Hard work – and stress – paying off

Yeah, it’s paying off 🙂

I don’t want to sing the praises of stress right now, because I don’t want anyone getting the idea that I think stressing yourself out is a great idea. I will say, however, that the added strain of working long hours, this past week, is paying off — in terms of a full day off work, so I have an uninterrupted day to do some things I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

I’m getting my neck worked on. The left side is very sore, and the tightness there is translating to a right hip that feels arthritic. I know it’s not arthritis — it’s muscular, because of the location of the pain, but it’s keeping me awake at night, and it’s making my life more difficult.

I’ve been trying to do physical therapy and acupuncture, but the results have been slow. I need to have someone just work on my neck and get my back and shoulders loosened up. Kind of fast-track it.

I also worked out this morning more than I have in months. I actually got on the exercise bike for 10 minutes. I rode easy for 5 minutes, then I did a few 30-second alternating intervals of fast/easy, and I finished up with 2 minutes of slow and steady. Then I lifted slightly heavier weights than I have been, in the past – fewer reps, more weight, with tons of attention to form.

And it felt great. Just working up a sweat felt great. It’s been a long time, since I really pushed myself — partly because I’ve been having headaches when I push myself while exercising. I do have a slight headache now, but I can live with it. I’m just drinking extra water and stretching my neck and shoulders.

I’m also taking some time to get on Facebook and reconnect with my friends there. I miss my coworkers from my last job. Well, some of them, anyway. I think the thing I miss most is their predictability. My brain and system got used to dealing with them, and it developed behavioral habits that I came to depend on, to add structure and meaning to my life.

One thing I do NOT miss about them, is how young and frivolous they can be. I really could tell that most of them were 20 years younger than me, and it’s nice to not have to deal with them anymore.

I’m also getting my head on straight about my new job. Turns out, the crowd I’m working with is about 10-15 years younger than me, which has also turned out to be a bit of a pain. Their priorities and interests are completely different from mine, and frankly I can do without every singe conversation centering around who’s getting pregnant, who’s having kids, what their kids are doing, if their kids are sick, the dance recitals, the summer vacations. There are a few folks there who don’t live their lives around “little ones”, so I’ll need to seek them out more actively. The team I’m working most closely with is quite focused on child-rearing, and I’ve got nothing to offer there.

So, I’m going to take some time today and over the next few days to do some heavy-lifting thinking and really dig into some of the writing I’ve been doing, lately. I’ve got a handful of projects I’m working on, and some of them are very demanding, mentally. It’s like I’m going down a rathole of abstract concepts, and each one leads a little bit deeper in. So, it feels like I’m “flying blind” into the abyss… and I love it.

I’m the only one who knows the details about the abstractions I’m exploring. I’ve tried to explain them to others, but I haven’t had much luck communicating. They’re “thought experiments” of sorts, just exercises to tweak my thinking process and help expand my working memory capacity.

The main thing with these thought experiments, is that they really excite me and delight me. So, there’s a real motivation and impetus to explore. To expand. To see how much I can extend my own abilities. Of course, I need to balance this out with plenty of rest and recovery, so the connections I’m building in my brain have a chance to “set” before they’re tested, again.

That’s what the past week or so has been about. I really pushed myself cognitively for a few weeks, back when I was changing jobs and everything was in flux. It was a great way to both take my mind off the stresses of my daily life transition, and also get some new types of activity going on in my brain. I really need that — new activities that test me.  Sometimes I may overdo it, but that’s where rest and recovery come in.

And it’s good. It’s all good.

So, stress… I’ll write more about that later. I am a firm believer in periodically applying stress to test the system, then backing off to let the system recover and recuperate. I believe that’s what makes us stronger — for me, with my TBI symptoms, I need to be careful about over-doing it. Obviously. But if I can realize — and remember — that added stress is the source of my issues, and then take the edge off when I need to… it doesn’t have to doom me.

The main ingredient is mindfulness. And responsibility. And being realistic about my limits and working with them so that I can expand them, rather than trying to avoid/deny them and then shooting myself in the foot.

It’s really a balancing act. And now it’s time to balance out my day with some reading, juggling, and a bit of relaxation.

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A much-needed break

So, I have been getting acupuncture on a weekly basis, now, and it really seems to be helping me. It’s definitely helping my back – yesterday when I cracked my neck, the top of my back got in on the action, and I felt everything fall into place from the base of my skull to just below my shoulder blades.

Pretty awesome.

Whenever I crack my back (or other joints), I get an immediate rush of relief – like things can let go, at last.

It’s all good.

I’ve been stretching in general, and I’ve actually lost a few pounds, so I’m feeling more limber and flexible these days.

I’ve also been able to step away from my desk on a regular basis at work, which is helpful also. I started to post something yesterday about how weird things are at work, but it just depressed me, so I stopped writing and trashed the post.

I’d much rather write about the things that are going right, the ways that I’m improving my life, and the tools I use to keep positive and moving forward.

Feedback is a huge thing for me — internal feedback, especially. It’s a sort of science, I guess, with all the observation of what’s going on with me, how it’s affecting my life, and what I can do with what I learn. Just watching myself go through my daily routine, is instructive. I’ve been getting the hang of giving myself a break — not being so intently focused on having everything turn out exactly right the way it’s expected/planned. If things turn out slightly different than I want, then that’s just how it is. No need to lose my sh*t over it.

Of course, this is new for me — I used to lose my sh*t over every little thing. I think that had to do with the type of work I did for years — coding… having to make sure that every single bit and byte was properly accounted for and was functioning exactly right… and that OCD stuff carried into other areas of my life, which made me (and most people around me) either uncomfortable or downright miserable.

How pointless.

Of course, if I had continued in that line of work, I probably would have stayed that way. In a way, falling and hitting my head and not being able to do that kind of work anymore was a blessing in disguise. It really loosened me up a great deal, and got me beyond my old comfort zone. It forced me to change — and without having my old way of life cut off to me, who knows if I would have ever changed? All those previous TBIs served to make me pretty rigid to begin with, then the whole house of cards fell down in 2004, when I fell down those stairs.

It’s crazy.

But anyway, here I am, motoring along in my everyday life. I’ve had a plan to hold off on looking for another job until I have this major project nailed down and locked up tight. I really need to stay focused on that at work, but there are countless interruptions that keep me scattered at work.

I think I just need to give myself a break from email and any other kind of disruption, while I’m trying to get things done. I also need to schedule time for the BIG IMPORTANT things for when I’m rested and have more energy — earlier in the week.

I also need to step away regularly and rest — I’ve been doing that, recently … just stepping away for half an hour and resting… sometimes taking a quick 20-minute nap… and then bouncing back to wade back into it. Those naps are like the nectar of the gods. They make an extraordinary difference in my days. When I’m tired, I’m no good to anyone. When I’m

I need to just give myself a break, take control of my daily schedule and flow, and stop letting everyone chase and push and pull me all over creation. I don’t know why I keep hanging onto my old ways of doing things – I guess it’s just habit. But things have got to change. I’ve got to put this program in place before I go looking for another job, and I need to make sure everyone and everything is clear as clear can be, so that I can leave in good conscience.

Part of me wants to just fix up my resume and put it out there Right Now, and let the chips fall as they may. But that wouldn’t be any good. I need to just forget about all the distractions that come from people at work running their mouths and being all whoopdy-doop about every little change that comes along.

I’m out of there in 13 weeks and a handful of days. That’s my plan. I just need to stick with it, and take care of business, so I can not get incredibly distracted by every little thing that comes along. And save my energy. For the things that really matter most to me.

Giving myself a much-needed break is as much about adjusting my expectations and rigid requirements, as it is about getting relief from external conditions. It’s as much about learning to manage my internal state, learning how to relax and just let things go, instead of getting caught up in every single thing that is thrown my way — which is a lot, these days.

In some ways, the internal break is even more important than the external ones.

Because if my body and mind are in a good space, I can handle just about anything on the outside.

Onward…

 

 

What they don’t know about mild TBI is a lot

I recently started seeing an acupuncturist to help with pain and mobility issues. I’ve been wanting to have some acupuncture done for some time, but I never got around to it until recently. My neck is messed up, and so is my lower back. I also have a lot of pain in my hands, and my carpal tunnel is acting up again with all the typing and computer work I’ve been doing, lately. I’ve been going about 13-14 hours a day, sometimes longer, and it’s taking a toll, all over. I know that getting some exercise and moving will do wonders for me — and I have been doing that — but I have some longstanding issues with a lack of “flow” and I know people who have had good experience with acupuncture, especially the particular person I’ve gone to see.

So, I had an intake interview with them this past Monday, and we ran through my medical history, which is largely uninteresting, other than all the various injuries I’ve had, including my mild TBIs. The acupuncturist was interested to hear about my history, but they didn’t seem to put much stock in the neuropsychological aspects of it, and they talked about resolving my TBI issues by balancing my polarity, so my body can repair itself.

They also talked about how my fatigue and irritability are related to my meridians and somesuch, and they said that me getting 6-7 hours of sleep a night should be sufficient.

Well, okay. That’s fine. I appreciate their point of view, as they are a very experienced acupuncturist. However, they didn’t seem to pay any attention at all to the neurological aspects of it, as though the thing that really matters is meridians and energy flow. I didn’t want to get into it with them, because they were pretty locked on target with their outlook, and when people are that wedded to their point of view, there’s not much sense in trying to enlighten then.

This can be frustrating, though, because people in all healthcare fields need to have an appreciation of how altering the ways your brain’s synapses are connected can really screw up your life. So much begins and ends there, and unless that’s considered centrally to your whole experience, a lot of suffering can continue unaddressed  — and unabated. But here I am, with a counselor who helps me work through the daily business of just keeping things together — who doesn’t know much about TBI and doesn’t pretend to — and an acupuncturist who knows a whole lot about Chinese medicine, but has a more “energy work” approach to TBI issues. And then I’ve got my neuropsychologist, who understands how everything is put together and knows how to identify the core neurological issues that are causing me grief.

So, my strategy for dealing with this acupuncturist, is to focus on the areas where they have expertise, and also to not let them dominate the discussion about how to address my overall health issues. It’s fine if they have a certain outlook, and they approach things from their point of view. But there is a whole lot more to my situation that is directly related to neurological issues from all my mild TBIs, that needs to be addressed at a neuropsychological level.

I can’t get hung up on people not fully appreciating neuropyschology. Even if they are trained healthcare professionals. They know what they know, and they specialize. I just can’t get caught up in relying solely on one individual for my overall health and well-being.

That would be up to me.

So, onward.