In it for the long haul

truck on road leading into the distanceAfter a brain injury, it’s awfully easy to get stuck in every single moment.

Everything seems different. Everything is different. Your brain has changed, and you have to devote a whole lot of time to each and every moment, as though it were the only one in your life.

Focusing on the present with laser-like attention became my main form of brain injury rehab. After all, I had to retrain my brain to make sense of what was going on around it, and I had to acclimate (all over again) to certain things I had once taken for granted.

Like brushing my teeth and taking my shower and getting dressed in the proper order each morning.

Like washing dishes and cooking and fixing simple snacks without losing my temper.

Like going to bed at a decent hour and getting up to exercise each morning.

The things that I had once taken for granted… well, that familiarity was taken from me, when I fell in 2004. And everything fell apart.

We don’t realize till it’s gone, how much we really do take for granted, and how much we depended on the predictability to structure our lives. When it disappears, all hell breaks loose. Literally.

But now, after 10+ years of really drilling down on the details of every day, moment to moment, I seem to have turned a corner. And now I’m looking at the “long haul” — what’s ahead of me, not next week or next month, but 10 years down the line… 20… 30… and beyond. I wasn’t born yesterday, but I also come from a long-lived family, and I can realistically expect to live at least 20 years longer than my peers. Maybe even longer than that.

So, I’m shifting my attention away from immediate stuff and concentrating on the big picture. What else is out there? What else can I learn? How else can I grow? Where can I find interesting things to expand my mind and life?

It’s all out there, waiting for me.  And it is for you, too.

Onward.

Advertisements

Getting offline – the good old-fashioned way

offline no wireless symbolI keep thinking about what life was like before the Internet. I know, it’s hard to imagine — especially as I’m writing this (and you’re reading this) online.

The Web has so completely altered how we do things, how we think about things, and what we think about, it’s very difficult to remember what it was like before.

But there was a time before the Internet. I can remember it, however faintly. And I remember how quiet my weekends used to be, when I would spend hours just reading, studying books I had, instead of surfing around online.

I feel very ambivalent about this, to be honest. I do love all the expanded access to research and interesting information that the Web makes possible. At the same time, though, it’s so full of distractions, that I’ve missed a lot of insights about much of the information out there, because something (literally) shinier has popped up in my view before I could digest what I was reading.  Online advertising has not done us a whole lot of good, in that respect. And I think that fragmented, flashy way of hijacking our attention is a seriously Bad Thing.

Especially for people like me.

Interestingly, my electronic life has taken a new turn. A few months back, I bought a new-to-me computer for an amazing prize. A new version costs over $3,000, but I got mine (used) for just a little over $300. Score! Yes, it was refurbished, and yes, there were some “dings”. But it works great. It’s fast and powerful and has a huge amount of disk space, so I’ve been able to transfer all my various files in all my various external hard drives to a single place. That, in itself, is progress, because I have a lot of files, and I need to be able to find  them without sifting through a bunch of different drives.

The only thing is, the PC doesn’t have a wireless card. And it’s on the other side of the house from my router with the wired connection. So, I can’t get online, unless I lug it downstairs and plug it in.

At first, I was pretty upset. I spend a lot of time online, and I need access for a lot of stuff I do. On the other hand, I’ve been increasingly worried about the effects that online life is having on my state of mind, as well as my body. I spend way too much time sitting in front of of social media, clicking links and entertaining myself, when I should really be doing something productive. I can’t even count all the hours I’ve lost to Facebook,  Twitter, and other social media. Even Google News tends to be a time-eater for me.

I’ve been wanting to get away from online life for some time. The thing is, I do a lot of my writing while online (especially here), researching and following leads. That puts me at risk for “squirrel!” syndrome — where I can easily be pulled in by the shiny-flashy lure of some clickbait headline or link. It doesn’t take much, at times, to pull me off-course, and that’s been happening, now, for years.

So much so that many things I’ve intended to do have fallen by the wayside. Because I just got distracted.

That’s about to change. Because my new computer isn’t connected to the internet. Not only am I protected from the prying eyes of people who may mean me harm online, but I’m also shielded from the constant distractions of online life. I’ve been needing to make this change — revert back to my old ways of writing, when it was just me, my ideas, and a keyboard (and yes, I used to use a typewriter, back in the day). Clear out the clutter — the uninvited intrusions that suck away my most precious possession : time, as though they’re entitled to it.

Screw all that. Screw them. They’re not invited. I want my space back, I want my thoughts back. I’ll still be able to write things like this without being online. I’ll still be able to draft these posts and the transfer them to another computer that is connected. I just won’t be constantly distracted by other stuff that has no place in my life and shouldn’t even come anywhere near me.

As much as I love the web and all the connections it gives me, there’s a time to say “enough is enough”.

I’m saying that now and doing the right thing. It was an accident… completely unintentional. But my unconnected computer is totally for the best.

Totally.

Onward.

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…

================================

Did this post help you? Please consider donating – any amount helps.

Try again…

Everything gets all jumbled up, sometimes
Everything gets all jumbled up, sometimes

I got some of what I intended done, yesterday. But I spent a lot more time being distracted and letting my mind wander in all sorts of different directions.

A lot of remote managers at work are in town, this week. And the recruiter who placed me in my current position stopped by my cubicle yesterday. They haven’t done that in close to a year. What the heck are they doing in my part of the universe?

I could be wrong, but it seems to portend yet more changes on the organizational horizon.

And that is most distracting to me.

HowEver (and this is a big new development for me), I actually know what direction I want to go with my career in the future, and the path is open for me, anytime I want it. I’ve got a veritable army of recruiters all eager to place me somewhere and get me into a good-paying position. The more I get paid, the more they get paid.

So, it’s no big deal, if I get laid off.

But it is a big deal, if I’m not prepared — and that’s something I forgot to do, yesterday. Last week, I found a bunch of free training at our company’s employee intranet, that will really help me gear up for the next steps in my career. It will help me get free and be fully qualified to do the kind of work I am aiming to do. And I did some of the training on Friday afternoon. But yesterday I was so distracted by so many different things, I forgot to resume it — that is, I forgot why I should resume it. I didn’t have good focus, and I was pretty scattered, trying to organize myself and get my planning and follow-through system in place.

I worked at it all morning, and by afternoon, I was tired, but I pressed on. And I actually “got lost” in the process — ended up spending way too much time re-hashing numbers and calculations and scheduling items, that I would be better off just putting aside and coming back to, later.

Plus, I didn’t get my swim, yesterday. My last meeting ended early, and I could have gotten to the pool in time. But I got distracted and by the time I got around to driving to the fitness center, the parking lot was full, and I realized it was way too late to be swimming.

So, I turned around and drove back and finished up the day on a pretty strong note.

Still, I didn’t accomplish all I set out to do. And I need to have a better system for handling things. I get so caught up in things, I lose track of time… and then I get tired and get even more distractable.

So, I need to break down my activities in to smaller “chunks” that I can handle more effectively… and not get lost.

This is especially important for this new training I’m doing. I’m really excited about it, as it offers me a clear path forward — and the methodology they use is not only widespread, it’s also really, really good for me. It “ticks all the boxes” for me in my work, and it’s a skillset that’s very much in demand, so there’s no lack of work.

So, it’s important that I follow through. And that I not forget to keep going with it. I really went off the rails yesterday. Then again, I did get some important things done, so it wasn’t a total waste.

I just need to try again today.

And so I shall.

Onward.

Getting my body back, too

balance-figuresI’ve been concerned about falling, for some time, now. I get lightheaded and dizzy, and I sometimes lose my balance when I’m tired or I’m distracted (which is often how I feel). I’ve seen a neurologist about possible neurological bases for this, but the MRI didn’t come back with anything meaningful that they could do anything with. Also, I don’t have a condition they can diagnose, so they can’t bill the insurance company, which means I can’t get much in-depth help from them. They need to pay their bills, and if the insurance won’t cover what they’re doing for me – and I certainly can’t cover it all – then nothing’s going to get done.

Which kind of sucks.

But frankly, it doesn’t surprise me. I have been steering clear of neurologists for some time. Only after my neuropsych encouraged me to dig deeper, did I agree to try again. And the one they referred me to moved out of state, so that’s that. This one was another good prospect, they thought, but my experience is turning out different from their expectation. No surprises there.

I’m going back in another week to follow up and put this whole thing to rest. All they can tell me is that I’m probably not sleeping enough, which my old neuropsych thought was “preposterous” – but I can kind of see their point. When I’m tired, my brain doesn’t work as well. And balance is very much handled in the brain. So, fatigue could conceivably be a source of imbalance.

Still, there’s no guarantee that I’m going to ever actually catch up on my sleep and feel fully rested. I wear out easily, and I don’t have a life that allows me to get naps when I need them. Not yet, anyway. I’m working on that.

Anyway, I’m not going to get all bent out of shape about it. I’m meeting with a wellness coach/personal trainer at work today. That’s one of our employee benefits – an on-site wellness consultant – so I’m going to take advantage of it. I’m going to see if they can tell me some things I can do to strengthen my overall system, to give me better balance, physically speaking.

Think about it — the body moves as a result of muscles coordinating their movement. And keeping your balance really involves a lot of muscles. I sit and stand — stationary — for most of the day, every single day, so I don’t use those muscles as much. And that’s no good. So, I’m hoping they can show me ways to strengthen, as well as get more flexible — that’s another piece of keeping your balance.

I’m also working on really improving my sense of my own body and where I am in space. I get pretty banged-up from doing yardwork and chores around the house, because I run into things (but don’t realize it), and then I end up with bruises from impacts I can’t recall. I’m so focused on what I’m doing, that I don’t even notice the impacts. So, yeah, there are two things going on there, but I’m thinking that if I can at least improve my sense of where I am, relative to sharp objects and hard surfaces, I can possibly look a little less like I got in a bar brawl, after I’m done cleaning up the yard 😉

The way I’m working on that, is by really paying attention to my body during the day – noticing where I’m tense, and focusing on relaxing it. I’ve been watching videos of Systema — a Russian martial arts practice that centers around breathing, relaxation, and body awareness. Some of the things that they do in the videos are amazing — and the folks doing it aren’t these monster-ripped superheroes who overpower their opponents with sheer force. They’re average-looking folks who you’d never expect to be able to do the things they do. Because they know their bodies, and they relax and let themselves just respond to the situation.

I don’t think I’d ever do Systema training, because of all the hits and the falls. I’ve had enough of them in my life, already, and I don’t want to push my brain’s luck. But I did get a book from them a while back about breathing and improving your body sense, and I’ve been reading that on and off, over the past year. I’m getting back to it, now, and it feels pretty good. Just getting a better sense of my body, how it moves, how it feels when it moves… when it’s tense… when I need to breathe… it’s good.

It’s also helping me sleep. I get so caught up in my head, that my body can’t catch a break. So, focusing in my breath and also trying to feel each and every bone and muscle in my body, and relax as much as possible… that gets me into a relaxed state that gets me “down” before I can get halfway through. I’ll start at my toes, and by the time I’m at my knees, I’m out.

And that’s great. I used to do this all the time, then I stopped… and I forgot about doing it. That’s one thing I’m working on, these days — trying to follow through and not drop things before I finish them. Or, if I do get interrupted, make a note of what I’ve been doing, and keep that note where I can see it and remember it. I just remembered another project that I was making amazing progress on… then I got interrupted, and I forgot about it… and I ended up heading in a completely different direction.

Months later, I suddenly remembered it last night, and sure enough — there it is, waiting for me to continue working on it.

The breathing and relaxation stuff is just the same. I’m making great progress, then I get distracted, and I head off in a different direction. And I forget about what I’d been doing — and it ceases to exist for me.

So, I lose the benefits I’ve been getting from it. And I lose that part of my life. I slowly drift back to my old ways. I start having the same problems that I had before, and I wonder why I keep ending up back where I started… all over again… when I was making so much great progress.

It’s discouraging. So, I need to do something about that.

And so I shall.

Onward…!

And suddenly, it is fall

Autumn coming... time to bring back the reservoir
Autumn coming… time to bring back the reservoir

I have been so preoccupied this week with the work changes and catching up with old friends whom I haven’t seen in over a year, that I have not directed much energy towards noticing this season.

I’ve been tired — with that kind of cognitive and physical fatigue that is particular to brain injuries. My head has been looking for ways to make sense of it all… past, present, future… and that’s been taking up a lot of my time and attention.

It’s a double-whammy. On the one hand, opportunities like I’ve had in the past weeks are rare — having three days of solitude to clean out my garage and basement… having friends from overseas come to visit… being part of the beginnings of a corporate merger… These are over and above the usual speed bumps and wrinkles that populate my days and weeks. These are different, and they demand a special kind of attention — the sort of attention I actually try to avoid: drama, excitement, speculation, intense work for 12-14 hours straight, without much of a break.

Rapid-floating-in-FinlandBut because of their nature, I have to  just go with it. Get into it. Be a part of it. Allow myself to be swept along in the current – like a proverbial kayaker who gets dumped from their craft in the rapids — as you get washed along in the current, keep your head above water, keep looking forward, and keep your ass up and out of the way of rocks.

The main thing is to keep your head up. Don’t drown. Keep looking forward.

One thing you learn from TBI, is that when it comes to activities, you have to pick and choose. I suppose it’s true of anyone who expends a lot of energy in their activities… or who is very effective in what they do. You mustn’t squander your energy on things that don’t matter. But especially with TBI, you have to be extra careful.There is literally only so much you can do, and if you try to do it all, you end up wiping out your reserve of extra energy — and then you have to spend even more time building back those reserves.

Because lack of energy and fatigue just make everything worse. It siphons off your cognitive abilities, it depletes your stores of happiness and joy, and everything can feel like a slog.

Even the good stuff, the fun stuff, the stuff you know you should be grateful for and happy about.

For me, that’s probably the most depleting thing — knowing that I should be happy about things, knowing I should be pleased and excited and uplifted… but just not having the energy for it. Even energy spent on good things, is energy spent. And building it back is not a simple matter of sleeping in on the weekends. For every two days of extra energy I burn through, it takes two weeks to build it back. And if I don’t have two uninterrupted weeks (like this past month) and exciting things keep happening to me, well, then everything gets that much harder.

In what ways?

  1. distractionI get more distractable. I lose my focus and find it next to impossible to concentrate on the tasks in front of me. I get caught up in all sorts of side activities — which seem so important at the time, but are not actually relevant to what I’m supposed to be working on.
  2. I get more irritable. I can’t deal. I get cranky and snappy like an arthritic terrier. I get anxious and difficult to live with — with others, and with myself.
  3. I get less attentive. My attention gets fuzzy, and I stop noticing details – like the leaves turning outside, or just how beautiful everything has suddenly become. Everything around me seems wrapped in hazy gauze, and my senses are not sharp. My sense are so busy just trying to attend to the basics, that the extra special things in life slip by me very easily.
  4. Joy sorta kinda evaporates from my life. I know (intellectually) that I have a lot to be grateful for, and I know there is so much that I have to be glad about, but I just can’t find the joy. It’s nowhere to be found. And any attempt at reasoning with me to get me to find that joy… well, that just makes me feel stupid and ungrateful. My neuropsych tries to do this all the time, and the net result is that I feel stupid and short-sighted… rather than realizing that I’m simply tired, and letting it go at that.
  5. It gets hard to sleep. The more tired I am, the harder it is to relax and sleep. When I should be getting to bed early, I end up getting on Facebook for 90 minutes — and completely blowing past my normal bedtime. And you guessed right — fatigue becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where I get more and more tired and wired, as the days wear on. All of the above continue to escalate. It’s awful, and it’s very difficult to stop it.
  6. I end up in a downward spiral. Unless I can get a bunch of good nights of sleep, I’m toast. Things get worse and worse, until I finally just  Give Up. And it turns out, giving up is the best thing for me. Some nights, I go to sleep hoping I never wake up again — I am feeling that depleted and used-up. But the very act of completely abandoning hope actually makes it possible for me to rest. And in the morning, everything looks quite different than the night before. Usually, anyway. Some mornings, I’m still not convinced I want to keep going.

So, fatigue is a thing. It’s a very real thing. And if I don’t stay alert to it, and recognize when it’s getting to me, it can get the better of me, which is never good.

For today, I know I’m tired. I have a full day of things to do, but I can pace myself and take my time… really soak up this fine fall day, and enjoy what I come across, as best I can. Seasons change. It would be a shame to completely miss this one, because I’m distracted.

Clearing the decks

Time to get all that old stuff out of the way
Time to get all that old stuff out of the way

Okay, I have my plan. This weekend, while I’m flying solo, I’m going to clear out a bunch of spaces that have been cluttered and crammed full of old stuff… for years. I’m starting with my garage, and continuing on to the basement.

I’m also going to clean out my study – just remove everything from all surfaces, wipe everything down, and then judiciously restore what I actually want to keep within view. I should probably pick up some shelving, while I’m at it. I’m comparing my choices on Amazon and the local big-box home improvements store, and it actually looks like I can get a better deal at the local store.

So, I don’t have to wait. I can just stop off on my way home from work tomorrow and pick up a bunch of shelves to use. Sweet.

I’m pretty excited about this. I have three days total to get things in order, and it’s way overdue. I haven’t been able to get my act together — I’ve been too focused on too many different things that had nothing to do with each other… too scattered… and too tired… Meanwhile, everything has piled up around me. It’s not as bad as that Hoarders show, but it’s not as I want it to be.

And I’m sure this will bring up a lot of emotion with me, while I’m uncovering relics from my chaotic past. One of the benefits of my TBI issues, is that I can keep my attention focused intently on what’s in front of me at the moment, so I don’t have a lot of emotions and internal drama playing out from other times and places and contexts. I can be squarely in the moment and have no thought for anything other than what’s in front of me. It’s not that I’m “compartmentalizing” and blocking other things out from self-defense. I simply need to focus fully on one aspect of many, many aspects of my life, so I can take care of it.

And then I can move on to other things.

It’s not that I’m blocking out parts of my life because I’m afraid of them. I just don’t have the bandwidth. But then things get cluttered, because I lose focus on one thing and hyper-focus on something else. And then I end up with a lot of half-finished ideas and priorities that pile up around me and block my proverbial view of the world around me.

So, this weekend, it’s time to clear out a lot of the stuff. Just clear it away and be done with that. I have to find some books I put away. I also need to rearrange my bookshelves so that I have more room. And I need to make some decisions about what I really need in my life. I’ll need to catalog everything I’m putting away, because if it’s not in front of me, I forget it exists. So, I need a directory of sorts to remind me where things are. And I need to put that directory in a place where I can see it and remember to consult it.

Exciting times, to be sure.  T-30 hours till the rearranging kicks off.

Onward.

Magic rest – it must be there somewhere

I’ve got to put all my notes in order. After just a few days of talking to people, I have a bunch of notes that I wrote on scrap paper, and I now need to sort through them and put them into my regular notebook.

I need to do this soon. It’s tiring me out, keeping everything sorted just in my brain, and halfway through Week 2, I’m getting fatigued and a bit turned around. My schedule is different, now, and I’m a heck of a lot more active than I have been in a long, long time.

So, yes indeedy doo – my system is pretty taxed, right now.

Not that I’d want it any other way. Doing things piecemeal — don’t fill up your schedule till you get accustomed to getting up 2 hours earlier each day… don’t start exercising till you settle in at work… — that doesn’t work for me. I need to test myself all at once, right from the get-go, because all the changes are consistent with each other, and I want my system to acclimate all at the same time.

And of course there is the danger. There is always the danger of getting too tired, or getting too overwhelmed, or pushing too hard. But I’m at a good place, right now, with everything happening at once. I’m not over-doing it. I’m just doing a lot. And it’s pretty awesome.

Now, for sleep. It’s important. For years, I thought, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” but that actually just makes me feel like I’m already dead. And it doesn’t help me function.

My head was spinning last night, and I couldn’t get to sleep when I intended to. My mind was filled with all the ideas from work, all the opportunity, all the excitement, and me getting home late after having to work around my grocery store losing power and not being able to sell me half the things I wanted because they were perishable. And then there were the storms that wreaked havoc in the towns around us, but somehow passed us by. And then there’s Facebook. I spent 15 minutes checking people’s posts, and that woke me up even more. Bad choice. No more tablet in my bedroom. That’s enough.

I finally managed to get to sleep by relaxing and breathing. Doing some muscle exercises that release the tension. I’m pretty sore from working out — today is a rest day — and my muscles are definitely adjusting.

But it’s good.

And today / tonight, sleep is a priority for me.

Today, relaxation is a priority for me. Keeping my inhale and exhale regular and the same count of 5 seconds each, is what I do to balance out my fight-flight adrenaline rush, and it really helps. Remembering where I am, and periodically remembering to stretch and relax and release… that’s so important in the course of each day. It keeps me going and it keeps me present.

Rest… relax… It’s not just about sleeping at night. It’s about how I go through my life. For so, so many years, I was wound tight as a spring. Never relaxing, never letting down my guard, always ON. It’s fine, if the situation calls for it, but I was wound way too tight for regular situations.

I think that’s why I gravitated towards tough jobs — the adrenaline and pressure calmed me down, and I actually felt normal. The stress made all the noise quiet down, and I could finally think, when I was solely focused on the One Single Thing I needed to accomplish.

But all that wound-up stuff takes a toll. For sure, it does. And I don’t have to do it, anymore. I have other ways of sharpening my attention and blocking out distractions. Single-minded focus.  Born of a my own brand of za-zen meditation — picked up from stories of old Samurai zen masters of years gone by. Somehow, I always seem to connect with old zen-typed warriors from all over the world who (either living or dead) talk about the exact same state of mind that I’m looking for — single-minded focus in the midst of chaos.

Without that focus, I’m toast.

And on that note, it’s time to get ready for work.

To rest while working… to relax while acting… and to get a good night’s sleep tonight… those are my goals.

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.

To medicate or not to medicate

Choices, choices

I’m doing my leg lifts a little differently this morning. I’m going slowly, and I’m not holding onto something for balance, unless I need it. I’ve been having balance problems, lately. Or rather, my usual balance problems have been more of a problem, lately. I’ve almost fallen a number of times in the past few months — while standing up from a table and having to catch myself before I hit my head on the table and/or a nearby chair and bookcase… while starting to walk down a flight of stairs… even while just standing.

So, after talking to the neurologist and my neuropsych and making an effort to notice when I’m dangerously off balance, I’ve realized this is actually an issue. And I need to get it checked out.

So, I’m going to get some autonomic system testing done. I know that it’s been an issue with me, lo these many years, and I need to collect some actual data about it, rather than relying solely on my own observation — which tends to be spotty, because of my Swiss-cheesey memory. If I don’t write things down, it’s like they never happened. And I can’t always take the time to write everything down.

It would just start to get a bit hypergraphic, methinks.

Anyway, over the weekend, I also took some Sumatripan (generic Imitrex), which did knock out the migraine I felt coming on. But it also left me feeling drugged and dopey. I felt “off” all weekend, like I had chemicals in my system. It wasn’t like I was looking for that. I will take meds when I have to. The thing was, I was definitely feeling “synthetic” for a few days. Monday I started to feel better, but Sunday it was like I was in a druggy fog.

I can’t remember if I took the migraine meds before or after I had my dizzy spell, but as it turns out, dizziness is one of the reported side-effects of Sumatriptan. And when I looked at the list of side-effects with my neuropsych yesterday, it turns out that it’s probably not a great idea for me to be taking it, due to possible effects on my autonomic system.

See, here’s the big issue I have with meds: They are dispensed from on high, and unless I have access to someone with an advanced database of indications and contraindications, as well as sensitivity to my situation and an understanding of how things might affect me, I’m pretty much a guinea pig for finding out what’s going to happen with me. And doctors (in my experience) routinely prescribe things that they don’t fully understand. They figure they’ll have me try it out and see — essentially turning me into a science experiment.

I’m extremely sensitive to medications, but nobody seems to take that seriously. Meds disrupt my attention and concentration with the feeling they often give me. Unless I am completely laid out by illness, such as bronchitis or some other major infection that I can’t fight off on my own, the cure can be worse than the illness it’s supposed to fix.

I need to figure things out up front as much as possible, not just find something that’s worked for other people, give it a whirl, and then have my life disrupted by exciting discoveries.

Not when I can take another route to dealing with things.

So, as for the autonomic testing, both the neuro and the neuropsych are thinking I could take a pill to deal with the situation. Please. Another medication? If there is any way on God’s good earth that I can find another way to strengthen the underlying structure of my system, and build myself up that way, I’ll do that. I mean, seriously. Say I do go on a med for my balance. Is that going to help me strengthen my body to maintain balance better? People often have falls — especially later in life — because their systems are weakened, they don’t have the muscular control to catch themselves, and their reactions are slowed. If I use a pill to fix my issues, then where is the incentive to strengthen the underlying “framework” that keeps me upright?

The direction I want to take with the autonomic testing is NOT pharmaceutical. It’s structural. I don’t want additional chemicals coursing through my veins, when I can offset the issues I have with strength and balance exercises, eating right, and getting adequate rest. I need to approach this systemically, not have an intervention which may actually weaken me.

It’s pretty irritating for my neuropsych and my neuro to be so pill-happy. I’ve been on this rehab quest for about 7 years now, and my neuropsych says they’ve never seen a recovery like mine. Okay, out of all their other patients, how many of them are on medication?  I’m not. I refuse to be — especially for things that I can address and strengthen myself — or compensate for (by strengthening other aspects of my neurology).

It’s frustrating and alienating for them to be so eager to prescribe meds. Maybe they just want a quick way to relieve suffering. That impulse is noble, but the pharma aspect of it doesn’t sit well with me.

Anyway, we’ll see. I know where I stand, and I can’t let them bring me down.