Five hours of sleep. Oh, well. I’ll try something new today.

Fatigue Range with "Not Sleeping" red zones at the top and bottom and an "Energy Level" line curving up into the top "Not Sleeping" zone
Fatigue Range – I’m just within the top red line, in the gray zone.

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 hope, anyway.

Onward.

All the things I thought I’d lost

abstract checklist with Xes beside the lines
I used to feel like this was what I could do – nothing.

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.

Onward.

Exercise, exercise, exercise

swimming turtle under water
It feels great to get in the water. So peaceful.

I didn’t sleep as much as I’d hoped, last night.

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.ย  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.

Everything goes better with sleep.

 

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…!