My neuro recommended that I get more electrolytes. So, I drank a bit of Gatorade. Then I looked at the ingredients. Glycol ester of wood rosin? And that other stuff I can’t pronounce? No thanks.
So, I picked up some Pedialyte and juice, and I’ve been drinking that. It’s good, but there’s still all sorts of God-knows-what in there.
So, I did some research. And I found out what else I can use.
And the magic potion I whipped up yesterday, is exactly what I needed to stave off the mid-afternoon lull and the craving for junk food. Here’s the elixir of life that is both energizing and delicious:
1 can Goya coconut water (it has pulp, which is tasty, and I’ve read that it’s full of electrolytes) – or you can use any type of coconut water
1 small bottle of Ocean Spray Cran-Grape (without that nasty fructose stuff)
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
Distilled water to taste
Shake/stir it up to mix in the salt, and sip (if you can keep from gulping it down)
Not since I started drinking my rocket-fuel coffee, have I had this much energy from a drink. It’s absolutely amazing! Holy smokes! I got so much energy from it — and not that crazy wired buzz you get from energy drinks ‘n’ such. Plus, it cut down on my craving for snacks in the afternoon, which is big for me, because I’ve been snacking too much — need the energy — and I’ve been gaining weight as a result.
This is good. This is awesome. It’s not full of ingredients I can’t pronounce or spell, and it’s full of electrolytes. I can feel it. And it is so delicious.
I keep sleeping in past 8 a.m. This is new, since I returned from my business trip. This morning, my spouse had to wake me up at 8:15, asking if I was planning to go to work today.
Well, yes, I had planned on it. But if I don’t have to do it, so much the better😉 No, really, I hoisted myself out of bed, did a shortened version of my morning exercises, and made my breakfast. Now I’ll do a quick post before taking off for the office.
I got 9-3/4 hours of sleep last night. I think that’s a record, of late. The last few nights, I’ve been sleeping from 10:30 till 7:45 — even past 8:00 — which has been putting me at close to 10 hours, for the past three nights.
And I didn’t even realize I was that tired.
I guess it’s all catching up with me — and not only from the business trip last week, but from the past 10+ years of grappling with sleep issues. I’ve been exhausted for so long, I don’t even know what it feels like to be fully rested. And my neuro thinks that it’s one of the root causes of my dizziness and lack of balance. My old neuropsych said that sounded “preposterous”, but if the brain is in charge (at least in part) of your sense of equilibrium as well as coordinating your movements, and your brain is tired, then doesn’t it make sense that a tired brain would lead to an un-balanced body / proprioceptive sense?
That seems common-sense to me. But I’ll let them fight it out on the experts front.
Plus, not everyone metabolizes it the same way, so saying it’s benign in every single case — especially mine — is pushing it. And that’s beyond pointless. And a little worrying.
But on the bright side, my own situation is worlds better — at least for now. I may have to start setting a clock to wake me up by 8:30, if I don’t wake up, myself. I’m accustomed to waking up at 5:30, but I can do with out that, for sure.
Aside from the jet-lag and time-shift that came with the business trip, I think another thing that’s really helped me relax and sleep more, is taking some concerns off my plate. I’ve decided I’m not going to go back to school to finish up the B.A. I failed to get, 30 years ago. I was in trouble with the law, I was in trouble with my family, I couldn’t stay steady with anything I was doing, I was with a bad group of people who were very self-destructive, I was out of money, and I was too booze-addled to make good decisions. Finishing my degree just wasn’t possible.
My current employer pays for both graduate and undergrad education, so this would have been the perfect opportunity for me to finish my degree. But let’s be honest — there is no way I can hold down a full-time job, take care of my spouse, and take care of my own health, AND go to school, even part-time. Even doing one course, would be too much for me. Two to three hours of classes a week plus reading, plus studying for tests… with my learning differences, and my crushing fatigue… there is no way that could work.
So, after having this bright hope that I might be able to do it, I let that go a few weeks back. It feels like a surrender of something I’ve wanted with all my heart for so many years, but it just doesn’t make any sense. If I ever find a way to support myself that doesn’t involve being at an office and constantly dealing with people for 8-9 hours a day (and beyond that, considering all the emails and texts that come in at all hours), I’ll consider going back to school. But not if it puts me in debt. And not if it destroys my quality of life.
The wild thing is, ever since I let go of that plan/dream/ambition, I have felt so much more relaxed. Yes, it’s a loss. Yes, it’s disappointing. Yes, I kind of feel like I’ve failed. But this frees up that part of my brain that has been connecting my future success to the way I was always taught I could succeed – through getting degrees and adding qualifications and certifications that come from others.
As it turns out, I realize that I really am on a different path than that. I belong on the frontier. My great-great-grandparents were pioneers who traveled to the West when it opened up, and they paved the way for others to follow them. I’m actually not happy about some of the things they made possible — the Dust Bowl, rounding up Native Americans and putting them on reservations as well as genocide against this country’s first residents. That’s a hard legacy to carry. But at the core, at the center of it all, I am essentially a pioneer, not someone who settles spaces that others have opened up. And I’m the kind of person who thrives in unstructured environments where the rules have yet to be written.
So, I’m freeing up my “brain space” to make room for my new work direction. I’m making the most of my current job stability to really think about where and how I want to work in the future. I’m not rushing out to find a new job, right now, because I need time to think and really get clear about what I want to do. After years of hard work and sacrifice and doing a lot of jobs that I didn’t want to do because they were good experience, I’m finally at a place where I can literally pick and choose the direction I want to go in. I have the experience that others really, really need, and after years of rehabbing with a neuropsychologist, I once again have the temperament and behavioral control to work effectively with others.
I was this close to being able to do that, back in 2004, when I fell and got hurt. I was 18 months away from cashing in on my shares, that would have let me pay down my house and refinance the remainder at a very attractive rate. I was 18 months away from financial independence, which was no small feat for someone without a college degree, who everyone said would never get far in life because of my failure to complete pretty much anything I started. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it wasn’t an oncoming train. It was my future – the future I had worked so hard for.
Then I fell, and everything fell apart.
I’ve been rigidly locked onto the idea that I had to finish my degree, in order to get anywhere in life. But in fact, that falls back on thinking from when I was a teenager. As an adult, I’ve always been a pioneer, a leader, someone who ventures into spaces that haven’t yet been explored. The things I’ve done, have been things that nobody else thinks are possible.
But I know they’re possible, as do the others I work with.
Now I need to look again to the future and find where I need to be. Not just where I am right now, but where I need to be, on down the line. I want to make the best of everything I’ve got, and take it to the next level.
And so I shall.
Holy smokes, it’s amazing what some extra sleep will do for you…
I didn’t get out and hike yesterday. My business trip was catching up with me, and I also needed to catch up on some reading and writing I’ve been meaning to do.
So, I did that. And looked out the window at the world in my back yard.
Then I took a nap – 3 hours. That surprised me, because I wasn’t actually feeling all that tired, when I lay down. I just knew I needed to give it a try. And after lying there for 15-20 minutes, I finally drifted off… and woke up around the time I needed to go shop for supper.
Now I’ve got one day left in the weekend, and I absolutely have to get outside. It’s spring, dammit. And I need to take it in, already. The weather’s a bit cold, but that might discourage all my neighbors from rushing onto the roads. Or maybe it won’t. In any case, I need to at least take a quick walk on my “short” hike. That should take me an hour or less, and it will stretch out my legs, which have been quite cramped and non-active for some time now.
I’ll have my lunch, change into my hiking grubbies, and head out.
My approach to sleep and work and taking time out during my business trip has really paid off. I got almost 8 hours of sleep last night, and I’m not feeling nearly as jet-lagged as I expected to. I’ve been back for 2 days, now, and although I am still a bit foggy, it’s not nearly as bad as it could have been.
It’s not much worse than I usually feel on a Saturday.
So, that’s completely awesome.
What worked for me was this:
Be completely uncooperative and resistant about anybody pushing me on my bedtime. Don’t take sh*t from anyone who tried to give me a hard time about not staying out till all hours.
Do my best to blend in with my surroundings, so as to minimize flack about not being a “team player”. Go along with the things I could go along with — dinner with the team, group activities, up to a certain point, and of course doing my job reaching out to customers and having good conversations with them while on the expo floor.
Take time away from people whenever I got a chance. Just retreat to my room, keep the lights low, don’t turn on the t.v. by reflex (I only turned it on twice – once to see what channels were available, once to check out), and decompress.
I did a lot of all of the above. And it was a really challenging time. But I came out of it in one piece, which is fantastic. And I’m not a miserable git, to live with, as I have been in the past.
Now I’m back to exercising in the mornings — I couldn’t get myself to the pool or gym on my trip, because I was pretty maxed out, cognitively and sensory-wise, so the idea of venturing into a swimming pool area or a gym with other people in it, was just too much for me. So, I didn’t bother.
It feels good to be back on the exercise bike, as well as lifting my dumbbells again. It’s also good to be back in a quiet house, where I can move at my own pace, and I don’t have people constantly texting me about meeting them here, there, or some other place. I get to stand at my desk and think, type, think some more, type some more. Check Facebook. Think about things. Just get my act together and regroup.
And go out for a hike later. It’s a little cold and rainy today, but that means there won’t be that many people on the trails, which is good. I’m in no mood to interact today. Just want to be a recluse and regroup after my trip.
So, I shall. I’ve got all day today — and tomorrow — to catch up. And for once, I don’t need to completely collapse and melt down, after that gauntlet run. I ran a good race, and now I can rest.
Sometimes you just need to step away to get some clarity on your priorities in life, what you want to do with yourself, how you want to do it… and perhaps most importantly, how badly you want to do it. There are some things that I’ve been meaning to spend more time on — projects that actually do look like they have good potential to widen my employment prospects, as well as bring in some money on the side. And it’s given me more motivation to really work on them.
It’s also important to figure out what you don’t want to do, and this trip made that abundantly clear. It was a pain in the neck, dealing with all the prejudice and pressure — the prejudice that came out when people started drinking and stopped being on their best behavior, the stifling biases against women and gay people, the “jokes” about so-and-so having romantic relations with someone of their own sex, when they’re not even gay – har-har-har (not funny for gay or straight people)… as well as the constant pressure from my boss to stay up late with everyone and party, even though they know I don’t drink… and them joking about getting me drunk (I wouldn’t put it past them), which is not only stupid, it’s dangerous.
I don’t know which would be worse for me – to lose too much sleep, or to get drunk. In both cases, I can fall, which could be catastrophic. In both cases, I can get in trouble with other people, including the police. And it’s not the sort of trouble that I can just get out of easily.
When I get in trouble — I get in trouble. As in, get combative towards law enforcement and other authority figures. And at the conference, I was not shielded by local folks knowing who I am.
I was also not shielded from sensory overload — all the crowds, the noise, the lights, the big open expo hall where I was working, and the constant movement and hustle. I felt like a zombie, much of the time, and it was miserable at moments, but then I got to step away to the restroom, or to get something to eat, or walk to a quieter part of the expo hall. There was music pumping, lights flashing, constant streams of people walking by who I had to engage and hopefully bring into our booth, and it was cold in that hall. I felt like I was going to lose it, a couple of times, but I regrouped and chilled myself out by focusing on something specific – like checking my email on my smartphone.
The area that the conference was in, was crazy, too — all the lights and motion and crowds and music everywhere. It’s perfect for sensation-seeking people, but for me it was just too much. At the concert they had on the last night, I thought I was going to flip out and hit someone. I was pressed up against the very front of the cordoned-off area, with people pushing in close behind me, whistling and clapping right beside my ears, and all of them wearing some sort of perfume. I’m not terribly sensitive to scents, but when I’m tired and overwhelmed, I get that way — and yeah, I got that way. I had to leave early, when I realized that I was on the verge of punching someone — anyone. That wouldn’t have been good. Plus, there were security guards about 10 feet away from me.
So, I skipped out and got in bed by 9:30 that night. Pretty good, I have to say. Considering that I had to fly out, first thing in the morning, it was ideal.
The main thing is, I managed to make it through the week without A) drinking, B) losing too much sleep, or C) getting in trouble. I held my tongue and didn’t respond, when intoxicated people were running their mouths about stupid things. They probably don’t remember saying it, anyway. I also didn’t let it get to me personally too much. All the “frat boy” shenanigans, which I have never related to, anyway, didn’t throw me. Mercifully, “frat boy” types have usually ignored me, instead of singling me out and beating me up. So, I just kept clear of the grown-up versions of “nuggie”-giving football players, and stuck with a few other like-minded folks.
Most important of all, I made it home in one piece.
And that’s a huge accomplishment for me. Not only did I navigate all the alcohol-soaked dinners and social events without so much as a sip of booze, but I also got in bed by 9:00 p.m. on two nights… at 10:00 on one night… and not long after 11:00 on another night. All in all, I think I lost maybe four or five hours of sleep over the whole five days, which is pretty amazing, considering that my boss was telling me I had to stay out with the team till 3 a.m., and then stumble back to get a few hours rest before morning.
Yeah, it was amazing that I got out of all that B.S. in one piece.
I just wish it didn’t have to be so amazing.
Overall, though, I’m feeling pretty good about my progress and everything I accomplished. Unlike other similar conferences in the past, this time I did not freak out, I did not lose it back in my hotel room, I did not space out or check out. In other years, at these big user conferences, I was fried by the end of the first day, and I was isolated and alienated for the rest of the trips. But this time, I was all there, I was just “riding” the situation, and I got some good things out of it, as well.
My big discovery at this event is that I am actually really, really good at engaging with strangers and getting them to open up to me. I have a ton of experience and a lot of “war stories”, and when I share them with others, they open up about their own experiences.
It’s funny, because I never really thought of myself as that kind of person – outgoing and engaging – because I am such an introvert. But even introverts can be engaging and outgoing, when we are in the right situations. And in fact, I was interacting with a lot of introverts, myself — one of whom was pretty drunk at 11:30 in the morning on the last day of the conference… probably completely overwhelmed like I was, and using the mini-bar in their room to ease the pain.
Yeah, it was overwhelming. But I made it through.
I realized some new (and important) things about myself and the kind of work I want to do. I also realized the kinds of things I can do, that I never thought I was good at, before.
So, that’s helpful. Despite the challenges, I still got a lot out of the experience.
But we all can find ways to hang in there and find reasons to keep on – family or faith or work, or just curiosity to see what will happen the next day. Sometimes that’s the thing that keeps me going — I have such widespread memory issues that life literally feels like it’s all-new, from one day to the next. I’m fortunate that I’ve found people who can help with that. The most help comes from people who don’t judge me for forgetting, and who don’t treat me like I’m “retarded” or stupid or defective for forgetting things. I just tell myself, there is so much for me to pay attention to, right here and now, that my brain is too busy to think about things other than this moment.
To some it might sound disorienting and frightening, and in the past it has been for me. But I have found a way to make peace with it — and that is by really focusing on the present, focusing on the here-and-now, and getting everything out of this moment that I can. There are so many things that turn out differently than I plan — when people tell me to do a better job of planning my future, I just have to laugh (silently to myself), because they apparently don’t know what it’s like to forget simple, basic things… they must not know what it’s like to go from one day to the next being surprised by things that turn out totally different from what I’d planned, because I forgot or overlooked something.
I can’t blame them for not getting it, I just have to realize that their guidelines don’t necessarily work for me. And letting go of their guidelines and following my own, so I can have the best life humanly possible, has been a great help to me. Truly, it has. Instead of constantly focusing on the future and what my professional goals are and how I want to achieve this, that, and the other thing, I look at my life a day at a time, or a week at a time, and I focus on what will “feed” me and do more than just get me through. I look for the things that really bring joy to my life, the things that bring meaning and purpose and wholeness to my life and the lives of those around me. There is so much more to life than a handful of professional goals, the resume, the title, and all the ambition that goes with it. There is a lot of love and support that we can miss out on, if we are focused on “big picture” things to the exclusion of what’s in front of us.
Ironically, having my memory “shot” and having it end up like Swiss cheese has taught me this. I’ve had to let go of a lot of old ways of doing and thinking and planning — and I’ve had to learn to keep it simple and really give thanks for the good that’s right in front of me. I’ve also had to learn how to “forgive myself” for my shortcomings — they’re not my fault, but it feels like I’ve failed myself, my loved ones, my co-workers, when I cannot remember things, or things get out of whack because of something I’ve overlooked. My days and weeks are full of those kinds of experiences, so I’ve had to learn how to adjust and ask for help and apologize when I’ve screwed up.
Before I found out that TBIs were the culprit in my cognitive / behavioral / functional issues (no, it wasn’t lack of motivation or lack of willpower), I never asked for help, I never asked for directions, I never asked for clarification, and I certainly never apologized when I screwed up.
Now that’s pretty much impossible for me to do, because I see how that held me back. And I also see how no one has ever held it against me, when I’ve asked for assistance when I truly needed it, or I apologized when I was truly sorry for something I did (or didn’t do).
It is certainly a long row to hoe, that’s for sure. But one day at a time, one moment at a time, it all comes together. And when I focus on what I have – a quiet Sunday afternoon when I can just relax to the sound of raindrops falling… the love and support of family and friends… a home I’ve worked really hard for… enough health and strength to get me through the day, and enough motivation to keep building up my health and strength… then all the things I don’t have cannot rule my life anymore.
My mother used to sing a song about how “it depends on how you look at things…” When times get tough, I sing that song to myself, to remember. Because it’s true. So much really does depend our perspective.
I find it best to keep a positive outlook as best I can — just hang in there and keep going. Things get better — and even if the things themselves don’t get fixed, we learn new ways of working around them, and life goes on.