#2 – Five Tests to Diagnose a Brain Injury

Really useful info.

The MD, PhD Is In

One does not need to hit one’s head to get a brain injury. It frequently occurs after a car accident, with much long-term sequelae. At least 5 million people are disabled from brain injury. Almost everyone is bound to know someone who has one, and if you are in the right place at the right time, you can help diagnose it in someone else.

A doctor does not need to order any test at all to make the diagnosis of a brain injury, however, she would be remiss not to do so. These tests show the severity, serving as a marker of where the brain is in time. Should things get better or worse, there is now a baseline.

The Patient History and Physical Exam provide most of the diagnosis. See #1 article, below,  for common signs to observe. The following tests may be ordered to confirm and assess the…

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Doing what has to be done — and loving it

traffic cone standing on a muddy patch of groundWell, I’m off to an interesting start, this morning. I got a good night’s sleep, then I got myself out of bed at a decent time and got my exercise. Did some stretching. Did some lifting. Rode the exercise bike for a little longer than usual. I gained a few pounds over the past couple of weeks of intense work-eat-sleep-work cycles, and I’m not feeling that great, as a result.

Sluggish, stiff, the opposite of limber. And weak. That’s how I’m feeling, these days.

So, I’m doing something about it. And it’s not very pleasant, I have to say. It’s downright painful, in fact. Getting myself back on a regular routine, after going down the rabbit hole of overwork isn’t something my body is very happy about. It wants to languish. It wants to just keep eating and sleeping and working. But I can’t give in to that. Because that leads to more of what I’ve got now — weakness, chronic pain, and trouble doing basic things like brushing my teeth with coordination and putting my socks and shoes on easily. When my body isn’t working well, those things — and more — fall apart.

And I can’t let that happen.

Some days, it feels like a constant struggle to just maintain a normal pace. Some days, it is a struggle to do that. But struggle just comes with the territory in my life. Nothing important happens on its own, in my experience, and I tend to have different ideas about what should happen, compared to the rest of the world. So, to do things like have some peace, I have to structure my  life very differently from most people.

I’m not particularly interested in living in a steady stream of busy-work and mindless distractions to take my mind off the poor choices I’ve made. I’d rather just not make those poor choices, to begin with. So, that means I opt out of so many of the activities that others take for granted. I keep my social media interactions to a fraction of what most people have — including Facebook. I try not to get sucked into the current news cycles, including all the in-depth “analysis” (which just boils down to propaganda, from what I can see). I don’t go out to movies or concerts. I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, and I avoid bars and clubs when I can. I take time to cook decent meals and I keep my television viewing to a minimum, watching just a few shows — many of them on-demand, rather than clicking around the channels looking for something interesting.

And weekends I keep as low-key as possible. Every now and then, I’ll go out and do something, or I’ll launch into a flurry of errands and projects, but I try to avoid the rest of the world as much as possible on my weekends. I have to deal with everyone the rest of the week, so I give myself a break on Saturdays and Sundays.

Most people I know would hate living like I live. They’d find it boring. Or they’d get nervous in their own company. They wouldn’t like to hang around the house with only their own thoughts (and some interesting reading) to keep them occupied. They’d probably go out looking for something to take their mind off all that.

But for me, this is what I have to do to keep myself stabilized — and sane. Having these two days to decompress is not optional. Sure, sometimes I’ll venture out to spend time with friends, but the more active I am on a Saturday or Sunday, the more low-key my other day is. And the downtime is bliss. Sheer bliss. And I’m not sure I could live without it.

I was talking about this with a friend last night — somebody I haven’t seen in quite some time. They were asking why I don’t do as much as I used to, and I explained that keeping up the 9-to-5 work schedule, and then doing all the extra activities I used to do with my spouse, just got to be too much. It wore me out, and I needed some downtime. And they got it. Because over the past couple of years, they’ve been divesting themself of a lot of the “trappings” of a settled life. Rather than keeping up a house and paying a mortgage, they’re traveling around the country, house-sitting for friends for a month at a time, and then moving on to the next thing. Some people cringe at the idea, but it was working well for them.

It’s what they have to do, at this point in time. And it’s working. And they love it. Just like I’m keeping my life low-key on the weekends, cutting back on online social media stuff, and following the news a LOT less than I used to, while the rest of the world goes crazy around me.

To some, these would seem like sacrifices. And in fact, 15 years ago, before my 2004 mTBI, I would have really fought against a lot of these choices. But over time, I’ve realized that this is really the best way I can possibly live my life, and enjoy myself while I’m at it.

I’ve had a really busy couple of weeks, so I’m going to rest as much as possible, today. Do some reading. Think about stuff. Or just stay in bed. We’ll see what happens. In any case, it’s all good.

The rest of the world will be there when I resurface in another 24 hours.

#1 – 10 Signs of a Brain Injury

Great info on what to watch out for.

The MD, PhD Is In

For most people, a traumatic or acquired brain injury starts in the car.

Two million Americans will get a brain injury this year.

trainwreck

If there is lots of blood or broken bones on the car accident scene, or if someone is in a coma, a severe traumatic brain injury can be diagnosed on site.

At first glance, however, you need to know that a mild traumatic brain injury isn’t so obvious, like a giant train just fell out a window.

No, not at all. But the brain damage can be immense.

Here’s a looking-glass view of the brain and how it’s encased in the skull with the spinal cord. So you see?

Everything can seem perfectly normal.

Perfectly normal.

But after days and weeks go by, the internal damage reveals itself. It has to do so, and others need to be on watch for subtle signs. A mild brain injury doesn’t ‘jump out at…

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Ouch – time to get back to my regular exercise

mechanical torso skeleton of King KongOkay, enough work. Time to get some balance back in my life.

Last week was incredibly busy. I had meetings for work from dawn till dusk, and beyond, and I spent a lot of time hunched over my computer or sitting at a table concentrating on what was being said, not to mention the ramifications of what people were saying.

I was so intent on keeping up, I didn’t keep up with my exercise, and now I’m feeling it in a big way. My bum shoulder is acting up again, and so are my elbows, back, and knees. I’m in a fair amount of chronic, low-level pain that keeps flaring up at odd times. It’s tiring. And it puts me in a bad mood.

Typically, I start the day with exercise. I ride my bike for 20 minutes (sometimes more), then I lift weights. If I don’t, I start to feel the ill-effects within a few days. And last week was so packed, I didn’t do much of anything in that department for over 5 days. Not good.

What I notice most is the drop in my strength. I lifted a little this morning, but the weights felt much heavier than usual. And it humbling, to feel that. They shouldn’t feel that heavy to me. Not under normal conditions.

But these aren’t normal conditions.

Well, anyway, enough regrets. I know what to do, and I can do it. Now I can get back to my regular exercise — and then some. I really need to do more, anyway. I used to swim several times a week, but that dropped off, for some reason. I need to get back to that, if only because it exercises my entire body all at one time, instead of just focusing on one muscle group at a time. It also feels good to be less weighted in the pool.

And on the weekends, I need to move more, do more lifting, do more … period. I’m here in the house. And I need to get out, go for the kinds of walks I used to. Get myself moving. Get myself up and at ’em.

It’s kind of strange, how I’ve gotten away from being as active as I used to be. I don’t go out for those time-honored walks, like I used to. I don’t putter around outside, like I used to. I don’t do as much physical activity as I need to — I’ve been working on thinking projects for the past couple of years, sitting at my desk or the dining room table, coming up with ideas. And that’s fine. I’ve made a lot of progress. But I can also think while I’m walking — in fact, I’ve had some of my best ideas while hiking through the woods.

So, it’s time to get back to that. It feels like a New Year’s resolution, but it’s really just common sense.

And not wanting to be in so much pain…

That, too.

Onward.

Fitting it all in

winter sunset with geese flyingI’m chilling out tonight. I had a full day at work, and then I went to dinner with some co-workers. The company was paying, so I ate more than I should have, but it was good to get out on the town.

Changes are happening at work. They’re moving people around, and I need to choose a direction I’ll go in, next. I’ve been a generalist in my job for the past 2.5 years, and now I need to pick a specialty. I have three choices, and two of them don’t appeal to me. This is my chance to climb out of the boggy swamp of dealing with too many people who don’t actually want to do their jobs, and get more strategic in my role. This could be good, actually. And it will be a welcome change.

I hope.

I’ve been pretty busy, lately. I’ve published my print version of Top 10 Things I Wish Someone  Told Me After My Concussions, I’m plugging right along with my home life, I’ve made some great progress on some of my other projects, and work has been keeping me busy. Somehow, it feels like I turned a corner, over the past couple of months, and that feels pretty good. I lost a friend, last week, to leukemia, and that was rough. But I’m also seeing a lot of new openings in my life that are long overdue.

And that’s good.

I seem to have made peace with this job. I’m making the best of it, and I’m finding opportunities that work in my favor. So, that’s good. Most of all, I seem to be finding ways to “slot” different activities together, so I can get more done in less time. And it’s pretty satisfying to look at my lists of all that I got done, and know that I really made substantial, tangible progress.

Well, it’s been a long day, and I need to get some rest. The weather is cooperating, for once. A welcome break from all that cold.

Spring is definitely on the way.

Now in Print: “Top 10 Things I Wish They’d Told Me After My Concussions”

Top 10 Things I Wish Someone Told Me After My Concussions
Top 10 Things I Wish Someone Told Me After My Concussions

I just published Top 10 Things I Wish Someone Told Me After My Concussions in print. You can buy a copy here

My hope is that the word will get out via Amazon – it will eventually be available there, after I get my proof copy and sign off on it. Because TBI/concussion is not only survivable, but there are things we can do that can help our recovery process.

You can also read the series on this site here.

 

Starving today

bone with gristle on itI’m hungry today. As in, ravenous. I had my usual breakfast egg with some coffee, but that wasn’t nearly enough. So, I finished off a sandwich I’d made yesterday. I’m still hungry. This feels like the start of a migraine coming on, when everything feels weird and trippy, and I’m hungrier than usual.

It wouldn’t surprise me, if that were the case. It would make perfect sense, in fact.

Yesterday was a long day. I had to work, starting at 6 a.m., then I had to run some overdue errands. I had to prep for a trip to the next state, where my spouse and I were attending an art show by our friend who is literally on their deathbed. We were all hoping they’d be there, but they couldn’t make it.

Dying takes precedence. Especially doing it well.

I’ve had a lot of people pass in and out of my life. Death was a regular visitor to my family, when I was growing up. That’s what you get when you have a large family and you stay in touch with a wide array of second and third cousins (many of them once or twice removed). Grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends of the family… every year or so, somebody who meant something to me died, while I was growing up.

So, yeah, I have some familiarity with loss.

Plus, a lot of people have come in and out of my life through job changes, relocations, and just the usual migrations of people in these times. Whenever someone moved away, never to be seen or heard from again (this was pre-internet times), it was just as if they’d died. And that happened to me a lot.

It’s happened so much, that when people die, I don’t have the same level of devastation that others do. To me, dying is a mystery — which I’m not qualified to understand completely. I leave it up to The Great Almighty to work out. I don’t believe in hell, anymore, so I’m not really torn up when people die, thinking they might burn in fire and brimstone for all eternity. I tend to think of death more as a transition to a different state of being. The body dissolves, but it continues on. We’re breathing air that contains tiny bits of Beethoven, from what I’ve heard.

Anyway, yesterday was a marathon of sorts. I didn’t realize how tired I was, until I’d done my mid-day errands and had my shower… then started to crash. But there was no time to crash. I had to keep going. The 90-minute drive to where we were going took 2 hours (because my spouse forgot some stuff and we had to improvise & make stops at stores along the way). And when we got there, I couldn’t find parking. I couldn’t even find the venue where the art show was… it was really disorienting, and I was tired, so that was exciting.

I did find the place, though, and the evening commenced with way more social activity than I’ve seen in quite some time. I saw a number of people I used to hang out with a lot, and I did a lot more talking to like-minded people than I do on a daily basis. It was a very artsy crowd, which was a very different “feel” than the mainstream suburbanites I’m usually around. It wasn’t better, it wasn’t worse, it was just different. And doing “different” takes effort for me.

The ride home was trippy, too. I was even more out-of-it than I was driving there, and I nearly ran a red light. But we got home safe and sound, and I got in bed at a fairly decent hour. Slept like a rock. Strange dreams, though. To be expected.

Anyway, I have another full day ahead of me — a bunch of stuff to do this morning, then I crash this afternoon. All afternoon. The plan is to have a hot-hot shower at 1 p.m., then go back to bed and not set an alarm. Just sleep.

And that’s what it takes: a good balance between doing and not-doing, between going and resting. I’m at my best, when I’m hyper-engaged and keeping really busy doing things that matter to me. I haven’t done as much of that in the past couple of years, as I would have liked to. For some reason, everything felt like it was stacked against me, and no matter what I tried, nothing really worked out. But now this sense has unaccountably changed, and I’m feeling more optimistic and practically directed, than I have been in a while. It feels pretty good. I just need to remember to take good care of myself. When I’m starting to get signs of a migraine, take some time off to recover… and then get back into the flow with a good balance of what-is and what-will-be.

It’s always a balance, and now that feels even more important.

I’ve got stuff to do. I’ve got a life to live. There’s nothing like having someone close to you die, to remind you of how short life can be, and how important it is to bring your best to each and every day.

Duly noted.

Now, it’s time for another glass of water.

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.

Busy, busy, busy

I’ve been otherwise occupied, lately, so I haven’t been here much.

It’s all good, though. I suppose.

Work is keeping me occupied.

Home life is keeping me busy.

I’ve got some reading and writing projects I’m working on.

And I’ve got plenty to think about.

So, it’s been good.

I’ve also been getting pretty decent sleep, which is a nice change.

The new year is working out well.

So far.

Getting offline – the good old-fashioned way

offline no wireless symbolI keep thinking about what life was like before the Internet. I know, it’s hard to imagine — especially as I’m writing this (and you’re reading this) online.

The Web has so completely altered how we do things, how we think about things, and what we think about, it’s very difficult to remember what it was like before.

But there was a time before the Internet. I can remember it, however faintly. And I remember how quiet my weekends used to be, when I would spend hours just reading, studying books I had, instead of surfing around online.

I feel very ambivalent about this, to be honest. I do love all the expanded access to research and interesting information that the Web makes possible. At the same time, though, it’s so full of distractions, that I’ve missed a lot of insights about much of the information out there, because something (literally) shinier has popped up in my view before I could digest what I was reading.  Online advertising has not done us a whole lot of good, in that respect. And I think that fragmented, flashy way of hijacking our attention is a seriously Bad Thing.

Especially for people like me.

Interestingly, my electronic life has taken a new turn. A few months back, I bought a new-to-me computer for an amazing prize. A new version costs over $3,000, but I got mine (used) for just a little over $300. Score! Yes, it was refurbished, and yes, there were some “dings”. But it works great. It’s fast and powerful and has a huge amount of disk space, so I’ve been able to transfer all my various files in all my various external hard drives to a single place. That, in itself, is progress, because I have a lot of files, and I need to be able to find  them without sifting through a bunch of different drives.

The only thing is, the PC doesn’t have a wireless card. And it’s on the other side of the house from my router with the wired connection. So, I can’t get online, unless I lug it downstairs and plug it in.

At first, I was pretty upset. I spend a lot of time online, and I need access for a lot of stuff I do. On the other hand, I’ve been increasingly worried about the effects that online life is having on my state of mind, as well as my body. I spend way too much time sitting in front of of social media, clicking links and entertaining myself, when I should really be doing something productive. I can’t even count all the hours I’ve lost to Facebook,  Twitter, and other social media. Even Google News tends to be a time-eater for me.

I’ve been wanting to get away from online life for some time. The thing is, I do a lot of my writing while online (especially here), researching and following leads. That puts me at risk for “squirrel!” syndrome — where I can easily be pulled in by the shiny-flashy lure of some clickbait headline or link. It doesn’t take much, at times, to pull me off-course, and that’s been happening, now, for years.

So much so that many things I’ve intended to do have fallen by the wayside. Because I just got distracted.

That’s about to change. Because my new computer isn’t connected to the internet. Not only am I protected from the prying eyes of people who may mean me harm online, but I’m also shielded from the constant distractions of online life. I’ve been needing to make this change — revert back to my old ways of writing, when it was just me, my ideas, and a keyboard (and yes, I used to use a typewriter, back in the day). Clear out the clutter — the uninvited intrusions that suck away my most precious possession : time, as though they’re entitled to it.

Screw all that. Screw them. They’re not invited. I want my space back, I want my thoughts back. I’ll still be able to write things like this without being online. I’ll still be able to draft these posts and the transfer them to another computer that is connected. I just won’t be constantly distracted by other stuff that has no place in my life and shouldn’t even come anywhere near me.

As much as I love the web and all the connections it gives me, there’s a time to say “enough is enough”.

I’m saying that now and doing the right thing. It was an accident… completely unintentional. But my unconnected computer is totally for the best.

Totally.

Onward.