I’m incredibly distracted. I must be tired.

optical illusion interlocking cubes
I get so caught up in all my different things… it’s easy to get lost

I think the changes at work are getting to me a little bit. Uncertainty abounds. Fortunately, I’m not well-connected enough to get the juicy gossip. That would probably drive me nuts. My boss is very connected – and they are very guarded, as well. It’s impossible to tell, from talking to them, what the deal is.

I’ve been increasingly busy at work and at home. And more social, too, which has its own set of challenges. It’s hard for me to be social, when I’m tired… which is pretty much all the time.

What’s making it worse, is that I’m getting sucked into social media, chatting with people and also emailing them till late in the evening. I’m a night-owl by preference, but if I don’t get my sleep, fatigue sets in, and then I become impossible.

I’m not getting stuff done that I need to. I have several important projects around the house that I haven’t been successful at handling. It all needs to get done before winter arrives. It’s not a huge amount of work, but it takes focus.

So, I’m putting myself on a strict schedule. I sketched out a grid for what days I’ll spend doing what, and I got a visual of all the different things I’ve got going on. It’s easier for me to manage that way. I need to learn to tell myself NO, when I get distracted by things I’ve agreed not to do until the next day. And I need to be firm and decisive.

That’s hard, when I’m tired.

So, I need to get more sleep.

On the bright side, I’ve been steadily losing weight. I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds since the beginning of the year, which is a healthy rate for me. I need to lose another 5-10, to be where I want to be. I could even do with losing 15. But I don’t want to lose muscle, too. So, I just need to get a good sense of where I’m at, be healthy overall, and use my new energy wisely.

I do have much more energy than before — and actually, it’s one of the things that’s driving my distractions.

More Energy –> More Activity –> Fatigue –> Distractions –> Not getting things done –> Feeling bad about myself –> Distractions –> More activity that’s not productive –> Fatigue…

Anyway, you get the point.

Losing the extra pounds has been great. Now I need to learn to properly manage my new energy. Because it’s really, really good. And I don’t want to mess it up.

Onward…

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Accommodations needed? Just not recognized?

It *looks* cool – till you try to concentrate and get some work done. Then it’s nothing short of hell. Look at the overhead lights and all those hard surfaces. Good grief. Nightmare.

I had a pretty good conversation with the last interviewer yesterday. They have only been in their present role for 6 months, and they are hiring like crazy to staff up.

So, either they will go for it and try to sign me up, or they will go with someone else who fits better.

One thing that may affect their choice, is that I brought up the types of workspaces they have. They asked what type I prefer to work in, and I said I prefer a space with walls high enough to block out ambient noise and distractions. The whole “open workspace” plan does NOT work for me. I found that out the hard way at my last job, and the main reason I am leaving my present job (sooner or later) is that they are moving — along with everyone else in the cosmos, apparently — to an open space / “bullpen” type arrangement, where there is constant noise and interruption — that’s the point, actually.

The very thought of moving to that makes me physically ill.

I’ve been having a lot of sensory issues, over the past couple of weeks. All of a sudden, I’m sensitive to things that I haven’t been bothered by, for some time. Rough wood grain is a tough one for me — especially wooden eating utensils. Like the wooden “spoon” that I got with a frozen dessert I got about a week ago. The feel of the wood grain on my tongue literally makes me gag. And the feel of biting down on wooden utensils also makes me gag.

I’ve been more susceptible to overwhelm, and when that happens, I get more literal in how I think and speak, and I start correcting my spouse over every little thing they get “wrong”. Like calling an SUV a “van” and not caring that they are two completely different things (in my mind, anyway). I’ve been much more prone to correct my spouse over every little thing, which makes them nuts and sets off their anxiety, because hearing someone constantly correct you can mess with your head.

Anyway, that’s been going on. And the ringing in my ears is making it hard to hear what people are saying to me. It’s also the ambient noise, that seems like it’s bumped up intensely, lately. I blame it on barometric pressure and the weather in general, when I talk to people. Telling them my TBI symptoms are acting up again, doesn’t create the impression I want to give people — the kind of impression that will get me jobs.

So, back to that conversation about workspaces. I said I prefer a cubicle with walls high enough to block out distractions and interruptions. I need to concentrate. I don’t think people understand just how intensely I concentrate, when I do. Or what that concentration produces. I recognize patterns. I find things that no one else sees. I’ve had to learn to concentrate with single-pointed focus, because of all my issues. And it’s stood me in good stead.

I wonder if that counted against me — not being flexible with the kinds of workspaces the company mandates. Nobody wants someone who’s a complainer or a prima dona. Nobody wants to deal with extra accommodations and folks who are in a position to sue. They can find any number of reasons to not hire you, if you look like you might be trouble. I  know, because I used to be part of several teams that interviewed and hired folks, and there are a million different ways to disqualify someone who looks like they might be a litigation risk.

But it occurs to me that I may have been needing accommodations all along — an enclosed workspace where I can retreat from the stimuli and focus on my work. Years ago, I had an office with an overhead light I could turn off and blinds I could close. I had a desk lamp that provided the perfect amount of light. I could close the door and work in silence, and it was ideal.

Then they moved us to an open space floor plan, and it was hell. And I am pretty sure it did not help my recovery at all. Too many distractions. Too much input. It was so wrong. And I’m at the point now, where I know I need to never go there again, except for short periods of time. I don’t mind it for brief periods, but holy f*cking sh*t, it is miserable and stressful and prevents me from doing my absolute best work.

Which completely negates the whole point of going to work each day.

So, what I come to, now, is wondering if I actually needed special accommodations all along, but never realized it. And certainly never got them, except in rare and accidental circumstances. I know I need to actively screen out and disqualify those kinds of workplaces, and the kinds of companies that are in love with them. And it becomes more and more clear to me that I really need a remote job — either half-time or full-time. I need to work in ways that let me perform at my best, and keeping clear of open workspaces is the first step in that direction.

Anyway, whatever happens with this interview, it’s just a step in the direction I need to go. I’m going to start scoping out companies that offer more than 50% telecommute / remote positions, and see who’s good to work for. And I’m going to keep working on my own projects, so I can get a good foundation in place for my future. I’ve just turned 50, and I have a much better idea, now, what I need to do and how I need to work, than I did just 5 years ago. So, here’s to the next 50+ years of productive, happy, healthy life – with the right choices made for all the right reasons. And the wrong choices left behind in the dust.

Onward.

That One Pure Thing

Somebody has to wait their turn...
Somebody has to wait their turn…

I took time out over the weekend to focus in on getting some things done that have been hanging over my head for quite some time. I had an idea that needed to be developed, and so I developed it. I cleared everything else off my creative plate, pretty much, and I just worked on That One Thing.

And as it turned out, it was a very productive time. I really got a lot done.

I didn’t hash through all the other millions of things in my mind, which I also want to do. I focused on That One Thing.

Plus, when I wasn’t working, I did the other things that I need to do regularly — I got my naps, I did my morning workouts, I got some acupuncture, I went for a couple of hikes and long walks down the road, and I made some good meals.

And I got ‘er done.

Which is great, because I have a tendency to start things and not follow through. That’s gotta change, I know. I’ve been able to sorta kinda mozy along, jumping from one distraction/interruption to another, and piecing it all together bit by bit as part of a “flow”.

The thing is, “flow” for me is more about my pesky lack of resistance to short-term interference. This can happen when you get hit in the head a lot – like I have been. You get distractable and can’t sustain attention. Your mind knows it wants to focus on one thing at a time, but your brain just ain’t feelin’ it. It’s not just that it ain’t feelin’ it — it’s literally incapable of dealing with it. It just can’t.

My own resistance to short-term interference is almost in the single-digit percentile. It’s really, really bad. As in, 90″ of the people in the world are better at resisting disruption from interference, than I am. It’s not that I don’t want to — I do. It’s just that the wiring in my brain has gotten a bit frayed from all those concussions / mild TBIs, and it doesn’t light up as well as it might otherwise.

So, what’s the solution? Clearly, I need to come up with some approach that lets me function. I can’t go through life jumping from one thing to the next.

And this past weekend, I made some headway on things.

By realizing — after looking at my List O’ Things To Do — that I was never going to make progress, if I kept letting one thing trump another. I just needed to buckle down, make some choices, and Do That One Thing.

As purely as I could.

So, I did. And today I have an actual finished project under my belt.

And that’s pretty cool – not to mention a relief.

Happy Monday, everyone. Onward.

 

 

 

 

Keeping even more focused

Lots to focus on… tough to keep a single point in mind

What I learned over the weekend is that sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I cannot keep my mind focused on what I know I should be focused on. I was really consumed by concern about my upcoming job change, and I was so worried about backlash and people giving me a hard time — and the possibility that I would not handle it well, that I would lash out, that I would start to yell and get into a fight with someone. There is always that risk, when I am feeling pushed, and I really had to keep myself chill, thinking about how I would handle things and coming up with different options, in case things got nasty.

As it turns out, things did not get nasty. And I am quite certain that my mental preparation helped. But what a time-sink. It was exhausting. I’m still wiped out.

I also didn’t take care of some things I was supposed to do over the weekend. I did not get hardly any exercise at all, aside from some juggling. I slept, but not as much as I wanted to. I have a presentation I am doing to a community group in another week, and I was supposed to have some slides and the outline done by today, so I can review it with one of the organizers.

This did not happen – completely, anyway. I have the outline done, and I have some presentation slides done, and I know what I’m going to say, but I have not practiced – practiced – practiced, as I promised I would, and I have very little time today to get myself together for tonight.

So, I am going to wing it. I’m going to put together what I can, and then check in with this person, and then really dive into things this weekend. My spouse is away for a business trip from Thursday afternoon till Sunday – maybe Monday. And I am taking two days off work on Thursday and Friday. And I have Saturday and Sunday to work. So, that will be fine.

But I’ve had a heck of a time keeping focused on anything other than giving notice at work.

Yesterday went really well, all things considered. And people I work with are being decent about me leaving. So far, anyway. I think that the vast majority of people I work with would do exactly the same thing as I, so they do not begrudge me this. Plus, they know that I have been overworked for years, and it doesn’t surprise them that I’m moving on.

Now I have to stay focused on collecting everything I’ve worked on, over the past months, and organizing it, so that the person(s) who pick up the slack will have what they need to move forward.

I will be also thinking about what will make someone successful in the role I’ve held — much more than any specific skillset (although certain skills do come in handy) is a real passion for learning, a focus on acquiring new skills, and an open mind to try new things and be resilient. The specific skills are maybe 30% of the abilities required. Much more critical is openness to trying new things and a positive attitude.

Without that, the job is hell.

Actually, even with it, the job is hell. But others don’t need to know that up front. They can find out for themselves.

So, there is a lot to do in a very short period of time. I need to keep focused and centered and stay productive in this short (and getting shorter) timeframe. I have made up a little Q&A sheet for people who will be visiting my desk over the coming days, so I don’t have to stop and talk every 10 minutes. All the interruptions are bad enough without this added point of interest.

I also need to be gearing up for transitioning into my new role, which will allow me to sharpen a specific set of skills that make sense for me in the long term. I have decided to put my programming on the professional back burner and just do it for fun on the side, and focus on project management for my professional activities. It brings together things that really challenge me in many, many ways — some challenges seem overwhelming to me at times, and I need to really push myself into the midst of it and work at overcoming those challenges, rather than hiding out and avoiding them.

This will surely be a test for me, and the times that are the most testing are the ones that teach me the most.

I have also realized, over the past months, that for certain skills, I have not really applied myself to sharpening those abilities. I have just relied on situations to teach me how to move forward by trial and error. I need to fix that, and teach myself up front how to do things. I need to get properly trained. And that means studying and reading books and materials that are in ample abundance, but I have just dismissed because A) I thought I didn’t really need them because of my work experience, B) I was having trouble reading, and that threw me off, and C) I get blocked when I am tired, and I have been tired an awful lot, for the past three years.

Now my reading has resolved, to a large part. And I realize that I need to put more effort into concentrating on what I’m doing. Something in me seems to think that I have trouble learning… but I think it’s just because I go about learning in the wrong way. Or I expect things to sink in a lot sooner than they do. Or I think it’s going to be easy, so I don’t apply myself, and then nothing really sticks. I’m thinking about the whole “Perceived mental effort changing tonic arousal” concept, and I’m going to keep a “beginner’s mind” in this new job, so that I don’t get so overconfident that I can’t do a good job.

I don’t have to tell myself I’m stupid — just that things are more difficult than I initially think they are. That will get me to take it seriously and focus.

Focus.

Focus.

All this talk about focus is making me tired. I also need to rest.

Rest.

Rest.

This is a big change for me. I’m a bit nervous about it. But once I get going, I am quite certain I will find my “sea legs” and be just fine. It’s all wide open. Plus, I’m not going to spend all my time driving around, I will have more time to take care of myself and the things that interest me. I’m gonna get my life back.

And that’s worth the extra attention.

Onward.

 

 

Such a headache

Holy crap, I have a headache. It feels like a vice is pressing in on both temples, and my eyes hurt. I’m sick to my stomach. I have felt like this since early this morning. Probably all the pressure I’m putting on myself over what may or may not happen on Monday when I give my notice.

Silly. I have given notice at past jobs a bunch of times, and rarely has it been pleasant. But I always got through it. Once, I gave notice to a real jerk who had me in a very important position and was seriously hindered by my leaving, but that individual was an unethical creep who was in constant violation of official and unofficial ethical codes — both within the company and without. The really sad thing was, they were in a senior position, so they were unassailable. Powerful. They knew I could report them, and they used their power to intimidate me. The weird thing was, I was actually the one with the power, but I didn’t realize it then.

I think the same thing holds for my current situation. All too frequently, I think I have no power, when I’m the one who has the most.

It was a huge relief to get away from that creep. I saw them on television years later, at some security training presentation that was on public television. There they sat, all smug and sh*t, with their clueless spouse beside them. My stomach turned, when I saw them, and I was glad that I had left. Even if I was once worried about them retaliating at me. They never did.

Creep.

I think part of what is upsetting me about my present situation is the idea that it might harm my future prospects if I leave this job right now. I’m afraid that there will be backlash and it will get ugly, and I will not be able to keep myself from fighting back when I feel like I’m being attacked. I’m pretty much on alert, right now, and I am feeling like I’m under attack, even though it is the thoughts in my own head that are attacking me – and giving me a headache.

I need to calm myself down, so I don’t escalate with the wrong people.

As you may be able to tell, I have invented a whole scenario in my mind about “how things will turn out”… and it’s not good.

So, enough of that.

I need to focus on what truly is — making up my list of activities for my new employer, so they don’t consider my existing side projects to be part of their intellectual property… working on a bunch of slides for a presentation I’m giving to a local community group in another week and a half… taking care of household business… and staying healthy and happy all the while.

Maybe — just maybe — I am making myself out to be more important at my current job than I really am. Maybe I am just inventing this whole scenario about me being indispensable. Nobody is indispensable. At least, they shouldn’t be. I have no idea how things will turn out, I have no idea what the reactions at work will be. It could be that people are expecting my resignation on Monday, and they already have a contingency plan in place.

It could be.

Rather than focus on the maybe’s that are bad, why not invent some maybe’s that are good? And focus on them.

Maybe that will get rid of this headache.

I did manage to lie down and take a nap for a few hours, earlier. That was good. I’m also reading some books — “Psycho-Cybernetics“, which is a self-improvement classic… “Overachievement“, which is a new book about how to achieve top performance in unconventional ways… “A Benjamin Franklin Reader“, which is a collection of his writings and stories from his live… and some other books about money and power. And brains. And samurai legends.

I’m also reading a scientific paper on how perceived mental effort will wake you up — basically, if you believe a task is difficult, your “tonic arousal” (temporary state of wakefulness in your brain) will improve. So, that’s my new approach to getting boring sh*t done without screwing it up — tell myself it’s really, really hard, and it’s going to take a lot of mental effort to do it, so then my brain kicks into gear and gets with the program.

I’m starting to feel better, actually.

I should go juggle… but I’m still pretty sore from all the juggling yesterday.

I should probably stretch, as well, and get the kink out of my neck, which has been paining me for months. I’m sure that’s not helping the headache.

I’ve been doing some dual n-back training on and off over the past couple of days, and I have to say, the 3-back training is all but IMPOSSIBLE for me to do. I get maybe 1/3 – 1/2 of the questions right. It’s very discouraging, because I want to be at 100%, and I’m not. I think that is contributing to the headache, too. So, I’ll give that one a rest, even though I do want to think better, and I feel like it is helping me.

I need to rest. I really need to rest — so that I can be strong on Monday.

With regard to the dual n-back training, I think the best thing for me to do is hold the reins myself — always use the manual controls and work on specific areas of performance to improve a few main things:

  • reaction/response time – increase and decrease the time I need to respond in
  • number of pieces of information I retain – vary that from session to session
  • different combinations of sound, color, position, and shapes – target different mixes to keep myself sharp

I need to start in very specific ways and work my way up, not just use the generic settings in the program. That’s just maddening, and it’s not giving me the kind of precision training I want to get. I’ll talk to my neuropsych about what areas would be good to improve. I know that processing speed is one of them, as well as the number of items I can keep in my head at any given point in time. I could really play with that — set the response time to really long, and have a handful of different elements to remember each time. There are an infinite number of possibilities here, so I need to make the most of it. On my terms.

My frustration with the program is not helping my headache. So, I’ll do something about that.

But most of all… Take a break. Get myself a big glass of water. Do some stretching and movement. Maybe juggle a little bit, but not too much.

Balance. Relax. Take care of a few things that need to be done. Quit stressing over what has not happened yet — and may never happen.

And enjoy the rest of my Saturday afternoon. As well as my Sunday to come. It’s Mother’s Day. I’ll need to call my Mom.

Onward.

 

Practical training to fix TBI issues – processing speed, reaction time, memory

My n-back results today
My n-back results today – click to see a close-up

I’m doing my dual n-back training again this morning. It’s pretty awesome. I’ve already noticed an improvement in my memory and my reaction time, after just a few days of practicing.

If you suffer from TBI and have access to a computer, be it at your public library or at a friend’s house – it can even be your smart phone, if you have one – there’s no excuse not to do this. There are many, many free versions of this available. My favorite is Brain Workshop at http://brainworkshop.sourceforge.net/. It’s for Windows and Mac (and Linux, if you’re into it), and it works great – very customizable.

There really is no reason to not do this training. Especially if you are on disability and you are unable to work or do other things with yourself. That’s really the optimal situation for you, because this training will help you with the core issues from TBI — processing speed, reaction time, short-term working memory and recall — and the thing you need most to do this, is time.

I almost wish I were on disability, so I could do n-back training as much as I like.

Now, obviously, I don’t want to overdo it. The brain needs to have rest and also good nutrition and oxygenation to really make the most of this training. So, it’s good that I actually cannot spend a lot of time doing n-back all day. I tend to perseverate on things that interest me, and this fascinates me. So, the chances of me plopping down in front of computer all day and doing this training are pretty high.

That would be counter-productive, and my scores would likely decrease, which would frustrate me. I need to allow myself rest. And I also need to allow myself room to just play. I tend to make everything I do into a “career” and go over the top, trying to elevate it to an art form. That’s fine, for things I’m making a living doing, but I need some time to play and relax and just have fun with things, too.

I have been playing with the combinations of things to test. I started out with a triple 1-back, where I try to remember the position, color, and audio for the last element that appeared on the screen. I put myself at 4 second intervals — the computer shows me a square in a certain color at a certain position and says a certain letter… then it shows me another one that may be the same or different, and I have to remember if it was similar in any way to the last one.

To be honest, the hardest part of the training is remembering which key to press for each aspect — A is for position, F is for color, L is for audio. One of the things that slows me down, is checking to see which key I need to press. Bums me out, frankly. I feel like an idiot that I can’t remember which goes with which, but oh well. I guess it helps me speed up my processing and my reaction time, by forcing me to react within a set period of time AND have to check the keys for each piece on the screen.

I started out at 4 second intervals, till I made it to 100% accuracy. Then I speeded it up to 3.5 seconds, and made it to 100% accuracy. At 3 seconds, I’m faltering — I went from 100% to 93% to 84% in a few tries. It could be due to my brain just getting tired. So, I’m going to stop and try again tomorrow — triple 1-back with position (A key), color (F key), and audio (L key), at 3 second intervals… and see if I can’t speed things up even more.

I like working with the 1-back, because it’s something I have mastered at certain levels, and I can always go back to it. I got to 100% accuracy with dual (position – A key, and audio – L key) 2-back at 4 second intervals the other day, and I want to push myself to hold more pieces of information in my brain at any given point in time. More pieces of information… at faster speeds.

As I said, the biggest challenge for me is memorizing which key to press for each aspect. That is very frustrating, so I need to work on memorizing that. I can spend my time commuting, conditioning myself to remember those key positions. That’s the thing that slows me down… Argh!

I’ve been doing some reading online about benefits that n-back training is supposed to provide. There are individuals who say that since they started doing the training, they have been able to learn much better. Others say it has had no effect on them. One of the things that irritates me, is how so many people write about it “improving intelligence”. The whole concept of “intelligence” is broad and wide and way too general for my taste. There are specific things this kind of training can help you with. These may make you seem “more intelligent” to others, but fundamentally, it’s really about improving processing speed, reaction time, short-term working memory, and making selective choices. Improving those aspects in different combinations, will help anyone — TBI or not — navigate life more smoothly, regardless of how well they perform on an IQ test.

For myself, the change in my own memory and response time has been noticeable, even in a short period of time. I’m going to to keep on with this, because it is helping me in specific ways that have been a bane of my existence for as long as I can remember.

Those things are:

  • feeling slow, like I’m not really keeping up
  • struggling to follow conversations and instructions
  • faking my way through interpersonal interactions, because if I slow people down to repeat what they just said and process what they just told me, it disrupts the flow of the conversation — it just hijacks it
  • distractions interrupting my concentration
  • “losing” pieces of information in the course of conversations
  • not reacting quickly enough to handle social situations, discussions, arguments, debates… and so on

These have been real struggles for me — for many, many years. And they have held me back in life. That doesn’t have to be true anymore. I now have something I can do about it.

There are many ways to train your brain to handle these things. When you’re a kid, there are clubs at school, like debate club or chess club or sports or other activities. I was active in sports, and I joined the school newspaper so I could do some writing, but I secretly struggled with the social and task-oriented activities (like writing articles for the paper). And the activities which centered around games or debate situations… they were just torture for me, because I wasn’t handling them well, and I could never articulate my situation well enough to reach out for help. Even if I had been able to articulate my situation, people were not in a position to help me. It was over 30 years ago, and nobody knew anything about TBI where I lived.

I have recently joined a public speaking group at my workplace, so I can practice being put on-the-spot to talk about a topic I didn’t come up with. That has been helping, too. But there’s nothing like being able to sit down in the quiet and comfort of my own room at home, and practice n-back training, watching my scores improve.

It has made me more confident, it has noticeably improved my response time in certain situations, it’s improving my memory in ways I can already notice, and it’s providing me a new challenge and a new hope in my life that has been missing. I’m going to keep doing this on a regular basis, as well as get plenty of rest and good nutrition to keep myself “beefed up” and progressing. Considering all the different combinations you can do — up to four different pieces that change, and as many “back” as you can ask for, all at faster or slower speeds, there’s an almost infinite number of combinations I can use to train my brain.

 

10 Reasons I Keep Juggling

I feel like a clown now… but I’m improving!

It’s pretty amazing… the effect that juggling is having on me. It benefits me in these ways:

  1. It’s improving my eye-hand coordination. I am finding it easier to “juggle” other things, like multiple grocery items and bags I have to carry inside after work, along with my knapsack and travel mug.
  2. It’s improving my response time.  I am finding myself catching things that are falling or slipping out of my hand, much more quickly than before.
  3. It’s improving my quality of responses. I have problems with flying off the handle over things that irritate me, and lately I’ve been getting more short-tempered and reactive. Teaching myself to just pick up the ball(s) I dropped and move on without missing a beat, is so very important to know and do — all throughout my life.
  4. It’s improving my balance. Following the balls and keeping my center of gravity steady, is making a small but noticeable improvement to my balance. And that translates to better posture and more confidence as I go about my daily business.
  5. It’s improving my left-side coordination and abilities. I can now toss and catch a ball in my left hand much better than I could, just a few days ago. I think this has more to do with training my brain than my body. But whatever.  All I know is, my left side is getting a lot more coordinated and capable. And that cuts down on the distractions that come with fumbling around with crap — and also the frustration that accompanies the fumbling.
  6. It’s raising my frustration level. Dropping the ball over and over, and learning to pick it up and just move on without getting mired in frustration is good. Also, working through my frustration with not being well coordinated or very able to juggle, is good practice too. I can see myself improving a little bit each day, which is good. And I know that tolerating a little frustration now will pay off on down the line.
  7. It’s keeping me engaged and interested in something other than my boring-ass life. Some days, my life seems so incredibly boring, because I’m following my formulas and schedules and agendas — getting a lot of things done, but really bogged down in the drudgery of the everyday. Juggling gives me a way to pique my attention and get me interested in other things. I have a long way to go before I can say I truly know how to juggle, and can do it well. And even when I do manage to juggle more than two objects, and they are things other than foam balls (no chainsaws, thank you very much), I will still have room for improvement — and I will keep learning.
  8. It’s a cheap hobby that I can do just about anywhere, anytime. I have a bunch of small balls in a ziploc bag I carry around in my knapsack, and I also have balls lying around the house that I juggle when I get a chance. I can juggle pens and pencils and my toothbrush and just about anything I find lying around. I don’t have to shell out a bunch of dough, and I don’t have to reserve space to do it. I can do it indoors and outdoors. I can do it morning, noon, or night, for a long or short time.
  9. It gets me moving. Granted, it’s not the most demanding exercise, but it does get me out of a stationary state. And it does it for short periods at a time, so I don’t wear myself out. It’s really the perfect break in the middle of a long slog. And rather than pulling my attention away from what I’m doing, it helps me refocus and go back to what I was doing, sharper than before.
  10. Most of all, it’s giving me a chance to learn and develop a skill without any downsides. Nobody cares if I cannot juggle like a pro. It doesn’t matter if I’m a barebones beginner. All I can do is improve and learn and grow… and enjoy my learning and growth as I go.

So juggling is really helping me in a number of ways.

Try it – you might like it! Especially if you’re dealing with TBI after-effects, or some attentional issues.

I’m supposed to start working in 20 minutes…

1-2-3 Puuull..!

The good part is, I am working from home today. Sweet silence. No distractions. I can actually focus on one thing at a time without being constantly interrupted by people who do not want to actually do their own work, but expect me to do it for them.

My spouse is a late riser, so there will be no sign of them till noontime, which leaves me almost 4 hours of quiet productivity.

I’m actively rethinking my job search approach for the future. I have been thinking that I need to find a job with an established company that gives me a place to go each day. But in fact, what I really need is a remote job, where I can work for a set amount of hours, and then lie down and take a nap when I need to. Or I can travel and work remotely from wherever I am. The whole commuting to work – working 9 hours – commuting home thing, to and from a place where I’m chained to the galley bench with all the other worker bees just isn’t working for me. I am exhausted. Depleted. And I miss those hours I spend in the car each day.

So, either I find a job that’s remote, so I can come and go as I please and get things done on my own time in my own way, or I find something that is close to home, so I don’t have to waste all that time each day. I think the former makes much more sense to me — especially because of the fatigue thing, not being able to rest when I need to, and gradually becoming more and more exhausted.

My neuropsych tells me I should not be taking naps during the day. But if I don’t, I am so depleted that I can’t get to sleep in a good way. I get so tired, I am too tired to get to sleep.

So, it’s time to start looking around online for remote work. There are plenty of telecommute jobs out there. I just need to find them.

Onward.

No. More. Distraction. Period.

I've been all over the map

Okay, I know it’s ironic that I’m announcing I’m not going to be distracted from my work, just as I’m starting another post which will keep me from doing that work, but I just have to put this out there, so I can get on with my day.

I have been trying to figure out this technical problem for almost a week, to no avail. The bothering thing is that it used to take me all of an hour to figure this out, and now it’s taking me days and days. It should be so easy… but it’s not. I’m sure it’s a combination of not having done this kind of work in several years. But it’s also to do with how my brain now works.

After my last concussion, I went from being a programmer who could pick up new languages and new techniques very easily and quickly, to somebody who apparently now can’t. Once upon a time, I could read documentation and “get it” very quickly. And then I could use what I learned. But after my fall, I became this zombie who would just sit around, staring at the computer screen, not learning — or doing — anything.

I’ve gotten better about not just sitting there staring at nothing for hours. But when I came out of my post-concussion fog, I found that I could not read things and understand what they were about. I still have trouble reading, in fact. And I sometimes have trouble understanding, unless I really work at it.

I’m having that kind of trouble now, reading things and getting them. I’m also having trouble following instructions, which is really annoying, because it used to come so easily to me.

It’s agitating me. And that makes me more distractable. It also makes me less likely to really rest well or get good sleep, which in turn cuts into my available reserves. Not good.

So, what to do? I guess the thing that bothers me the most is the fact that things have changed. It gets in my head, and I end up spending wasting a lot of time thinking, “I should be able to get this. Why can’t I get this?” So, I end up distracting myself with a lot of internal chatter — chatter that doesn’t help me get where I’m going. I’m literally tearing myself down, when I do this, which I’m realizing just now as I’m typing this. The cross-talk in my head is drowning out the productive thinking, which doesn’t help me get where I’m going.

I think part of the problem is that I’m trying to approach this puzzle the way I think I used to do it. But my brain just doesn’t work the way it used to. I’m not saying it’s broken beyond repair; it’s just really clear to me – more each day – that I need to adjust and do things a little differently than before, if I’m going to restore my functioning in this area. Now, part of me had given up on being able to do any programming at all. I tried, and I did manage to code up some things that were pretty cool — a timekeeping application and a TBI issues tracking application, which I used a fair amount for a while. And I thought about building versions that would work on iPads and iPhones and mobile devices. But then I got turned around and I couldn’t move forward with it, so I just dropped it and didn’t bother with it anymore.

I just decided that I couldn’t do it. I decided that part of my life was over. And I turned my professional attention in other directions.

But the other day when I was doing a little coding, I felt that old spark once more — that sense of satisfaction, completion, accomplishment… just from doing a few little things on my computer. And it brought back that old feeling that was once so strong.

So, I’m back at it now, again. Because it feeds me. It gives me great satisfaction. And it’s something that no one can  take away from me, really. Not unless I let them.

See, this is the thing — this programming stuff is actually really fun for me. It’s not the sort of thing that I necessarily want to do only for others, depending on it for my livelihood. But it is the sort of thing I need back in my life, so I can have this again. And I can enjoy it again. If I can just “take it off the table” so to speak, and not make it all about earning a living — make it about having fun and creating things that I enjoy and that I want to use — make it about me and my life and my brain and my sense of satisfaction, rather than meeting the needs of some employer… then I can actually get it back.

And I can focus in on what’s important to me — not what’s going to make my current boss happy.

{Disclosure: I just got distracted and went off to surf around online — it must be time to move on and get some actual productive work done.}

Anyway… Ultimately, the things I do because I love them, will strengthen my overall sense of self, as well as strengthen my overall skillset, which is what I need. In this job market, it’s critical.

So, enough of the distraction. It’s time to make some progress. Onward.

One concussion, two concussions, three concussions, four…

I had a meeting with my neuropsych last week, when we talked about my concussive history. I had read the article by Malcom Gladwell in the New Yorker called Offensive Play, and I had some questions about how my past might have made me more susceptible to tbi, later in life.

I was wondering aloud if my rough-and-tumble childhood (when falling and hitting my head and getting up and getting back in the game ASAP were regular parts of play), might have brought me lots of subconcussive events, like so many impacts on the football field. I checked in with my neuropsych, and they had me recap from the top, all the head injuries I could recall. My recollection and understanding of them was considerably better than it was, just six months ago. What came out of it was the determination that I’d had enough genuine concussions to do a fair amount of damage to myself. Forget about subconcussive events; the concussive events sufficed to cause plenty of problems, on their own.

It kind of threw me off for a day or two, and I got pretty stressed out and ended up pushing myself too hard, and then melted down in the evening. Not good. It’s hard, to hear that you’re brain damaged. It’s not much fun, realizing — yet again — that you haven’t had “just” one concussion, but a slew of them. And considering that I’m in this new job where I have to perform at my best, it really got under my skin. It’s taken me a few days to catch up on my sleep and settle myself down, after the fact. But I’m getting there. My past hasn’t changed, nor has my history. I’m just reminded of it all over again…

All told, I’ve sustained about eight concussions (or concussive events) that I can remember. Possible signs of concussion (per the Mayo Clinic website) are:

  • Confusion
  • Amnesia
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue

Some symptoms of concussions are not apparent until hours or days later. They include:

  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Depression

I experienced most of these (except for nausea and vomiting, and not so much slurred speech, that I can remember) during my childhood and teen years. Not surprising, considering that I had a number of falls and accidents and sports injuries over the course of my childhood.

It’s pretty wild, really, how those experiences of my childhood contributed to my difficulties in adulthood — especially around TBI. I’ve been in accidents with other people who had the same experience I did, but didn’t have nearly the after-effects that I suffered. For them, the incident was a minor annoyance. For me, it was a life-changing concussion. A head injury. TBI. Brain damage. Geeze…

Thinking back on the course of my life, beyond my experiences with the accidents that didn’t phaze others but totally knocked me for a loop, I can see how the after-effects like fatigue and sensitivity to light and noise, really contributed to my difficulties in life. It’s hard to be social and develop socially, when you can’t stand being around noisy peers (and who is as noisy as a gaggle of teens?). It’s hard to learn to forge friendships with girls — who always seemed so LOUD to me(!) — or hang with the guys — who were always making loud noises, like blowing things up and breaking stuff — when you can’t tolerate loudness.

And when you don’t have the stamina to stay out all night… It’s a wonder I did as well as I did, as a kid. Of course, I was always up for trying to keep up – I was always game. And I wanted so very, very badly to participate, to not get left behind, to be part of something… That kept me going. I was just lucky to have people around me who were kind-hearted and intelligent and tolerant of my faults and limitations.

Anyway, I did survive, and I did make it through the concussions of my childhood. I have even made it through the concussions of my adulthood.  And I’m still standing. I didn’t get any medical treatment for any of these events, and the most help I ever got was being pulled from the games where I was obviously worse off after my fall or the hard tackle, than I’d been before.

But one thing still bugs me, and it’s been on my mind. During my high school sports “career, ” I was a varsity letter-winning athlete who started winning awards my freshman year. I was a kick-ass runner, and I won lots of trophies. I also threw javelin in track, and by senior year, I was good enough to place first and win a blue ribbon in the Junior Olympics. Which is great! I still have the blue ribbon to prove it, complete with my distance and the date. But I have no recollection of actually being awarded the ribbon, and I barely remember the throw. I’m not even sure I can remember the event or the throw. It’s just not there. It’s gone. And it’s not coming back. Because it was probably never firmly etched in my memory to ever be retreivable.

I’ve never thought of myself as an amnesiac, but when it comes to my illustrious high school sports career, when I was a team captain and I led my teams to win after win, I have all these ribbons and medals and trophies, but almost no memory of having earned them.

Which really bums me out. What a loss that is. When I hear Bruce Springsteen’s song “Glory Days” I feel a tinge of jealousy that the guy he’s singing about can actually recall his glory days. I can’t. And that’s a loss I deeply feel, mourn… and resent. Seriously. It sucks.

This could seriously mess with my head. And sometimes it does. But on the “up” side, it might also possibly explain why I’ve been such a solid performer over the years, in so many areas, yet I can’t seem to get it into my head that I am a solid performer. My memory of having done the things I did, in the way I did them, is piecemeal at best, and utterly lacking at worst. So, even if I did do  well, how would I know it, months and years on down the line? How would I manage to form a concept of myself as successful and good and productive and inventive and trustworthy, if I have little or no recollection of having been that way in the past?

It’s a conundrum.

But I think I have an answer — keeping a journal. Keeping a record of my days, as they happen, and really getting into reliving my experiences, while they are still fresh in my mind. If I can sit down with myself at the end of a day or a week, and recap not only the events of the past hours and days, but also re-experience the successes and challenges I encountered, then I might be able to forge memories that will stay with me over time. If nothing else, at least I’ll be making a record for myself that I can look back to later. And I need to use colors to call out the good and the not-so-good, so I can easily refer back to the date and see where I had successes and failures along the way.

Most important, is my recording of successes. I’m so quick to second-guess myself and assume that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. And when I think back to the times when I overcame significant difficulties, I often lose track of the memory before I get to the end of the sequence I followed to succeed.

But I cannot let that situation persist. I need a strategy and a practice to reclaim my life from the after-effects of way too many concussions. I’m sure there are others in life who have had it far worse than me, but some of my  most valuable and possibly most treasured experiences are lost to me for all time, because I have no recollection of them.

No wonder my parents often start a conversation with me with the sentence, “Do you remember ________?”