What I was meaning to say, is…

Uh, oh...

I’ve found a new area I can use some help. Actually, I’ve had this issue for a while, I just have been so busy taking care of other things, that I haven’t paid a lot of attention to this. It’s being able to make myself understood under pressure. This matters more and more, as I get into situations that are more challenging than the everyday. Speaking at work with people and in meetings, speaking to groups of people. Speaking with people whom I really need to communicate with. I tend to get tongue-tied and stumble around a lot. Which doesn’t reflect well on me in a work situation — or make me look like I know what I’m talking about in general.

This was not that big of a problem with me before, because I didn’t really talk much before. I just kept quiet. I kept to myself. I didn’t volunteer information and I didn’t go out of my way to discuss things with people.

Now, however, I’m talking more with people, and I’m finding myself stumbling over myself at just the worst times. Sitting in a meeting with higher-ups. Talking with people who need me to handle something and handle it well. Interacting with people under tense circumstances — just the times when I need to be at my best, I can be at my worst.

It really sucks. But getting all bent out of shape about it is not going to change anything. If anything, it makes it worse.

This is something I really need to handle. I can’t keep on this way, I need to learn how to deal with this. I can think of a few things I can do:

  1. Plan what I say before I say it. – If I’m in a meeting, I can think through what I’m going to say before I say it. I can keep a pad of paper with me and jot down some ideas to organize my thoughts before I spek.
  2. Say less, not more. – I tend to try to pack everything into one rushed statement. This, I believe, is because I’ve not really developed my skill at back-and-forth conversations. So, I try to say everything at once. I don’t need to do that, actually. In fact, saying less tends to be better than saying more.
  3. Limit what I say and let that be enough. – This relates to saying less, but it’s a little different. Limiting what I say has to do with sticking to a single topic, not having to exhaustively cover every detail of a subject and letting it go, even if I haven’t expressed and discussed and covered every single topic I’ve thought of.
  4. Don’t fret about what other people think about me. – This is the hardest one. But it’s very important. If I start to fret about what other people may or may not think about me, it sets me up for more stress and more problems. More tongue-tied struggles. But if I can relax, it doesn’t need to get the best of me. When I fret, all of the above become much worse. Besides, what I think others think of me may not even be true.

It’s all a process, of course. And all of us have places where we can improve. It keeps us engaged. It keeps us honest. It also keeps us on our toes. Communication is key for so many things, so the better I am at this business of making myself understood, and not giving up to the anxiety and self-consciousness, the better.

Do NOT try this at home

The road is long...

Yesterday someone arrived at this blog via the search  “hit head again make memories restore

Please. Do NOT do this! It only works in movies and comic books, and they will say anything for a buck. Think of all the cartoons about Wile E. Coyote surviving a dynamite blast. Or future superheroes surviving atomic blasts and other super-power inducing near-death experiences. Comic books and cartoons are not reliable sources of medical advice. Nor is Hollywood.

A second impact to an already injured brain can do even more damage than the first. You think your memory is bad now… Another injury can lead to second-impact syndrome, which is where the second brain trauma has even worse consequences than the first… possibilities: swelling… dramatic disability… death.

After you injure your brain, you need to rest it, to let it get itself back in order. During concussion, connections are broken, and also substances are released in the brain which impair/kill brain cells. If you don’t give yourself enough time to heal, the damage from a second impact can be devastating, even lethal. Some experts advise taking at least three months off to heal the brain. Others say one month will do. Once upon a time, people believed it could be shaken off with no consequence. The rash of suicides and premature deaths in professional contact sports tells us a different tale.

Even after you’ve had time to heal, another head injury tends to be worse than the one prior. Damage is cumulative (not very comforting to me, as I’ve had around 9 mTBIs in the course of my life), and each injury can bring with it a whole new slew of issues. I can attest to that.

Think of your brain as a network of highways through a vast wilderness. When some of the roads get torn up, and new roads get put in their place, they can end up going some roundabout routes that are less direct than the original connections. Also, you have to let the concrete and asphalt set before you can drive on it. And you have to let the paint dry, so you don’t end up tracking the stripes all over creation and end up with a lot of crossed signals.

These things take time. And hitting your head again will NOT restore memories. I wish Hollywood and comic books would quit telling us it will.

More quick responses to loaded TBI questions

Questions, questions...

Here are some more answers to questions I found in my search stats the other day. It’s a continuation of this post: Quick responses to loaded questions

  1. tbi and no setbacks what does it mean? – It means you’re very, very fortunate. More fortunate than many. And you have every right to be happy about it. But it’s a double-edged situation. If you have a TBI and you have no real setbacks, are you actually injured? Do you need help? Do you need special consideration? Does your injury even count?
  2. broken bodies shattered minds book tbi and vision loss – This is a tough one to give a quick response to. It’s out of my league. A broken body is a hard, hard thing. It may come back, somewhat, depending on the nature of the injuries, but it can be a long road back. And the mind can be shattered by the experience. Mind and body are so closely connected — break one, and the other can easily follow. Likewise, healing one can help heal the other. Focusing on physical fitness and physical healing can do wonders for the mind. And putting the mind back together can help you see clear to healing the body. But in my experience, the body comes first and then my mind follows. As for vision loss and tbi, traumatic brain injury can result in spots in your vision, double-vision, vision loss, light sensitivity… the optic nerve is managed by the brain, so if that part of the brain is injured, your vision can be affected. See http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=93&TopicID=417 or http://www.lowvision.org/traumatic_brain_injury.htm for some info. I’m not sure about how to fix it. I think there are corrective lenses — especially Irlen lenses for light sensitivity — and I think there are therapies you can do. But it’s not something I know much about; aside from being sensitive to light, I don’t believe my vision has been affected by TBI. Although… now that I think about it, when I was seven or eight, I had to get glasses. I looked up at the moon, and I saw double. It could have been a result of my TBI(s) when I was a kid. I really don’t know.
  3. how to keep a tbi journal – Journaling has proved to be very helpful for people with TBI. I used to journal a LOT to track my issues and come up with alternatives and solutions. I kept track of the things I needed to do each day, and I tracked how well they came out. If they didn’t come out the way I wanted/planned, I spend time figuring out what I needed to do to have them turn around and be better the next time. It helped me immensely, just to write it down and see what was going on in my life from a distance. It also helped me get in the habit of thinking things through while I was doing them. What I had been writing in my journal stuck with me through the following days, and it made me more present, more mindful. There are a number of different ways you can keep a journal that works for you. You can keep a diary where you write about your life experiences in general. You can keep a journal where you track specific issues. You can even keep a blog, as I do. Whatever works for you is important — and make sure it works for you, doesn’t pull you off track. I kept journals for years, where I simply perseverated on the same topics over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Looking back, I used up a lot of notebooks and paper, saying pretty much the same thing, day in and day out. This blog is a better way for me to manage things, because chances are someone else will read it, so it keeps me honest. It also keeps me in touch with the outside world, instead of being off in my own private Idaho.
  4. tbi and evil – I once heard about a doctor who said that TBI survivors have no sense of good and evil. So much for their medical education. I think that when it comes to “evil” people’s perception of it can be relative. TBI can certainly reduce your inhibition and impulse control, causing you to mindlessly do things that seem evil to others. Or maybe they really are evil. But I’m not sure TBI actually causes people to do evil — I believe it makes them more inclined to do what they already do, but without the impulse control. If someone is already an evil person, an angry person, an aggressive person, TBI can make them worse. If they are a good person, an easy-going person, or an accommodating, gentle person, TBI can change them to seem more evil than they were before. I think it’s really about mindfulness and intention. Paying close attention to what’s going on with you and not giving in to whatever impulse comes up. But does TBI automatically make people evil? I vote no.
  5. discipline techniques for children with tbi – This can be quite a challenge, as kids with TBI respond differently to discipline than other kids, and the techniques everyone assumes will work with them, simply don’t. Project LearnNet has a nice tutorial on Discipline for kids with TBI – http://www.projectlearnet.org/tutorials/discipline.html – where they talk about different kinds of discipline styles, which involve different combinations of authority by parents, reward and punishment, arbitrary punishment, and permissive approaches. It’s a really great tutorial, and well worth the read — not only for people dealing with kids with TBI, but for all of us. My understanding about discipline for children with traumatic brain injury, is that you need to be consistent, clear, and not only rely on punishment to keep kids in line. Being positive and focusing on what they should do, instead of what they shouldn’t, is very important.
  6. +alarm with finder for tbi patient – I suspect this question is about locating a TBI patient who is prone to wandering off and getting into trouble. I’ve had elderly relatives with dementia who would do that. It’s very scary. There must be some products out there to help. Check with your local Brain Injury Association chapter for tips.
  7. tbi screaning for cognition/communication – again, I’m not sure about the screening possibilities. Check with your local Brain Injury Association chapter for tips.
  8. adolescents with tbi isolation – That would have been me. It still is me, to some extent. With TBI, you can get so turned around in social situations, and have so many bad experiences, that the anxiety becomes overwhelming, and it’s just easier to keep to yourself. It’s REALLY hard when you’re an adolescent with TBI. I was in the situation where I entered adolescence with TBI issues, so nobody knew me any different, and I was able to make some friends after some effort. I have to say, though, that the effort was often on the part of others. People actively worked to bring me out of my shell — I was more content being by myself. I was incredibly fortunate to have people reach out to me. But when I had a couple more concussions in high school, I withdrew again. Got into drugs and alcohol. Distanced myself from the people who tried to be my friend. Just isolated. It was easier. It was disorienting and depressing to always be surprised by the unexpected. Things just got jumbled in my head, and it was overwhelming. So, I withdrew. “Who needs ‘em?” is what I told myself.
  9. tbi rage management – Classic TBI issue. Manage the fatigue and the anxiety and stop telling yourself you’re a broken-ass loser, and the rage may be reduced. That’s what I do, and it works for me.
  10. mbti and tbi – Traumatic brain injury comes in various shapes and sizes. Mild (mtbi), Moderate, and Severe. These definitions relate to the initial type of injury, not the long-term outcomes. The BIA website has a page all about brain injury severity at http://www.biausa.org/about-brain-injury.htm#severity. The important thing to remember is that mtbi and concussion ARE brain injuries.
  11. anger from a tbi – See Quick responses to loaded questions for discussion of anger and rage. Keep in mind, TBI alone can make you angry. And fatigue, anxiety, confusion, frustration, all that, can make it even worse.
  12. is it harder to suffer a tbi at a younger age or an older age? – It’s never easy. But there are differences between the injuries. People used to think that kids who had TBIs would recover better, but now research is showing that this may not be the case. A young brain is still maturing, and traumatic brain injury may affect development. It’s hard to say what the real deal is, but more people are studying this issue, and I would imagine we will learn more in time. In my case, having sustained TBIs both as a kid and as an adult, the concussions/head injuries I sustained as a grown-up were much more impactful, because I am dealing with the cumulative effects of past injuries, and they tend to affect you more if you’ve had ones in the past. I also had more to lose, so the job troubles, relationship troubles, money troubles all made for more serious impacts in my everyday life. But the impacts to me when I was growing up had to do with my development, so I’m sure that those setbacks affected me psychologically as well as cognitively. I think a lot of it depends on the person and the injury, but there’s no one simple answer to this question.
  13. husband is a tbi survivor- See these documents:
  14. mtbi online courses – Check out this course: http://www.neuroskills.com/edu/ceumtbi1.shtml to learn about MTBI and get continuing education credits. Also, check out Brain Injury Tutorials – LearnNET from BIA of NY State. They are really, really good, if you want to learn about how TBI can affect kids in school.
  15. how do you think after a tbi – Very carefully. Seriously. I’m not being flippant. After a TBI, you have to think pretty carefully, often about things you used to take for granted. It can be a long process getting back, but you have to keep at it. Remember, you’re building up connections where they have either been damaged or they didn’t exist before. Thinking things through, planning activities, and following through are very important.
  16. career change after tbi – I kind of did this. I used to do a lot of computer programming, but now I’m doing more general work that involves a wider array of activities. It’s actually better for my career. Staying specialized in that old programming area was not something I could do very well, anymore. I had a few false starts with trying to make it happen — made some poor job choices — until I found this present situation, which is working out much better for me. It’s important to be realistic about a career change. First, can you afford to do it? Second, do you HAVE to do it? Third, what can you do that is going to move you forward, not set you back? I had it in my head for some time that I was going to have to “downsize” my career and do things that were simple for me. But it turns out that I needed to go in the opposite direction – do things that involve more learning for me. One of the saddest things I’ve experienced is hearing a person with TBI telling everyone at a support group that they had to give up the career they loved so much, and they had to throw away all their materials and supplies, because it was out of their reach. I’m not sure that was true. TBI survivors often overstate our difficulties and understate our abilities, so we can make choices that work against us. Keep that in mind, if you’re considering career change after TBI.
  17. how long can’t i do things with tbi? – That depends on your TBI and it depends on what you want to do. If you are still healing, then you have to take it easy and rest and let yourself heal. If you’ve been dealing with TBI for a while, and your physical situation has healed, and you’re still not doing things because of your injury, maybe you need to start doing those things. It’s a fine line. On the one hand, no one is in a better position to re-injure us, than we are, ourselves. We can have poor risk assessment skills. We can misjudge situations, and we can overstate our abilities. But at the same time, we can really benefit from trying and practicing things that we want/need to do. Too many times, we are held back by the people who love us, because they are trying to protect us — trying to protect themselves — from another injury. Finding a balance between what you can and cannot do, what you can’t do now but can do later… it’s one of the great challenges of TBI.
  18. effects of tbi on schizophrenia – I have no idea. It might make it worse?
  19. tbi recovery gunshot – Here’s a great article on this subject: http://main.uab.edu/tbi/show.asp?durki=85704. From the article:
    Outcome After Brain Injury Due to Gunshot WoundIt is difficult to predict what type of physical and mental problems a person might experience following a gunshot wound to the brain. It depends on what areas of the brain have been injured, which varies from case to case. Some areas of the brain may have been spared injury, meaning that the functions controlled by those parts of the brain are unaffected. Because the frontal area of the brain is often injured, many people with gunshot wounds have difficulty with attention, learning, memory, and problem solving. These mental difficulties, along with physical problems (for example, paralysis of one side of the body) can impact the independence of the injured person. It is common following a gunshot wound for the injured person to need some assistance and supervision from family members. Sometimes people are able to return to work and to live independently, but that cannot be guaranteed. Return to driving may be impacted by the presence of seizures.A person can experience emotional problems following a gunshot wound to the brain. In part this may be caused by the area of the brain injury. In many cases, problems with depression are caused by the change in lifestyle for the injured person. The sudden lack of independence and the presence of significant mental and physical problems weighs heavily on some people, leading to depression. In some cases depression was a problem before the injury, particularly among those whose brain injury was caused by a suicide attempt. It is important that people experiencing emotional problems after brain injury receive treatment. In most cases, there is a good response to anti-depressant medication and counseling.So, it seems like TBI from a gunshot wound can be extremely challenging. If the gunshot is from a suicide attempt, you clearly have to address the problems around deciding “I’m going to kill myself.” TBI recovery is never easy, however.
  20. tbi brain stem injury disequilibrium after walking – See this web page: Balance Problems after Traumatic Brain Injury – it explains a lot. My own balance problems seem to be related to food allergies. If I eat/drink something I shouldn’t, my inner ear feels like it’s filling up with fluid, and then I have balance problems for days. I’m not sure my brain stem was ever damaged. There doesn’t appear to be damage on my MRI from several years ago. But balance issues are a real problem. With me, they create tremendous stress and anxiety, which in turn exacerbates everything else.

More to come…

The things I will never, ever do

Take it off the list

I’ve been giving a lot of thought, lately, to my “pet projects” list. This is a list of things that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but it looks like they’re not going to happen. I’m either short on time, or I’m realizing just how much work each of them takes/will take, and I will probably never, ever have the time to take them on to the extent they deserve. I’m getting a lot more realistic about my time and energy constraints — and not just in light of my neurological limitations. This is in light of my human constraints. I would be having this change of heart, probably, even if I’d never gotten hit on the head.

All of us have things we long to do, someday, but that someday often never comes. And at the end of it all, we are left with this feeling of something left un-done. Something missing. It’s not because we are less-than. It’s because there is literally not enough time in the day/week/month/year/course of our lives, to do everything we long to do, to the best of our ability and to the breadth, depth, and full extent it needs, to be done well. It’s a double-bind, if we persist in thinking these things can and will get done. Not only are we locked into thinking/planning about things that take up our time and attention and drain our resources from the things that are right in front of us, but we are also doomed to not do those extra things very well. Because in order to do them as well as they need to be, they have to have our full focus. And when we spread ourselves too thin over a large number of projects, that just can’t happen.

So, we set ourselves up for failure on two accounts. And we go through life thinking we’re not enough, we haven’t done enough, we haven’t managed to live fully, mainly because we’re trying to do more than we should.

My question is, why live my life with an artificially created sense of inferiority? Makes no sense to me. I’ve been having a discussion with a friend of mine about this very topic. They are keen on me stepping away from all the pet projects I’ve had in the back of my mind, lo these many years. Some of them are genuinely good ideas, and they are timely as well. They could — I firmly believe — help a lot people, and with the right connections and the right focus, they could transform people’s lives for the better.

But if they are left to me alone, they will never get done. They just won’t. They are beyond my scope, in terms of time and energy and interest. I would very likely lose interest after the first six months and mounting challenges. I would also not do them justice, as I am not nearly well-connected enough to get them in front of the right people at the right time. It’s a shame, because these are things I have really wanted to do.  But I know my limits. In most ways, I’m more interested in the concept of these things, the high-level vision stuff. Not the nitty-gritty — that is, the stuff that is critical to making things happen.

So, there we have it. It’s time for me to give up some of the pet projects I’ve been intent on making a reality for what’s been years, now. It’s not going to happen. It’s just not. And I need to offload some of this old focus that’s sucking up my time and attention for no good reason. I need to get on with the life I CAN live, and let the rest of it go. It feels like a loss, and in a way it is, but unless I do it, I’ll never have the full focus I need to do the best I can with what I can.

dealing with behavioral health issues from closed head injury

A usually mild-mannered driver, suddenly not.

  • tbi and road rage
  • tbi and adrenalin
  • dealing with behavioral health issues from closed head injury
  • mental disordes from brain injury
  • restoration of self after traumatic brain injury
  • overcome concussion
  • stress effecting performance
  • can avoidance emotinal numbing ptsd symptoms end a relationship?
  • self part of brain
  • tbi anger

So far today, 17 people have searched on these combinations of words — 5 of them about road rage. And it’s early, yet.

I wish I could see the time of day people are searching – I suspect it’s late at night, after everyone has gone to bed. They are thinking back on their day and the close call(s) they had while they were driving, wondering if their freak-outs had anything to do with their head injuries/concussions. Maybe they were going to work. Maybe they were coming back from work. All they know is, they flipped out and almost lost it behind the wheel of the car.

While it was happening, it felt so normal, it felt so right, it felt so justified.

But after the dust has settled, and they look back on the incident from a distance (and after a good meal), they realize that their reaction was wildly out of proportion to what actually happened. Somebody cut them off once too often. Somebody else wasn’t paying attention and did something bone-headed. And they could have killed them. Literally.

Is a stupid-ass move on the interstate worth pulling hard jail time?

You be the judge.

Anyway, yeah… behavioral health issues from closed head injury… When I think about it, the real problem factor is the “closed” aspect — in part, because a closed head injury isn’t obvious, like a broken leg dangling limply, or a ragged gash across the face. It’s hidden — from everyone — and it’s damned hard to manage. Believe me. Closed head injury is no piece of cake, especially for the survivor. Our brains can be pretty convinced they’re right, when they are anything but. And no one can tell us anything, because we’re so convinced that this right feeling is a right being. It’s not, but we often don’t realize it till much later.

And after the damage is done.

There’s another “closed” part of the troubled TBI dynamic that’s problematic, too — the closed minds of people all around us. The people who either make up their minds that you’re deficient and damaged and you’re not going to get any better… or the people who are closed to the idea that you need to do things differently in your life, like get to bed at a decent hour or have a conversation about what needs to be done, that’s more in-depth than a handful of instructions/commands/demands… or the people who are afraid of their own human frailty and marginalize you because you’re different and you remind them that they are not omnipotent.

The more I read and the more I look around and the more I think about things, the more I’m convinced that social isolation is one of the worst things you can do to a closed head injury survivor. Or any injury survivor, really. But especially TBI survivors. Because we need to be “in the mix” with other people. We need to be involved. We need to be able to watch other people and remember/re-learn how to act. We need to be able to interact with other people and take cues and close from them. We need to remember what is “normal” and practice at it. We’re not lost causes — unless everyone (including us) gives up on us.

Practice, practice, practice. With other people. Build up the connections in our bodies and minds that help us conduct ourselves as regular folks. Re-knit the synapses of our brains and re-establish connections that restore our sense of selves. Our sense of self is a funny thing — it’s often best defined in relation to others. So that we can only be truly unique and original when we are surrounded by other people who are like us, but yet very different.

But when we’ve got these behavioral problems — which are so very often triggered by physical issues that nobody can see — it’s tough to hold your own in the company of others. We get tired, because we have to work so hard at simple things, and we may have to work harder to keep our balance, deal with hyper-sensitive senses, or adjust for changes in our speed of processing. And when we get tired, we get irritable. And/or our attention wanders. And/or we get agitated. And we start to act out. We speak out of turn. We strike out at perceived threats. We snap at the ones we love, we chew out our co-workers. We think we’re standing up for ourselves, but we’re launching offensives against people and events that may pose no real threat to us at all. We just think they do. We get scared. We get confused. We’re all amped up on adrenaline, and we fly into a rage like a fighter pilot taking off from an aircraft carrier. We ride the anger roller-coaster. We jump on the temper train and take off for the frontier, six guns shooting all the way.

And because the people around us very rarely appreciate our situation — or if they do, they just forget — we end up looking like friggin’ idiots and imbeciles. Which doesn’t help our case, even if we have a justifiable right to be angry and upset.

So much for social integration.

Especially if you’re surrounded by people who have a lot invested in playing it cool. Who insist on everyone being smooth and chill and controlled. They need this veneer, this packaging, this mythic strength about them and everyone around them that instills confidence, even if there’s no justifiable reason for that confidence. They pour all of their energy into coming across a certain way, and expecting everyone around them to do the same. If there are any cracks in the armor, it spells trouble. They lose confidence. Quickly. And then all seems lost.

What’s amazing to me, is how un-real so many people in the world are… How they build their entire lives around playing roles of the cool folks, the most popular kids in high school, and even when they mess up, they never admit it — they either cover it up or deny it completely. They just won’t let their guard down for a moment. Because then the jig would be up, and they’d be found out for who they are — people just like everyone else. Pretty lonely, actually. And closed. Closed to the full range of human experience and emotion and evolution.

This is the “closed” part that hurts us the most — the smallness of the minds of so many. We may have had closed head injuries, but so many people willingly close their perfectly functional minds to the vast possibilities out there. And not only do they distance themselves from people around them and make it harder for all of us to just be who we are, but they also cheat themselves of the full range of life, imprisoned in their own definitions of what is and is not acceptable.

But when I think about it, it seems to me that these folks — the closed ones — are probably as hungry for acceptance and freedom as anyone else. They are that way for a reason. Perhaps because others have ridiculed them or made life difficult for them. Maybe they’re short. Maybe they’re not beautiful. Maybe their parents were cruel to them. Maybe they’re sensitive and have been hurt too many times by bullies. Maybe the only way they can really survive in the world, is to be that way — closed. Who am I to judge?

All I know is, being closed doesn’t help any of us. We have all been hurt. We’ve all been injured in some way or another. And we can all use some generosity of spirit and help, as we go about our lives.

dealing with behavioral health issues from closed head injury… it’s always a challenge. But it can get better. The main thing to remember is that anxiety and stress and pressure don’t help the situation. The first thing to do, with TBI, is reduce the stress, take the pressure off, ease off the adrenalin accelerator, and quit being so hard on yourself. Learn to laugh at the things you do, and they will no longer rule your life. We tend to take things so seriously, we TBI survivors, and we see such gravity in everything. Every event can seem momentous and earth-shaking, but it ain’t always so, and the sooner we learn to lighten up, the quicker we’ll find our wings.

If nothing else, remember – you are not alone. Plenty of other people feel the way you do, and they manage to make it through somehow. TBI isn’t the end of the world, and neither is a temporary overdose of gravity. Behavioral problems come and go, and our health is often relative. If we can just be grateful for the good we have in our lives and focus on that, it can help a great deal. And if we can get some extra rest to take the edge off our sleep-deprived agitation and ease our exhaustion-related behavioral issues, all the better.

I recently read a statement that the human condition with its ups and downs is a lot like the weather — seasons come and go, passions rise and fall like floods during summer storms. Weather comes and goes. That’s just what it does.

And yet we survive. Look around. We’re still here — and that’s pretty amazing.

Taking care of my junkyard dog

This would be me... on a bad day

My junkyard dog is at it again. I’m tired, after really pushing to meet some deadlines over the past few days, and it’s starting to growl and prowl and freak out again. The good news is, at least I’m aware of this. I know I’m tired, and I know that I tend to melt down and fly off the handle and generally start to feel sorry for myself when I get to this place.

Not good.

But that’s where I am, right about now.

Good lord, I am tired. I shouldn’t dwell on it, I know, but I just am. And no matter how I try to take it easy and relax, I’m still wiped out. And it worries me.

That’s probably the worst thing about this — the worry. ‘Cause when I worry, I get even more agitated and fatigued, and it all builds up… into an explosion that flies all over the place, and it can’t be helped after it’s done. When it’s done, and I’ve lost it, it’s pretty hard to get it back. The embarrassment, even shame, that comes from the rage — it feels so justified when it’s washing over me, then later it’s just embarrassing. And I have to deal with the fallout from people around me who are flipped out over my flipping out.

I dunno — my boss stopped by my office today to see if I was okay. They thought this loud banging sound was coming from my office. Nope. It was people moving big boxes down the hall. But having them show up and ask me if I was okay was a little unsettling. Like I’m giving off vibes or something? Who knows.

Anyway, the junkyard dog has a way of popping up when I least expect it. It’s like I try to stave it off, try to just ignore it or overlook it… that gathering storm in the back of my head. But the more I try to ignore it, the harder it gets… and eventually the blow-up is so disproportional to the circumstances, who knows why the hell I got so bent out of shape?

No one can see inside my head. Thank god for that.

But I’m tired. Tired and worn and in need of supper followed by a good night’s rest.  I’ve been eating too late at night, and going to bed too late at night. I need to do things differently tonight. Maybe read something.

Now that I can…

Building up by bearing down

My breakfasts aren't this big, but they're not small, either. Gotta have it.

While I was having my breakfast this morning, it occurred to me that this morning ritual of mine has been one of the things that has really fueled my recovery. See, each morning — almost without fail (unless I have an early appointment or I oversleep) — I get up and make myself some breakfast. I usually do a little bit of exercise first, but no matter whether I ride the exercise bike for 15 minutes or I do pushups and squats or I do a bit of yoga, I always have my breakfast. I fix it deliberately, paying attention to what I’m doing, then I sit down and eat it, paying close attention to the whole process.

I don’t just pour myself a bowl of cereal and gobble it down, reading the paper as I eat. I really take the time for myself to really enjoy it while I’m doing it. There have been times when I have wanted to rush through, but I didn’t let myself. It’s important that I pay attention. If I rush, I tend so spill things and make a mess, and the last thing I need is to make a mess while I’m trying to start the day right.

This is important for a number of reasons.

First, I am investing time in taking care of myself.

Second, I am slowing myself down on a regular basis, first thing in the morning, which sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Third, I am paying very close attention. Even when I don’t want to, I practically force myself to. And I’m always glad when I do.

At just the time when I feel like flaking out, I force myself to bear down, and it helps me. Not only does it get me out of my head and get me thinking about something other than my own self-pity and self-defeating thoughts, but it also helps me build more brain connections. From what I’ve read, attending very closely to things builds synaptic connections — neurons that fire together, wire together — which means that my paying close attention to my breakfast builds up more connections in my brain.

Sometimes I notice different things — the way the egg and toast combine visually, or the way the butter and jelly on my toast tastes. Sometimes I mess up the whole process of getting breakfast together, and the toast is burnt, the egg is under-cooked, and the coffee is either too hot or too cold. And I have to regroup and focus in again.

But no matter what I notice, first thing in the morning, the important thing is, I DO notice. And that practice keeps me going throughout the day. In fact, I would say that even more than being a good way to satisfy my physical hunger, a mindful breakfast is a good way to satisfy my psychic hunger — my need to be involved in my own life and participate in the things that matter to me.

Paying attention at the start of the day sets a tone I can follow the rest of the day. And the more I attend to what I’m working on, the more synapses get connected, the more neurons that wire together, and the easier it is for me to live my life.

The great thing about this is, it’s very simple to do. It’s not always easy, but it’s simple. And I have to say, one of the key ingredients of being able to do this in the first place, has been lowering my anxiety levels so that I can slow down enough to pay attention to what’s going on. Once upon a time, the very idea of taking 20 minutes each morning to feed myself was about the farthest thing from my mind and my interest. But now that I’ve been at it, I can see how it’s helped me. And it’s something that just about anybody can do.

Even if you’re not into eating breakfast, anyone can start the day mindfully, paying very close attention to what’s going on in front of them. Something as simple as washing your hands can be a source of fascination. Or watching the birds at the bird feeder. Or the cars passing in the street. Or the clouds in the sky. But we never get a chance to see it all, if we don’t make the effort of slowing down and paying attention.

The good thing about it is, bearing down and making the effort to pay very close attention — no matter how small the detail — is never a waste of time — it’s an investment in our cognitive futures.

Some days, I just want to disappear

Today is a day like that. I know my life is going pretty well, and I have made tremendous progress in the past few years. But today I just want to fade into the background of my everyday life, lower my profile, keep to myself, and not invest so much of myself in the outside world. I would stay online, of course, but I would scale back my activities in the “real” world. I am tired of dealing with people. I am tired of navigating the world. I am tired of having to pay such close attention to everything. I am tired of having to actively manage my life. I am tired of being surprised by things I don’t expect. I am tired of having to be flexible. I am tired of having to be grown-up. I am sick and tired of the BS that people perpetrate in the world.

Where’s a rock I can climb under and disappear?

I’m just tired, period. I’ve had a very busy week, and it’s only Wednesday. I’m dragging a bit, and I have a lot of things I need to get done. I’ve gotten myself over-committed to a number of things, all of which are dragging me down and making me feel bad about myself. And the payoff for these things doesn’t seem to be worth the time and trouble.

Some people get a lot of energy from interacting with a lot of folks and being part of big things. I’m not one of those people. I get some energy from it, but it drains me more than anything else.

You know, it’s interesting that TBI is considered a cognitive-behavioral condition. Well, not considered — it is that. But for me, it’s more about the physical causes of my cognitive-behavioral issues, than anything psychological. I do see a neuropsychologist regularly, but they only cover part of my issues. And if I’m not feeling physically well, no amount of neuropsychologizing can get me out of my funk.

Taking care of the body after brain injury — Very Important. If I don’t take care of my body — eat right, get enough sleep, exercise, stretch, and generally keep track of how I’m feeling — my brain really takes a hit. If I don’t give it enough glucose, nutrition, and oxygen, I get into trouble. In fact, I would say that of all the issues that contribute to my cognitive-behavioral issues, my physical well-being is the biggest factor.

So, I’ve just got to keep an eye on that. And also remember that when I’m feeling bad emotionally and mentally, it probably has to do with feeling bad physically. And if I can take better care of my body, my brain will take better care of me.