Fasting day today

Every now and then, it’s really good to go without

So, now that I’m exercising again, I’ve had some time to read — while I’m riding the exercise bike, first thing, before lifting or doing resistance exercises. I’ve been combing the Web for material on the benefits of exercise for the brain, and I’m rediscovering a lot of pieces I read a few years back that slipped into the nether regions of my memory. Yes, BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is stimulated by exercise. And intermittent fasting can be good for your brain.

I have an easy day today — I’m telecommuting, and my afternoon appointment will probably be cancelled — so I don’t have a lot of energy demands on me, and I can safely get through the day without being in danger from hypoglycemia or not having enough energy to get by. When I’m commuting and I’m on my regular schedule, I need to have all pistons firing, which means I need a steady flow of energy to my brain, so fasting is not possible.

Today, though, I’m good to fast. I’ll drink my water and tea, get some intermittent exercise, and probably take a nap later this afternoon. Pace myself, and let my body take a rest from eating. I won’t fast into the evening. I just need to be without food till about 8:00 tonight, which probably won’t be a problem. I usually don’t eat until after 8:00 anyway. I ate my last snack last night around 10:00 p.m., I think — a natural fruit popsicle. So, a 22 hour fast will do the trick.

I learned about intermittent short-term fasting at the blog Getting Stronger, which discusses hormesis, or making your system stronger by introducing small bits of stress that test your system and increase its capacity for performance. I have tried to fast in the past, but it went poorly — probably because I had issues with behavior and emotional regulation, and my diet was pretty crappy, so I was all set up for hypoglycemia that made me a bear. So, I never did much with fasting after a few little tries.

Intermittent short-term fasting, which is where you go without food for about 20 hours, every now and then (some people do it monthly), actually offers a lot of benefits, without the intense stress and strain of prolonged deprivation. I aspire one day to being able to fast longer than 22 hours, but that may actually never be necessary, as reduced calorie intake is also a proven way to help you be healthier.

Anyway, I have been looking for opportunities to fast, but I’ve either been pretty active, or I have completely forgotten (like over the week between Christmas and New Years) that fasting might be a good idea. So, now I am remembering it, and it looks like this is a really good day to do this thing. And I shall.

I know this may prove challenging later today, when I am looking for my lunch around 11:30 a.m. – that’s when I usually eat. And then there is the afternoon snack that I usually have around 2:30 or so… Doing without them, especially when I am working at home with lots of good, healthy food within easy reach, may be a challenge. But I have to keep in mind that I am doing this for a good reason — and it won’t be forever.

I’ll break my fast tonight, and that will be that.

The big challenge today will be keeping my mind on my work and not getting pulled in a bunch of different directions. I’ll spend some extra time today exercising or sitting and breathing, instead of eating. At times when I am usually having snacks or lunch, I will do a little stretching or sit and count my breaths. This could be a really good way to get that extra meditation time I’ve been wanting.

I’ve felt myself jumping quickly into a state of knee-jerk reactiveness, over the past months, and that has not been good. I can’t just snap over every little thing. I need to be more mindful and also better about managing how I behave with regard to my emotions. I know this is an issue for me. So, sitting and breathing and working on my self-restraint while not eating will be a great opportunity for me.

I just need to keep focused and remember why I am inconveniencing myself — and really celebrate at the end, when I get to eat again. It’s only 11 hours and 16 minutes away 😉

“On” day today

Time to hit the “on” button again

Yesterday was a quiet day for me. I rested a lot, did a lot of reading and studying the parts of the brain, and also looked more closely at my MRI. I might be due for another one, because it’s been five years since my last one that revealed the pineal cyst.

The cyst is actually about three times the size of a “shouldn’t be a problem” cyst. It is 1.6 cm and .5 cm is a usual size that shows up. Looking around online at other people’s experiences with pineal cysts, they are experiencing a lot of disruptive symptoms with ones that are about the same size as mine.

I honestly don’t know what to think of this, because on the one hand, all the headaches I’ve been having, along with the vertigo and numbness and tingling in my face and hands *might* be related. On the other hand, I don’t want to start digging around for issues that will raise flags with medical folks and send me down a path of super-invasive procedures, when the symptoms I’m having are actually tolerable.

The headaches don’t make me happy, but they also don’t stop me from living my life. I just recognize that my head hurts, I do what I can to relieve the pain a bit, and I get on with my life.

Anyway, after spending a quiet day yesterday, getting some good rest and taking it easy, I’m ready for a whole new day – out and about. I’ve got a handful of things to take care of — nothing really intense or overwhelming, just stuff. And running those errands will take me into a town with a library that has some books I’ve been wanting to check out, so that’s good.

This seems to be about the right pace for me — not too fast, not too slow, just very steady. I have some intervals of excitement, here and there, but I have also interspersed it with some naps and rest, which is a real step in the right direction.

It’s been great to slow down, but it hasn’t been without its challenges. Stopping moving makes me realize just how much pain I’m in, and the stretching and exercises I’ve been doing have revealed some stuff that I need to work through. The tenseness, the tightness, the limited range of motion, and also my poor posture. I really have poor posture, which is screwing up my back. Not until I stopped going 100mph and slowed down to notice what’s going on with me, did I realize it. But now I realize it. So, ouch. There’s the good pain that comes from sore muscles after exercise. There’s the bad pain that comes from limited range of motion and under-use. Ouch. But I’m working through it.

One of the other things that keeps happening to me is that I keep getting very emotional — tears are coming up, which I hate, because crying gives me a splitting headache and I feel like crap for days afterwards. I have been tearing up while driving, and also while sitting around my house. I guess stopping all the forward motion is causing the emotional stuff that I usually “use” for fuel and motivation to show itself for what it really is. I haven’t stressed about much of anything all week, which is a big change. And not stressing and not needing to keep everything under wraps seems to be making me more emotional.

Times like this past week, when I am not constantly focused on what needs to be done, I get re-acquainted with my TBI issues in a much closer way. The memory problems — I went to the hardware store and bought $75 worth of supplies, but I couldn’t remember what they were, a day later… the fatigue problems — never feeling like I have enough sleep and always been a bit wiped out… the coordination problems, headaches, ringing in my ears, and the difficulty I have getting started on things… Slowing down makes me more aware of these things, and having time to think about my life, also doesn’t really help that much, because I just get depressed, thinking about all the things I was able to do before, but now cannot seem to get my head around.

Well, whatever. I’ve had a few down-time days, which has been good. And now I’m ready to be “on” again. I’ve got my list. I’ve got my plans. I’ve got things pretty much mapped out, and that’s good. I can’t sit around anymore and feel bad about my situation. That’s just no good.

Now, onward – the day is waiting.

Feel like crap, but I don’t care

This is my whole new attitude, these days. And it seems to be working. Ironically, when I stopped worrying about feeling like crap, and I quite trying to always get myself into a “good space”, I immediately began to feel better.

I got about 6-1/2 hours of sleep last night. I had a 2-hour nap yesterday afternoon, which helped me yesterday, but it left me feeling almost worse after I got up. I am really dragging, today — probably due to having lost a LOT of sleep last week (waking up at 2:30, not being able to get back to sleep), and not being anywhere near caught up. Another thing that’s dragging me down is a bunch of things I meant to do yesterday, but didn’t get to, for one reason or another.

Anyway, this morning I’m foggy and slow and “clunky” – about the only way I know how to describe it. I am definitely not sharp, and even a cold shower and some exercise didn’t perk me up. Part of it is my mood. I’m not feeling very positive about my life, right now. A lot of situations around me seem really messed up, and it’s completely out of my control. It wouldn’t be so bad, if it didn’t affect me, but people close to me — family and friends alike — are making incredibly bad decisions, in my opinion. Actually, no, it’s not my opinion. They really are making bad decisions that have bad consequences. It would be easy to sit back and say, “Oh, too bad – not my problem,” but ultimately it will fall on me to help them put the pieces back together — pieces that they broke, to begin with.

It’s all way too messed up, in my opinion. Especially with the stupid health decisions, some of which are landing my relatives in the hospital. People are seriously causing themselves a lot of suffering because of how they don’t take care of their bodies, minds, and emotions. So many things around me seem broken and sad, and I cannot do a thing to change them. I have friends who tend to see the world in recovery-type terms, and they love to go on about “co-dependency”. I don’t think I’m being “co-dependent”, wanting the best for other people and wanting them to make decisions that make them happy and healthy, rather than stressed and fried. I don’t think it’s a sign of a problem, for me to genuinely care about others… and also care about myself and my own limited bandwidth. I feel like I have to be on constant guard against people close to me, because they are so habituated to patterns of thought and action which do not help them in the least — if anything, they work against them.

Everybody seems so caught up in their illusions and confusions, and they apparently love it. I know how that goes — it makes them feel alive. But for me, it’s a total friggin’ drain. And the thing that drains me the most is feeling like people close to me are getting progressively worse, not better, and they’re on this downward slide into one form of madness or another. Meanwhile, they’re sucking up valuable time and energy from the things that I really care about and the things I want (and need) to do.

It sends me over the edge. Like last night, when I went out to pick up some dinner with a friend, and we ended up arguing and tossing f-bombs at each other in the restaurant parking lot. Nothing like a little public display and disturbing the peace to round off a really aggravating afternoon with this person who loves to get riled over all kinds of crap, is diabetic, overweight and they don’t watch their blood pressure. Not only are they becoming increasingly difficult to deal with, but they’re also one of my main supports. The restaurant staff were understandably wary — good thing we got the food to go.

Note to self: Make New Friends, because the ones I have aren’t taking good enough care of themselves to be around for the long run. I expect to be visiting this friend in the hospital within a few years — again. I went through a near-death experience with them nearly 10 years ago, and it wasn’t fun. The prospect of doing it all over again (if they survive this time), is one of the little black clouds that hangs over my head regularly.

Well, the only thing I can do, is try to stay strong and positive in my own life, do things that make me feel like a real person again, and let me get my life back. I get sick of feeling like someone else’s sounding board/punching bag, when they aren’t being responsible with their own physical, mental, and emotional health, helping them pick up the pieces that they break apart and throw all over the place.

Call me “The Cleaner”. Only I don’t get paid for this job.

Well, I’m sick of bitching about everything. Vent, vent… whatever. I’m not feeling well physically, and I know it. That messes with my frame of mind, and it makes me touchy and edgy — things that I usually take in stride don’t get to me. I have another day to myself before I go back to that hell-hole of work. At least tomorrow I have all-day training that will help me get to the next stage of my working life. I think this is going to be good — it’s formal training in something I’ve been doing on my own, on the side, and it will give me a good idea of I’ve learned enough and if I’m expert enough to market that skill. It’s almost like a formality for me, but it’s an important one.

So, that’s a positive thing.

Summer is winding down, and I know that things can change in an instant with me and my outlook. All it takes is a little bit of good news, and I’m back. I know I’m tired, and I’m feeling crappy today, but that doesn’t need to derail my day. I have a wide variety of things I can think about and focus on, so if I can manage to get myself out of that bad headspace, it can only help.

At least I am centered and doing well in my own life and my own head. Public melt-downs aside, I’m doing pretty well, I have to say. I’ve been making good progress with my projects (marketing pains notwithstanding), and I’m feeling really positive about where things are going. I have a meeting coming up this week with some folks who may be able to help me reach some of my goals, so that’s encouraging. And I have other folks who have expressed interest in what I’m doing and may want to help in other ways. I just need to clear some of the extraneous stuff off my plate, take care of little to-do items that are hanging over my head, and just move forward.

Yeah, keep moving forward… Use the anxious, nervous energy I have for something that’s positive and pro-active. Don’t fight that energy, use it.

Which brings me back to the original theme of this post — feeling like crap, but not caring. When I stopped fighting feeling like crap and decided to just go with it… and use the energy for something positive… things started to really look up for me. There is an awful lot in my life that is just plain wrong, but rather than fight it or struggle with it, when I accept it and then take that anger/sadness/frustration and channel the energy into a positive activity, things really start to turn around for me.

And this is new. Because all my life, I’ve been in damage-control mode, where I had to have everything just-so, in order to do anything. Now that I’ve stopped caring so much about things being p.e.r.f.e.c.t. I have access to this store of energy I can use for other things. Instead of pushing it down, I let the anger/sadness/frustration just bubble up, and then I direct it towards what I want to do with it.

In the end, it’s all just energy. What I do with it, is my choice.

And right now, I’m choosing to go do something I meant to do yesterday, but didn’t get the time. I have the time now. So, let’s do it.

Venting Emotions After Trauma Predicts Worse Outcomes

Found a very interesting bit of reading about the benefits of “venting” – it’s not nearly as good for us as we think it is.

We’ve all been there…

After suffering a traumatic experience, ‘common sense’ has it that immediately ‘venting’ or ‘letting off steam’ by talking about the experience helps protect against future psychological problems. But is this really true?

That’s the question Dr Mark Seery from the University of Buffalo and colleagues ask in a study that examined how people coped with the aftermath of the ‘9/11’ terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

The answer to this question is particularly pressing now as the recent earthquake in China has left huge numbers both physically and psychologically traumatised. The Chinese government clearly thinks that psychological intervention is useful as they have launched their biggest ever programme of counselling for those affected.

Yet the new research, to be published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, suggests that talking about thoughts and feelings after a trauma may not help. Worse, it may be psychologically damaging (Seery et al., 2008).

Read the rest here >>

Do-Over Alert – How do I want to remember this time?

Ouch – that stings

I think I found a new way to get a grip. I’ve written a bunch of times about how I’ve lost it over little things — dropping a spoon while I’m making my morning coffee, not being able to hold something firmly in hand, getting stuck in traffic, navigating tough situations at work, arguing with my spouse and having the argument spiral wildly out of control and escalate to the point of madness…and more.

It’s been an ongoing struggle for me, and it’s cost me plenty, to lose my grip and be reduced to an adrenaline-soaked pile of skin ‘n’ bones, shaking and sick to my stomach and regretting what I did or said for hours… days… weeks… sometimes years. Regret is a usual and customary part of my life.

In some ways, it’s the glue for my past. If I didn’t have regrets, and all the strong feelings that go along with them, I’m sure my perception of my life and my past would be very different from what it is right now. In some ways, I’m not sure my memory of my past would be as clear — the emotion of regret has pretty much locked some experiences in my memory for all time. Take away the regret, and you take away a big part of how I recollect my past.

Some folks say, “I have no regrets – I would do it all again the same way.”

These folks have no imagination.

I can think of a million different things I would do differently, if I had them to do all over again. And I can think of a million different outcomes that I wish had happened, versus what actually did. It’s not that I’m being hard on myself, it’s just that I see and recognize my limitations, and I am very clear about those instances where things did not go the way I wanted them to, because I “lost it”, sometimes for no apparent reason.

Do I wish I had not flipped out at my boss, back in 2005, and given him a piece of my TBI-addled mind? You betcha.

Do I wish I had not harangued and browbeaten and hassled my spouse, till they finally broke and threatened to divorce me — not once, but many, many times in the course of the past years? You’d better believe it.

Do I wish I had not gotten into those fights with the neighbor kids that got me in trouble with adults and other kids — who were older and bigger and meaner than little ole obnoxious me… and outnumbered me on top of it? How could I not?

Do I regret flying into road rage over nothing, really, and chasing people down a highway or side street to “show them”, several times, just a few months back? Absolutely.

My past is littered with poor decisions, as well as good decisions I couldn’t make good on, because of some stupid-ass impulse control issue or some idea that felt great at the time, but was a really dumb one, once I thought about it with a clear head. My life has been punctuated by overly emotional outbursts where my frustration and confusion got the best of me and turned me into someone I did not recognize. My memory is spotty to begin with, and the pieces I actually do have in place are anything but uniformly good.

So yeah, regret.

If only….

A lot of people tell me that regret is a “bad” thing to feel. They say it’s negative and it holds me back from really enjoying my life. They say the same thing about shame, but in all honesty I have a lot less problem with shame than with regret. I’ve heard shame defined as a humiliating sense that you should have done better, or somesuch. And then there’s guilt, where you make things that sucked into things that were your fault — as though you had so much control over those things to begin with. Shame isn’t such a big deal for me — sure, I usually have the sense that I should have done better, but it’s not that humiliating. It’s just a little embarrassing. Guilt isn’t such a huge deal for me, either, because things that suck are often just not my fault, and I often have the very clear sense that I have no control over what happened or what resulted from it.

But regret? Yeah, there’s no lack of that with me.

But does it hold me back? Sometimes it does, but it doesn’t always have to. In fact, regret is probably one of the things that holds my life together. It might sound strange, but think about it — it’s a powerful emotion, and it’s always lurking right around the corner in my mind. I am keenly aware of all the things I’ve screwed up and how I wish I had done them differently. And that makes me even more keen to figure out how to NOT screw things up the next time.

See, that’s an important part of my recovery — being able to assess the outcomes of my behavior, see where I’ve screwed up, and then make an extra effort to get it right the next time. There is usually a next time, and when I’m using my head, I can make the most of new opportunities when they arise. It hasn’t always been easy, and I’ve often been humbled (and humiliated) by circumstances. But it’s paid off. Regret has served me well.

I’m currently having a new opportunity to re-do things that I’ve screwed up in the past. This is a big-time do-over, and I really want to make the most of it.

Basically, I have discovered that a very close relative of mine really screwed me over a couple of years ago. I won’t go into the details, because it’s complicated, but basically it’s about them pushing me out of the way (behind my back) and trying to cut me out of the family, because they believed I was “damaged goods” and I was a hindrance and a waste of time to my family. Things have been pretty touch-and-go with my family, over the years, and I’ve worked really hard to make up for the things I messed up — and I thought I was doing pretty well, a couple of years ago.

Now I find out (through old correspondence and writings) that there were some serious “operations” going on to push me out of the family, string me along on the surface, but keep me clueless about what was really going on. I come to find out that there were all kinds activities my family members were doing with each other over the space of a couple years — they had a great time and really enjoyed themselves, and never said a word to me. In fact, they hid it from me and pretended it never even happened. I thought something was up, a few years back, and I asked about it, but everyone flatly denied that anything was going on that I didn’t know about.

Two individuals, in particular, were driving the whole thing, and they kept me in the dark while organizing activities and having a grand time… while I was working my ass off at work, just trying to make ends meet, and generally struggling with so much on a daily basis without any real moral support.

Funny, I thought people were more distant than usual.

Now it turns out, I was not only right about something going on, but I vastly underestimated the extent to which I was cut out of things. There was even talk of some large-scale activities which involved people very close to me, to whom I have turned for support many times. Basically, they were going to ditch me and go traveling, see sights, do lots of different things… a full roster of family activities, to which I would not be invited. In the stuff I read, I was dismissed as an impediment to their fun, with talk about how so-and-so “handled” me and “talked me down” when I was upset. Like I was some kind of mentally deficient village idiot they just couldn’t be bothered with.

God, cut me, why don’tcha… When I read this stuff over the weekend, it really threw me for a loop. There was this whole other world that people very close to me were developing, and not only was I not invited, but I was un-invited, deliberately pushed to the side, like I was some kind of human flotsam. Dismissed. Disposed of. Like I didn’t matter, and they couldn’t be bothered. I had been feeling bad about feeling a bit pushed to the side, but I didn’t want to make that big of a deal out of it before. Now I realize that it was a much bigger issue than I ever imagined, and in addition to feeling hurt and betrayed, I also feel like a complete idiot for not realizing what was going on, and basically fulfilling their expectations that I was a clueless, brain-damaged idiot who would never know the difference.

And that stings.

Yesterday was a pretty rough day for me. It was like Day One of the new world… and I had a hundred different ideas about how to confront people and let them know that I KNEW what they had done, and although I never pressed the issue before, I still knew that something was going on. I’m not that damaged. I wanted them to know that I had a lot more details now, than they ever thought I would…  and I wanted to take ’em all down. Cut them out of my life. Just dispose of them, the way they’d tried to dispose of me.

The only thing is, they’re my family. And when I really thought about it yesterday, I realized that over the past six months, they’ve been trying to do better with me. I think the guilt just got to them. And shame. The realization that what they were doing was really pretty shitty must have sunk in, and they decided to change their ways. They’ve been trying — noticeably — for the past six months or so, to make room for me and include me in things.

And now the question comes down to this — do I let myself fly off the handle with them, confront them, and try to punish them, for what they did before… or do I let it go and allow them to make amends for their callous unkindness? They really seem to be trying, and they seem to have had a real change of heart, and I don’t want to screw that up. It might make me feel better to confront them and make them “pay for what they did to me”, but in the long run, how will that help? I know what they did. They know what they did. Who knows why they did it, and who knows — maybe it was just one bad idea that someone had once, which then took on a life if its own… and then they all got carried away in the heat of the moment and continued to make those unkind decisions just ’cause it seemed like the thing to do.

I will never know that. Nor will I ever know what changed their minds about things and caused the change of heart.

All I know is this — years from now, when I look back on this time, I don’t want to remember flying off the handle and going off the deep end, doing my “scorched earth” meltdown freak-out thing with people who are my family and my main support. I don’t want to think back on this time as one when I lost it, when I trashed the attempts to make things right, out of my hurt and pain and insecurity and need to make others hurt the way I am hurting right now.

No doubt about it, this is very painful. It’s been excruciating. To be so dismissed and so marginalized and just pushed aside like a piece of trash… it just reminds me of all the other times in my life when that was done to me, and it just feels terrible. But even more terrible would be to let that pain and hurt take over my life and proceed to cause more pain and hurt in the lives of others.

That’s the kind of memory I don’t want to make. That’s the kind of experience I don’t want to have. Because no matter how justified I am in my hunger for revenge and vindication, no matter how much right I have to eye-for-eye justice, the long-term fallout of that kind of thinking and behavior is much worse than the original cause for it. It’s bad enough that I was deceived for over a year about things that mattered so much to me. It’s bad enough that the people I trusted most turned against me and made fun of me and treated me like just some tool. But if I let loose with a rampage, then any recovery from that is going to be delayed — for a lot longer than a few years. And knowing me, when I get going, I say and do things that can never be taken back. And if I let myself get to that place of uninhibited attack, I can do more damage than I intend to.

I should know. My past is littered with experiences like that.

And I don’t want to do it again.

So, I’m just letting it go. I have to. I am overworked and over-tired, and if I indulge my outrage, I’m going to be even more overworked and fatigued as I try to clean things up on my side. I’m doing my best to turn my attention to more positive things and focus on the good stuff in my life, not dwell on the bad. I know what it’s like to have a bad idea and then let it spring into life and let it get out of hand. I know what it’s like to not be able to stop myself from doing and saying those things and hurt someone I care deeply about. I know what it’s like to be human, and that’s what happened with my family — they just got really human, a couple of years ago.

And now they’re trying to make it up to me.

They’re being really nice to me. Considerate. Caring, actually. More than ever. I’m not going to push that aside, I’m going to let them do it, regardless of the reason. The past is the past, and while it hurts like hell to find out the inside story, it’s still the past. And I have a present and a future I need to take care of.

I can’t let the bad decisions and behavior of others dictate my own behavior and state of mind. I’ve let that happen in the past, and this time I have a chance to do it over — do it differently. I have a lot of really great prospects ahead of me, and if I let this revelation get the best of me, then I lose out. And I don’t want to do that. I have been through some pretty tough things, but this is one of the toughest… and when I look back on this time, I want to look back with pride that I handled myself well, that I dealt with everything as a sovereign adult, and that I chose to rise above it and not wallow in petty hurt and pain, which only serve to make me unhappy and unhealthy in so many ways.

Life can really suck, sometimes. Pain happens. Betrayal happens. So does deceit and scheming and all kinds of sick little games. Freak-outs happen, too. As do meltdowns and breakups. But in the midst of this upheaval, I’ve got a new chance to handle the old shit in a new way. And I will. Because when I look back, years from now, I want my memory of this time to be full of pride, not only pain. I don’t want to have this be the kind of thing I regret and carry around with me as yet another example of how I can’t keep my act together. I want the moment to belong to me, not to others who tried — once upon a time — to ditch me and treat me like I was nothing.

They’re trying to make it up to me. They’re still not admitting anything, and they’re still hiding what went on, but at least they’re trying to make it up to me. And that’s a positive change for the better.

Life is waiting, and it has a lot in store — lots of it very good stuff indeed.

Onward.

TBI Recovery – like life on the high seas

Avast there…

I’ve heard it said that it takes about seven years of recovery for a person to start feeling “like themself” again after traumatic brain injury. That sounds about right to me. And now that I’ve been at it (actively) since 2007, I’m coming up on seven years — next year.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. From nearly losing everything, to sabotaging job after job, to watching my friends go away, to the relationship/marriage troubles and health issues, to slowly building myself back… it has been a trip. But it’s finally starting to feel like things are stabilizing for me.

When I say “things” I mean internal things. Not external things. Learning to live with TBI is like going to sea and learning to walk across the deck of a ship that’s rolling through all sorts of seas. Between the sensory issues, the focusing issues, the distraction problems, the mood swings, the irrational and literal and rigid thinking issues… if it’s not one thing, it’s another, and just getting used to the idea that this is just how things are, has been a battle in itself.

But that’s the deal. This is how things are. And there’s no sense in trying to tamp it all down and get things to chill, because no sooner does one wave pass, than another comes along.

Walking across the deck… yeah. That’s about the best metaphor I can think of. And it puts me in the mood to read some seafaring adventure stories – Captains Courageous, Treasure Island, Two Years Before The Mast… stories I remember from when I was younger, that I really loved and enjoyed. It kinda puts me in the mood to tie knots with heavy rope… 🙂

And that’s one thing that the seafaring metaphor does for me — it raises dealing with TBI issues from a hindrance and an inconvenience and a problem, to being just part of what I have to deal with on the “high seas” of life. Rather than turning the issues into problems and vexations, it turns my ability to deal with them into strengths and abilities that I didn’t have before. I’ve been deep sea fishing a few times, and I know from personal experience that “sea legs” don’t just happen overnight. It takes time. You have to learn to roll with it. I’ve never been out to sea long enough for this to “take” with me, but I would imagine that I could learn to do just about anything, given the opportunity and time.

And opportunity and time are just what I have, with regard to this stuff.

Today, I’m pretty dizzy and off-balance. I’m also having trouble keeping focused on one thing at a time. I’m working from home today, giving myself one more day to recoup before I go back into the office, and I still don’t have my full strength back. No surprises there – I was flat on my back for a week, and this won’t fix itself overnight. I just feel “off” today — spacey and tired and weakened. I’ll see how it goes, with getting my work done. And I’ll see how it goes, taking frequent breaks to just get my head settled again.

It’s not so very different from some days when I wake up after days and weeks of not getting enough sleep, and I have to work at my peak level. It’s not so very different from some days when I’m off balance and foggy for no reason that I can tell at all. It’s not so very different from dealing with the light and noise sensitivities, the headaches, the malaise… it’s not very different from that at all. And the emotional impact it has — the frustration, the short temper, the anger, the temper flashes from a very short fuse — that’s very similar, as well.

It’s all part of life on the high seas.

Of course, it’s easy for me to say all this, years on down the line after my latest concussion injury in 2004. At the very start, when nothing made sense and I was dealing with so many, many issues that I didn’t recognize and didn’t realize were a problem, the whole business made me sick. Literally. Like being out at sea for the first time, I was in a constant state of nausea and disequilibrium. I felt stupid, I felt like an idiot, and I felt so incredibly defective because I couldn’t regulate my emotions or my behavior. Everything was falling apart around me, and I didn’t know why. And not knowing made it even worse. Not knowing that I didn’t know…  that was the worst thing of all.

So many times, I look at the stats for this blog and I see people searching for “concussion now I’m dumb” or “does concussion make you stupid”. And I remember so well what it was like to feel so stupid, all of a sudden, and not know why nothing was working for me anymore. I seriously didn’t have a clue. I knew I had hit my head. I knew I had gotten hurt. But I had no idea the effects could be as big and impactful as they turned out to be. I thought it would all clear up in a matter of a few days.

How wrong I was.

What I didn’t realize was that each time my head bounced off those stairs, connections in my brain got twisted and frayed, possibly even severed. What I didn’t realize was that those connections had taken a lifetime to put in place, and now that they were disrupted, I was going to need to practice and practice and practice, rehearse and rehearse and rehearse… doing many of the things I used to do so easily, but now had to learn to do in a slightly different way. I almost wish that the differences had been obvious — things like walking and talking. But it was really the little things, like learning and managing emotions and remembering details, that had been disrupted. And those disruptions were even more upsetting, because they weren’t something that others could see or often even detect. The only one who could tell a real difference was me… And inside, I was a torn-up mess.

Of course, years on down the line, I can look back with some perspective and understand what was going on. But at the time, before I learned all I have in the past 6-7 years, I had no perspective. I had no information. And I was going nowhere fast. No, correction — I was going somewhere fast — down, down, down. I’m just lucky that I noticed something was wrong before I went over the edge and lost everything.

Not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Not everyone manages to get it as quickly as I did. A whole lot of people struggle in silence and tell themselves to just push on through… never getting the help they need. And that’s a terrible, awful waste. Not everyone understands that the high seas they are on, are going to always be there… that once you’re on the TBI / PCS  ship, you’re not getting off. You may have some calm days, you may have some serene days, but you’ll also have fog and shoals and doldrums… and the storms will always come up again — you can bank on that.

Not everyone is stuck for all time with post-concussive issues, and thank God for that. But for those of us who are, probably the best thing to do is just settle into the daily routine of sailing the high seas… get your sea legs… and get ready for adventure. You never know, you might just come across some treasure, along the way.

Ahoy….

Learning to do it anyway

Sometimes it feels like the weight of the world…

Woke up this morning feeling sick – headache, sick on my stomach, foggy… Going back to work tomorrow probably isn’t helping any, but life goes on. There it is.

I’m pretty much in the Emotions/Moods “section” of those 84 ways TBI can make your life really interesting

Emotions/Moods

8. Agitated, can’t settle down – I’m all wound up and can’t seem to get myself to chill to get to bed at a decent hour each night. I’m way agitated, and fidgety and am having trouble focusing in to get shit done.
9. Angerrrrrr!!! – I’m pissed off. At work. At my spouse. At myself. I’m just angry. It’s driving me — it’s driving me crazy.
10. Anxiety – Feeling vague fear, worry, anticipation of doom – Yeah, when I go back to work tomorrow, I have the feeling that I’m going to be so totally screwed by my workload and the “lost week+” that I’ve had away. Not that it’s any different than it’s been for the past year or so, but now the sense of doom is really coming in.
11. Depression, feeling down – My mood has actually been pretty good… but I have to really fight back the depression. It sets in quickly if I don’t stay on it.
12. Excitability! – I get all worked up over stuff, then I come back to it later and I can’t see what all the excitement was about. The worst thing about the excitability is that it distracts me and takes me off-course, so it takes me longer to get where I’m going.
13. Everything feels like an effort – Yeah, pretty much. It feels like everything is a massive effort, and I can’t figure out where to start.
14. Feeling unsure of yourself – Yeah, pretty much all the time, these days. I know better (rationally) and I fight it back, but that feeling is always there… like I never know what’s going to come out of my mouth or what I’m going to do next. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don’t, but I’m never 100% sure what’s going to happen.
15. Feelings of dread – Yeah, that. Dread and anxiety. Like I just can’t deal with sh*t.
16. Feeling like you’re observing yourself from afar – This is a weird one, because it’s really like that. It’s like I’m standing at a distance and watching myself do and say things that don’t make any sense to me.
17. Feelings of well-being – On and off. It’s not all bad, all the time. Sometimes I have these sudden rushes of feeling really good, really solid, really sound. It’s a nice break.
18. Feeling guilty – Guilty over what I’ve done and what I haven’t done… what I should have done, what I forgot to do.
19. Feeling hostile towards others – Yeah, this is a tough one. I’m not feeling that great today, and we have a friend staying over, and I have to watch myself to not come across as hostile and aggressive, because they’re pretty sensitive and have a hard time making and keeping friends, as it is. My hostility has nothing to do with them, but they could easily become a target, if I don’t manage this.
20. Impatience – Yeah – what’s taking everything so long?
21. Irritability – Like the hostility, I’ve gotta keep a handle on this. Others shouldn’t have to pay for my issues. It has nothing to do with them.
22. No desire to talk or  move – This one set in when I woke up, and it’s still there. The antidote? Get the hell up and do something. Anything. Just move, goddammit.
23. Feeling lonely – Yeah. That. The consolation I get is that I’m not alone in feeling lonely. Plenty of people do. I also need to focus on the fact of what I’ve got in common with others, and that helps.
24. Nervousness – Nervous about work, nervous about money, nervous about life. Nervous.
25. Feelings of panic – On and off. This is much less extreme than it was several years ago. I’ve learned how to relax. I’ve learned how to recognize the signs that I’m just panicking, and it has nothing to do with actual reality. Breathing helps.
26. Rapid mood swings – Yeah, gotta watch that. I’m sick and tired today, so I know I’m more susceptible.
27. Restlessness – I want to run, I want to walk, I want to jump in the car and drive away. I want to go out and pick a fight. Not my best ideas… and I know it’s just the fatigue, the fogginess, the feeling of being “off” that’s doing this. Adrenaline and novelty blocks out all the distracting what-not-ness that’s swirling in my head. Surely, doing something extreme will take my mind off it. Well, sure – but at what cost?
28. Tearfulness, crying spells – Not so far, which is good. A few days ago, when I was feeling really sick, I had this. Thankfully it passed. Of all the TBI issues that come up, the tearfulness is the worst for me.
29. Feeling tense – Yeah. That. Like I’m wound so tight, I’m either going to snap, or I’m going to shoot straight to the moon. Tense. Really Tense. Black Flag Tense.
30. Feeling vague longing/yearning – Absolutely – for something I want and need, but can’t quite put my finger on. I used to have an antidote for this: daily meditation and breathing. Then I got sick of it and stopped doing it, because I just wanted to get on with my days with out having a lot of ritual and sh*t to do, first thing in the morning.

And as a result of these things, I’m also grappling with the follwing:

Day-to-Day Activities
31. Being overly busy (more than usual) – I’ve got all this stuff I want to do, and it’s piling up. I’m making myself crazy with it.
32. Feeling like you can’t get moving, you’re stuck – And under this pile of stuff, there I am, pinned down and feeling like I can’t move.
33. Feeling like you can’t get anything done – It’s just a feeling, I know, but that’s how I feel right now — nothing is moving, I can’t get anything accomplished.

Geeze. Enough of this. Yeah, things aren’t great right now, but once I get moving, I’m sure they’ll loosen up. That’s the thing that I’ve had to learn, over and over again. I can’t start from where I want to be (feeling great and having a lot of stuff done). I need to start from where I am — even if it’s sick and tired and foggy and aggressive and a bit ragged around the edges.

Gotta get out of my head and find something to really focus on. Just gotta. I’ve got to get my mind off this headache, this nausea, this fogginess, and all the above-mentioned crap. I’ve got to just get moving and do what needs to be done today. I do have things I need to take care of, and I just need to do them. I’ve had two days to recover and recoup, and that’s been good. Now I need to kick it again and get a move on. No matter how I feel, just do what needs to be done, and then enjoy having done it.

Yeah, it’s turning out to be a beautiful day, so I can get some work done in the yard and hang out with this friend. I will need to watch myself today, to make sure I’m not all edgy around them, so I don’t chase them off the way I have chased off many other people. I just need to keep cool, keep focused on what needs to get done, and do it.

And then sleep this afternoon. Get some rest. And get ready to go back to everyday normal life. Things will take care of themselves, if I’m just honest with myself and keep an eye on myself. This is not rocket science, it’s just life. Everybody has to contend with this, TBI or no. So deal with it, I shall.

After all, it is a beautiful day.

Tired and rushed and paying the price

Well, it happened again. Or rather, I set myself up again. I was supposed to have the afternoon off work yesterday and take some time to just enjoy myself. But I had been putting in long hours all week, under very stressful conditions, and by the time noon on Friday came around, I was fried. I had also not planned properly, and my timing was off, the plans didn’t turn out like I had hoped, and the net result was that instead of spending a relaxing afternoon, I spent the afternoon rushing around (in vain) and then I spent the evening stuck in a meltdown cycle that really tore the sh*t out of a lot of work I’ve done to patch things up with my spouse.

No wonder they don’t like spending time with me alone.

It was pretty bad, and it all carried through into this morning, when there was more fireworks (not the good kind) and more meltdowns.

Not good.

Now I’m on my own for the afternoon, so I’m going to bed – to sleep. I’m on my own all evening, and I’m going to take it easy. Relax. Throw a steak on the grill and cook up some kabobs. I just need a break, some time away, without needing to DO anything, without needing to rush. I’m fried. I need to sleep. I haven’t been sleeping, and it shows. For all those times when I’ve felt like I was doing great and was living large over the past week or so, I hit a wall and I’m the one with the cracks.

Oh screw it. Shower. Then bed. Enough.

Like moving to a different country

I must admit, I am at an impasse.

On the one hand, I am doing work similar to what I’ve done for the past 15 years, and despite the increased difficulties I’ve had doing the things I used to do daily and take for granted, I am able to get the job done.

On the other hand, it feels way too complicated and convoluted to me, and I dread doing it, each day. I can do this work if I put my mind to it, but it just feels like such a struggle, sometimes. And it can be very discouraging and dispiriting. I keep at it, but the old joy that used to be there for me… well, it feels a lot less joyful than it used to.

I’ve been wanting to make a change for some time, but I haven’t been able to find a way to do it, and I’m feeling like I’m about to give up. I know that when I do my regular exercise and breathing, everything gets better. When I have regular rest, everything gets better. But the old joy I used to feel at my life, the engagement, the excitement, the absolute pleasure I used to get from the work… it hasn’t been around for years. And I don’t know what to do about it.

No, I do know what to do about it. I’m being silly. I need to find the spark again. I need to find the joy. I’m so sick and tired of slogging through, constantly having to play catch-up with work that others think I should do, but that doesn’t move me — aside from getting me a paycheck every other week. I’m very grateful to have a job — don’t get me wrong. But I’m sick and tired of feeling like I have to settle, like I have to take what’s given me and not complain, because everybody agrees that “that’s just how things are”.

I’m not that kind of person. I seriously need some inspiration. I need a new spark.

So, how do I get that spark? I think I need to make some adjustments to how I do things — I need to focus less on trying to master the things I do okay at, and focus more on the things I do really, really well. Some of these things are different than they used to be — my accident in 2004 got me all jumbled up, and when the pieces came back together, they were configured differently. I was configured differently. And a part of me has been pushing to get back to the old place I used to be.

But I can’t. Not anymore. I’ve got to find different ways of approaching my life, of approaching my work. I’ve got to learn to speak a different language — and learn new customs. It’s like I’ve moved to a new country where things are unfamiliar and not like my country of origin. And I need to adapt to new ways of doing things.

This, to me, is an easier way to conceptualize the changes in my brain that happened with my TBI in 2004. It’s easier than telling myself I need to “accept my limitations” — a mindset that doesn’t leave me any room for what to do instead — the focus is on limitations and accepting a way of life that is, well, limited. It doesn’t put the focus on what’s next… what else there is beyond the old ways I knew and once followed, which are no longer really viable for me.

Of course, I need to factor in that I’m dealing with the following TBI-complicating issues:

Emotions/Moods
[x] Agitated, can’t settle down – Suddenly, I’m feeling like I need to change everything in my life, and I just can’t seem to chill out. My restless mind keeps racing and racing and racing, and it feels like there’s no end in sight.
[x]  Angerrrrrr!!! – Still a lot of residual anger over the project that just finished.
[x]  Anxiety – Feeling vague fear, worry, anticipation of doom – Yes, it does feel like the whole world is coming down around my ears, and everything is going to go up in smoke, before I know it. I feel like I have to DO SOMETHING to fix what’s wrong, but even the fixes I have in mind feel like they’re doomed.
[x]  Depression, feeling down – Yeah, that. I know I’m tired, and that doesn’t help, but still, I feel so depressed and down… I just want to crawl under a rock. Or hit the road and just keep driving.

Through it all, I need to stay mindful of my state of spirit, and I need to keep in mind that TBI does not help when things get dicey at work and at home. It complicates everything, and at the same time, it lies to me, telling me the problem is OUT THERE, rather than being something “in here” that needs special accommodation in my mind — even if I can’t get it in the world. I have to remember these 84 ways TBI can make your life really interesting, and not let them take over and get the better of me.

And I have to keep things simple. Grounded. “Centered” as my friends would say.

I need to just settle in and get used to living in this new country. I’ve been alternately resisting it and accepting it for several years, now, and it feels like I’ve been living in a new house without unpacking all of the boxes. It’s like this new house is smaller than the house I used to live in, it’s more compact, it has less room for the things I used to love, and I’ve boxed myself in even more by keeping the containers that hold the things I used to love and do so easily before. I’ve got to start taking out some of those old boxes and give myself more room to move. And I need to really start getting to know the new country where I live.

I think, realistically, I have been doing that deliberately over the past 5 years, but the deeper I get into my life experience and the more closely I look at my life, the more I realize just how much things have changed. To this day, nobody around me seems to really understand what that means, or how dramatically it has altered my experience in life. Even my spouse and my close relatives don’t seem to get it — and they just want to forget the TBI ever happened. And my neuropsych, too, seems to be so focused on keeping my mood and attitude up and keeping me positive, that there’s not much room for the darkness when we meet.

The darkness is there, however. And there’s no getting away from it all the time. I don’t want to wallow, but sometimes I just have to acknowledge that it’s there.

So, what do I do now? I honestly don’t know. I guess I’ll get on with my day and take care of the things I need to take care of. Pay attention to the things that bring me joy and look for things that boost my energy and make my days full of light. There are many ways to look at things, and it’s my choice, how I approach them. Now I’m choosing to approach my life as though I’ve moved to a new country, and I am gaining deeper knowledge about what it’s like to live here. Like other different locales I’ve lived in, some things I like better, other things I do not. But it is, well, what it is. And I can choose how I relate to those things.

I also need to start looking for the kind of work that moves me, that stimulates me, and lets me use my best abilities — not remind me of the abilities I’ve lost. I need to find out what that is, and I need to see where I can go with it. But before I can go anywhere, I need to understand what it is I’m looking for.

Not sure if this is making any sense, but I’m going with it. The day is waiting.