The TBI/Concussion Energy Crisis – Part 2 of 2

This is Part 2 of a long post that I’ve split into two parts. The first part is here:

Running on empty?

Long-term outcomes after mild traumatic brain injury — and persistent post-concussion syndrome that doesn’t resolve in the usual couple of weeks — have baffled researchers and practitioners for a long time, but to me it makes perfect sense. There is a cumulative effect of stress and strain that comes over time. There’s plenty of research about the long-term effects of chronic stress. But there doesn’t seem to be a lot of research about the levels of stress among mild TBI and concussion survivors.

Everybody seems to think things just resolve. And they don’t seem to think it matters much, that we are no longer the people we once were. They don’t seem to realize what a profound and serious threat this is to our sense of who we are, and our understanding of our place in the world. At most, it’s treated like an inconvenience that we’ll just see our way through with time.

But it’s bigger than that. Losing your long-held sense of self when you’re a full-grown adult, with a full docket of responsibilities and a whole lot invested (both by yourself and by others) in your identity being stable, is a dire threat to your very existence. It is as threatening to your survival, as surviving an explosion, a flood, an earthquake, or some other catastrophe that nearly does you in.

It’s traumatic. But because it’s not over the top and in your face and dramatic — and it doesn’t register on most imaging or diagnostic equipment — people think it just doesn’t matter.

Or that it doesn’t exist.

Frankly, the professional community should know better — especially those who work with trauma. They, of all people, should know what trauma does to a person — in the short and long term. I suppose they do know. They just underestimate the level of stress that comes from losing your sense of self and having to rebuild — sometimes from scratch. I’m not even sure they realize it exists.

But they do exist. Dealing with the daily barrage of surprises about things not working the way they used to… it gets tiring. Trying to keep up, takes it out of you. I know in the course of my day, I have to readjust and re-approach many, many situations, because my first impulse is flat-out wrong. I have to be always on my toes, always paying close attention, always focused on what’s important. Always reminding myself what’s important. I have to perpetually check in with myself to see how I’m doing, where I’m at, what’s next, what I just did, how it fits with everything else I’m doing… Lord almighty, it takes a lot of energy.

What’s more, those stresses and strains are made even worse by being surrounded by people who don’t get how hard I’m working. I swear, they just have no clue — my spouse and my neuropsych included. They seem to think that this all comes easily to me, because I do a damned good job of smoothing things over and covering up the turmoil that’s going on inside of me. I have trained myself — through a combination of techniques — to at least appear to be calm in the midst of crisis. Even when things are falling apart around me and inside me, even when I am at my wits’ end and am about to lose it, I can (usually) maintain a calm demeanor and chill out everyone around me.

Heaven knows, I’ve had plenty of practice over the years. If I hadn’t learned to do this, I would probably be in prison right now.

No, not probably. I would be in prison. I like being free and un-incarcerated, so I’ve learned to hold my sh*t.

Which is where sleep and proper nutrition and exercise come in. Because after years of thinking that sharing my experience with the ones closest to me would enlist their help, I’ve realized that doing that will never ever achieve that goal. People just don’t get it. Even my neuropsych doesn’t get it. Everyone has this image of me as I present to them, which is totally different from what’s going on inside of me.They seem to make assumptions about how I am and what I am and what life is like for me, that have nothing to do with how things really are.

Inside, I have a ton of issues I have to manage each and every day. Today, it’s

  • confusion & disorganization
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • neck, back and joint pain
  • noise sensitivity
  • dizziness
  • ringing in my ears that’s not only the high-pitched whine that never goes away, but is now accompanied by intermittent sounds like a tractor-trailer back-up alert beep. Nice, right?

And that’s just for starters. Who knows what will happen later today.

But I’ll stow the violins — the point is, I really can’t rely on others to figure things out for me — even the trained professionals. I can’t rely on them to understand or appreciate what my life is like from day to day. I need to rely on myself, to understand my own “state” and to manage that state on my own through nutrition, adequate exercise, rest… and to advocate for myself to get what I need.

I have to keep those needs simple — rest, nutrition, exercise — and not complicate matters. Getting more elaborate than that just works against me. It’s hard to explain to people, it gets all jumbled up in my head, and the other people try to solve problems they don’t understand, in the first place.

On the one hand, it can get pretty lonely. On the other hand, it’s incredibly freeing. Because I know best what’s going on with me, and I know I can figure out how to get that in place.

The bottom line is — after this very long post — TBI and concussion take a ton of energy to address. It’s not a simple matter of resting up till the extra potassium and glucose clear out of your brain. There are pathways to be rewired, and they don’t rewire themselves. Depending on the nature of your injury — and a diffuse axonal injury that frays a ton of different connections, even just slightly, can introduce a wide, wide array of frustrations and hurdles — you can end up spending a ton of time just retraining yourself to do the most basic things. Like getting ready for work and making yourself breakfast without missing any important steps (e.g., taking a shower or turning off the stove).

And when you’re trying to rewire your brain and retrain yourself to get back on track, at the same time you’re trying to maintain your life as it once was… well, that’s a recipe for a whole lot of hurt, if you don’t give yourself the energy stockpiles you need to move forward, and if you don’t take steps to regularly clear out the gunk that accumulates in your physical system, as a result of the stresses and strains of the rewiring process.

That being said, I wish that someone would do a study on the stress levels of concussion and other mild traumatic brain injury survivors. We need to collect this data, in order for professionals to better understand us and our situations, and to better know how to treat us.

For the time being, however, I’m not holding my breath. I know what works for me, with regard to my recovery — having someone non-judgmental to talk to about my daily experience, keeping records of my daily life so I can self-manage it, regular exercise, pacing myself, good nutrition, intermittent fasting, keeping away from junk food, adding more high-quality fats and oils to my diet, and getting ample sleep with naps thrown in for good measure.

Those are really the cornerstones of my recovery. When I do all of them on a regular basis, I get better. If I overlook any one of them, I slide back in my progress. It’s an ongoing process, for sure.

The TBI/Concussion Energy Crisis – Part 1 of 2

This is Part 1 of a long post that (out of consideration for your time) I’ve split into two parts. The second part is here:

Running on empty?

I’m having my butter-fat coffee this morning, thinking about how I’m going to plan my day. I have some back taxes work I have to do — I need to refile from prior years, because I messed up a couple of times and I need to make it right. Fortunately, I erred to my own disadvantage before, so fixing those errors and refiling will bring in a little extra money, which I can really use.

I had a pretty restful sleep last night. However, I woke up at 5 again, which I did not want to do, and I was pretty stiff and sore from all my activity yesterday. That’s the thing about getting a sudden burst of energy — I want to use it, I want to experience it, I want to feel what it’s like to really move again. So, my body ends up moving more than it has in a long time, and then I get sore.

Fortunately, it’s a “good sore” which is a sign that I’m getting stronger and more active. This is one of those rare cases where “pain is weakness leaving the body”.

I considered getting up, because I would love to have an extra useful hour or two in my day. But I was still pretty tired, so I stretched a little bit, then relaxed with my guided imagery recording, and went back to sleep with earplugs and eye mask. I have light-blocking curtains in my bedroom, but sometimes the light gets in, so I use an eye mask. In the winter when it is cold, I wear a winter cap in bed to keep warm, and I pull it down over my eyes to block the light. But now that it’s warmer, I can’t use the cap. So, the eye mask it is.

Something about the eye mask helps me sleep — it’s a Pavlovian response, I think. I usually use it when I am trying to fall asleep during the day, and it works.  So, I have an ingrained response to relax when I put on my eye mask. And it worked. I got another hour of sleep, and I woke up feeling much more human.

Yesterday I had written about how it’s energy shortages that make me so tired, rather than lack of sleep. Well, let me just say that it’s really both that get me. If I’m over-tired, no matter how many high-quality fats I put in my body, I’m going to run out of steam. And if I don’t have enough high-quality fats in my system to convert into energy, all the sleep in the world isn’t going to fix me up.

One of the things that I think really bites mild TBI and concussion survivors in the ass, is also probably one of the most overlooked — The Energy Crisis. I think that people (especially health care providers) really don’t get how hard we have to work to reorient ourselves and retrain our brains after a mild TBI or concussion. There are so many subtle ways that our regular routines and regular thinking patterns are disrupted, and we can totally miss those subtle disruptions until they balloon in to bigger problems.

One thing after another goes wrong. Sometimes we see it, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we catch it in time, sometimes we don’t. But so many little tiny things can be so different from before — even just feeling different — that it’s overwhelming. And the end results can be devastating — failing work performance, failing relationships, failing finances… failing everything.

For no apparent reason.

So, we end up either being hyper-vigilant and always on guard. Or we just give up and go with the flow, because who the hell can keep up with everything that’s getting screwed up? We go into either crisis prevention mode or crisis response mode. In either case, our lives are marked by crisis. One. After. Another.

And that is tiring. It is SO tiring.

So, we run out of steam. It can happen from just being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of adjustments — large and small. It can happen from feeling like we’re under constant attack from within and without — which we often are, as our internal systems are disrupted and the “ecosystem” we have been operating in starts to rag on us because we’re not keeping up. It can happen from being on a constant adrenaline rush, just trying to keep up and respond. It can come from crashes from all the junk food we eat to make ourselves feel less pain… to have more energy… or just take our minds off our troubles.  Usually, it’s all of the above.

On all levels, we’re getting hit — our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual existence is in turmoil. And it takes a huge amount of energy to keep up.

If we don’t get enough of the right kind of sleep, and we also don’t have the right physical support to keep going, our systems short out. I believe this is why mild TBI folks can actually see worse outcomes over the long term, with problems showing up years on down the line. All the little “hits” we take in the course of each day all contribute to our biochemical overload. There’s more and more “sludge” in our system, in the form of waste from stress hormones processing, to buildup from the junk foods we eat to keep going, and that sludge adds to our overall stress levels, causing us physical stress and strain — which then contributes to our mental and emotional instability.

And years on down the line, when we “should be fine”, things really unravel, and we end up in terrible shape, without any clue how or why — and nobody there to support us, because they don’t know why either, and they probably wouldn’t believe us if we told them.

Keep reading here >>

Got my nap today

And got a bit of work done. Not as much as I had planned, but at least I got my head around some things. And I can spend some time this weekend catching up on things that are ahead of me.

The nice thing is that now that I have the perspective that I can (and will) treat my present work as training for my next job — and I am clear about what parts of my current job appeal to me the most — it’s not such a hardship and a burden to work on these things.

They’re actually pleasant and enjoyable — a part of my everyday life, just like my work used to be, before I got hurt in 2004 and everything went to hell.

The thing about this week is, I’ve spent a lot of extra hours at work. I have been staying late and getting home late, but I’ve also been arriving early. So, I put in about 40 hours even before Friday rolled around. That lets me justify taking more time for myself today than I had planned to… and it also justifies me spending time napping instead of soldiering through a bunch of tasks I had on my docket today.

I figure, if I’m going to work over the weekend, it makes sense for me to rest up and pace myself.

All in all, it was a pretty good day, and I’m coming out of it feeling stronger and more together than I did at the start. I’ve got a handful of things I plan to handle, and I’ve got more work with one of my special projects that I’m focusing on. I’ve really got to settle in and laser my focus, because I have a lot to learn.

I’m a little nervous about not being able to focus, and not being able to learn. It all feels so overwhelming to me, and I can hardly believe that I used to code this way on a regular basis. I have been out of practice, so that makes things more difficult, of course, but even so, I feel like my brain has definitely changed and shifted… and not in ways that I particularly like.

So, I need to be easy with myself, have a bit of compassion, and cut myself a break. I need to make sure I’m drinking enough water and that I show good judgment with the foods I eat — not cram a lot of junk into my system, and make sure I get plenty of protein and steer clear of all the carbs. I’ve been eating a lot of nuts and homemade guacamole, lately, which has a lot of the good fats that my brain and body needs. I need to remember that I’m really testing my brain, and I need to rest it periodically, instead of pushing and pushing and pushing.

I need to not wear myself out.

I also need to remember that this is the fun stuff I’ve been missing… and that I’ve been looking forward to doing again. It’s been a long time, since I was last able to sit down for an extended period of time and really dig into an activity. Things at work are so chaotic and scattered… it’s not my thing.

This is better.

So, yeah. I do need to pace myself. Not drive myself like a crazy person, and have good balance between what I want to be doing, and what I have to be doing. Ideally, they will be one and the same. It doesn’t always happen that way, but it’s a goal.

It’s all good.

Onward.

Everything in its proper order

Everything has its place. It fits.

I’m taking the opportunity tonight to put my situation in order. I haven’t been feeling well for the past couple of weeks, but people are counting on me… so I am taking some extra time to get my ducks in a row before I travel again next week. I’m doing laundry, sewing a rip along the pocket of my good overcoat, and collecting all my gadgets for the road. I didn’t  take my tablet with me, last time I went, and I regretted it during all flights, both to and from.

I really don’t want to go on this next trip. I want to stay home and rest, not hob-nob and network. I want to go for long walks in the woods and contemplate abstract concepts, not wrangle with taxi drivers who don’t speak any English. I want to lie around the house in my sweats, read books, and cook good food to eat, not live out of a suitcase and have to steam the wrinkles out of my suits by hanging them on the door while I shower.

There are a million different things I would rather be doing, including feeling strong and rested and good about myself, instead of tired and weak and harried and frustrated over the concealed slowness that always threatens to derail my progress and expose me. Expose me.

I’m feeling pretty exposed, these days. My head hurts. A lot. And I haven’t been moving and exercising the way I should. I just don’t feel like it. I don’t want to slow down and mindfully “move into my day”. I just want to get up, eat a little something, and dash off to work. I want to get moving, I want to jump into the flow, not pause and concentrate on my motions, my form. I want to just go. Just do. Just roll on into what comes next.

Which is a positive sign, I suppose. It’s not just me wanting to escape what’s in my mind — although that is part of it. It’s also me realizing that there’s a whole world out there, and I want to be part of it.

If only I weren’t so tired.

But I do tend to be tired, so here’s my conundrum — hold back because I’m beat, and take care of myself so I feel better… or just keep on keepin’ on, and make the best of things as they come.

Better yet, I could decide not to choose. I could do both. I could look for balance.

Yes, balance. I’ve heard of that.

Let’s try balance.

Balance, plus a little bit more. Seeing as I’m back to reading again, I feel this intense need to read about and to study as much of life as I can get my hands on. Books by heretics. Books by brown-nosing sycophants. Books by partially talented (though who am I to categorize anyone?) writers who long to take wing and burst into song, and give it their all in the process. God, but I need to “un-couple” — you know, lift the linchpin out of the coupling that binds me to the train of boxcars that rolls through my ordinary life, and really — by all that’s right and fair and wrong and unfair — let myself slow. Or jump the tracks. Or simply break pace for even just a few seconds from the momentum of the day-to-day.

Drink bitter tea that will kill my cold before it gets hold of me. Eat spoons full of honey that take the bitter edge off my frustrating days. Lie down on the couch and look at the whorls of the ceiling while my spouse talks to their family about the latest kindred drama. Pick up a thick pen and feel the heft of it as I scrawl across a piece of paper.

This, all, is what makes it all worth it for me — so much in the details, so much to be felt, seen, thought, sensed, lived. So much in the cracks and corners of life — the sight of a wide open field under the morning sun, as I roll by on my way to work, the sound of one of my favorite songs that Pandora just happens to play, the creak of that janky strut in the back of my car… All of it adds up to one big — well, life.

And here I am, back to the balance idea.

Because it’s all there, you know. It’s all there for us to see, feel, think, sense, taste, touch, hear. To live. I can let the fatigue knock the stuffin’ out of me, as it almost did on my way home from work tonight. Tired… so very, very tired… and the darkness all around me streaked by the lights of cars and houses passing by…

Into the night… through the night… there is dark and there is light and there is everything in between. It all has its place, and my own place seems to be as much about getting out of my own way, as it is doing anything at all with what I’m given.

I’ve been given a lot. I’ve also lost a ton. I can read again. That is something. It’s really something indeed.

And for that, I am very grateful.

Onward.

When everyone gets to feel their limits

Slow down folks – it saves lives

Winter storms have really knocked the hell out of many parts of this country, this year, and as I watch the news and hear about regions with thousands of people stuck on highways, and snow coming down, down, down, there’s a part of me that’s a little grateful for the experience.

NOT the bad experiences, where people are killed or maimed or otherwise injured, but the experiences where everyone gets to find out what their/our limits are, and we all have to slow the heck down.

That part I really enjoy — the forced patience, the not-going-anywhere-fast conditions, the curtailed mobility… for once, I am not the only one who is forced to improvise, to get through the day. I don’t revel in the discomfort of others (well, maybe a little bit). It’s just that for once, I’m not the only one in the room who has to think through and re-think every danged thing I do.

You know, it’s funny — I’m so functional on a daily basis, and I do such a thorough job of covering up my issues around people who have no clue (who are the people I can’t afford to show/tell, because they don’t deal well with any sort of differences of ability)… I often end up tricking myself into “buying my cover”. I tend to be so focused on what is in front of me, blocking out any distractions around me, that I don’t even notice the things that would make other people absolutely insane in a relatively short period of time.

Seriously, I can be incredibly focused. My former boss actually mentioned this on my last performance review — that I blocked out distractions and got a shit-ton of work done (they didn’t say “shit-ton”, but it was implied, and it was quite true).  But that focus also keeps me from noticing the busted-up things that need to get fixed: my injured neck and shoulder that refuse to heal up, the headaches I develop anytime my heart rate goes above 120 (I’ve been tracking it for the past couple of weeks at the suggestion of my neuropsych).

And then there are the things that never seem to go away. The vertigo and nausea that seem to follow me everywhere, the constant ringing in my ears, the chronic aches and pains that never exactly go away, just move around to different places. Fatigue, sensitivity to light and noise and touch, insomnia, attention issues, emotional lability, panic/anxiety, anger spikes, raging behavior, confusion, difficulty understanding, trouble hearing, slowed processing speed, limited short-term working memory, balance, vertigo issues, difficulty reading and learning new things, nystagmus, tremors. And so on…

If I paid attention to them all, I’d never get anything done.

I’m so focused, I don’t even notice when I get hurt. Like the big-ass bruise that showed up on the back of my right hand yesterday. You’d think I’d remember hitting my hand that hard, while I was doing some work the other day. It’s at a really tender spot on my hand, too — where the tendons/ligaments are close to the skin, and it hurts like hell when I knock my uninjured hand against something.

That’s the kind of injury you’d think I’d notice. But no, I have no recollection of having hit my hand, and for all I know, I didn’t even notice when I got hurt.

This has happened many times, before — bruises typically show up on my legs and arms after I work, and I’m not surprised. I’m a bit of a bull in a china shop, that way, so I expect to get banged-up. I always have, and I figure I always will. But not being able to remember when it happened… that’s a challenge. How the hell am I supposed to explain that to doctors, when they ask me what happened? The worst case scenario is that they think I’ve got some serious mental illness from past trauma, where I block out the experiences (some of my therapist friends of years gone by ran that one on me), and they think I’m living in an unsafe environment.

Please. It’s not that. I just can’t remember.

I’ll have to make a note of this and discuss it with my neuropsych. That, along with the patterns of developing headaches after exercise and raising my heart rate.

But I digress.

The point is that I have really changed how I live my life, to work with all these issues I’ve got. In the past, before I started my TBI rehab, my life was really run by all my issues, and I just accommodated them and lived in a very limited state. I let my emotions run me, and I didn’t deal well at all with all the “details” of my neurologically varied life. Everything ran me — through my emotions. The anxiety was out of control, I battled through each day with constant headaches and dizziness and pain, I struggled constantly with the ringing in my ears and the memory problems, and I was frankly just grateful to get through the day.

Over the past 5 years or so, since learning about TBI and getting a much better understanding of my situation and what I can do about it, my approach has changed. I do what I can, I accommodate what I can, I address what issues I can, but I don’t let them stop me. I do what I can, learn what I need to know, and just keep going. And that means a laser focus that shuts out everything that might distract me from my ultimate goal.

My ultimate goal can be as simple as getting out the door and on my way to work on time. Or it can be as dramatic as launching a new business venture that has a lot of promise.

But even with all my focus and intention and intensity, I still have to take things slower than I’d like. I have to slow down and think things through much more thoroughly than ever. I’m much more deliberate than I have ever been. I realize now that the impulsiveness that I always thought was “freeing” is actually keeping me from really living the best life possible. And when I don’t slow down, I pay the price for careless mistakes. Pacing myself has turned out to be my secret weapon in getting my act together and getting on with my life.

But the slower pace still makes me nuts. Some days, I don’t want to have a list of things to be done, and check it frequently to see what I’m supposed to be doing. Some days, I don’t want to have to think through every little thing and weigh the pros and cons. Some days, I just want to wing it and see what happens.

Unfortunately, I often discover that “winging it” sends this little bird into the engines of a passing plane. Not good. And not just for me.

So, I learn — and re-learn — the best way for me to do things. Even though it makes me nuts, it’s worth the effort and inconvenience.

But it gets lonely, for sure. Some days, I feel like I’m the only one in the room who’s not “getting it” immediately. I have to ask my coworkers to repeat themselves. I participate in conversations at work that I feel like I should understand, but I’m not getting all the details. And the details that others seem to grasp very quickly, I’m still muddling over in my head, which is painfully apparent when I am speaking up later in the meeting, after everyone has moved on, but I’m still stuck on earlier details. It’s embarrassing. I’ve got more professional experience than all the folks in the room combined, but I can’t seem to access it nearly as quickly as they can.

Great.

The thing that sucks the most, is that addressing this shortcoming is almost impossible. Because later on, I can’t remember the exact details of what all happened, and I can’t explain the situation very well to the one person who could help me. It’s very unclear. And I get all garbled and turned around, when I try to explain to my neuropsych. So, I suspect they don’t really appreciate the depths of my difficulties… because I can’t seem to articulate them in a way that makes any sense to them. They seem to think that I’m overreacting, that I’m getting overly emotional about things, or that I just have a poor self-image. In some ways they do get that I have issues — my accounts of road rage and picking fights with police officers is a pretty clear tip-off. But in terms of work, I just can’t seem to express what’s really going on with me with my processing speed and comprehension problems, and how much of a problem it is for me.

So, I need to come up with a better way of handling this — not only rely on my spotty, Swiss-cheese memory (such as it is) to relate my experiences, but actually write down what happens, when it happens… and give it to my neuropsych to discuss when we meet. That way,  I can record what happened at the very time it happened, so I’m not showing up babbling and blubbering and fumbling around the disorganized filing system in my head, looking for relevant pieces of information.

Yeah, I’ll find a better way to address this with the trained professional who can help me.

But it’s a tough one, because I swear to God, we could meet for two hours a day, every day, and I would never run out of issues to discuss and address… but I really need to check in with someone who actually believes in me (without some ulterior motive or hidden agenda), like they do. Seeing my neuropsych every other week is an essential boost to my self-confidence, and if I spend all my time talking about the sh*t that gets in my way, I’ll never have any positive feedback about the things that are going right, that I’m handling well.

I really need that bi-weekly boost. Because it is so disheartening to live this life, sometimes. I’m just a shadow of the person I used to be, and I’m not often a fan of the person I’ve become. I used to be so sharp, so quick, so bright. And the people who knew me “back when” whom I still keep in touch with, seem a little surprised at my present plodding state of mind, when our paths cross every few years or so. It’s disheartening, to say the least. I know I should be smarter and sharper and quicker and funnier. I used to be. But now I’m not even sure if I remember how I used to be.

It’s very “Flowers for Algernon” — like at the end of the book when the mentally challenged guy who took the meds to help his brain, is losing the positive effects of the drugs and is going back to how he originally was. It’s kind of like that for me. Only I’m not going back to where I used to be, and I don’t much effin’ care for this experience.

It’s like all of a sudden aging — and realizing how quickly you’re going downhill.

Sigh.

Anyway, I don’t want this to turn into a pity-party. I get tired of hearing myself complain on the inside of my head about the things that don’t go right. This winter, I’m not alone. I haven’t been the only person who’s been slowed down, and it’s kind of uplifting to see that just about everyone around me has to take things slower. And in fact, because I’m accustomed to taking things slower — walking more carefully on slippery snow and ice, taking my time at intersections, and being more methodical in my snow-moving and rain and wintry mix techniques — I’m actually able to move faster and better than a lot of normal people around me, when weather conditions get tough.

For once, I’m the one who’s sitting pretty, just taking care of business like this happens every day.

Because for me, it does. The slower pace, the more deliberate actions, the mindfulness and caution… yeah, this is old hat for me. And because I’m plenty practiced at taking it slow, and it infuriates me a lot less when things aren’t going exactly according to my plan. It doesn’t ruin my day like it does for so many others who can reasonably expect things to always go smoothly for them.

So, in that respect, dealing daily with all the additional stuff I have going on, is actually helpful, in trying situations.

But I could do with fewer trying situations.

Couldn’t we all…

Well, enough of my belly-aching. It’s time to get on with my day and see what’s coming down the pike.

Onward.

 

 

Parkwood physiotherapists use vest to help brain injury patients Read more: http://london.ctvnews.ca/parkwood-physiotherapists-use-vest-to-help-brain-injury-patients-1.1612031#ixzz2p3yqvD4F

Came across this article via Twitter

Jan Sims, CTV London
Published Monday, December 30, 2013 2:55PM EST

Parkwood Hospital is breaking new ground with a special vest that was developed by the hospital’s therapists that helps people with mild brain injuries regain their balance – and their confidence.

Linda DeGroot admits she sometimes gets funny looks when she wears the weighted compression vest, but she says it’s worth it.

“If you can imagine the strongest person in the world holding you, and for me it’s God. He’s the strongest person I know, he’s holding on to me and he will not let me fall.”

Photos

Linda DeGroot, right, works with physiotherapist Shannon McGuire at Parkwood Hospital while wearing a weighted compression vest.

DeGroot suffered a concussion that left her with life-altering challenges.

“I was so fearful of falling again. I got fearful in parking lots that cars were trying to hit me, people with grocery carts were actually trying to come up behind me and ram me.”

But she felt immediate benefits once she wore the vest. It’s made of neoprene with velcro straps and pockets for the weights.

“I wore the vest and it was like night and day…I was running up stairs, I could actually run quickly down the stairs so it was quite significant for me…In terms of quality of life for me, it wasn’t just about the balance it was about being able to do the things that were so normal to me before my accident.”

Read more: http://london.ctvnews.ca/parkwood-physiotherapists-use-vest-to-help-brain-injury-patients-1.1612031#ixzz2p3ywyDnd

Each year better than the last – I hope

Looking back… looking ahead

Now that Christmas and Hanukkah and Winter Solstice have all passed, it’s time to start looking ahead to the New Year. Kwanzaa is still underway till January 1, and the Seven Principles that mark this time give me good food for thought, even though I don’t actually celebrate it formally. Yuletide is also underway till January 1 (or the 13th, depending what part of the world you live in), allowing everything to just slow down for time to reflect and look ahead to the new year.

I’m celebrating the spirit of Yuletide more than any other holiday this season. It’s been a quiet time, without a lot of travel, and minimal racing around to take care of presents and what-not. If anything, I’ve been pretty neglectful of others, this holiday season. But you know what? They’ve been totally neglectful of me, too, so we’re even. If anything, the past years have been about me and my spouse doing a hell of a lot more for them than they did for us — doing more travel, making more of an effort, going out of our way to keep everyone aligned and on track with coordinating our holiday activities. This year, we haven’t done all that — and guess what… nobody picked up the slack. So there you go — they must not care that much, so… what-ever.

It’s time to us to take care of ourselves for once.

And we’ve done just that. I’ve been in a pretty low-key frame of mind since before Christmas — all the excitement of work notwithstanding — so, it’s been a very “Yule-like” time. Things have slowed down. I’ve allowed them to slow down. I’ve taken time OFF from all the sense of obligation and duty and required activities, to just rest and relax and not race around like a chicken with my head cut off, as I did in prior years. I’ve done energizing things that are good for me, and I’ve been eating lots of new foods that support me and my brain, as well. I’ve cooked up some pretty excellent dishes lately, if I say so myself, and my spouse says I’m becoming quite the chef :)

Looking back on the past year, it’s odd — I can remember bits and pieces of it, but I don’t get an overall sense of how the year was. I know it’s been challenging, and I’ve been actively looking for a new job for much of that time — especially in the past three months. At home, things have stabilized somewhat — with less undercurrents of stress and strain, but some extreme meltdowns that have taken a toll on my marriage. I’ve been through a lot of intense challenges with my spouse, including issues with money and infidelity and physically unhealthy choices. All in all, though, I think we’re on the up-swing, and taking time out from all the travel to see family, as well as me getting my own “house” in order, has benefited us a great deal.

I feel stronger and more stable than I have in a long time. Perhaps ever. And yet, there’s a constant sense of confusion and disorientation that is always in the background. I am more functional than I can remember being in a good long while, and the circumstances of my life are leveling out and becoming more “structurally sound”, but at the same time, I’m in a fair amount of general pain much of the time, I have tremors and shakes, and my brain is definitely not firing on all pistons. I feel like I’m maybe at 65% on a regular basis. 85% if I’m lucky.

And that makes me sad.

But I think perhaps I am acclimating to the instability. I’ve decided I’m going to just get on with my life, even though I can’t seem to get rid of the memory problems, the sleep difficulties, the constant sense of fatigue, confusion, distractability, getting things turned around, and getting lost and not knowing where I am for a few minutes at a time… and more.

My solution is to just keep going and not get sidetracked and depressed by what’s going on inside my head. If I can just keep going, keep working at things, and do my best to learn from my lessons and try again, this all doesn’t need to hold me back permanently. It might slow me down, but it’s not going to stop me.

I’m also coming to terms with the idea of not being Alpha in every situation at work — and beyond. At work, I have been long accustomed to being Alpha and being in a leadership position of some kind. But now that things are shifting and changing at work, I’m not sure if this is going to last. There are so many people at work who are a hell of a lot more possessed by the demons of blind ambition and greed, and I just can’t see competing with them around the clock. There’s all sorts of politicking — and if it takes politicking to get ahead, then I’m going to step back and not engage with that, and allow myself to simply be happy in the position where I am.

Now, I don’t for a minute expect that I’ll stay in that subordinate position for long, if I get the attention of the right people who recognize what I’ve got to offer. I do want to get ahead. I need a raise. I need a promotion. I need to really put what I know and have learned into action. But I need to be smart about it and not just charge forward into the gap, without understanding what’s ahead of me. If a promotion means I’m going to have to travel all over the world and not be home more than two weeks out of every month, then I’ll pass. There is that possibility. But who can say? Who can say…

Anyway, I can’t invest too much time and effort in thinking about what may be… inventing all sorts of dramatic stories about what that will mean for me. Who knows what will happen? I need to conserve my energy, because I continue to have some limiting difficulties — the headaches and the joint pain which suck a lot of energy from me… the confusion and disorientation that keep me guessing and demand even more energy from me to keep up and do my part… the vertigo and tinnitus that are just so damned distracting… and the attentional and distraction issues that interrupt what I’m doing with a regular dose of screw-ups.

I need to keep going, and in order to do that, I need to take good care of myself and also practice things that will keep me sharp and make me sharper, while not using up a lot of time.

  • Ride the exercise bike or move and stretch, first thing in the morning to get my blood pumping and clear out some of the sludge that’s built up. (10 minutes a day)
  • Practicing juggling one thing at a time, tossing it into the air, and then catching it.  I do this with my toothbrush each morning, to improve my eye-hand coordination and also my focus and attention. (1-2 minutes a day)
  • Working on my balance and leg mobility with exercises on a daily basis. (5 minutes a day)
  • Doing my measured breathing that regulates my heart rate and keeps me calm. (5-10 minutes a day)
  • Allowing myself to really, truly relax on a regular basis — just letting myself collapse into bed or on the couch, and letting the fatigue just wash over me. (The first few minutes when I go to bed)
  • Increase my dopamine levels by eating more foods with L-Tyrosine and also taking the supplement… and also taking Oil of Oregano, to keep my body from breaking down the dopamine and seratonin in my system. (In the regular course of my day.)
  • Drinking plenty of water to flush out the sludge.
  • Studying anatomy and physiology, to help me better understand the inner workings of my physical life — and how to improve my health.

All these things are really good for me — and I can work them into my daily routine. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to do them as a regular part of my life, without up-ending my routine. That is totally do-able, because I can find time when my breakfast is cooking, and I’d just be sitting around anyway.  I just need to do it. And I need to not just take things for granted, because I’ve been doing them a while and it feels like I don’t need to do them anymore.

That’s probably the biggest threat to my well-being in the new year — getting complacent and just assuming that “I’m good” and I don’t need to keep up my routines and activities. That state of “good” can rapidly decline, as I’ve learned time and time again.

So, as I look forward to the new year, I’m thinking about the basics. Focusing on that, and not making myself crazy with a whole lot of dramatic schemes and Big Plans, like I have in the past. I’m settling in, in a way, and it feels pretty good. I just can’t get complacent. Gotta keep working at it. Each day.

Well, speaking of working at things, I need to get a move on and get my ass in gear. I have some errands I need to run before everything closes for the day.

Onward.

After TBI – Stress is not the enemy

Fatigue Range

Fatigue Range – what works, what doesn’t. The red areas are where I’m most fatigued. The green is where I’m not. So, lots of fatigue with no energy can mean I don’t sleep. But lots of energy with lots of fatigue also means I don’t sleep. Conundrum.

It’s the day before the long weekend. I have three full days ahead of me to do whatever I so choose, and I plan to choose well. Have plenty of down-time. Take plenty of naps. Not stress out about everything, the way I have been for the past several months.

Most people I work with are working from home today, because they’re closing the office early – a little after noon – and nobody wants to spend the time driving back and forth. I’m going to go in, because it’s going to be quiet, very few people will be there, and the traffic promises to be light. Plus, the internet connection is so much better there — I can get more done in less time, which is the plan.

And then I’ll have my weekend free and clear to use as I please. Last weekend, I spent half my time on work-work stuff, which really wore me out. Even if I am working on my projects on the weekend, it’s nowhere near as taxing as doing other people’s work. There’s something about being able to set the agenda myself, being able to pick and choose what needs to be done, and knowing that I’m going to directly benefit from my work, that really picks me up and puts a spring in my step.

Speaking of having a spring in my step, I just got done with my morning warm-up. It feels good to move. I worked on my knees today — leg lifts are in order, because my knees have been giving me some problems. When I do my leg lefts — front, back, sideways, up, down — for a few days running, it actually helps my knees. Something about getting all the muscles around them engaged and working again… I’ve been working long hours, sitting and sitting and sitting… and it’s definitely taking its toll.

So, it’s up-and-at-em for me, first thing in the morning. I wash my face and hands in cold-cold water, brush my teeth, and head downstairs for some exercise. It takes me a little while to warm up, but once I get going, I’m good. I pretty much do whatever I feel will be good for me. Some mornings I do a lot of squats. Other mornings I do a bit of yoga-style stuff, with stretching and holding poses. Other mornings I just move in exaggerated ways, stretching and pushing myself a little bit — especially for my balance. After about 15 minutes of that, I’m done. I’m warmed up, I’m ready to go. I stress myself just a little bit, physically, then I drink my big glass of water and make my breakfast.

And it feels good. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Good.

The thing that feels the best, probably, is pushing myself… just a little… and then taking a break to catch up with myself. Stressing myself just enough to feel it, testing my limits, pushing my limits back — and out — and up/down/wherever — so that I know what it feels like to push the envelope. And after I recuperate and rest and rebuild, I usually find I’m stronger than I was before. Maybe just a little, but still, it’s something.

And days and weeks and months of “just a little better” all add up to being a whole lot better, years on down the line.

All of this would not be possible, if I didn’t push myself. If I didn’t test and stress my system just a little bit, and then recover, I would never get farther down the road I’m on. People tell me I have too much stress on myself, but I disagree. The problem is not the stress. Problems start when I don’t manage my stress properly.

I’ve believed this for years — that stress is actually good for you, it’s formative, it’s educational, it’s a key part of growth and positive change. And I’ve been finding some good reading, lately, that really concurs with what I believe. The first blog I’ve found is Getting Stronger, which talks a lot about “hormesis” — or dosing yourself with little bits of stress, so you can become more resilient and capable. I’ve picked up some great tips from that blog, as well as others the author links to. If nothing else, it’s incredibly satisfying to hear the author (and many of the other writers and thinkers he references) repeat out loud what’s in my head — and have the science to back it up.

The science is where I come up short. I just know what works for me, what keeps me on track. Having those references collected in such a comprehensive manner is hugely helpful.

I’ve also come across James E. Loehr’s book Stress for Success, which I’m working my way through right now. He shares the same belief as me, that it’s not the stress that gets you, it’s the way you handle it. And if you’re not up to the task — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually — of handling stress, and if you don’t allow yourself ample time to recover, you’re going to get whacked around a lot, and ultimately lose out on what you’re trying to win.

Again, he’s got the science and the experience as a world-class sports psychologist/trainer, to back him up. Me? I’ve just got my own life experience. But that’s nothing to sneeze at. Looking at how I was just five years ago, versus today — night and day. Total transformation. Not bad, if I say so myself — and thanks to everyone (including a lot of readers here) for helping me make that happen.

The one place where I come up short, time and again, is with recovery. I get so tired, I can’t sleep. I can’t relax. I’m on edge — and part of me loves it. If I’m not in the right “fatigue range”, I am not getting to sleep, no way. The image at the top of the page shows a bit what I’m trying to communicate. Lots of energy with lots of fatigue, means I keep going, no matter what. So, I have to change it up and alter one factor — in my case, the energy/activity piece.

This is all part of appropriately managing TBI — knowing what sets you off, knowing what unhinges you, and then doing something about that. Finding out what works best for you, so you can have the kind of life you want, and then sticking with it. There is so much conflicting information out there — all of it supported by some sort of science or belief or faith, much of it advocated and defended by people who either have an agenda or who mean well but can’t see past their own experience. You have to decide what is best for YOU, what works for YOU, and most importantly what DOESN’T work for YOU.

A great example of this is Tim Ferriss, who I have known about for a number of years now, and whose book “The Four Hour Body” I looked into about a month ago. He’s got a lot of great information, mixed in with a lot of not-so-great information. He’s pretty controversial in certain circles, and I consider much of what he does to be suspect. He calls what he does “hacking” the system, but in a lot of cases, it seems like he’s just cheating and redefining the rules to suit his needs. That being said, I have gotten some incredible tips from him that have literally changed my life for the better, so that alone is good. Reading Tim Ferriss is a lot like having a meal at Golden Corral, the monster smorgasbord buffet type places that is laden with all sorts of foods — some that will enhance your life, some that can kill you at the right amounts. You have to be careful about what you choose to put into your system, and you definitely have to pace yourself. You can get overwhelmed quickly — and develop a nasty case of indigestion — if you don’t use your own judgment and take your time picking and choosing what you’ll put into your system. And you have to take time to digest afterwards.

It’s like that with pretty much my entire life, actually. I have to really take care to not overwhelm myself, because I am prone to fixate on things, get stuck in a groove, and keep going — at top speed — even past the point of there being a point. I feel like I’m making great progress, and I’m really making things happen, but I’m not. Even if I am, if I wear myself out in the process, like I did last week, I pay for it. Big-time. The price tag is high with me. I could NOT afford to lose last weekend, but I did. And now I have to find a better way to get things done.

So, stress itself is not the enemy. It’s the lack of recovery that gets me. I’ve been “overtraining” for years — decades, really. And I haven’t allowed myself ample time to catch up with myself. I’m usually working on something. Always working. Always thinking. Always doing something. And it takes a toll on me, to the point where I don’t even know what I’m doing — or why. It’s clear to me that I need ample recovery time to integrate everything that I take in and learn over the course of my days and weeks and months. My life is pretty much about pushing the envelope, and now that I’ve gotten to a certain point in my life where I’ve pushed about as much as I feel like pushing, it’s time to change gears and invest in serious recovery time, so I can continue to make good progress and not strip my gears.

With that in mind, in another couple of weeks, I’m going to be on vacation — leaving town for a whole week to decompress and unwind. For real. The deadline(s) will be past, the insanity of several projects will be behind me, and I get my life back. To do as I please, to work on what I choose.

Not just yet, though. For the next two weeks, it’s work like a crazy person, and then let it all go.

Now, speaking of getting things done, it’s time for me to get going to work.

Onward.

 

And I slept like a rock

Injured toe notwithstanding, I had an extremely productive day yesterday – got a ton of things done, and the busted toe didn’t even bother me, as long as I was keeping busy. As long as I was concentrating on what was in front of me, I didn’t feel the pain. Later when I just walked around the house, I felt it, but not so much.

I realized (again) as I was walking around yesterday, just how accustomed I am to adjusting for injuries and keeping going, in spite of them. I really hurt my right big toe, which I use a lot when I’m moving around — from days of playing a lot of sports and being very active, I am a very “active” walker — I use all parts of my foot to pivot and move me in different directions. I don’t just walk heel-to-toe. Sometimes I walk toe-heel-toe, and sometimes I walk on the outsides of my feet. Looking back on my youth, playing a lot of football and soccer and baseball/softball and some lacrosse, I realize how much I was trained to have “quick feet” — being able to move myself quickly in different directions, thanks to nimble footwork.

It wasn’t something we did deliberately or intentionally – back then, we didn’t have the same level of sports science we do now, and training consisted basically of going out on the field and just playing till we couldn’t play anymore. There wasn’t a lot of isolated specialized training like there is today. But still, I learned. And it’s helping me now.

Another thing that’s helping me deal with this toe issue is all the years I spent learning to stay upright even when I was constantly feeling like I was falling over. I’ve always had balance issues, and when at their worst they have drive me over the edge of insanity, turning me into a crazy person who would snap at anyone like a German shepherd with hip dysplasia who gets smacked on the back-end. But physically I learned how to keep my balance, even when things felt like they were all falling towards me, or I felt like I was about to go down hard.

I never found anyone who could give me a pill or a shot or counseling to help me with my nausea and vertigo. And I think it’s because it’s basically an autonomic nervous system issue, which is better handled with things like progressive relaxation, intentional breathing, and learning how to manage and tone down the fight-flight impulse. I believe that poor diet also contributed to my vertigo — when I cut out a lot of carbs and wheat, the issues fell away rapidly. So there’s also a dietary piece of it, too. No pill is going to fix a food allergy. You just have to go without whatever is making you miserable. Not that this is a terrible sacrifice to make…

In the meantime, till I figured out how to address my vertigo, I learned how to keep upright even when things were feeling pretty bad. I’m feeling kind of bad, right now — still foggy, out of it, in a bit of discomfort from being really active all weekend in ways that I am rarely active. It’s all good – I just don’t feel particularly great right now.

But still, I got about 7 hours of sleep last night, which is good, considering my recent run of 4-5 hours. I’ll take that 7. And I also slept hard — as a rock. Like a lump of cooled magma that had dropped where it fell, after being spewed out of the mouth of a volcano. Dramatic, I know, but that’s how yesterday felt — an all-out race to get everything done on my loud, fume-filled construction project — and get the house aired out — before my spouse got home. They’re extremely sensitive to smells, and varnishes and paints send them straight to hell with all sorts of allergic reactions. So, the pressure was on. Fortunately, I performed — and good thing I got everything squared away yesterday evening (instead of today), because they came back a day early.

Whew.

So, yeah, my mad dash to get this project done was a success. And at the end of it all, I crashed — I landed so hard, I didn’t get a chance to turn off the light. And I slept through till almost 8, which is a bit of a miracle, these days.

Anyway, no worries. This coming week I start readying my resume to send out to recruiters. Looking at my timeline, I should be able to exit this company in about 8 weeks. I’m looking forward to that.

So. Very. Much.

But for now, it’s back to the office. The uber-uber-uber boss is flying in from overseas to check up on us and tell us all what a shitty job we’re doing, for a whole week. That should be fun.

Whatever. All I know is, I’m making fantastic progress on my projects, and life feels pretty friggin’ awesome right now. The toe will heal. I’ll manage to stay upright. Life goes on.

When things don’t go as planned

Sometimes there’s high seas ahead – oil painting by Joyce Ortner – click to see her gallery

I had my doctor’s appointment the other morning, and it went pretty well. I got some antibiotics for the infection that has been bothering my ears and making it hard for me to keep my balance, and I gave my doctor the holiday card my spouse told me I needed to give to them. It was a good call – and I picked out a good card, because it really touched my doctor a lot. They didn’t want to let on, but I could see it meant something. I mean, if you think about it, doctors spend their lives trying to help others. They have their limitations, like all of us, but in the end, their whole reason for doing what they do is to help people.

I have been taking my meds for the past few days, but I’m still having balance issues. I’m going to keep on doing it, and hope for the best. I really don’t want to go back, though. It’s just more opportunity to get put on more meds — which my doctor tried to do, when I told them about the balance issues. They tried to put me on meclozine / antivert, thinking that would fix what was wrong with me, but I told them no, because that stuff just makes me feel rotten and weird and dense, and it doesn’t do a thing for my vertigo. It’s supposed to fix the nausea thing and supposedly make me feel less dizzy, but it’s an antihistamine and the side effects whack me out.

Drowsiness and tiredness and that weird spacey feeling that antihistamines give me, is just not worth it. So, I told them not to prescribe it. Even if they had, I wouldn’t take that stuff. Like I need more crap in my system…Anyway, I can always take Dramamine if it comes to that. I’ve taken it for seasickness and it seemed to help me. At the same time, it still make me feel weird and “off” and the fishing trip I was on was a lot less fun because of it.

Anyway, I had been planning on “having the talk” with my doctor about not being a risk-taker, just having a hard time sorting through the myriad little “issues” I have on a daily basis. For any doctor who is reading this, please take note: TBI can introduce a whole host of physical issues, from noise sensitivity to light sensitivity to touch sensitivity to pain to ringing in the ears… a whole host of physical issues that can cloud the overall picture of one’s health. And that’s not even the mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, which can make everything seem 1000x worse than it really is… or it can make everything seem like it’s nothing at all. This obviously has implications for patients with TBI being able to accurately self-assess their level of well-being. And it’s helpful to address that aspect of our experience.

The only problem is — and I realized this when I was driving to my dr. appointment and was thinking about the best way to broach the subject. I thought about how I would approach it, how I would introduce the topic of my not being a risk-taker, but just a person who struggles with sorting through all the stimuli of each day… and I considered (based on past experience) what my doctor’s response would be.

I’m glad I did think it through, too, because it gradually dawned on me that if I talked about my issues the way I was, my doctor would try to prescribe me something. Or prescribe tests. Or try to DO something, instead of just understanding and thinking things through and letting that inform their approach with me. They tend to jump right into action! as though that will solve anything right off the bat. Sometimes it does. But in some cases, you don’t need a procedure, you need comprehension and understanding and a slightly different way of approaching things.

Knowing what I know about my doctor, after seeing them for a number of years, I really think that if I’d “had the talk” about my issues, I might have ended up fending off a slew of prescriptions and tests — they’ve already tried to get me CT-scanned and/or X-rayed over sinus issues. I mean, I’m sure they mean well, but I am not exposing myself to a bunch of radiation over a sinus infection. Seriously… It’s just not going to happen. Not unless I am in serious danger.

Likewise, I’m not going to raise a red flag that my doctor is going to treat like an invitation to charge. They’ve got a bit of a fight-flight predisposition, and the last thing I want is to have to try to explain and fend off their headlong charges and attacks against what might be vexing me, when all I really want is for them to temper their responses with a little more knowledge. I can easily see them ordering a bunch of tests and prescribing a bunch of meds, in the interest of helping me… and all the while, I just get sucked into the medical system with more crap on my chart to fuel the standard-issue medical responses that pathologize and (over)medicate my condition… when all I really need is some understanding and consideration. All I really need is for people to slow down… but knowing my doctor, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. At least not with them.

So, I didn’t have “the talk” with my doctor, and I’m a little disappointed in myself. At the same time, though, I’m glad I thought it through carefully ahead of time. In a way, I feel like I may have dodged a bullet from a weapon that I had trained at myself. I unloaded the weapon and put it down, and now I’m feeling a bit better. What I really need to do is speak up, in the course of conversations, when I feel that things are going too fast or my doctor says something that doesn’t sit right with me. Sometimes I can speak up and defend myself quickly, other times I can’t. I’m working on that. The times when I don’t speak up, I feel terrible afterwards, so that’s more impetus for me to practice speaking up.

That was something I did do on Friday — I spoke up about the meds and the tests and the assumptions my doc was making. They seemed a little peeved that I was questioning their judgment, but you know what? It’s my body, it’s my life, and I need to do what I need to do. Provided, of course, I’m not putting myself in danger.

Anyway, that’s one example of things not working out as planned, and it being okay.

Another example is last night, when I decided to go to bed early, then I got caught up in going on Facebook “one last time”. I swear, that thing is a massive time-sink, and I have to be careful. By the time I got to bed, it was over an hour later, which just sucks. Oh, well. I’ll just have to nap today. I had planned on doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, but the other thing that’s happening is that we have company from the party last night. Rather than driving home, we had someone stay over, which is fine. But now I need to be social and hang out, instead of running out to the mall. That’s annoying to me. But come to think of it, I actually knew that we might have company staying over, so I’m not sure why I was thinking that I was going to run out, first thing this morning, and take care of that. More annoyance — this time with myself.

Oh well — tomorrow is another day, and I can probably get all my shopping done early in the morning before the crowds hit the mall. I pretty much know what I want, and there’s not much of it, so it will keep things simple. Plus, having less time to spend on it really focuses me. Even if that doesn’t happen, and I get stuck in the crowds, and the lines are long, and I get trapped in the holiday crush, I can always check Facebook while I’m standing on line.

So, yeah – plans. I have them. We all have them. And when they don’t go the way we expect them to, then it’s up to us to decide how we’re going to handle them. I can get worked up and bent out of shape. Or I can roll with it and come up with another course of action. I can get annoyed at this, that, and the other thing, or I can just let it all go and see what happens. When I’m tired (like I am today), I am less able to just let it all go. When I am stressed (like I am over my job, even though I am off on vacation for a week and a half – the residual stress is ridiculous), it’s harder for me to just BE.

I’ve noticed an increasing level of intensity with me – I’m starting to lose my temper again (though inside my head, not out in the world around me so much). I’m starting to react really strongly to little things… like I used to, before I started exercising regularly and doing my breathing exercises. I’m noticing a change, and I’m not liking it much — especially the parts where I’m not rolling with changes as well as I would like to. Things are starting to sneak up on me again.

So, it’s back to using the tools I was working with  before. Despite my good progress, I had gotten away from the exercise and the breathing for a while, in part because I just got so uptight over doing it each and every day like clockwork, and also because I just needed to let it all sink in for a while. I was working really hard on my technique and also my regular practice, and it got to be just another chore that didn’t have much sense to it.  I just hit an impasse with it — maybe I had too many ideas and my head was spinning, maybe I had too much experience that I needed to just get used to… in any case, I needed a break.

So, I took a break. And I must admit it was a pretty big relief to not “have” to do the sitting and breathing every morning. All of a sudden, I had extra time, and ironically, I felt like I could breathe. I was still doing intermittent breathing throughout the day, when I felt my stress level increasing, but I didn’t have a daily practice.

Still, I do feel like I need to get back to a bit of that again. I’ve had my break. Now I need to try it again to see how it helps me… pick up where I need to — maybe where I left off, or maybe somewhere else… Just do what I need to do to get myself back on track and take the edge off this intensity, which has been building and is starting to drag me down.

Things change. Plans change. What we think we can do is often very different from what we can do, which is also different from what we DO do. Life has a way of changing directions on us when we least expect it, and the only constant is change. So, I need to work on my flexibility and chill-ness, so I don’t end up ship-wrecked over every little thing. Yeah… I need to work on that. And so I shall.

Now, to go for my morning walk in the woods.