Getting my body back, too

balance-figuresI’ve been concerned about falling, for some time, now. I get lightheaded and dizzy, and I sometimes lose my balance when I’m tired or I’m distracted (which is often how I feel). I’ve seen a neurologist about possible neurological bases for this, but the MRI didn’t come back with anything meaningful that they could do anything with. Also, I don’t have a condition they can diagnose, so they can’t bill the insurance company, which means I can’t get much in-depth help from them. They need to pay their bills, and if the insurance won’t cover what they’re doing for me – and I certainly can’t cover it all – then nothing’s going to get done.

Which kind of sucks.

But frankly, it doesn’t surprise me. I have been steering clear of neurologists for some time. Only after my neuropsych encouraged me to dig deeper, did I agree to try again. And the one they referred me to moved out of state, so that’s that. This one was another good prospect, they thought, but my experience is turning out different from their expectation. No surprises there.

I’m going back in another week to follow up and put this whole thing to rest. All they can tell me is that I’m probably not sleeping enough, which my old neuropsych thought was “preposterous” – but I can kind of see their point. When I’m tired, my brain doesn’t work as well. And balance is very much handled in the brain. So, fatigue could conceivably be a source of imbalance.

Still, there’s no guarantee that I’m going to ever actually catch up on my sleep and feel fully rested. I wear out easily, and I don’t have a life that allows me to get naps when I need them. Not yet, anyway. I’m working on that.

Anyway, I’m not going to get all bent out of shape about it. I’m meeting with a wellness coach/personal trainer at work today. That’s one of our employee benefits – an on-site wellness consultant – so I’m going to take advantage of it. I’m going to see if they can tell me some things I can do to strengthen my overall system, to give me better balance, physically speaking.

Think about it — the body moves as a result of muscles coordinating their movement. And keeping your balance really involves a lot of muscles. I sit and stand — stationary — for most of the day, every single day, so I don’t use those muscles as much. And that’s no good. So, I’m hoping they can show me ways to strengthen, as well as get more flexible — that’s another piece of keeping your balance.

I’m also working on really improving my sense of my own body and where I am in space. I get pretty banged-up from doing yardwork and chores around the house, because I run into things (but don’t realize it), and then I end up with bruises from impacts I can’t recall. I’m so focused on what I’m doing, that I don’t even notice the impacts. So, yeah, there are two things going on there, but I’m thinking that if I can at least improve my sense of where I am, relative to sharp objects and hard surfaces, I can possibly look a little less like I got in a bar brawl, after I’m done cleaning up the yard 😉

The way I’m working on that, is by really paying attention to my body during the day – noticing where I’m tense, and focusing on relaxing it. I’ve been watching videos of Systema — a Russian martial arts practice that centers around breathing, relaxation, and body awareness. Some of the things that they do in the videos are amazing — and the folks doing it aren’t these monster-ripped superheroes who overpower their opponents with sheer force. They’re average-looking folks who you’d never expect to be able to do the things they do. Because they know their bodies, and they relax and let themselves just respond to the situation.

I don’t think I’d ever do Systema training, because of all the hits and the falls. I’ve had enough of them in my life, already, and I don’t want to push my brain’s luck. But I did get a book from them a while back about breathing and improving your body sense, and I’ve been reading that on and off, over the past year. I’m getting back to it, now, and it feels pretty good. Just getting a better sense of my body, how it moves, how it feels when it moves… when it’s tense… when I need to breathe… it’s good.

It’s also helping me sleep. I get so caught up in my head, that my body can’t catch a break. So, focusing in my breath and also trying to feel each and every bone and muscle in my body, and relax as much as possible… that gets me into a relaxed state that gets me “down” before I can get halfway through. I’ll start at my toes, and by the time I’m at my knees, I’m out.

And that’s great. I used to do this all the time, then I stopped… and I forgot about doing it. That’s one thing I’m working on, these days — trying to follow through and not drop things before I finish them. Or, if I do get interrupted, make a note of what I’ve been doing, and keep that note where I can see it and remember it. I just remembered another project that I was making amazing progress on… then I got interrupted, and I forgot about it… and I ended up heading in a completely different direction.

Months later, I suddenly remembered it last night, and sure enough — there it is, waiting for me to continue working on it.

The breathing and relaxation stuff is just the same. I’m making great progress, then I get distracted, and I head off in a different direction. And I forget about what I’d been doing — and it ceases to exist for me.

So, I lose the benefits I’ve been getting from it. And I lose that part of my life. I slowly drift back to my old ways. I start having the same problems that I had before, and I wonder why I keep ending up back where I started… all over again… when I was making so much great progress.

It’s discouraging. So, I need to do something about that.

And so I shall.

Onward…!

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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.

4 thoughts on “Getting my body back, too”

  1. Consider making yourself a Brock string (we made one with some rope we found at home and a few wooden beads) and look for some video or written instructions online. Just as a simple start for vision therapy exercises you can do as a home program. Eventually, I think using a balance board, wobble board, or wii to incorporate motion while doing visual exercises is the most helpful.

    I know I mention VT again and again, but it is because some of your entries I read make me remember my daughter’s experiences and path. Incorporating the VT to the PT exercises was/is helpful. The PT on its own was not enough to stop the bumps and bruises and falls and misjudgments of space; and the PT alone was fatiguing to the brain without the larger degree of benefits.

    Here is another minimal cost exercise to work on but it requires a partner, uaing a ball point pen with a cap. Have the partner hold the pen portion around 16-18 inches away from you. You take the pen cap and hold it like a dart with the cap opening facing the pen, and the closed end back towards your ear, parallel to the floor, as if you are going to launch it forward. Then while holding onto the pen cap, aim it forward to land on the tip of the pen as if to cap it. If you miss, try again from that angle until you succeed. Then have your partner move the pen an inch or a few to the side or closer or further back and repeat. The pen base should initially be perpendicular to the ground. It becomes more challenging when it is placed at a less than 90 degree angle. It sounds sinple, but with visual challenges or fatigue from the TBi, it is not easy.

    The Brock string and the pen-cap exercise are stationary and a decent place to start with helping the eyes learn convergence, or working together. I am not a vision therapist, but wanted to share a couple of exercises that can start you on that path to helping the brain and its visual tasks. If you have insurance coverage for the VT through an eye insurance program, then I would encourage anyone with balance and veatibular issues from TBI to go get the formal evaluation and treatment. Knowing how expensive it is out-of-pocket, I know it isn’t feasible for everyone with long term symptoms of TBI to get the treatment from a licensed COVD optometrist and the Internet options and learning can still provide some benefit.

    When you do the PT or wellness activities, consider having a focal point in front of you as well as to each side to give your eyes a place to seek and that will incorporate some of the stabilizing that your eyes and brain need long term to reduce the balance problems and fatigue and high cognitive effort to do simple, common tasks.

    Wishing you the best!

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  2. Oh, this is great information – thank you! I will look it up. I had a meeting with the wellness coach today, and they suggested a number of exercises, including core strength exercises. I’m not sure I’ll be working with a PT on this. I think I’ll see how it goes, myself. I’d just as soon not have to explain my situation to yet another person. They get so flustered… And it sounds like I can do some of this on my own. Thanks again – this is awesome.

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  3. Another thought I had about the visual system and helping with your proprioception is that it might be useful for you to try one or two ball catches on a balance board or a Bosu ball. Start with one and if it’s too easy, than add another. And since you taught yourself to juggle, well, I’m sure you can go higher. If a single ball is too tricky, then try a lightweight scarf, which floats and gives more time to juggle.
    Additionally, if you were to just stand in an area, such as a hall, where the walls are fairly close, you could put some large font text there (such as free online Hart Charts), with a page on each side of you. Stand on the balancing device and then look from left at the first letter, word, or character, and read it out loud, then go to the sheet on the left and repeat. Alternating back and forth would use the visual system while trying to work on the balance. It might give you a headache at first. This is especially useful if you do it to a metronome beat. Free metronomes can be found online or as an app (we use SilverDial app on an iPhone). You need to time your looks and reading of the character/word to the beat of the metronome. Start at a pace where you are successful and record the number. Over time, work to a faster goal-it’s nice because you can see tangible, numerical progress. And also, hopefully, experience less stumbles or misjudgment of where an item is in space, and accidental bumps.
    The above exercise can really be taken up another level by adding hand movements and also directional arrows in which you challenge your brain by physically moving your hands in the opposite direction of the arrow while saying aloud the correct direction of the arrow (or vice versa of using hands in the same direction, but saying the opposite of what is seen). It’s kind of like a version of the Stroop test in that one is creating cognitive flexibility.
    Anyways, food for thought.

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