Shaking things up just a little bit

railroad tracks on a gravel bed, one of them ends in the gravel
Time to step off the track and improvise. It’s good for my character.

I took a break from my memory training yesterday. I need to let my system just chill out and acclimate. I pushed myself for several days straight. Now it’s time to let the new connections in my brain (and all-over nervous system) chill out and have a rest. I’ll come back to my exercises in another couple of days.

I’m changing things up a bit. Heaven knows, I love my routines. I have had a lot of trouble in the past with getting things done – especially everyday things – so I have routinized many, many aspects of my life. It’s to the point where I don’t even need to think about doing a lot of things that used to really trip me up — getting myself out of bed, showered, dressed, fed, and out the door to work. It used to be such a trial and a pain — and every morning started with rage.

That’s a terrible way to live. So, I did something about it. I developed a routine I would stick with, each and every morning. It was rudimentary. It was far beneath my actual capabilities. But it relieved me of the need to think everything through, each and every day. So, it served a truly valuable purpose. I credit that routine with giving me a functional foundation again. And saving my self-respect in the process.

Now it’s time to shake things up a little bit. Change up the routines to get my brain to work a little harder.

As helpful as it is to do things the exact same way, in the exact same sequence every day, it’s also easy for my brain to just check out and not have to work at things as hard. When you’re struggling just to get out of bed and out the door to work each day, routine helps. But when you’ve got that down, and you know how to do it rote, sticking to the exact same routine can be a little deadening.

Because if you’re not continuously moving forward, then you’re actually moving backwards. Maybe not right away, but over time, if you don’t move… you’re in trouble.

So, I need to switch things around a little bit. I’ve been doing that at work, where I’m getting there earlier in the day. And I’ve been handling a wider variety of work, interacting with different people, taking on a wider array of responsibilities. I’ve been stepping into the kind of role I want to play in the future, and it’s been good. I figure I have the next year to figure out where I want to go and what I want to do — and that includes money. It turns out, I’m under-compensated. I checked on Glassdoor.com, and apparently, people are making a lot more money than I am, for doing the same work. I tend to lowball myself, because I tend to think that expensive people get cut first, but I may be wrong about that.

Anyway, I’ve been doing a wider array of things in my everyday life, too — more cleaning around the house, organizing, freeing up space and seeing how I can improve my living environment. I’ve been exercising religiously each morning, which itself is a bit of a change (I used to do it every now and then). I’m lifting weights differently. And I’m working on my swimming, doing more strokes that are harder for me and demand more of me. I’ve also been pushing myself to do extended laps, rather than just floating from one end of the pool to the other. It feels great to be in the water. And it also feels great to be tired, when I’m done with my workout.

I haven’t been doing as much walking on the weekends as I should. The summer was so hot and buggy. I just didn’t want to go out. I was also pretty tired. But I have to push myself to do better about that. I need to get out and walk today. Just up the road and back. Maybe on the hiking trails. It’s been raining for the past day or two, so things are wet and slippery, so I probably won’t go into the woods, where I could slip and fall and maybe not be found right away. I need to keep safe.

My spouse has a business engagement tonight, so I’ll be helping them get everything together for that. I have been more involved in their work, lately. It’s not quite to the point where I used to be involved, but I am doing more than I had been, over the past few years. They have lost a lot of supporters, over the past few years. I think their erratic emotions and highly demanding nature has put people off. Plus, my spouse expects people to do a lot for free — or be compensated just with words of thanks and gratitude. There’s more to compensation than that, but the don’t seem to understand that.

Well, that’s not my problem. I just need to take care of my own stuff.

But that also includes taking care of them. Because they’re getting older, and they’re not going to be 100% functional forever. We’ll need to make some changes — as my spouse becomes less able, and I continue to need to keep my career going, keep working, keep taking care of myself. I can’t see the point in sacrificing my success for them — no, our success, since everything I do really benefits us both. I am the breadwinner, after all.

So, I’ve been doing some research with regard to in-home care. It’s a thing now. I’ve had people tell me I should put them in a home, right after they had their severe health collapse, about 10 years ago. I was having trouble dealing with their constant neediness and the increased responsibilities of helping them get back on their feet, and a number of people told me I should look into some sort of managed care — that I shouldn’t stick around and have their bad decisions and habits affect me.

It’s just so bizarre to me, how people can be so cavalier about just ditching people who aren’t 100% functional and able-bodied. And I also can’t believe how easily others give up — that they don’t see how you can help someone work their way back to functionality (at least, without professional help). What a shame and a waste. Maybe if fewer people gave up, and more people realized just how much you can really do, we wouldn’t have as much human suffering. Maybe…

Anyway, after months and months of concern about how I’m going to help my spouse if/when they are unable to care for themself, I now know — I will find in-home care. It will be someone who they like, someone who’s really good and helpful. And I think it will be affordable. My spouse is on Medicare, so that might help pay for some of it. If not, I will find another way. If I can just stay at my current earning rate for the next 20 years (even if I never get another raise), I can afford to pay someone to come for 4-6 hours a day, four days a week. And if Medicare can help, even better. Unless something terrible happens to me (which is always a possibility), I can maintain my own state for the foreseeable future, just as-is. And that will let me adapt to my spouse’s changing status, as well.

This is yet another reason why I need to change things up with myself and my daily routine. I need to be flexible and capable under a variety of circumstances. I need to know how to keep my cool and soldier through. I need to be adaptable and not lose it, when things shift around me — as they invariably do. My current job is not secure, it’s not stable. It’s there for the time being, but I am pursuing different opportunities within my role at the company so that I can add them to my resume and beef up my desirability in the job market. Everything around me is an opportunity to improve and make myself stronger, more valuable, and able to command a higher dollar amount. I need those higher dollar amounts. It’s just ridiculous, that I should be paid less than I’m worth, so I need to start doing something about that.

And I am. Both by doing new and different things, and training myself to do those new and different things without losing my cool.

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.

3 thoughts on “Shaking things up just a little bit”

  1. Just returned last night from Albuquerque (ABQ) from the Brain Injury Alliance of New Mexico Conference where I presented on Anger Management. Good conference where many people with brain injuries participated. The conference started at 8:30 AM and when I arrived was feeling pretty tired. I got to up at 3 AM feeling rested but was afraid to go back to sleep because I wanted to stay relaxed and organized for the two hour drive on I-40 from Gallup to ABQ. I also haven’t been getting enough exercise lately which is a double whammy for my processing and memory. It’s becoming very clear to me how rest, exercise, eating right and staying calm is so important for my brain injury recovery process. Even though it’s been almost 40 years since my brain injury the importance of getting enough rest is critical to being able to process information and stay on track. There were times yesterday, during my presentation when it was like those early days in my recovery when I would go off on tangents and not be able to remember “what I was saying” to “what I wanted to say”. I’m glad today; those days of “what was I talking about?” are few and far between. Unfortunately, even after 40 years, the memories I faced every day after my brain injury came back again because I didn’t get the rest I needed and the exercise it takes to make my brain to work for me instead of creating obstacles for me to overcome. When we get tired the limbic system (our unconscious survival skills) takes over. I had to work hard and breathe deep and stay relaxed to keep my pre-frontal cortex activated so I could stay on track during my presentation. I’m glad I understand how the limbic system fight or flight response takes over when I’m under stress because now I know what to do instead of getting angry and beating myself up when things don’t go as planned. Getting angry and beating myself up is a result of my conscious brain (Pre-Frontal Cortex) trying to figure out what my unconscious brain (Limbic System) is doing to survive. Knowing this is the key to improving my quality of life instead of staying angry and worrying about a better day and how things used to be – the old me and the new me. Anger keeps the Amygdala in control and my Pre-Frontal Cortex “thinking brain” stressed out worrying about what to do. This is because anger and worry (fear) triggers the limbic system fight or flight response which makes it harder to process information, and solve problems. Helping people with brain injuries understand how the limbic system works after our brain injuries is the key to improving our lives and the lives of people who support us. Controlling stress in our lives is critical and learning ways to relax takes discipline and practice. Knowing this information can make things easier after our brain injuries. Controlling the stress that activates the limbic system fight or flight response is very important to know because we can become pro-active after our brain injuries instead of reacting to the consequences of the unconscious limbic system fight or flight response.

    How anger goes out of control: https://youtu.be/bvteZ_bq0nk

    Why is the Limbic System So Strong https://youtu.be/tzY6DBQOsV4

    The Brain is in Constant Conflict https://youtu.be/kg-HGtMKzKQ

    The Amygdala Hijack https://youtu.be/YM3cXZ7CFls

    How Stress Affects Your Brain: https://youtu.be/WuyPuH9ojCE

    Like

  2. Hey Ken – sorry to hear about your difficulties, but it’s also great to hear about how you managed it — and continue to manage it. Our frame of mind can make all the difference. These are all such important things to keep in mind – thank you for sharing. Really helpful.

    I hope you get some better rest and find a way to get exercise back in your routine. I’m useless without it. Nowadays, I rarely ever “take a day off” from my morning exercise bike ride. Weight lifting I need to alternate, but the bike ride is non-negotiable. It’s just not worth the cost.

    Be well and thanks again.

    Like

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