Getting back, one step at a time.

Adrenaline - I got more than my fair share, this past weekend
This is Adrenaline – I got more than my fair share, this past weekend

Full weekend.

Ugh.

It was good, though.

I got the critical things done ahead of time, and then I spent all day yesterday with a buddy, going to see an exhibition of Japanese art and culture. It was pretty amazing – especially seeing things that real people made with their hands, instead of something that they made on a computer. The handiwork of some of the furniture was amazing.

I wish I had more energy to take it all in, but yesterday was a pure adrenaline day. I had to help my spouse the night before with a business activity (their back is out, so they need assistance), and not only was I pushed really hard to do a lot of things, but I was up past midnight on Saturday – and I rarely sleep in – so I did not get enough sleep for Sunday.

Yesterday was good. We checked out the art, the craftsmanship, the joinery, the materials… and then we got some lunch – late. My routine was completely blown away. We were near a neighborhood where I used to eat, and sure enough, the old taqueria was there, where I used to always get massive burritos for a very low price. The store burned down, during the years after I moved away, but I thought for sure they would rebuild, because they were so popular – and sure enough. Line was out the door. And the food was still amazing.

We ended up hanging out the entire day, and we had dinner at my home with my spouse, who is actually much better friends with this individual than I am. We’re all on good terms, so it was a good time.

I just had no time for myself, which is a problem on the weekends. I really need my downtime – space when I am only doing things that are in my head and my intentions. Or I pay the price.

I’m feeling it today. I started to get a migraine yesterday, but I got an hour-long nap, and that helped. Work, work, and more work. Not so great for my system, which needs balance.

This week I will balance. I don’t have a lot of appointments. Just two, compared to the past. I think I’m going to back off on my acupuncture and chiropractor, because I am really tired of not getting home till 8:00 p.m. and then having to make dinner, and not eating until 8:30 or 9:00. It’s too late for me. And I’ve been pushing myself for too long, trying to fit everything in.

I just want my routine back. I just want my regular schedule. I have to have it, or I am toast. And if others cannot accommodate me, too bad.

It’s actually good that I am getting to this point. I have been pushing myself very, very hard, for a long time, and it’s about time that I really focused on just taking care of myself in ways that are less rigorous — and are closer to home.

It’s all a lesson.

Onward.

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Network chiropractic makes a huge positive difference

Got some relief

Just a shout out to the network spinal analysis chiropractors — this stuff works. I’ve been seeing a new network chiro for about a month, now, and the change in my system is noticeable — and incredible.

I’ve done this before — a number of years back, I was going 2 – 3 times a week,and it really helped me get my system out of chronic fight-flight mode. Then my company movedthe office,and it wasn’t possible for me to make that drive all the time, so I stopped. To be honest, I was also irritated by the spouse of the networker — so that put me off, too. For some reason, all the husband-wife networking teams I’ve encountered (all two of them) have had one good spouse and one pain in the ass. Doesn’t matter which gender — one is level-headed and personable, and the other is needy, pushy, and friggin’ annoying.

I’ve actually left two different networking practices because of “bad egg” spouse issues. But this new one isn’t in business with their spouse, so that makes it eaiser.

So, it’s been going well. Really well. My level of fight-flight stress has gone way down, and my body is remembering what it learned before. I really did make great progress with my prior chiro, I just couldn’t do the drive.

One of the net results of getting out of sympathetic bias, is that I’m less driven to do so much all the time. I tend to put a lot on my plate to keep myself engaged and on edge. It sharpens my senses and makes me feel alive. But it also does a number on my autonomic nervous system —  my nervous system in general.

Now that I’m more out of fight-flight mode, I don’t have that same urgency, that same drive. And it feels pretty good. I can relax and actually enjoy myself. And take naps when I need them.

I’ve also been reprioritizing my activities and projects. Spending more time thinking about things, instead of blindly doing. Just sitting down to think things through. Or go out for a long walk to make sense of things.

And being less on-edge with people and situations, so I can pay attention and be part of the conversation and actually get closer to saying what I mean.

That’s always helpful.

Anyway, I have another unstructured day to do as I please. I took a long, long walk, first thing this morning, and now I’m back for my second breakfast and some reading and sketching out some of the ideas I had while I was walking… And before I left… And after I got back.

The pressure’s off. And I may just lie down for a nap before too terribly long. It’s all wide open, right now, and that’s a pretty incredible feeling.

Onward.

Making the most of my sh*tty situation

Life can keep its lemons

So, I’m still a little “off” from my travels last week. And I have yet another trip coming up in another week. That gives me a bit of normalcy this month. Not much, but some.

What-ever. I can’t let fatigue and fog keep me from living my life. I’ve just got to get on with things, and not let other people’s crap get in my way. There’s a ton of that going on, right now at work. One of my erstwhile friends has turned out to be a monumental pain in the ass, maneuvering around me and everyone else they work with, to push their agendas. They fight and squabble over every little thing. And they don’t fight fair. Seriously, they are so stupidly divisive, it’s not even worth dignifying with attention.

And then there’s the other one in my group who is turning out to be such a cry-baby. They come across as so together and professional, when they’re playing their role, but behind closed doors, they’re infantile and colicky. Nice. They’re one of the most “mature” people in my group, too. But years don’t mean much, apparently.

That’s two less friends in the mix. It’s sad. But during reorganizations and shifts of power, that’s how things happen. I’ve seen it happen time and time again, and the one-time friend who’s gone to the dark side is frankly not mature enough to resist the temptations of sudden influxes of power. While the cry-baby just has issues — at home and in their personal life. Bitch-bitch-bitch. What a waste of my time, having to deal with their emotional upheavals.

It’s all a big pain in the ass. But then again, it’s not so terrible… because it actually makes it easier for me to move on. I hate getting emotionally attached to people at work. They always fall short. The worst thing is, expecting people to be better, stronger, more honest, more capable, more excellent, than they really are. I set myself up with my expectations, and then I get let down.

So, yeah – whatever. It’s Saturday, and I’m feeling like crap. I’m tired and foggy and am just not very sharp today. It’s disappointing, to say the least. I really want to be sharp and with-it and able to be fully alive. But today might be just one of those days…

I went to see my doctor yesterday about my headaches, and they recommended I see a headache specialist. Maybe these are migraines, maybe not. Who knows? All I know is, I get headaches when I exercise or get stressed or suddenly get hit with a blast of sunlight. And no matter how great things are going, I usually have a headache of some kind. I’m working with a physical therapist who showed me some things I can do, too. We’ll see if that works. Some of the things they showed me actually made me feel a little worse, so… I’ve got to be careful.

Most of the time, the headache thing doesn’t even bother me that much. It’s not nearly as bad as the other pains I have. But it is annoying at other times — distracting and confusing and frustrating, because it just doesn’t seem like it’s every going to stop. And it’s those other times I’d like to address. I’m not keen on the idea of pills, but we’ll see what happens. I may need to go back to my chiro – they seemed to help my headaches in past years. The problem is, they’re located in the opposite direction from work and my house, so if I start going back to them, it’s like an extra hour more driving, which I really don’t care for. I’m trying to get better, not cramp up from sitting all the live-long day.

Well, anyway. I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

For today, I’m making the most of my situation. It is sunny and bright and not as cold as it has been. I’ll put on my sunglasses and head out for a walk. Then take care of some other chores. And focus on relaxing and just enjoying myself. I’m not getting too worked up over work, because — oh, hell — it’s not even worth getting all bent out of shape about.  I started to “spin” about it this morning, but that proved to be a total waste of time and energy. So, I quit.

I just need to concentrate on the good that’s in my life and keep going in a direction that works for me. And be grateful, each and every day, for all the good things I do have.

Stewing in sh*t is such a waste of my time.

Onward.

True Independence

There are many different ways to do things

I think I need to start seeing my chiropractor again. The headaches are back after quite some time of being away, and I haven’t been feeling that great, lately.

Lots of pain. I wake up in pain, and at the end of the day I’m in pain. I also haven’t been sleeping that great, either. All of these things were better when I was seeing my chiro, but I had to stop because I ran out of money and I couldn’t afford $120/month for adjustments. It’s just too expensive, even when insurance does cover it. When I’m fully covered, it’s $15 co-pay, and I have to go twice a week, so that’s $30/week — $120/month. That money needs to go to things like my electric bill, to run my air conditioners, pay off some back bills, etc.

Come to think of it, I guess I don’t need have the option to start seeing my chiropractor again. There’s just no way I can come up with that kind of money on a monthly basis. You’d think that it wouldn’t be a problem because of my job and my salary, but between car repairs, mortgage payments, food and gas, and … well, you know the drill. Something has to give, so I have to find another way to do better for myself and feel better in my daily life.

So, it’s back to the drawing board and doing basic things like stretching and moving on a regular basis… getting decent sleep by making it a priority and making sure I at least start to bed well before midnight. I also need to watch my posture and make sure I don’t stress out my body by slouching or getting stuck in off-balance sitting positions at work all day. Just basic stuff, really — but the kind of basic stuff that gets lost in the shuffle, because, well, it’s just not very sexy, it’s drab and everyday and it doesn’t always grab my attention.

But it’s the kind of stuff that matters — really matters — on a regular basis. And if I don’t pay attention on a regular basis, I just get into trouble. In a way, seeing a chiropractor was compensation for me living like a bit of an idiot. I wasn’t taking good enough care of myself, so I hired someone to fix what I’d broken and wasn’t taking care of. I get that now. So, it’s no more excuses — and back to basics.

Which is a good place to start for July 4th – Independence Day. If I think about taking care of the basics in terms of supporting my own independence from expensive experts and professionals (who may or may not be able to help me), then it becomes a lot more interesting and compelling, than thinking about it as something I “have” to do (sigh)… or else.

What a difference a slight change of perspective can make. It can mean the difference between an odious task and something I do on my own to make my life better, to make myself better, to be stronger and more free than ever, without being held back by lack of money or access to professionals.

If that’s not what Independence Day is about, I’m not sure what is.

Speaking of changes in perspective, I’ve been reading more on the Polyvagal Theory, and it’s making a lot of sense to me. The basics are pretty self-evident to me — we have a three-fold system for dealing with challenges in our lives:

  1. An ancient, primal (vagal) system which automatically shuts down our heart rate and breathing and muscle tone in response to inescapable threat. I call this “hypo-freeze” because hypo means “lower” — as in hypotension or hypothyroidism.
  2. A more recently developed sympathetic nervous system which causes fight-flight (and hyper-freeze — which is the high-muscular-tone freeze that’s completely different in nature from the hypo-freeze primal vagal impulse) to kick in to override the hypo-freeze, so you don’t get killed off by your body’s own automatic response to inescapable threat.
  3. A more developed vagal response system which can control the two earlier systems. This system is closely tied in with the muscles of the face and neck, and it can literally signal the “all clear” based on observing the expressions on others’ faces, among other things.*

Essentially, what can happen, is that you can run out of coping and response strategies when faced with inexplicable, inescapable, and seeming insurmountable challenges. When we run out of higher-level approaches (like being able to think things through), we revert to the older ways of responding. And then we can get stuck in those ways of responding, because the “neuroceptive” response (what we take in on a biological/neurological level, rather than an intellectual/conscious level) which is based on prior experiences, kicks in at levels thatprecede conscious thought.

Long story short, our bodies are wired to survive, and when they’ve become trained to respond with fight-flight, time and time again, we automatically jump to that without even thinking about it. Even if we are thinking about it, we sometimes (or often) can’t stop the process of kicking into fight-flight mode, because our bodies are so well-trained in doing that.

Which ties in with the readings I’m doing on trauma and PTSD. It puts trauma and post-traumatic stress in a whole new light. And it gets it out of the domain of the psychological mental illness… and into the domain of the physiological. It explains a whole lot, and actually excuses a whole lot, too. It doesn’t excuse the behavior, but it excuses the brain’s/mind’s role in “causing” bad behavior to happen.

And what happens, when we get our brains/minds off the hook for our “mental illness” and start to see our cognitive-behavioral issues as physical issues which were trained to be that way? For me, it tells me that I’m NOT crazy, that I’m NOT mentally ill (as well-meaning and ill-meaning people like to pronounce me). It tells me that I am dealing with a physical condition that was trained into place, and it can be trained to do something different. It doesn’t just get me off the hook in ways I never should have been ON the hook, to begin with. It shows me the way to do something about my situation — and approach my challenges in whole new ways.

Being human and all, of course I have a lot to learn, and my understanding is still imperfect. It will probably always be imperfect. But at least now I have more to go by, than I did just six months ago.

And that’s the beauty of the right information — and access to the right information. I have found a bunch of really great papers and links on the polyvagal theory (I’ll have to dig them up and share them here), which have served to really expand my understanding and give me much hope. I can’t say that my understanding is perfect, but when I practice what I read and I think about what it all seems to be saying, it helps. It helps a great deal. It’s information that I can put into practice, by doing my daily breathing exercises first thing in the morning before I start anything else, and also recognizing the biochemical processes that are kicking off when I (or others around me) start to get revved and rammy. It helps me come up with different responses and it motivates me to take better care of myself, get better sleep, take it easy (especially last night after the fireworks, which were both beautiful and very stressful with all the noise and lights — and me being behind on my sleep). It gives me more to go by, than “I’m a nervous wreck again” — and it shows me the way to level out after those extreme spikes and jolts that used to just wreck me.

Information is power. Knowledge (the ability to put information into action) is power. It’s all power of the best kind — not power over others, but power over our own lives, our own experiences, our own futures… beyond the dictates of fate.

Well, it looks like it’s turning out to be a beautiful day. The rain of this morning has given way to sunny, clear skies. We needed the rain, and now we have a clear day for the 4th. Not bad. Not bad at all.

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* People are calling the most recently developed vagal system the “social” vagus, but to me, that’s just a related aspect of the mechanism that doesn’t describe what it actually does. It describes how — based on just some of the ways it operates. The “social” moniker seems to have sprung up as a result of people connecting malfunctions of this vagal system with autism and other social challenges, so they’ve taken a bit of a conceptual detour (probably in the interest of popularizing the concept and making it more appealing to funding sources). But my arguments about naming conventions are getting me off track, so more on that later.

I love my chiro, but…

Source: wellcome.ac.uk

… sometimes they make me nuts. Like when they start talking about me being “stuck” as though it’s an emotional issue, or there’s some deep-seated drama that’s broiling just beneath the surface of my psyche that needs to be exorcised, in order for my back to be flexible.

Ugh. Good gaawd.

I suppose it couldn’t possibly be all the falls I’ve experienced over the course of my life, or the cumulative effects of having had to keep myself ramrod straight, to keep from falling over, those many, many, many times I’ve been so dizzy, I didn’t know what to do.

Don’t get me wrong. My chiro has helped me immensely, and I credit them with helping me along the path to an amazing recovery from multiple traumatic brain injuries. The constant headaches that I had for years… gone. The difficulties with turning my head and back… pretty much gone, too. And I’ve had this amazing energy and sense of well-being that is almost unprecedented.

Now, I have had plenty of times where I felt energetic and truly well. But since I started seeing this chiropractor, my level of wellness, not to mention the duration of my sense of well-being, has jumped way up.

And that’s good.

I just wish they’d knock off the talk about mind-body connections that makes the mind and the psyche into the Master Controller of the body.

Lately, I’ve been increasingly sensitive to this mind-body orientation (which a lot of my friends have) that the body is an outward expression of what is going on inside you. There’s this “meme” that runs through my social circle that dictates “a strong body indicates a strong mind” and which equates physical illness with psycho-spiritual imbalances — or “dis-ease”. It’s kind of arbitrary and heady, and it seems to tie in with a modern American version of the “everything is an illusion” school of thought.  It’s like folks believe that if your mind and spirit are well, then you won’t “manifest” any outward difficulties. As though physical pain and issues are “lessons” we concoct for ourselves to teach us what we need to know… and when you’re psycho-spiritually “fit” and you know everything you’re supposed to, you won’t experience any bodily pains or aggravations or stiff back or whatever other physical dis-ease seems to correlate with an inner problem.

I wish to high heaven people in the healthcare/caring professions would have compulsory traumatic brain injury training (ahem – that’s standardized and based on fact and the latest research, not all that blather that passes for neuroscience that we’ve been belabored with for the past 50 years or so). Seriously. How many people have concussions every year —  let alone full-on traumatic brain injuries — and how many doctors and nurses deal with them each and every day? It’s just crazy, that we have this all-pervasive health care phenomenon (I won’t say “crisis” as the word is way too over-used), which touches countless lives — millions upon millions of people each year. But nobody can seem to get a clue as to how brain injury “works” or what the right thing to do about it is.

It makes no logical sense to me. Maybe it’s all of my own head injuries that make me so idealistic and make me crave a common-sense solution to a vast and lives-altering part of our culture — even our whole world. Maybe it’s my broken brain that thinks this should be a no-brainer. People, it’s serious. It’s a priority. It’s important. Get it?

But no…  instead, we have a health care system crammed full of people who are so busy prescribing drugs and procedures, that they can’t see what’s right in front of them. We’ve got alternative health care providers who are getting farther and farther out in left field, looking for some guru-defined explanation for why we’re all so screwed up and can’t seem to get any better.

Good grief. And now I hear my chiro talking somberly to me about my back being “terribly stuck” and needing to get some relief — as though this stiff back of mine were a terrible torture I can’t even begin to endure… and it’s due to some hidden wound that I haven’t faced up to yet.

Hidden wound… yeah — how ’bout nine of them? As in, concussions. Have I got wounds for you! But in all seriousness, framing my difficulties as some sort of psycho-spiritual phenomenon isn’t going to help me through the logistics of my days. It’s not going to help me remember to shampoo my hair in the morning, or put my socks where I can find them (I wore my driving Tevas all day at work today, because I forgot one of my shoes in the car, and after I went out to get it, then I couldn’t remember where I put my socks). It’s not going to help me deal with the vertigo that has me teetering at the tops of staircases (as my life passes before my eyes). It’s not going to help me keep my mouth shut when I’m this close to chewing someone out or making an inappropriate comment to a co-worker.

Anyway, I’m venting this evening, I know. I’m starting to annoy myself.

What’s my point? It’s that sometimes our physical issues are just that — physical challenges that come up as a result of injury or just life, not due to some inner moral or psychological deficiency… and I get tired of feeling judged for having these issues — especially the physical ones, which my chiro loves to lecture me about. I’ve been in a bunch of car accidents, I’ve been attacked, I’ve had a number of falls, and my head got hurt a lot. As far as I’m concerned, I’m extremely fortunate to be as well as I am, and I get a little frustrated with people judging my condition as being terrible and awful and untenable… and due to some deep-seated psycho-spiritual morass I can’t haul myself out of.

Oh, screw it. What-ever. I’m tired and I need my rest. Of course my chiro is going to tell me I need more work. They need the work. I just wish the helping professions could just… help. Without the lectures that go along with it all.