Exercise Waste Product Shields Neurons From Trauma Damage

Stroke or spinal cord injury can cause nerve cells to receive excessive stimulation, which ultimately damages and even kills them. This process is known as excitotoxicity, and it is one of the reasons why time following such trauma is critical, while it also implicated in progressive neurodegenerative diseases, e.g. Alzheimer’s disease.

A team of scientists led by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) has now discovered that lactate, which is produced in the brain and even muscles after intense exercise, can be used to protect neurons against excitotoxicity.

Following acute trauma such as a stroke or spinal cord injury, a certain type of receptors go into overdrive and overwhelm the target neuron with a barrage of electrical signals. This causes a build-up of calcium ions inside the neuron, which triggers toxic biochemical pathways that ultimately damage or kill it.

Read the rest of this great article here: Exercise Waste Product Shields Neurons From Trauma Damage

And I remembered that 6-digit PIN code

binary code - lines of 0s and 1s
Slowly but surely, my ability to remember digits has returned

I just had to reset my Twitter account. I forgot my password, and I did that thing where you have them text you a 6-digit pin so you can reset your password.

I got the text on my phone, which was in another room, charging. And just to see if I could do it, I looked at the 6 digits and tried to commit them to memory. Then I walked in the room where my computer is, and I was able to put in the digits with no problem. 880-765. Just so.

Woot! That is so amazing. It might not seem like much, but seriously, this is a big deal for me. Not only does it mean I don’t have to be slowed down by having to write down (relatively) short strings of digits, but it also restores a part of myself that I was always really proud of — being able to remember strings of numbers.

I can also remember the 16-digit number of the credit card I use most frequently (no, I won’t be sharing it here). I can remember the security code, as well as the expiration date. The numbers all have a recognizable pattern to them — certain repetitions of sequences of numbers that I only recently recognized. Years ago, I would have noticed those sequences and repetitions of patterns right away, but I’ve been using this credit card for quite some time, and it only recently occurred to me that I was looking at a string of numbers that’s actually pretty easy to remember.  So, that’s huge progress for me — not only the remembering, but also being able to see the bigger picture of the overall pattern of the entire number.

Back in the day, just a few years ago, I would have been unable to remember 6 digits in a row. I couldn’t even remember 4 digits. Anything more than 2 or 3 was a stretch for me. It was a big loss for me. Even though it seems like a little thing, not being able to remember more than 2 or 3 numbers — in today’s PIN-driven world — puts a big crimp in your ability to just live your life. It’s a problem. Everywhere.

For work, when I login remotely, I have to put a PIN into the login screen, and that used to not be a problem. Once upon a time, I could glance at an 8-digit PIN and punch it into the computer with no problems. Then I hit my head in 2004, and that stopped working. It was a real problem, because I was working on highly secure systems, and a PIN was required every time I logged on in the morning. I used to get so flustered about not being able to remember the digits, but needing to write them down and then punch them in, one at a time. I also had to really take my time, because I would literally forget what numbers I’d just put in, 2 digits ago.  I got so upset. I used to be able to remember 8+ digits at a time. But that went away when I fell in 2004.

I’m still working on remembering my digits. I’m still working on my memory, period. And my progress has been “uneven” to say the least. Every now and then, though, I get a clear view of how I’m improving. And it’s not just some flash-in-the-pan exception, but something I can do over and over.

Like remembering my credit card number – all 16 digits, along with security code and expiration date.

Like remembering a unique 6-digit PIN that I’ve never seen before.

Like remembering to do things (and buy things at the store) that I would normally completely forget.

It’s a process, to be sure. It takes time. It takes practice. But all the hard work is paying off in a very big way.

And that makes me very, very happy. Just gleeful, in fact.

Onward… and upward… always.

Days of pushing, days of rest

I rested when I needed to, I did my best to fit in as well as I could. And I rested.
When I need to rest… I rest.

I’m taking it easy today. I rode my bike this morning, but I didn’t do any weight lifting. I’m still sore. Plus, I swam last evening after work, and I was still feeling it this morning.

So, I let myself rest.

I’ve made the mistake in the past to not get enough recovery time.

I paid for that.

I know better now – more importantly, I’m doing better now.

And it’s good.

Keeping fit, keeping strong, keeping safe

iceberg field in a body of water
I have to be able to handle the obstacles in my way

I’m a little glad my mini-vacation is over. It was great to have the time off work, but it’s also great to be getting back into my weekly routine and seeing people I work with.

I worked from home yesterday, and that was great. I wasn’t ready to go back to the office, just yet. And I got some important things done in the quiet of my own home. I love the quiet of my own home. It’s very soothing for my jangled nerves. I can do a pretty decent job of jangling my nerves myself, so being in an environment that doesn’t make things worse… well, that’s a good thing.

I didn’t get as much exercise as I should have, though. I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing, a lot of thinking, a lot of sleeping. And I did do a lot more exercise bike-riding, than usual (because I didn’t have to be anywhere, first thing in the morning). But I didn’t get up and move as much as I normally do, when I go in to the office.

This morning, I did my bike riding, and then I did more weight lifting that I usually do. I did 20 reps, instead of 10. And that felt good. It feels good to push myself. I haven’t done that, physically, for several weeks, and I can definitely feel it. I need that.

I need it to keep myself strong, physically and mentally. I need to the discipline, the dedication, the unwavering determination to take good care of myself, so I can rise to the challenges that confront me each day. Winter is coming. And I may have to do more physical work then – shoveling and such. I have to be in decent shape, so I don’t knock myself out. I also need to not get stiff and sore and locked into a certain physical position from sitting for hours and reading/writing. I need to break up my activities and take time to keep strong and fit.

I also need the exercise to keep my head clear. It’s been the number one factor in my accelerated recovery, I believe. Not everyone is the same, but I noticed a huge jump in my capabilities, when I was exercising regularly. And when I slacked off for about a year, because the migraines were bothering me, I noticed a decline in my mental capabilities.

Especially now, when I feel like we’re under constant ideological assault by the different political parties and vested interests, I need to be able to reason and think clearly, to be able to tell truth from lies and defend myself from people who are preying on me because they think I am weak. I also need to defend myself from well-meaning people who think that sheltering me or protecting me from my “diminished” state is the thing I need — rather than pushing myself to improve.

I saw a friend of mine yesterday who knows about my TBIs. They also seem to think less of me, because of the injuries. They say things like, “Don’t push yourself too hard” or “Make sure you don’t over-extend yourself.” They talk to me like I’m a bit dense. Huh. I guess they don’t realize that having a slower processing speed doesn’t mean I’m stupid. It just means I process information differently. I guess they also don’t understand that extending myself and pushing myself is what actually helps me get ahead in my life. It’s what helps me grow. It’s what helps me exceed the expectations of anyone and everyone around me.

I need to push myself. I need to over-extend myself. And then recover. Take the time to regroup, heal up, and then get back into the midst of things. I hate when people do that. It’s demeaning to me, even though I’m sure they mean well, and are only trying to help.

But for the record, it doesn’t help me. It just holds me back.

So, it’s back to pushing myself a little bit. Each day is a stretch for me, to be perfectly honest. It’s difficult, and it gets progressively more difficult over the course of the week. Mondays are not easy. Tuesdays are harder… Wednesdays take a little more out of me… Thursdays are like walking into a fog… and on to Friday is just one long exercise in wading through fog and confusion.

But as long as I rest up on the weekends, I can get myself in decent shape.

Of course, this is all dependent on me keeping myself physically active. The past week has been kind of a “test run” for me, in how I would live, if I didn’t have to go into the office every day. Or even if I didn’t have to go to work. True, I’ve got like 20 years before I’ll be in retirement age (they keep moving it back), but I need to think about how I’ll live my life, once I’m not going into an office every weekday. Plus, I might get a remote job at some point, where I won’t be required to go anywhere. How will I live? How will I take care of myself?

Clearly, I have to do some more thinking and planning around that. So, now’s a good time to start.

Anyway, the workday is upon me, and it’s time to get moving.

Onward….

Then again, the weeks after the election have given us plenty of reason to be concerned

person sitting on a park bench looking at a coming storm
Photo credit: Myshelle Congeries

A little while ago, I posted that I wasn’t going to be whacked about the election anymore.

I was wrong.

I am whacked. Way whacked. And very, very worried about what’s transpiring before our very eyes.

If you’re not whacked about it, you’re not paying attention. And you’re not really thinking this all through.

A lot of people are going to get hurt, because they believed a classic con man. Bait and switch. Ditching his promises, left and right. And putting exactly the people in place he said he never would.

Of course, it’s all very predictable.

People have been predicting this for months and months — much longer than anyone has been paying attention.

So, I’m back to being whacked about it.

But I’m not stopping there. I’m really taking the time and making the effort to think things through and reach my own conclusions. It’s tough, because we are in unprecedented waters, and it’s like none of the rules apply (either because people are refusing to follow them, or others are refusing to enforce them, or both). And there’s a whole lot we don’t know about how things are supposed to work, because the people whose job it is to make sure they keep working fell asleep at the wheel. Or they became corrupted by outside influences, themselves.

The most important thing, right now, is to not let my thinking process be overtaken by the slogans and the jargon of this rising gang of spin-meisters. They’re throwing around different words like “alt-right” and “unity”, to cover up the truth of white supremacy and fascism.  It’s all a big thought-control campaign, as far as I’m concerned. So, I’m going out of my way to keep myself from falling into using those words.

I’m also taking good care of myself, which is really important. I have to keep my head level in these times of danger, and I’m not doing anyone any favors, letting myself get over-tired and bent out of shape.

So, maybe it’s still true that I’m not letting myself get whacked about this. Yes, the democratic process has completely broken down, and it appears that the very party that said they could do better than Trump has turned tail and run. I’m not sure they’re ever going to recover their legitimacy, after this. They’re certainly not going to get my membership. I dropped all political affiliations a few years ago, and since I live in a state where I can vote for anyone I like, if I’m independent, I’m actually better off.

But in terms of the country – this bait-and-switch scheme may turn out to be pretty painful, in the end. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot — in the short term, anyway. But long-term? Who knows? If nothing else, I hope we learn to not take for granted something we just always assumed would work: Democracy.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Just a little hope for our times

dark clouds with light appearing behind
Some light always finds a way through

Like a lot of people in America – and the world at large – I’ve become increasingly concerned about what’s going on in Washington, right now. The “joker” who people either loved, or who didn’t take seriously, is putting people in power with a demonstrated track record of racism, discrimination, and attacking people who are not like them.

And I’m not okay with that.

Likewise, I’m not okay with the media downplaying the risk. Nor am I okay with the Washington politicians who are aiding and abetting this — or simply not standing in the way of these people who are shredding, piece by piece, even the faked appearance of human decency. Shouting “Hail Trump!” with Nazi salutes, quoting Nazis to justify their positions, and so blatantly aligning themselves with the ideology that killed millions up on millions of people in Europe, as well as worldwide. I just don’t understand how anyone in a position of influence in Washington can sit by and not throw themselves between these people and their constituents.

I don’t understand why more elected officials aren’t standing up and denouncing this direction we’re headed. And it is we who are headed there. It’s not just someone else. It’s all of us… getting dragged down by people who do not value the full range of human life, and who feel completely justified in making life so difficult for others.

I understand why people voted for Trump. But now that he’s showing his colors, I don’t understand why they continue to support him. People seem to think they’re immune, they’re safe. All his behavior and priorities won’t work against them, and so that’s okay. Except, at any time, in the most unexpected ways, any one of us can end up on the business end of his political cattle prod. Especially those of us with disabilities like brain injury, that happen as a result of chance or dumb luck… or just happen… and leave us vulnerable and living in constant fear for our lives.

I’ve been in that position for many years, now. I’m not sure I’ve never been in that position, to be honest. I’ve had hidden difficulties that I didn’t dare show to anyone. I’m anonymous on this blog for a reason — it’s often not safe to reveal to others that you have sustained a brain injury (or two or three… or nine, like me). That disqualifies you instantly from so much, simply because of people’s misconceptions.

And now it’s even worse, because it’s not just people’s perceptions and their personal sentiments that work against you. Very soon, unless that man is stopped, it can be public policy, as well.

I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to cover up my difficulties and “do the dance” of hiding my challenges and deficits. I’ve spent a lifetime refining my techniques, and they work. Most “regular” people never want to think you’ve got difficulties. They never want to even remotely suspect that there’s anything “wrong” with you. They want to think “the best” of you and not so much as imagine that you’re different from them. They don’t want to know that you have any particular needs. They don’t want to see that you “can’t keep up”, and if you fall behind, they either prod you to work harder, or they distance themselves from your vulnerability.

Especially now, when the disdain and disgust for anyone who is “less” than the Aryan ideal is an open target, from the very top, down. I’m going under deeper and deeper cover, as the days go by. And I’m not sure when it’s going to change.

Because now my faith is so eroded, I just don’t know who to trust, anymore. People I once counted as friends were willing to look past ignore and discount the bigotry and white supremacy of someone who aspired to take over the highest office in the United States of America. And they helped him in that bid. They decided to ignore the plight of the poor, the disenfranchised, the non-white, the disabled, the non-male… anyone who did not match the ideal held up by the neo-Nazis… it’s open season on them.

Of course, is it really any different, for many types of people? I’m thinking particularly of the protesters out in North Dakota who are protesting the threat to their water. The Native folks out there – indeed, all through this nation – have been on the receiving end of that kind of behavior for centuries. Indeed, anyone who was original to this land “got it” from the European settlers – whoever had the power, got to do whatever they wanted to everyone else.

And so it goes. Misery upon misery. Injustice upon injustice.

Where is there hope?

I believe there is hope in the small places of our lives. The times when all the distractions of the world fall away and leave us with a chance to come to life in the moment. When we help someone with a door that won’t open easily. When we help someone up, after they’ve fallen. When we take steps to help others in even the smallest ways. When we see others doing that, as well.

Ultimately, yes, I know – the rest of the world can be a terrible place, and people who abuse power… well, they abuse power. Takers take. Haters hate. And all around us, we see signs of fear running people’s lives. But there is hope. In the help we offer to others. In the help others offer to us. I’m not saying don’t call your representatives. DO call your reps in Washington. Prod them to do their jobs and discharge their duty to protect this nation from a fascist takeover. And at the same time, do what you can to assist others… as well as help yourself. Civilize your own world, one act, one decision… and another act at a time.

Most of all, don’t despair. There is always cause for hope.

Because the broken places are where the light gets in.

Okay, I’m done being whacked out about the election

Snoopy sitting on his doghouse, which has been shot up
I’m feeling a little shell-shocked from this week.

It’s been a week, since the election happened. And now the dust is starting to settle.

Time to get back to work, doing what I do. Writing about living life, in spite of all the hurdles that get in the way.

I have no idea what’s coming down the pike, but whatever it is, so long as I take care of myself and keep myself headed in a direction that is true to ME, I will be fine.

Case in point: Over the past week, I haven’t gotten as much sleep as I needed. This is brutal. I get progressively worse, over time.

So, last night after supper, I lay down on the couch and took a little nap. I slept for about an hour. Then I went to bed and got nearly 8 hours of sleep. Then, today, after I spent most of the morning at the dealership getting my car serviced, I took another nap in the afternoon – I got a little over 2 hours of sleep. That means, in the last 24 hours, I got 11 hours of sleep.

And I needed it.

Now I can deal with … well, anything that comes my way. It’s raining. I have to go get groceries for supper. My spouse is sick with a bad respiratory infection. It’s cold and it’s dark. But I got 11 hours of sleep, and I feel more human than I have in a week.

So, off I go…

Onward.

Election Day today – Please Go Vote!

Go Vote!Election Day in the (sort of) United States of America.

At last. I can’t wait till this drawn-out process and media circus is over.

Good luck everyone – stay safe out there. Be true to yourself. Just be true.

And vote.

If you’re a USA citizen, you benefit tremendously from the amazing country we live in. Going to vote is a sign that you recognize the benefits and the risks of living in this amazing country of ours, and you’re willing to do your part.

Even if you don’t agree with everything the candidates stand for. Even if you would rather vote for someone else.

Go vote.

Write in the candidate of your choice, if you don’t like who’s on the ticket. But vote. It’s the responsible, adult thing to do. And countless Americans (and their families) have given their lives for your right to do so.

Don’t be a slacker. Don’t be a freeloader. Do your part.

Go vote.

A much-needed change of pace to stave off the whirlpool

I have to be careful of how I used my energy

I’m working from home today. I started the day with a 7:30 a.m. call with someone in Germany, then another call with a co-worker in Australia, and now I’m on a four-hour marathon of multiple conference calls.

My days have gotten a whole lot longer, as well as a whole lot more complicated, over the past 6 weeks. I’m not happy about this. Yes, I’m taking on more responsibility and my role is getting more visibility with the right people, so that’s good for my job security. I think… But my quality of life has dropped dramatically. I’m in constant reaction mode – along with all the other folks I work with. We’re so behind on our collective tasks, and I’m not sure when we’ll be dug out.

Everybody’s struggling, pretty much. We’re just so swamped. For me, though, I think the cost is higher, due to fatigue. I get tired, and then I don’t think as well. And when I don’t think as well, my life doesn’t go smoothly. And it adds to my stress. And that makes it harder to sleep.

I’ve been messing up making supper. And when I went to vote earlier this week, I accidentally voted for the wrong local candidate. Oh, well. I’m sure my vote will be canceled out by somebody else. But still, it’s a little disconcerting to see I’ve filled in the wrong circle. And there was no way of reversing it, because it was in that special black ink. A bunch of little things keep falling through the cracks. But what can I do? I try to get to bed at a decent time. And I’ve been doing pretty well with that. But it’s hard to get to sleep, lately. And then I wake up early. Which adds to my stress, because I really wanted to sleep.

It’s a vicious cycle. Once I start getting pulled down that whirlpool, it can be very difficult to get out. And being at the office — first, off, driving in during peak rush hour traffic, and then being constantly bombarded by a steady stream of interactions — just makes it worse. I lose track of what I’m supposed to be doing, and I lose track of what I’ve lost track of. It builds up. It adds up. And it piles more stress on top of it. I get stressed about being stressed.

So, I’m taking the day away from the office to actually get some things done. I have a lot to do, and it will be great to have some peace and quiet around me while I do it.

I also sorely need a nap today. I’m starting to get the “adrenaline shakes”, where my hands have a tremor whenever they’re resting. My stomach is in knots, over my concern about getting things done on time.

Of course, none of this is really that visible to others. I don’t want other people to know, and in fact, I can’t go around telling people how badly off I am. That’s not how my world works. If I let on, how much I’m struggling, it will cause others to doubt me — just at the time when I have to be the most reliable. Telling people about what’s happening with me, will hurt me more than help me. So, I just keep going… keep on… and maintain my steady focus… with the eventual confidence that things will get sorted out in due time.

I can manage this. I know what the deal is with me, and I know what it takes to keep myself going. So, that’s what I’m doing.

Today.

At home.

I am very much looking forward to actually getting something done.

In peace.

And quiet.

At home.

Onward.