Using adversity as fuel

Sometimes these situations just come up

I’ve been complaining a bit more than I would like, lately. The space bar thing has thrown me off, to tell the truth. I really need to be able to type quickly, and it’s stopping me from doing that.

Maybe I’m in too much of a hurry, anyway.

It’s Monday. I’m tired from watching the Super Bowl last night and getting so pumped up at the end. But I did sleep till 7 a.m., which is a recent record for me. I’ve been waking up at 4:30 a.m., over the past few weeks, which has not done much for my energy levels.

I don’t have a lot of meetings today, so that’s good.

It will give me time to think things through with work.

It will also give me time to work on my coherent breathing, which has become much more important to me in the past weeks.

I have let my breathing practice slack off, for some reason. Maybe I got to a comfortable place and figured I didn’t need to do it so much anymore. Or I got lazy. Or I got bored.  Whatever the reason, I have been feeling the effects of having an out-of-balance autonomic nervous system, with my fight-flight way up there.

I think I let myself get into that state when I need the energy. I need to get pumped up to make it through,and I run out of steam with my daily schedule that is a long slog, each and every day. So I resort to stress to keep myself alert.

This is a common strategy throughout our culture. I’m not alone. But for someone with TBI, it can be a killer. It screws up our thinking process, and it makes it harder for us to function, even though we feel like we have all our ducks in a row. Too much fight-flight blocks your ability to learn, and that learning is the keystone of a solid recovery.

We have to retrain our brains to do many things — sometimes even the simplest of things. Learning is key for us. If we can’t learn, we’re screwed.

So, where does the energy come from? I’ve felt for a long time that we have massive stores of energy within us, waiting to be released. We just don’t always know how to release them. The trick is, figuring out how to release them. Figuring out how to access them.

One way to access the energy is through adversity — facing down situations that are tough and threatening, and rising to the occasion. And then really celebrating, when we come through to the other side in one piece.

My hands are getting tired, so I’m going to leave off now, but that’s just something to think about.



Today I rest… and read… and write

Time to read... and digest

Well, I’m back from my working vacation. I had five days of work-work-work, from 7 a.m. till 8 p.m., then I had a few days to play. I got home in the wee hours, this past weekend, to find that my hot water supply had died sometime earlier that week, so I wasn’t able to wash off the contagion from the couple of plane rides I’d been on.

That was unfortunate.

But on the up-side, I was so wiped out that I slept about nine hours straight — a record for my recent patterns. And by Sunday afternoon, the repairman had come out and set things right, so I was able to finally get my shower and get a nap. I slept for about three hours … and felt like I’d been trampled by horses when I woke up.

All that work and relaxing really took it out of me, I guess.

It’s really good to be home. I’ve missed my routine — waking and sitting/breathing and exercising, then working and writing. It’s good to get away sometimes and break up the set patterns — the effect it seems to have for me is making the set patterns even more valuable to me. Absence making the heart grow fonder, and all that.

And coming out of the experience, I can see some real signs of progress on my side. Last year, when I went to this same convention for work, I was an anxious, nervous wreck. I was convinced I was going to do poorly, that I would melt down, that I would be unable to function. I considered myself a ticking time bomb who couldn’t manage anything. But I was wrong.

This year went pretty well. I took care of business. I got things done. And it was pretty seamless overall, with only a few little bumps in the road that I handled as a matter of course. No sweat.

On the whole, the conference went well. And now I’m ready for something more to handle. I think, anyway. Or that could be my often-over-enthusiastic side of me not wanting to take the time to just relish the experience of doing better, and take on something bigger that’s more stressful, that’s more challenging. I’ve got to watch out for that stuff – I do tend to over-extend myself when things are going really well for me.

Like yesterday. While I was waiting for the repairman, I decided to do a little yardwork. It was a beautiful day, and I had the time. By the time three hours had passed, I’d completely re-raked my front yard, getting up a lot of dead grass to make room for new growth, and spreading some lawn lime to lower the pH of the soil. I wore myself out, which felt good. It also let me get some of my extra nervous energy out.

And now today I’m feeling the effects. I’m pretty sore and stiff, which is fine, actually. I need to be more active, and this is the temporary state of pain that signals that my body has a chance to get stronger. The important thing to keep in mind, with strenuous exercise, is that rest and recovery are as important — maybe moreso — than exertion. Overtraining is always a danger with me.

So today I’m going to rest. And write.

Some things that I was able to do, while I was away, were read and think. I picked up a copy of The New Science of Breath and it’s given me a lot of food for thought. I’m familiar with a lot of the concepts that author Stephen Elliott talks about — in part because I’ve been reading his newsletters, on and off, for a couple of years. I am also familiar with the principles he talks about, from my own personal experience. In practicing slow, steady breathing, I’ve found that my reactions to unforeseen circumstances are much less intense and much less extreme, and I’ve found that I have more energy, I sleep better, and I generally feel better overall, when I practice this slow, steady breathing.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the keys to my ongoing recovery from the after-effects of TBI/concussion. And I wish to high heaven that everyone could benefit from it as much as I have.

To say that it’s made a huge difference would be an understatement. It’s been a serious foundation for so much that I’ve been able to accomplish over the past years — and even before I knew about it and put all the science together, when I had concussions in the past and I was suffering with intense mood swings, insomnia, and cognitive issues, I instinctively  turned to breathing and sitting, as a solution.

After my last TBI in 2004, I stopped doing those things that used to help me so much, and I have no doubt that this exacerbated my issues. Only in the past three years or so, have I been able to get back to some sort of stability. I’ve still got plenty of issues, but with my steady breathing and balancing out my autonomic nervous system (stopping the dominance of fight-flight knee-jerk reactions), I have a chance to get myself back on track more quickly and with less wear-and-tear than before.

And it lets me rest, which is critical for my recovery — long-term and short-term.

So, today I’m taking advantage of the holiday and the extra time I have to rest. I’m taking a break, catching up on my sleep and reading, and I’m writing down the ideas that came to me when I wasn’t blogging regularly. Most of all, I’m just spending the day letting myself feel good, which doesn’t always come naturally to me. I’m taking the pressure off and just chillin’. There will be plenty of time later to “tear it up” again.

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