New day, new me

new-beginning

The start is just the beginning. Gotta keep it going…

Probably the best thing about this new job, is the fitness benefit – the gym, the pool, the free classes, and the ability to go to the gym and/or hit the pool just about anytime that fits my schedule. The pool isn’t open 24-7, but the gym is.

I don’t live close enough to the office to go to the gym on weekends, but after work is a great time to work out, when everyone else is heading for the freeway to get home.

So, on my swim days, I can work out and swim after work, when I’d normally be stuck in traffic. And the grocery store is on the way home, so I can pick up supper on my way.

It’s a good arrangement. In more ways than one.

A week into exercising just about every day of the work week, I can honestly say I’m feeling better than I have in quite some time. My back and torso are stronger, which means my posture is better, which makes me less tired. It also makes me less irritable. And I have a lot more energy and stamina than I’ve had in recent memory.

Sure, I’m sore. But I’ll hit the pool at the end of the day today, and I’ll work some of this out. Just gotta move. Just gotta keep moving.

Fitness has become a real focus for me. The gym at work is small — but it still has all the equipment and weights I need — so it’s not overwhelming, like a lot of those big-box gyms full of blaring music and hundreds of machines. I don’t know how people can work out in those places. I’ve tried, and I never last. A smaller gym, with just the right equipment, is ideal.

So, since it’s not overwhelming, I can actually get into getting into shape. It’s giving me another focus — and getting me out of my head — which is all good. Looking around my study, I’ve got all these books … so many books… and I remember how I used to spend so much time in the past, just sitting and reading. Sitting and reading.

It was great for my imagination, but terrible for my body. And because of that, it wasn’t so great for my brain.

Body and brain go together. Closely. And it’s important to really take care of both. In fact, strengthening your body and making sure it has what it needs, is critical to keeping your brain safe.

It gives you more stamina and makes it possible to keep a positive attitude. It’s tough to be chipper when you’re exhausted by life itself.

Being also strong helps you balance better and function better, so you don’t get tired and uncoordinated and off-balance. Not having enough strength introduces the risk of falling, so getting strong in the right ways can prevent a fall — and another brain injury.

The times when I fell or had accidents and got my TBIs in the past, were often times when I was over-tired and/or uncoordinated, and I did not have the strength or stamina to keep myself balanced, alert, and safe. I was worn out from working a lot, and I had a car accident. Or I was pushing myself too hard, and I fell and smashed my head. Or I was getting tired and clumsy, and I “lost it” – slipped, tripped, fell, got hit… you name it.

Although a bunch of my injuries happened while playing sports, the more impactful ones happened in everyday life. And if I’d been in better shape and had more strength and stamina, I wonder if things might have turned out differently.

Well, the past is the past, but bottom line is, I’m feeling better now, than I have in quite some time, and it’s pretty cool. Just have to pace myself and make sure to rest when I can. My body is still getting used to the fitness routine, and recovery is a critical component of any fitness routine. ‘Cause if you don’t rest, you don’t give your body a chance to recover and repair. I, of all people, know the importance of recovery.

And  with that, it’s off to my day. Onward.

Wow. Blast from the past…

I remember…

A week or so ago, I got a message from someone I have not seen in nearly 30 years. The last time I saw them, we were like siblings – so close, almost like lovers (except that we were each romantically involved with others in our small circle of friends). We were each others’ protectors and confidantes, through all the relationship drama that happens when you’re 22 years old.

I haven’t had that kind of a friendship with anyone, since – even my spouse.

That was back when I was drinking myself silly, most days. I was also still struggling with the after-effects of at least 5 mild TBIs, during my high school years. Plus, I was a falling-down drunk, so I may have hit my head during one of my forays, too.

Long story short, we parted ways under very bad circumstances. I was an ass.  And I split without an explanation. Just picked up and left and never responded to the letters they sent.

I was so lost, so confused, so messed-up and furious with the world. And when I started to get clearer and cleaned up my act, I tried looking for them online. But I found nothing, other than a single picture of them at a holiday party with an organization they worked for.

Then nothing. I searched again, but the picture was taken down. I can find pretty much anyone or anything online, so the fact that they were nowhere to be found made me think they were dead. It was crushing. I had wrecked things so badly with us, because of so much I had not figured out… and I believed I’d lost my chance to apologize and make amends.

Fast forward a few years. Doing a search, I found them again – just a single mention of their name at an organization where they worked, in the town where they had lived when I’d known them. No picture, no telephone, but I knew it was them.  I toyed with the idea of getting back in touch, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it as well as I wanted.

Fast forward a few more years, and another search shows them at a different organization in their town. Again, no telephone number or email. Again, I couldn’t figure out what to do.

So, I gave up. And I downloaded one of the songs we used to sing along to, back in the day. I listened to it, now and then, while driving around.

Then I stopped. That was over. It was done. Let it go.

Fast forward again… to last month. All of a sudden, a message from them shows up. They reached out to me. They found me. And they wanted to make contact.

It was something I thought would never, ever happen. But there it was.There they were.

I wrote a note back, and then wrote another. They responded. Then I wrote an extended apology and explanation for why I disappeared. I left out the TBI stuff. Why blame that? I was just an ass, is all. And young.

I haven’t heard back from them. It was a very honest, heartfelt note, and I can imagine they have some catching up to do with their own perspective. We’d had one one of those epic friendships, like soldiers do. Or castaways on a desert island, building a raft together, to head for the open sea and look for more help.

It’s been an emotional bunch of days. I’ve gone through over 25 years worth of upheaval, since last week, but now things are calming down, and it feels good. Like I’ve finally put that one missing piece of the puzzle in place. I don’t know if they’ll ever get back to me again, but the fact is, I finally finally got the chance to say, “I’m sorry. I did wrong.”

And that’s all I’ve really ever wanted.

Fixing what I couldn’t fix before

It’s time to replace the hydraulic lifts on my hatchback. They’ve been out of commission for several years, now, and my garage quoted me $140 to replace them. Really? A hundred and forty dollars?

Heck, the squeegee I carry with me to swipe off rainwater does the trick nicely. It’s just the right length to prop the hatch open.

But lately, I’ve become paranoid about the handle breaking. The hatch is not light — it’s a heavy sucker, and it seems to get heavier, every time I lift it up.

So, before I go out and run all my errands, I’m going to replace the lifts that I ordered online last week. They’ve been riding around in the back of my car for all this time, neatly packed in their box.

Time to do something about this. I don’t know exactly how to do it, but I know how to go about figuring it out. Then, when I’m done with that, I can get on with the rest of my day.

This is a new thing for me. I used to have so much trouble figuring out what things went in what order. As recently as 5 years ago, I literally could not figure out how to fasten a sagging curtain rod. I just sat and looked at the rod… and then got up and walked away, because the whole thing about seeing the process through from beginning to end was beyond me. So understanding what tools I needed to gather to get it done (just the correct screwdriver and a step-stool) was out of the question.

Looking back, I can’t believe it was that hard for me. But it was. Then, one day, I realized that I knew how to fix the sagging curtain rod, and I did it. In 15 minutes. Triumph.

Little by little, things like this are coming back to me. Stuff that used to baffle and defeat me, is slowly but surely becoming exercises in patience and persistence… and learning. Learning, learning, and learning some more.

Now it’s time to stop talking and get on with taking care of this  Onward.

“An interesting experience for me today, a first.” – or – “Yes. ‘You promised to help me with my education.’ No. ‘You will not disrespect me.'”

brokenbrilliant:

Here’s a great post from a blog I just discovered today. Not sure how I missed it for so long… But now it’s here. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Originally posted on warmbeverage:

( edited only as composed )

“The Alaska Brain Injury Network is a non-profit advisory board dedicated to improving the lives of Alaskans affected by traumatic brain injury. Our board meetings are open to the public. Come join us!”

I did. Yesterday.

It was my first of any such “Brain Injury” meeting.

Kind of hard to believe, perhaps, considering the fundamental impact my getting kicked in the head at 15 has had on my living – but I recovered as well as I did quite specifically because I was not around nor a part of any such support, expectations, etc.

I’ve been intending – “making intentional” – these last couple of years, my own kind and process of a more integrated life with all that my injury was, and is,…and what I might look forward to it being. I shouldn’t say it was the “injury” there….the injury was the tap…

View original 3,050 more words

After so many years in confusion and pain…

coming out of the dark

It’s been a long time coming… but it’s here

I can honestly say that life is leveling out for me, and I now have what I would consider a “regular” life. And starting from there, things are becoming truly exceptional.

The “regular-ness” is amazing and phenomenal in its own right. I have been thinking about how many years I spent in confusion and frustration, always playing catch-up, always struggling to keep up appearances of normalcy, always feeling — and being — so behind. And never knowing why that was.

Little did I know, concussion / mild TBI had knocked the crap out of me. I’m not like folks who go through their lives at a normal pace, then have a concussion / mTBI screw them up. I was always screwed up by brain injuries. I started getting hurt when I was very, very young (maybe even having an anoxic brain injury – from having my air cut off – when I was an infant, according to my mother), and I continued to get hurt regularly over the years. I never got hurt badly enough to stop me from diving back into things. And nobody around me knew that I was hurt badly enough for it to throw me off.

I kept all that pain and confusion inside, for as long as I could remember. It was just one day after another of working overtime, trying to keep up with everything… and failing. Always coming up short.

Now, suddenly, I feel like I’ve come out of a long, dark tunnel into the light. No, not suddenly… It’s been a gradual process, so my eyes have adjusted to the light. But the realization of where I am and how I am now, is sudden. It’s like I’ve at last joined the land of the living.

And I am amazed.

How did this happen? How did I get here? It’s been a slow building process, with pieces of the puzzle floating around in the air… taking their sweet time getting plugged back together again. But once they click into place, they click.

Phenomenal.

So, now I have to ask myself — how did I get here? How did I manage to do this? I had all but given up on myself and figured I’d just be struggling and battling, all my born days. But I don’t feel like that anymore.

How did this happen?

I think there were a number of factors:

  • Having someone to talk to on a regular basis – first, my neuropsych, then another counselor who has been able to talk me through stickier emotional things that I don’t like to discuss with my neuropsych. Having someone to just listen and then get to interact with, has had a hugely positive impact.
  • Deciding that I needed to get better. Even when everyone was telling me I was fine, and I didn’t seem at all strange or brain-damaged, I could feel that something was off. I just wasn’t myself. Nobody else seemed to get it. But I did, and I was determined to do something about it.
  • Getting my Sense-Of-Self back. This was the biggest piece of things, by far. It’s been the key, because restoring my Sense-Of-Self makes everything else possible. It absolutely, positively, is the biggest piece of the puzzle.

How did I do that? I’ll be writing about that in the coming days and weeks, as time permits with my schedule. But basically it’s this:

  1. Find a small but significant way I am struggling — a day-to-day required activity that “shouldn’t” be difficult for me, but which is a huge challenge. Getting ready for work each day is a perfect example for me.
  2. Develop a system and a routine for doing that small but significant thing the very same way, each and every day. Making this system into a routine not only makes it predictable and comfortable, but it also keeps my brain from being overtaxed by having to reinvent the wheel each and every day.
  3. Really pay attention to that routine, and really dive into it with all I have, sticking to it like glue.
  4. That routine then “rewires” my system — brain and central nervous system and autonomic nervous system — with familiar and recognizable patterns.
  5. These patterns become something I can then rely on, to know who I am and what I am about… and what I can reasonably expect myself to do under regular circumstances.
  6. In times of uncertainty and insecurity, I can go back to those patterns and find comfort in their familiarity. So that not only gives me confidence in myself, but it also gives me a refuge where I can find some self-assurance again — even in the smallest of ways.

It’s all about building confidence over time.  Predictable patterns. Predictable behaviors. Predictable reactions. And that can lead to predictable outcomes.

Our brains are pattern-seeking by nature, and when we don’t have predictable patterns, we have the sense that we are in chaos — we are threatened. Building in predictable patterns is the key, for me, to a healthy recovery from PCS / mild TBI / other brain injury issues. And anybody can use this. Anybody can do it.

That includes you.

Wiped out and feeling great

Got home from work at a decent hour tonight – and that was after working out for half an hour and then going for a swim… in the company pool.

Yes, that’s right. They have a pool. Olympic sized with 5 or 6 lanes, and just the right temperature. And clean. Very, very clean.

I cannot tell you how good it felt to get in the water again.

Phenomenal.

Now I’m completely done. Happy – done. Very happy – done.

 

New job is going great

So far, so good. I’m about to start Day Four, and I’m feeling really strong and positive about the whole thing. My current cubicle is down in another part of the building, and the floors are pretty “interesting”. The building used to be a manufacturing facility, so there are huge areas that are full of equipment, and then there are other levels that were built in, that house cubicles.

The walls of the cubicles are all high – which is amazing. You can actually have a conversation with people without disrupting everyone else. People appear to get it, when it comes to creating spaces where people can actually get work done. What a relief.

And there’s a gym… which is a whole lot better outfitted than my own home workout space. And there are mirrors at the free weights area, so I can make sure of my form. That’s important. This means I can get a heck of a lot more fit than I am, right now. I worked out yesterday morning before work. Amazing. Even better, I’m really feeling it today.

So, this is good. And I’ve figured out how to do some work in the gym. I have pages and pages of data I need to review, and it’s actually easier to review them on paper than on a computer screen. So, I’m printing out my numbers and taking them to the gym with me, where I can ride the bike and listen to music while I work.

Not a bad way to live, at all.

So… yes. Onward.