13-Point Stress Test

I recently came across this 13 Item Stress Test at brainline.org which is part of a larger article on managing stress.

13 Item Stress Test answer T (True) or F (False)

T F   I have a lot to do.

T F   I have more to do than I can handle.

T F   I’m not being productive.

T F   I’m trying really hard but getting nothing done.

T F   I’m feeling unhealthy.

T F   I can’t afford to take breaks or time off.

T F   I’m pushing myself too hard.

T F   I don’t sleep very well.

T F   Too many people are telling me what to do.

T F   I am not treating people the way I want to be treated.

T F   I feel totally exhausted.

T F   Nobody is happy with what I do.

T F   I can’t stand living like this.

If you answered all F’s then you’re stress free or maybe fooling yourself. The more T’s you circle, the greater your level of stress and the more you need to think about taking steps to change. Here are some ideas to help you better deal with stress. Try them out and use the ones that work best for you. Think, talk to other people, and try to come up with more ideas.

  • Check your “pressure gauge” often.
  • Practice effective problem solving. Brainstorm ways to solve problems and try out different solutions.
  • Have a back-up plan.
  • Take time for yourself; do things you enjoy
  • Tell yourself to relax, breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Seek support from trusted friends and family.
  • Close your eyes, imagine yourself in a pleasant situation or place.
  • Keep up a healthy lifestyle — exercise, eat right, and avoid caffeine, alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.
  •  Talk to others about how they cope successfully.

The main article (part 1 of 2) is good reading, too. And it gives me pause to consider my own situation. I am very stressed, these days. I answered “True” to 11 of the 13 questions, and there’s nothing like seeing that in front of you to give you a reality check.

I truly need to do something about my stress levels. It’s just ridiculous. And it’s not like I’m living my life that much worse than others. Maybe I just have unrealistic expectations of myself. I’m sure that’s part of it. I “should” be doing this or that or the other thing better… I “should” be more capable than I am. I “should” be able to do all sorts of things that I just think I should be able to do.

It’s a little silly, actually. My neuropsych (who I have not seen in 2 weeks and won’t be seeing for another week because I’m so sick with this flu) has repeatedly told me that more than anything, I’m just being human, and in fact, probably nobody could do the things I think I should be able to do.

I can’t figure out if they’re saying this to make me feel better, if they’re telling me this because they don’t know what I used to be capable of, or if they’re telling the truth. Hell, I’m not even sure if what I expect of myself is accurate. I’m not sure if it ever was. I know that people have always asked a lot of me, and I’ve rarely failed to disappoint, and it’s always been such a hard thing for me to not be able to live up to others’ expectations.

So, in a way, a long time ago I just scrapped trying to live up to others’ expectations. ‘Cause I never could, so, why set myself up, you know? I just decided to live according to my own expectations, and that was that. But ultimately I’ve even disappointed myself, so … screw it.

Yet, I can’t totally give up. First of all, it’s not like me. I’m not a quitter. And there’s a part of me that believes that I might be able to figure this stuff out and get it right.

But then I don’t, and I end up with all sorts of conflict and problems and work issues, etc. My own stress test could easily have twice as many items as the list above.

That being said, what can I do about handling this stress better? What indeed?

Guess I’ll need to figure something out.


Ready for January

Can we just call it a day and move on please?

I hate to say it, but my holiday spirit seems to have fizzled before it even got started. It’s not even December, yet, and already I’m feeling pretty ragged. I’ve been sick for the past few days, I had a minor car accident the other day, and I feel like crap. The rest of the world still keeps rolling, including my work responsibilities, which puts me behind, and I feel even worse than if I’m “just” sick.

I am so tired of all the commercials on t.v., the relentless pushing to BUY-BUY-BUY!!! and all the focus on stuff that I don’t need, that other people don’t need, that is just going to take up space and mean nothing to anyone, once the initial “gifting” glow is gone. I can’t seem to find anywhere that is buffered from that. It’s enough to make me agoraphobic — no, not phobic, just aversive. Agora-aversive. How’s that for a new term?

Agora-aversive holidayitisa seasonal, chronic condition of active avoidance of public areas, retail establishments, and mass media outlets, brought on by a combination of excessively bogus, artificially inflated holiday “cheer” and a severe lack of resources to participate. Or the everyday English version — not wanting to leave your house or turn on the t.v., ’cause you’re sick and tired of being hassled by everyone to BUYBUYBUY!!! when you don’t have the time or the money or the energy to do it, and you don’t feel like plunging into depression as a result.

I just can’t stomach the artificial joy, the implied promises that buying more crap is going to make it all better… not to mention the behavior of people who stampede at stores, pepper spray “competitors” or open fire on rivals at the checkout line, etc. because they think they’re going to get a deal. Guess what — you’re not. There are only 10 wide-screen t.v.’s available at this location at that price, and there are 11 people in line ahead of you. It’s classic bait-and-switch pushed to a fever pitch, and everybody is falling for it… And climbing all over each other to play patsy for whatever economic juggernaut is pulling the strings.

Instead of yet another wide-screen t.v. or a custom-printed fleece with sleeves (though the latter actually appears to be useful), what we really need is more jobs, more relief from financial predators, and more time to enjoy ourselves, not more stuff to buy that presses us into yet more indentured servitude. What we need is more thoughtful behavior and more intelligent choices that avoid and prevent pain, not more stuff intended to relieve the unrelenting pain that we cause with our mindlessness.

It’s enough to send me into the wilderness to live in a hut along a clear, rushing stream, with only wildlife for neighbors. Might not be such a bad idea, actually. Heck, I could survive on fish and roots and berries indefinitely.

A person can dream, I suppose.

But while I’m still stuck in “civilzation”, I can’t escape all this pushing and pushing to buy(!!!) — how lame and pointless. Seems like just another way for people to get their minds off the sad state of the economy. But how are we supposed to buy all this stuff, if we don’t have money or credit or the means to pay the bills? And how are we supposed to make the money to spend, if the companies selling us this stuff are all sending the jobs overseas? I don’t get it.

The wild thing is, I knew this was all coming, eight years ago when my own job was farmed out to offshore workers (whom I was then ordered to train). It seems like an eternity ago, but when it was happening, I had a sick, sinking feeling that this was not going to bode well for me or my other colleagues. I tried to be positive about it and do my best to get the situation to work in my favor, but now, years on down the line, as I’ve seen my ability to earn a living dwindle, and the rates and salaries have dropped because offshore workers are so much cheaper and easier to replace, I have an even stronger sick, sinking feeling that I (and many others like me) were right. And it didn’t make a damned bit of difference.

Now, here I am. Here we are. I’m not the first or the last person who got bumped out of the way. I am definitely not alone. Like so many others, I’m literally choosing between paying for gas to get to work, and eating lunch. So, why all the fantasy marketing that seems to think any of us can afford any of this stuff? Maybe it’s fueled by the fantasy credit card companies who are offering easy credit to people who they know cannot pay… thinking all the while that eventually they’ll be able to line up collections agencies to strong-arm people into paying. Meanwhile, the bankruptcy attorneys are lining up outside the door.

Well, anyway, enough ranting, enough violins. I’ll just have to keep going. I’ll keep my head down and focus on what’s really important — taking care of my health, not paying any attention to stuff that only serves to annoy me, and just tending to things as best I can. I’m so tired, so sick, so wiped out by this flu… but life goes on.

So, onward.

TBI Myth #3: The Concept of Plateau

If only it were that simple

Here’s more discussion of The 10 Myths of Head-Injury

Closely related to Myth #2 – Recovery Occurs in a Year, this concept says that “recovery” starts after emergence from coma, continues at a gradual upward pace, then slows down, and levels off, so that no more improvement occurs. The visual analogy is a geographic one –a plateau. This myth leads families to despair when rate of change decreases and causes therapists to terminate services when clients stop progressing. There is a tendency to “write off” clients when a first “plateau” has been observed.

Nothing could be more true — that TBI recovery does NOT stick with a plateau paradigm. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that TBI recovery is like a whole landscape, filled with multiple plateaus, valleys, wash-outs, mountains, meadows, avalanches… you name it, if it’s in the natural world, there’s a TBI equivalent.

It is true that the most dramatic improvement does take place in the earliest stage and is followed by more gradual changes. However, the concept of plateau is dangerous for two reasons.

First, improvement following head injury is characterized by fits, starts, and bursts, often interspersed with periods of apparently little change, or even falling back. Head injured patients are notoriously inconsistent in their progress, at all stages. They may take one step forward, two back, do nothing for awhile, then unexpectedly make a series of gains. When one is preoccupied with watching for plateaus, it becomes easy to disengage from the client whose progress is sputtering.

This is important for everyone to keep in mind, even the folks who haven’t been in a coma. I think, especially for folks who haven’t had “severe” injuries (that were open-head injuries and/or caused them to lose consciousness for long periods of time). Even “mild” concussion (which is a really inaccurate description) can result in problems that stick around, despite your best efforts to deal with them. And you can be much better one day, then totally messed up the next. That’s one of the reasons that living with TBI survivors is such a challenge — we can be quite inconsistent, and we may look like we’re “all better” then BAM! we seem to be back where we started. That makes it really easy for the people around us to distance themselves and not want to bother with us. ‘Cause we don’t have that level of predictability and the consistency they expect, as much as we used to. And a lot of people can’t handle that.

Second, long “plateaus” can be interrupted years later by energizing environmental events. The appearance of a new, committed counselor, or the influx of social contacts that come from being “forced” to a support group, can uncover functional potential in head injured persons that has lain dormant for years.

This is where it becomes all the more important to keep engaged in life. Because you never know when you might find that next chance, that extra spark, that jump-start that gets you to a higher level. Even when things are looking really bad, it’s important to keep going. I went through a bunch of really tough circumstances around work, when I was first getting into addressing my TBI issues, and I can tell you, the people around me probably thought I was nuts, or a pretty hard-up case, bouncing from job to job. But I hung in there, and eventually I came out in a good position. That’s not the case anymore, unfortunately, but not because of anything I have done (which is a nice change), but at least I know that I have the ability to keep going and find better work as time goes on.

Of course, it’s rarely easy, and when it is, it tends to be a total surprise for me. And when I expect things to be easy, they turn out to have a whole bunch of very real issues I need to overcome. So, I have to back up and figure things out — yet again.

… Which is why it’s so important to stay flexible with regards to “the plateau thing” — maybe you’ll plateau, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll be at a certain level for a while, maybe you’ll “slide back” or “jump forward” without expecting it. And then a day later, you’ll find yourself back where you were, a week earlier. It’s all a bit of a roller coaster, at times, so it’s important to stay strong, stay flexible, and keep an open mind… at the same time that you’re being realistic about what your individual situation is about.

Getting hooked by the belief in a plateau is not only inaccurate, but also unproductive. It keeps you from focusing on what will move you forward — 100% involvement in your life, on ever level, and determined focus on your own well-being, no matter what the rest of the world has to say about it.

Where it gets lost

Sometimes, it doesn't feel like it's all there

So, I got some rest today, and I went out for a walk in the woods, and I’m feeling chill and fairly mellow tonight. I had hoped to get more done over my four-day weekend, but resting is the main thing I’ve been doing.

And that’s alright. Because it’s worth the time to me. When I rest, I get myself back, and when I have myself back, I can get on with my life. So, I’ll probably spend time tomorrow doing the things I had hoped to do more of for the past three days. These days — especially the past two — have been just for rest.

For getting myself back from being lost. Lost in the fatigue. Loss to the stress. Lost to the fight-flight chemicals that pump through my brain, telling it to shut down different parts that are “non-essential”. I get so wired, at times, only part of my systems are really online, because a huge chunk of me has been shut down because it’s a “distraction” to the parts of me that are just trying to get to the finish line. I’m so intent on getting there, that a big part of me just disregards all those other details. In part, it’s because it has to — especially when I am tired, I have to ignore certain things, just so I can “git ‘er done.”

This is when growing up as an athlete has its drawbacks. In my day, I was an excellent athlete, precisely because I could block out the pain, push through the fatigue, keep going despite the overwhelm, and finish the race or the game or the match. And I was well-rewarded for it.

Now, however, there is no race — not really — but I’m still pushing on. Because my internal state feels like it’s in competition. It feels — when I’m tired and worn down and overwhelmed — like I am locked in conflict with something — some THING — that is threatening to get hold of me. And I have to fight back. It’s not true, of course. I’m fighting no one but myself. And teh more I struggle, the worse it gets. I intellectually know this. However, the sense experience of it is definitely one of being locked in combat, and needing to fight-fight-fight to get to the end. And that pre-conscious process that decides what is and is not important kicks in and overrides everything, heading my head off at the pass before logic can  jump in.

And I get lost.

It gets lost — sense and sensibility. Good judgment. Discernment. Wise choices. It all gets lost, and I’m left navigating my sticky life in the morass of my biochemical woo-hoo-ism, like all those cars that got gooped up on the PA Turnpike this past week.Sometimes, it just sucks being more susceptible to this stuff, thanks to TBI. I know many other people out there have issues around this, but it’s particularly frustrating to have to deal with this AND deal with a brain that can’t tell what’s really going on, till sometime after the fact — if it figures out at all.

Well, anyway, speaking of rest, I could use another lie-down. Just a little power nap to recharge before the rest of the evening gets underway. I’m actually feeling the pull of some rest, so I’m going to accommodate it. Resting ahead of time actually helps me get to sleep later, ironically — it takes the edge off my stress, which then takes the edge off the adrenaline, and it helps me chill over the long run.

So I can find again what got lost earlier in the day.

Back to basics — again

Light it up

I think I’ve written about this in the past… how I was getting back to basics, after having gotten pulled off base by all kinds of busy-ness and so forth. Well, it’s time to hit “re-set” again, and get back to the fundamentals that keep me going in life. In the past months, I have really gotten off-track with just the most basic stuff — taking care of myself physically, which is the cornerstone of my daily success (or lack thereof). I guess the whole work situation got to me, and I got it in my head that, despite doing all I could to better myself, I still got caught up in the machinery of the Overlords,  backed into a proverbial corner by the economy and my attachment to my work… and no matter what I did, I couldn’t save myself.

They still took a good thing and made it pretty awful. It’s been years in the making, and I was a fool to not see it coming. I was so caught up in serving the common good, that I lost sight of the fact that the common good is owned — lock, stock and barrel — by individuals who are driven by such an all-consuming greed and hunger for power and the need to be “players” that it’s driven all sense from their minds. They are on a certain course, and they aren’t straying. No how, no way, and here I am, standing here looking like a jerk, bemoaning a fate that I backed myself into, while thinking happy thoughts about all the “possibilities” of this new world I’ve been shunted into.

And here I thought I was doing so well, when just the opposite of what I wanted was coming up behind me…

I tried. I really tried. But it didn’t work out. So, why bother?

Yeah, I’ve really been stuck on the pity-pot for days, now. And it’s getting tiresome. It’s so tempting, of course, to sit around and feel bad about how things have turned out, to get down on myself and tell myself, “Oh, what’s the use? I’m a lost cause with no real hope of redemption. I might as well just pack it in, make myself comfortable, and get used to sucking it up and swallowing my pride and all those other things that make my life marginally tolerable in the face of truly annoying circumstances.”

But that isn’t really like me. Even when I’m over-tired, like I have been, there’s still a spark that keeps lit, no matter what. It may get dulled by fatigue and agitation and chronic pain and just being so worn out from all the daily things I have to navigate and deal with — without a whole lot of help, on top of it — but it’s still there. I just need to remember that and find it again. And remember that wherever I am at that certain point in time, if I’m not in a good space, it’s probably because I’ve forgotten the most important thing of all:

It ain’t over, till it’s over. And it ain’t over yet.

As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I think I’ll print that out and put it up where I can see it regularly. ‘Cause someone like me, with so much on their mind, and so many dreams, and so much going on, has to remember that mindset on a regular basis. Gotta stay focused, gotta stay positive. Gotta stay on track and on point.

How to do it? Get the basics in place and keep them there.

  • Eat right, eat regularly. None of this late-night snacking. Gotta find another alternative to the junk food snacks that keep me going in the afternoon.
  • Get good rest. Don’t just hang around in front of the television till I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.
  • And exercise regularly — and I mean daily, not just intermittently throughout the week. Get my 15 minutes in on the exercise bike, followed by 10 minutes of lifting — either light or heavy. 25 minutes of exercise each morning is not a waste of time — it’s an investment, and it’s one I cannot afford to do without.  Believe me, I’ve tried. It started several months ago, with me backing off on the exercise… taking a break from the dumbells, either going more easy on the bike or not getting on the bike at all… and eventually getting to the point where I wasn’t doing any exercise at all in the morning, just having my breakfast, sitting down to check my email, then getting in the car and going to work and sitting all day some more. Then coming home and yes, sitting around yet some more.

Too much sitting. Not enough discipline. Not enough movement. And boy, have I felt it. My knees are starting to give me problems, and my moods are problematic. I’ve gained weight, too, which is bothering me — more because I just don’t feel as good as I used to, than out of vanity or anything like that. I just haven’t felt good, and it’s coincided with my lack of exercise, lack of discipline, lack of involvement in my own life.

Just living like a victim — which isn’t like me at all. I let myself slack off… and as I’ve spent less and less time focusing on my physical fitness, my thinking has become clouded, my head feels fuzzier than it has in a long time, and I have slowly lost the stamina I had built up. Not good.

And when I think about it, I realize that there’s more to it than my current job situation. I’ve also been listening to other people way too much. People who talk about how bad things are, how bad the economy is, how bad politics are, how bad off this country is. It’s all bad-bad-bad, everywhere I look, and everyone seems to be so unhappy and discontent and determined to blame others for their situation.

The only thing is, when I think about things, I can’t remember things ever being 100% great in my life. It was always something with me — always some real problem going on, always some drama, always some issue that had to be dealt with. Even when I had a “great job”, it was often a daily struggle to get things done and work with all the people around me, in the face of organizational upheavals and countless problems that came up in the course of each day.

And even when I bought my house and moved in, about 10 years ago, there were all sorts of problems that needed to be dealt with — a squirrel infestation in the attic, the adjustment to mortgage payments, the increased stress of property upkeep, the new neighborhood, the new neighbors (some of whom turned out to be aggressive, obnoxious a-holes)… I could come up with a complete list of all the things that were wrong all throughout my life, many of them totally legitimate. And lots of people I know would probably look at the list and say, “Yeah, that was pretty wrong.”

The thing is, looking back, I can see plenty of things that were right at those times. I was often just so focused on the wrong-ness that I missed the rightness — till later. And that’s how I feel things are at this point in this country. The Occupy folks are setting up all over this country, demanding some sort of change, and the 99% folks are making people aware of how bad things are for some people, these days. There’s a lot of upheaval going on, and there’s a lot of pain and fear and anxiety that are bringing out the worst in people. I think about all the cops who are being told to do such-and-such, in order to keep their jobs, and the things they’re going may or may not be what they really want to do, or what they would do, under different economic circumstances. I’m not excusing the behavior of police officers who pepper spray 80-year-old retired schoolteachers or hold people down while they shoot chemicals into people’s open mouths, but something tells me this is not what normal people do under normal circumstances, and I don’t believe for a moment that all cops are inclined to do such things. If anything, I attribute a fair amount of this to stress and the danger of them losing their jobs. Things are so tight — how can you defy your boss, when you’re on the verge of ruin, yourself? That kind of fear — and the fear for your family and your loved-ones whom you’re supporting — will make people do things that are way out of character.

Again, I’m NOT apologizing for the behaviors of pepper-spray-happy cops (and Wal-Mart shoppers). Nor am I apologizing for violence and destruction by protesting individuals. I’m NOT excusing any of it. I’m trying to understand the underlying causes, because I believe everything happens for a reason — and you can’t change anything if you don’t know why things are happening.

What I am trying to say — although it’s probably going to get buried or misconstrued in all the back-and-forth arguing — is that despite how bad things may look on the surface, there is always something positive happening somewhere. It may be a miniscule little shred of goodness, but it’s there somewhere. And for all the upheaval and hurt and protest and what-not, I think it would be even worse, if people didn’t speak up and speak out, if they were left all alone by themselves to struggle in silence and isolation, left to die unacknowledged and unseen. Tons of people are falling between the cracks and dying in isolation, pain and misery… which absolutely sucks. But there are also many people who are telling their stories and getting at least recognition (if not support) for what they are going through.

It’s a mix. There’s never just one side of things. And sometimes it takes a god-awful set of circumstances to jolt us out of our trance-like state of just putting up with whatever is there, because well, that’s just how things are, and we’re too tired to do anything about it. Sometimes it takes a really crappy political shift at work to wake a person up and get them to see that they need to make some real changes in their life. It’s certainly forcing my hand, and it’s forcing me to rethink my whole “career strategy” and look deeper into what I’m looking for — and I can do that now, because I actually have a job, and that job situation is motivating me to find out what else is possible that I hadn’t yet considered or worked up the courage to do.

It’s also motivating me to tend to my most basic needs — physical fitness that makes a good foundation for my thinking and my planning. When I don’t take care of that basic stuff, none of the other stuff has a firm footing, and I start to slide off the tracks. Not good at all.

So, that being said, it’s time for me to get myself in gear and get on with my day. Spend some time taking care of chores, get out in the day a little bit and clean up the garage, which is full of fall yardwork tools and implements, all strewn around ’cause I was in a rush last weekend… and make sure to get some rest this afternoon. I can’t beat myself up for having let myself get to this place. I screwed up, I know it, and now I’m getting myself back on track.

No one can stop me from having the life I truly desire, but me. And it’s time I got out of my own way.

Down, up, down

Took a nice long nap this afternoon. Another one like it, on each of the next two days, and I’ll have almost made up for the lost sleep from the past week.

Now that autumn is moving on, and I’ve got most of my yard work done, there’s less to handle each weekend, so I can get back to resting again.

Catching up.

When I lay down around noon, I felt like I was about ready to fall into 100 pieces.

When I got up this afternoon, I felt like I’d been trampled by stampeding buffalo.

Now that I’m ready to go back to bed, I’m starting to feel less screwed up, but I can tell I’m still ragged.

So it goes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the dramatic difference between how I feel when I’m rested and how I feel when I’m fatigued. It’s crazy. When I’m rested (which I haven’t really been in several months), I feel pretty amazing. Like anything is possible. When I’m fatigued, the exact opposite holds true. I feel like nothing is possible, I’m done-for, and the only useful purpose I serve is to slog off to work and make a living as an indentured servant for “the man” each and every day.

One would think that I’d get it by now, but old habits die hard. Especially when you’re surrounded by everyone who loves to push through, keep going, and be totally relentless in their activities. A kind of competition takes over — a friendly competition, but competition no less. And it totally does me in.

So, it’s time to go to bed soon. But first, I’m going to watch some Samurai films on Hulu, have a snack, and just kick back. No sense in being more rested, if I can’t enjoy myself a little.

From wonderful to weird, and back again…?

Fatigue - What a pain in the ass

It’s been a very strange 48 hours. Must be the holidays — it all just kind of sneaked up on me, I guess. Anyway, I realize “loud and clear” that one thing I need to watch out for is fatigue.

Everything gets better with rest.

Everything gets worse with fatigue.

And I’m not in the mood to spend the holidays in crisis. The past 36 hours have been bad enough.

I’m not sure why it’s hit me so hard, but last night I was having a really hard time, and I just melted down over some stupid crap that was pretty embarrassing, actually. I was over-tired, I was stressed, and I seriously lost it. And for what? Now I’m feeling raw and wrecked, and Thanksgiving dinner is not something I’m looking forward to.

I dread it, actually. All I really want to do is sleep.

Fortunately, I have three days to do that, after today. I have tomorrow off, and then I have the weekend. This *&$^%#^% commute is friggin’ wrecking me, and there’s not much I can do about it, other than try to get to bed at a reasonable hour, which hasn’t been happening as frequently as I need it to. I’m just not managing it, partly because I don’t want to. But I guess I have to, anyway.

I guess I’m really angry about a lot of things that are going on. I’m angry with my employer for pulling a fast one on us, and then treating us like we’re idiots for noticing what they did. I’m angry with myself for giving them the benefit of the doubt. I’m angry with my spouse for never being around on the weekends, but constantly needing to work. I’m angry with the constant stream of promotions and advertisements that are specially designed to put us all in a “buying mood,” and I’m angry with the world for being so ignorant and self-centered and refusing to see that the things they do to others, they equally do to themselves. And that’s no good for anyone.

Meanwhile, my spouse hates and fears me, for being so upset yesterday. I wasn’t aggressive, but based on their past experiences with violent parents and violent partners in the past, they take so many things of the things I say and do out of context — and very much to heart — and there’s nothing I can do to reverse that. All I can do is be kind and patient and indulgent of everything they do and say around me, or they say I’m attacking them. If I try to discuss anything with them to try to just think things through before they do them, they get defensive and tell me I’m finding fault with them and being impossible. It’s like they can’t wait to get away from me. Last night, after we spent a few hours together, they took off and were late coming home. Great. And then I’m a wreck when they get here.And then they think I’m attacking them.

Like I said. Embarrassing. But I’ll be damned if I can do anything about it., when it gets hold of me.

Because I am tired. I am wiped out. I’m not thinking clearly, and my emotions are way off the charts. I just feel so profoundly screwed. The holidays are off to a terrible start, and I’m already behind, scrambling to play catch-up.

Anyway, I had intended to write something hopeful and up-beat about being able to rebound from my weirdness last night. I wish it were that easy. I probably need to just get out more. Do more. Not be tied down as much to my daily routine. I’m feeling incredibly trapped by my job situation – trapped into a commute I detest, trapped in a building that’s part of a “campus” (read, two ugly buildings sandwiched between lots of other ugly buildings and their parking lots), trapped in a workspace that is visually and logistically cramped and has no visual paths to an exit. Trapped and cornered in a space that is not only really loud and really bright, but smells bad and is visually boring. The one bright light is that I got to move my desk so that I’m not in the middle of the room anymore. But it’s a pathetic statement when the best thing that happens to you is you get to move your workspace from an awful place to a less terrible spot.

And that pisses me off.

Which keeps me in a perpetual state of agitation… and it throws off my chemistry, so that I’m not in command my full faculties. The stress is flooding my brain with all sorts of chemical signals to shut down “non-essential” parts of myself, so I can survive by escaping. But I don’t feel like there is any escape, so I’m trapped, and the stress just keeps flooding in, till I feel like I’m going to die, and the best I can hope for is for THE END to be as painless as possible.

The sympathetic nervous system overdrive is just frying me like crazy, and I know it’s no good. It was no good last night, and it’s no good today. I feel like crap, and I don’t know how I’m going to get back to my baseline again. I will, I’m sure — once I get some rest and can just chill for a few days. But right now, things feel pretty screwed up, and I don’t feel very thankful at all.

Probably the most depressing thing about all this is, I know better. But I don’t do better. I know what mechanisms are in place to keep me off-balance, but I can’t manage to do anything about them in a consistent way. And that leaves me feeling even more broken and useless than ever. ‘Cause I’m supposed to be brilliant, right?

Well, sure — but I’m also human. And I need to quit expecting myself to have it all figured out, and expecting myself to be immune to this stuff.

See, this is the thing — I’m not immune. I’m anything, but. In fact, I’m even more susceptible than many, thanks to the role fatigue plays in my life — and I’m also more prone to forgetting it. This fatigue business totally mucks things up, gets my blood boiling, and generally derails me in fine fashion. Which generally sucks for everyone.

So, what to do? I know I need to do a better job of getting rest, as well as getting exercise. I haven’t done as much as I could, with regard to exercise. Part of it is the change in my daily schedule, another part is that I just got tired of doing that every single morning, even though it was good for me. It’s a little like me going off meds that I need to take on a regular basis — I start feeling better, and then I decide I don’t need to do it, anymore. Which is the farthest thing from the truth, of course.

But I do need to do something. I need to shake things up a bit, get out of my old rut, and get myself back on track. I need to drag myself out of this terribly boring state of mind, as well as get myself into a regular sleeping schedule that actually works. I also need to find more things to do with myself, than work. I’m still looking for another job, but now the holidays are upon us, and I don’t feel like dragging myself through all the interviewing drama during the holidays. I need to pace myself, but also find things that appeal to me. Like a hobby of some kind. Or a walk in the woods. I need to find something that both gives me exercise and gets me out and helps me sleep AND gives me a better perspective on life, than just sitting in a car, and then sitting in a cubicle all day… only to sit in my car, and then sit in front of the television all night.

Come to think of it, that’s a lot of sitting. And it’s probably one of the things that’s derailing me. All that inactivity… it’s just killer.

So, it’s time to make some changes. Get up and out and take walks early in the day, before I drag my ass to the office. I can shift my hours to get to work later, so this could work.

I just need to do it. But for the sake of my sanity, as well as everyone around me, I’ve gotta do it.

Speaking of which, now would be an excellent time to do this. So, I shall.

Where I get lost

I hate when I get lost like this

So, despite starting the day feeling really good, I went to bed last night in a very emotional state. And I woke up this morning feeling just as emotional. What a change, from how I felt yesterday morning. It’s like something caught up with me, and it’s taking me down.

I think it’s the Thanksgiving time that kicks off the holiday season, which gets to me. All of a sudden, I have more to do, and less time to do it. I have things I have to finish before year-end, and at the same time, I have family and friends who all want to get together and do things. Meanwhile, I just want to crawl under a rock. I want to withdraw and remove myself from any and all interaction with others… just put my head down and work my way through the end of the year. I want my life to be simple, at a time when complication is the order of the day.

And the harder I try, the worse I seem to do. And I get lost. Very quickly. In the space of 12 hours, I can go from calm and collected, to a blubbering wreck who can’t stand thinking about yet another day of the usual screw-ups and confusions and try-agains and perpetual wondering if I really “got” what someone was saying to me, or if I really remembered what I was supposed to keep in my head. It can be very disconcerting, and I hate what happens to me, when it gets the better of me.

So, I have to track all this. Thinking about how things have been going for me — or not going for me — my pattern-seeking brain can see the places where stuff falls apart:

  • When I am overly fatigued
  • When I am stressed
  • When I am over-thinking things
  • When I am reacting, instead of being pro-active
  • When I am isolated
  • When I am feeling threatened

All these seem to come to a head during the holidays, and I really don’t want them to get the better of me. So, I’m taking a closer look at my life, and I’ve found some places where I think I have answers about what happens — and why. I think I know where I get lost.

And I think I know what I can do about it.

Gotta run to work right now, but at least this is a start. Yes, I’m feeling pretty raw and upset. Yes, this is a big change from where I was just 24 hours ago. But I also have a pretty good idea about why this is, and what I can do about it.

So I don’t have to get lost.


i have a tbi and i am tired of being stupid

Just feeling broken tonight...

Somebody searched on that yesterday, and found their way to this blog.

Can I just say, it seems like a LOT of people are doing that, lately… So many people with TBI feeling dumb, and saying so.

I’ve been feeling pretty dumb, myself, lately. I know I’m not a complete idiot, but I have been feeling dense, not quite with it, sort of stupid, on and off a lot, over the past weeks. I try to talk myself out of it, but it only goes so far. I know I’m tired, and that has a lot to do with it, but I still feel… off. Can’t seem to get right.

And yes, I have to say I agree with the person who found their way here the other day…

I also have a tbi and i am tired of being stupid

It’s so weird. I have all these coping mechanisms, I have all these tools I’ve learned to use, I have some regular support, and I know a lot about TBI and what it can do. But I still feel stupid. Dumb. Dense. And I don’t see it changing. There’s a part of me that always feels like I’ve lost parts of who I used to be, and I can’t seem to get them back. All I know is, they used to be there, and now I can’t find them anywhere.

Oh, well. What can I do? I guess I just have to keep finding out, each day, who else is “in here”. And see how far I can go with that.

But I still really resent the loss of those parts of myself, the loss of the sense that I’m a “real” person, and the loss of confidence that I’ll ever get back what has since shattered.

What’s done is done. Too bad. But geez, what I wouldn’t give to just have a sense of being 100% again. Just once.

You’re allowed to feel good, you know

Starry-eyed at 4 a.m.

I woke up early this morning again — 3:30 or 4:00, I believe. I lay there a while, looking at the ceiling before I looked at my clock — 4:00 a.m. And here I was planning to sleep till 8.

I lay there for a while, my heart pounding as it often does when I wake up early. The adrenaline just kicks in, my heart starts racing, and I get all revved before I can roll over and try to go back to sleep.  It’s just my system reacting to being tired and “thinking” it needs to get up and GO! It doesn’t, of course, but my system doesn’t know that.

Anyway, I lay there for a while, weighing the pros and cons between getting up and just doing something, and lying there and doing nothing… for the next four hours. I then realized that I could both lie there AND do something — practice my focused breathing that will not only chill out my system and get my heart to stop racing, but also put me into a relaxed state. If I fell back to sleep, then great. But my main objective was to chill out my racing heart rate, and practice relaxing my body, so that when I’m out and about during the day, I can do a better job of doing that under more stressful situations.

So, I lay there and did progressive relaxation, counted my breaths, and just let myself ease up. I worked my way from my toes, gradually the whole way up my body to my neck, and by the time I got to my face, I was feeling really relaxed. And good.

It never ceases to amaze me, how close feeling good can be to me, and all the while I either have no idea how bad I feel, or I’m convinced that I’m destined to feel bad, stupid, slow, dumbed-down, numbed-out… pretty much for the rest of my life. My neuropsych said something to me the other day about me being a highly experienced grown-up with professional skills, and it surprised me. Like it surprises me when I actually feel good.

‘Cause I’ve been feeling bad for an awful long time. Dealing with all the pieces of TBI is no piece of cake, especially if you’ve been doing it for over 30-some years. It’s stressful, painful, embarrassing, crazy-making, and more. And it never seems to go away. I’m not sure if it’s ever going to go away.

But here’s the thing — and I’ve recently read some scientific research abstracts that make this same point around pain experience and pain management — if I can just train my attention on something else, I don’t have to have this terrible experience of an awful life, day in and day out on a relentless basis. As I lay there, counting my breaths and relaxing, I realized that I felt really, really good. Sure, I was in some pain from doing a lot of yard work last weekend. Yes, I was nervous about some work situations. Yes, I was a little wired from waking up so early. But, I still felt good. It was amazing.

And once again, I was reminded of just how often I forget that I’m allowed to feel good. I get so caught up in thinking I’ve got to push, I’ve got to drive, I’ve got to blaze new trails and be ON all the time. I can’t let up. I have to keep going. Against all odds. No matter what. But that makes me feel like crap, after a while, and no amount of MORE-MORE-MORE is going to take the edge off. It’s just not. It may feel “good” in a way, to press on, but at some point, I have to give my system a rest and just chill.

And give myself permission to feel good.

‘Cause I’m allowed.