Give me exercise, or give me trouble

I woke up this morning feeling blah and groggy. After my very active weekend, this past Sat and Sun, I was feeling the burn yesterday, so I took it easy with the workout and spent the day in a relatively sedentary state. I didn’t want to push myself, but let myself rest and recuperate from all that activity — more activity than I’ve had, two days in a row, in quite some time.

Mistake! (And a most valuable lesson.) I felt pretty good all day, but by the time evening rolled around, I was feeling really down, depressed, worn out and used up. I also had a chiro adjustment, and I think the release of those points along my spine may have loosened up some old ‘stuff’.

I see a network chiropractor, who works with the meninges and points in the cranial and sacral areas. Not so much cracking and popping — mostly gentle pressure that frees up the cerebro-spinal fluid to flow more freely and help the brain connect better with the rest of the body. I highly recommend it, especially for folks with TBI or whiplash or some other head or neck or back injury. The difference it’s made has been amazing. But of course, there are sometimes occasions when the pent-up energy that’s released causes me to feel physically worse for a day or so, before things even out. It goes with the territory… and eventually it clears up as the whole system rights itself. But the initial experience can be emotionally and physically upsetting.

That’s what it was like for me, last night, after my adjustment. I got very emotional and, much to my chagrin, I started to cry. I took myself away and sat out on a hilltop, read a book, and watched the sun go down, then had a little bite to eat and went home to crash. I just felt terrible about myself, like I was so broken I wasn’t much use to anyone, especially myself, and all my failures and failings rose up like spectres on a late October night to haunt and taunt me.

My mood was actually dangerously low, and I was in a place where I was rapidly spiraling down-down-down to where nothing and no reason could reach me. The tears wouldn’t stop, and when my spouse asked me what was wrong, all I could say was that I felt like my life was a waste, all I was, was a wage slave, I wasn’t good for anything, and I had no future. I could see, so clearly, the things I once had going for me, and I could feel so vividly all the hopes I’d once had as a kid – I wanted to be a doctor or a large animal vet, and I wanted to do big things and travel the world – compared to the reality that eventually came to be. I just felt wasted and spent and good for nothing, and no amount of compassionate reason could talk me out of it.

Ugh. I hate when that happens. And I did the only thing I could — I went to bed at a decent hour. It was probably the smartest thing to do.

Fortunately, I managed to sleep pretty much through the night. I’ve been waking up drenched in sweat, lately. The weather is warmer, it’s true. But I think it’s also stress that’s doing it.

At least I have been able to get back to sleep — and sleep past 4:30 a.m., even with the sun rising earlier. Today, I managed to sleep till 6:30, wonder of wonders.

But this morning I got up and felt pretty wiped out. Going down in those “emotional valleys” often leaves me feeling hungover in the morning, and I had a heck of a hangover today. I dragged myself downstairs and put the kettle on, then figured, what the heck, I’ll just get on the exercise bike for a few minutes and warm up.

Well, once I got going, I started to feel better. I rode for 15 minutes, doing some conscious breathing at the same time. Then I stretched my creaky bones and decided to lift just a little. Maybe do some movements holding my weights. Nothing big, just a little weighted movement.

Well, once I got going with that, I started to feel much better. Just the simple movement, and the focus on my form really got me out of my funk. It took a few sets, but the more I did, the better I felt. And by the time all was said and done, I had gone through my entire workout — and then some — and I was feeling a LOT better.

I’m still feeling a little groggy and hungover from last night. I think the chiro adjustment “knocked some stuff loose” that needs to settle and/or move on through… like infection being moved out of my body by lymph. I’ve got a long history of physical problems, so moving them through and resolving them (or just learning to handle them more effectively) isn’t necessarily the easiest or simplest or most pain-free process. I’ve read about other TBI folks having excruciating pain just before something released with them, and they became a lot more functional. Bottom line, even if recovery is uncomfortable and challenging, it’s got to be done, so…

What I learned from all this, is quite valuable, the discomfort notwithstanding. As much as I may want to physically take it easy — for whatever reason — I do need to be active — more active than most people I know — and keep my system moving throughout the course of each day. I was way too sedentary yesterday, and I didn’t get up and MOVE much at all. And the energy I typically have seemed to get “stuck” and backfire on me.

Now, people around me love to tell me to “take it easy,” but when I do, I end up feeling really bad — physically and emotionally. I just have to move. Be active. And not take it quite as easy on myself as I’m tempted to — and others encourage me to.

I think that’s one of the sticky pieces about recovery/rehab. On the one hand, you don’t want to over-do it and your brain can really actively advocate for taking it easy and not pushing the envelope. But if you slack off, you can find yourself worse off than you were the day before. It’s a fine line, to be sure, balancing rest and recovery with activity and evolution. But for me, I’d rather err on the side of activity. For me, being wiped out from being physically tired is a lot easier to handle than being wiped out from being mentally tired. Yesterday was a mentally tired day — not necessarily because of too much activity, but because of too little.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

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