After concussion… then what?

Taking one -- and another -- and another -- for the team

I’ve been thinking a lot about concussions, as they are getting more and more airplay… and the first “wave” of pro athletes who have gotten some serious press about being concussed (Sidney Crosby, expecially) are headed back to the game. Plenty of folks are talking about concussions – how to prevent them, how to enact and enforce rules that prohibit concussive hits, how to build better equipment to prevent injury (or at least reduce the risk), and what to do about the people who run things, who seem to have a vested interest in keeping sports as dangerous and edgy as possible, all for the sake of “entertainment” dollars.

All this conversation is great – it really helps raise awareness. And one of the things that’s becoming painfully clear is that concussions are pretty much unavoidable — on the playing field, and in life.

Which brings me to my most compelling question: Once you’re concussed / sustain a mild traumatic brain injury, then what?

I hear people talking about awful things happening to repeatedly concussed individuals on down the line, and believe you me, it’s no comfort whatsoever to contemplate the dangers of Parkinson’s or early onset dementia, accelerated cognitive decline, etc.  CTE, protein in the brain, mood disorders, depression, suicide… good God, what have I gotten myself into?

All the talk about the very real dangers of professional football, the lawsuits against the NFL, the news stories about retired athletes taking their lives and dedicating their brains to the BU brain bank, and the accounts of student athletes who had their high school playing days cut short by concussion, certainly raises the stakes in this arena. It’s important to get people to pay attention, and in these modern times, just getting people to sit up and take notice can be such a challenge. So, we almost have to shock people into noticing that there is a danger, and they should take the danger seriously.

But again Once you’re concussed / sustain a mild traumatic brain injury, then what?

Does that mean your life is over? Does that mean you’re destined to be a simpleton someday (soon)? Does that mean — on a personal note — that I’m going to be left to my own devices later in life, when my resources are dwindling unnaturally early, due to the many TBIs I’ve sustained? Does that mean I’m going to be living out of a cardboard box in another 10-20 years, talking to myself and eating scraps I dig out of a dumpster behind a TGI Fridays? Everyone keeps talking about how concussion can silently accelerate cognitive decline, sneaking up on you and systematically destroying all you hold dear.

Is this what I have to look forward to? Geez. What a thing to look forward to.

And I think of all the young people today who are struggling with concussion — the post-concussive symptoms, brain injury issues, mood disorders, cognitive-behavioral challenges — pretty much by themselves, their friends all ditching them one by one, without a lot of support from teachers or coaches, or even access to answers about their situation, for that matter. I think of their parents, their families, and all the people who care about them, who are also not getting a lot of answers or help. I think of the student athletes who have their whole lives ahead of them, only to have the one thing that makes them feel alive, taken from them by injury — an injury that no one seems to understand, and people are so busy raising alarms about, that they don’t look for guideposts to help them find their way.

I would never imply that people are using scare tactics to further their own agendas — some might, but it’s not for me to point fingers. My big concern is that in all the urgency around proving that concussions are a problem to take seriously, there seems to be precious little information how to handle a concussion, and how to come back as a fully functional human being. This is something that really needs to be addressed. Because in my opinion — and my experience — one of the biggest tolls that concussion takes is mental and emotional — not knowing what’s wrong with you, and not knowing how to make it better.

… And starting to think that you’ll never get better.

There are a lot of people who have a fair amount invested in helping people in need, and I believe that their orientation can become so focused on the need, that they lose sight of the ultimate goal of freeing people from the specific kind of help they offer. It can be so hard to get people “into the system,” so once you have them there, there may be a certain (unconscious) impetus to keep them there somehow, or to keep doing what you’ve been doing, because it’s familiar (and the insurance company pays for it).

But “making better” is the order of the day. And “making better” is the work that I have been doing with my neuropsych for the past two years. It’s been pretty amazing, phenomenal, actually — to a point nobody really expected. But it’s time to move on. And part of me feels like I should have done this six months ago. I didn’t, because that regular meeting time was a valued part of my weekly schedule, and I thought I still needed it. Maybe I did, because it helped calm me down and let me feel like there was somebody in my corner on a regular basis. I think I stuck with them, because there truly are so few real resources for people with TBI — and the resources that are out there are created by a lot of people who haven’t experienced it, or who have some ve$ted intere$t, or who are driven to get grant money or some other form of public recognition. Sure, there are some really well-meaning people doing this work, but too often, they are just battling for their very existence, and between insurance problems and legal issues and just the piss-poor availability of good information that’s easy to find, those of use who need their help — and other kinds of it — are just left out in the cold.

For real. Hassling with headaches and balance issues and overwhelming fatigue, as well as all the behavioral issues that come along with it, is not the stuff of glory. The mood swings, the anger outbursts, the impulse control problems, the pain of all kinds, the fractured relationships, the confusion with basic everyday activities — that “should not” be there… it’s all a “fluid” mess, sometimes, without any predictability or pattern. And the anxiety and agitation. Always the anxiety and agitation… The downward spiral of stuff that makes no sense, chipping, chipping, eroding away from our relationships, our sense of self, our everyday competence that people think they should take for granted.

Welcome to the world of TBI. Oh, and get used to not having anyone believe or understand you when you talk about your issues. Sorry for the sarcasm, but I’m a little tired of this being the “default state” for people with TBI.

So, where does that leave us? (And by “us” I mean those of us who are willing and able to step in and help others who have the same neurological problems as we do.)

It leaves us with a lot of work to do, to raise awareness about TBI and its after-effects… And a lot of work to do, to reassure suffering, struggling people that what is happening to them happens to thousands upon thousands of people every single day — they often just don’t know now NOT alone they are, because they’re so busy trying to figure stuff out, it’s hard to get out of their own heads. And nobody WANTS to chat about neuro issues at the bus stop or while waiting in line to fill out some paperwork.

The good thing is, it is very possible for us to make connections, when we try. Especially thanks to the internet. Don’t have your own computer and an internet connection? Your local library probably has one you can use. The TBI Survivor Network is one of my favorite forums. And there is a bit of good information out there about TBI, including the Traumatic Brain Injury Survival Guide by Glen Johnson and information from Give Back. Online forums make it easier than ever to connect with people who have similar issues — and if I hadn’t had my neuropsych, I would have probably spent a lot more time online than I have. And now that I’m leaving my neuropsych, I will probably spend a lot more time in forums.

And I hope to get back to doing more direct research about my own experiences, finding out what the underlying issues are. My neuropsych has been so focused on getting me “back to normal” and not letting me develop a self-image as a victim or even a survivor, I think I’ve lost a lot of opportunity to learn about the inner workings of my brain. It’s like they didn’t even want to talk about it, at times. I needed to know, but I didn’t know how to ask. And they didn’t volunteer.

So, I’ll find out for myself, from websites and books and people who are willing to share that information with me. And I’ll pass it along to others. I’m getting on with my regular life, but I can’t just ditch everyone else in the process. I know from personal experience, TBI is a real bitch, and those of us dealing with it need regular support from others who have a friggin’ clue.

But I’m getting pissed off, and that’s not good. I must be hungry.

So, I’ll get myself something to eat. And just keep at this blog thing, trying to spread some info out there about how you deal with a concussion after it’s happened. It’s one thing to prevent. It’s one thing to advocate. It’s one thing to penalize those who intentionally cause harm to others. But after the injury? What then?

Well, we need to do the following:

  1. Educate ourselves about how the brain and its functions work
  2. Learn how TBI impacts the brain and those functions
  3. Learn about the chain reactions of TBI difficulties — for example, how the constant restlesness contributes to agitation, which then contributes to anger outbursts and behavior problems
  4. Explain to people (and ourselves) that we are not alone, that what we’re experiencing is very normal, considering the circumstances… and this is what others have done to help deal with that exact thing

I’m not sure that the established medical or rehab community  will ever be able to offer all that to people. They are so controlled, so regulated, and TBI is so individual and variable, it’s hard to come up with a hard-and-fast set of comprehensive resources to do just that. Ultimately, I think it’s about making a wide array of resources available to people and teaching them how to use them.

And letting them know they are not alone.

That’s probably the most important thing of all.

Now, to get my lunch…

It’s time to go

Long road ahead...

Oh, gawd, here we go… So, I’ve been experiencing what amounts to a pretty phenomenal TBI recovery, getting back a quality of life that has been slowly (and quickly) eroded by successive traumatic brain injuries over the years. I’ve come to a place in my life where I’m a lot happier and more settled with myself than I ever thought I’d be, and I have a better understanding of myself and my mission in life, than I’ve had in a long time. I also have more faith in myself and my abilities than I probably ever had before. Much of this is thanks to my neuropsych, who has stuck with me through some pretty crazy times, and who has been a steady and regular influence in my life on a weekly basis since 2010.

And now it’s time to go… To part ways with said neuropsych.

Now, there was a time, when I thought I’d never move on. And there was a time, when I never wanted to go back. Now, I’m at that place where I don’t feel strongly, one way or the other. Perhaps more importantly, now my neuropsych is starting to annoy me.

I know they mean well. They have my best interests at heart. I do believe that. But the way they talk, with their deliberate, careful diction, and their thoughtful pauses, is getting on my nerves. I feel like they’re going over the same things again and again and again, and I don’t know what to say, anymore, that will be different from what I said last week.

Yes, it’s time to move on.

I suppose it happens to us all. We go through these stages of growth, healing, discovery, adventure, calamity, cluelessness, hope, despair… you name it. But being the living, growing beings we are, we eventually pass out of that stage and move on to the next.

It worried me, when I first thought seriously about it, this past week. But the more I think about it, the more I think — yes, it’s time to go. Time to get on with my life, leap out of the nest and see where my wings can take me. If they take me to the ground, then I figure out what to do next. But I figure it out, not my neuropsych. And I figure it out for me.

Anyway, it’s late. I’m tired. I’ve worn myself out, reading about Steve Jobs and what a mixed bag of a personality he was.

Aren’t we all…

Small details, big changes

Unstoppable...

After waking up this morning feeling rushed and aggravated, I stopped and did my sitting/breathing for a little while, then did some exercise and had my breakfast. I ate twice the protein I usually have. I’ve been feeling run-down and off balance, so I need to just “anchor” myself with some good protein.

I need to keep my physical strength up. When I don’t keep my physical strength and endurance up, it affects my mentality, and also my mood, and that’s not good.

This week has been very challenging. I have barely had time to write anything, let alone stop and think. It just feels like things have gone into a tailspin. We’re trying to adjust to the different work configuration at the office – it has changed dramatically, and people are really pressed to figure out how to do all the work we had trouble finishing before, under these new and even more challenging conditions.

It’s almost like the parent company wants us all to quit. Bad economy or no, I work with a lot of really competent folks who would probably have NO problem finding work elsewhere. And we’d probably make more money, as well.

Still and all, the day is waiting. I’ve got a lot of stuff to get done, and the day won’t last forever. The main thing is to find some peace within myself and not let myself get thrown off by the changes. There will always be changes… even the smallest of details, if I get riled enough about it, can result in lots of stress, lots of anxiety, lots of stuff to work through later.

And I just don’t have that kind of time. I’ve got things to do, places to go, things to accomplish.

So, staying steady and calm in the midst of it all needs to be my main focus, so that I have access to the full range of thought and adaptability that I have available to me.

When I’m stressed and I let it all get the better of me, that’s when I start having fewer options, and at this point in my life, why do that to myself?

Oof

Oh, hell.

Man, am I wiped out. I’ve been working late and getting up early. Adjusting to this new job in this new locale. Longer drive isn’t that bad, actually. Gives me more time to listen to my music. It’s the work environment that’s tough — a vast sea of cubicles… no, not even cubicles, rather, work surfaces divided by low walls — full of constant distraction, noise, activity.

It’s pretty rough going. For me as well as others. At odd moments of the day, it feels like all-out hell.

I’m not sure how long I’m going to last there. We’ve effectively been “gobbled up” by the parent corporation that clearly doesn’t much care about our ability to work in peace. Somehow they seem to think that “dynamic” environments help people focus and produce.

Hm. How ’bout that…

Anyway, it’s a job, and so far it’s a good job with people I like and enjoy working with. Who knows how it will be in another year, but for now, I’ll just say,

I

am

so

tired.

Justice for Marcus

TBI + ignorance + malicious people = ....

I recently came across a blog that’s really affected me strongly — Real Estate Savant …. Justice for Marcus, a Brain Injured Young Man With Aphasia. — which talks about the experiences of a young man named Marcus who sustained a brain injury when younger, and is now in prison serving time for a crime he was not responsible for. I highly recommend reading it, as it shows the extremes to which life can go, when you have a brain injury… and others take advantage of you.

It makes my blood boil, when I think about it. So, to keep cool and not get thrown off for my entire day, I have to admit I’m trying to not think about it too much. Or at least try to think about it from a larger view.

People are people, and people who think they are weak, or who are lazy, or who are just plain bad, tend to take advantage of others — and when someone who is particularly vulnerable (like with TBI) comes along, then it’s payday!

And that’s wrong in so many ways. Yet when I think about it, this happens in countless other ways with people who are not brain-injured. Advertisers and marketers take advantage of our personal vulnerabilities. Whole multi-billion dollar industries thrive, thanks to people worrying that they are too fat, too thin, too scrawny, too bald, too hairy, too… whatever. If I could invent a product that would convince people they’ve solved one of the core things about themselves that makes them feel like a reject and a loser, that makes them believe they are not worthy to be loved, I’d be rich as Bill Gates. I can’t say that I’d be as happy as I am now… but then again, maybe I would ;)

Anyway, Marcus’es story just brings home to me how important it is for those of us with brain injuries to care for ourselves as best we can — and to seek out support from others who can help us. It’s also pretty clear to me that when it comes to dealing with the criminal justice system, knowledge and understanding of TBI (and a host of other cognitive/behavioral and mental conditions) is sorely lacking. And people get put in jail for all sorts of things – some of which they did not do, but couldn’t adequately defend themselves.

If we rely on the lawyers to save us… well, God help us. Some people close to me went through many years of hell because the high-priced lawyer they hired to solve a terrible family problem with the law, changed their tune from Yes, absolutely, I can keep your child from being convicted to No, your child is going to do time, after all.

It’s just crazy. Lawyers will tell you whatever they need to say to get the work and their fees, apparently. But the way the law works, it’s all too easy for them to use that as an excuse for poor performance. (Can you tell I’m not a fan of lawyers — especially brain injury lawyers?)

So, what do we do? How can we protect ourselves? It’s a hard one, and I don’t know the answer to it. The one thing I do know, is that when it comes to professionals and authorities, the very human people in those very difficult positions are all too often some of the most vulnerable people in the room. And if they are not comfortable with their vulnerability, they can and will and do make decisions and take actions and effect changes which can ruin the lives of others.

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who with the power of a lawyer, a judge, a doctor, a therapist, a prison guard, a nurse, an accountant, an insurance company executive/account manager, who might encounter someone with a brain injury should absolutely be required to have a working knowledge of the effects that brain injury can have on an individual. They should not be allowed to graduate, get licensed, or keep their professional status, unless they can exhibit at least a rudimentary familiarity with the effects of brain injury on cognition, behavior, actions — the whole person — and be capable of understanding what more highly trained brain injury experts may tell them at trial, at continuing education seminars, and in their respective literature.

Of course, before we get there, we have to have a commonly agreed upon understanding of the effects of brain injury on cognition, behavior, actions — the whole person — but we’re a ways off from having that. And before we get there, we have to have a broader social understanding of what brain injury can and does do to an individual.

And I think we’re a ways away from being there.

Still and all, I do believe that the attention that’s being paid to sports concussions (both professional sports and youth sports), as well as traumatic brain injuries leading to Emergency Department visits, will prove helpful. People are becoming more and more aware, and that’s good. We also need to extend the awareness of the problems with concussion and brain injury past the acute stage of They’re hurt – oh my God  and get to Now that they’re hurt what do we do… and then on to  We know they were hurt, so what does that mean for how they think, behave, make choices?… and then on to They’ve done/said/chosen this… how can we help them do/say/choose differently next time?

Like I said, we’re probably a ways away from going down that road as a whole society. We still love to punish, regardless of “guilt”, and there’s nothing like a stiff sentence to make a wronged party feel at least party vindicated. But on an individual level, I think we can do some of this — we just have to slow down enough, start paying attention enough, and be level-headed enough to see past the initial shock of “abnormality” that can come from TBI-affected thoughts, words, and deeds, and get smarter about how to respond.

I’m not sure what will help Marcus. I’m not sure what could be done to clear his name and/or get him out of prison. But I do know that he’s sure as hell not the only one this happens to, and I do know that he’s not alone. He probably feels like he is, he probably looks like he is, but as long as someone is in his corner, thinking about him and rooting for him and even praying for him, that’s at least something. Of course, that’s cold comfort when you’re behind bars, but that’s about the best I have to offer for right now.

Well, the day is waiting. Time to get moving. And time to be grateful for what I’ve got. ‘Cause I know for sure it could all go away all too easily — and all too quickly.

Onward.

Back to Belleruth

Zen

Chillin' in the moving tide - trying to...

Today I start going to my new office. It’s a bigger, newer building than the one I was in before, and it has a lot of nice features. It also has some drawbacks, but I’m working with them. I’m working on it.

One of the things I’m not looking forward to, is the extended drive. I’m going to be spending twice as much time in the car as before, and I’m a little peeved about it.

I had what was a pretty good routine before, and now it’s getting messed up. So, all my alarms are going off, and I’m digging in my heels, and part of me just doesn’t want to do it.

But when I quit being such a whiner and stop for a moment to consider my situation, I have to admit, I have fallen into a kind of torpor with my current job. Yes, I’ve got all the pieces running relatively smoothly, some of them like clockwork. I’ve got a regular cadence I’ve gotten into. But I’m kind of falling into a lull — or rather, I’ve fallen. And I need to get up.

I need to inject some serious movement into my life again. I’ve gotten comfortable, a little complacent. And it hasn’t been good for my mental health. I need to be pushed, to be challenged, to stay fully engaged and keep on keeping on.

So, here’s my new opportunity – to have extra time in the car to spend by myself, probably listening to more music and also audio talks by people whose opinions I value. There are some great people out there doing talks — I can find their audio files online, as well as on YouTube, and I can listen to them on my radio, with an radio connector that I attach to my smartphone. I plug it into the headphone jack, and it finds a free channel on my radio that I can play the audio on. This really comes in handy, because I don’t have a CD player or an iPhone dock for my car. I’m very low-tech — no power anything, other than steering and brakes, not even A/C.

Anyway, I’ll have more time to myself before and after work, and while I’m nervous about having less time to sleep and do things other than drive, this is giving me a chance to rethink things in my life, how I’ve been using my time, and what I’ve managed to get done with the time I have had. It’s also forcing me to figure out what means the most to me, and not fritter away my hours on things that just don’t matter. That can be a problem.

So, basically, the ante is being upped, and I need to figure out a way to rise to the occasion.

That being said, I woke up early again today and had a heck of a time getting back to sleep. Not only am I saying good-bye to my old office… but also a car I really loved which died a fewe weeks ago and I finally had towed away today… as well as a family pet that had been with us for more than 2 decades. That’s a long time for any domestic animal to live, aside from horses, and it’s been an adjustment. Lots of good-byes and new beginnings. Being in a house without a pet for the first time in over 20 years… that’s a change.

And people at work are quitting. Or they’re talking about quitting. Some are also having health issues, which is disruptive as well as unsettling and nervous-making. All these changes…. what to do?

Well, for one, I dug out my Belleruth Naparstek CDs for Healing Trauma (PTSD) healing as well as Stress Hardiness Optimization. I can’t listen to the Trauma CD unless I have an afternoon to collect myself — it’s pretty effective release stuff that wipes me out for hours afterwards — but I can listen to the Stress Hardiness Optimization. I used to listen to the stress CD all the time to help me relax and sleep, and it did wonders for me. Then I got tired of it and stopped listening. I think now is a good time to start listening again, when I have so much going on, and I’ve had so much trouble getting to sleep, over the past weeks. I guess I need to revisit what worked for me in the past, because I’m looking at some pretty big changes ahead, as well as added stress. I can use all the stress hardiness optimization I can get.

(Note: If you’d like to get your own copies of these CDs (and support this blog with your purchase), you can get them here:

Anyway, I’m not really writing this to sell CDs from Belleruth Naparstek. I’m here to talk about figuring out what works for me in situations where I’m running the risk of more stress and strain, which threatens to derail me. I’ve made some pretty amazing progress over the past year or so, and the last thing I need, is to get derailed by more stress and getting thrown off my routine.

I’ve talked before about how routine has been a life-saver for me. Well, it has. Only, there’s always the danger with me that I’ll get into a rut, I’ll start losing interest, my attention will wander, and I’ll end up getting into trouble without knowing it.

This morning, when I was up early, I couldn’t find my journal, which I’ve been using to write down the thoughts that have been bothering me. So, I dug out my old portable CD player and got out my stress hardiness CD to listen to. It was a real blast from the past, and when I think back to how I was doing (or how poorly I was doing), back when I started listening to it. I was such a wreck, I can tell you that. Totally broken, messed up, confused, and at a complete and total loss about how to right myself.

Belleruth helped me right myself, that’s for sure. And not with a bunch of namby-pamby ninny crap, either. I didn’t have to put up with a lot of touchy-feely stuff about “loving yourself” and “being your own best friend” that put me off and irritated the crap out of me. It was just her talking me through how to count my breaths, how to tune in to my body, how to relax, how to take a little mini mental vacation in the location of my choice, while relaxing and observing the world around me as I wished to observe it. Good stuff.

And I’m going to start using it again. I think I’ve been through a bunch of things lately that have me a bit on the traumatized side. Not huge deals, but little “micro-traumas” in the course of my everyday life that are adding up to be a backlog of biochemical sludge. I’ve been exercising, which is good. But I could also use a good trauma healing session. Maybe I’ll block off some time this weekend to listen to the CD — and then have a good long sleep afterwards to get back to a balanced state of mind.

Anyway, the day is waiting, and I’m ready for it. After listening to Belleruth this morning, I was able to really rest and relax — breathing all the while. I even got back to sleep a little bit.  Now it’s time to see what my destiny holds in store. Got my iPhone and my radio connector and some music and audio talks I want to listen to. I should be all set.

When absolutely positively confident, do… nothing

Warning... warning...

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about how tbi has messed up my ability to assess situations. From tests in school to social situations to job situations, I’ve often found myself quite unpleasantly surprised by outcomes that I was sure would turn out in my favor. On tests in school, particularly, my ability to tell whether or not I did well has been sharply curtailed.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve been in a testing situation and thought I did GREAT… only to find out that I performed about average. Sometimes even worse than average. And I ended up feeling like a bigger idiot than I looked like on paper.

What a bummer.

In social situations, I’ve often felt like I was saying something that was either clever or engaging or socially appealing… only to find people looking at me like I had two heads, or backing away (literally or figuratively). This has gotten better in the past years, since I started seeing my neuropsych. There’s something about sitting in a room with someone regularly, knowing they’re not going to laugh at me or make fun of me or ridicule me or ostracize me, that lets me loosen up and just be — and also practice interacting with another person in a meaningful way.

At work, I’ve often thought I hit a home run, only to find that I’ve missed a critical piece of information. That’s a real problem. Or, I thought I was good with my scheduling, only to find out I was two weeks behind. Also a problem.

All these things seem to get better or worse with me at unexpected times. I’ll think I’m doing great, then WHAM, I get smacked upside the head with obvious evidence to the contrary. It’s a little daunting at times. But I can’t let it stop me from taking chances and living my life.

The thing is, though, that I’ve learned over the years to notice the times when I’m 100% confident of something — so confident, I’d stake my life savings on it (not so much money, these days, but you get my point). At those times, I find it’s when my judgment is most clouded, and there’s the greatest chance that I’m just NOT getting what I think I am. And I need to stop, back up, and reconsider doing or saying what I was about to do or say.

I have a bunch of great examples — the time when I was convinced I needed to go for a walk in the woods during deer hunting season, wearing neutral colors and following a deer path, instead of the main trail… or the time when I got stopped by a copy for running a stop sign, then (after they gave me a warning, not a citation), I proceeded to jump out of my car and run over and start yelling at them because I didn’t feel like they were very respectful of me and they treated me like a common criminal… or the time when I decided it made good sense to take a job I couldn’t really do, for about 20% less annual salary than I could live on.

Had I stopped and thought about those things with more clarity, instead of going with my overwhelming impulse, I could have saved myself much trouble — and avoided the close calls I had.

On the one hand, slowing things down feels really restrictive. I don’t want to slow down! I want to charge full speed ahead, with every fiber of my confident being! On the other hand, it just makes good sense to take a considered approach. Obviously, there are times when I can’t hesitate, or I’ll be lost. But at other times, when I have a little while to reconsider what I’m doing, it often makes perfect sense to do just that — hold off a minute or two, give it a little bit, and then reconsider what I’m about to do and say.

Live and learn. Live and learn.

Doing really well

At the risk of jynxing myself, I’m going to say “out loud” that I’m doing really well. I’ve been doing my breathing and sitting, first thing in the morning, and sticking with my morning routine. I have also started exercising in the morning again, riding the bike for 15 minutes and working up a sweat (so I can move some of the autumn cold gunk out of my system), and then taking time to have my breakfast.

It’s feeling really good. Really solid. And it’s wild, because I feel more stable now than I have in a long time. I really think it has to do with my breathing — balancing out my whole system before I get into my day.

It’s working. There have been a lot of big changes happening, and I have been a lot more stable and a lot less susceptible to my moods, since I started doing this breathing regularly.

I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to maintain this consistently, but the benefits are amazing enough, that I’ve got plenty of reason to do just that.

So, it’s on with the day… This is good.

chaos – ridigity – mental health

Aaaaaauuughhhh!

More and more people are coming to this blog, looking for ideas on chaos and rigidity and mental health. I suspect it’s due to the “Mindsight” work of Dan Siegel, whose work I’ve read. I’ve also seen him speak at an event, and he seemed genuine and sincere, and I could relate to what he was talking about.

For me, chaos and rigidity are both symptoms of some sort of neuro imbalance. In particular, of the autonomic nervous system. When I’m in a regular state of fight-flight-freeze, it makes it really difficult for me to be flexible. I’m on guard all the time against what else might be coming to get me. Even if my fight-flight is about regular everyday stress at work that I encounter all the time, it amps up my responses to things that happen to me in the course of each day — especially when I am tired. And I become really rigid about what I can and cannot tolerate. I’m on edge in the extreme, and I’m really hard to live with at home.

On the other hand, when I swing to the opposite extreme and “take a break” for several days and don’t do what I’m supposed to be doing, spend time just roaming around on back roads, or surfing around on the web, watching dumb YouTube videos and such, I’m about as far from fight-flight as I can get. But my rest-digest has sent me into the opposite end of the spectrum. And you can bet your hard-earned money that, come Monday, my life is pretty much chaos. Things that needed to get done, just didn’t get done. I’m behind on my stuff, I’m behind on my life. And so I swing to the opposite extreme with my moods and my nervous system — I go from extreme rest-digest to extreme fight-flight. And God help anyone in my path…

All of which makes it really hard to have a whole and wholesome view of my life. When you’re constantly ON, there are parts of you that forget that they’re off… and you can forget how to turn them back on. Things like digestion, prolonged concentration, relaxation, and restful sleep, can become distant memories that you may become convinced you don’t need, anyway. And you can’t imagine why they ever interested you, once upon a time.

In this process, I become a little mentally ill, feeling like there’s something wrong with me that needs to be eradicated or fixed or ignored, or whatever. I feel like there are holes in my soul, and I have lost a significant part of myself. I am so caught up in feeding the part of my system that shuts other parts down, that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to more and more trouble, more and more trauma. And all the while, the part of me that’s ON, thinks everything is fine.

Which is pretty mentally ill. Oh, well. At least I’m aware of it. And I’m aware that it’s not the best thing for me, so I’m not delusional. Not this way, anyway ;)

But speaking of the part of me that’s ON, it’s time for me to take it offline. I’ve had a long day, a busy day, an active day, and I need some serious downtime. So, off I go…