Why have I been away?

Sometimes it's hard to see the path ahead
Sometimes it’s hard to see the path ahead

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.

It’s non-negotiable.

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.

So, I expect to see you soon.

Two more days off – sweet!

Not till tomorrow, thank you very much!
Not till tomorrow, thank you very much!

I don’t have to go to work tomorrow… Psych!ย  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.

Sweet.

Finding balance – work and rest

Sometimes this is how it feels - like I'm a snail on a rock. But at least I'm balancing.
Sometimes this is how it feels – like I’m a snail on a rock. But at least I’m balancing.

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.

Onward!

Back to regularly scheduled sleep

5811f-rest_stop_brown_bear-1600x1200I woke this morning at 6:30 – but I still got almost 8 hours of sleep.

My intention is to keep it up.

I’ve switched around my morning routine a bit – must exercise each and every morning, no matter what. Even just a little.

And swim more than once in a while.

I swam yesterday, and was it ever great!

I have also addressed my junk food cravings from the past weeks. I think the business trip threw me off just enough to stop the cravings, so that’s helpful.

And life is good!

Extra sleep – the key to my future plans

brain-interests
Roughly – this is how my thinking has been prioritized

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 better๐Ÿ˜‰ 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.

As for me, I’m actually sleeping, and while I do wake up during the night many times, I’m able to get right back to sleep and stay that way… and for 2-3 hours longer than is typical with me. It’s either that, or take a sleeping pill, which has been shown to cause rebound insomnia and is strongly cautioned against for people with brain injury. Now, that apparently happens after extended use, but even so. Why chance it?

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.

brain-interests-new 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.

Onward!

Holy smokes, it’s amazing what some extra sleep will do for you…

I HAVE to go for that hike today

the-journey-of-lifeI didn’t get out and hike yesterday. My business trip was catching up with me, and I also needed to catch up on some reading and writing I’ve been meaning to do.

So, I did that. And looked out the window at the world in my back yard.

Then I took a nap – 3 hours. That surprised me, because I wasn’t actually feeling all that tired, when I lay down. I just knew I needed to give it a try. And after lying there for 15-20 minutes, I finally drifted off… and woke up around the time I needed to go shop for supper.

Now I’ve got one day left in the weekend, and I absolutely have to get outside. It’s spring, dammit. And I need to take it in, already. The weather’s a bit cold, but that might discourage all my neighbors from rushing onto the roads. Or maybe it won’t. In any case, I need to at least take a quick walk on my “short” hike. That should take me an hour or less, and it will stretch out my legs, which have been quite cramped and non-active for some time now.

I’ll have my lunch, change into my hiking grubbies, and head out.

Wish me luck…

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 yard๐Ÿ˜‰

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…!

Getting past the energy crisis

Proper form is essential to avoid injury and build strength
Proper form is essential to avoid injury and build strength

I’ve been in a bit of an energy crisis, over the winter. I just haven’t felt like doing anything much, and I’ve felt my energy waning. I haven’t been exercising as I should. I do ride my exercise bike in the mornings pretty regularly (it’s rare that I don’t, which is good), but I haven’t been lifting or swimming as much as I should be.

I start, then I feel tired and sore, and my motivation gives out.

So, I stop lifting… I stop swimming… and then I feel even worse.

The thing is, when I DO exercise — lifting and swimming and stretching — I actually feel great all day. And my energy is great. It’s just getting myself to actually do the initial work, that’s the problem.

But now it’s springtime. And with the days being longer, I feel my energy returning. I’m a real “sun person”. I love to be in it (within reason, so I don’t get sunburned or drained by the heat). And despite my sometimes painful light sensitivity, I love the sight of sunlight brightening the world around me. It just makes all the difference, as does a few extra hours of sunlight each day.

But with my energy being as low as it has been, it’s hard to work up the enthusiasm to make the most of it. Energy is a self-fulfilling prophecy — the more of it I have, the more I get… the less of it I feel, the less of it I can generate. And even if I want with all my heart to “kick it”, if I don’t have the strength and the energy and resources to do it… well, it doesn’t happen.

So, I have to do something. I need my physical body to support the wishes and desires of my mind and heart, and without conditioning, that’s not going to happen. Keeping in shape is about more than keeping the pounds off and looking good. It’s about keeping myself as functional as possible — getting myself to a place where the strength of my body is on par with the drive of my mind. It’s about never giving up, never quitting, always keeping myself functional in ways that actually let me live the life of my choosing.

Just an example: I have water delivered. In those 5-gallon bottles. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, so that’s a 40-pound weight I need to lift intermittently, when I change out the water cooler. It’s never really been a problem for me in the past, but over the last year or so, I’ve had less coordination and strength. It’s been an interesting challenge to A) hoist the weight up, and B) flip it over onto the top of the cooler without dousing everything around it with water.

Normally, I can do it fine. But the last couple of times, I’ve given the nearby shelf a good splash. It’s not that big of a deal, because everything can be dried off. But then it’s one more thing I have to do, and that puts a crimp in my flow. It also annoys the crap out of me. I hate that. I hate being weaker than ever. I hate being uncoordinated. I hate the disheartening sound of water splashing out of the well where it’s supposed to be.

It’s not the end of the world, but it bothers me. And it’s something I can actually fix.

So, it’s time to do something about it. I need to get my behind in gear and get serious about my strength routine. It’s for the sake of being more conditioned and capable, as well as better balance. Plus, I need to be smart about it and not injure myself by doing too much too soon.

Now I’m adding another aspect to my workouts — the mental warmup in the morning, before I get out of bed. I’ve read in a number of places how visualizing physical activity actually primes you to do it properly. The brain simulates the activities before you do them, and that gets the right connections firing.

Here’s an excerpt from Visualization in Sport

Visualization in sport is a training technique that forms a part of the larger science of sports psychology. Visualization is also known as mental imagery and rehearsal. Visualization is used primarily as a training tool, one that improves the quality of athletic movement, increases the power of concentration, and serves to reduce the pressures of competition on the athlete while building athletic confidence.

Visualization occurs when athletes are able to create an image or a series of images relevant to their sport, without any external prompts or stimulation; the images are mentally generated by the athlete alone. Visual images are usually the most important to athletic training and may be employed as the sole mental training method. Athletes may also depend on auditory images (sounds), kinesthetic images (movements), tactile sensations (touch), and purely emotional stimulation, in combination with visualization or as freestanding training aids, as may be appropriate to the effort to elevate the performance of the athlete.

There is a powerful relationship between mental and physical performance in sport. The development of a wide range of mental powers, such as focus and concentration, elevates athletic performance; over-analyzing detracts from the athlete’s ability to react instinctively, an attribute that is usually a more desirable quality than the ability to reason through every sporting circumstance.

Visualization is intended to take the athlete to an image that conveys what perfection represents in the particular aspect of the sport. During visualization, the brain is directing the target muscles to work in a desired way. This direction creates a neural pattern in the brain, a pattern identical to the network created by the actual physical performance of the movements. A neural pattern is similar to diagramming the specific wiring and circuits necessary to transmit an electrical current. Alexander Bain (1818โ€“1903) of Great Britain was the first scientist to develop a theory as to how the brain built such patterns to direct and control repeated physical movement. Numerous researchers since that time have expanded on the concept. Visualization alone will not develop the most effective mechanisms in the brain to later perform the desired action, but physical training coupled with visualization will create better recognition of the required nervous system response than physical training alone.

This technique has been around for a long, long time. And I used to do it, when I was competing in high school sports. Somehow, the practice didn’t always translate properly to my regular life away from sports, and somehow I thought that because my non-athletic visualizations just weren’t working, I was either doing it wrong… or it just doesn’t work.

I’ve modified my beliefs about visualization — down-sized them a bit, you could say. Now, instead of using it to shape my entire life, I’m focusing on visualization of basic physical activities, those very kinesthetic behaviors that actually respond to the brain’s visualizations.

I’m visualizing proper form while I lift weights. I’m thinking about the feeling of my body as it moves the weights up and down, back and forth. I’m visualizing workouts, and I’m imagining how good it feels to do it. And this morning, after I lay in bed for 20 minutes, waking up gradually and thinking through my workout, I felt really good, doing the workout itself. And at the end, it was even more satisfying than ever.

So, this is good. I know I’ve done it before — I’ve started out strong, then I lost my focus and stopped doing the visualizations… and some of the exercise. Part of the problem in the past, is that I would get over-tired, push myself too hard, then get injured, and I’d take time off to heal… and then I’d never get back to my former practice.

I’d just forget about it. As though it didn’t even exist.

And by the time I remembered it, I would be de-conditioned again, and have to start all over.

How demoralizing.

Now, though, it doesn’t feel demoralizing. I feel energized. And I know I’m doing the right thing by taking it easy and just getting used to the motions again. I am working with either very light weights, or no weights at all, to re-develop my kinesthetic and proprioceptive sense. I also have access to a strength trainer at work who consults with employees about exercises and nutrition. So, I’m going to take advantage of that benefit.

I’ll carve out time in my schedule, and I’ll just do it.

Because I can.

Spring is here. Summer’s coming. Then fall. Three seasons — followed by winter, which I actually love. All of them ready for me to get moving into.

Onward.

Of MLK Day and Migraines

ON THE MOVE: Dr. Martin Luther King, lower right, holds hands with his wife, Coretta, during an Alabama march. -- PHOTOGRAPHER: Associated Press
ON THE MOVE: Dr. Martin Luther King, lower right, holds hands with his wife, Coretta, during an Alabama march. — PHOTOGRAPHER: Associated Press

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everyone. If anyone deserves a holiday commemorating their work, it’s him.

What I love about this picture is that it shows that he was not alone in his work and his belief and his actions. He’s surrounded by a whole lot of people, some of whom look nothing like him.

That speaks to the power of A) someone who has a very, very clear vision of how things could be — and is willing to put themself on the line for it, and B) a cohesive group of committed people who support that cause and are willing to put themselves on the line, as well.

I grew up in the late 60s and early 70s, when students were bused in the small city we lived in, and the Black Power movement was on the rise. Those were the days after Dr. King’s life had ended, and I watched the Civil Rights Movement devolve into fractious fighting and chaos. I was attacked by other students a number of times because I didn’t look like them, and one of my most significant TBIs came at the hands of some of those kids. It was a violent time, a messy time, and there was a lot of harm done.

Of course, the pendulum tends to swing in different directions, so maybe that was to be expected. I’m not sure what would have happened, had Dr. King not been killed. There’s no guarantee things would not have descended into chaos, in any case. All I know is, those years of my childhood were extraordinarily tough, due to race relations, and I’m still dealing with the fallout.

Today is a holiday for many folks, including the schools. I actually don’t have the day off work. It’s an elective holiday for us, which means that office is going to be very quiet, as everybody with kids takes the day off to be with them. That also means there’s no point in me going into the office, and I can work from home.

That’s good.

I’m not in the mood to deal with people today. I’ve had a sick headache for days, now. It’s getting better, but it’s still around. Yesterday was better, probably because I got plenty of sleep over the weekend, I took it easy, and I cut out all that chocolate that I’ve been eating since the holidays. I’ve had at least 2 pieces of chocolate in the afternoons, for months. Sometimes I’ll have a bunch of it over the course of the day — to keep myself going. The amount has steadily increased, and I think it’s contributed to my migraines.

Chocolate has caffeine in it. Sugar, too. I’ve been using it as a substitute for coffee for those afternoon lulls. But that makes no sense — it’s still caffeine, which has been linked to migraines. I’ve also been drinking black tea (with honey) and yerba mate, both with caffeine. Come to think of it, when I started drinking more black tea (Red Rose is my favorite), the headaches started to come back.

So, I cut it all out for the past two days, and I’m feeling much better. I bit withrawal-ish, but better.

I had planned to get off caffeine completely, back in May, but that didn’t work. I have to have at least a little bit in the morning — I cut back on my amount drastically. The month of May came and went, and over the months, my headaches really subsided. But now, eight months later, I’ve slipped back into my old ways, and the headaches are back. So, I’m taking corrective action. And I’m just doing the smart thing — the thing that connects the dots.

I think there’s more to my headaches than just coffee. There’s usually more than one thing, with me. I ask myself: What all have I done differently over the past few months, that might have given rise to increased migraines?

  1. I was really off my regular diet over the holidays — eating a lot more sugar and carbs than usual, and not watching my portion control. I ate a LOT of candy, although I justified it by only eating chocolate, rather than a lot of other junk food. I told myself that dark chocolate is good for me, and it’s been linked with longevity. Who doesn’t want to live longer… all thanks to dark chocolate?
  2. I also stopped exercising regularly. I had a project in November that consumed my attention and kept me off the exercise bike, first thing in the morning. It also kept me off the trails on the weekends, and it consumed every spare moment of my time. Consequently, I lost muscle tone and strength and gained weight, and my energy level dropped. Not good.
  3. I was also pretty stressed at times over the holiday break. I got pretty bent out of shape about all the changes happening – work changes, doctor changes, etc. It got to me more than I care to admit, and it was definitely a factor in increased irritability. I wasn’t sleeping great, the stress was throwing me off, and I just didn’t feel like I could handle anything.
  4. Also… I worked from home for the week and a half around Christmas and New Years, and my spouse and I got irritable from being underfoot with each other. We had a couple of blow-ups, which shot up my blood pressure. I’ve been really struggling with my anger — and my heart rate — ever since. My headaches come on when my heart rate goes up, so it’s actually a helpful reminder to keep it down. And since I know how to lower my heart rate, I need to go back to just doing that. And so I have been. It takes time and practice — and I’ve been a bit out of practice.

think this is all inter-related, so I need to do something about it. And I’ve been doing just that. Laying off the chocolate. Doing my breathing exercises. Being extra-mindful about what’s going on around me and how I’m reacting to it. And taking action to reduce the stress. And making more of an effort to peacefully co-exist with my spouse. They’re making more of an effort, too. They actually asked me to work from home today, which is a huge change.

The most important thing for me is support. It make everything easier. I hadn’t mentioned my migraines to my spouse, during the holidays — I just did my usual shut-out thing, where I ignore the pain and hope it’ll go away. It didn’t, though. It just got worse. And of course, my spouse couldn’t figure out why I was in such rough shape, all of a sudden.

When I told them about my headaches, last week, suddenly there was support — compassion — and extra help with doing things like getting to bed at a decent hour and not overeating. They don’t do great with the whole TBI issues thing — it freaks them out, even to this day, and we can never discuss them without them going into some form of panic/anxiety. So, that’s no good. But they can deal with the idea that I have migraines. It doesn’t make them question their own safety and sanity.

If they think my brain is not working properly, they get frightened and combative, because it threatens their existence. But if they think I “just” have a sick headache, that poses no threat to them, and they can think clearly about how to help me. Migraines are less intimidating. Headaches are something they can relate to, without it turning into a life-and-death struggle… or pointing to a future filled with dementia and diapers.

So, “playing the migraine card” is a useful way to get the help I need, under these conditions. It helps, that it’s true.

And that’s good. Because all alone, dealing with all of this is a tough go.

Bottom line: when you have support from other like-minded individuals who share your vision and your dreams, you can actually achieve a thing or two.

Onward.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Happy-New-Year-20162016 has arrived! And welcome, new year. I’m very happy to see you arriving.

Just in time๐Ÿ˜‰

The bluejays are gathered around the base of the birdfeeder in the back yard, and crows are calling in the distance. When I got up this morning and went into the living room to do my daily warmup, I saw a cardinal sitting in one of the bushes outside my front window.

It didn’t fly away when I stopped to look at, it just sat there and looked at me.

Now the squirrels are arriving at the birdfeeder. They have been more active this year than usual, given the warm weather, so of course they’re hungry.

I just had my breakfast, so I’m not hungry anymore. At least, not for food. I’m hungry for life and all that this coming year has to offer. It feels like the kind of hunger you feel when you’re anticipating a really good meal prepared by someone you love (who’s also a great cook).

I have a really good feeling about this year. Of course, it’s impossible to tell what exactly will be coming down the pike, but whatever happens, I’m sure I will be able handle it.

Some of the things I have on my “docket” for this year are:

  • Finding a new PCP.
  • Finding a new neuropsychologist.
  • Continuing to build and strengthen my marriage. After 25 years, my spouse and I have been through a lot with each other, and we’re stronger than ever. I’m committed to keeping that going.
  • Finishing the books I have started – expanding Slow My Heart Rate, into a full-fledged book with expanded references and resources, as well as finishing several other TBI-related books I started over the past several years and have not yet put the finishing touches on.
  • Continuing with my daily exercise program, and really focus on my strength training.
  • Organizing my workspace better, so I have more room to work and store my materials.
  • Keeping my professional head on straight, so that the pending work changes which are imminent don’t derail me.
  • Just staying steady and strong through it all, focusing on the basics — good food, plenty of water, good sleep, leading a meaningful life.

I suppose that could be considered a New Years Resolution list, but in fact it’s just a continuation of what I am already doing — it’s more of a statement of intention to keep on keepin’ on, and fill in the blanks of my life where they pop up… which is really what I do anyway.

It’s steady-on for me, this year. With all that entails. I’m sure I will learn a lot in the process. There will be ups, there will be downs, there will be highs and lows and everything else in between. And that’s fine. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be…

So, with that said,

May the new year bring you much that is good, much that helps you grow and strengthen and continue on your chosen path. And may 2016 bring us all much love and light — no matter what.

Happy New Year!