Trying to stop me? Yeah, good luck with that :)

It seemed fine in the store…

So, a week and a half ago, I bought a new bed. I’d been sleeping in my old bed — the first real bed I actually bought, back during my first marriage. That old bed was very sturdy and it worked just fine… except for the lumps and valleys here and there. Where it wasn’t buckling and uneven, it gave me really good, comfortable support, so (like many other things in my life), I “worked around” the peaks and valleys, and found a combination that let me sleep.

My sleep was okay, I guess. I was just so used to the unevenness, that I trained myself to arrange my body for the most comfortable position(s). And since my spouse and I sleep in separate rooms (we have for over 5 years, and it was the best thing we’d done for each other in a long time), I could stretch out pretty much any way I chose.

Except that I couldn’t. Because the bed was so uneven.

Anyway, a week and a half ago, I bit the bullet and went out and bought a new bed. I got it at a reputable furniture place, where they had a whole “sleep science” section, complete with a computer that measured where your weight was distributed and then recommended a certain type of mattress for you. I knew what brand I wanted — Sealy Posturepedic — and I knew I did NOT want a pillow-top, because I feel like I’m being smothered, and I can’t move in them.

The salesperson who helped me was very keen on making sure I got the right mattress. I told them I can’t do a pillow-top, and I tried out a couple of options before I settled on a very firm one that had a foam top. I had my reservations about the foam, and I said so, but the salesperson reassured me that it was designed to support my back and keep it straight the whole night long. They said the way we sleep is all wrong, and our backs aren’t supported, so we develop back problems. Logically, it made sense to me. And the computer graphic made a very convincing point.

I had my reservations, but lying on the bed in the store, it felt pretty much okay. At least, I thought it did, under the circumstances. And the circumstances were not ideal to be making a big decision. I was tired from not having slept enough the night before, having gotten up early and driven around and run a bunch of errands all morning. The store was huge and overwhelming, the lighting made it hard for me to see, and there were a lot of people milling around. I was on overload, and I wasn’t handling the environment all that great.

But I had to get a bed. I had gone to the store to do so, and by God, I was going to do it. The mattress felt better than others I’d tried. Anyway, even if it did feel a little “off”, the salesperson told me the bed would “break in” over the course of a couple of weeks, before it started to feel like “my bed”. I would also need to rotate it, periodically, but I couldn’t flip it, because the foam was only on one side.

I just wanted to get out of there, really. And I figured I had to trust someone. So I took the salesperson’s word for it, and I shelled out about twice as much money as I was planning to. But I figured it was money well spent  — I know I need to get better sleep, so this was an investment in that quest.

You get what you pay for, right? That was my thinking, anyway.

The mattress was delivered before the week was out, and I was really happy to have a new bed. It felt kind of strange to see my original bed hauled away so unceremoniously, because I’ve probably spent more time with it, over the course of the past 25 years, than with any other person or thing in my life. It’s also done more for me, than 90% of the people (and things) I’ve had in my life. It seemed somehow… ungrateful… to just bag it up and haul it away to end up on a trash heap somewhere. But so it goes.

Once I had my new bed in place, with its new mattress protector and clean sheets and blankets in place, I was really excited. So, as I often do when I’m happy to be headed for bed, I jumped on top — and did not bounce. My landing was buffered by the foam top, which stopped my motion and absorbed the weight of my jump.

Huh.

I wasn’t used to that. I’m used to a bounce. I like the bounce.

I lay down and tried a number of different positions — side — back — other side — stomach — and it still felt weird. Okay, I thought, I have to break this thing in. It’s going to take a few weeks before it starts to feel normal.

So, I gave it time.

And more time.

And more time.

And the only thing that seems to have happened, is I’ve pressed yet another trough into my bed — but this time the trough is padded, and I can’t roll out of it, because the foam blocks me. I literally cannot move, when I’m down in the trough that’s been pressed into the foam for five hours by my motionless body. When I wake up at 3 a.m. in pain, I can’t just roll over and find a more comfortable position, because the foam has molded to my body shape, and instead of rolling across a gentle plain, I’m climbing mountains, trying to get out.

And my torso is lower than my legs. Which means my back is torqued. And if I roll on my side, my legs are angled up, higher than my body, which screws up my hips. And my neck and shoulders… don’t even get me started. The one saving grace is that I didn’t let the salesperson “measure” me for a new pillow. Please. Who does that? The lower and flatter and firmer my pillow is, the better. I’ve tried custom fitted ones, and they do not work for me.

Holy crap. Not only have I spent a buttload of money (“buttload” has nothing to do with your ass, by the way — A butt is actually a traditional unit of volume that is used for wines and other alcoholic beverages. A butt is defined to be 2 hogsheads, which in the US is 63 gallons. There- you’ve learned something new today) — but I spent all that money on something that’s even worse than the original that I replaced.

Okay, so maybe I could return the mattress. It’s been nearly two weeks, and I’ve figured out by now that I cannot handle this soft-top mattress. Like I told the salesperson, I can’t do pillow-tops, and the soft top makes me feel terrible. Even if it’s not a pillow-top, having that foam top on the mattress keeps me from moving around and getting more comfortable. In the case that I’m in pain — which is frequently — I need to readjust my position, so I can sleep.

I got my receipt and warranty information, but when I read about the return policy, it said there was a 7-day limit on returns. And I was on Day 10. Oh. That’s not good. From what I read in the paperwork, I was stuck with this bed. Like it or not. Comfortable or not.

It’s been screwing with my sleep in a very big way. First of all, I haven’t been sleeping through the night, every single night. When I sleep through, I’m fine. But when I wake up at 3 a.m. — like today — I can’t get comfortable. I cannot just roll over and go back to sleep. I cannot just roll over, period. Because I’m sunk down into the foam, and it’s not giving to make room for me.

Sh*t.

And then, on top of it, I start beating myself up, because I let that damn’ salesperson talk me into buying that bed, against my own better judgment. And I get upset because I spent so much money, and I don’t have the money to replace it. And I didn’t check the warranty soon enough, and I trusted a salesperson (of all people). Which all just keeps me awake. Even if I could get comfortable on the bed — which I can’t — my spinning head would keep me up.

Anyway, this morning after spinning my wheels for several hours, it occurred to me that maybe I could flip the mattress and put the foam side down. If it’s a hybrid mattress with springs on the inside and foam on the top, then maybe I could flip it over and sleep on the coil side.

So, at 5 a.m., that’s what I did. Pulled the blankets and sheets and mattress cover off it, and flipped it over on the box spring. And lo and behold, it seems to work. I might just have mattress I can sleep on. It’s firm like I need it, and it’s level. It also has a little bounce, and I can roll around on it and get comfortable like I need to. I’m not out all that money with no viable options, and I don’t have to send a nastygram to the salesperson to see if they’ll take it back… or list my mattress on Craigslist… or see if anyone I know wants it. I can keep what I bought. And if the surface gets a little too hard for me, I can find a pad to put down that won’t suck me into a trough that contorts me all out of whack.

This is good. I figured it out. I don’t have to suffer, I don’t have to make the best of it. I don’t have to go ballistic. I don’t have to beat myself up and come up with Plan B. I have options, and with a little creative thinking and flexibility, I’ll figure something out. I usually do.

And with that, it’s time to get on with my day.

Onward.

 

Knowing when to call it a day

I had a pretty long day, today. I’ve been wrangling with some logic problems I’ve been studying, and I’m not getting any closer to a solution (I think).

So, it’s time to pack it in, get some rest, and hopefully the answer will emerge in the next few days.

Bottom line is, if I’m tired, I’m not going to be thinking that well, anyway, so I might as well make the most of the opportunity and sleep.

Just sleep.

Tomorrow is another day.

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 >>

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.

TBI Anger Hack – from cracked.com

Cracked.com has a great piece on 5 Brain Hacks That Give You Mind-Blowing Powers. The title is a bit overblown, but it hooked me, so I picked up some tricks… and found this useful piece of info. I’m going to add it to my collection of lifehacks to deal better with all the crap that gets sent my way. The principle is the same as with intermittent fasting — which helps me with my self-discipline and helps me learn to better manage my internal state when I’m just a little stressed. Here’s what they have:

#2. Control Anger by Using Your Less-Dominant Hand

Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com

Everyone knows at least one guy who hulks out over the stupidest things — a messed up coffee order, a red light, global warming. Usually these people are just harmless joke fodder until they road rage on an elderly person over a politically charged bumper sticker. If you don’t know one of these people, consider that it might be you.

Of course, there are all these tricks that your mom taught you that are supposed to calm you down (“Stop and count to 10!”), which of course don’t work because in the moment you’re enraged, you can’t think logically anyway. What you need is to beef up your anger defenses before it gets to that point.

Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com
“Somebody stop me before I rob a sperm bank and make this town disgusting.”

The Hack:

This one comes from the University of New South Wales, who found the perfect anger-management trick, and it wasn’t cool jazz music or playful kittens wearing sunglasses. People who had anger issues were asked to spend two weeks using their non-dominant hand for anything that wouldn’t endanger anyone: opening and slamming doors, writing hate mail, pouring coffee, and other dirty activities that are now crossing your mind. After two weeks, the subjects could control their temper tantrums better, even when other participants deliberately insulted them to get a reaction.

Why would this possibly work? Well, looking at angry people under brain scans shows that outbursts are less about too much anger and more about depleted self-control. That’s both good news and bad news. The bad news is that self-control is a finite thing, and you can run out of it. The good news is that it’s a physical mechanism of how your brain works, and you can strengthen it (or hack it into working better).

Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images
“Fudge you, mother lover!”

Now, you’d assume that the only way to do that would be some kind of meditation or long classes in anger management. Or maybe to pay somebody to make an annoying noise in your ear for hours at a time and slowly decreasing the frequency with which you punch them in the head. But it turns out it doesn’t take anything like that — just asking these people to use their clumsy hand to do everyday tasks forced them to deal with hundreds of tiny, totally manageable moments of frustration. But that was enough to make them somewhat immune to it.

So, when things got ugly, suddenly they found that the walls around their internal anger demon were stronger. And it’s probably also calming to know that if things get so bad that a gunfight breaks out, you’re now capable of dual-wielding that shit.

BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
“Oh, hey, you are totally correct. The grass is indeed purple. My mistake.”

Second chances – found by accident

I have a full day ahead of me. And it’s all good. I have some programming techniques to learn and test out, and I have some documentation to write. I have some busy-work to do for my day job, and I have another set of house chores I need to take care of.

The beauty part is, I can get it all done. I can do the programming for a few hours this morning, while everything is quiet… then I can move on to the chores that need to get done. Then I can have my lunch and a nap, and then move on to the other things for work-work. I’ll get a little bit of exercise, while I’m running my errands, and I’ll get out and about a bit. Heck, I might even be able to catch up with some friends for lunch.

On second thought, I need to not cram too much stuff into my day. I need to keep things simple, because life will become complicated enough on its own. Just because it does.

I feel incredibly hopeful, because I know that I don’t have to run out of steam and drag through the second half of my day like the walking dead. I don’t have to live that way anymore – especially because today is Saturday, and I don’t have to be anywhere, or do anything that I don’t choose to be or do. And tomorrow is Sunday, which gives me yet another day to move at my own pace, get things done, and really take good care of myself and my life.

Now that I have figured out how much just a 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon helps me, and I have found a way to make sure I get a nap in regularly, it’s like I have a whole new lease on life. Seriously. It makes all the difference in the world, to not have to cram all my important activities into the first two hours of each day, and then spend the rest of the day worried that I’m not going to have the energy or the resources to make it through in top shape.

Having a nap in the middle of the day is like having two days instead of just one. It’s like that stock split at Google, which has pretty much cemented the two founders’ control over the company. Having some more rest in the middle of the day, when I have completely wiped myself out with all my going… and then having a second chance to pick up where I left off.. or just start something completely new… THAT is an amazing thing.

The other amazing thing is that having a nap in the afternoon actually helps me get to sleep at night. I can just allow myself to feel tired, not push myself through like a crazy person. I can just let myself feel exhausted, not force myself to be ON, like I used to have to, before I got into the whole nap thing. And when I really get into feeling how I feel, and I allow myself to just feel tired, then I can call it quits for the day, when it makes sense to do it, and just get myself to bed.

I did that last night, when my spouse wanted me to stay up and watch more episodes of a show we both really enjoy. I wanted to stay up a bit longer, and they wanted me to do it, too. But I just couldn’t do it. So I turned in at 11:30 — later than I wanted to, but earlier than I might have. After all, it was Friday night, so I “deserve a break” and should stay up as long as I damn’ well please, right?

Wrong. Staying up that late does a number on me. And today I woke up at about 5:30, so that means I got maybe 6 hours of sleep, if I’m lucky, which is not enough.

The pressure’s off, though, because I can always nap later. And because I have been getting more sleep lately, and I know I will have time later to nap, I don’t feel this intense pressure to be ON for the next four hours — or else. I can relax. And that’s so important.

Another benefit of getting additional sleep is that I have been making better choices with the time and energy that I do have. I have a number of new things I need to learn, and it’s easy for me to spin my wheels and run in a million different directions, but I’m better able to stop myself from getting too distracted, and I’m finding it easier to just choose to NOT do or learn or try certain things.

Life is better with naps. And I realize how much it was stressing me out, to feel like I only had about four good hours each day to work with. Nobody really gets just how exhausted I am — all. the. time.  They just seem to assume that because I can keep going, I should keep going. That because I don’t complain or draw attention to my exhaustion, it must not be that bad.

It has been bad. The fatigue has been crazy. And it really screwed up my life for years and years.

But now I have alternatives, and it’s good.

Onward.

 

 

 

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.

The most magic 30 minutes of my day

Yeah, that’s the ticket…

Yesterday I had a nap. I stepped away from my desk for about half an hour to recharge my batteries. I walked 5 minutes to my car, which was in underground parking quite a ways from my office, put the seat back, put the headphones on, made myself comfortable, and I did my progressive relaxation.

I even got about 15 minutes of sleep in the process.

And when I woke up (which was 2 minutes before the alarm I’d set), I felt amazing. Refreshed. Alive. Human.

Then I collected myself, walked the 5 minutes back to my office, and I got on with the rest of my day.

I have heard it said that naps can disrupt your sleeping pattern, and it’s better to keep yourself awake and go to bed early. They obviously do not push themselves to perform at the level I do, from the moment I wake up in the morning. From the moment my feet hit the floor, I’m in GO mode. I have to be, because getting myself up in the morning is a monumental task that takes everything I have, some days.

Anybody who thinks I can make it through my day on a night’s worth of sleep has obviously never experienced the kind of exhaustion point I get to, around 2:00 p.m. each and every day. It is pretty brutal. By the time the afternoon rolls around, I’ve been going full-tilt-boogie for 6-8 hours. I can continue push through, sure, but I am good for nothing, the rest of the afternoon. Seriously, good for nothing. Even the things that I love doing — and that I push myself to do — turn out to be a waste of time.

Wheels spin. But they get no traction.

But if I can sleep… that is another story.

Knowing that I can sleep later on, and that I’ll be able to recharge my batteries, also makes it possible for me to push harder at the beginning of the day. When I think I’m going to have to pace myself… that my energy stores from a night’s sleep are going to have to last me all day, I hold myself back in the mornings. I’ve just now realized this, actually. When I wake up tired

Today is a completely new day — or so I keep telling myself. I’m a little tired this morning, to be honest. It’s been a long week, and I’m tired already at 7:00 a.m. I will pick up speed later today, when I am working. I’m not going into the office, so I have more time to focus on working, and less to spend driving. I also have more time to spend thinking about my own projects and making some good progress on them — without the pressure of daily performance of way too much work in way too little time.

So, there is hope for me today. I don’t have to be subjected to the upset and uncertainties of all the people around me (I came back from my nap yesterday to find my teammates huddled in a corner bitching and complaining about working conditions.) I can set my own pace and do my own work, without others interfering with their emotional incontinence.

It’s a relief not to be at the office, because the environment there is pretty depressing. It’s just a constant pressure cooker of uncertainty and chaos. When I say “chaos”, I mean there is a total lack of recognizable patterns to anything that happens. That is to say, there is no regular cadence, no regular pace, not much that’s predictable at all, from a day-to-day standpoint. It’s constant interruption and constant uncertainty. It’s not like I need any guarantees in life. But it would be nice to be able to not have everyone around me intent on interrupting my train of thought to ask me questions they can answer themselves.

It’s almost as though they are just stopping by to feel a little relief from their uncertainty.

As a matter of fact, I think that’s exactly what they’re doing — just stopping by to get a little boost to their self-confidence and sense of belonging. Because that’s what I bring to the table — respect for others, the ability to calm people down when they are all worked up, and a certain sense of calm in the center of the storm.

On the bright side, it’s great that I’m able to do this for people. On the downside, it doesn’t help me get my work done… and it’s actually keeping me from making progress in my own workload. Other people not being able to manage their own internal state, is probably the biggest hurdle to my own productivity. It’s not that their frame of mind is upsetting me. They are literally keeping me from doing my work, because they keep running to me and interrupting me and hijacking my workflow, to answer questions they never should have had to ask.

Sigh.

Anyway, in another 13 weeks, this is going to cease to be my problem. Oh, hell — if I can get things wrapped up before then, I’ll be free to go even earlier. I don’t have to be locked into a specific timeframe. I have had this July deadline in my mind, because that’s when I’m scheduled to be done with my big-ass project. But I might get things done even before that.

So, there’s some leeway there. And I’ve just thought of a way I can speed things up — some of the stuff I’m depending on others to do for me, I can do myself. They’re not experienced (or actually smart) enough to figure it out. Plus, they friggin’ hate my guts for reasons that are all about their crappy self-regulation, their incompetence, their jealousy, their brown-nosed politicking (which cannot stand the glare of objective scrutiny), and their sad work ethic (or lack thereof — I actually expect them to do their jobs, ogre that I am)… as well as shoddy management which just lets them get away with anything they damn’ well please.

So, the inmates are running the asylum. In a very big way.

And I have less than no confidence in them.

But the happy and sane part is, it doesn’t matter. They can be all pissy and pitch their hissy fits from their corner of the corporate cosmos. I can just work around everyone, and actually get sh*t done. I don’t have to be dependent on them to get their acts together, in order to move forward. And on top of that, I can be sharpening some excellent skills of my own in the meantime.

This task is a huge opportunity, but those idiots are not seeing it. I can see it plain as day, and I can hear the trumpets from heaven loud and clear. Their ineptitude is opening a door for me to step through, and that makes me incredibly happy, now that I think about it. For that matter, I can spend my weekend working on this, and actually get it all done in time for Monday — AND have it be an excellent investment in my future.

So, that’s good. And it’s giving me a big boost. It’s not all a waste of my time. It’s not all an exercise in futility. Far from it. It’s actually a positive thing, and turning it around in my mind to see the opportunity and the door opening a little more to my fantastic future is the first step in the right direction.

As long as my head is clear about this, and I’m rested and energized and keeping my batteries charged, it’s all good.

Later today I will have my nap. My magical 30 minutes to recharge my batteries. But for now, it’s…

Onward.

 

A tool to help me sleep

CBT-i Coach

I have been poking around on the Apple App Store, and I found a great little app for helping me deal with my sleep issues. It’s called CBT-i Coach, and it’s a mobile phone app for vets, service members, and others who are in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia.

I’m not in CBT, but I think this could really help me.

I’ve been filling in the details for my sleeping habits, and there’s nothing like having all the data right there in front of you, to tell you where you are.

They also have relaxation and mind-body exercises (although the audio doesn’t seem to work on mine unfortunately), and they have information on developing good sleep habits and getting rid of habits that interfere with sleep.

This looks promising to me. It’s another tool I can use – and it already feels like I have another helper in my corner, to assist with my sleep problems.

Just wanted to share that.