After the storm

So, the past few days have been a little dramatic. With the changes in our organization, people are confused and intimidated and upset, and some are handling things better than others. For some, the changes are really disorienting — especially for those who are not located at the home office. The locus of power has shifted from one office to the other, and both offices involved are many, many miles apart, with completely different office atmospheres and cultures. So, there is a great deal of tension – especially because the power has completely shifted from one side of the company to the other.

So, the ship is listing a little bit, till everybody finds their footing again.

The beginning of this week was very stressful, with a lot of tension and aggravation and venting and pressure. I have some deadlines I need to deliver on, and it’s been a real adjustment, getting used to the extra workload and managing my existing chores tasks. But I’m getting there. I was able to really turn things around from one day to the next — having multiple meetings with the same people, and getting them from a place of confusion and antagonism, to clarity and direction.

People just need to direct their energy into productive directions. That’s the biggest piece of the puzzle. And even the most problematic troublemakers turned out to be allies during a meeting I led yesterday. The difference from one day to the next was like night and day — and I think that just keeping people in the loop is a huge thing for us as a larger team.

So, that’s my primary goal and objective, these days — to just keep communicating and keep everyone in the loop to discuss the best ways to do things, instead of steamrolling them and enforcing my dominance and authority.

It’s just basic humanity, along with clear vision and decisive leadership. Technically, I’m not the person in charge, as I’m several layers “down”, but that shouldn’t keep me from stepping up to provide the direction and leadership that people are looking for. There is a massive leadership gap where I’m working — folks in charge seem to think that if you reach out to people as human beings, it will make you look weak and also “coddle” them. But from what I’ve seen, ignoring the human element just sows seeds of discontent and more confusion and frustration.

So, I’m going to do my small part about that and see if I can’t turn my own situation around. I’m working with a lot of people, all across the group and larger company, so I have a great opportunity here.

I just need to keep focused and not get pulled into all sorts of political intrigue and gossip and what-not. That doesn’t serve me or anyone else, and it just distracts me from what I need to be doing. It’s not like I have a lot of time and energy for extra fluffer-nutter stuff, anyway.

So yes, this is a great opportunity for me to show how things can be done differently. I know I’m a total dark horse, here, without the political clout and profile to figure prominently in the political landscape. But who knows? That could change, based on my work this year. It could really do wonders for my reputation and career prospects at this company. Interestingly, I’m not really wedded to the outcome on this. If I become rich and famous within the context of this company, then great. But I’m really treating this like a stepping stone to something else, because this company does a lot of things I do NOT agree with, and I don’t really want to support their business activities for the long term. In fact, I spent much of my early life radically opposed to what they do, so it’s a real moral stretch for me to be working here at all.

But I’m here now, so what can I do with this situation?

Treat it like what it is — a stepping stone to other things. I’ll put together this plan of action and follow through on it for the next year, build my contacts with executive recruiters on the side, and report in regularly about what’s been happening in my world, what I’ve accomplished, etc. I’ve heard that’s how you do things. And in any case, it will help me to better define where I am going in the future, with this evolving career path.

Above all, I need to stay on track, focused, and really keep myself in good shape. Get enough sleep. Eat right. Exercise on a daily basis — even if it’s just a little something in the morning while I make my breakfast. I’ve got a bunch of physical issues — aches, pains, headache, pulled muscles, vertigo, deafening ringing in my ears, nausea… I could list ‘em all out at length. But that would take my attention away from what I really need to do. I mean, it’s nice to think that I could be free of the constant presence of these things, but I don’t have a lot of faith that it can really happen to the extent I would like it. And even if I get there, I’m not sure it’s going to last.

I’d rather just keep going.

Speaking of which, I’ve gotta get going – the day awaits.

Onward

 

Each year better than the last – I hope

Looking back… looking ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that makes me sad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Onward.

And I slept like a rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew.

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

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

So. Very. Much.

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

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

Rested, exercised, cleaned… ready to go

Starting the day right

So, I got off to a good start today.

Got some decent sleep – almost 8 hours… got up and moved with my weights… and I cleaned my bedroom a little bit.

While my spouse is away this weekend, I’m sleeping downstairs in the living room where it’s cool. It’s been crazy hot, for the past week, and the A/C in my bedroom is on the fritz. On the one hand, it might not make that much of a difference, because I tend to overheat at night, anyway, and the heat might not even get to me. But it’s like a psychological thing with me, so I pulled out the sleeper sofa and made myself cozy in the living room A/C.

I woke up dizzy again, but less than yesterday, and definitely less than 2 days ago. I stumbled/wobbled around for a little bit, till I got my bearings, then I did some exercises to get my system back online. Doing the movement with the weights really seems to help me get my balance – pushing myself a little bit to stay upright with the added weight of the dumbells seems to kick my system into gear. I’m still dizzy, and I’ve got a sick throbbing headache, but I’m better than I was an hour ago. At least I can stay upright and I can see better than I have been, over the past few days.

Yesterday when I was running errands in the morning, I was having a hard time seeing. Nothing would stay in focus, and I couldn’t read very well. Crazy. I had to do a lot of driving around in the morning, so I had to stay 1000% focused on the road, on driving, talking to people, getting things done… all of that. I got some weird looks from people who maybe thought I was a little drunk, but so what. I had things to do, and I was going to get them done. It probably wasn’t the safest thing for me to do – driving around in such a state – but I had no choice. The stuff had to get done. Before noon. There was no waiting and there was no other option. I did manage to get it all done, with some minor snapping at my spouse — they were really pushing me, and I wasn’t in the mood to be pushed. But then I lay down for an hour and listened to my stress-hardiness tape, and I got a little sleep. So I woke up better than I was when I lay down.

Now my spouse is gone for a few days, and I have peace. No panic. No anxiety. No constant hounding about this, that, or the other thing… How do people live like that, with the non-stop worrying? I’ve got my own panic-anxiety issues, but it’s not this constant thing. At least, not anymore. Once upon a time, it was, so I know what that’s like.

The thing I don’t get is how someone can let themself stay in that state, year after year. It’s like my spouse isn’t happy if they’re not stressed out about something. Then again, I know what that’s like, too, so I need to have some damn’ compassion, already.

Yeah, okay. Point taken. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming about my own stuff and my own life and what I’m doing to take care of myself and keep myself out of trouble…

After I exercised, I went upstairs to grab some clean clothes, and I noticed how messy my bedroom is. I sleep in a separate room, because my spouse stays up late and then reads for hours, and it’s impossible for me to sleep through the night with them crawling in and out of bed and keeping the light on. They also need to have one of those salt lamps on at all times — apparently it cleans the air? If nothing else, it makes them feel safe – they cannot stand a totally dark room. It just terrifies them, I guess because of bad things that once happened in dark rooms when they were a kid?

I don’t have those issues. I like a completely dark room. The light of the salt lamp made me nuts, and they were not going to change, so I relocated to the guest bedroom some time ago. I have to say, it’s been really good to have control over my own sleeping space. I went out and got some light-blocking curtains, hung some new curtain rods, and now I’ve got a veritable cave that is pitch dark when I arrange the curtains correctly — even in daytime. It is amazing – what a huge relief it was, when I first started sleeping there. No more salt lamp light. No more being woken at 2 a.m. by someone getting into bed, no more sound of pages turning in bed beside me. And I could stretch out and toss and turn to my heart’s content and sweat like I was in a sauna, without someone pitching a fit.

People tend to think that sleeping apart means spouses are incompatible, or their relationship is on the rocks. In some ways, that is true for us. We have seen better days. However, sleeping apart has actually helped our relationship over the years. The biggest hurdle we’ve had to overcome with regard to sleeping apart, is the internal bias against it — getting ourselves used to the idea that this is a good thing and not a sign that we can’t be married anymore. Once that was overcome, things got a lot better, and now I’m feeling 100% fine with the sleeping arrangement.

So, back to the cleaning bit — I picked up around my bedroom a bit, which was overdue. It was starting to look like a — well, never mind what it was starting to look like. For some reason, I couldn’t get started with picking up — I would just drop clothing into an appropriate pile and move on. It wasn’t terrible — not like you see on “Hoarders” — but it was getting to be a bit much.

So, I took 15 minutes and got rid of the piles. Folded up t-shirts and jeans and put them in my closet. Sorted the socks and underwear and put them in their respective drawers. I could have done more, but that was enough for the moment. It made a noticeable difference, and that’s fine. I’ll get to the rest of it later.

Cleaning is something I really need to do better at. I keep pretty busy, and then I get distracted and don’t spend enough time cleaning up after myself. I don’t live in filth, by any stretch — the house is clean and functional and fairly well-organized. On the other hand, there are a bunch of piles of stuff — papers and miscellaneous items — around the house. I’m looking at a pile of papers right now. They will be easy to deal with, if I just take a few minutes to do so.  The trick is just spending a few minutes, which is hard for me to do.

I think part of the reason I don’t pick up more often is that I have a hard time stopping, once I start. I sort out one pile, then I’m in the swing of things, and I sort out another pile… and another… and another… until I’ve taken care of a bunch of things, and it’s all good, but I have lost track of time and I’m behind on other things. Later, when I think about cleaning, I have this association in my head that it will take me hours to do the work, and it will set me back on other things I’m supposed to be doing. It’s unconscious, and it’s pernicious, and I need to find a way around it.

So, here’s my new strategy for cleaning, which is very similar to other strategies I have set for myself lately — only give myself a short period to do it. Limit the period I’m going to do it, and then stop when the time is up. I’ve got a timer I bought a number of years ago for exactly this purpose, but after using it for about six months, I got bored with it. I also got sick of the ear-piercing beep, so I decided to not time myself anymore. But I can start using it again, and that will be fine. Heck, I can use the timer on the stove to time myself, since that’s a lot less obnoxious.

Sounds like a plan.

So, life is good. I got almost 8 hours of sleep last night, I woke up feeling pretty rested — albeit pretty dizzy and with a sick headache. I got my exercise in. And I cleaned a little bit, which is good.

I’ve got a lot of things I want to do today – I just need to get myself on a timed schedule for much of them, because I’m noticing that the same thing that keeps me from cleaning, keeps me from starting other things — I anticipate them being so big and taking so long, that they will consume me and I will get lost in them and not do the other things I need to do.

Breaking them all up in chunks will fix that. And sticking to that “deal” I’m making with myself, to ONLY do things for as long as I give myself, is essential.

Now, off to get some things done.

Onward.

Connecting the Busy-Dizzy Dots

Okay, so this is interesting… I woke up today incredibly dizzy and feeling out of sorts. Sick on my stomach, wobbly… just not right.  It reminded me of so many times in the past when I was almost unable to keep upright, and my temper was about as short as an icicle’s sojourn in hell.

Crazy. It didn’t make sense. I thought maybe I was having a reaction to the Italian sub I ate last night for supper – I haven’t had a lot of bread, lately, but last night I had a sub roll and also some crackers. So, my swearing off bread and wheat only got me so far last night. I did have a soda with my dinner, which is rare. But I can’t imagine that a root beer is going to throw me off this much.

I worked out a little bit this morning — I’m getting back into it, in a slightly different way that makes me feel really good. Instead of doing repetitions of exercises, I just pick up some weights and move around a lot, feeling the resistance at different places, and moving as much as I can in as many different directions as I can. My logic is that in the course of our lives, we never do single motions in one direction for extended periods of time – our whole bodies need to be coordinated and equally strong. So, my emphasis is on strengthening through continuous movements.

That made me feel better, and I noticed when I sat down to catch my breath and do a little measured breathing, I wasn’t able to breathe from my belly very well.

That told me something was up, for sure. In the past, I’ve been primarily a “belly breather”, and in recent memory I have not had big problems doing that. Today, though, it was just not working. And it occurred to me that my dizziness is probably directly linked to how busy I’ve been lately with my projects.

There’s been a lot of pressure — which I’ve put on myself, to make sure I follow through — and there’s been a lot of adrenaline pumping in the past weeks as I motor towards my ultimate destination. The pressure has been necessary — if I ease up too much on myself, I have a habit of just dropping things that I need to complete, so this has really been a proving ground for my future. I’m learning as I go, of course, and keeping my energy up has been an important part of the whole process.

Some, including my spouse and friends, would tell me to ease up, to not work so hard. That’s not an option with me, though. It’s just not. Sure, I need to be sensible about things and not wreck myself, but not working my ass off — that’s not for me.

So, on days like today, when it all catches up with me, I need to be smart about how I handle things. I had a good breakfast and got some exercise, and that helped. I also settled down and took care of some basic things that needed to be done, to clear the way for my work. I cleared off my desk, getting those extra papers out of the way, and I had my breakfast in the kitchen, instead of sitting in front of the computer. I also paced myself — gave up the mad-dash thing for the morning, and just plugged right through.

The nice thing was… as I did that, a lot of the incredible anxiety that gripped me all day yesterday lifted. I couldn’t get to sleep easily last night, I was so nervous and jazzed up over my projects, and that was one of the things that made it worse for me this morning, I believe — adding to my adrenaline overload, which really threw me off center.

And I think about that article I came across at the Concussion Blog, about dizziness being connected to autonomic nervous system dysfunction — being in intense fight-flight apparently contributes to dizziness, and I have certainly been there. It’s not just about the inner ear. It’s about the nervous system. Makes sense to me — especially because I can often correlate dizziness with episodes of extreme stress.

So yeah – I have been incredibly busy and driven for weeks — months, in fact. And it takes a toll. But I can’t let that stop me. It can certainly inform me and cause me to make different decisions, but it’s not going to derail my plans. That will never do.

That being said, I’m going to take the rest of the day off from my projects — to enjoy the Fourth of July and run some errands for other things that are going on. I’ve got three more days ahead of me to work-work-work, and two of those days I’ll have the house to myself, so I can buckle down and really kick it. I have a bunch of things I need to get sorted out, but all in good time.

Busy-busy-busy can lead to dizzy-dizzy-dizzy. So for the sake of my safety and well-being, it will do me good to pace myself, take frequent breaks to regroup, and not undermine myself with blind and mindless activity.

It really feels like a new day is dawning for me.

What and how do I want it to be?

Onward…

Managing TBI symptoms all around

Lots to work with

So, I’m headed back out on a business trip again next week, which means it’s probably going to be pretty quiet here for the next 10 days or so. I may get a chance to check in while I’m traveling, but I’m guessing things are going to be busy, so I might not get to check in.

One thing that’s been happening, which I’ve talked about before, is that I’ve been discussing my testing results with my neuropsych, comparing how I am now to how I was before. Back in 2008, when I had my first test, I was in pretty rough shape. I was struggling with a pretty constant sense of overwhelm, I had a pervasive sense that there was something terribly wrong with me, and my mental health was all over the map. I was borderline disabled… and headed in that direction, due — I’m sure — at least partly to the fact that almost all of my friends and associates were living disability-centric lives. By that I mean, they either considered themselves too broken to do much with their lives, or they devoted their lives to comforting and counseling the broken.

But in either case, their focus was on disability, wounding, victimization, and struggle. And in most cases, their perceptions of themselves and others was very similar — they not only helped wounded, damaged people, but to at least some extent, they also considered themselves wounded and damaged.

Sigh…

Anyway, the one exception to that has been my neuropsych, who has never let me get away with settling into a victim mindset, and who has really reminded me on a regular basis of what I really think about life — that it throws us some pretty intense curve-balls sometimes, and sometimes it really roughs us up, but in the end we do have the means and the ability to turn things around for ourselves and no matter how bad things may seem on the surface, we have the capacity to move on and do better.

And that’s been my experience. Truly, it has. They have helped me and offered me encouragement and information all along the way. Granted, I’ve only seen them for an hour a week — and sometimes not even that often. But they really have been a help. Because they’ve been the one person in my life who has not been sucked into the abysmal void of mistaken beliefs telling you that you have to settle for less, which I see all around me, each and every day.

I have been getting better. A lot better. My numbers are remarkably improved over last time. And we haven’t even gotten to the purely cognitive stuff yet.

What has been getting notably better is my overall functionality and my self-perception. The old depressiveness and the overwhelm is down — way down. Anxiety levels, impulsive acting on anger, social discomfort and avoidance, negative emotions, and my general sense of maladjustment are all significantly reduced — often to normal levels.  It’s literally like a light has turned on in my life. It’s like I am a completely different person on paper, and my life has gotten one of those major renovation makeovers you see on HGTV.

And yet, what all has changed? Seriously — what has actually changed in my life?

I don’t have the blindingly intense, constant headaches I once did, and the seizure-like behavior has subsided. I don’t go into anxiety/panic attacks the way I used to, and the anger and sense of confusion has subsided. But other than that, a lot of things have objectively stayed the same. I still have chronic physical issues — the pain, light-sensitivity, noise-sensitivity, balance issues, vertigo, headaches, insomnia, sleep issues, and I still find myself flying off the handle over things that “shouldn’t” get to me. I still get confused over things, I still lose track of where I am and what I’m doing, and I still actually have a lot of the 84 concussion/TBI issues that can make your life really interesting.

So, what’s changed? Basically, a few things have made a world of difference.

First, I am aware of the issues. I know I have these issues, I know that when I am not sleeping well, it affects my thinking and my sensory sensitivities, which makes life more of a pain in my ass. It’s not all this big mystery for me anymore — I’ve spent a lot of time observing my life and seeing what sets me off and what works, and after several years of serious study, I have a pretty good working understanding of what impacts me, and how.

Second, I have stopped fighting the issues. Sh*t happens. That’s just a fact. Especially with TBI. Instead of battling against the things that just are and fighting their existence, I use my energy for simply noticing that – yes, again – the sh*t has happened, and I need to respond to it, instead of wringing my hands and crying poor-me and cursing life for dealing me a crappy hand.

Third, I actively manage the issues. From my observations, I can clearly see that one thing leads to another, and I can tell when I need more sleep, or I need to wear my sunglasses when I go out. I generally know when I’m in rough shape (which is more often than I’d like, but oh well…), and I can then anticipate things going a certain way. For example, when I am very tired, I get clumsy. When I’m clumsy, I drop things. When I drop things, they often make loud noises, which startle me and set me off. So, when those things happen on days when I am tired, rather than getting completely bent over them, I just deal and move on. I take a deep breath, pick up the fork I’ve dropped and get a clean one from the drawer, and I eat my food. If I’m dizzy, I hold onto the side of the counter when I’m leaning over, so I don’t fall. And if I’m sick on my stomach because of fatigue and dizziness, I just move more slowly and eat my food at a more leisurely pace. And I get on with my day.

It might not sound like much — it might even sound very common-sense to a lot of folks — but for me, this is huge. It means the difference between

  • starting out in a really shitty frame of mind, thinking I’m damaged and wrecked and whatnot, and not feeling up to much of anything… which often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy… and
  • starting out on a note that shows me that I can manage my situation just fine. It’s not ideal, but I can manage. And that certainly helps.

You know, it’s funny — while we were going over my test results, my neuropsych was saying how my physical problems had been really reduced almost to non-existence. Au contraire. Sure, they don’t ruin my life like before, but they are still very much there. They’ve been there for as long as I can remember. I’m just doing a hell of a lot better job of managing them, of dealing with them, of working them into my daily life, than ever before.

Again, being aware of them and realizing how they fit into the overall constellation of my life, how they shade my existence and contribute to things like anxiety and overwhelm and difficulties with thinking and processing information on the spot, has made a huge change. It’s not that I have this identity as a disabled person who cannot do anything much with their life. I have an identity as a human being who can do a lot with what they have, despite the issues that come up on a regular basis. I manage my TBI issues all around, and while it’s not my favorite way to live at times, it still gives my life a unique and very hopeful feel.

It pretty much sucks that I have these issues, and that they show no signs of going away permanently. But at the same time, I usually know how to handle them, so even though they’re there, they don’t have to ruin — and run — my life. They’re just there. Background noise. Oh, well. If nothing else, they are an opportunity to learn.

So, the bottom line is that things aren’t perfect. When are they ever? But I can manage. I do manage. Personally, if something has to be wrong (and part of me think there’s always gotta be something), I’d rather have it be this, than something more terrible that is insurmountably soul-sucking. There are plenty of folks who struggle in pain they cannot identify or address, and I’m not one of them. Not anymore. I struggle, sure, but after years or work, now I can identify the real source of the pain, and I can sure as hell do something about it.

So yeah — onward.

TBI Recovery – like life on the high seas

Avast there…

I’ve heard it said that it takes about seven years of recovery for a person to start feeling “like themself” again after traumatic brain injury. That sounds about right to me. And now that I’ve been at it (actively) since 2007, I’m coming up on seven years — next year.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. From nearly losing everything, to sabotaging job after job, to watching my friends go away, to the relationship/marriage troubles and health issues, to slowly building myself back… it has been a trip. But it’s finally starting to feel like things are stabilizing for me.

When I say “things” I mean internal things. Not external things. Learning to live with TBI is like going to sea and learning to walk across the deck of a ship that’s rolling through all sorts of seas. Between the sensory issues, the focusing issues, the distraction problems, the mood swings, the irrational and literal and rigid thinking issues… if it’s not one thing, it’s another, and just getting used to the idea that this is just how things are, has been a battle in itself.

But that’s the deal. This is how things are. And there’s no sense in trying to tamp it all down and get things to chill, because no sooner does one wave pass, than another comes along.

Walking across the deck… yeah. That’s about the best metaphor I can think of. And it puts me in the mood to read some seafaring adventure stories – Captains Courageous, Treasure Island, Two Years Before The Mast… stories I remember from when I was younger, that I really loved and enjoyed. It kinda puts me in the mood to tie knots with heavy rope… :)

And that’s one thing that the seafaring metaphor does for me — it raises dealing with TBI issues from a hindrance and an inconvenience and a problem, to being just part of what I have to deal with on the “high seas” of life. Rather than turning the issues into problems and vexations, it turns my ability to deal with them into strengths and abilities that I didn’t have before. I’ve been deep sea fishing a few times, and I know from personal experience that “sea legs” don’t just happen overnight. It takes time. You have to learn to roll with it. I’ve never been out to sea long enough for this to “take” with me, but I would imagine that I could learn to do just about anything, given the opportunity and time.

And opportunity and time are just what I have, with regard to this stuff.

Today, I’m pretty dizzy and off-balance. I’m also having trouble keeping focused on one thing at a time. I’m working from home today, giving myself one more day to recoup before I go back into the office, and I still don’t have my full strength back. No surprises there – I was flat on my back for a week, and this won’t fix itself overnight. I just feel “off” today — spacey and tired and weakened. I’ll see how it goes, with getting my work done. And I’ll see how it goes, taking frequent breaks to just get my head settled again.

It’s not so very different from some days when I wake up after days and weeks of not getting enough sleep, and I have to work at my peak level. It’s not so very different from some days when I’m off balance and foggy for no reason that I can tell at all. It’s not so very different from dealing with the light and noise sensitivities, the headaches, the malaise… it’s not very different from that at all. And the emotional impact it has — the frustration, the short temper, the anger, the temper flashes from a very short fuse — that’s very similar, as well.

It’s all part of life on the high seas.

Of course, it’s easy for me to say all this, years on down the line after my latest concussion injury in 2004. At the very start, when nothing made sense and I was dealing with so many, many issues that I didn’t recognize and didn’t realize were a problem, the whole business made me sick. Literally. Like being out at sea for the first time, I was in a constant state of nausea and disequilibrium. I felt stupid, I felt like an idiot, and I felt so incredibly defective because I couldn’t regulate my emotions or my behavior. Everything was falling apart around me, and I didn’t know why. And not knowing made it even worse. Not knowing that I didn’t know…  that was the worst thing of all.

So many times, I look at the stats for this blog and I see people searching for “concussion now I’m dumb” or “does concussion make you stupid”. And I remember so well what it was like to feel so stupid, all of a sudden, and not know why nothing was working for me anymore. I seriously didn’t have a clue. I knew I had hit my head. I knew I had gotten hurt. But I had no idea the effects could be as big and impactful as they turned out to be. I thought it would all clear up in a matter of a few days.

How wrong I was.

What I didn’t realize was that each time my head bounced off those stairs, connections in my brain got twisted and frayed, possibly even severed. What I didn’t realize was that those connections had taken a lifetime to put in place, and now that they were disrupted, I was going to need to practice and practice and practice, rehearse and rehearse and rehearse… doing many of the things I used to do so easily, but now had to learn to do in a slightly different way. I almost wish that the differences had been obvious — things like walking and talking. But it was really the little things, like learning and managing emotions and remembering details, that had been disrupted. And those disruptions were even more upsetting, because they weren’t something that others could see or often even detect. The only one who could tell a real difference was me… And inside, I was a torn-up mess.

Of course, years on down the line, I can look back with some perspective and understand what was going on. But at the time, before I learned all I have in the past 6-7 years, I had no perspective. I had no information. And I was going nowhere fast. No, correction — I was going somewhere fast — down, down, down. I’m just lucky that I noticed something was wrong before I went over the edge and lost everything.

Not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Not everyone manages to get it as quickly as I did. A whole lot of people struggle in silence and tell themselves to just push on through… never getting the help they need. And that’s a terrible, awful waste. Not everyone understands that the high seas they are on, are going to always be there… that once you’re on the TBI / PCS  ship, you’re not getting off. You may have some calm days, you may have some serene days, but you’ll also have fog and shoals and doldrums… and the storms will always come up again — you can bank on that.

Not everyone is stuck for all time with post-concussive issues, and thank God for that. But for those of us who are, probably the best thing to do is just settle into the daily routine of sailing the high seas… get your sea legs… and get ready for adventure. You never know, you might just come across some treasure, along the way.

Ahoy….

TBI Heroes – ‘Cause that’s how everyone wants it

Junior went too soon. Buddy, you are missed.

As I sit here in bed, surrounded by my flu meds and fluids, I have plenty of time to think about things I normally don’t, in the course of my busy everyday life. The (not unexpected) news that Junior Seau had CTE at the time he shot himself in the chest, last May, has been on my mind. A lot.

And as I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of going back to work in time to work a professional conference (we’re talking about 5 solid days of being on my feet, running and working and also doing a presentation for a colleague who can’t make it), I have to wonder what in hell’s name makes me think I should even consider doing this?!

Seriously, it would be madness for me to dive right into that. See, the whole conference thing also includes air travel. In an enclosed aircraft. During one of the worst flu outbreaks in something like 10 years. And it includes being surrounded by thousands of people from all over the country, some of whom may be sick, themselves. And it includes going-going-going for 12-14 hours a day, for 5 days straight. I’ve worked this event twice before, and even when I was hale and hearty and feeling fine, I was completely wiped out by the end. If I push it, this time, then what? I end up back in the hospital?

For what?

Am I insane?

Actually, no. I’m just in the habit of pushing myself. Because unless I push, nothing gets done. See, this is what most people don’t get about me and my situation. I cover things up really well. I mean really well.

Who would ever guess that on any given day I could wake up being so wobbly and off-balance, that if I don’t maintain some contact with an upright surface, such as a wall or a piece of furniture, I’m going to fall over? I’ve learned to mask that extremely well, being ultra nonchalant as I stroll along at a “leisurely” pace. I’ve learned, over the years, how to keep myself upright by keeping a very straight posture – which is probably why some people assume I have a military background – I don’t, they just seem to assume that if I stand up straight I must have been trained. Actually, I have been trained – by life. Because I’ve learned the consequences of not keeping my posture aligned, and it’s no damn’ fun.

And who would ever guess that the “cool shades” I wear are not at all for style’s sake, but to keep myself from losing it over the bright lights all around me? I wear sunglasses in the winter as well as the summer, because the snow is even more glaring on me than summer sunlight. Some days, when I am really tired, any variation in light – a sudden flash or a bright piercing sunbeam – can set off klaxon alarms in my head.

Noise, too — there’s nothing like having the voices of your loved ones turned into spikes driven into your brain, because you’ve reached just the right level of fatigue and sensory overload. Not being able to listen to the songs sung by one of your sibling’s kids, when they just put something on YouTube and they want to sing it for you in person… that’s a pretty lousy way to spend a Christmas afternoon.  Of course, you can’t let on that you’re baked, you can’t tolerate any more noise, and if anyone says one more thing to you, your head is going to implode. You just suck it up and move on. You think of other things. You put on a happy face. You keep going and keep smiling.

Because that’s what everyone needs.

They don’t need to know the gory details of how you haven’t been able to sleep a full night for months, now…. and how everything that touches your skin feels like it’s burning through to the bone… and how the ringing in your ears is drowning out everything, which is why you have to keep asking people to repeat themselves… and how you haven’t actually understood much of what anyone has said to you for the past two hours, and most of the stuff you did understand, you’ve since forgotten. People don’t want to know about that. They don’t want to know about the increasingly frequent memory lapses, the flawed judgment calls, the time management issues, the distractability. They don’t want to hear about how bone-tired you are, how confused you are, how frustrated you are with every damn thing that comes across your path.

They don’t want to know you’ve been simmering at a near-boil for days on end, now, blowing up at the people closest to you, because you’re so fried by all the sensory overload and the fatigue and the defeat of never being able to out-run or out-maneuver these things. They don’t want to know that as much as you might get a bit of relief, now and then, the issues will still be back later, and you can count on that. They don’t want to know about the jumpiness, the hair trigger temper, the flashes of rage that tear through your insides like fire across a dry prairie. They don’t want to know about how you’ve used just about every “tool in your toolbox” to keep it together, but things are raveling just a little bit thin, these days.

Nope. They don’t want to hear about that — any of it. Especially if they know you as a can-do type of person who always manages to figure things out. If you’re the go-to person in their life, they depend on you NOT being any of the things you actually feel like, day in and day out. And God forbid you should ever speak up and ask for some help.

Because when you do that, they either laugh at you, or they get freaked out, because nobody — but nobody — can seem to hear anything about TBI or concussion or any other sort of brain issue, without thinking about themself and questioning themself and confronting the bare-ass fact that deep down inside, the heroes are still human.

I’ve been a hero for a long, long time. At work, I’ve often had a sort of “folk hero” reputation for having accomplished the things I did. Because I never gave up. Because I looked the beast in the eye and still moved forward. Because I took on projects that others ran from, and I made it all work in the end. I’ve been a champion for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been rewarded for it, too.

So, when I fell in 2004, and that all started to unravel, the hammer came down pretty hard. I was failing. I was coming up short. I was not living up to expectations. And that was unacceptable. People talk about how you shouldn’t be afraid to fail, how you shouldn’t be afraid to come up short sometimes. Those people write books for a living, clearly, and they obviously don’t have their level of compensation and their family’s welfare on the line, every time they are tested. Those people piss me off. Because the ones who write our paychecks (and often have us by the short-n-curlies) attach a price to our performance.

Not only that, but the whole world around us attaches a price to our performance. And this is the thing that makes me absolutely nuts about the people who go on and on about how “formative” failure can be. Yeah, homelessness is formative, too. As is long-term unemployment. The price of failure in today’s world is NOT just popularity — is is your very way of life. It can even be your life. Period.

And how much moreso for someone like Junior Seau? Someone on whose shoulders so much rested — the restaurant, the foundation, the reputation…. Someone who had flown so high, and was never going to fly that high again, as far as he could tell. To grapple with the things I’ve got going on, in my low-profile life as just-about-nobody, is hard enough. But to do it in the glare of the public eye? How the hell do you do that?

Maybe, you just don’t.

And in all the talk about Junior Seau’s death and CTE and changes that need to be made to football, the thing that’s been missing for me — the big, big thing that seems like it might actually make a substantive difference in all this — is how people with brain injuries are treated… How anybody who doesn’t “measure up” is treated by once-adoring fans.  Once you set the bar high, it’s your job to keep out-doing yourself and keep it moving ever upwards, ever onwards. But that’s a fantasy and a myth born of Hollywood and personal improvement gurus. And it puts the onus of keeping your shit together on the person who might actually need the most help.

If the truth be told, we live in an exacting and unforgiving society. I have no idea how we got to this place, where everyone seems to need to believe they are invincible — or could be. And I have no idea how we have created a culture where it is perfectly okay to punish those who don’t live up to our expectations, as though they were homicidal criminals. Life is full of disappointments. And yet we carry on as though we should never, ever be disappointed, and we should always get exactly what we want, because we “deserve” it.

What exactly do we “deserve” anyway? That others meet our fantastical expectations in every way, until the end of time? Who says anyone owes us that? Who says we are entitled? The thing of it is, most of us structure our lives around the roles we play and the ways we fit into each others’ lives, within those roles. So, when our abilities change and we need to adjust our roles, it can be terribly frightening for others to deal with us. Because a change to us is a change to them. And if they’re not ready to shoulder more of the “load” of making sense of life with their own resources (rather than ours), then the loss of our presence in their lives in that certain role, can be terribly frightening, disorienting, almost incapacitating.

How very human of us.

I guess in the end, there are no easy answers, and it’s simple enough to get upset and pissed off over sad things that should never have happened, but did.

When all is said and done, the fact of the matter is, some of us are hero material. For one reason or another, we have learned how to push ourselves through thick and thin… and come out victorious on the other side. Some of us know how to put aside our own personal safety and well-being for the sake of others. And some of us are in the habit of doing that on a regular basis. Now, I’m no firefighter or first responder or doctor without borders, but I am in the habit of putting the needs of the many over my own individual wishes and needs. And it’s served others well over the years.

Now, with this flu still raging, I’m doing a reality check and seeing quite clearly that this is no time to be a hero. If can’t do the job at the conference next week, someone else is going to have to take my place. There may be others working the event who are also sick and choose to work it, anyway, but this one I’m going to have to sit out. I hate the idea and it goes against everything in me, but I’ve just got to do it, this time.

It’s not what I want. And it’s not what the folks I’m working with want. But it’s what’s got to be done. This one time, I don’t have to be a hero.

When things don’t go as planned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting my life back, one detail at a time

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about how I’m managing to get my life back. It’s taken me a few years, and it hasn’t been easy, but I do feel like I’m finally getting to a place where I can really live my life just as me, instead of focusing mainly on overcoming all my hardships.

Now, mind you, the hardships have not completely disappeared. For the past week, I have been almost dangerously dizzy, and I have not felt well. I have not been sleeping as much as I need to, and my head has been filled with a fuzzy fog. It still is, in fact. I’m also a bit dizzy, still. And I don’t feel well. If I didn’t have to go to work today, I wouldn’t.

But even in the midst of not feeling well, being incredibly off-balance, and not knowing what I could do about it — apart from eat less junk food, get more sleep, and take my time doing things I can normally do quickly — I’ve still managed to do some important things. I’ve been talking to recruiters, looking for new jobs, and visiting an old friend who lives several states away.

There hasn’t been a lot of difference, lately, between how I feel now and how I felt three years ago. I had tons of balance issues, then — they appeared to be diet-related, and when I changed what I ate, the vertigo pretty much went away. The big difference now is that I am aware of the issues, and I’ve developed coping mechanisms to deal with them. I’ve got a lot of tools I can use to get through my day, even if I’m incredibly dizzy, off-balance, nauseated, and bone-tired. I may not be able to prevent these experiences from happening, but I do know how to manage them.

And I do manage them.

I guess this is the difference I see between my own TBI recovery and what I’ve heard others talk about, especially in terms of having to accept limitations and change your expectations of what life has to offer. I do believe that some of what I’ve got going on  — the sensitivities, the fatigue, the constant restlessness, and more — may be with me for the rest of my life. But I also believe that I can manage them, rather than letting them take over my life. When I focus on my goals and intentions of what I want to achieve in life, and I make them the primary focus of my life, all the extra things that get in the way have a lot less power over me. Realizing that my problems don’t have to stop me — that I can come up with new and different ways of handling these things — has been a huge part of my healing.

I do say “healing” because that’s what has happened, which has made my recovery possible. Finding a way to, first, understand what was/is going on with me, and second, to constructively approach those things, has been like a balm to my spirit, and it’s made so much more possible in my life.

I really have my neuropsych to thank for a lot of this. And also people who work with PTSD and cognition and recovery and rehabilitation. I have a lot of people to thank, as well as all the readers of this blog, who have kept me going through the past months and years. So, thank you. :)

Anyway, speaking of getting my life back, I have a meeting in 10 minutes, so I need to wrap up here. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I am getting my life back, and it’s been a gradual process, focused on handling one thing at a time, one challenge at a time. Just learning to know what my different issues are — working my way through the 84 different things that can come up, and addressing each one, one at a time… or two or three or four at a time. But you get the point — it’s been incremental, really. My progress has been “all over the map” at times, but then, organic stuff usually is a bit messy and imprecise. There’s part of me that wishes it were clean and clinical and controlled, but that’s not likely to happen.

So, I’ll take what I can get, and get on with the day.

And keep on getting my life back.