Tired, but still feeling good

A vastly better cup of coffee

Something has really turned around for me. I have been noticing it recently – I have not felt that same bone-crushing fatigue that used to just Wipe. Me. Out. I used to feel so awful, if I had not had enough sleep — even if I did get enough sleep, I still felt awful. It was like I was constantly running on fumes.

But ever since I started drinking coffee with grass-fed butter and MCT oil in it, it hasn’t felt that way. I can feel tired, sure, but not like I’ve been flattened by a steamroller. And when I do feel tired, I’m able to take myself to bed more easily.

Each morning, I start my day with this special mix of coffee — I call it rocket fuel. It’s pretty phenomenal. And it seems to really be affecting me for the better. I’ve also been taking some capsules that have butter oil and cod liver oil in them — more oils the body needs. In fact, there have been documented cases of people literally coming back from their deathbeds, thanks to that combination of butter oil and cod liver oil.

That’s kind of how I feel. Like I’m back from the dead. I feel like I’m actually capable of participating in my everyday life, even though I’m behind on my sleep. In fact, I don’t feel like I’m behind on my sleep at all.  I mean, I know I have not gotten a full 8 hours of sleep, and I know that I should, and I’m dragging a bit (sometimes.a lot) now and then, but it’s not that old killer exhaustion that just fried me like nobody’s business.

Plus, even when I’m tired, I’m still thinking more clearly than I have in a long time.

And it makes me think that when it comes to brain injury recovery, good nutrition — especially getting the nutrients your brain and body need for energy — is key. Without the proper nutrition and sources of energy for your brain and body, how the hell are you going to heal and improve? Brain training is all very well and good — I love doing it. But if my brain doesn’t have the proper support to make those changes and physically alter itself for the better, building up different synapses and connections, then WTH?

Why even bother?

And that’s the thing that has really eluded me, all these years — the proper nutrition that zeroed in on the specific needs I had that were not being met — certain kinds of oils and fats that my body and brain needs for energy. For so long, I relied on carbs to keep me going. Carbs and sugar and unhealthy fats.  That, in my opinion, is the biggest culprit that prevents TBI recovery — poor nutrition that puts you on a physical and emotional roller-coaster, and keeps your mind and body stressed for the sake of cheap energy.

That energy always goes away. It always disappears. We have trained ourselves — individually and as a group — to revel in eating and drinking that cheap energy that weakens us, instead of making us stronger. It literally is killing us, in so many, many ways. And it’s keeping a lot of us from getting better from the things that are doing us in.

It’s funny — I’m sure that I’ve heard a lot of people say this, over the years. But not until I had the personal experience myself, did it sink in. Having other people tell me things just isn’t the same as me experiencing things for myself. I have a kind of “expert filter” that’s hyper-active, because in our marketing-driven world, where everyone is selling something, and everyone is billed as an expert in one thing or other, I tend to actively discount their input. It’s all very well and good for someone to present themself as very knowledgeable in certain areas, and hearing what they say can be compelling. But unless I can have the experience myself and find something that works for me, all their expertise doesn’t impress me terribly much.

Or maybe it’s because I’ve been knocking around on the planet long enough to know lots of things for myself.

Anyway, whatever the reason, I rely on my own experience. And I’ve got plenty.

My most recent experience has to do with simply feeling better.

Getting a new bed. Drinking my rocket-fuel coffee in the morning. Juggling. Doing my brain training exercises. Cutting out sugar and carbs. Eating right. Eating less. Intermittent fasting. Doing all these things to support my physical health has really improved the state of my brain and mind. It’s all good.

And I feel a lot less tired. It’s amazing. I know I’m tired. I’m just not wiped out and really struggling like I have been for years. I have energy. I’m alert. And even when I know I am tired and feel it, it’s not killing me like it used to. It’s just there, and I can function anyway.

Oh, sure – there are those times when I am really struggling with fatigue. Yesterday I had to step away and sleep for 20 minutes. I was completely wiped out by mid-afternoon. But I was able to actually remove myself from my work space and chill, without getting all tangled up in a foggy brain and indecision.

I knew what I had to do, and I did it.

There it is.

The day is waiting. ON-ward.

The problem is not lack of sleep – it’s lack of energy

So, I made myself a different sort of coffee this morning, and the results were fantastic. Just after a couple of cups of joe that had some high-fat grass-fed butter and coconut oil in them, I felt like a completely new person.

Pretty phenomenal. And I didn’t even do the full dose.

I had high energy all morning, and I got a ton of stuff accomplished. I felt clearer than I have in quite some time — and this from just one morning.

I went out for a walk and then ran a bunch of errands, and then I came back, and was feeling a bit down. So, I had a nap, and was up an hour later to help my spouse and their business partner with some packing and hauling stuff for a trip they’re taking tonight.

After they hit the road, I made myself a big cup of tea with some butter and coconut oil, and sure enough, the energy is back again. I can’t even express how amazing it feels.

If I didn’t feel so excellent, I would weep for joy. But I’m way too happy for tears.

The thing is, I got about six hours of sleep last night. I went to bed around 10:30, but I didn’t get to sleep till around 11. Then I woke up at 5:00. Just woke up. And I was dreading today, because I have two days to do a lot of things, including some day-job work that I didn’t get done last week. But after my “bulletproof” coffee, I had such incredible energy, I felt like I’d had 8 hours of sleep, easily. And the energy lasted till about noon, when I started to drag. Six hours of steady energy is pretty danged good, considering my long-term track record.

Then I had my nap, but I was still dragging a little bit. I was feeling a bit out of it and foggy until I had my tea with the butter and coconut oil. Now I feel like myself again — with a lot of really great energy that’s not wired and jumpy. I just feel good. Like I can go for hours again. And I probably will.

So, it’s got me thinking…

I had six hours of sleep — “not enough” according to conventional wisdom — but I felt fantastic all morning.

Then I had a nap, which perked me up a bit, but still left me feeling a bit dull.

Then I had some tea with butter and coconut oil, and I’m feeling fantastic again.

Maybe the issues is not so much that I’m not getting enough sleep… as it is that my body isn’t getting enough good nutrition (high quality fats) to keep going.

Maybe the problem is not inadequate rest. Maybe the problem is available energy, and how my body is able to access and use it. Maybe my overstressed system just hasn’t been doing a good job of converting all the available resources I have into useful energy.

Maybe my brain isn’t getting what it needs to operate at peak.

But today I had a very different experience. Today I had a whole new view of what my life can be like.

More focus. More energy. More stamina. That’s been my day today. On six hours of sleep. And a nap. With two cups of “bulletproof” coffee and a cup of butter-coco-oil tea.

This means the world to me. Ever since my TBI in 2004, I have felt extremely stressed. By just about everything. That stress has been very real, and it’s cost me jobs, it nearly cost me my marriage, and it’s driven a lot of people away from me. It’s worn me down and made me feel like just a nub of a person, it’s aged me considerably, and it’s taxed me on all conceivable levels. Things got so jumbled up in my head, and I got so turned around, every day was a struggle to just figure things out. It was like trying to chop my way through the jungle with a dull machete. Just not good. Exhausting. Confusing. Frustrating. And totally unavoidable.

I had to live my life, after all, whether or not there were trails laid down for me in the jungle.

So yeah, I’ve been pretty tired for a long time. My system has been overworked, overtaxed, and I’ve been running on fumes for a long, long time.

Which is why I’m so incredibly stoked that I discovered this new way of making coffee — that actually works for me. It actually works.

Today, anyway.

I don’t want to overdo it… I’ve gotta pace myself. And it could turn out that eating all those fats doesn’t suit me for the long run, but the way I’m feeling right now, it’s like the heavens just opened up and God handed me a second chance.

Now I just need to do the right thing with it.

I’ve got some more work I need to do tonight. And again tomorrow. I think I’ll take a crack at some of it, and then save some for tomorrow. It’s all good.

And with this energy I’m feeling, I’m also better able to tell when I’m physically tired… I’m getting there.

It’s all a process, for sure. I find my life stabilizing, and now I’m ready to start rebuilding for sure. I have really gotten hammered through the years, and now all my hard work is finally paying off. So, I’ll make the most of it, and keep on keepin’ on.

It really is all good.

Onward.

Another fasting day today

A day without food means a day with more time, more focus, more clarity

Today I fast again. It’s been about a month, and I’m feeling like I need to focus my energy more, instead of building my day around breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I have a lot that I want to get done, and the whole hunger-tyranny thing is getting in my way.

I spend way too much time during the day, thinking about where my next meal is coming from. I have no shortage of nutritious food around me. All I need to do is buy it and/or prepare it. I don’t eat a lot of junk food, and my diet is fairly limited, because that’s what’s healthy for me.

But I find myself spending an awful lot of time thinking about food, planning my meals, and thinking about what I’m going to eat in a few hours. I spend too much time thinking about whether or not I’m hungry, what I should eat, how much I should eat, and

It just takes up too much of my time. And I have way too much to do, to spend a lot of time frittering away my hours thinking about… food.

Plus, I have a fairly easy day today — no long commute, because I’m working remotely, and I don’t have a ton of critical meetings today. I have a fairly balanced schedule, and I should also be able to get a nap in there, somewhere. Just a short one. On the new bed I’m getting delivered today.

I’ve been sleeping on the same mattress and box spring since 1989. I know. It’s crazy. 25 years is way too long to be sleeping on the same bed. It also dates back to my first marriage, which was pretty much of a disaster, so it will be good to get it out of the house.

Why didn’t I do this before? Simple. Money. Beds are expensive, and frankly I like the old style mattresses better than the new ones. There’s been a sort of comfort in the familiarity, to tell the truth. And it’s been years since I had any association between the mattress and my first (failed) marriage.

So yeah… time. Fasting to save the time of planning meals, eating, and then digesting. Fasting to get my head back on straight. Fasting to get free of the impulses that drive me by instinct and reflex… getting out of the reactivity, and into deciding for myself what I will feel and think and do.

I applied for a job today with one of my old employers. I was with them for over 10 years, total, and they’re the place I worked when I fell in 2004 and had that TBI that really screwed me up. I wasn’t able to hang in there with them for more than a year after my brain injury, and that’s where things really melted down for me. I went back and worked for them, a few years ago – just prior to my current position. I was still on the mend — it was five years ago, that I was back with them again for about a year.

I had a mixed experience with them, the last time I was there, and I was happy to leave. But the past four years have been unbelievably trying for me, in this new position, and even though I have really made great strides in my recovery, I wouldn’t mind going back to a company that has a clue. The company I’ve been with for the past four years has a long way to go before they’re worth working for. It started out okay, then the restructurings started to happen, and now they’ve tipped even closer to useless.

Of course, in a world where people just move on ever few years, who the hell cares about whether things will work properly in the long run?

That’s the mindset I’ve adopted, lately. It’s a little sad, that I’ve just let go of the idea of staying there. I do enjoy the people I work with — somewhat. Mostly, the appeal of my teammates is that they are familiar to me. I don’t absolutely hate every single one of my coworkers, which is a plus. A handful of them, I enjoy talking to. But I don’t seek them out for company while I’m at work. Ironically, I have a better rapport with people I don’t work directly with — who I know from socializing in line at the cafeteria or getting coffee or water in the employee lounge.

And to be honest, if I never saw most of these people again in all my life, I wouldn’t care. I just wouldn’t. I don’t miss the ones who have moved on, and I can’t imagine I’m going to miss many of them when I move on. I’m not even sure why I bother with most of them on Facebook.

Anyway, I’ll get what I can out of the experience I’m having, and quit worrying about the change that comes along with finding a new position in a new place.

I just figured something out that can free me up to move sooner than I’ve been expecting to, and that really takes a load off my mind. Getting more flexible with my thinking… that’s a good thing, for sure.

That’s one of the things that fasting does for me — it gets me thinking along different lines. It gets me out of my comfortable routine — if only for a day. And it frees up the energy and time I’d usually spend spinning my wheels about meals, to think about other more important things – like my next steps. It clears my head — all the junk gets sorted into separate piles, and I’m not on autopilot like I usually am. And that’s good.

So, the day is waiting for me to step up.

Onward.

Fasting night last night

I had an unexpected opportunity, last night — I got to fast, because I ended up flying solo for the evening, and I had to work late, so my schedule was all thrown off, and I didn’t need to make supper. The last thing I ate yesterday was at about 2:30 p.m., and I fasted till about 8:00 a.m. today, so that’s close to 18 hours, which is about the right amount of time for me to fast.

I’ve been meaning to fast more often — not dysfunctionally, but on a regular basis, to not only keep my calorie count down, but to also give my system a rest from digesting and also trigger some autophagy… where the body “eats” up the unnecessary gunk in your cells and cleans itself.

Fasting overnight seems like a good option for me. I can do it fairly easily — all I have to do is distract myself during the day, and then I get a steady period of sleep where I am not even capable of feeling hungry. It could work. I’m sure the physiological mechanisms of fasting are different between night and day, but even so. It’s something.

I’ve been really giving a lot of thought to how I eat, lately. I do it pretty sparingly, actually, while keeping up pretty good nutrition. I have a breakfast with protein and some fruit, I have an apple a day, and then I have a light lunch that’s balanced — either a big bowl of soup or a salad, sometimes a calzone (when I’m in the rare mood)… and my snack is a cup of trail mix that’s made of dried fruit and mixed nuts. For supper, I’ll make a full home-cooked meal made from scratch, with meat and starch and vegetables.

All in all, I think I eat a heck of a lot better than the average American, and I eat a heck of a lot less, too. I’ve sworn off junk food, I seldom have bread/grains/gluten, and only rarely do I have candy or soda/carbonated drinks. I’ve just lost all interest in most of them, and I can stand in the candy aisle at the supermarket and not feel the slightest pang of hunger when I look at most of the crap on the shelves.

In fact, I have no interest in eating just about anything in the center of the grocery store. The center of the store is where the processed foods are stocked — all the stuff that’s so laced with chemicals that it will survive “fresh” long enough to see my grand-nieces and -nephew’s great-great-grandchildren.

Yah, no thanks.

Anyway, I’m hoping this little bit of fasting will help me flush out some of the cold-season gunk that’s been building up. I’m feeling a little low — lots of excitement at work — and I don’t want it to get the best of me… especially because I’m going out of town for business in another week. Gotta stay healthy, for sure.

Onward.

 

 

So much for the Tyrosine supplement experiment

Yeah, thanks but no thanks.

A few days back, I bought some L-Tyrosine capsules to help my body produce more dopamine. I didn’t get the heavy-duty dosage. I wanted to keep things simple, for starters. In theory, it was a good idea, because I have really been feeling the burn of low energy and distractability and memory issues and sleep problems and a lot of other issues that can be related to low dopamine levels.

On top of that, I also learned that the part of the brain that produces dopamine is very vulnerable to concussions, so there we go… more reasons to supplement my system with a little extra.

I’ve been eating more foods that are high in L-Tyrosine, the amino acid which the body converts to dopamine. Bananas, peppermint tea, eggs, avocados… it’s been good. But even though I felt great, I thought I needed to boost just a little bit more, so I picked up a supplement to take.

I’ve been taking it for the pas three days, and today I have just not been feeling well. I feel weird, if anything — woozy and off, with a headache and lots of vertigo. I feel a bit like I’ve been drugged, which tends to happen with me and supplements. I’ve tried to take L-Carnitine in the past, to help with recovery from workouts, but that just didn’t work. It made me feel worse.

L-Tyrosine seems to have the same effect with me.

So, I’m stopping the extra supplementation and I’m focusing on the food. I hate feeling this crappy — especially when it’s my time off from work, and I have free rein to do what I please, however I please, whenever I please.

Well, whatever. I’m going to make myself some dinner and chill out. I’d rather focus on food, anyway, and not get into chemistry which may or may not work. I’ll take it easy tonight… read a bit and work on some finances stuff. Just chill out, while I can. The week is starting up tomorrow, and it’s time to ramp up for the new year. I have another day off work on Monday, then I work one day on Tuesday, then New Year’s Day comes on Wednesday. And then Thursday and Friday come down the pike, and it’s back into it the week after.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time figuring out new year’s resolutions and such. There’s no point to that. I know what I need to do, and I will just do it, regardless of the time of year. The things I want and need don’t have best-used-by expiration dates on them. And they don’t become more important just because of the calendar. I sometimes think of the new year as a fresh start, but it’s really no more of a fresh start than every day of my life. I have the ability to start fresh whenever, so that’s what I do.

But for now, it’s time to chill. And make some good food for dinner.

Onward.

Tony Dorsett is not dead

Tony Dorsett – all those years ago

The public debate about football and its effects on cognitive health — that is to say, how all those years of head trauma can really screw you up, years later — is heating up even more. PBS ran the special “League of Denial” about the NFL’s cover-up of the brain-damaging effects of their brand of football, and now Tony Dorsett and several other former pro players have been diagnosed with early signs of CTE – chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Bleacher Report has a good write-up on it here, and ESPN has their own, which I read yesterday.

I was really encouraged to read that there’s actually a way to detect CTE in living people. Up to recently, the word was that it can only be definitively identified in the brains of dead folks. But apparently now UCLA has a fix for that. So, that’s encouraging.

But it’s never good when anyone has CTE, and both Joe DeLamielleure and Leonard Marshall were also diagnosed, but Tony Dorsett…? That was a pretty emotional discovery for me. He was one of the players who got me really excited about the game when I was a kid. I always loved football, but there was something about his performance that was even more compelling — and it almost made me a Cowboys fan, for a while. Almost.

The article over at Bleacher Report has a writeup and includes the full gamut of responses from readers — everything from “the players knew the risks, and they did it anyway,” or “they just want to milk the system” to “they’re upset because they’re not in the limelight anymore and they’re just a bunch of cry-babies looking for attention,” to “you’re an idiot – the NFL covered this up for 15 years,” to well-informed responses based on science, to flat-out denial that anyone other than linemen could sustain repeated head trauma. And here and there are counter-arguments to refute ignorance-based “rationale.”

There’s a lot of back-and-forth talk, some more useful than others, but the most important thing is, people are talking about it, and more awareness is building around the whole issue. It would be nice if folks could share information and keep an open mind without calling names, but this is the internet, after all. I do find it hopeful that people are quoting actual scientifically based facts. And what I find most interesting is how many readers are reporting that parents are not letting their kids play football.

One of the questions that comes to my mind is whether all the talk might be doing more harm than good. There’s a lot of knee-jerk reaction going on, and brain injury is such an emotionally loaded subject which hits so close to each of us, that a lot of people just stop listening as soon as they hear “brain injury”. It’s not that they don’t want to learn or understand — we’re wired to shut down our higher reasoning, when we feel threatened at a deep level, and brain injury hits a lot of us in our most vulnerable spot.

A broken bone you can see and set and watch heal on the x-rays. A broken nose you can push back into place, tape up, and wait to get better. But a broken brain? It’s invisible. It’s mysterious. You can’t even see the real issues on imaging results — at least, not those that are widely available at a reasonable cost. And you don’t have a clear-cut route to recovery. Plus, we have this really bizarre expectation (based, I’m sure on decades of science that told us it’s so) that you only have so many brain cells, that once you damage the brain, you’re done, and there’s no turning back.

Only in the past years has science amended its views — and it’s done so silently, without so much as a hint of an apology for training us all to give up on ourselves.

What’s more, I think we’re not helped by the sensationalistic (if true) focus that’s being brought to CTE and the long-term effects of repeat head trauma. All the press focusing in detail on the horrible things that happen to you after head trauma might be cementing the public perception that once you’re brain-injured, that’s it. Tony Dorsett says he’s being proactive and is going to fight this and live his life to the fullest. But given how little is generally known in the public about brain injury in general, who knows how seriously anyone is taking this? I read one article where the writer referred to his condition as his “demise” — a freudian slip, if ever I heard one.

Frankly, I’d be surprised if anyone gave him the time of day after his revelation. Yes, he is Tony Dorsett — that is, he was. Once people find out that you’ve got “brain issues,” they have a way of distancing themselves from you. It’s something they don’t want to think about. They can’t help but imagine what it would be like for them — and it scares the bejesus out of them. So, they choose not to talk about it. They’d much rather talk to Sidney Crosby, who apparently has no more head/neck trauma issues to speak of.

From personal experience, I can tell you, repeat head trauma — even mild traumatic brain injuries — can do a number on you. It can turn your emotions upside-down, trash your impulse-control, wreck your judgment, saddle you with a bunch of unpredictable and seemingly insurmountable physical sensitivities, put you in a state of constant headache and general pain… in the process destroying your relationships, costing you your job, turning your financial decision-making inside-out, and generally doing the same thing to your life that a frat party does to a frat house. And it can all happen without you ever intending it to — and never actually wanting it to.

Now, I know a lot of folks are going to say it’s a character issue, or it’s an issue of self-control or what-not. It’s not about character. It’s about how the brain works, and how our lives are ordered as a result. And when you’re brain-injured (and unaware that you’re dealing with brain injury), the very thing that’s supposed to keep everything in order is what’s the problem.

And because it’s your brain that’s impacted, you can never even realize till it’s way late in the game — for some, too late.

The thing is — if we can all get past the terribleness of it, please — there is a way out. Brain injury, even CTE, doesn’t need to be the end. The brain is an incredibly “plastic” organism that by nature re-routes its wiring and recruits other parts to take on functionality that the original parts may have lost. There have been cases of people with advanced brain degeneration never ever showing any signs of that condition — the book Aging with Grace talks about that. And you can’t tell me that all the people who have lived full lives to a ripe old age have never had any organic brain issues. The brain is a mysterious and amazing organism. Our limited understanding doesn’t change its infinite possibilities.

If there’s one thing that I hope comes out of all this — even if it’s long-term — it’s the knowledge and experience that recovery from brain injury is possible. It is NOT a death sentence. I hope someone out there gets a clue — and publishes widely on it — about how possible (even probable) it is that a person can restore quality to their life and continue to live with meaning and purpose and a sense of usefulness, even after repeat head traumas.

Making a huge issue out of football being a cause of a brain-wasting condition is only part of the story. Saying that repeat concussions is a recipe for madness and early-onset brain degeneration is not the whole truth.And focusing only on the awfulness (to raise awareness and funding) leaves me with the feeling that this terribleness is permanent and irreversible. Logically I know it’s not 100% accurate, but part of me fears might be.

Tony Dorsett is not dead. Not yet, anyway. Who knows what will take him out in the end? He says he’s got issues. He says it’s wrecking his life. He says he’s considered suicide. And he says he’s being proactive and is going to fight this thing. There is still a whole lot we don’t know about the brain, CTE, tau, and how we might be able to clear the junk out of the brain.

Personally, my money’s on exercise, sleep, a positive attitude, staying active both mentally and physically, keeping connected to a community, and solid nutrition without a ton of artificial crap crammed in between the real ingredients. But that’s just me.

Whatever other folks may choose, I hope they do choose it, and I hope they don’t give up just because things look a little grim, right now. Things always look grim, before you have a chance to do something about them. But once you get going… you never know where it’s going to take you.

In any case, the day is waiting. I have a lot that I want to accomplish today — this whole weekend, in fact.  So, speaking of staying active, it’s time for a morning walk before I get into the rest of my day. That should get things moving…

Onward.

Pacing is everything

Better plug in soon

Better plug in soon

Okay, so I’ve got the majority of the hell-work out of the way for my day-job, and I’m itching to get back to the other projects I’ve had going on the side. Up until about three weeks ago, I was able to juggle everything pretty well, coordinating my schedule so that I could do a whole lot in relatively little time.

Then things got insane with the day-job and I had to drop a lot of other things I was working on. Not fun. It was pretty much non-stop focus on those two massive deadlines I was balancing. I got it done as much as humanly possible, and the most important things were completed on time. Unfortunately, there were numerous links in the chain that broke, for one reason or another, so it wasn’t a seamless, uninterrupted process, and I’ve been wrangling with leftover issues for the past several days.

But the bottom line is, I made the deadline, and life is good. Pretty much.

Now I’m eager to get back to what I was doing before, but I’ve got to check myself. I’m pretty well exhausted by everything that went on, and I’m just not myself these days. I’ve been running on adrenaline for weeks — and I’m still pretty amped-up, since little things still keep breaking — so I’m in no shape to get back to doing the things I was doing before, all at top speed.

I need time to rest, relax, and recharge my batteries. If I had a battery indicator on me, it would be flashing red, with a little tiny stripe of power left at the bottom. I’ve still got some juice, but I need to do some serious recovery, before I get back into things.

And that’s hard. Because the other things I’m working on, really bring me a lot of satisfaction and happiness. And they are time-sensitive, too, so I really need to keep on track. But seriously, if I dive back into everything right away, it could get really ugly really quick. And there is too much riding on the other things, for me to just rush it.

So, here are my priorities:

  1. Rest and relax and rejuvenate and recharge. Recover. Not later. Right away.
  2. Do an assessment, while I am on vacation next week, of what I’ve accomplished and where I am going, and what I need to get done, so I am clear, moving forward.
  3. Get back to my routine and my regular schedule that lets me do a lot in relatively little time. That includes regular exercise and good nutrition.
  4. Focus on updating my resume and cover letter, and reach out to headhunters and recruiters with my most current information.
  5. Take care of everything that needs to be taken care of in my current job, tie up the loose ends, and get ready to go.
  6. Take good care of myself, so that when I am presented with more opportunities, I am in decent shape to respond positively.

That should do it for the short term. I really need to get myself on good footing, before I head off into the sunset. There’s no point in me starting on a bad note, and if I push too hard too soon, that’s what can happen.

Looking for a new job can be extremely challenging and anxiety-producing. So can starting a new business. I need to be the strongest I can be, to make the most of the opportunities.

And now, off to start the rest of my day.

Onward.

Sweet relief – the end is in sight…

So, I’ve been out of sight for a number of days, buried in my work-work, and those two massive deadlines that finished up yesterday. Well, “finished up” is a bit of a stretch, because no matter what, there is always some other detail to manage.

But the bottom line is, I closed out the lion’s share of the work on Monday, after breaking my back – and shoulders – and wrists – and head – from sitting and working very intently for most of my waking hours for weeks on end. That final push started last week, and it’s been a roller coaster. Most things have gone right. A few little things have gone wrong. Of course, people are focused on the little things that went wrong, despite the mass of big things that went right.

We’re all just very tired, I guess.

And we are that.

This is a good way to close out my tenure at this job. Now that these two deadlines are done, I can start looking in earnest for another job. I’m going on vacation next week — taking the whole week off to go somewhere with plenty of nature, open water and sun… and nothing that I have to do, other than relax. I’ll probably give a lot of thought to where I want to go next, but I won’t start talking to recruiters again until after I get back. Then I can take my sweet time… and look forward to getting away from the situation I’ve been in. I’ve been steady and loyal through all kinds of crap, for the past couple of years, and now things are at a place where I can move on.

Part of what makes it possible for me to move on, is that I’ve put in place a lot of best practices that other people are now doing as though they’ve always done them, and there was never a different way. I’ve coerced/convinced people to standardize many of the things they do… put systems in place that will help them do their jobs… create and enforce deadlines for things that were chronically late for years before I got there… and I’ve helped to establish policies that are just good practice (but were nowhere in sight when I first started there). I think the fact that people think things have always been done this way, is the biggest testament to my success. I changed things for the better at this job, and the changes are so pervasive, people don’t even remember how it was before. Even if people don’t realize this fully and I don’t get full credit for hanging in with everyone, secretly pulling my hair out as I explained to them for the 80th time why we need to do things a certain way… the fact remains that I’ve made a positive difference. And that’s something I can take with me and feel good about — even as the rest of the crowd descends into panicked anarchy over organizational changes.

Politics. Yeah. I am so over them. That’s why I need a contract. More money, less politics. I just want to show up, do the best job I can, and not have to worry about who I impress and how I phrase things. Please. I have better things to do with my life and energy, than fiddle with all that static fluff.

I also need a job where I can go home at the end of the day and not take it with me. During the past weeks, I have had late conference calls with folks in Asia every few nights, and troubleshooting till 11 p.m. each night is not my idea of a fun time. It also keeps me from getting decent sleep, which is a real drain. With this job, I’ve been so invested, so intent on making a difference, that my health has suffered, and I’ve definitely aged. Not good. I can reverse that trend with some changes, but I need to get out of this situation and stop the 14-hour work days first.

It’s wild – I have been pushing so hard for so long that I almost don’t know what I’d do without being on an “electronic leash” 24 hours a day. Three years isn’t forever, but it’s felt like it, and it’s more than enough time spent on a company that frankly doesn’t give a crap about me or my future. In fairness, they’re not a welfare provider. It’s not their job to make sure I’m doing alright. That’s my job. It’s their job to provide me with opportunities and let me move into the ones that suit me best. But once upon a time, the company was small enough and close-knit enough that the organization truly gave a damn about how people were doing, they recognized contributions, and they stayed out of our way and let us do our jobs.

Now, it’s just some big monolithic profit center. That’s fine for some, but I need something that recognizes the humanity of employees — and doesn’t use that humanity against them.

Vent, vent… I’m not saying anything unique here. I am seriously tired, so I need to focus on how to get un-tired. That will happen next week. And this week, too, I think. I can take some time to unwind a bit, catch up on some things that are outstanding, and figure out how to get my life back.

Normalize… normalize… I need to return to my “ideal performance state” — with all the pieces in place that support me in my daily work:

  • Routine
  • Lists of items that must be done, ranked in order, so I don’t waste a lot of time
  • Regular bedtime
  • Good food
  • Lots of water
  • Regular exercise

I’ve been doing pretty well with the food business, cutting out morning carbs (I have an egg instead), and keeping my junk food intake to a minimum. I snack on raw almonds now, instead of candy bars, and I have been drinking plenty of water. I haven’t been moving as much as I need to, but that’s changing now that I’m done with my deadlines. I started out this morning with a lot of aches and pains and creaky bones and limited motion. But I did my exercises and light lifting as soon as I got up, and within 20 minutes I felt a whole lot better.

I have also been working with my activities lists, and that’s been helpful as well.

And I can now get back to my routine, which is the key to how I can do so much in so little time. Other people would drown in the work I’ve got going on — a full-time job doing the work of three people, another side project which involves producing something every week by a certain deadline, a new project / business venture that I’m firing up, and of course this blog. Routine and lists of what needs to be done are my secret weapon. And all things considered, I am incredibly productive through it all. Not always well-rested, but still productive.

Well, speaking of being productive, it’s time for me to get on with my day. I have reached the end of these two massive projects, and as soon as I catch up on my sleep, I’m going to feel great about it. Right now, I’m way too wired and fried, to fully appreciate what I’ve accomplished, but logically I know it’s a big deal, which nobody else in my group could have pulled off as well as I did. I’m headed back into the office in an environment that’s just bubbling with political intrigue, and I’m thinking about reading Marcus Aurelius to give myself some perspective and remember that these kinds of situations have been happening for eons, and it’s nothing to get worked up over.

I’m wrapping up my tenure there, and it feels good. I’ll put the finishing touches on everything, collect all the relics of all the work I’ve done, so I can show it to headhunters, and I’ll secretly say my good-byes to the people in the place I’ve called my home-away-from-home for the past 3+ years.

It’s poignant and it’s bittersweet, but it’s time.

Is it ever time.

Onward…!

Go away, uber-uber-boss, go away

Yes, please.

As a person, our uber-uber-boss is a great individual. They are interesting, caring, personable, and they have everyone’s best interests at heart.

As a boss — especially an uber-uber-boss  — they are a train wreck. Seriously, this person is just about the worst boss I’ve had the misfortune of reporting to, however indirectly. They are so intent on “connecting” with us, making sure we feel cared about and supported. But they have no idea what we do, they are about 15 years behind us in proficiency and familiarity with the business we are in and the work we do, and all they do is hold us back and subject us to their profound ignorance.

Holy crap, I can’t wait till they go back. I’m working remotely today, so I don’t have to be around for their last day, and I can actually get something done. I’ve been making great progress on work I have to get done at the office, but I’ve been so swamped with handling collateral damage from the uber-uber-boss’es visit, that I have had no bandwidth at all for doing anything other than work-work.

I’m tired. And when I’m tired, I get really distractable. And then I lose my way and end up wandering around in a fog for days on end, unable to remember what I was supposed to be doing. Oh hell, that’s what this whole job has been like for the past three years — one rush job after another, peppered with distractions out the wazzoo that just drain me. Big time.

I think I’ll update my resume this weekend. That will make me feel so much better. I’m going to finish up this massive deadline, then I am going on vacation for a week, then I am going to finalize my next job details, give notice, and I should be out of there by mid-October at the latest.

In the past, I was in a huge rush to go. Now, I am just moving at my own pace and confident that when the time comes I will have the right opportunity at the right pay level, and I’ll be able to extract myself from this distraction marathon that has been this *)%$(&^ job source of pain, activity, and income in my life.

To be fair, this job has taught me a lot, and it’s brought me out of my shell a great deal. I do feel like I’ve become a lot more social, as a result of working here, and I do really like and care for the majority of the people I work with. But the company itself is run by buffoons who have no truly loyal people reporting to them. Everyone just tells everyone else what they want to hear, and the trickle-down results are sad. Very sad.

Oh, well. In a few more months, this will fall into the category of “not my problem”. I’m actually learning a lot about certain disciplines that I can turn into more $$$ along the line. And I’m learning a ton of things that I can apply in my own work and personal projects, as well.

The main thing is keeping myself rested and well-fed. I’m doing well with the nutrition piece of it, I believe. I could do better with it, though – I don’t eat enough vegetables. And I’ve been having some weird skin reactions, so I think there’s something I need to fix. I have cut out wheat from my diet, which was actually easier to do than I expected. And I’ve been doing good about not snacking a lot in the afternoons, when it seems to not metabolize at all. But I need to eat more rounded meals, that’s for sure. I’ve kind of crossed over to the meat and potatoes and a pile of green beans side of things, and that’s not at all balanced. I do feel better, not eating a lot of junk food and keeping away from bread, but something seems to be missing for me.

I’ve heard a lot about people taking pre-natal vitamins for an extra boost — women take them to strengthen their hair and nails, and men take them because they supposedly help keep hair from thinning. As I get older, I notice changes happening in my chemistry — especially my skin and hair — so I need to do something about that. I’m going to try pre-natal vitamins and see how that works.

Changes, changes. Just little minor tweaks to my life, that make all the difference. And now that the uber-uber-boss is going away, I will have more psychological bandwidth to deal with things. One of the nice things about them coming to town, is the huge relief that comes when they leave. Seriously, it’s like a huge block of time and energy gets freed up, and it feels amazing. Expansive. Ah, freedom.

It really is amazing, just what a drain the uber-uber-boss has been, all this week. They started being a drain last week, with the team anticipating their arrival. Chit-chat and drama about what they’re going to do next… woo hoo. Then they arrived at the office, stirred things up with their big plans that have nothing to do with anything we actually need to get done (and are probably never going to happen, anyway), and whipped everyone into a frenzy with their bogus posturing and promises. I wish I could just block them out and ignore them, but they’re right there in front of us, and we have to deal with them. I’m hoping we can all just go back to work next week and not have to think any more about them. That’s all I want. Peace in the kingdom and quiet, so I can get these last few projects out the door. And then leave in October.

It’s hard to believe we’re already 2 weeks into August. Next week we’ll be in the teens of the month, which is crazy. Everything is flying by so fast, and I have so much to do. I set all these goals for myself, some more reasonable than others, and it keeps me busy. But I need to be able to shift and change and adapt to changing conditions and not get down on myself when things don’t turn out the way I expect them to. I need to be more flexible and factor in distractions and set-backs — like the uber-uber-boss coming to town and trying to “insert” themself into our process. I also need to be able to see past the immediate problems they cause and roll with it. I get caught in the weeds, so to speak, and I end up flailing around and getting all bent out of shape about things which will pass soon enough. That especially happens when I am tired, so things can escalate pretty quickly when all is not to my express liking.

Well, it’s all a lesson to be learned. One after another. The main thing is that I keep tabs on my mindset and keep myself from short-circuiting with unrealistic expectations and all manner of imaginary issues that are the invention of my mind alone.

The mind is such a powerful force. Using it for good instead of evil seems to be the chief challenge of the whole human race.

So, it’s back to work now, to get the last of the last done. I have some time to spend this morning looking at everything that’s in front of me that I need to get done, listing it out, organizing it, planning my “escape”, and figuring out the next steps to follow to get there. That in itself helps me regain my balance and not feel so out of whack. It gets me up out of the weeks and gives me perspective. And it’s probably one of the best uses of time I can imagine.

That, and not eating constantly. I had a lot of free food within easy reach of me yesterday, and I really over-did it. Now I’m hungry. Time to stop that slide into darkness…

Onward.

TBI Recovery: Getting used to the highs and lows – Part 2

For many, many years, I have swung from one extreme to the other — from euphoria to panic to depression — with intermittent periods of balanced moderation, where I caught my breath before going back into the fray. I’ve long sought out work situations which were crazy and stressful and stupidly health-endangering (which passed for “challenging” in the job-spin-speak of the tech world), because I needed that constant pump to keep myself going. TBI can slow down your processing speed and make you feel like you’re half asleep, so those stressful times passed for “wakefulness” and made me feel more alive.

In hindsight, I realize that I was pretty much a ticking time bomb and that it was only a matter of time before I hurt myself badly enough to be ejected from the “everyday world”. I have had multiple mild TBIs over the course of the years (at least 9 that I can recall — and there have probably been more that I can’t remember). So, the effects have been cumulative, and sure enough, back in 2004, I had another fall that eventually put me out of commission.

The past years have been about weaning myself off that need for drama and stupidity. I’ve become increasingly aware of how much damage it does to me, and I’ve been acclimating myself to the idea that I don’t actually need it all, like I used to think I did.

Now I feel like I’m in a good and centered space, where I don’t have to have it, but at the same time, I do need challenge. And even moreso, I need to be able to respond to challenging situations with a level head and a clear mind.

Looking back at my life when it was still dictated by after-effects of all those TBIs, I see how much my life was comprised of reactions. Just reactions. Not measured responses that were determined by me, according to what was best and right at the moment — but knee-jerk reactions dictated by fear, anxiety, panic, external circumstances, and others’ expectations. That’s no way to live. Surely, there must be a better way.

So, I’ve been headed down that road, of late, looking for ways to live better, live more fully, and to have the kind of life I want to have.  I think about the things that hold me back, the things that I have done that have held me back, and the habits of thought that have prevented me from moving forward. And it becomes more and more apparent to me, as I think about it, that no outside circumstances have been The Culprits in my limitations, rather it’s been my own reaction and my own experience and my own choices that have held me back.

Now, certainly, things like getting clunked on the head a bunch of times, being hounded and bullied in school, being mistreated by both my parents and teachers alike, and being raised without much money in a household turned upside-down by a drug addict sibling and their associates, certainly didn’t help. But those things didn’t keep me from doing the things I could have done to help myself. It was the patterns of thought in my mind that held me back — as well as the biochemical reactions to circumstances which short-circuited my choices and actions.

All those years, I certainly did take a beating. But plenty of people take beatings and get up and go back at it, like nothing ever happened. Not everyone interprets setbacks as signs of permanent disability. Granted, I wasn’t surrounded by people who were positive, pro-active thinkers who knew how to free their minds. But at any given point, I did indeed have the capacity to pick myself up and keep going, but the thoughts in my mind and the biochemical sludge in my system short-circuited a lot of the good that could have happened.

My constant biochemical state of intense fight-flight (which was made more intense by what I thought was happening — and never adequately questioned) made it all but impossible for me to imagine all that I was capable of doing, and over the years, and after all the injuries — especially the last one — my possible world became smaller and smaller and smaller, and I made myself less and less capable, in my own mind, of truly following my dreams.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Over the years I have done some Big Things, and I have had some big accomplishments that have gotten me awards and recognition. But these were all substitutes for what I really wanted to be doing. My One Big Dream that I had since I was seven years old, never “panned out”, and year after year, my resolution to do something about it drifted farther and farther from my reach.  Until I just about gave up on it.

These days, things are very different for me, and I realize just how much biochemistry has to do with what’s held me back. And at the same time, it both absolves me of prior blame, and it also offers me the opportunity to change things.

Because now I understand how those things work. I understand how TBI has prompted me to take risks over the years and keep myself in a constant state of stress. I also understand what a toll that has taken on my life over the years, and I’m now resolved to do something about it.

In order to do so, I need to get a grip on my autonomic fight-flight response, which is what I’ve been doing, slowly but surely. I am now moving into the next stage, where I am testing myself a bit, here and there, to get myself familiar with how it feels to be on the verge of panic, and then walk myself back from the edge with the tools I have. I’m stressing myself just a little bit, here and there, to inoculate myself against the stresses. Some call it “exposure therapy”, and maybe that’s what it is. Having read about exposure therapy, it strikes me as more intense than what I’m doing. I don’t want to force myself into a seemingly dangerous situation and then have to sweat it out. No thanks.

What I am doing is similar to doing interval weight training — I’m doing “stress intervals” — intentionally stressing myself for a short while, then backing off and taking a good break. I know I’m going to push myself hard — and I also know I’m going to let up. So, there’s not that impending sense of doom that comes when I can’t see an end in sight. I know there’s going to be an end, so I can push myself — sometimes pretty hard — and not get freaked out about it.

This gets me used to the highs and lows. And it helps me feel more comfortable with the sensation of those highs and lows.

See, that’s the thing – it’s not the highs and lows that get me. It’s my internal reaction to those highs and lows — the physical sensations of high energy or low energy trigger a dumb-ass (and extreme) reaction from me that sets certain behaviors in motion and put me into a certain mindset. Some examples:

  • I get back from a long and grueling trip to see both sides of my family, and I decide that I’m a worthless piece of crap who will never amount to anything. I’m physically and mentally and emotionally exhausted from a temporary situation, yet for some reason I’m convinced that I’m permanently damaged beyond repair. Accordingly, I slack off on my work and do nothing productive with myself for days, even weeks.
  • I work too hard and sleep too little, and I end up having a full-on blow-out/meltdown that fries my brain with a flood of raging emotions. Afterwards, I am exhausted, and it takes several days for the biochemical load to clear from my system. All during that time, I feel stupid and numb and dull and once again am convinced that I’m permanently damaged beyond repair.
  • I am incredibly excited about something that’s happening in my life. The sensation of all that adrenaline pumping through my system feels an awful lot like danger — it feels just like it used to feel when I was being hunted down by the kids who bullied me in grade school. Consequently, I stop doing what I need to do, to make progress with my goals. I also look for other things to work on that are less “stressful”, and my project falls behind.

All of the above are problematic, but it’s the last one that’s the burner. It’s the thing that’s kept me back, time and time again, and it’s the one I need to really focus on addressing.

So, to that end, I’m deliberately putting myself in exciting and tiring situations, getting used to how they feel while telling myself that this is just a feeling, not an indication of what’s really going on. And then I take a break. I have all but cut wheat and cheap carbs out of my diet to reduce the “junk load” from my system — which in itself is a little stressful, but has great benefits. I’m also doing things like taking cool showers to get my stress response jump-started for just a few minutes in the morning, and I’ve changed up my morning routine a little bit to heighten my attention.

And all the while, I’m using the techniques I’ve learned for balancing out my ANS and keeping the fight-flight response within a manageable, non-tyrannical range. I do it both — stress and relax. Intermittently. Not constantly, because that would be counter-productive, but at intervals.

I have to say it feels incredible. It’s tiring, at first, and taking cool showers instead of hot, is definitely an adjustment. But it’s really helping.