Getting my balance back — and getting to a stopping place

picture of road on wall with crackled paintWell, that was exciting… The summer (thank heavens) is over, and now I can get my life back.

I don’t do well in the summertime. It’s a shame, because everybody else seems to have such a great time with it, running around, doing so much, getting suntans and extra exercise.

I, on the other hand, am not a fan. There are too many hours of sunlight in the day. And the days are hot… wet… uncomfortable in general. I’m sensitive to light and smells and noise, and summertime is full of all of the above. Not much fun.

I also have trouble sleeping in the heat. Keeping the A/C on in my bedroom (and all through the house, for that matter) is a constant source of stress with the noise. When I’m tired, I’m more sensitive to sound, so a moderately noisy air conditioner sounds like a massive fan in an airplane hangar. And that doesn’t help me sleep.

If I can’t sleep, I become more irritable. Volatile. Raging. It’s a problem. I’m not proud of how I’ve gone off the rails a few times, this summer. Between the work stress and summer stress… it’s not good.

I’ve been keeping really busy with work at my day job (sad face) and my own projects (happy face). It’s taken my mind off many of my troubles, but it’s also tired me out. Again, the fatigue business. And that leads to me drinking too much coffee… which leads to more headaches, difficulty sleeping… the same old vicious self-perpetuating cycle.

But now summer is over. Thank Heavens. And I can settle in for the next three months of enjoyment. I love fall. I love winter. I love spring. And now I get to take a break from summer.

I’m also giving myself a break from some of the Massive Undertakings I launched over the summertime. I came up with some pretty awesome plans that I’m convinced could be Very Big Indeed. The thing is, I really don’t have the capacity to follow through on all of them. I really bit off more than I can chew, so to speak, and that’s been dragging me down. I need to pick and choose what I’ll work on… and let the other stuff go.

But it’s all for the best, because as I narrow down my activities (e.g., writing and creating great content that I can license to others, versus running an entire company based on my ideas), I am operating from an understanding how a larger company would — and could — use my content to build their business.

I’m learning about the larger context for my writing, and that’s good. It’s very good indeed.

So, yes, sometimes I need to stop, in order to go. And learning to recognize my limitations and accommodate them is the first step towards being able to make some real progress.

It’s all a process.

Onward…!

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The up-sides of the down-sides

construction worker with ratchet on a steel beamIt’s been a wild couple of days. I had to work overtime twice in two days, which meant I was up from 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning till 3 a.m. yesterday, and I was working intensely for most of that time. We had a big project we had to get done, and we were missing two people on the team, since they had previously scheduled vacation and the big project’s schedule got changed to the worst possible dates.

Oh, well. We just had to deal with it.

And deal with it, I did.

I got 90 minutes of sleep between the two marathon testing sessions, and that was it. Half the time, I felt like I was dead on my feet, and my brain was mush. I was doubled over in pain, part of the time, because of eating the wrong stuff to keep my energy up, which led to digestive problems.

I have to be honest – it was pretty rough. But I got through it. And I ended up lasting longer than just about everybody else, which is typical. One of the upsides of dealing with fatigue and confusion and pain all the time, is that when things get really rough, all across the board, I can  — and usually will — persevere. I can stick it out and still perform. Because I’ve had plenty of practice. I know how to do it, because I do it, every single day, pretty much.

I’m usually tired, usually brain-fogged, usually struggling a bit at something or another. That’s pretty much the cards in the hand I’ve been dealt, because even if I weren’t dealing with TBI issues, I’d still be pushing myself — always harder, always farther, always faster. That’s just how I am. I’m not all that competitive against others. I’m mainly competitive against myself, and I always want to see how much better I can be, how much I can improve.

That’s just how I’m built.

So, of course, I’m going to experience these kinds of stresses and strains, these challenges, these difficulties. And when I’m called upon to kick in and contribute, I’ll do that to the max. To the utmost. I’m not going to hold back. It can be a problem, of course, because I can push myself too hard and overextend myself, but I’m aware of that risk, so I do something about it.

Bottom line, all the difficulties I’ve been up against, over the course of my life have strengthened and sharpened and honed me to this point. And even if I’m not as sharp and strong and honed as I’d ideally like to be, I’m still able to persevere, to hang in there. To stick it out and really do my best, no matter what.

That’s a huge up-side, for me and everyone around me.

And it makes the down-sides manageable.

It’s all part of it.

Onward.

A good week – busy, and good

frog carrying books and papersLast week was a good one, I have to say. I took a break from social media for a while and read some books, for once. I also spent a fair amount of time taking care of business around the house. Cleaning up leftover mess from months gone by. Fixing up outside, taking care of my lawn, getting myself ready to tackle the garage and clean that out. I have a lot to do, and since it’s spring, it’s time to jump into action.

Or just get moving.

I also reconnected with some old childhood friends of mine, and it’s great to drift back into the sense I had when I was with them. When I was younger. When I didn’t fully understand my situation, what made me “tick”, etc. Relating to those people again with the perspectives I have about what I was dealing with, back then — a bunch of concussions that never got recognized or addressed, as well as the confusion and frustration and mixed-up state that came along with them — it’s much easier for me to relate to those people now, than it ever was, when I was a kid.

And that’s kind of cool. Because now I can cut myself a break, even forgive myself for being how I was. And I can cut those people a whole lot of slack for being “how they were”. Because in all honesty, I was so turned around, back then, I truly didn’t know how they were. I took a wild guess, and I guessed wrong.

But that’s all behind me. Because I understand. And I can forgive myself for a whole lot of things, now that I understand what was behind it. I can actually have compassion for myself and the person I was, back then, as well as others. And that’s the best thing of all.

Compassion makes a difference.

It’s important — and not only for the past, but for the present and future, as well. With my changed perceptions, my updated perspective, I can be free to move forward in life with a different way of thinking about things. I’m no longer “the loser who couldn’t figure anything out”. I’m “the resourceful, persistent person who never quit trying”. I’m not the former “waste of space”. I had as much right to exist as the next person, and I learned to contribute as best I could.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about contribution, lately. How important it is to really help make the world a better place by our choices, our words, our actions. I’m not talking about being some pie-in-the-sky lightweight who’s always spouting some sort of inspirational stuff. I’m talking about making the hard choices to keep positive, even in the face of adversity — to appreciate just how much everybody is dealing with, each and every day, and help them get through it all by staying positive and constructive.

We all have our struggles. That much is clear. And for me, staying stuck in my own difficulties is a sure recipe for misery. For myself, and for others. But when I get out of my own head and focus on others and look for ways to help, everything changes. For them, and for me.

That’s another thing that’s made this past week particularly good. I’ve been focusing on others, putting myself in others’ shoes, thinking about them and their situation, and doing my best to be supportive, even if I have no idea what’s causing someone to do the things they’re doing. That makes work so much easier — not because the job we’re doing is any less complicated, but because it gets the people stuff in order, and when you build from there, everything else finds a way to work itself out.

Oh, one other thing I found that’s helping — laughing, instead of cursing. Even if I don’t feel like laughing, I’ve been training myself to let out a little laugh, when I get frustrated or everything is completely messed up. Make no mistake… there’s a lot of stuff I’m dealing with that’s messed up. And it’s definitely curse-worthy. But if I make myself laugh just a little bit, that changes how things feel. And it lifts my mood considerably.

So, that’s good.

I plan to keep doing it — just embrace the absurdity of it all.

And now to get into this week. It’s spring vacation for a lot of my colleagues, this week, so it will be quiet. I’ve heard rumblings of political maneuverings that might swoop in and move me from one group to the next. Whatever happens, I’ll make the best of it. Whatever… I need a quiet week to just chill and get some work done. This should do the job.

Or it won’t.

Either way, I can always laugh about it.

There’s that.

Onward…

Time to head down the road again…

road with trees on either sideYesterday was a long day, for some reason. I went out to run some errands, then got caught up in traffic and spent more time than necessary at the grocery store. All the people shopping for dinner were a steady source of distraction, and by the end of my visit, I was worn out.

I also had to find a replacement remote, and I went to two different stores, but I had a hard time figuring out what was what… I couldn’t find the electronics aisle in one store, then I couldn’t find remote control that I liked in the other store.

So, it’s back to the drawing board. I’ll probably go out today, in a little bit, to an actual electronics store. There’s a “big box” one about 15 minutes from my place, and although I don’t like going in there, I’ll take one for the team.

I need to get something else at a nearby store, so the mall looks like it’s in my destiny, today. Or maybe not, because it’s Easter, and I’m really tired today.

I really need a walk. I’ve been cooped up inside for what feels like months. Actually, it has been months since I was free to just pick up and head down the road. Too much snow. Too much cold. Too many crazy drivers. But today, it’s quiet. Everybody’s either at church or their sleeping in before Easter dinner.

This would be my chance to pull on my walking gear and head out.

I think I’ll steer clear of the woods, though. My balance hasn’t been great, and I’m concerned about slipping and falling – especially since the snow melted so quickly and there are bound to be slick and slippery spots in the woods. I’ve already clunked my head, this morning — just a minor clunk, nothing to worry about. It was a wake-up call that my coordination isn’t great.

So, I have to make choices accordingly.

The main thing is that I keep going, keep progressing, and take care of everything that needs to be taken care of.

Onward.

Up again, down again, up again, down again

some days are heavier than others. some are not heavy at all

Lately, my life has been pretty … variable.

My mood has alternated between great(!) and meh and dismal… and then back again.

It’s all part of it, I suppose. Just life being life, work being work, family being family.

Steady on… Everything cycles around.

Everything.

Adding back coffee – a little at a time.

Kim-Sutton-Positive-Productivity-Coffee-and-ComputerI’ve been “off” coffee for a couple of years now.

Well, not entirely off, but severely curtailed. I went from drinking 3-4 cups a day (starting with two big cups in the morning) to barely one cup a day.

I’d start with 1/3 cup of really strong coffee, and then I’d have another small cup of strong coffee in the afternoon — preferably no later than 2 p.m., because if I drank it later, it would throw off my sleep schedule, and then I couldn’t get to sleep.

And in between, I’d eat chocolate to keep myself going. Because… chocolate. Caffeine. Sugar. Other tasty anti-oxidants in there to pump up my flagging energy.

But I had to give it up. Chocolate. Especially coffee.

What would make me do such a thing as give up my regular flow of dark and lovely caffeine? Well, all those cups were contributing to migraines — constant headaches that rarely went away. I had a non-stop headache, it seemed, for years. And I didn’t even realize it could be any other way. I figured it was just how my life was going to be, for now and evermore.

Untrue.

When I was told by a neurologist that caffeine (which includes chocolate) can actually trigger migraines, it amazed me. Here, I’d thought they actually reduced headaches. That’s what I’d been told, anyway. But the science is there — with some kinds of migraines, caffeine can actually make things worse. And discontinuing can help.

That’s what happened with me.

But lately, I’ve been reintroducing a little more caffeine (and occasional chocolate) into my days, without too much adverse effect. I’ve been having slight headaches, but nowhere near the intense ones that used to be constant with me. And since I notice them more, now, than when they were non-stop, those headaches are a good signpost for when (and how) I need to make different choices and do things differently.

Just the other day, someone had left some candy on the counter near the coffee maker at work. It was a kind I used to really love. Couldn’t get enough of it. I was able to walk past both the coffee maker and the candy all morning, but in the afternoon, as I was making my 1:30 p.m. 1/2 cup of espresso, I nabbed a few pieces and ate them slowly.

Sweet. On so many levels.

And then I drank my 1/2 cup of coffee. And I had another 1/2 cup a few hours later. No immediate headache. At least, not that I could tell.

I’ve been drinking a little more coffee, nowadays… and while I have developed low-level headaches (I have one right now), they’re not so awful that I can’t function. I’m keeping an eye on it, but so far, so good.

And the other good news is that with my regular daily exercise and eating a really healthy diet, I have been able to get to sleep, even if I have a little caffeine after 2 p.m. Sometimes I’ll have some at 4:00, and I’ll still be able to get to sleep. I think it’s because I’m really actively living my life. I’m “all in”, each and every day, and I also usually finish up the day with stretching and relaxing before I go to sleep.

That last bit — stretching my back and legs before I tuck in for the night — has actually done me a world of good. If I don’t stretch, I often find myself waking up at 3 a.m. in pain, and I can’t get back to sleep.

So, stretching before sleep is really helpful. As is relaxing before I turn off the light. Just consciously relaxing makes a huge difference. Until I learned how to do it (it didn’t come naturally), life was a whole lot harder than it needed to be.

Well, it’s Friday, and that’s a good thing. I’ve got a full weekend ahead of me, and I’m working from home today to get myself geared up. Relax a little bit. Tie up loose ends from the week. And get ready for what’s next.

It’s all good.

Onward.

Righted again

I’ve been home for a little over a week, and I finally got a full night’s sleep, last night. I’ve been working off of 2/3 of my usual “dose” since last Friday, and it doesn’t do me (or my work) any good.

Whenever I travel for work, for every 4 days I spend there, I lose an additional 8 days afterwards just to catch up. And I also lose a few days ahead of that, while I’m preparing and putting all the pieces in place to keep my (and my spouse’s) life going per normal.

Normal! Ha. That’s a good one.

Well, anyway, things are back to normal again. I got up after the sun was up, and I had my exercise and healthy breakfast. Now I’m organizing myself for the weekend, so I can catch up on the chores and activities I couldn’t do last weekend because of the fatigue and also competing activities.

I’m also looking for a new job that doesn’t involve travel. I’ve got a rich and full life, and I don’t need to be hauling my a** all over creation. Not after all these years of working as hard as I have. Surely, there are jobs that don’t require that.

Of course, the ones that do involve travel tend to pay better. But it’s all a tradeoff. And ultimately, if my quality of life takes a dive, is the money actually worth it? Not sure…

Fortunately, there are other options. I’m exploring them. And for the time being, as long as I can get decent rest and keep myself from getting too scattered, I’m in a good place.

I’m righted again. And now it’s time to do some yardwork.

It’s all an adventure.

Onward.

I blame the space weather

Coronal Mass Ejection
Coronal Mass Ejection

I just checked online, and apparently we’re having pretty intense “space weather”. Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that are pretty intense.  According to spaceweather.com,

Sunspot AR2671 has developed a ‘delta-class’ magnetic field that harbors energy for X-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Awesome. Just what I need.

Solar flares, CMEs, and geomagnetic storms can affect radio transmissions and have also been tied to migraines and cluster headaches. It’s hard to prove, but if you consider that we’re very “magnetic”, ourselves — our nerves transmit their information as electricity (and lots of chemicals), so if electricity is affected in general, chances are, we’re also going to be affected.

Well, whatever. I’m just getting through the week, trying to be smart about things. Keeping myself on a schedule and focusing on the things I can control, versus… everything else.

Onward.

Working with this headache

head made of mesh with blur and focal pointI’ve been dragged down for the past 5 days with an intermittent headache.

I haven’t been sleeping well, and I’ve been extra stressed at work.

Been drinking too much coffee — not a lot, compared to what I used to drink before, but more than I should.

I’ve also been eating more carbs, which spins me up in to a flurry of quick and easy energy, then crashes me. That up and down roller coaster also makes me get angrier quicker than I’d like. It the crash puts me on edge and eats away at my patience, so I snap at my spouse more. That’s not good.

Gotta get off that roller coaster. Gotta cut out the bread.

I’ve been working out more at the gym, so that’s probably contributed — tension in my neck and back.

Not much more to say about it, other than I have to just use the tools I know I have.  Do the things that work for me. Don’t get spun up over stupid stuff. And just keep going. Just keep steady. And get back to being steady, like I used to.

Onward.

Good-bye chocolate. :( It’s been great… kind of

Shot down... again! Augh!
Shot down… again! Augh!

This is terrible. I have to stop eating chocolate. My go-to for those times when I need a pick-me-up and I want to avoid coffee, has now officially failed to serve its purpose.

I’ve had a steady headache, now, for many weeks. And after taking a close look at my past several months of diet and exercise patterns, I found a number of things that I started doing over the holidays, which probably contributed to the headaches.

First of all, I started eating more candy after Halloween. We don’t get trick-or-treaters at our house, but we bought candy anyway, partly to take to other events we were attending. I didn’t overdo it too terribly — I had a couple of those little Hershey’s mini candy bars during the day, and then again in the evening when I got home from work.

Then I ate like crazy from Thanksgiving, on. It wasn’t like I binged on cookies and cakes and junk food (although I had a lot more pie than was good for me). I was good about it, overall, steering clear of the junk food and Christmas cookies. But I did have two full Thanksgiving dinners, with a ton of carbs, and lots of sweets, and more coffee than I was used to (I had to keep going, after all). And again, the chocolate candy became a staple at our house, with a bowl in the living room being almost constantly filled… being emptied… then filling up again.

Then, over Christmas, I continued to eat chocolate. Not bingeing, but a steady flow — a couple of pieces (or 3 or 4) in the early afternoon, a couple (or 3 or 4) later on, then another couple (or 3 or 4) in the evening while I was making dinner. Just to keep going. I didn’t want to drink more coffee, because my headaches have been so much better since I cut down drastically to 1/2 cup in the morning and 1/2 cup in the afternoon.

Christmas was a sleepy time, and I started drinking regular black tea again. Red Rose is my favorite. Especially with a lot of honey and some butter. Just the thing to pick me up.

But then the headaches started again. And a lot of things started getting worse, too. My balance has been off. The ringing in my ears… deafening at times. Light and noise sensitivity… much worse, lately. And my ability to attend to things happening around me really tailed off during the week between Christmas and New Years. I started to snap at my spouse. Freak out over little things. Get aggressive and hostile, like before. Not good. And a lot of the progress we’ve made over the months before, really suffered.

I got better, behaviorally, after I went back to work with my regular hours. But the migraines continued. Along with them… Nausea. Tingling and tics on the left side of my face. My left eye weeping. The tremor in my right thumb.

So, last week I decided to get OFF the caffeine and chocolate completely. I just stopped eating chocolate for a few days. I stopped drinking the tea and sneaking extra coffee when I felt a little low. I started keeping my energy up by eating healthy snacks — coconut milk yogurt, fruit, nuts, and gluten-free stuff. And I drank more water.

At first, I didn’t feel much difference. But after a couple of days, the migraine really subsided, to the point where it was … gone! As long as I kept my blood sugar up and drank my water, I was in a good place.

Then, last week, there was a lot going on, and I “fell off the wagon”, so to speak. I didn’t go back to the tea and excessive chocolate, but I started having extra pieces of chocolate in the afternoon. And when I was short on sleep, I had some extra coffee in the afternoon.

And I paid for it. At first, I didn’t feel anything. I actually felt great, to be eating chocolate again. And I was actually awake, thanks to the extra coffee.

But then the headaches returned. And with them the nausea, the facial ticks and tingling, the tears in my left eye, and an overall sense of sh*ttiness that I’d thought I was past.

So, again, I’ve cut out the afternoon coffee and all chocolate — and just when I’d stocked up on “healthy” dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt… Augh! I didn’t see changes right away — I only just stopped it, in the past day or two (I can’t remember exactly when), but I can tell a difference. I don’t have as much of a sick headache. I have a bit of one, but when I drink my water and keep my blood sugar up, and I don’t have the chocolate that is calling to me from the cupboard, I don’t have the same level of pain as I did before.

Plus, I need to keep my schedule steady. I find that if I laze around, I feel worse. I really do. And if I sleep too long on my naps, when I wake up, I’m in ragged shape and tend to snap out at my spouse, which is never good. I am groggy and confused, which makes them anxious, and our arguments escalate very quickly.

Like I said – not good.

So, there it is. As much as I love chocolate and have happily used it as a substitute for coffee, it’s still got caffeine in it — as well as other substances which I’m told contribute to migraine. None of this is good for a person like me, so it’s good-bye to chocolate.

And black tea.

And that afternoon coffee.

Fortunately, I still have my coconut milk yogurt, fruit, and nuts to keep me going and keep my energy and blood sugar levels up. I also keep an eye on my heart rate, and when it (and my blood pressure) rise to an intense level over events happening around me, I lower it with the system I devised over the years. That’s also an important consideration — and during the holiday blow-ups and meltdowns, my HR and BP was definitely elevated.

Enough of that, already. Enough.

So, I’m on the mend. The headache is much less than before, and I’m feeling more functional than last weekend, for sure. It does make me feel better, to have identified what the heck causes the misery. It lets me do something about… which I do.

As always… Onward!