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 pretty easy for me to push myself past common-sense limits. I get my heart set on being able to do something or being able to do something a certain way, and then when it doesn’t work out, I spend way too much time being hard on myself about it.
That helps no one. It really doesn’t help at all.
So, I need to be generous with myself and give myself the extra time I need to do things.
I’ve figured out what to do about my work situation. It occurred to me, last week, that I’m 2.5 years away from being old enough to qualify for early retirement. It sounds bizarre to say it, but I am. I’ll be 55 in a few more years, and that means — in the high-tech industry — I’ll be “old”. And old enough to take a retirement package.
Does this make me happy? You better believe it. “Happy” is an understatement.
I mean, there are things I like about the job, but it’s just too demanding, and I’m not being properly compensated for what I give up, each and every day. I provide a sh*t-ton of value to my employer, and yet…
But in another couple of years, I can not only leave, but also potentially leave w/ a retirement package that’s a nice little golden parachute (emphasis on “little”) that can buy me some time and give me a buffer against any drop in income I might experience.
In the meantime, I’m working on a particular skillset that will allow me to either transition to a different kind of role, or allow me to consult. I’m downloading all my LinkedIn contacts, and I’m building a prospects list for people to reach out to in the future. There’s some danger that some of my contacts will “age out” of the industry (as some are older than I), and that I won’t have as many people familiar with my past work, who I can reach out to. But I have close to 1,000 contacts, most of whom are well familiar with my work. So, I’m pretty hopeful.
I just need to get everything set up ahead of time.
That means I need to:
Brush up on specific technical skills
Stay current with the part of the industry I’ll be working in
Figure out how much to charge for my services
Build up my portfolio of solutions I’ll be offering
Keep my image squeaky-clean and not do anything in public that will put me in a bad light
Update my wardrobe to be more professional and consultant-like
Build out my website in ways that put me in a really great light
I’m sure I’ll discover a lot more I need to do, as time goes on. But for now, this is a good starting list. I need to stay steady and systematic, and really pace myself.
I’ve tried to get my own thing going, many times in the past, but it never really worked. I think I just pushed too hard, too fast, and I wore myself out. I never factored in the effects of all those concussions. I had no idea they would even bother me. After all, in movies and cartoons, people were shown getting hit on the head all the time, and it never bothered them. So why should it bother me?
I just always pushed through — also, because I was using stress to numb my pain and confusion. The more confused I was, the more in pain I was, the harder I pushed. And it backfired on me, time and time again.
Well, this is my do-over. I get to do things differently this time, and I will. I have a healthy timeline ahead of me… enough time to get all my ducks in a row, set myself up to succeed, and get all the pieces in place for the future Iwant to have.
I’ve been helping to make a lot of other people rich for a long time, so why not at least give myself a fighting chance at independence?
It’s the least I can do for myself, after all these years.
I haven’t been myself, for the past two days. I was on a business trip, this past week, and my flight got in late on Thursday night/Friday morning. Then I needed to start work early on Friday morning. I was hoping to sleep in on Saturday, but this morning I had another conference call at 8 a.m., so that was … fun.
Actually, it was a good experience to have. And I held up my end of the bargain on the conference call, validating some results of a software release that happened earlier that morning.
It turned out well, which is good. Because then I had to run out and do my errands. Take the trash to the dump. Gas up the car. Go out and buy some computer stuff to keep my equipment running smoothly. That went well, too. Then it was back home to do more errands and help my spouse get ready for an event they were organizing. Everything seemed to be going pretty well, and they got on the road at a decent hour.
I got a phone call about 90 minutes later, that I had forgotten to load one of their main pieces of equipment in the van. Both of us had spaced out and completely forgotten to load it. WTF?
I never do that. At least, I don’t do it much, lately. I used to space out a lot and lose track of stuff. Either that, or I’d be so keyed-up that I’d be on top of everything and wouldn’t forget anything. Hyper-organized ‘n’ all that. But lo and behold, tonight, I did the unthinkable — seriously, it was that out-of-character for me. Then again, I was going on 4.5 hours of sleep the night before, and I’d had a full day already, on a Saturday, no less.
So, I threw the equipment in the back of my car and drove like a bat out of hell to the event. Got there before it started, which was nothing short of miraculous. I hit almost all the lights exactly right — either they stayed green, or I snuck through while they were turning orange to red.
Mission accomplished. Embarrassing, but I got the equipment where it was supposed to be. And that’s really what matters. I spaced out, but I made it right.
Times like this, I just have to shake my head. I am not “myself”, lately. Not even remotely close. I’m over-tired, stressed from work, taxed and alternating between overwrought and indifferent. It’s very strange to be me, these days. I’m pretty swamped at work and at home, so I don’t always recognize myself and my reactions.
It’s worse when I’m tired.
A lot worse.
So, the best I can do, sometimes, is just hang in there, keep plugging away till I see a signpost along the way that makes sense to me… and follow that.
Just keep going.
Speaking of going, it’s time for me to go to bed. I’m behind about 5 hours of sleep, including the hour of sleep I lost last night. Always an adventure.
For me, it means I have a few days ahead of me to put in some more work. Some thought. Some intention.
It’s precious, precious time to step back, reconsider what I’ve been doing for the past week, re-set my direction, if necessary, and also rest, recuperate, re-adjust myself to a life that’s more like “me” and less like how the rest of the world expects me to be.
My TBI recovery has taken me in so many different directions, but at the core, it’s reminded me of who I really am, deep down inside, and what I want from my life. I was frankly on a wrong path, back when I fell down those stairs in 2004, and although it cost me dearly, I’m now on a much better path.
I’ve noticed a very different way of doing things, now, than I used to follow before.
In the past, I wanted (needed) long stretches of time to think things through, figure them out, and then gradually move through them.
Now, though, I work better when I break things down into smaller steps, focus fully on them, and then let them go after a little while.
I never realized, before, that spending too much time on what I was doing, was holding me back.
But it was. I would get tired. Then I’d get scattered. And I would get distracted to the point where I would lose focus on what I was doing, wander off and do something else, then wonder why I could never get anything done.
I know now why that is/was. I get tired.
So instead of trying to do everything all at once, I break things down into smaller steps and do them one at a time. And I don’t try to do everything all at once. If I plan properly, I can come back and pick up where I left off, and all is well.
All really is well. This is a huge improvement for me. I get more done, and I don’t exhaust myself in the process.
I had a very productive weekend. A lot of folks tell me to slow down and do less, and it’s important to keep balanced. The thing is, I actually am able to keep balanced while doing more. Because I know how to do things in a pretty efficient way.
Plus, I have a ton of experience that I can use — and I do.
Only I do it much, much better than ever before.
Once upon a time, I was constantly driven to go-go-go, to do-do-do. It was a heady, exciting way to live. But it wore me out. I got tired. And then I lost sight of what I was doing and why I was doing it.
Of course, I had no idea that my history of TBIs was driving me, or how it was affecting me when I got tired.
Now I know. And now I can manage my energy levels — lie down and take a nap when I need one… get up and get to work, if I have the energy… and really pay attention to the things that mean the most to me, all along the way.
I think I’m still as driven as I was before. Maybe I’m even more driven…
To make a difference in the world
To be a positive influence, no matter where I am
To make dreams come true, for myself and others
To really, really help
Because more is possible than anyone seems to believe anymore.
Yeah, I know… the world is in a mess. Political turmoil. Drama. Threats of war — or outright war. Territorial disputes. Money, power, influence, control. Everybody’s churned up, worked up, and telling tales of doom and gloom.
And I used to get so bent out of shape about things like this. As though there were anything I could do about it. And it wore me out. It tired me out, it made me anxious and agitated, and that was no good.
I had no idea how fatigue affected me.
So, I couldn’t manage it.
Angry, tired, frustrated. I was always that way. If I wasn’t all three of them (which was often), I was at least one of them.
And that was no good. It just stopped me at every turn — the fatigue, the agitation, the distractions.
Meanwhile, I had no idea why nothing ever worked out for me, long-term.
I thought about this a lot, this past weekend, as I was systematically working through my list of errands. Things I had to do for others. Things I needed to do for myself. I thought about all the years I spent working towards my dreams, only to have them fizzle out. And then never understanding why that was.
Now I know why it was. I got tired. Fatigued. And then I got distracted and scattered and angry and defeated.
I’m not blinded to that, anymore.
Now I know.
Now I can manage.
I don’t have to settle for less, anymore. I can actually finish things I’ve started.
I’ve been doing better about taking care of myself, lately.
I guess I just got to a point where I realized that pushing myself constantly wasn’t paying off. I’ve always been driven. I’ve always been motivated. I’ve always wanted more and I’ve wanted to see what all I was capable of doing and being and becoming.
I’ve lost sight of the basics more times than I can count, but that gets old after a while.
So, I’m focusing on the basics. I’m keeping my routine going, getting my exercise every single morning — sometimes pushing myself a little harder, sometimes taking it a little easier — eating right, taking care of business as I go through my day(s).
The more I focus on the basics, the more I tend to my foundation, the stronger I am, the more stable I am. And it puts things in perspective.
It’s Friday. I got up early – couldn’t sleep, partly because of work excitement, partly because of being excited about the weekend. I’ve had a few hours of productive working on my projects. I solved a big problem that had stumped me for the past few days. I’ve had my breakfast. I’ve had my big glass of water. And I’m moving forward.
With my foundation in place.
It wasn’t always this way, of course. 13 years ago, my life was starting to fall apart. I’d gotten a nasty concussion about a year before, and I had no idea how it was affecting me. Things were just dissolving, and I didn’t understand just how much they were. All I knew was, life had gotten about 1000 times harder than it had ever been. All I knew was, I was stressed out more than ever, I was having so much trouble concentrating, I was emotionally volatile, my temper was all over the place, and life was increasingly impossible.
I nearly lost everything.
What turned it around was simple — focusing on basics. Developing a routine and using checklists to keep myself on track. Getting to know myself again and figuring out how to get through my day in one piece, without losing it over every little thing.
It was simple. But it wasn’t easy. It took constant work. It took sustained focus. It took years.
But it was worth it. And I found that taking care of the basics, being consistent (even boring) was the key to getting back… getting back to myself… getting back to my dreams… restoring my abilities that I’d thought were gone for good.
It was worth it.
And it continues to be.
Focus on the basics. Master the fundamentals. Keep working, keep refining, keep “iterating” from one improvement to the next… and stay steady. Don’t give up. Just be stubbornly committed to my goals and objectives.
And rest. Plenty of rest, good food, clean water. Restoration of my energy stores.
But for all the busy-ness, I didn’t move as much as I should have — and normally do. I spent most of the past week sitting. Just sitting. In workshops. Not moving around, not stretching my legs, but sitting and listening and talking.
Just getting up and walking to the cafeteria was painful. It’s the worst of all worlds — being sedentary and having to concentrate really hard. Just doesn’t work with me. I can do it for a day, but three days in a row?
No thank you.
Now, my extremes continue, as I launch into a day full of errand-running and travel and helping my spouse with a fundraiser event. I’m just driving. Not “working” the event. I’ll have time to myself while the event is going on to do some fun things and also catch up with a friend I haven’t talked to in a while.
So, even though it’s busy, it’s all good.
The past week has really brought home, just how important it is for me to move regularly. On vacation, the week before that, I was in motion on a regular basis. Even though I was “off work”, I still had plenty to keep me busy — though in a good way. Buying groceries so I could make us nice brunches and sandwiches for the beach… arranging for special permits, so we could access different parts of the area and have a really great experience… getting out and about to see what was going on in the town… and exploring the beaches and hiking paths.
It was a very active “time off”, and it felt great. I didn’t get much done that was sedentary, like reading or blogging, but that was perfectly fine with me. It was a fair trade.
But now this past week… ugh. I was too busy to get in my regular exercise, I didn’t get enough restful sleep, I had appointments in the evenings that cut into my regular schedule, and I had to start early each day, so I didn’t get as many morning workouts as I needed. And my daily eating was off — I ate too much food, and it was the wrong kind.
Fatigue. Brain fog. Pain. Confusion. Irritability. Far less functionality than I normally have. And the constant nagging feeling that I’m missing something, I’m forgetting something, I should be doing something I haven’t yet thought of.
I’m glad that’s over.
Now I can get back to my regular routine. Get a decent night’s rest, each night, exercise each morning, eat the foods that work for me, move around during the day, stretch regularly, drink plenty of water, and get back to life as I’ve developed it.
There’s a reason I do what I do. And there’s a reason I keep doing it.
I’ve tried the other ways. They seriously just don’t work for me.
Brain injury is a brain injury, and as much as we may say “each brain is different, each injury is different,” we still need to look at the ways that each kind of injury is similar to others. And the experiences we have can be quite similar.
Loneliness, isolation, confusion, not feeling like yourself, getting angry quickly, mood swings, and let’s not forget the bone-crushing fatigue and the embarrassment that comes from not being the person you used to be… They are all things brain injury survivors have in common, and it’s helpful to actually treat people accordingly.
I honestly don’t understand why more emphasis isn’t placed on the experienceof brain injury. That’s what trips us up, quite frankly. That’s the thing that makes our recoveries so much harder — the experiences we have and the effects those experiences have on our selves, our Sense-of-Self.
Well, that’s why I’m here. To speak up for those of us who tend to get stuck in our post-BI experiences, and need to see there’s actually a way out… Because there is. There is always hope — even in the most dire cases. Nobody can tell me different. That’s just how we’re built — to amaze… to heal… to grow… to learn. And learn some more.
Here’s a quick summary of the different types of brain injury:
Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)
includes things like stroke and anoxic (being without oxygen) brain injury. Some consider traumatic brain injury to be an acquired brain injury, because it “is damage to the brain that was not present at birth and is non-progressive” (See The ABI Manual for more). Personally, I wouldn’t call it “non-progressive”, but everyone’s experience is different.
is what people often call a “mild” TBI. Concussions are sometimes considered less serious than traumatic brain injuries, and a lot of people consider a TBI that clears up after a while, to be a Concussion.
It’s bad enough when you’ve gotten hurt, but when you’re told you have to keep going… that’s the worst. Especially at the level that pro rugby players are at. Me? I was my own worst enemy, pushing myself to go-go-go, despite being hurt. I didn’t know enough about my own condition to realize I *was* hurt. And so, the issues built up… and they didn’t resolve, till I’d nearly lost everything.
As highlighted previously, concussion is a serious issue for rugby league players, with regulations only recently being introduced. Prior to these regulations, there was little protecting the players from serious injuries after being concussed. This meant that the players were more vulnerable to the long term impacts of concussion.
One such player is former Newcastle Knights winger, James McManus, who was forced to retire in 2015 due to concussion related injuries. Due to improperly treated concussions throughout his career, McManus now suffers through regular symptoms of concussion, including; cognitive impairment, impairment of memory, mood swings, headaches, anxiety, depression and sleep disturbance. All of this comes from, McManus believes, the medical staff not forcing him to take his head injuries more seriously.
McManus believes he should’ve been forced to retire in 2013 and as a result of playing on, he suffered up to ten more concussions, resulting in permanent brain…