5 ways mental slowness is less of a problem

For the past month or so, I’ve been feeling mentally slower than I’d like. Almost as though I was wading through mud. I tried explaining it to my neuropsych, but I didn’t do a very good job of it.

This week, though, things have seemingly lifted off me. And while I’m not feeling 100%, per se, I’m not feeling as burdened by my slowness as I was before.

First, I’m not feeling as slow as I was a few weeks back.

I started exercising again. That might have something to do with it. Either it’s getting my mind off things, or I’m genuinely feeling healthier. I think it’s the latter. In addition to not feeling as slow I as I was… I’m also feeling comparatively sharper than a lot of people around me. I’ve been watching others around me, and they are not holding up very well. So, I know it’s not just me. And that makes me feel a lot less self-conscious.

Second, I’ve got too much going on, to notice how slowed down I am.

I am doing so much that’s new for me, these days — or that is a combination of old things that are showing up in new ways, that I almost have no way of knowing if I’m actually thinking more slowly than usual, or if I’m just taking my time to make sure I don’t miss anything.

Third, I realize that my old “need for speed” was pretty much of an illusion.

I had it in my head that I needed to be going 500 mph all the time, when in fact “haste makes waste” and I was bumbling all over the place, screwing up, messing things up so royally that I was constantly scrambling to catch up. I wasn’t necessarily operating at a higher speed, I was having to back-track and retrace my steps a whole lot, which had me in a frenzied panic state, a lot of time. I thought it was speed, but it really wasn’t.

Fourth, I’ve realized that while my processing speed may be slower than it used to be, that has its advantages – namely, that I can slow down to sift through more information.

I’m 10 years older than I was when I had my last TBI. And a whole lot has happened to me, since that time. I’ve been through a lot of upheaval and struggle, and I’ve had some big wins and losses along the way. I now have more “data” to sift through in my head, and that means it’s going to take me longer to put things in order and make sense of them. Even if I’d never gotten clunked on the head along the way, I would still need more time to parse through everything and make sense out of it.

Fifth, I may feel slow today, but I am pretty sure that can change.

I haven’t been sleeping as well as I should, and I know that has an effect. It’s also been a long winter, and I’m foggy and dull. I have seen my mental performance turn around in the past, and with the right hygiene and exercise and just getting all the gunk out, I know from past experience that that can have a positive effect on me.

I’ll just keep trying. Everything changes, and this can get better. I just need to keep a positive attitude, use my head, not be stupid about my sleeping habits, and do the best I can each day.

Somehow, it works out.

Adversity is my friend, this week

Up and over

This has been an extraordinarily challenging week. Thursday and Friday, especially. All sorts of stuff “blew up” at work — most of the drama being emotional.

Hm. I know all about that. Over the years of struggling with unexpected behaviors and results after my fall and mild TBI in 2004, I’ve had more than my fair share of meltdowns, freak-outs, blow-ups, and countless hours of feeling like a miserable piece o’ sh*t for long stretches of time.

The positive outcome of all this (now that I’ve learned how to modulate my inner state – which, I can tell you, has not been easy) is that I am much less thrown off by intensity and seemingly impossible situations. I’ve already been to the depths of that pit, and I know how to pull myself out of it.

And in the process, I can pull others out of their tailspins, as well. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of days — keeping a cool head, so I could do a “knowledge transfer” from someone who was leaving the company — and was the very last person in their group to leave, effectively taking all the resident expertise with them.

{insert big sad face emoticon here}

Anyway, everyone has been pulling a “nutty” and freaking out — yelling at each other, slamming their hands on desks, and spinning in circles — because a few key people in management didn’t put two and two together, and they got caught out with a big massive gaping hole in their staff.

Ooops.

Oh, well.

So, I got pulled into the mix, because I actually have years of experience doing the sort of thing the departing individual did on a daily basis. I used to do it everyday, in fact, and it surprised me that nobody reached out to me to loop me in.

Of course, I was all booked up with another massive project that has been nearly going off the rails, on and off, for the past few months — in no small part because management is making decisions that negatively impact the lot of us, without so much as an explanation why, or providing any sort of support for our transitions.

Oh, well.

Anyway, the good news is that I’m a contractor, so no matter what goes down, I still get paid, and this sh*tstorm can’t hurt my future prospects. All it’s done is given me opportunity to get involved in the kind of work I’ve been wanting to do for some time, now, but haven’t been able to.

Plus, I figured out how to automate a seriously drudge-work task yesterday, and I’m working today on programming a tool that will save the sanity of many people to come after me.

So yes, this is not so bad, after all. I get to step up and save the day, I get to be the hero, and I get to expand my skillset — in a practical professional manner, in a way that goes right on my resume (woo hoo). This just makes me stronger, in the long run, because it shows that I can rise to the occasion and keep my cool in the midst of a mess… and come out with a solution that works for everyone.

And to be perfectly honest, if I hadn’t spent years in the pit of despair, not knowing how to pull myself out, stuck in my fight-flight sympathetic nervous system overload “soup”, I wouldn’t be able to keep calm, right now. I have developed some serious skills over the years, at handling these sorts of experiences, with varying degrees of success. And actually, nothing that has happened to me over the past few days has come anywhere near close to the level of distress, panic, anxiety, and meltdown that I used to experience on a regular basis.

Compared to the emotional upheaval I used to marinate in on a regular basis, this is relatively minor.

Which just makes me look good. Calm in the midst of the storm. So much calm, in fact, that I’m going to build a little app that will offload a sh*t-ton of manual drudge-work from the hapless soul who has to do it in the future.

So there.

I’m pretty wiped out from the past few days, but I’m energized by the programming I’m going to get to do, and it’s all good. Just have to pace myself and catch up on my sleep.

For sure.

Onward.

 

Oh, Lordy…

It will be alright in the end.

Yesterday turned into one big long exercise in pulling out every skill I’ve developed over the years and putting it into action in very subtle ways.

It stood me in good stead, and this little drama is going on my resume for sure.

More later — still putting water on the smoking coals from the conflagration yesterday.

Gotta run.

Onward.

Gearing up for another neuro visit

Well, I found a new neurologist. And I finally got an appointment with them in about 4 weeks’ time. I’ll be sitting down with my neuropsychologist to review their notes.

This makes me nervous. Looking at what’s been going on with me, and trying to articulate it with another person is… challenging. I worry that I won’t articulate things well, and we’ll end up going off on a tangent that’s just not consistent with where I’m at.

And then I can end up on yet another boondoggle.

No thank you. I’ve done that already — several times, over the years, and I have better things to do than try out new meds that make me feel worse (or just plain weird).

I guess the secret is in keeping things simple. Focusing on a few simple questions — like  Is this sh*t going to kill me? — will keep things from spinning wildly out of control.

Also, staying rested and well-fed… not eating too much sugar… tracking my headaches when they come up. It’s all part of it.

I’m really more anxious than I am fearful. It’s just a lot of ideas and nervousness spinning around in my head. And things are very busy and chaotic at work, so that doesn’t help.

Oh, well. Time to go back to my experiments with numbers…

Not in the mood today

TBI Myth #4: The Lourdes Phenomenon (or... Don't Expect Miracles)

Monday… again?

It’s Monday, and normally this does not bother me.

But today, I’m not feeling it. I think it was the long walk in the woods yesterday that was so excellent, I did not want to come out.

That, and the continuous drudgery of my work. Right now, it’s pretty much of a slog, and I’m not feeling all that inspired or motivated. Not that it should matter — I always do what needs to be done — but today got off to a rough start, from the moment I woke up.

One of the things that’s on my mind and dragging me down, is that I have a neuro appointment coming up in a month. Glory be… I guess. I want to make sure the tremors and headaches I’m having are not something serious to be concerned over, and it would be nice if I could get a break from the pain… so I need to go. I’m actually looking forward to going.

Except that now I have to be all cogent and what-not, and be able to communicate. I haven’t been feeling all that coherent, lately, and I’ve run into some “speed bumps” with my neuropsych, who persists in interpreting my symptoms as primarily psychological, rather that neurological or biochemical or physiological. So, I feel like a head-case when I talk to them. And they’re compiling a “comprehensive” profile of me… which makes me incredibly nervous that my neuro will head off in the wrong direction and I’ll end up on yet another boondoggle, like I did 25 years ago after a car accident when I was wiped out with chronic pain.

Oh, screw it. I’m going to work. I’m going to focus on what’s in front of me, and let that be that. I’ll cross the next bridge when I come to it. Main thing is that I stay rested and drink plenty of water.

On-ward.

Back from my walk, and happy

I had a great walk out along the back roads today. I also went into the woods and was able to hike on some of the trails that I have not been able to hike on for many months. I have been so busy with work, as well as other projects, that I have not spent as much time outside as I really should have. Also, the winter really took it on and I didn’t actually feel like doing a lot outside. Not having much sunlight, and also with the holiday busyness and also people being sick, including myself, makes it difficult to want to be active.

It felt really great to stretch my legs today and get a really good walk. I have been missing being able to just get out and walk, but now I can, so all is well.

The great thing about long sunday walks is that it gives me time to just think. Sunday is my preferred day to take those long walks and really spend some time just being outdoors, especially in the woods. There’s something incredibly relaxing and restoring about being out in nature, without anyone around to have to interact with. I passed a few other hikers while I was out, but nobody wanted to stop and talk, which was nice. I did see one of my neighbors down the road who’s also very happy that spring is on the way, and we had a short little conversation before my walk was underway. So that was good.

Then I slept.

I just woke up from a nap which I really needed today. For some reason, I have been really tired lately, and I just needed to sleep. So I did. It feels strange to spend the day doing only three things – hiking, sleeping, and making supper – but that’s how it is today, and that’s fine.

I had intended to do my taxes today, and finish them up, but that isn’t happening. I’m tired, I need to rest, and the government can wait to get its money. Wait, no, they already got their money. So I am the one who is waiting. I will be getting a bit of a refund, but fortunately I am NOT in such bad financial condition that I can’t wait to get my refund like it was last year. Last year was rough, and I did my taxes early, and got my refund early, which was nice to have the cash and very unlike me – but because things were so tight, the money was practically gone overnight.

Oh well, it’s like lending money to the federal government, and then they pay you back. That’s exactly what it is and some people are really opposed to it, but for me it’s like lending money to an acquaintance. It’s not so much because they need the money – even if they do it’s more for the sake of putting the money away, and then having access to it later on when I need it back.

So, I don’t worry about it.

I’m pretty psyched about a new discovery I made today. I am actually dictating this post into my tablet, and I am NOT typing on the keyboard at all. Some of the words are turning out strange but overall it’s doing much much better than I expected it to. And I can always clean it up later.

This is particularly exciting to me because my hands and wrists have been giving me trouble lately and I have been wanting to get away from doing a lot of typing. Over the winter, I worked so much on some of my projects that I really aggravated my carpal tunnel and my wrists and hands have been paying the price for it. This way, I can do my posts just by speaking aloud and that will be that. It’s totally excellent.

The jury is still out on whether what I am saying makes sense the way that I wanted to – because the words come out differently and the ideas flow differently when I talk vs when I write – but for now this is a good option for me.

One of the other things that really excites me about this, is that it means that I will be able to continue work on some of my writing projects that I had waited to do too long because of all the typing involved. In the past years I have been more interested writing by longhand then typing, but that puts the double strain on my hands because inevitably I will need to type out what it is that I write in longhand. Now that is not the case anymore I can simply write in longhand, and then dictate read into my tablet and it will be saved. That is incredible improvement for me, and I had actually done this in past years with another computer that I had which had dragon naturally speaking on it. But the copy that I have does not have a valid license number anymore so I can’t use that old technique. I really need to be able to dictate and this is a free and easy option for me.

And like I said, the accuracy is really surprisingly good. It’s very very pleasing.

So, for the rest of my day today, I’m going to get up and make some supper. I’ll be making Easter dinner which probably will be ready later on since my spouse and I usually eat later in the day anyway, and then we’ll watch some television. Not bad for a Sunday. I had intended to be super productive this weekend but frankly I should know better when on Friday I have plans to be super productive. That usually means that I am extremely tired and I’m not thinking clearly.

So, that’s it for today. I may write more later, but probably not.

Have a great day.

A few quick visualizations of TBI data

From 2001-2010, sourced from the CDC and BIA USA

bi-types-incidence-2012

Types of Brain Injury – TBI happens nearly twice as often as other kinds of brain injury (of course, this is only what’s reported)

tbi-deaths-2001-2010

Total reported deaths from TBI from 2001-2010 – Note: this does NOT show all the unreported deaths.

tbi-causes-2012

What causes TBI?

Brain-hacking – Moving Beyond the Brain you were Born With

brokenbrilliant:

Yes – good reading. Everyone should learn about this!

Originally posted on ADD . . . and-so-much-more:

Genes, Environment &
Neuroplasticity
Brain-based Reframes

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Turning on the light

What happens if you try to turn on a lamp before you plug it in?

Not much, right?

What happens if you try to turn on a lamp that is plugged into a dead outlet?

Still no light.

AND, unless there is a working bulb in the lamp (and the electricity hasn’t been disconnected for some reason), you won’t get light either – no matter how many different outlets you try.

In none of our “no light” examples is anything wrong with the lamp itself — but there is more to getting light into a dark house than simply having a working lamp.

Getting light into dark rooms includes having effective connections to other things that are working correctly — assuming, of course, that the lamp itself has been designed to work…

View original 1,509 more words

Finding work that soothes

The other day I was pretty riled up. Something just pushed me out of my Zone of  Chill, and I felt like I do when I’m on prednisone – punchy and rarin’ to grouse.

More people are leaving my employer, which is not a surprise. At the same time, it’s making everything more “dynamic” and uncertain, so there’s a fair amount of tension and cliquish “circling the wagons” and whatnot.

I’ve pretty much removed myself from those inner circle types of cliques – I don’t go outside with the smokers to “debrief” about the latest developments, and I have stopped eating lunch with folks who are gossips. I have been eating lunch with folks whose company I enjoy, plus I’m taking time to myself, to think about making lasting changes to how I do things in my life.

Like the kind of work I do.

I’ve been working with people pretty intensely for about five years now, being a lot more social and involved with people than I’d been in years.The thing about working with people all day — especially the ones who turn to me for answers and rely on me for support and guidance — is that it’s exhausting. I seriously need a break.

Plus, people can be so incredibly nonsensical and self-destructive at times, it makes my head spin.

Part of it is age. People 15 years younger than me may just not know any better. Come to think of it, most of the stress is about  people not knowing any better, regardless of age.

Anyway, instead of getting sidetracked in a rant, let me say that I have rediscovered an old passion of mine — data mining from public sources. It’s amazing, how much raw data is available on public websites, including government ones. There is so much info freely out there for anyone to download and analyze. Plus, there are new data visualization tools that do a fantastic job of helping you make sense of it all.

In my last job, one of my favorite things to do was compile data and analytics, make dashboards for marketing managers, and help them make sense of things. It was the perfect combination of skills and activities for me, and it was all good. I didn’t get to do it as much as I would have liked, because it wasn’t my main job (and the person whose main job it was kept pushing me out of the way), but I did really enjoy it, when I could do it.

Working all day with people, trying to motivate them, keep them on track, managing projects… good grief, how exhausting.

Working all day with data, trying to compile and parse it, make sense of it, and then construct stories out of it… now that’s exciting.

It’s also very soothing for me. I don’t have to figure out anything special to get a machine to cooperate with me. I just need to figure out how it works, and it’s going to work the same way each time (provided I am consistent, myself). It’s not going to have moods, it’s not going to hold a grudge, it’s not going to be emotionally distant. It’s just going to be a machine and act like a machine. And I can deal with that.

So, I’m collecting data and organizing it.  Cleaning it up and finding patterns and creating different visualizations. Doing my modeling and design, and seeing what’s there. It’s such a relief. Plus, I’m using skills I haven’t been able to use in quite some time. And I’m learning some new technologies which are incredibly cool — and may help me find better work, on down the line.

The best thing, though, is that this work really soothes me. It gets me settled down and calms my excitable system. It keeps me focused on tasks for extended periods of time — it holds my interest, and it keeps my brain learning, which is a good thing.

I’ve been pretty low, over the past month or so. I think the winter was just so long and dreary, plus everything has been so up-in-the-air with work. I haven’t been exercising like I should, and that’s depressing me, too.

Now it seems things have turned a corner, and I’m feeling good. I found something to do which lifts my spirits and recharges my batteries. It’s all good.

Onward.