The experiment continues, today with less success than yesterday. I got to bed at 10:30 (good), but I didn’t sleep past 5:00 (bad). 6-1/2 hours is something I’ve functioned on before. I just hope I can get some good sleep tonight.
Things I did last night that didn’t help:
I ate late — around 9:00 p.m.. And I ate too much. The night before, I ate around 6:30-7:00. Last night I went to bed with a still-full stomach, which is really no good.
I didn’t give myself time to relax. I just went right to bed. Forgot to lock the door downstairs (which my spouse let me know about at 2 a.m.) and forgot to turn the air conditioner up.
I got really hot overnight and woke up in a sweat. This happens when I am over-tired or stressed. It’s not necessarily hot, but I get heated up and start to sweat. Then I get really cold, and I can’t relax and get back to sleep. Last night, the room got hot, because the A/C wasn’t turned up enough.
Things I did this morning that did help:
Instead of lying there getting pissed off at myself, I lay quietly in bed for half an hour, relaxing and breathing and actually feeling really good. I had this profound sense of wellness and health, which I haven’t had in a while. So that was good.
I got up around 6:00 and got some exercise. I got on the exercise bike, and I also read a book that I’ve been getting into.
One thing that is not helping this morning, however, is me spending time looking at Facebook, instead of getting ready for work. Time to go…
I actually got 8 hours of sleep last night. Pretty amazing. It’s only day one, but something went right last night.
I woke up this morning feeling excellent, and I still feel great, despite an onslaught of emails from some pretty stressed individuals, some of whom seem bound and determined to get me as stressed as they are — and who don’t seem to feel comfortable unless everyone around them is in a state of upheaval and crisis. More on them later… That’s what I get for checking my email first thing – damn’ smartphone… Oh, well – that’s what it’s for. At least I won’t be surprised by things when I get to the office.
Here’s what apparently worked yesterday evening:
Last night, I started to bed around 10:00. I intended to go right to bed, and I had taken some coffea cruda homeopathic stuff around 9:45, in hopes that it would help me relax. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference at all – if anything, I felt a little more jazzed. I eventually got in bed by 10:15, but then I was in a lot of pain — I lay there for a while, just breathing steadily, trying to relax and get my mind off it.
No dice. So, I got up and took some Advil — and the melatonin I decided to try a few days ago. My doctor told me to take 3mg or 6mg — no more than 6, so I took 6, and went back to bed.
Still having trouble getting to sleep, I got my “Legends of the Samurai” book, which is a big-ass collection of a couple hundred short stories about Samurais, and I read them. It was just about right — fun tales about adventures and mis-haps, none of them more than a few pages long. And it was great to read the tales of success and failure, and how celebrated warriors handled defeat. Something about that really comforts me.
I eventually did fall asleep – the melatonin really seemed to help.
And I slept through till almost 7 a.m. If I got to sleep before 11:00, and I woke up a little before 7:00, that means I got eight hours of sleep. Pretty amazing. I think the combination of getting to bed promptly and taking the melatonin actually helped. It seems to affect my digestion a bit, but I really don’t care.
Do you find yourself getting distracted with your cell phone? Are you noticing that you are not accomplishing all the things you would like in your day? As technology has become such a part of everyone’s lives we all have been affected by: a cell phone ringing; others holding conversations in public places; people not paying attention while reading blogs or researching sites; watching You Tube videos; and playing games on these devices.
Ah ha! Eureka! I think I’ve figured out how to get good sleep on a regular basis — I need to turn myself (well, my life, anyway) into a science experiment.
I need decent motivation to get to bed at a decent hour each night, but that has been eluding me. I’ve tried everything, from reward to punishment, and nothing’s working. What to do, to ensure I follow my own good judgment and do the right thing?
Here’s what to do — design a 30-day experiment, where I track my level of alertness and ability to cope each day that I get a decent amount of sleep. I’ve been working on a deficit for months, now, and I can’t even remember what it feels like to be rested. So, if I arrange things so that I DO get to bed at a decent hour, and I track my progress and experience closely, with absolute devotion to the scientific method and carefully controlled test conditions, I might just be able to pull it off.
Here’s hoping I don’t blow anything up 😉
So, I’ll come up with a tracking sheet where I can log my sleep and experiences, and amass a body of information about the whole experience.
The benefits of exercising, keeping fit and eating healthily have been impressed on us (society, specifically North American society in which I live) for a long time. Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly caught on. It came close when Jared lost a bunch of weight eating subs everyday. Although Jared is to be commended for deciding to eat healthier and smaller portions, that campaign ended up being a better marketing gimmick than a healthy eating trend. Magazines, ranging from fitness to news, have urged us to exercise and eat healthily as well, but these attempts have generally failed when the timelines to do this fall outside of one week – a month at the longest. Magazines also compete with each other to give “the best” advice. However, “the best” advice is no match for “the easiest” advice and as magazines compete with each other, conflicting diets and exercise routines can very easily…
Absolutely true – motivation is really key in thorough TBI recovery. It can be a ton of hard work, so finding the resources to keep up the necessary hard work is paramount. And not only in the initial stages, but later on, when you’re “supposed to be better”… but things aren’t going quite as well as you’d like/hope/wish.
Some movement is simply a response to a stimulus. If you touch a snail, it will draw up into its shell but humans are not simply machines of stimulus and action; almost all the voluntary movement we perform is goal-directed, meaning it has a purpose that is determined by the person moving. Say for example, you are removing your thanksgiving turkey from the oven and you scald your arm because the lid tips open. Do you drop the turkey? No. Although you can feel the impulse to drop it, you do not and despite the burning feeling, you carry the turkey to the nearest surface. The prefrontal areas of the brain, near your forehead and behind your eyes, connect to the motor output areas of the brain. Level of alertness, degree of importance of the task and perceived risk of the movement are processed in this prefrontal area and then…
I had an interesting appointment with my neuropsych on Friday. I had been feeling really bad all week, and we talked about it. I was trying to figure out the physiological/neurological causes of why I had such a bad reaction to what was going on — because I believe that our “wiring” sets the stage for our actions and reactions, and I was hoping to gain more insight from someone who has specialized in studying people’s wiring.
However, I was to be disappointed. My NP seems to take the approach that psychology can explain everything — and having the right psychological approach and practice, is the way to fix everything. Well, everything that was bothering me, anyway.
It’s fine that they think this way. I agree to some extent. Additionally, I have the perspective that our bodies and our neurology really set the stage for our state of mind, and our “neuroceptive” state can practically hijack our thinking, even before we’re aware of it.
My NP does not agree. They have their perspective, and they are very invested in that perspective. I’ve suggested a number of times that there might be something else underlying my intense reactions. But they keep telling me that I’m doing a head trip on myself and I’m buying into flawed information about myself (which I developed when I was very young) and that the way out of it is to identify those flawed messages and then replace them with something else.
Yah, okay. Whatever. I don’t want to be disrespectful (because I do see their point to some extent), but I really need something more advanced and evolved than that narrow approach. Everything important doesn’t happen from the neck up – a whole lot of information and intelligence is processed in the heart, as well as in the gut. The science tells us that, loud and clear, and I’m not sure why they’re not on board with this.
So, I’m going to have to find that sort of orientation somewhere else. Like in the Polyvagal Theory, which is much more in synch with what I feel and believe. And the other scientists who are working on heart-based intelligence and gut-based intelligence.There are more and more of these folks around, nowadays, and finding their writings is getting easier and easier.
It’s disappointing, that I’m working with someone who is so invested in their own way of thinking about things, that they won’t consider anything else. And it’s frustrating for me to hear them use all their lingo and psycho-speak to describe my situation. Because it’s only part of the story. Their part. Not my part, too.
Well, people are limited, and it’s unrealistic for me to expect them to have it all together in every single respect. They have helped me a lot — and in fact some of the times they’ve helped me the most, were when they were the farthest off track, and I had to come up with my own solutions.
What bothers me, is that I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. And it bothers me that my own NP is missing out on a whole other dimension of TBI recovery that could help them as well. They have health issues, too, which I am convinced could be helped with a broader view of what constitutes “intelligence” in our bodies, not just our minds.
But they’re so locked into their own concepts and their own language, that they’re closed off to that possibility. And so I spend yet more time hoping that they’ll be able to offer me the kind of input they’re probably never going to offer.
My bad. Gotta fix that.
The thing I have to remember in my clinical/therapeutic working relationship with this individual is that they have their own language which has been shaped by their upbringing in an urban professional household. Their parents were psychologists/psychiatrists, so there’s no great surprise that they think the skull-based brain is the answer to everything. One of the issues around their upbringing (my own was half urban, half rural, and both sides of my family come from a long line of farmers) is that it taught them to talk and think along certain terms — I read some interesting research, a while back, about how rural societies prize introverted, homogenized, self-effacing ways of relating and behaving, while urban societies prize extroverted uniqueness that draws attention to itself. And I can definitely see the difference between my own way of relating and my NP’s way of relating – they probably have no idea how deeply I disagree with their point of view in some respects, because I have not been that forthcoming about my own unique perspective. I never really learned how to have those kinds of conversations, and frankly I don’t care to learn, because they don’t appeal to me that much. I’m definitely more rural-leaning in that respect.
On the other hand, my NP seems pretty oblivious to my differences of opinion, probably in part because I don’t shout it out loud… and they seem to believe that their way of thinking about things is, well, the right way to think about things. They seem to have an awful lot of skin in that philosophical game, when it comes to these topics we’ve been talking about — what makes people do what they do, what makes us tick, what makes us well and what makes us sick – how’s that for today’s poem? 😉 I can understand their point of view, but they don’t seem to understand mine. Or maybe because they’re the highly educated expert and I’m the TBI survivor, they consider my point of view fundamentally flawed and awaiting their remedy.
Whatever the root cause, whatever the reason, I think that my recovery has sometimes not been helped by their one-sided belief system. I need people to be able to entertain different possibilities, and explore alternative options and explanations. I need them to suspend judgment and disbelief, every now and then, not stay locked into a conceptual framework that is their comfort zone. I also need them to be willing to stretch a little bit — as I often do — to find a new and different way of approaching intractable problems that resist being solved. My life often feels like a friggin’ intractable problem that resists all attempts at solution; to approach it well, I need to get creative. And that can’t happen if only one person in the room is willing to color outside the conceptual lines.
Don’t get me wrong — I have experienced a pretty amazing transformation in the past several years, thanks in large part to my NP. But now that I’m past the most rudimentary understanding rebuilding of basic skills, I need to keep growing and learning, so my recovery can continue. That’s going to require more creative thinking, more inventive solutions. Conceptual brittleness is a problem — and I need to figure out how to work around it with my NP.
It’s a problem. What’s more, I also think that my difficulties with dealing with my NP’s biases, is not mine alone. I think there are a lot of people just like me, who don’t necessarily get the kind of care and consideration they should be getting, at both basic and complex levels — because of cultural and communication differences that experts and clinicians are not picking up. I think that one of the biggest barriers to TBI prevention and safety is lack of education. And lack of education happens because people aren’t speaking the same language. Doctors speak urban. TBI survivors speak rural. And doctors expect us to adapt to them, without them reaching out to us.
Now, I’ve been fortunate to have been raised in a family that was very focused on education. My parents both attended college, as did my aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings. It’s just what people did. Yeah, we’re all a bunch of farmers, but we’re edji-cated hayseeds, we are! 😉 As a result, I have this rural orientation overlaid with an education-oriented vocabulary, and an eagerness to learn that has stood me in good stead. I’m comfortable reading long scientific terms, even if I have no idea on God’s good earth what they mean, the first time I read them.
But what about all the other folks out there who haven’t had the same advantages as my own background? What about all the TBI survivors who aren’t comfortable with the big words, who haven’t been educated about what TBI and concussion are all about, and who struggle with dealing with doctors who have a strongly urban point of view and conversational style? What about them?
Lost in the shuffle, that’s what. Left to their own devices, to figure things out.
It’s bad enough, when I’m going through this… and I have a lot of advantages on my side. But others? Oh, it’s tough out there. Very tough.
Still and all, it wouldn’t hurt if my NP would realize the extent to which they are biased about what makes TBI recovery possible. I can keep working with them, understanding their point of view and their apparent biases. And I can keep coming up with my own conclusions in the face of their one-sided approach. I’ve been doing that, and I can keep doing it.
But every once in a while, it might be nice, if they actually spoke my our language.
Got better sleep last night — actually slept through the night. I did the following things that I think helped me:
I headed to bed before 10:00 p.m. – the night before, I went to bed around 11:10 and my schedule felt “off”. If I get to bed later than 10:00, I start to feel rushed and stressed about not getting enough sleep.
I set the air conditioner on “low cool” in stead of “medium cool” – the night before, the room got too cold and I woke up both too hot and too cold. I couldn’t seem to regulate my body temperature, which meant I couldn’t relax and get back to sleep.
I didn’t eat any sugar or drink any caffeine after supper. In fact, I didn’t have any sugar during the afternoon, either. The day before, I had some candy in the afternoon, and I had some chocolate ice cream for dessert. I think that made it harder for me to relax. (I know – I’m all sensitive ‘n such)
I ate earlier – the night before, I didn’t eat until after 9 p.m. That can’t be good. And it wasn’t.
So, I actually slept through – and I got about 7-1/2 hours of continuous sleep. The night before, got three hours of sleep and then four hours of sleep, which technically makes 7 hours, but it was broken up and it wasn’t good quality sleep.
Last night was better. And so am I.
And when I got up, I exercised. Because when I don’t exercise first thing in the morning, I get severely out of sorts, I’m not fully present or involved in my day, and things just don’t “flow” very well… which has a snowball effect of making me more and more anxious and agitated.
I’ve got a doctor’s appointment in a few hours – and then after that I’ll be seeing my neuropsych. I really need to check in with my NP about the past week — feeling so bad, feeling so sick. I’m quite sure it’s just been anxiety, but I do need to check in just to let them know this has been going on. I feel like I’ve worked through it pretty well on my own, but if they don’t know this is going on with me, if something similar happens or if I turn up having more of the same that’s much more intense, then it might not make sense to them, and they won’t see a pattern. And they will have a harder time helping me, I think.
The weird thing is, even though I’m feeling much better and I am not dragged down like I was a few days ago, I still feel like crap. Even though I’m able to function much better than earlier, I really don’t feel well, I have this underlying sense of being a little ill, I’ve got nausea and headache, and I’m just not feeling like myself. I’m tired. Really, really tired. And even though I feel very energized by some things, I still have this other sense of being “off” in some way. It feels physical, not psychological. I’m reluctant to tell my doctor, because I’m afraid they’re going to order tests and start to poke and prod me and try to find something wrong that they can “treat” with drugs. I don’t want to take drugs. I just want to have balance and sanity in my life, and I want to just get on with things.
It could be that this underlying sense of illness will just stay with me, like the chronic pain. And I’ll learn to work with/around it. I’ll learn to keep my attention elsewhere. That could very well be.
Or it could be that this underlying sense can be dissipated with good exercise and stretching and building up my strength. I do know that when I am well-rested, everything gets better. Just how to get well-rested is another question. But it’s one I’ll just have to keep working at. Because it doesn’t make sense to do anything else. I can’t give up. I don’t give up. It’s not in my nature.
So, I’ll just keep going and keep watching… and see what else I can do to help myself get on the good foot.
A few months back, I endured participated in a Franklin-Covey workshop at work called “Five Choices to Extraordinary Productivity”. Aside from the three-day investment loss of time (which I really couldn’t afford to lose), the ideas and principles they talked about were a mish-mash of eclectic brain science and some repackaged versions of buzz-speak that’s been floating around in personal improvement circles for years. For those who never heard of any of it, I’m sure it was eye-opening. Perhaps. I found it mildly frustrating and more than a little annoying.
I really needed that time to actually do some work, instead of having someone tell me I’m making “wrong choices” with regard to the work I do. It just wasn’t applicable at all — although I did learn some nifty Outlook techniques that I’ve used to my advantage.
Anyway, not long ago business author Steven Covey (who wrote “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”) died as a result of complications from a bike accident back in April. I wondered what sort of bike accident – must have been pretty bad… then forgot about it.
Then the other day I saw a kid riding a bike with a helmet on — and the chin strap unbuckled and dangling loose. Not much point to having a helmet on, if you’re going to do that. Out of curiosity, and on a hunch, I googled Steven Covey’s bike accident, and I learned that he sustained a head injury when he flipped forward over his bike while going down a hill. His helmet was apparently not properly fitted/fastened, and he hit the ground with his head. He also had broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung.
For heaven’s sake – if you’re going to wear a helmet, make sure you wear it properly. Tighten the strap snugly under your chin and make sure you have a properly fitted helmet.
I don’t know if Covey was wearing his properly or not, and I’m not even sure if it was the brain injury that did him in. But if you’re not wearing your helmet properly, you’re really not wearing a helmet at all.
The weather is absolutely beautiful today, after several days of storms. It’s bright and clear and the humidity is low. I’ve got a full day ahead, but my head feels much clearer. I just need to make sure I don’t overdo it, and I pace myself for the rest of the day. I really feel like I’m on the mend from the past weekend, and while I’m still having trouble with talking and focus and feeling shaky and foggy, at least my mood is good and I have a plan for today. I feel like I’m getting back my foundation, which is so important when I’m trying to build back from a tough time. Tough times come. They always show up. I can make it into a problem, or I can see it as an opportunity.
Gotta keep my focus on my foundation. And not get down on myself when I get off track. In the back of my mind, I feel like I should know better. And I should be able to do better. Logically and intellectually, I know this stuff. It shouldn’t be a problem. But it gets to be a problem, little by little, one small piece at a time. It’s incremental. And not getting good sleep just makes everything that much worse.
So, I can do better, so I need to do better.
I have an ongoing debate going with my neuropsych about what people are actually capable of. On the one hand, they say they believe that people are capable of much more than most people dream. On the other hand, they are fond of reminding me that I’m human and I’m just behaving like a human being, not someone who’s brain-damaged. I agree with them to a great extent, but I think I take it even further. There are some things that they think are “human” but I think can be improved on… and improved on even more. I don’t believe in setting a bar and accepting things as they are “just because” there’s a human factor involved. I believe in noticing where the bar is now and then moving it on up — or in whatever direction seems appropriate.
That’s what I believe. With all my heart. In a very big way. We tend to limit ourselves so terribly, and then when we meet our expectations, we end up disappointed — because there’s a part of us that knows we could have done more. I’d rather be on the over-and-above track. But at the same time, I need to make sure I’m being intelligent about going over and above… because if I wipe myself out in the process and end up sidelined while I recuperate, where’s the point?
Actually, though, it feels like this last meltdown happened because I’m on the verge of stepping into the next level — in my work and in my life. I’ve been updating my resume and taking a look at all the activities I do on a daily basis. It’s good. It’s really good. It just takes a lot out of me, and maybe I needed this downtime of the past days to Just.Stop.Moving and get back to thinking, rather than constantly doing. Of course, there’s always the risk that I’ll get stuck in analysis paralysis, but I’m so fired up about this work change (a life change, actually) that I’m not chomping at the bit to get going with my ideas. So, that risk is not something I’m too concerned with. I really feel like there’s so much good stuff happening… it’s like taking off from a launch pad — and there’s generally a huge explosion that accompanies lift-off, so I can think about my meltdown in those terms and have it not be a sign that there’s something terribly wrong with me… rather, that something really great is on the verge of happening, and my nervous system needs to adjust.
In many ways, making real progress seems like it often involves seeming setbacks that then set the stage for moving forward. It’s like my abilities exceed my situation, and then there’s a disconnect that is unsustainable and needs to be shifted and transformed. That transformation can be harsh and difficult and it can feel painful and frustrating. But the bottom line is there is real progress underlying it. And if I don’t engage and really take on the challenge of transforming things, I can get stuck back where I’m trying to get out.
And that’s happened to me, time and time again. I’ve let myself be stopped so often, I’ve lost track. Because I couldn’t see my way clear to where I was going, I ended up not even bothering to step forward. I have held myself back. My brain froze up. My fight-flight kicked in with a vengeance. And I stopped moving forward, so I could catch up with myself and not be so freaked out.
So now that I know what my pattern has been in the past, I can do something about it. I know where I want to go, moving forward, and I know what supports I can put in place to help myself make progress — now and later. So, that’s good. It’s really, really good. I’m not at the mercy of the unknown, anymore. I’m not at the mercy of my autonomic nervous system, anymore. And even when I max out — I’ve done it plenty of times before, and I’m sure it will happen again. But rather than getting hung up on that, I now understand the nature of the stalls, I know what I need to do to get through them, and I know what they signify and mean — continued progress and a chance to be better tomorrow than I am today.