Balancing my system, taking better care of myself

rocks piled in a balanced arrangement on a beach with the sea behind them
All the pieces fit together. Steady… steady…

I had a good session with my new neuropsych on Monday. They’re a little concerned about all the stress going on in my life. Between job craziness and the challenges my spouse is having, and the ever-present danger of me actually injuring myself… sheesh, I’ve got a few things to manage.

And they’re not alone – I’m worried, too. Not so much worried… no, actually worried. I have to stay steady, I have to keep my act together. This is no time to fall apart. The thing is, life isn’t going to get any less exciting anytime soon. Everything feels like it’s ramping up, and I’m being forced to learn a lot. I’m not adverse to learning. I just get very rigid and brittle when I am under pressure, digging in my heels, walking away from challenges, and being generally difficult with others — who are relying on me to step up and play my part. On the outside, I seem fine, but inside, I’m freaking out, going through all kinds of mental “gyrations” over how unfair everything is, how much trouble I’m having, and how nothing ever works out in my favor. It’s a pity-party extraordinaire.

And that makes it difficult to change and adapt to the extent I — and others — need me to. I need to be there for people. I need to step up. But I get tired, and that rigidity kicks in. I push back. That’s not helpful. I need to just go with it.

That rigidity and brittleness is such a problem. But I know what can help assuage it… take the edge off… relieve the pressure. It’s called extreme self-care.

As in — doing my stretches each night before I go to bed. Doing some modified yoga stretches for my back and stretching my legs and arms and shoulders. If I don’t stretch, I wake up in the wee hours in all kinds of contorted pain.

As in — doing my intentional breathing after I’m done stretching. I sit on the edge of my bed and focus my attention on a spot on the wall across from me, and I do slow breathing — 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out — for a little while, till I feel my system relax and my breathing becomes easier. When I first start out, my system is all tight and tense, and I have a hard time just breathing regularly. But after about 10 in-and-out breaths, my system starts to relax, and I can actually do it without forcing myself. It doesn’t come automatically. It takes a while to get going. But it happens. And then I can relax.

I have also started doing measured breathing in the morning when I wake up. I don’t want to get out of bed, anyway, so I might as well work on my breathing and also relaxing. I lie there and relax my body and breathe. And after a while, I’m not as stressed out, and I actually want to get up. Then I go downstairs, get my exercise (cardio every day, weight lifting every other day), have my breakfast, and get into my day.

So, I have my ways of dealing with my situation — regulate my fight-flight response and keep my heart rate in a healthy range. Strengthen both my body and my mind, and keep making continuous progress.

One thing that is throwing me off, is that I have to do this at all. Most of the people I know don’t have to go to great lengths to rise to the occasion and deal with these crisis situations. They just do it. And they adapt without a lot of apparent pain and suffering. It seems like everyone else in my group is able to adjust and “jump on it”, while I’m still struggling to just get out of bed in a proper frame of mind.

It’s a little discouraging, but I’ve got “stuff” going on with me that nobody can see, and I know how much it affects me. So, I can’t lose sight of that — of my own issues, as well as my spouse’s issues. I’ve got a lot on my plate, even when everything isn’t falling to bits around me. And when everything gets that much more “exciting”, I have to take extra steps that others seem to not have to bother with. They can skip their exercise. They can eat anything they want. They can go without more than 4 hours of sleep, night after night, and it never seems to block them. They keep on.

Of course, it only goes for so long… No matter what, the human body can only take so much abuse. But in the meantime, they’re quite unaffected and love to wax eloquent about how much abuse they’re taking, and how much they’re getting done, regardless.

It’s all a smoke-screen in many cases, of course. At least I know my limits and I know how to work around them. It’s just a little demoralizing that I have to, while others can sail along without problems — getting the favorable attention of everyone who makes decisions about promotions.

In the end, though, all I really want is to lie down in peace at the end of the day. And that’s something I can control and manage on my own. The fact that nobody else really knows I have as many problems as I do, is testament to how well I’m doing.

And I want to keep it that way.

Because letting everyone around me know how much I’m struggling isn’t good for my career prospects, position on my team, or my life in general.

Just keep on… keep on…

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.

8 thoughts on “Balancing my system, taking better care of myself”

  1. Sounds like some of the breathing exercises you are doing are quite mindful. I have added meditation, using the Calm app, daily to my routines for nearly half a year. I sometimes do it twice a day–in the morning before getting out of bed and at night so I can clear my mind and sleep better (less wakeful during the night). For the night meditations my family sometimes joins in. Most often my younger daughter will meditate with me and sometimes my husband. Least often is my older daughter, though she will sit by me and play a video on the iPad while I am listening to the instructor. I think the message from the mediation at least is heard, even though I wish she could learn to be more mindful too. I believe it would really help her, as high anxiety situations do arise…that’s life!

    As I do see a parallel in what is happening with you and her, I feel the need to share, if for the only reason that you know you are not alone. She has a cross country invitational this weekend. Only half of that team was invited, so it is a big deal to be included. It is far away though and she will be at the mercy of the team schedule on an overnight trip, which means dinner around 8 and back to hotel at 9, with lights out at 10. She goes to bed at 8:30 pm, so already it’s clear she is going to be short-changed in the sleep department. Rise and breakfast will be at 5:30 am, an hour earlier than she usually gets up, so there is another hour of sleep deprivation. I know it can affect her running, but she is just going to try to nap on the way to the venue. In some ways, that is why it’s good they are going in cars instead of a bus. She is more likely to be successful with a nap. Routines are so crucial, but adapting is critical too. If she can be non-judgmental and just accept that this is what she needs to do to be successful, then she won’t have as much anxiety build-up. I did remind one of the asst coaches and he emailed the head coach. It is hard to state her needs publicly sonce we don’t want it to impact theor perception and rule her out for other invite-only compettions. Butt ultimately I wanted to be sure she was safe and also to see if they can help her find a quieter setting for rest without her seeming to distance herself from the team. Also, if she does want to qualify for the next race, she will need to run well this time and if her physical needs are not met, that may make it harder to compete.

    I do see it how the energy levels are affected more in a TBI survivor. Energy zapped more easily, daily performance and mood affected more rapidly by inadequate sleep, and longer to recover from the mishaps and stress that may occur. That is where I believe the mindfulness practice and meditation really helps. Life has those inevitable moments of being off the routine and I know it helps me regain balance by not allowing the negativity and worries to last; I really wish for my kid that she can develop a healthy practice here; in the meantime, it helps me so I can manage the family needs when external pressures are knocking us off kilter. And she may see by example that this has been an important tool in achieving balance and lower stress when the routine is not available.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My sister Jaye and middle brother Michael, one year apart, were both insulin-dependent diabetics, diagnosed in childhood with Type-1 (once called Juvenile). Throughout their teen years and their 20’s my brother could, seemingly, eat or drink almost anything he wanted without consequence. He made a religion of avoiding anything green. My sister was what they call a “brittle” diabetic who, after a few close calls, learned that she had to maintain a strict and healthy regimen to stay out of the hospital (or avoid slipping into insulin shock or a diabetic coma).

    It hardly seemed fair, but there it was. Long story short (and without many of the gory details) – it caught up with my brother with a vengeance!

    Blind at the end due to diabetic retinopathy – missing several toes due to infection and gangrene, Michael died shortly before his 30th birthday. My model-beautiful sister lived more than two decades beyond that, long enough to see her two boys grow into fine young men, which was especially important to her once she began to battle breast cancer when they were still children.

    Life is not fair, but I doubt those people you envy are getting off scott free -and payback’s a bitch. You are clearly on the more prudent path, regardless of whether it is by choice or enforced by circumstance. However long you live, you will be much the better for taking excellent care of yourself.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing all that. The invitation IS a big deal. And you never know, she may actually find the short-term stress invigorating. The main thing is to remember, you can do this. You can do this. You can handle it. And then let the additional stress hormones carry you for a little while. It’s important not to get up in your head about might-happen stuff, based on past experience. This is a new thing for her, and you never know – she could come out of this really great. Still and all, it’s a lot of “if”s. So, good luck to all of you — I’m sure you already know, but I’ll say it anyway — additional recovery time is essential… as is the “debrief” after the event, to let everything sink in, so the important lessons can be learned well.

    Onward… together!

    Like

  4. Oh, what an eventful thing, this life business. Thanks for sharing all that. We all have our paths, and in some ways, I think it’s actually better that I’m forced to take good care of myself. Truth to tell, I’m in better shape than my boss, who’s 10 years younger than me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent! We both have to remember that when it seems unfair that we have to “work twice as hard for half as much” (as one the ADD expert docs frequently says) – it forces us to stay on our toes in ways where others can get away with being lazy (for a while, anyway).
    xx,
    mgh

    Liked by 1 person

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