some of the intensity around my head injuries, and it offers me clues about how I am able to keep keepin’ on, despite my various setbacks over the years.

It’s complicated, of course… The head-brain clearly plays a part in regulating the rest of the body, and its importance is vital — we need it to live. But at the same time, what happens in the heart and the gut has its own intelligence, which impacts what goes on in the head, and that often goes unnoticed. I’m going to have to start thinking more carefully about this, as I go about my business. Pay more conscious attention to what my heart-brain and gut-brains are telling me — not just what my head-brain is gong on about.

Our systems are marvelously complex and interconnected. And it feels good to “get” that and be connecting things that I hadn’t really given much concentrated, focused thought to, in the past. It’s impossible to separate the system out into distinct pieces and truly make sense of it. I would even venture to say that the only truly thorough way to understand the system that is our “brain”, is to consider first the interconnections and interactions between its various elements, and then move from that point to understand the distinct parts.

I guess the bottom line is, there’s more to the brain than what’s in the head.

Mind the body… mend the mind

I have been having some excellent hours, today. I had an okay morning, talking to people who are interviewing me to see if I can do the job that I’ve been looking into.  I met with the main hiring manager last Friday, and it seemed to go well. But I’m not sure I want the job. And the folks I talked to today were a far sight less amicable than the manager.

But then, they do live on other continents (it’s a “distributed” team) so it’s not like I have to share a cubicle with them, or anything.

All the same, though, I would like to be part of a team that is on good terms, and all on the same page.

I may not take the job, even if they offer it to me. Frankly, I’d rather be doing something closer to coding, and this is a managerial type position.

Anyway, enough of that. I had the good sense today to take a nap this afternoon. I worked from home, and I had the house to myself after about 1 p.m. I lay down for maybe half an hour, but it was good. I woke up feeling human again, which is a slight change, compared to how things have been, lately.

My cardinal sin (if I’ve committed any) in the past week, has been not getting enough sleep. I had meant to rest over the weekend, but events conspired to either wake me up too early or keep me from catching up on my rest, both of which were BAD. And it’s taken its toll. Major meltdown on Sunday, followed by days of feeling hungover and feisty and cranky and damaged. Not at my best. When I really need to be at my best.

All over lack of sleep. Seriously sad.

It’s really quite ridiculous that I would come to this, but I’m a master at complicating every friggin’ thing in my life. How many times do I have to learn AGAIN that I have to sleep, or else? I’m like a bipolar/ schizophrenic/ generally mentally ill individual I knew years ago, who got it in their head on a regular basis that they didn’t need to take their meds. They’d be fine while they were on them, then they’d get off for a while, and they’d end up doing wild things like chasing their partner out of the house and chauffering them several states away to drop them off with friends who would come pick up said rejected partner and escort them to safety. It just wasn’t pretty.

I’m happy to report that my own temporary insanity didn’t result in complete domestic collapse. But it didn’t make matters any easier at home.

So, once again, I have the opportunity to learn that sleep is the ultimate cure for my mental ills. After feeling truly bent for days, now that I’ve had some sleep and I’ve taken some of the pressure off, with regard to my job situation (I just can’t do the pressure cooker thing anymore, like I have been), I’m feeling much better.

And my spouse can quit hounding me to find a therapist. For now, anyway. I know I need to find a counselor of some kind, but for now, I just want to go about my business, regain my even keel, and re-discover the things I love about life. I want to get familiar again with the feel of life without inner turmoil… life without intensive anger management… life without drama… life with just a mellow evening at home after a good supper… life that’s thoughtful and mindful and present and aware. And properly rested.

Heck, it’s springtime! It’s time to enjoy my life, not get bogged down in all sorts of crap and drama and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  I really just want to enjoy myself. Do good things. Write good words. Make a decent contribution to the world around me. Just get on with it.

And that goal is a whole lot more attainable, when I take care of myself, my life, my work, my body. When I take care of my body, especially — when I stretch and lift weights and just move… well, my mind seems to take care of my brain. The intensity subsides, the pressure lifts off me. When I am comfortably  “in my body” as someone once described it to me, I feel fit and worthy and capable and full of enjoyment and satisfaction. And that’s a great thing. Being in good relationship with my body is by far the best way for me to be in good relationship with my mind. Funny how that works…

Personally, I think a whole lot of mental illness issues could be cleared up with proper physical maintenance and care.  Eating the right foods has a way of regulating your mood, as does exercise and movement. And certain types of movement, like tai chi and qi gong and yoga, have actually been shown to benefit the brain. They have images to prove it. MRIs or somesuch. Very cool. That, and meditation of certain types also helps.

On the other hand, eating crappy food, stressing your body with all sorts of sugars and processed ingredients, not eating enough of the right kinds of nutritious stuff, and loading up on high-carb, high-sugar foods, has a way of putting a strain on the body that truly affects the mind in a sickness-producing way. Just the wild sugar fluctuations, the highs and lows and foggy haze that comes from a dietetic roller coaster, takes a toll on the mind and the brain, as well as the body. It throws off your moods, it makes you hard to live with, and it doesn’t benefit anyone in the long run — except the ones who are selling the “food products” we’re eating, as though they were actually food.

For today, I’m eating real food, I’m getting real rest, and I’m not stressing over the future. My job situation will even out. My money situation will resolve. I’ll get myself back on track, and I’ll even enjoy the spring and summer. I know what to do, and I’m determined to do it.

That’s a good thing. A very good thing indeed.

Book Review – How to Be Brilliant

This from a recent New York Times piece:

Motivational gurus from Dale Carnegie to Tony Robbins have long promised access to these hidden stores of genius. Now here comes David Shenk with “The Genius in All of Us,” which argues that we have before us not a “talent scarcity” but a “latent talent abundance.” Our problem “isn’t our inadequate genetic assets,” but “our inability, so far, to tap into what we already have.” The truth is “that few of us know our true limits, that the vast majority of us have not even come close to tapping what scientists call our ‘un actualized potential.’ ” At first it would seem that Shenk, the author of thoughtful books on information overload, memory loss and chess, has veered into guru territory. But he has assembled a large body of research to back up his claims.

Two bodies, in fact. The first concerns the emerging science of epigenetics, the study of how the environment modifies the way genes are expressed. Since the days of Crick and Watson, we’ve tended to see genes as a set of straightforward instructions, a blueprint for constructing a person. Over the last 20 years, however, some scientists have begun to complicate that picture. “It turns out that the genetic instructions themselves are influenced by other inputs,” Shenk writes. “Genes are constantly activated and deactivated by environmental stimuli, nutrition, hormones, nerve impulses and other genes.” That means there can be no guaranteed genetic windfalls, or fixed genetic limits, bestowed at the moment of conception. Instead there is a continually unfolding interaction between our heredity and our world, a process that may be in some measure under our control.

The second body of research investigates the nature of exceptional ability and how it arises. We’ve traditionally regarded superior talent as a rare and mysterious gift bequeathed to a lucky few. In fact, Shenk writes, science is revealing it to be the product of highly concentrated effort. He describes the work of the psychologist Anders Ericsson, who wondered if he could train an ordinary person to perform extraordinary feats of memory. When Eric sson began working with a young man identified as S.F., his subject could, like most of us, hold only seven numbers in his short-term memory. By the end of the study, S.F. could correctly recall an astonishing 80-plus digits. With the right kind of mental discipline, Ericsson and his co- investigator concluded, “there is seemingly no limit to memory performance.” Shenk weaves accounts of such laboratory experiments, conducted on average people, with the tales of singularly accomplished individuals — Ted Williams and Michael Jordan, Mozart and Beethoven — who all worked relentlessly to hone their skills.

Read the whole piece here

concussion now i’m stupid

Someone visited this blog yesterday with the search “concussion now i’m stupid” and it seems like it’s in the air.

I had a great day Saturday — I had a very social day, and I was out and about in town, which rarely happens with me. I either don’t have the time, or I don’t make the time, or I find a hundred other things to do that are more interesting than interacting with other people in a city.

But Saturday, I took a bunch of chances, and I had a ton of interactions that were really positive and encouraging.

Sunday, on the other hand, was a huge challenge. I wasn’t able to rest as much as I had wanted/planned, and I was really feeling the effects of all the exertion on Saturday. Even if the exertion was good and positive, it was still exertion, and I didn’t remember to rest.

One of my big problems is, when I get over-tired, I often forget to self-monitor. That happened to my yesterday. So, I ran into trouble.

With a Capital T. Had a huge meltdown yesterday. As in — rage and tears and being stuck in a loop of anger and shame and frustration and resentment. I hate when that happens. I could feel it coming on, and I thought I could stop it, but I couldn’t. It was like a repeat tsunami of unwanted overwrought emotion. Waters pulling out, then washing in and wrecking everything in its path. Emotion pulling out, then rushing back in and leveling everything in its way.  It came and went for about three hours, and it totally screwed me up — and my spouse. Not pretty at all. And I’m still “hungover” from it this morning.

Ugh.

Looking back on things with a less emotional eye, one of the things that complicated my situation yesterday was that insidious little voice in the back of my head that managed to find everything I’d done “wrong” on Saturday, amplified it about a thousand times, and then commenced to tell me You’re So Brain-Damaged and Stupid. Who would ever love or care about you? You’re such an idiot – you had a concussion — no, wait, you had a bunch of concussions – and now you’re stupid. You’re so stupid you don’t even know how stupid you are.

Stupid.

Well, you get the idea. And sure enough, as always happens when that voice gets going, before long, I was at war with the world, at war with myself, at war with my spouse, at war with my job, at war with everything and everyone who came anywhere near me.

concussion now i’m stupid…

My thinking is too slow, I’m not sharp and quick like I used to be, I’m not even funny anymore (and I used to be a laugh and a half all the time), and who would want to bother with me?

Geez.

It’s bad enough that I have to contend with the physical and logistical issues, but when that voice gets going… well, the only thing to do is go to bed.

I managed to do that eventually, but not on my own steam. I had to be guided to bed and put away like a cholicky baby. I friggin’ hate when I’m reduced to that. But when I’m in the midst of that storm/tsunami, I cannot for the life of me pull myself out.

For future reference, I need to keep the image of the tsunami in my mind, when I feel it coming up. So I can get to higher ground. Tell my spouse I need to take a break, and remove myself to my bedroom or study, to simmer down. Just get myself out of the way of the wave. Maybe go out for a walk in the woods. I did that yesterday at the end of the day,  and it helped tremendously. Yes, the walk in the woods — climbing up to the top of the nearest big hill — helps me a whole lot.

I also have to have a talk with my spouse about this TBI business – it’s not okay for them to talk to me like I’m an idiot, which is what they’ve been doing more and more over the past year. Apparently, they seem to think that because my memory is a bit spotty at times, and my processing speed has slowed, I’ve lost my innate intelligence. Either that, or they have always acted this way, and I’ve just recently stopped allowing myself to be intimidated into hiding my issues from them. That’s always a possibility.

So, there are three main issues I am contending with — the wave of emotion that cannot and will not be stopped and can only be avoided until it calms down… the voice in my head that tells me I’m stupid… and the voice I live with that tells me I’m impaired. The first one, I just have to be mindful of and learn to avoid being swept away. The second one, I have to either ignore or actively argue with. The third I have to have a serious talk with — and possibly involve my neuropsych to explain to my spouse that my relative weaknesses are manageable and don’t mean I’m reduced to a simpleminded shadow of my old self. Some days it feels like that — like yesterday — but it’s not the truth of the matter.

But ultimately, the bottom line is, here’s the #1 Lesson I (re)learned over the weekend:

I have to pace myself. If I have a big day, even if it is a really good big day, I need to take the next day OFF and SLEEP. Rest. For real. Nothing else matters. No distracting entertainment is worth the price I’ll pay for exhaustion.

Defining the mind

Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation

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