Up early… and making the best of it

fatigueSo, I had a long day, yesterday, and I got home late. Which means I ate late. Which means I went to bed late… and then I couldn’t sleep. I was pretty emotional and uptight, and I couldn’t shut my mind off.

I finally got to sleep.

And then I woke up around 3:30 a.m. So, I’ve had about 4 hours of sleep, or thereabouts.

Not my favorite thing.

I know I’ll be fine today. Just dragging a bit, and uncoordinated. And that means I need to be extra careful on stairs, and while driving. And I need to get in bed early tonight.

But for now, I’m making the most of my time and doing something productive with myself. Working on my “chronic blogging” writing. I’ll be posting something shortly.

If I’m going to feel like crap, I might as well do something productive. I’ve already had my morning exercise and now I’m working on my breakfast. And I’ll get an early start on the day… and make an early night of it, tonight.

Work is actually going really well, right now. I’m making huge progress, which I can document (and have been). And I have three more days of an open schedule ahead of me.

The contact from my old job who contact me, hasn’t gotten back to me. I’m not holding my breath. I have plenty of other options out there to work with, and I know what I’m going to do.

So long as I’m not laid off, I’ll keep steady where I am, unless something really promising comes along. If it does, I’ll consider it. But I’m not making myself crazy over it.

And if I do get laid off in this merger, then I’ll contract for a few months in a role that I know I can do with my eyes closed, while I look for a permanent position that gives me everything I’m looking for.

So, let’s just take that off my plate, why don’t we? Just keep on keeping on. Keep my resume updated, keep my LinkedIn profile tidy. And document the progress I’ve made at my current job. Just in case.

Now, on to the “chronic blogging” guide.

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Getting going on the week

calendarYesterday was a low-key day. I had to do a bunch of things at home in the morning, so I was late getting to the office. And then I was up to my eyeballs in crunching data all day long.

One of my coworkers didn’t even know I was there, till they were leaving and walked past my cube. Then we chatted for half an hour about home repairs and the best way to store lawnmowers over the winter. I picked up some good tips that I’ll have to try.

I need a new lawnmower. My current one is 10 years old, and it’s on its last legs. And the next time around, I will do a better job of taking care of the equipment I have, so it lasts more than 10 years.

So, now it’s Tuesday. My week is pretty open, which is nice. It will give me plenty of time to focus on some projects I’ve got going, which need many hours of thought and consideration.

The merger situation is progressing. Still, nobody knows what will be happening. I got a message from one of my old coworkers, asking if I’m still interested in coming back. They are hiring for the position I seek. I told them “perhaps”. And gave them my phone number. We have been missing each other — I didn’t see their message from last week, until yesterday. I hope the situation is still viable.

Then again, maybe I don’t… I left that old job for a reason. It wasn’t the best reason, but it was a reason.

Anyway, we’ll see what happens. I’m in a holding pattern, and it’s annoying me. Then again, it is giving me freedom and leeway to focus on some of my other projects… I’m writing up a short guide for “chronic blogging” – to help other health bloggers reach more people and help folks who are in need of information and support. A few other brain injury bloggers have contacted me for tips, as I’ve enjoyed a bit of success in the space. I’m happy to help — we need all the strong voices we can get. And we need to hear from real people, not just companies selling products.

So, that’s what’s happening this week. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

New eBook for “10 Things I Wish They’d Told Me After My Concussion(s)”

10 Things I Wish They'd Told Me After My Concussion(s)
Click the image to get an eBook for your reader ($2.99) – or click the link on the left to get a free full-size PDF.

I’ve slightly revised and updated my work 10 Things I Wish They’d Told Me After My Concussion. I’ve also changed the title from “Concussion! Now what?” I think the new title is more clear. Click here to get the free full-size PDF.

I also created an eBook for Kindle and other eReaders (Windows PC/PocketPC, Mac OS, Linux OS, Apple iPhone / iPod Touch, etc.) – it’s $2.99, and if you’d like to support this site, you can download it here.

Additionally, I’ve got a longer book in the works, which has more background and discussion of scientific research and personal experiences behind what I discuss. We’ll see which version is more useful for people 😉 I’ll admit, I’m an anatomy-and-neuro-geek, so the things that fascinate me may not light others’ fires. And since I’m not an official academic, some of my conclusions and discussions might not sound ideal to the advance degree experts who do this stuff for a living.

It’s something, though. And for me, it’s the kind of book I wish I’d had access to, 8 years ago, when I started to realize how much TBI had affected my life. I’m really writing the longer book for myself — the person I once was, who needed help… but couldn’t find it anywhere.

I’ve also been looking for ways that people can support this site. Some have asked what they can do to contribute, but I’m not actually comfortable taking donations. I need to give people something in return for $$$ they contribute, rather than just take their money.

I blog just about every day, and I’ve got nearly 800 followers on WordPress, 111 followers via email, and 955 followers on Twitter, so I’m putting something out there. But even if no one were paying any attention, I’d do it anyway. Because this is my daily “ritual” that helps me check in with myself and keep myself honest. Accepting money for it seems a little wrong to me.

So, I’m starting to publish some of my posts as eBooks (and probably print books, too). I’ll be publishing individual articles, as well as collections — with themes, like anger and memory and sensory issues, as well as most popular posts that people continuously come back to.

It’s also my hope that this publishing can spread more information around about TBI recovery, to show people that it CAN be done — even after years of difficulty and suffering. Even persistent TBI issues can become manageable. They may not disappear 100%, but they can be managed.

I’m living proof of that.

Eight years ago, today, I started this blog

I was just coming to terms with all my TBI issues, just learning about them, just realizing how very much all my TBIs had cost me, over the years. So, in hopes that I could somehow spare others the pain and isolation (and outright desperation) that comes with a mild traumatic brain injury, I started a blog. In part, it was to share what I had learned, as well as to keep a record of what I was finding so I wouldn’t forget it later.

I had a few up years and a few down years, but in 2015, things really took off.

brokenbrilliant-yearly-stats-2015

I think the thing that really put wind under my wings was the algorithm changes at Google. As soon as they updated their methods of finding content, I started to get more visitors. The more visitors I got, the more interested I was in writing.

brokenbrilliant-comments-email-followers-2015

And the more feedback I got about what I was doing.

brokenbrilliant-visitor-numbers-2015

It’s been a wild 8 years.

And I’m committed to even more. Another 8? Maybe. Possibly even more.

To my 24 new followers – welcome

Welcome, all! I'm glad you're here.
Welcome, all! I’m glad you’re here.

I have been looking at my WordPress stats, following up on who has recently followed this blog.

In the last 2 weeks, 24 of you have joined me on this journey (22 via WordPress, 2 via email), so welcome. I don’t mean to be rude or take you for granted — please know that I appreciate you following, and I hope I bring something positive to your life.

I’m about to go out for my morning walk on an amazingly beautiful day, and before I do, I just want to say:

Whatever brought you to this blog, was probably for a very good reason. People come here all the time, not knowing what they will find, then they discover something that helps them. It’s both by accident, and by design. I don’t have any particular “content strategy” in mind, other than writing about the things that matter to me, as a TBI survivor dealing with an invisible set of difficulties, a regular person trying to build the best life possible, and as a member of the larger community who is sure that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

There are times when I am annoying, I whine and bitch and complain and am not my best self by any stretch of the imagination. I can be petulant and cranky and self-absorbed, and I can be a real trial at times — especially to myself 😉

Be that as it may, I have an incredible amount of goodness in my life, and I want to share that experience, as well as show others how I’ve gotten there through a combination of hard work and perseverance, and using my noggin to determine if what I’m doing is actually working. The times when I fail are the biggest lessons — and at times the most valuable.

I’m not afraid to fail. I just get a little tired of getting back up all the time.

But then, don’t we all…?

I know I am not alone in my frustrations and challenges. I’m human, and whether you’re dealing with a brain injury, another sort of injury, past trauma, ongoing difficulties in your life, or a hidden condition that others can never suspect is going on, we are all in this together, and we all have so much to share, if we take the time and put forth the effort.

The effort is not easy. But it is worth it. I start most of my days on this blog, because I remember all too well what it’s like to go through life in pain and frustration and despair, and feel so terribly alone. Some days I’d rather be doing something else than typing into a machine, and I can go for days without writing a word. But I know this is important — to me as well as others who find their way here and really value hearing someone else talk about life in ways that they can relate to.

That happens all too seldom. But I hope it won’t happen here.

Joining us today from...
Joining us today from…

So, to all of you — followers, as well as new readers from all over the world — thank you for your support. I’m happy you’re here.

 

 

 

#Mobilgeddon works for me

See? The web world did not end.

So, a week ago on April 21, Google released an update to its search algorithm that gives a boost to mobile-friendly pages in their results.

At first, web mavens reacted with dire warnings, as though the end of the world were nigh. Some said over 40% of top websites could get dinged and lose visibility. Yet, over a week later, the collective response has turned into more of a shrug (sorta like Y2K), with people either realizing that they’re doing okay, or they set out to make additional changes that they really should have made, anyway.

For me, I think the results have been favorable. Already, on April 22, the day after, my page views went from numbers that hovered in the mid-200 views per day, to over 300 views per day.

after-mobilegeddon-days
Overall page views – before and after “Mobilegeddon” – click the image to see it full-size

It’s still early, but I’ve seen a 20-35% increase in daily page views that inexplicably happened, starting after 4/21.

after-mobilegeddon-days-4-22-15
Overall page views – the day after “Mobilegeddon” – click the image to see it full-size

And on top of that, it seems that WordPress may have made some changes on their side, because a week later, three days in a row, I had a sizeable boost in traffic – close to 400 views per day. From me doing nothing different from my usual posting – if anything, I’ve been posting less, because I’ve been so danged busy.

after-mobilegeddon-days-4-28-15
Overall page views – the week after “Mobilegeddon” – click the image to see it full-size

So, what does this tell me?

First, WordPress is on top of things.

Despite all their “interesting” choices for how to render their sites that just get in the way for people who aren’t 24 years old with a Mac and a broadband connection, they still manage to keep the platform running. It’s reliable, and considering everything that could go wrong, they do a decent job of keeping up. The fact that my stats jumped another 50 views/day as a result of me doing absolutely nothing different from usual, tells me something happened behind the scenes. It had to be WordPress updates. 50 views a day is not a lot by big-business standards, but it’s 1/5 of my usual 250-views-per-day traffic. I’ll take that 20% boost, thank you very much.

Second, my “content strategy” is working the way I want it to.

I’m just a solitary individual seeking to educate others about concussion / mild traumatic brain injury and provide support to those who suffer from persistent symptoms by sharing my own challenges and successes. I don’t have an editorial calendar, and I don’t do a ton of keyword research and write my content to be super-Google-friendly. I just write what is in my heart and head, and do my best to provide something of value. Considering that I’ve had over 382,000 total views on this site since around 2008, that seems to be getting some notice — and hopefully filling a need.

Third, when it comes to optimizing for a machine, your best friend can be another machine.

That’s what Google is — a machine. It does what it does with an algorithm (a magic formula of logic), and it does it automatically millions, if not billions, of times a day (or hour? or minute?) It “speaks its own language”, and it looks for web pages to be consistently formatted in ways it understands — work which is best done with a platform like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, or some other templated content management system.

Back in the day when I was building web pages by hand, there were very few reliable content management systems available. The ones that were on the market, just sucked. I know, because I evaluated a bunch of them for an employer. None of them were worth the price their inventors were asking. So, you had a vast sea of “creatively” built web pages filling the web — not always by people who knew how to code properly or organize their pages in a way that made sense to anyone them.  Especially not Google.

But nowadays, there are so many content management systems out there, and there is so much need for consistency of design and reliability for all the devices and search engine requirements, it only makes sense to use a content management system like WordPress (or the others I mentioned above).

That goes especially for the hosted versions (like this one), which is continually updated and kept spiffy by the folks behind the scenes. If you know what you’re doing and can keep your WP instance up to snuff with all the continual updates, database backups, etc., then good on ya. But if you’re a solitary blogger trying to get the word out about your ideas, educate others, and provide something valuable that will help others, and you don’t have time to spare to maintain your infrastructure, website platforms that others build and maintain can go a long way towards helping you.

So, “Mobilegeddon” didn’t ding me. If anything, it appears to have helped. So did WordPress, I believe. And that makes it possible for me to help even more people — I hope.

Onward.

Tuesday… feels like Thursday

Losing track – in a good way

 

I’ve been reading a book that I’m really enjoying — Profiles of Power and Success by Gene N. Landrum, Ph.D. There are all sorts of tasty tidbits in there, when he talks about the fourteen men and women he chose to examine as transformational leaders in their respective fields. He also talks about what miserable failures so many of them were.

Napoleon graduated near the very bottom of his class in military school. Edith Piaf never learned to read music. Isadora Duncan, who pioneered modern dance, only had one hour of ballet training and no other formal dance training. Landrum says, “great achievement has little to do with scores on a test, but more to do with performance on the stage of life. Jules Henri Poincare scored at the imbecile level on Alfred Binet’s IQ test at a time when Poincare was universally acknolwedged as the world’s foremost mathematician.”

So, yes, I do feel better. Not that I want to delight in others’ misfortunes, but hearing about how many people who changed the world for the better had either no formal training in what they did, or performed so poorly in their training, gives me hope. Because it says there’s something else at work when it comes to making your life worth living — and that something else is us.

Spurred by my enthusiasm with this book, I have been giving a lot of really serious thought to where I am going to spend my energy in the next year. I have a number of projects I would like to start (some of them I have already started), but I don’t want to spread myself too thinly, and I don’t want to sink a lot of time and effort into things that won’t pan out. I started a big project last year that took up a ton of time and seemed to show great promise, but in the end, I was looking at a likely prospect of losing money, it would have taken up far too much of my time, and I needed to back off and not pursue it further. I may pick up again later, since I have all the infrastructure in place, but I need to really think it through for it to make sense.

It took up so much of my time… only to fizzle out.

This coming year, I need to be smarter about things. A lot smarter. A lot more strategic. Less flailing around and busy-work. Less running around from place to place, and more sitting and looking at what I’ve got, prioritizing everything, and deciding how I want to handle it.

I’m already off to a good start. I’ve lasered in on two Big Ideas I have which show some real promise for supporting me and themselves.

I’ve also identified a handful of secondary ones that I want to do, just because I want to do them. Those are my “passion projects” which are all about doing things that will benefit others, rather than supporting me. This blog is a passion project for me, as is my book on TBI SOS – Restoring A Sense of Self After Brain Injury.  Some things should be sold at a fitting price to people who value them and are willing to commit themselves to valuing them. Other things should be done with no expectation of return. TBI SOS is the latter. I need a balance of both, in my life. Yes, I do need to support myself and my work. But there are an awful lot of people suffering who need the help, and if I can provide it, then so much the better.

Anyway, I’ve been zero-ing in on my projects, culling the ones that take way too much time without giving much in return, and building up the ones that have a real chance of taking off. And in the past few days, I’ve made tremendous progress in the couple of projects I am focusing on. I have been planning and finding resources and getting clear on how I want to proceed. No more of the crazy running around from one thing after another. I’ve been doing that too long, and I’m tired of having nothing to show for all my work.

And it’s good. It takes the pressure off, and it also makes me a lot more productive. I’ve gotten so much done, just in the past few days, it feels like I have almost a whole week behind me. And it’s only Tuesday morning. I’ve been able to go out for long walks in the woods. I’ve been able to run errands. I’ve been able to lie down and take naps. I’ve been able to finish a big piece of a project I’ve been working on. I’ve come up with a bunch of ideas about how to streamline and automate my activities, using technology as my friend.

One example is with my blogging. I have a regular ritual each morning to sit down and write something pretty much every day. The intention is to publish something each day. But I don’t always have the inspiration or the time to do this every single morning. So, when I am feeling really inspired, I will write up a handful of posts, and then schedule them to be published at regular intervals, so I’m freed up on other days to do other things that inspire me.

And then I come back later to the writing, when I get my inspiration back. It usually doesn’t take long.

It really takes the pressure off. Committing to doing something every single day, can be hard for someone like me. Some days, it just doesn’t work out. But with different tools, I can overcome those blocks, and work around the limitations.

That’s what the folks in Profiles of Power and Success did. And if they did, so can I.

Onward.

Thorough TBI Recovery – One complete experience at a time

Soak it all in — all over again

So, I’ve been thinking about TBI recovery a good deal, lately. I go in fits and spurts — I’ll go for months, not wanting to think at all about TBI recovery, then I’ll go for months thinking almost exclusively about it.

Now I’m back to thinking about it, and I’ve reached a somewhat different conclusion about what makes for a good recovery, than I had in the past. Just so you know, I speak from my own experience, but what I’ve found could just as easily apply to others, so use what you can, and ditch the rest as needed.

Basically, I’m now of the opinion that recovery from brain injury is very similar to growing up all over again. When we are infants, our brains are undeveloped in terms of physical and social and emotional ability, and we spend the next several decades working on those abilities. Some of us continue to learn and grow, continuing the learning process well into advanced age.

Some of us decide that once we’ve “got it down”, we don’t need to learn anything else, and we prepare to retire, hit the golf links or bocci ball turf or shuffleboard alleys. I think that given the prevailing culture, which has long told us that once you get to “a certain age”, your brain just doesn’t learn new things as well anymore (that old dog new tricks line), a lot of us automatically mentally head for the retirement home, at a certain point in life. A lot of actually start moving in that direction early on.

Those folks are often the ones who believe that you have what smarts you have, and you don’t ever develop any more. These folks have a “fixed” mindset. Versus the folks who believe that nothing is set in stone, and we’re always learning and developing new skills and abilities. These folks have a “growth” mindset. Carol Dweck talks about this in her book Mindset, which I haven’t read yet, but I hope to within a few months (maybe weeks).

Experiencing a brain injury is a bit like growing up all over again. It’s like going from an adult to a child, in some ways, where you have to re-learn all sorts of things that you used to know “cold”. For people who aren’t oriented towards growth and change, this can be devastating. It’s also problematic that brain injury can blind you to alternatives and options and keep you in a very limited frame of mind that is addicted to things being “fixed” and set and stable.

The problem with needing things to be “fixed” and set and stable, is that it just doesn’t happen that often. And when it does happen, it doesn’t last. So, you have to keep adjusting and adapting… whether you like it or not.

If you want to get back to being and functioning like an adult, you have to do that. There’s no other option — you’ve got a renovated brain, so use it or lose it.

I’ve come up with a new idea for how I can “use it” and make my TBI recovery more complete. Now that I am able to read books again (I read half a book on the plane while I was traveling for business), I find that I am also able to write again. I used to love to write stories — short stories, even full-length novels. Looking back, they were not very good, and the benefit was really more for me than anyone else. But they benefited me a great deal. In fact, I think that writing really helped me recover through a number of TBIs in the course of my life. It soothed me, and I also believe it developed my brain to see the world in wider ways.

It also opened me up to the idea of having new experiences and seeing them as “fodder” for my muse. I was able to have a whole lot of experiences that would have normally thrown me off, if I had not looked at them as “material” for my writing later on. I stayed open to experience, because I believed my purpose in life was to have those experiences and then write about them later.

Ultimately, I didn’t become the published author I always longed to be. But I did develop a practice that let me make sense of my world in ways that were meaningful to me. And I did develop tolerance for difficulty and frustration. Because, well, that was just part of life, and if I was going to be a good writer, I needed to be exposed to as much of life as I could be.

Now I see that my writing really helped me create positive neural connections, over the years. And the fact that I could not read or write for close to 10 years, really explains why my mind became so fixed, so narrow, so brittle. I wasn’t exercising my “mental muscles” and I was losing what I was not using.

I’m ready for that to change, now. I’ve been writing about my experiences on this blog since 2007, and now I can expand what I write about to include more than what’s in my head. Adding what’s outside of my head, what’s right in front of me, what I am experiencing in my senses, with the same excitement and joy I felt when I was much younger… these are things I believe will help me recover even more.  I miss it, in fact. So, why not start again?

I’m on good footing, right now. For now, anyway. And I’d like to bump up my progress just a little bit more — with complete experiences of all my senses, keeping my whole person engaged — body, mind, spirit, heart — in this thing we call life.

This seems a positive way forward. So, onward.