I’ve been home for a little over a week, and I finally got a full night’s sleep, last night. I’ve been working off of 2/3 of my usual “dose” since last Friday, and it doesn’t do me (or my work) any good.
Whenever I travel for work, for every 4 days I spend there, I lose an additional 8 days afterwards just to catch up. And I also lose a few days ahead of that, while I’m preparing and putting all the pieces in place to keep my (and my spouse’s) life going per normal.
Normal! Ha. That’s a good one.
Well, anyway, things are back to normal again. I got up after the sun was up, and I had my exercise and healthy breakfast. Now I’m organizing myself for the weekend, so I can catch up on the chores and activities I couldn’t do last weekend because of the fatigue and also competing activities.
I’m also looking for a new job that doesn’t involve travel. I’ve got a rich and full life, and I don’t need to be hauling my a** all over creation. Not after all these years of working as hard as I have. Surely, there are jobs that don’t require that.
Of course, the ones that do involve travel tend to pay better. But it’s all a tradeoff. And ultimately, if my quality of life takes a dive, is the money actually worth it? Not sure…
Fortunately, there are other options. I’m exploring them. And for the time being, as long as I can get decent rest and keep myself from getting too scattered, I’m in a good place.
I’m righted again. And now it’s time to do some yardwork.
I’ve been dragged down for the past 5 days with an intermittent headache.
I haven’t been sleeping well, and I’ve been extra stressed at work.
Been drinking too much coffee — not a lot, compared to what I used to drink before, but more than I should.
I’ve also been eating more carbs, which spins me up in to a flurry of quick and easy energy, then crashes me. That up and down roller coaster also makes me get angrier quicker than I’d like. It the crash puts me on edge and eats away at my patience, so I snap at my spouse more. That’s not good.
Gotta get off that roller coaster. Gotta cut out the bread.
I’ve been working out more at the gym, so that’s probably contributed — tension in my neck and back.
Not much more to say about it, other than I have to just use the tools I know I have. Do the things that work for me. Don’t get spun up over stupid stuff. And just keep going. Just keep steady. And get back to being steady, like I used to.
2. Since your old habits don’t quite work well enough, you need to TAKE CONTROL of your brain and get it to think through the things you are going to do.
Your BRAIN no longer does its job well enough on automatic pilot.
You may think it does, but it doesn’t. All those years your brain invested in learning how to do things… well, the things it learned about “the right way to do things” has changed. The connections and pathways that your brain was used to using to get from Point A to Point B… well, those old highways and byways may have been “washed out” by your TBI, so all the signals traveling through your brain need to find new ways to do their job.
Now, your MIND has to make sure it does its job properly, whenever you do anything in which the results are important.
You can’t just rely on your brain to be on autopilot. You have to use your MIND. And you have to stay engaged. You have to pay attention. The brain can do its job, but it needs to be watched — cared for — tended. And that’s the job of your mind.
Any time you need your actions or your words to have quality, your mind has to make sure that your brain produces quality at every step.
Your mind is in your control. Your brain … well, not so much. Some people make no distinction between brain and mind, but for our purposes here (and for Give Back purposes), we need to make that distinction. The brain is the organ, the result of a whole lot of physical and neurological processes. The mind is the result of the brain’s activity and your presence… of mind.
It’s as if your mind now has to be the boss.
Yep. It does. It has to run the show. You can’t rely “mindlessly” on your brain to just do its job as usual. Because the ways that it used to do things have altered. And that change is permanent. Does that mean you can’t create new ways and pathways for your brain to do things differently? NO. That’s the point — it can change and learn and grow. But it’s used to doing things the same-old-same-old, and that’s not going to work for you anymore.
You need to be MINDFUL so that you can be an effective boss.
Give yourself a promotion. Make yourself the CEO of your own life. You’ve got to run things, now. Not just your autopilot brain, but your powerful mind, which learns and grows and changes constantly and acquires skill over time. Mindfulness, paying attention, properly managing your energy and frustrations… you’ve got a new job.
In 2013,1 about 2.8 million TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalizations, and deaths occurred in the United States.
TBI contributed to the deaths of nearly 50,000 people.
TBI was a diagnosis in more than 282,000 hospitalizations and 2.5 million ED visits. These consisted of TBI alone or TBI in combination with other injuries.
Over the span of six years (2007–2013), while rates of TBI-related ED visits increased by 47%, hospitalization rates decreased by 2.5% and death rates decreased by 5%.
In 2012, an estimated 329,290 children (age 19 or younger) were treated in U.S. EDs for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a diagnosis of concussion or TBI.3
From 2001 to 2012, the rate of ED visits for sports and recreation-related injuries with a diagnosis of concussion or TBI, alone or in combination with other injuries, more than doubled among children (age 19 or younger).3
What are the leading causes of TBI?
In 2013,1 falls were the leading cause of TBI. Falls accounted for 47% of all TBI-related ED visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States. Falls disproportionately affect the youngest and oldest age groups:
More than half (54%) of TBI-related ED visits hospitalizations, and deaths among children 0 to 14 years were caused by falls.
Nearly 4 in 5 (79%) TBI-related ED visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in adults aged 65 and older were caused by falls.
Being struck by or against an object was the second leading cause of TBI, accounting for about 15% of TBI-related ED visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States in 2013.
Over 1 in 5 (22%) TBI-related ED visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in children less than 15 years of age were caused by being struck by or against an object.
Among all age groups, motor vehicle crashes were the third overall leading cause of TBI-related ED visits, hospitalizations, and deaths (14%). When looking at just TBI-related deaths, motor vehicle crashes were the third leading cause (19%) in 2013.
Intentional self-harm was the second leading cause of TBI-related deaths (33%) in 2013.
That, to me, is a pretty big deal. And that’s not even counting the costs of concussion to all the people who sustain them, as well as the friends, family members, co-workers, and employers involved.
While other diseases, injuries, conditions, etc. have “epidemic” status and get a whole lot of attention and visibility drawn to them, concussion / TBI still lurks just under the surface. Maybe because it’s so scary for people. Maybe because it’s so invisible. Maybe because people still have this perception of TBI as being “just a clunk on the head” that’s no big deal.
Guess what — it is a big deal. And it affects your whole person.
So, maybe people really do get that. They just don’t have the ways of thinking/taking about it in a productive way.
Maybe we just aren’t properly equipped.
I’m not sure there’s ever a way to properly equip people to confront their deepest, darkest fears. But the right information goes a long way.
Also, having standards of care, getting the word out on a regular basis about how to understand and handle concussion / TBI, and not treating it like a taboo that can’t be discussed in polite company… that would help, too. Heck, if we could just discuss it, period, that would be a positive development.
Well, that’s what this blog is about. Sharing information, as well as discussing what it’s like from a personal point of view. It’s important. And it doesn’t happen that often, in a productive and pro-active way. At least, not compared to the frequency with which it happens.
It never ceases to amaze me, how little is generally known about concussion / mild TBI. Either it’s dismissed, or it’s viewed with a combination of fear and horror. Just mentioning to someone that you’ve had one (or two, or — like me — 9) can seriously alter their perception of you.
I’ve had conversations with people who I thought would “get it”. But as soon as I mentioned my history of mild TBI, their manner changed from collegial to guarded. As though they were waiting for me to slip up or do something stupid.
Eh, well. Whatever. I can’t get too bent out of shape about it. After all, it’s largely not their fault. We just don’t have a lot of good information about concussion / mild TBI. Nor do we have stellar management practices. It’s either negligent, or it’s over-protective. And unless I’ve been under my rock too long (always a chance of that), I don’t believe there are widely recognized, standardized best practices for docs and patients, alike.
We’re getting there. But we’re not there yet.
That being said, I’m working on updating my series 10 Things I Wish Someone Told Me After My Concussion(s) I collected 10 posts in one place, and I also published it as an eBook, to give people more access to it. But looking at it last night, when I had some time to myself, I see I really need to both expand it, as well as create a more condensed, high-level version of it.
The point of the collection is to let people know they’re not alone – and to share with them things that really would have helped me, had I known about them sooner. When you hit your head hard enough to alter your consciousness, it can impact you heavily. It might not be obvious from the outside right away, and it may take a few hours or days or weeks (sometimes even months) for things to start to get weird, but something actually has changed inside your skull.
We need to know this. Not just from doctors when we think to consult with them. Not just from experts, who have all the domain expertise. But in the general population. That’s why I’m expanding the book into print — because I want to get it out to libraries, as well as to individuals. It’ll be on Amazon, just like the eBook is.
I’ll be updating this site, too, as I go along, adding more information to help clarify. This is important. People need to know. It can’t protect them from that first impact, but it might just help them deal with that — and possibly avoid the next impact that becomes even more likely when you’re already concussed.
Have you had a concussion? A mild TBI? If you’ve recently had a head injury, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans have a brain injury every year. Sports, falls, assaults, auto accidents, and more all contribute. To take care of yourself and get better, there’s a lot you need to know.
What can you expect? Why do you feel so weird? Why are you getting so angry? How do you take care of yourself? How long will it take for your symptoms to clear up? Will this fatigue ever end?
This “beginner’s guide to concussion” gives you an insider’s view of what it’s like, what you can expect, what you might experience, and why you feel the way you do. Written by a multiple mild TBI survivor with decades of recovery experience, “10 Things I Wish They’d Told Me After My Concussion(s)” fills in the blanks of this puzzling condition and talks about anger, fatigue, frustration, the neurological basis of your situation, and more. There is always more to learn with concussion. And this book is a place to start.
So, yesterday, I exercised twice — once in the morning, and again later in the afternoon at work. There’s an aerobics room at the gym at work, and it’s walled with mirrors. That’s exactly what I need, so when I’m doing some movement, I can work on my form and be mindful of how my body is actually positioned as I move it.
I picked up a lot of bad posture and positioning habits when I was younger, and that’s cost me valuable time later in life when I pulled or strained muscles, due to bad form. And then I had to sit out for a while, till they got better. And by the time they got better, I had forgotten about doing them at all. And I lost more time, till I got inspired to do them again.
So, keeping myself in good form is important. And I had the chance yesterday afternoon to spend about 20 minutes moving and watching myself move, making sure I wasn’t moving in ways that strained my back and hips and knees, and all the other connections that have given me trouble over the years.
I didn’t spend a ton of time on it, yesterday, but it was enough to wake me up, and also give me a bit more of a workout. I had been planning on getting an extra exercise session in, when I got home from work. But to tell the truth, I’ve got to make supper, and I’m so done with the day, by that point, that I just want to make supper, talk to my spouse, and chill out.
So, exercising for 30 minutes during the day is really a good option for me. It breaks up my afternoon, and it also wakes me up.
And last night I went to bed by 10:00 and I woke up close to 7:00 a.m. — nearly 9 hours of continuous sleep. Amazing. Just amazing. I’m still feeling a bit fuzzy and groggy this morning, but the fact that I got that much sleep makes it all the better.
Plus, this afternoon, I have no meetings, so I can do it again. I moved a little bit this morning, to work on my balance, and also get a sense for where my body is in space. With my balance issues — which are the one outstanding remaining danger for me and my physical safety — I have to do something. The neuro I went to see to help me with it, doesn’t seem to take my situation all that seriously. Hell, they don’t seem to take ME all that seriously. So, I’ll just have to take care of this all, myself.
I can probably do a better job of it, anyway, because I know what my issues are. I have no trouble articulating them, because I don’t need to — I’m walking around in a body that’s got movement and balance challenges. I already know first-hand what the deal is, and I don’t have to convince anyone of it.
And that makes it a whole lot easier to deal with.
Personally, I’m sick and tired of people not taking me seriously, not believing me, and dismissing me — or brushing me off with some bogus explanation, because they can’t be bothered to look deeper. Maybe it’s a function of the medical system (I won’t say “healthcare”, because there’s something else driving it than “health” and “care”), which routinely traumatizes and exhausts its members, and then expects them to turn in stellar performances. I have to factor in that I’m dealing with professionals who are A) impaired at a functional level — and have been, since they started med school, and B) honor-bound to flatly deny that lack of sleep, secondary trauma, and the pressures of the insurance companies could have a negative impact on their performance.
So, I have to take it all with a grain of salt. And just use them for what they’re good for — prescriptions, if I need them. IFI want to take them — which I usually don’t. They’re gatekeepers for insurance companies, and little else, from what I’ve seen. Just as many financial advisors are little more than highly compensated sales reps for financial services companies (I know, because I was recruited by a fin svcs company many years ago, and I got an inside look at how things work — and I opted out).
So, all that aside, it feels great to be doing something for myself. I forgot to contact that trainer at work again, to go over some complex movements and strength training approaches. I’ll make a note to do it today. I’m feeling a lot of anticipation about this spring… I think it’s going to be a good one. And an old project I had put aside, years ago, has now suddenly shown itself to be feasible, as a solution to one of the big conundrums I couldn’t sort out before has suddenly become obvious to me. So, that’s a nice thing. Very nice indeed.
It’s amazing, what 9 hours of sleep will do for you. I’ll have to try for this again… and again… and again…
tbi recovery 2016 – We’ve come a long, long way, over the years. The biggest gain, that I can see, is how people have gotten it through their heads that the brain is plastic — it changes constantly — and just because you lose some function in certain areas, doesn’t mean you’ll lose all ability to function, all across the board. The brain recruits different areas to do different things. It’s got a bunch of “second string” capabilities that it can draw in. And in fact, some neuroscientists are focused more on the whole “connectome” than isolated areas of funcationality — like Broca’s and Wernicke’s.
concussion cause hypochondria – Why yes, yes it can cause that. I have seen it many times. And I’ve seen it in myself. Concussion can make you hyper-sensitive. And it can put you on high alert. First, your brain has been shaken up, and it’s in crisis. It’s working overtime to get back on track, to reduce the amount of “gunk” that gets released, when it’s injured. And at the same time, it has less energy to do so… and you get the picture. That’s a potent recipe for HIGH ALERT, which of course makes every single symptom seem worse. Concussion can make every sign of discomfort into a major concern. It can turn you into a hypochondriac. If you focus on chilling out your system, and you get your fight-flight response under control, the hypochondria can calm down. But if you keep the fight-flight going full-speed-ahead, little things can — and will — continue to seem like BIG THINGS, and you’re in for a ride.
reduce intellect after car accident – Yep, that happens. It’s not necessarily permanent, though. Again, after you get concussed (like in a car accident), your brain is impaired. It just isn’t working as well as it could, because it’s struggling with clearing out the gunk that got released in the injury, and at the same time, it’s having an energy crisis, because it can’t get the energy it needs. It’s a problem. But it doesn’t have to be permanent. Remember: After concussion – you’re not stupid, it just feels that way
is it normal after a concussion to experience weird things – Why yes. Yes it is. Your brain is not processing stuff the way it normally does. Your senses can all be heightened, or they can be dulled. You can experience anxiety, mood problems, neck aches and pains, headaches, post-traumatic migraine, ocular dysfunction, vestibular problems, difficulty with balance, strange senses of motion, lack of coordination, cognitive fatigue, concentration issues, and more. You can also start to feel every little thing (see the hypochondria entry above). And the world around you can start to feel like a very strange place. This completely, 100% normal. And it passes. When your brain sorts things out… clears out the gunk… figures out how to get energy again… and adjusts to the new “pathways” that information needs to follow… life starts to feel normal again. It might be different than before (that can feel weird), but you’re getting back to normal, and your brain is back to doing what it needs to do. Adjust. Experience. Grow and change as life takes its course.
You just gotta hang in there and work with it. Concussion / TBI is not easy, but it doesn’t need to be the end of the road.
This is terrible. I have to stop eating chocolate. My go-to for those times when I need a pick-me-up and I want to avoid coffee, has now officially failed to serve its purpose.
I’ve had a steady headache, now, for many weeks. And after taking a close look at my past several months of diet and exercise patterns, I found a number of things that I started doing over the holidays, which probably contributed to the headaches.
First of all, I started eating more candy after Halloween. We don’t get trick-or-treaters at our house, but we bought candy anyway, partly to take to other events we were attending. I didn’t overdo it too terribly — I had a couple of those little Hershey’s mini candy bars during the day, and then again in the evening when I got home from work.
Then I ate like crazy from Thanksgiving, on. It wasn’t like I binged on cookies and cakes and junk food (although I had a lot more pie than was good for me). I was good about it, overall, steering clear of the junk food and Christmas cookies. But I did have two full Thanksgiving dinners, with a ton of carbs, and lots of sweets, and more coffee than I was used to (I had to keep going, after all). And again, the chocolate candy became a staple at our house, with a bowl in the living room being almost constantly filled… being emptied… then filling up again.
Then, over Christmas, I continued to eat chocolate. Not bingeing, but a steady flow — a couple of pieces (or 3 or 4) in the early afternoon, a couple (or 3 or 4) later on, then another couple (or 3 or 4) in the evening while I was making dinner. Just to keep going. I didn’t want to drink more coffee, because my headaches have been so much better since I cut down drastically to 1/2 cup in the morning and 1/2 cup in the afternoon.
Christmas was a sleepy time, and I started drinking regular black tea again. Red Rose is my favorite. Especially with a lot of honey and some butter. Just the thing to pick me up.
But then the headaches started again. And a lot of things started getting worse, too. My balance has been off. The ringing in my ears… deafening at times. Light and noise sensitivity… much worse, lately. And my ability to attend to things happening around me really tailed off during the week between Christmas and New Years. I started to snap at my spouse. Freak out over little things. Get aggressive and hostile, like before. Not good. And a lot of the progress we’ve made over the months before, really suffered.
I got better, behaviorally, after I went back to work with my regular hours. But the migraines continued. Along with them… Nausea. Tingling and tics on the left side of my face. My left eye weeping. The tremor in my right thumb.
So, last week I decided to get OFF the caffeine and chocolate completely. I just stopped eating chocolate for a few days. I stopped drinking the tea and sneaking extra coffee when I felt a little low. I started keeping my energy up by eating healthy snacks — coconut milk yogurt, fruit, nuts, and gluten-free stuff. And I drank more water.
At first, I didn’t feel much difference. But after a couple of days, the migraine really subsided, to the point where it was … gone! As long as I kept my blood sugar up and drank my water, I was in a good place.
Then, last week, there was a lot going on, and I “fell off the wagon”, so to speak. I didn’t go back to the tea and excessive chocolate, but I started having extra pieces of chocolate in the afternoon. And when I was short on sleep, I had some extra coffee in the afternoon.
And I paid for it. At first, I didn’t feel anything. I actually felt great, to be eating chocolate again. And I was actually awake, thanks to the extra coffee.
But then the headaches returned. And with them the nausea, the facial ticks and tingling, the tears in my left eye, and an overall sense of sh*ttiness that I’d thought I was past.
So, again, I’ve cut out the afternoon coffee and all chocolate — and just when I’d stocked up on “healthy” dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt… Augh! I didn’t see changes right away — I only just stopped it, in the past day or two (I can’t remember exactly when), but I can tell a difference. I don’t have as much of a sick headache. I have a bit of one, but when I drink my water and keep my blood sugar up, and I don’t have the chocolate that is calling to me from the cupboard, I don’t have the same level of pain as I did before.
Plus, I need to keep my schedule steady. I find that if I laze around, I feel worse. I really do. And if I sleep too long on my naps, when I wake up, I’m in ragged shape and tend to snap out at my spouse, which is never good. I am groggy and confused, which makes them anxious, and our arguments escalate very quickly.
Like I said – not good.
So, there it is. As much as I love chocolate and have happily used it as a substitute for coffee, it’s still got caffeine in it — as well as other substances which I’m told contribute to migraine. None of this is good for a person like me, so it’s good-bye to chocolate.
And black tea.
And that afternoon coffee.
Fortunately, I still have my coconut milk yogurt, fruit, and nuts to keep me going and keep my energy and blood sugar levels up. I also keep an eye on my heart rate, and when it (and my blood pressure) rise to an intense level over events happening around me, I lower it with the system I devised over the years. That’s also an important consideration — and during the holiday blow-ups and meltdowns, my HR and BP was definitely elevated.
Enough of that, already. Enough.
So, I’m on the mend. The headache is much less than before, and I’m feeling more functional than last weekend, for sure. It does make me feel better, to have identified what the heck causes the misery. It lets me do something about… which I do.
To me and other former football players, things that occur normally in all people’s lives–like forgetting a name or where the car is parked, getting upset with a spouse, or having difficulty controlling an impulse — can feel similar to the startling sound, eerie shadow, or unexpected footprint foreshadowing a confrontation with the movie’s villain.
This is absolutely consistent with the experiences of so many TBI survivors. Those little glitches that “everyone has” take on added significance, and that actually adds to the problem. Our senses are heightened, our stress levels, too, and with that comes a spiraling effect — problems which are troubling in and of themselves, become even moreso when you see them as tips of a field of icebergs lying in wait to sink your proverbial ship.
It’s a vicious cycle, no doubt. And while the movie Concussion has raised awareness, I think it’s also had its drawbacks — namely, it’s a couple of hours of dire warnings, followed by a mad marketing blitz of “awareness raising” around all manner of advice, products, solutions, etc — many of which cost a fair amount of money, many of which are absolutely untested by anyone who’s even remotely independent.
It’s the perfect storm for a whole new market — concussion prevention and awareness. And it’s got the perfect target audience: parents who are concerned for their kids’ safety and who will pay any amount of money to protect (or treat) their kids from concussion.
While I do believe it’s so very important to raise awareness and educate, the whole “protection” business strikes me as just a bit mob-like. Think about the protection business in organized crime — it’s made clear to a store owner or someone who lives in a certain neighborhood that things are dangerous there, but for a fee, some designated individuals will protect you from that danger. Whether the danger is real or not (or existed before the protectors showed up), is debatable. But the fact of the matter is, once you pay your money and do so regularly, things get calmer and you can go back to your regular business.
Marketing so often plays that same game — and some industries, too. Take, for example, the “flu drama” we experience every winter. When I was growing up, people got the flu. Sometimes, if they were weak or very old or very young, they got seriously ill. Some of the weakest, oldest, and youngest, did die. But it wasn’t portrayed as this plague-like threat that promises to sink Western Civilization and plunge our nation into bankrupted chaos. However, now that we have expensive flu medicines, along with flu shots (which are highly controversial), suddenly, there’s a FLU SEASON, and we’re continually inundated with flu med commercials, from the time of first frost, till Memorial Day.
Making people afraid of being sick is really good for business. And making people afraid of getting hurt, is too. Especially when there are so many new products and services available to consume.
Anyway, it’s been a challenging couple of days, so I’ll wrap up. I’ve had a lot of headaches, as well as trouble sleeping and keeping to a schedule. Fatigue, blurriness, mental fog… Being off my schedule for a week and a half, while refreshing, had its own set of challenges. And now I’m transitioning back into the flow.
In the end, I think the discussions are helpful about concussion, and I am very happy that people are getting a clue about the issues that often come with repeat head trauma. It’s my hope that people will continue to discuss, rather than just getting freaked out, purchasing a product, and then expecting someone else to manage the risk for them.
When we give up our autonomy and trust folks who are not trustworthy, that’s a recipe for trouble. Especially for the kids who are put in harm’s way.