About brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who had falls and car accidents and sports-related injuries in 1972, 1973, 1982-83, 1995, and most lately 2004. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications for 35 of my 43 years. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained that injury at age 8… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

Recovering well

I’ve been a little under the weather, so I took myself offline completely all weekend. It was very cool. I got some reading done, I hung out with a new friend for a bit, and I went for a few short walks.

I’ve been extremely lightheaded and dizzy for the past few days — increasingly so. I think it is my inner ears getting congested. I put some drops in, but that just made them sting, so I’m not sure that was a good idea.

I’ve got a lot going on at work, these days. More than before, that’s for certain. It’s ironic — I had hoped that this change would lighten my workload, but now it’s getting to be more. Oh well. At least I like the people I’m working with, and I do have more time to rest and do things I’ve been wanting to do, so it’s fine.

Gotta get myself motivated. I’ve been having a hell of a time getting motivated, lately, but the work isn’t going to do itself. So, I focus on my own wellness, I do what I can to take care of myself, and I take it easy… not being too hard on myself. In another 8 weeks, all the deadlines will be here and gone, and then we have the rest of the year to just do our work and get things done at a more civilized pace.

I’m looking forward to that — as well as having a solid foundation in the work that I’m doing.

So that being said… onward.

Facebook fast is working :)

No thank you. My life is so much better without it

I’ve been off Facebook for a couple of weeks now, and I feel pretty excellent. The more time I spend away from it, the more I realize how it’s just a bad influence in my life — and the more I realize how much better I feel, when I am not dragged into everyone else’s life dramas.

I feel badly that people have to go through the things they do, but in so many instances, their drama is self-created — and they turn to Facebook for justification for their dramas, for people to validate their pain. It’s pain they’ve caused to themselves. It’s pain they keep breathing life into, by talking about it and justifying their poor choices.

If people spent half the time working to fix things in their lives, that they spend complaining about those things, they might not have nearly as much to complain about.

But people would rather complain.

You know… thinking about people at work in their drama, I can tell who spends the most time on Facebook. They’re the ones who get worked up over every little thing, who marinate in their unhappiness, and who run off in little groups to bitch and complain about things.

And then there are the folks at work who just stick to their projects, do their work, and don’t get into a lot of interpersonal drama. That’s the type I want to be — while at the same time keeping on decent terms with the “Facebook folks”. We’re all on the same team, and it helps me more when I’m on good terms with everyone I work with.

Anyway, for my purposes, steering clear of Facebook is the way to go. If people want to contact me, they can contact me directly. It will weed out the curiosity seekers from the folks who are genuinely interested in relating to me. A lot of my old coworkers are on FB, and the more I think about it, the ones who are most miserable in their jobs and the most conflicted, are the ones who are most active on FB. There seems to be a correspondence between people’s unhappiness in life and feeling of being trapped, and the time they spend on FB and other social media.

It’s like their consolation prize for a sh*tty life.

And being away from all that, really feels much better. As much as I used to think that FB kept me social and connected with people, I realize now that the people it kept me connected with, are actually not the types of folks I want to have anything to do with. They’re nice and all, but I can’t live the way they live, and I don’t want to get dragged down by them.

Which is exactly what was happening before.

So, anyway, people can do what they like, so long as it doesn’t harm me. I’m going to do what I please, and leave it at that.

Give myself a jump on the day

Just gotta jump into it

I had a really crappy day, yesterday. There’s been tension at work (which is going to be how things are, for the next couple-three months), and people are not happy. We have a bunch of high-stakes deadlines coming up in September and October (and beyond), which are working on folks’ nerves and patience.

There’s a lot going on, and people are starting to show signs of wear. It’s particularly irritating to me, because I feel like I’ve been through all this, over and over and over again, regularly for the past 20 years, and watching people go through their gyrations over pressures at work is just the same-old-same-old fluff and drama that — frankly — is so boring to me.

Plus, there’s one individual at work who’s decided they don’t like me. I have nothing against them. I actually like them as a person, but they’re behaving very strangely towards me, which is just awkward. It also makes me a little uncertain, because I wonder if maybe there’s something I’m doing wrong that I don’t know about… it’s just the old TBI-induced neurosis, I guess. That old feeling like there’s something wrong with me, and I’ve gone and screwed something up without knowing about it. That’s happened to me so many times, it’s a reflex with me, to look for the things I’ve screwed up. ‘Cause that’s what I’ve done so many times.

It’s really a pain in my ass, and it doesn’t do my self-confidence any good, quite frankly.

One of the additional underlying dramas for some folks at work, is that we are moving offices in another 2 months, and once that happens, there are a lot of people who are suddenly going to have a really crappy commute. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to have that hanging over your head. When we move, I’ll be even closer to home, so it’s actually not an issue for me. It’s actually going to make my life that much better.

But I still feel for the folks who have to move. I know what that’s like.

Basically, I’m just keeping my head down and staying on target… trying to use my head and not get all worked up over what other people are thinking and doing and feeling. What they are thinking and feeling is none of my business… and it probably has nothing to do with me, anyway. It’s important that I not think too much about things, not try to analyze them too much, and that I keep my “mental cycles” for things I actually can control — like my projects, and my own side hobbies.

I’ve been reading some pretty interesting things, lately, which has got me thinking along some creative new lines. So, that’s good. It’s got me changing my world view… which is always good.

More than anything, I just need to keep my head on straight and not let it wander off and do all sorts of “recreational stress” type things. I can go there pretty quickly, especially when the pressure’s on, because the stress sharpens the parts of my thinking that are useful in a crisis. And things start to seem like a real crisis at times. But that just makes me more edgy and antsy, and it really knocks the feet out from under my ability to think creatively and inventively, and to integrate what I have learned from the past day(s).

I also need to give myself ample time to ramp up in the morning. I’ve been getting in late, over the past several weeks, and it’s that old bad habit that I need to not fall into. My boss has cleared me for overtime, so if I want to work more hours (because, after all, I literally have two more useful hours in the day than I used to), I can.

Having that flexibility will also let me just work when I need to, instead of watching the clock. It’s one less thing to think about.

Anyway, I’m up early today, because I couldn’t sleep. I just woke up. And now I have a little time to do some things I feel like doing, before I go in – early, this time, instead of late. I’m sure everything will work out, I just need to not shoot myself in the foot, jump the gun, or do any other number of things that have more to do with my anxiety, than reality.

Give myself a head-start on the day, to settle in and get clear about my day before it starts… and then just get on with doing what it is I do. Giving myself some extra time in the morning to get there and settle in, is about the best thing I can do for myself. If I’m up early, I’ll go in early. And I’ll have some time to plan and think through my day — before I’m up against a wall.

It’s all good.

Onward.

My compliments to the chef – that would be me

This isn’t exactly what I cooked… but it’s close

I just made myself the most incredible dinner. It was so good, I ate a little too fast, and now I need to rest… while I digest.

I’m flying solo tonight, which means I can make myself meals my spouse doesn’t much care for. I like spicy foods and strong tastes, but my spouse prefers bland foods without much seasoning.

Since I’m on my own tonight, I went out and bought myself some food I almost never eat — and have never cooked for myself. I got myself a really nice swordfish steak (probably previously frozen, but still looking good), some tart dark greens, and some long-grain wild rice. I sauteed up some onion and mushroom and red pepper in olive oil, then I laid the swordfish steak in the pan and arranged some of the cooked rice around it. I covered the lot with the tart greens, covered the pan, and I let it cook for about 20 minutes.

I turned the steak once, about 10 minutes in, and it looked great. It smelled great, too, which was encouraging. I’ve had some bad experiences with buying fish around here, but this time it was just right.

So, I had my dinner. It was delicious. I had to really hold back and not cram it down my gullet… especially with the side of sweet pepper relish I added. Pretty awesome, if I say so myself.

The great thing about this cooking, is that it’s something I can do myself, when I’m on my own, and it’s really, really good for me. It does wonders for my timing, my coordination, and my sense of time flow. It keeps me on my toes, and it keeps me fully engaged. It’s good for me in every conceivable way. I can make what I like, I can experiment, and I get to enjoy the results. Even if things don’t turn out perfect, I still eat it. I’m not a picky eater, actually. But I sure as heck do enjoy a really good meal.

And that’s exactly what I had tonight.

I’m going to digest a while, then have some ice cream in a little bit. Not too much — just enough to reward myself for a day well-spent… and get ready for the week to come.

Quiet is good

Long walk, down a country road…

I’ve had a very quiet few days… when I’ve been at home, that is.

This past week has been crAYzy, and I’ve spent my time at home relaxing and just enjoying the quiet.

Interestingly, these days, I don’t have much interest in going online, when I’m not at work. I think it’s about just being all maxed-out with the computer — all day, every day — and really enjoying not having to type anything…. or be in front of a humming electronic box, when I don’t have to.

So, I’ve been spending time reading and thinking… sketching out some ideas I’ve been having, and just working through a lot of logical problems in my head.

That’s my new thing — exercising my brain on “problems” I invent, and then try to solve. Some of the problems are very practical and everyday — like, how best to organize people at work to get all the jobs done, without completely frying their systems. Some of the problems are very abstract — like, what do we really experience, and how do we know what we know?

It’s good practice for me. And it gets me thinking in all new ways.

It keeps me honest and it keeps me humble. And it also keeps me on my toes and reminds me to take care of myself and my brain. I tend to wear myself out a bit, when I think too much about things.

That’s another thing I’m working on — patterns of thinking that move me forward, instead of wearing me out. What’s the best “cadence” for me? How do I best function? When is the best time of day for me to “do thinking”, and how can I organize my day, so that I can put my brain to work on different problems, and still have a life?

I think I have some good ideas around this. I pace myself. I also think up to a certain point, then step away and do something completely different. Like today — I read about a new type of computing, and then I cleaned the bathrooms. My spouse has mobility issues and cannot get down to floor level, or lean over to clean under the commode basins, so that was my “quest” for this morning. I promised myself I wouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes on the task, because I have really bad recollections of being forced to clean toilets when I was a kid, and I am also sensitive to the cleaning supplies. So, I worked as quickly and as efficiently as I could, and I was done.

And then my mind was clear again to go back to what I was reading before, and come at it from a new angle.

Now I’ve been reading and researching and thinking for another half hour and it’s time to go for my long walk again. I walked for 2 hours yesterday, and I got some great ideas, along the way.

Time to walk again — this time in a different direction. Who knows what will come to me then?

And this afternoon, while I have the house to myself, I’ll take a nap, then get up and do some chores… make some supper… and get a good night’s sleep.

I’ve got a good cadence going. Last night I actually got in bed before 11:00 p.m., and I got over 8 hours of sleep.

It’s amazing what a little balance will do for you. That, and exercise.

Onward.

Easy peasy…

Today has been an awesome day. I’ve been taking it easy, reading and writing and just enjoying myself. I also went out for a 2-hour walk and discovered some back roads I never knew existed before — just a few miles from my home.

Yesterday was a real challenge, because I had a medical appointment in the morning that really took it out of me, and then I got to work to find out a coworker of mine sustained a concussion by face-planting on a cement wall. They were home from work, so I spent a while messaging them info about concussion and trying to put their fears to rest.

They appreciated everything I had to say, so that was great. But it really took more out of me. And then I had to work late, because I needed to make up hours.

I’ve spent the day taking care of myself. Just doing what I most want to do, and letting everything else just sit by the wayside.

Pretty excellent. Tonight I’ll get some stuff done, and rest up some more. I’m meeting friends for a day’s outing tomorrow, and I need to keep my strength up.

All is well.

And now it’s time for a nap.

Taking a much-needed break today

So, I had a good session with my neuropsych yesterday. We ended up running pretty late, because there’s a lot to cover. As much as I have rebuilt my basic functionality, I still have work to do on my decision-making.

I may be at a point far beyond what I ever believed possible, in terms of human relationships and daily functioning, but I’m still really lagging, in terms of thinking things through. Prefrontal cortex and all that.

As it turns out, I’ve been making some really dangerous choices. I know I make iffy choices on a regular basis, but a lot of them I haven’t thought through well enough to realize just how dangerous they are. Driving down the road in undriveable conditions… having conversations with self-identified criminals, in relatively secluded areas… jumping on the back of a motorcycle with someone whose skill level I don’t know, and who pulls some extremely dangerous stunts along the way to where we’re going.

Thanks, mild TBI, for making my life so exciting.

Actually, it has made my life very exciting. And there are a lot of things that I’ve experienced, that most people wouldn’t, because their decision-making abilities are much better than mine.

So, yeah. I have some work to do. And when I got home last night, instead of exercising or reading or even watching television, I did a little bit of work to get oriented to a really challenging job I have on my plate. I didn’t overdo it, either. I worked for 45 minutes, while I ate my supper, and then I closed up shop and went to bed.

Smart. For once.

In the past, I would work till midnight, pushing through to make good headway — all the while producing work that was not nearly as excellent as it seemed at the time. I would waste a lot of time. I would also tire myself out more than is healthy, and I would suffer for days after that.

And so would my work.

It’s a multi-part conundrum. First, I’m not thinking things through as well as I might. Second, I get caught up in the work and feel so energized and alive, that I don’t want to stop. Third, I “get in a groove” and stop being responsible about how I use my time and energy. Another component of this, is wanting to wake myself up and feel more alive, feel more like myself, so I stress myself like crazy to get to a state that feels “normal” for me.

The only problem is, my “normal” is everyone else’s extreme.

And that doesn’t help.

So, today, instead of pushing myself to ACCOMPLISH THE IMPOSSIBLE this morning, I’m easing into the day. I worked out pretty thoroughly yesterday, with a longer bike ride than I originally planned, and some good all-around exercise, going pretty close to failure a couple of times. My body needs a break, to rebuild and recuperate, and I need a break to ease into my day. The nice thing is, I got a good night’s sleep last night — close to 8 hours — so although I am feeling foggy and a little dull this morning (and I can’t seem to spell to save my life – thank you spell-check, for helping me), I don’t have that crazy sense of being all jammed up that I often get to.

I really need to take a break. And I’m getting better at it. I’m actually able to consciously relax — which I am doing right now with my breathing and my state of mind and body — and it feels pretty awesome. This is a new skill for me — relaxation. And with practice I get better. So I’d better practice.

Taking a break is not, as I used to think, an interruption. It’s actually a chance for my whole system to catch up with myself. I’ve been juggling intermittently – not daily like I used to – and my skill level is actually improving each time. I don’t have to push myself past my limits every single day, in order to make good progress. If anything, pushing myself, then backing off for a little bit, then coming back to push myself, is working out much better.

And it feels fantastic.

I’m really looking forward to this day.

Onward.

Sleep, work, eat, live… rinse and repeat

Get the right stuff — to your health!

I was flying solo last evening, moving at my own pace and enjoying having the house to myself. I watched a bit of t.v., then realized what a huge waste of time it was. I hate watching t.v. alone. So, I got online and started doing some research. One thing led to another, and eventually I looked at the clock and it was nearly 1 a.m.

And here I’d planned on getting to be early…

Well, it’s no biggie, because I took care of most of my chores yesterday, so I would have today free. I have a full day ahead of me, pretty much wide open without a lot of stuff I have to do. I’m thinking of taking a long walk. I exercised this morning on the stationary bike. Worked up a good sweat and got my blood pumping. That was helpful.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I got some work done around the house, I went for a short bike ride, and I had a nice nap in the afternoon. I could have slept longer, but I didn’t want to wreck my sleeping schedule by sleeping too long.

We see how that worked out.

In any case, my goal today is to stay active enough this morning to tire myself out early this afternoon and have another nap to make up for the lost hours — and not sleep so late in the day that I wake up at 7:30 like I did last night.

That clearly does not work.

I’m also looking forward to lying in bed and reading. I’ve really gotten into a lot of reading, these days, now that I can. I’ve missed it. And I’ve also missed being able to read narratives — fiction and real-life. For years, the only thing that held my attention was scientific papers. That’s fine, if you’re a scientist and understand everything in them, but I’m not — and I didn’t. At least it was something to read. And I was under the impression that I “got it” in some way.

Whatever. It did me a lot of good. It got me reading in small chunks that seemed to make sense to me, and that were informative and very motivating.

Now I’m reading fiction. I read while I’m on the exercise bike — it gets my mind off how incredibly BORING riding an exercise bike is, plus it gets my brain engaged, along with my body. I’ve been able to ride longer and also read more, thanks to this combination. It’s really a brilliant solution to what can be prohibitive. Plus, I’m reading real-life stories (or fiction that’s based on real life), so there’s a reason for me to pay attention to what I’m reading.

I’m learning a lot in the process — mainly about how people go about their everyday lives in foreign countries. It’s like a vacation from my current life, which is really a nice break from that crazy old global deal I used to be in. I don’t have to be on European AND Asian time zones all the time, but I actually miss the variety… So, I read about those places, watch Anthony Bourdain, and think about cooking food.

I’m seriously considering taking up more active cooking. I do most of the cooking at home, because my spouse isn’t up to it. And over the past years, it’s been pretty much maintenance cooking — just getting the basics on the stove, with reliable, predictable, dependable recipes that don’t have a whole lot of excitement to them.

I think I need to change things up a bit — especially because it now feels like I’m/we’re just eating to get food in our stomachs, rather than really enjoy what we’re eating. I need some different tastes, and some different textures. I also need us to eat a wider variety of fresh vegetables. It’s summer, for heaven’s sake. Now is the time to get fresh fruits and veggies. The more organic, the better — the less chemical taste to them, the better, that is.

Food is becoming my favorite vice… or rather my salvation. Cooking does wonders for my sense of timing and pacing — my sequencing — as well as my frustration tolerance. On top of it, when done properly, a well-cooked meal feeds all the senses, which is incredibly good for the brain.

It’s the kind of activity I can really get behind. It does the body, brain, and spirit a whole lot of good.

Time to make a shopping list…

Working on foggy and dull

I’m a little low this morning. I got a full night’s sleep – almost 8 hours – but I haven’t been sleeping well for a number of days, so I have some catching up to do. I also have been kind of stressed at work, concerned about missing some dates — when it’s my job to keep everyone on track and make sure we don’t miss dates.

I have been feeling foggy and dull — not at all like myself — for some time, now. I can’t remember whether it’s been weeks or months. I think it’s actually been years. I feel so dense and dumb, sometimes… like I’m walking around in a daze. The only times I don’t really feel that way, are when I’m a little stressed over things — when the pressure is on, and I have to dig a little deeper inside to make things happen.

I realize I’ve been chasing that experience for as long as I can remember — at work, and in my personal life. My “best friends” were always folks who treated me badly, and I chose one job after another that would stress me out. In fact, the most stress the better.

Now it’s all catching up to me — I’m in a job that has a lot less environmental stress, the commute is shorter, the team is stronger, and the company culture is words better. And I’m having difficulty adjusting to the good circumstances. I’m feeling dull and blah and bland. Like there’s not much excitement going on at all.

Here’s the thing, though — I could create my own excitement and “get the juices flowing” on my own, by stepping up and pushing forward just a little bit harder. I could apply myself more, step it up just a bit, and thereby give myself the pump I need. Only this time it would be in positive conditions, which I am setting — instead of chasing something or playing catch-up.

It would appear that’s the key — to be the driver behind the action, rather than the reactor. I have been working in reactive situations for so long — where management tells people not to think, but to react — that I’ve gotten acclimated to that way of doing things although I never wanted to in the first place.

Funny how that goes.

Anyway, now I can work on that, and get ahead of things a bit. I have an old bad habit of not taking action and just reacting to things happening around me, and I have to change that. It’s a lifelong tendency, which needs to go away. I can do this.

But I need sleep to do it. I need to be rested. I need full nights of sleep, and I need to work at relaxing again, like I used to do.

I could really use some relaxation down-time around 2:30 p.m. each day, to get myself geared up for the late afternoon, which is go-time for me. It’s the time when I’m most productive, when I’m most clear, when I can focus most fully. The rest of the day is a wash for me. Not until around 2:30-3:00, do I start to really come to life. Then I’ve got about 4 hours of goodness, before I start to wane again.

Getting used to this job is a lot about getting used to a new routine and a new cadence. Part of that new cadence is being able to sleep, and not being ON, 24 hours a day. That’s going to take some recovery time — and more than 6 weeks, that’s for sure. It’s probably been a good 15 years, since I could relax and settle into my job. The TBI in 2004 didn’t help anything, but the years immediately prior to that were pretty much of a test, too.

So, here my life is, in really good shape, and I need to restructure my life so that I can be in really good shape, too — and keep my life this way. Things are pretty simple and straightforward at work. Keep people on schedule. Deliver things on time. Communicate news — both good and bad — as honestly and clearly as possible. And don’t be afraid to ask for support from management, because they can — and will — help.

So, I got a full night’s sleep, and it’s time to get ready for work. I’ve got some good blocks of time today through Friday, when I can really kick it. So, I shall.

And get some good rest, in the process.

Onward.