One of the major long-term issues I have, thanks to all those mTBIs, is that I tend to get tired… but I don’t realize it, until I’m so tired I can’t rest enough to catch up. When I’m tired, my thinking is off — as in off. I get more impulsive, and I also get angry quickly. It kicks off a self-fulfilling prophecy of lots of activity, followed by increasing fatigue, followed by lots of activity (to pump myself up with adrenaline), leading to increasing fatigue…
And before I know it, I’m so tired, I can’t rest.
I’m tired. I’m wired. And I’m unbelievably impulsive. As in – reserve a new domain name and launch a new online business impulsive. As in – push myself to make poor choices that pump me full of adrenaline that make me feel like myself again, even though I’m putting myself in danger. These choices can range from driving while exhausted, to starting a new thing before I finish something else, picking a fight with someone over something stupid, or staying up even later to watch a movie I’ve seen a hundred times before.
Of course, the whole “new thing” crashes before long, because I run out of steam, I implode, or I rapidly lose track of what I’m doing. And after I get a nap or a couple of good nights’ sleep, I realize what I’ve been doing – and I know for sure, it’s never going to work.
That happened to me, last weekend. I had a lot going on. Too much, as it turns out. And I was tired. I was tweaked about things going on at work, and I was feeling the burn of the long winter and a lack of sunlight. So, I pushed myself. And pushed myself. And I ended up frittering away a lot of time over the weekend on things that I didn’t need to be doing — that I shouldn’t have been doing. And I tired myself out, even more.
I didn’t exercise as much as I should have. Because I was tired.
I didn’t finish the things I’d started earlier in the week. Because I was tired.
And I ended up eating a lot of junk food to keep my energy up… and also due to an impending migraine. I get ravenous when a migraine is brewing. And I ate a bunch of stuff that put on some pounds, made me feel worse, and screwed up my energy… so I was more inclined to eat more junk food, stay up later, and basically waste my week.
I don’t have weeks to waste. Only in the past several years, have I even felt like a real human being, thanks to my TBI rehab. I’ve lived for decades in the shadows, not feeling even remotely real. I’ve struggled to keep up, year after year after year, and I’ve never had the kind of connection with my work that I have now. I can’t afford to waste any time in my life, because I only have this one. And I’ve been wanting to do so much, for so long, only to be blocked and thwarted at every turn… I can’t waste any time, now.
So, all that being said, it’s incredibly critical that I keep myself in line and properly manage my energy, my eating, my exercise. And always keep in mind the fact that, just a few years ago, I wasn’t able to maintain this level of activity, let alone have a realistic expectation that I’d be able to live up to my plans and dreams. It was all just “throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks”.
Now, though, things are very different. Indeed, they are. And I have to keep that in mind, when I’m tempted to fritter away time on things that have no ultimate purpose.
It’s good to take a break, every now and then, but it’s important to stay on track and follow through. I can finally – finally – do that.
I’ve been head-down on my day-to-day life, lately.
And that’s a good sign.
I’ve got a lot of things going on in my life that keep me focused, that wake me up, that make me feel like I’m actually alive again.
It wasn’t always this way. Used to be, I felt like I was constantly in a fog. Not going anywhere, not able to do anything.
Now, it’s pretty much the opposite. And my main challenge is getting enough sleep.
I’m exercising every day, either riding the exercise bike and lifting weights in the morning, or doing heavy lifting sorts of chores around the house. It’s incredibly good for me, and I miss it, when I don’t get my heavy lifting time in.
It’s all part of keeping things going, keeping things sorted out, keeping things stable. Especially myself.
I can really tell the difference when I don’t tire myself out with afternoon exercise. I had a very lazy day, yesterday, catching up on some reading and organizing myself a bit better. On Friday night, I cleared out a bunch of boxes I’d kept in the corner of the dining room. I have an old habit of saving boxes for later use, because I grew up in a time and place where such things were scarce, and you had to save stuff for later — especially good packing boxes.
Now, though, the world is full of packing boxes. All you have to do is order some dental floss from Amazon.com to get a big-ass box in the mail. The floss will be packed at the very center of the box, surrounded by packing paper or those bubble packs. It’s very wasteful, but it’s one way to get a box.
Anyway, I got that done on Friday night, and that got me in the mood to do more organizing on Saturday (yesterday). I needed to go through a bunch of notes I’d written down, so I spent most of the day dictating my notes into my smartphone and emailing them to myself. I ended up with something like 20 pages of notes – and I could put away my handwritten notes. It was very productive, but also very sedentary. I did get out for a quick walk in the afternoon, but it wasn’t intensely strenuous, and I had just a quick one-hour nap afterwards.
Last night, I got in bed by 10:25, but I tossed and turned for a good 20-30 minutes before I got to sleep. And then I woke up at 4:00 and couldn’t get back to sleep. Not great for my brain function, to tell the truth. I’m foggy and fuzzy, this morning, and I’m worried. My spouse has been having some more noticeable cognitive and behavioral issues, and that’s heavy on my mind. I really worry about them and if I’ll be able to take care of them the way they need. I feel like I’ve failed in many ways, and may have contributed to some of their issues with my own temper and being hard to live with at the end of long days. I worry that I’ve actually made things worse for both of us. But I’m doing the best I can, I suppose.
Anyway, about this sleep business… During the work week, I usually get in a half hour of strenuous exercise. It tires me out, but I regroup and finish out my workday. And then I go home, have my supper, and go to bed. That works best for me, because it really wears me out, and I can’t help but crash at the end of the day. Yesterday, though, I wasn’t wiped out at the end of the day, so I didn’t just fall into bed per usual.
Today, I’ll try something new — I’ll try getting back on the exercise bike and going for an intense 20-minute ride. I’ll put on some music and crank up the resistance, and really push myself. It’s something to get my blood pumping and wear me out. Then I can regroup and take care of the rest of the day in what I hope will be better form. And then with any luck, I’ll be so tired, I won’t be able to keep my eyes open past 10:30. And I’ll sleep through to the morning.
I was going through some scrap paper, the other day, and I came across a printout of a list of things I’d gradually lost in the several years after my latest TBI in 2004. They gradually drifted away, and I thought they were gone for good.
Here’s the list I compiled:
Things I have progressively lost over the past several years
Love of reading books
Going to the beach
Going to the gym
All three of these things were so central to my life, once upon a time.
Then I stopped being able to do them.
And I thought they were gone for good.
Now it’s not like that anymore.
I can do them again.
See? Things can change. It’s taken years and years, but things did change for the better.
Now, I still have my days when reading and going to the beach and going to the gym are the last things I want to do. I’m too tired. Or I’ve got other things I’d rather be doing. But even in those times when I have to force myself to do them (if I must), I can find a way to make it okay. I can find a way to manage the situation – and also manage my own state of mind. The situation doesn’t rule me, anymore.
And that’s the most that I can ask for, really. It’s all I want.
I had a long day, and then I got home a little late from an appointment. It’s all good – and the appointment went well – but I didn’t sleep as much as I’d wanted to.
I got maybe 7 hours last night. It’s not enough. I needed 8. But I’ll take what I can get. Anyway, this gives me a head-start on the day. Waking up at 5:30 has its advantages.
I had meant to get in a swim, yesterday afternoon. I usually head to the fitness center at work around 2:00, spend about 20 minutes in the pool, then head back to work within the hour. It’s nice to step away, and also to really stretch myself when I’m swimming. The water feels great, and it’s so relaxing and quiet. I’m usually one of the only people in the pool at the time (unlike after work, when you have to wait for a lane). And it’s the perfect break to the day.
Sometimes, it really wears me out. I have some trouble coordinating my breathing, so I don’t usually do a crawl – I do backstroke and breaststroke, so I can control my face being above water. Sidestroke, too. and a bunch of other ways of getting through the water that don’t have names I know of.
Sometimes I swim with only my arms, keeping my legs crossed behind me. Sometimes I swim with only my legs, lying on my back and relaxing my arms as I flutter-kick my way through the water. It’s a good balance. And after a good workout, I get worn out and sleepy for the last few hours of the work day.
But that’s fine. I have a sip of coffee. I drink my water. I have a bowl of raisin bran. And I’m fine.
I sleep great, too. When I’ve had a good workout, I can just drift right off and stay asleep. Yesterday was a full day, with lots going on in my head. It’s all good, but it was brain-busy. And I didn’t sleep through the entire night.
Well, maybe tonight I will. I’m getting back in the pool today – no matter what. It’s a priority. Sleep is a priority.
I just jump-started my TBI blogging again. Looking at my archives, I have only posted six times, so far this month. That’s quite a difference from my past. It’s been for good reasons. I’m getting a lot of things done that have languished for some time.
But I also have been depressed. I get really busy… I exercise regularly… I tick items off my checklists… then I get really tired and feel depressed. No joy left, by the end of the day. No enthusiasm on the weekends. Just slogging through my daily life, pin-balling between hyper-productivity and not wanting to have anything to do with anyone, not wanting to go anywhere or talk to anyone… just waiting for the day to be over.
It’s an odd combination. Because I’m pretty well scheduled, and I’ve got a lot of discipline and focus for the things I need to do. My upbringing stressed getting things done, no matter how you feel about it. Your state of mind was really beside the point. You just got on with life and did your part, even if you had no joy in it. Even if you didn’t care about it. Even if it had nothing to do with you.
If you were depressed, so what? You just got up and got on with your day, anyway. If you were in pain, so what? You just picked up where you could and did your part. Personal feelings and emotions had nothing to do with anything. Getting the work done and playing your role was the critical thing.
I think it went hand-in-hand with being in a rural area, raised by parents and grandparents who’d grown up on farms. When the cut hay has been lying in the field for two days and is dry, and rain is threatening for the late afternoon, you don’t get to lie in bed and say, “Oh, I don’t feel like baling today.” You get your ass up out of bed, and you go bale the hay. You work through any and all weather conditions. You do what is needed by the community, and you pull your weight, so that even if it does rain at 4:00, the hay is all baled and in the hay mow of the barn.
And I suspect that’s why depression and mental illness have become more prevalent in society. It’s not that there’s so much more of it, now. There’s just more recognition and acceptance of its very existence. I’m sure there have been many, many people over the eons who have been depressed or had some other mental illness. It was just never allowed to be seen. Or if it was so extreme that it couldn’t be eclipsed and covered up by strict roles and duties, you just got sent away.
Anyway, I haven’t felt much like interacting at all, this month. The shootings in Orlando really upset me. To me, it’s an assault on diversity and community. It’s an attack on human nature and our freedom to simply be who we are and gather with others like ourselves. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re gay or straight — everybody has something about them that is different, and we need to gather with like-minded people to remember who we are. It’s just that the people in Orlando who were killed and maimed aren’t in the mainstream, so many people don’t know how to talk about it or think about it, without looking for a way that “they brought it on themselves.”
I don’t see it as a religious or political thing. I see it as the product of our society that encourages people to take violent action against others, to relieve their own pain. And the politicizing of it by the very people who believe that same thing, really angers me.
And that’s all I’ll say about it. No more comments. There’s too much of that, already.
But back to my present. I really need to start blogging again. Regularly. It actually anchors me and helps me collect my thoughts. And I don’t need to get all rigid about the “right” and “wrong” ways to do it. I just need to do it.
Because the voices crying out that people with brain injuries are broken and can’t be repaired, are too strong.
Because all the fear about concussion often seems to completely overlook the chance of recovery. Concussion is turning into a sort of delayed-action death sentence, and I think that’s wrong. It’s a terrible message to send. But of course, that’s what gets the funding flowing.
Because despite having sustained 9+ concussions in my life, things are going really, really well for me, and I need to bear witness to that. To show that I’m good. That I’m recovering. That it’s not by accident, and it’s not a fluke.
Because, well, this is a huge part of my life. And in the midst of getting everything done, exercising, trying to get my sleeping schedule in order, and generally feeling down, it’s the one thing that can get me out of my head and lift my eyes above my current challenges to show me the precious long view.
I can’t make any guarantees, but I’ve just given myself some really good reasons to re-kick-start my TBI blogging.
I don’t have to go to work tomorrow… Psych! It really is great to not have to think about Monday morning on a Sunday morning.
I can just take care of things I normally can’t — the repair jobs that take more than a day to complete.
The little chores and tasks that add up over the week, and I need to get out of the way.
More sleep. More rest. Naps.
Exercise! The clock isn’t ticking with me, and I can take extra time to exercise, change things up, get a little more creative with my morning workouts. The one thing I miss on days off, is that I can’t swim at the pool, but that will come on Tuesday.
I’ve been exercising in the mornings, every single morning, and then swimming on most days. And I’ve lost about 5 pounds in the past 6 weeks. That’s a safe pace, and it won’t screw up my metabolism and make me worse off than I am now.
Best of all, I can set my own pace – go as fast or as slow as I like. And stop whenever I like. Watch good movies. Or just sit at the back door and watch the birds at the bird feeder.
It’s all good.
And I don’t have to sweat the work thing for another 18 hours.
In a few months, I’ll have been at my current job for a year. That’s very interesting. The merger with the other company is happening, and may take place before summer is over. But nobody knows for sure. There’s all kinds of activity going on around it. New email addresses, new business cards, new laptops, and who knows what else.
Management keeps trying to set our fears to rest, and they keep asking us to ask questions, but it feels like a trap — like they’re trying to see who’s “on board” and who’s digging in their heels. I’m not sure anybody trusts anything coming out of management, by this point. They’re getting rich, while everyone else… well… not so much.
I can’t really worry about it, though. I have to keep focused on my work, which is actually pretty challenging these days. The work, yes, it’s challenging — but even moreso is the focus.
The cadence at this company is very different from the startup-like frenzies I’ve experienced elsewhere. It’s much more staid… steady… and they don’t expect you to do earth-shaking things in the first year… or two… or more. They think you need at least a few years to ramp up, so expectations are low. But at the same time, I still need to move forward. I still need to take steps. I still need to do what I need to do for my own career, to move it forward.
I’ve kind of lost sight of that, in the past couple of months. The big business trip at the beginning of this month completely took over my life for 4-6 weeks prior to it, and I’ve been slowly … sloooooowwwwwllllyyyyy… recovering from that adventure. It’s taking much longer than I expected, and it’s tough to get back in the swing of things.
But get back in the swing, I must. I’ve re-ordered a supplement I found that actually helps my energy, and helps me sleep. And I’ve started swimming regularly, again. I had gotten away from it for months, for some reason. Just winter/early spring inertia, I guess. Now I’m swimming every chance I get — 3 days a week, ideally, sometimes more. And I’m going to start working out before my swims, as well. That’s so important. I need a better strength regimen than I’ve been doing in the mornings.
Mornings, I need to work on my cardio and balance — wake myself up, and get my balance together. I’ve got some exercises from the trainer at work that I can do, so I need to print them out and DO them. I keep forgetting to print them out.
Anyway, I’m figuring it out – and figuring out how I can balance out my work-work-work nature with the slower cadence at my job. They don’t actually expect miracles, first thing, and while that’s good in a way, it’s not how I work. I prefer to do miracles whenever possible, and not be held back by people who are telling me it’s not possible. It IS possible. Maybe not for them, but for me.
It’s all an evolving process, really. I want to go-go-go, but I know I run the risk of burning myself out, if I do. And then I’m not good for anything. I want to make progress, every single week, but then it doesn’t happen. And then I get down on myself. I’m tired of getting down on myself. I need to do better tracking of what I actually accomplish. I’ve been doing a better job of that, over the past couple of months, so that’s good. Now I need to work it into my routine.
I need my routine.
And so I’ll work with that. See what I can do. Take steps to both simplify and improve the systems I have. And keep on keepin’ on.
I keep sleeping in past 8 a.m. This is new, since I returned from my business trip. This morning, my spouse had to wake me up at 8:15, asking if I was planning to go to work today.
Well, yes, I had planned on it. But if I don’t have to do it, so much the better 😉 No, really, I hoisted myself out of bed, did a shortened version of my morning exercises, and made my breakfast. Now I’ll do a quick post before taking off for the office.
I got 9-3/4 hours of sleep last night. I think that’s a record, of late. The last few nights, I’ve been sleeping from 10:30 till 7:45 — even past 8:00 — which has been putting me at close to 10 hours, for the past three nights.
And I didn’t even realize I was that tired.
I guess it’s all catching up with me — and not only from the business trip last week, but from the past 10+ years of grappling with sleep issues. I’ve been exhausted for so long, I don’t even know what it feels like to be fully rested. And my neuro thinks that it’s one of the root causes of my dizziness and lack of balance. My old neuropsych said that sounded “preposterous”, but if the brain is in charge (at least in part) of your sense of equilibrium as well as coordinating your movements, and your brain is tired, then doesn’t it make sense that a tired brain would lead to an un-balanced body / proprioceptive sense?
That seems common-sense to me. But I’ll let them fight it out on the experts front.
Plus, not everyone metabolizes it the same way, so saying it’s benign in every single case — especially mine — is pushing it. And that’s beyond pointless. And a little worrying.
But on the bright side, my own situation is worlds better — at least for now. I may have to start setting a clock to wake me up by 8:30, if I don’t wake up, myself. I’m accustomed to waking up at 5:30, but I can do with out that, for sure.
Aside from the jet-lag and time-shift that came with the business trip, I think another thing that’s really helped me relax and sleep more, is taking some concerns off my plate. I’ve decided I’m not going to go back to school to finish up the B.A. I failed to get, 30 years ago. I was in trouble with the law, I was in trouble with my family, I couldn’t stay steady with anything I was doing, I was with a bad group of people who were very self-destructive, I was out of money, and I was too booze-addled to make good decisions. Finishing my degree just wasn’t possible.
My current employer pays for both graduate and undergrad education, so this would have been the perfect opportunity for me to finish my degree. But let’s be honest — there is no way I can hold down a full-time job, take care of my spouse, and take care of my own health, AND go to school, even part-time. Even doing one course, would be too much for me. Two to three hours of classes a week plus reading, plus studying for tests… with my learning differences, and my crushing fatigue… there is no way that could work.
So, after having this bright hope that I might be able to do it, I let that go a few weeks back. It feels like a surrender of something I’ve wanted with all my heart for so many years, but it just doesn’t make any sense. If I ever find a way to support myself that doesn’t involve being at an office and constantly dealing with people for 8-9 hours a day (and beyond that, considering all the emails and texts that come in at all hours), I’ll consider going back to school. But not if it puts me in debt. And not if it destroys my quality of life.
The wild thing is, ever since I let go of that plan/dream/ambition, I have felt so much more relaxed. Yes, it’s a loss. Yes, it’s disappointing. Yes, I kind of feel like I’ve failed. But this frees up that part of my brain that has been connecting my future success to the way I was always taught I could succeed – through getting degrees and adding qualifications and certifications that come from others.
As it turns out, I realize that I really am on a different path than that. I belong on the frontier. My great-great-grandparents were pioneers who traveled to the West when it opened up, and they paved the way for others to follow them. I’m actually not happy about some of the things they made possible — the Dust Bowl, rounding up Native Americans and putting them on reservations as well as genocide against this country’s first residents. That’s a hard legacy to carry. But at the core, at the center of it all, I am essentially a pioneer, not someone who settles spaces that others have opened up. And I’m the kind of person who thrives in unstructured environments where the rules have yet to be written.
So, I’m freeing up my “brain space” to make room for my new work direction. I’m making the most of my current job stability to really think about where and how I want to work in the future. I’m not rushing out to find a new job, right now, because I need time to think and really get clear about what I want to do. After years of hard work and sacrifice and doing a lot of jobs that I didn’t want to do because they were good experience, I’m finally at a place where I can literally pick and choose the direction I want to go in. I have the experience that others really, really need, and after years of rehabbing with a neuropsychologist, I once again have the temperament and behavioral control to work effectively with others.
I was this close to being able to do that, back in 2004, when I fell and got hurt. I was 18 months away from cashing in on my shares, that would have let me pay down my house and refinance the remainder at a very attractive rate. I was 18 months away from financial independence, which was no small feat for someone without a college degree, who everyone said would never get far in life because of my failure to complete pretty much anything I started. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it wasn’t an oncoming train. It was my future – the future I had worked so hard for.
Then I fell, and everything fell apart.
I’ve been rigidly locked onto the idea that I had to finish my degree, in order to get anywhere in life. But in fact, that falls back on thinking from when I was a teenager. As an adult, I’ve always been a pioneer, a leader, someone who ventures into spaces that haven’t yet been explored. The things I’ve done, have been things that nobody else thinks are possible.
But I know they’re possible, as do the others I work with.
Now I need to look again to the future and find where I need to be. Not just where I am right now, but where I need to be, on down the line. I want to make the best of everything I’ve got, and take it to the next level.
And so I shall.
Holy smokes, it’s amazing what some extra sleep will do for you…