A good night’s sleep… and a new direction

zelinsky-eye-info

Eye-opening info on the visual systems and the brain-body connection – click to read this

I had a very taxing day, yesterday. In the midst of telling my manager that I was leaving (and having them freak out, albeit in a professionally muted way), and also trying to get work done, so that I can wrap everything up for folks before I go, I had the constant interruption of people stopping by or sending me messages or emails or whatever, so that they could find out what was up… process… congratulate me… etc.

Everyone has been really great about it. Of course, we’re only in the early stages of grief.

Denial… Anger… Bargaining… Depression… Acceptance.

We’ve only gotten to the first stage (though I know everyone handles loss differently, so the order can be mixed up), and I’m expecting anger, bargaining, and depression to ensue before long.

As long as I’m prepared, that’s the main thing.

The issue is, all the interruptions, all day long, the emotion, the storytelling — getting the sequence of things correct, so that I’m telling a consistent story and don’t sound like I’m lying to people — it’s exhausting. Trying to focus, while people are all worked up and want to talk… good grief, it’s tiring. And by the end of the day, I was wiped.

Which is part of the reason I burned supper… then had a minor meltdown when my spouse started yelling at me… then got all bent out of shape about that signalling the permanent end of my marriage, because I just couldn’t take being yelled at when I’d had such a demanding day…

I felt a nasty migraine coming on, and retreated to my bedroom with the lights off and focused on my breathing and slowing my heart rate, to head the migraine off at the pass. It worked. And my spouse came to find me to talk things through because it made no sense for me to go to bed angry. And then I went downstairs and watched “Happy-ish” which is my new favorite show, because there are so many parallels between the main character and myself.

In the end, we finished the evening on a much more normal, loving note. I got a good night’s sleep and woke up to a glorious day. Glorious! as my elderly aunts used to exclaim, when I was a kid.

I miss those venerable elders. I miss them a lot.

Anyway, while reading The Ghost In My Brain, I found a lot of similarities to the author’s experience and my own — the nausea that sets in when people are talking to you… the balance problems… the fact that driving is actually okay, when you’re not cognitively drained (it’s actually a relief)… preferring blurry eyesight to glasses that make objects sharper, but don’t address the full spectrum of vision issues… and having everything be in slow motion when talking, because there are all sorts of additional processes that need to take place in the background, while you’re working through what someone is saying to you… and then there’s the trouble planning.

The author talks about how he had regular appointments with a Dr. Miller to work through daily logistics with TBI, and he was often not 100% sure he was supposed to be there. I used to do that all the time with my neuropsych, for a number of years. I was pretty sure I was supposed to be there, but I wasn’t 100% confident, so I just went — and if I was supposed to be there, then that was cool. If I turned out to be there on the wrong day, I was prepared to turn around and go home.

Fortunately, we always had appointments on Tuesday afternoons, so it was consistent. If it was Tuesday, then I’d go to their office and wait in the waiting room. Sometimes I would sit in the waiting room for quite some time, if I got there a little late. I wasn’t sure if I should go knock on the door, or if they would come out to find me. Eventually, I got in the habit of knocking on the door — the thing is, I now realize, I would avoid it, because it hurt my ears when I knocked. Driving an hour through evening rush hour traffic really took it out of me, so my hearing was on HIGH. I’d just suck it up, though, and knock. The discomfort of the knocking, though, was actually preferable to the auditory shock of hearing their door open suddenly. It always startled me, because they have one of those noise-dampening brushes across the bottom of their door, and it makes a really loud noise when it opens.

At least, it’s loud for me.

Anyway, all the discomfort aside, I’m considering following up with a neuro-rehabilitative optometrist to see if I actually have vision issues that are making my symptoms worse. After I was hit in the head with the rock when I was 8 (a year earlier I’d fallen down a flight of stairs and temporarily lost the ability to speak), I developed double-vision (diplopia, I think it’s called). I was taken to an eye doctor who prescribed reading glasses, and I’ve worn them ever since.

In recent years, I’ve actually opted for not wearing my glasses whenever I can. It’s more comfortable for me. My glasses help me see things in the distance just fine, but I prefer to do without them. Sometimes I will even drive for short distances without my glasses (if no one is around and the road is empty and runs straight ahead). I have been thinking it’s because I just can’t stand having them on my face… but now I’m wondering if maybe they are actually making it harder for me to see, because they are not allowing my eyes to get the kind of light I need to get.

Reading The Ghost In My Brain, I am finding so many similarities — especially with how vision and balance are so closely connected — that I think it makes sense to follow up with my vision. Just get my eyes checked out for that other aspect. Apparently, there are three ways our eyes help us — regular straight-ahead vision, peripheral vision, and then connections with sleep-wake cycles, balance, hormones, neurotransmitters, posture, etc.

And I wonder if maybe so many of my logistical problems — which I have never been able to articulate well to anyone, because they make no sense to me or anyone else — might have to do with vision issues. From the time I was 8. So, for over 40 years. If this is true, and my visual systems have been impacted, then it makes a lot of sense why I perform so high on visual-spatial tests. I’ve had to develop more abilities to offset the deficits I got from those TBIs. Add to that even more blows to the head, and you’ve got yourself quite a recipe for a very interesting life.

Additionally, I’m looking into the Feuerstein Method, which is a way of “learning to learn” — finding your strengths to offset your weaknesses, and restoring functionality that I really need to have, but which has eluded me.

My neuropsych has been incredibly helpful to me, in terms of helping me sort through all the psychological clutter, helping me retrain my executive function and beefing up my gist reasoning. The thing is, they take that approach, which is psychological, and the physiological aspects fall by the wayside. At least, that’s how it seems to me. And anyway, I do a really poor job of communicating everything that’s going on with me, at times, because I have a long drive to get to them, at the end of usually challenging days, and I’ve been so stressed out over the years with all my old sh*tty jobs, that I haven’t had as much bandwidth as I’d have liked to.

I do a danged good impression of someone who’s got their act together. Because I have to. If I don’t, I can lose my job. I can lose my house. I can lose everything, and my spouse will lose it all, too. So, keeping up the appearance of being on top of everything is my top priority.

Of course, that can backfire, because then you can’t always reveal the areas where you need help, when someone is there to help you.

But anyway, that’s another blog post for another day.

Right now, I’ve got some new lines of inquiry to follow, and that’s super cool. I also have some exercises I can do to help me — Designs for Strong Minds (the site of the rehab person who helped Clark Elliott retrain his brain) has a bunch of exercises at http://www.dsmexercises.com/, and I went ahead and paid the $13.99 for the full suite of exercises. It’s easier and quicker than trying to piece things together for myself. Plus, it’s a deal, because individually, the collections of challenges are $9.99 each.

Even the most basic ones pose some issues for me, although I’ve been scoring 87% or better. A number of my choices have been lucky guesses. I won’t be happy until I can score 100% without doubts. Then I can move on to the next batch. There are exercises for NASA rocket scientists, and other pattern matching things.

And that reminds me about my Dual N-Back training I used to do regularly. I need to try that again. I was doing Dual N-Back training when I was learning to juggle. Now I know how to juggle, and I wonder if my Dual N-Back training is “sticking” as well.

New tests for a new day.

Interspersed with lots of rest.

I’m pretty happy about the progress I’ve made in my life, relative to where I was 10 years ago. Relative to where I believe I could be — and should be — I’m not happy. I know I can do more and I know I can do better. Getting there is the challenge.

And it finding out if I have vision issues that can be fixed, could be an important next step.

Onward!

Sifting through the possibilities

I am bone-tired, right now. I gave notice at my current job, this morning, much to the dismay of my coworkers and manager. It was actually quite touching. I will miss them, in many ways.

I realize that now, which is good. It’s better to have loved and lost, than to have hated the guts of everyone you’ve worked with for 40 hours/week over the past year and a month and a day (which is what today is — a year, a month, and a day, since I started).

Nice symmetry, right?

Still, it’s been exhausting.

And I have another 3-1/2 weeks to go. My major projects are wrapping up, and I’m helping to get some other projects rolling while I’m still around. I’m also going to put the finishing touches on my Most Major project, get it all queued up, and then hand off the plan to folks to follow through.

I’ll need to rest. Get plenty of good sleep in the coming weeks. Study up on the new technologies I’ll be using, find the resources I need, and also get a head start on thinking through some of the undertakings that lie ahead of me.

The beauty part is, the new kind of work I’m going to be doing has a strong learning and research aspect to it. Which is what I love to do, and what I’ve been wanting to transition into, for quite some time. And the truly promising thing about this is that, as a member of a company that is an industry leader, I’ve got immediate credibility in the eyes of others — kind of like having a degree from Harvard or Stanford or MIT or CalTech.

I finally get to do what I’ve wanted to do, all along. And I get paid a heckuva lot more than a research scientist, while doing it.

Win-win-win-win.

Anyway… yeah… rest.

I spent most of the past weekend, reading The Ghost In My Brain, and it’s given me a lot to think about. Just a hugely helpful book for me, where I saw many reflections of my own experiences.

It’s a lot to take in… and I’m happy to be here.

Still dizzy… hanging in there… doing the right things

BEEP – BEEP – BEEP – BEEP!

They’re painting the walls at work. Horrible. And the lifts they use to paint the high parts of the walls and ceilings have Klaxon-alarm type alert beeps that send me through the roof.

Frankly, I don’t think any of this is helping my dizziness.

But I’m sticking with my routine and getting things done. Have gotten a few things taken care of today. Then I’ll run another errand and fall into bed.

I’m wiped out.

What a week.

Doing the right things feels good — exercise, regular meals — but I’m fried after this past week.

One more errand… just one more. Then I’m done for the day.

What a difference a nap makes

It’s like night and day.

So, I lay down and slept for an hour.

At 2:15, I was up and ready to roll, like I hadn’t been in days. Got some chores done that I hadn’t been able to get to. Finally was able to do them — and enjoyed doing the work, as well.

It’s pretty amazing, really, what an effect fatigue has on me and my brain. Fortunately, I can do something about it. Sleep.When I can, that is. During the week, I don’t have as much opportunity to do that. Maybe I should start. I could try taking a long lunch break and going home to rest. Then getting up and heading back into it. I may have to start doing that, as things are pretty intense at work, and man-oh-man am I beat, by the end of each day.

Another thing that’s going on, that’s taking more energy, is I’m working out more in the mornings. That’s tiring me out. Giving me more energy, but requiring more recovery time. Gotta work all that out. One way or another. When I’m rested, I feel fantastic. Just gotta get to that place.

But for now, I’ve got some more errands

 

Laser in, work it out, rest up, and repeat

One of the common problems after TBI/Concussion, is fatigue.

It can be a killer… especially because we can become fatigued from (over)doing things we really love and that make us happy.

When our brains become fatigued, they become more distractable. And when we are more distractable, we can end up expending valuable energy in many different directions.

Which means the limited energy we have is further dissipated. And that’s no good.

That’s where I am right now. Really tired out from four very intense days. I thought today would be easier, but it was actually packed full, with a lot going on. And now I am beat. One of the projects I was on at work got presented to senior leadership, and the president and CEO of the company was there — and liked it very much. My team members really got some good time with the Pres/CEO. I was worn out and couldn’t stay, but I’m glad the rest of them got to hang out with the top brass.

Anyway, I’m winding down, now, feeling pretty good about this week overall. I’m really excited because a project I started back in 1999, that has gone through many different iterations, is coming around again in a big and beneficial way. It’s pretty exciting, to tell the truth, and I’m diving back into it with more realism and fervor than ever before. Not only do I have more energy, but it’s much better educated and better organized than ever.

It’s very exciting.

And I need to pace myself so that I don’t burn out. I need to take things very steadily, very systematically, and not let things flare wildly out of control. I can so easily let myself get carried away by all the excitement, that I wear myself down and end up wrecking my progress. And then I’m worse off than before.

And then I get down on myself.

And then I end up even worse off than back at Square One.

Let’s not do that again, shall we?

So, my path is clear. I know what I want to be when I grow up — at least for the next few years. And I can relax now. I’m both excited and relieved. I can see a way out of my malaise and morass.

Laser in, work it out, rest up, and repeat.

Onward.

But first, a good dinner and a full night’s sleep.

5 ways mental slowness is less of a problem

For the past month or so, I’ve been feeling mentally slower than I’d like. Almost as though I was wading through mud. I tried explaining it to my neuropsych, but I didn’t do a very good job of it.

This week, though, things have seemingly lifted off me. And while I’m not feeling 100%, per se, I’m not feeling as burdened by my slowness as I was before.

First, I’m not feeling as slow as I was a few weeks back.

I started exercising again. That might have something to do with it. Either it’s getting my mind off things, or I’m genuinely feeling healthier. I think it’s the latter. In addition to not feeling as slow I as I was… I’m also feeling comparatively sharper than a lot of people around me. I’ve been watching others around me, and they are not holding up very well. So, I know it’s not just me. And that makes me feel a lot less self-conscious.

Second, I’ve got too much going on, to notice how slowed down I am.

I am doing so much that’s new for me, these days — or that is a combination of old things that are showing up in new ways, that I almost have no way of knowing if I’m actually thinking more slowly than usual, or if I’m just taking my time to make sure I don’t miss anything.

Third, I realize that my old “need for speed” was pretty much of an illusion.

I had it in my head that I needed to be going 500 mph all the time, when in fact “haste makes waste” and I was bumbling all over the place, screwing up, messing things up so royally that I was constantly scrambling to catch up. I wasn’t necessarily operating at a higher speed, I was having to back-track and retrace my steps a whole lot, which had me in a frenzied panic state, a lot of time. I thought it was speed, but it really wasn’t.

Fourth, I’ve realized that while my processing speed may be slower than it used to be, that has its advantages – namely, that I can slow down to sift through more information.

I’m 10 years older than I was when I had my last TBI. And a whole lot has happened to me, since that time. I’ve been through a lot of upheaval and struggle, and I’ve had some big wins and losses along the way. I now have more “data” to sift through in my head, and that means it’s going to take me longer to put things in order and make sense of them. Even if I’d never gotten clunked on the head along the way, I would still need more time to parse through everything and make sense out of it.

Fifth, I may feel slow today, but I am pretty sure that can change.

I haven’t been sleeping as well as I should, and I know that has an effect. It’s also been a long winter, and I’m foggy and dull. I have seen my mental performance turn around in the past, and with the right hygiene and exercise and just getting all the gunk out, I know from past experience that that can have a positive effect on me.

I’ll just keep trying. Everything changes, and this can get better. I just need to keep a positive attitude, use my head, not be stupid about my sleeping habits, and do the best I can each day.

Somehow, it works out.

Trying the standup desk “thing”

This is the idea, but I use books.

Okay, I’m trying using a standup desk – again – in hopes it will give me some relief.

My hips and knees have been giving me a lot of trouble lately, no doubt because of the long, hard winter, and me not being active enough. I could have done some exercise each morning, like I used to, but for some reason, I chose to sit at my desk and work.

I guess I was just so focused on work and making my ideas into reality that I lost sight of the whole exercise thing.

So, now I’m paying for it.

I’ve actually been meaning to switch to a standup desk for a while, and I did try putting one together, a few months ago, but it didn’t feel right. I think the height was not right. Now I have a higher one, where I don’t have to reach down so far,and it feels much better. It’s just a box with some big stabilizing books in it – just for my laptop, for now. But that’s really when the bulk of my sitting takes place.

I really do sit a lot, each day. All day, every day, pretty much. Except when I’m walking between places where I sit.

So, that’s changing. This is better. I’ll have to figure out how to raise a larger area, so I can also take notes, but I think I’ve already figured that out. I have an extra bookshelf that’s about the right width for my work, and I have a big stack of books I can use to raise it to the proper height. That will do it.

Okay, got it all set up. One nice wooden finished  bookshelf (that was just standing around collecting dust) plus two stacks of books that were taking up valuable space on my floor, and voila – there ’tis. I didn’t have to spend a couple hundred bucks for some fancy gadget that was made in China. I had everything I need right here — just had to move it around a little bit.

Plus, I still have my laptop-only stand, which I can use if I need to just use a small area.

Either way, it’s good.

And I have to say, it does feel better. I spend an awful lot of time at a desk — especially this one at home. That’s not doing me any good. My hips and knees are complaining, and frankly all that sitting makes me a bit sleepy. Supposedly, standup desks make you more focused and also keep your metabolism up. That can’t be bad, I’m thinking. Especially for me, where fatigue and lack of focus become such issues.

I may just try this at work, too. We’ll see how that works out.

Anyway, it’s a new day. It’s not raining, so I can go out for a walk. This is a needed change, and 2015 is already feeling like it’s opening up.

Dealing with TBI Burnout – Part I

It can be a real pain in the ass, to constantly adjust to a mis-behaving brain. All that adjustment can burn you out. And that’s pretty much what’s happening to me. I’m doing a lot, and I’m making great progress. But I’m also wearing myself down, and the more tired I get, the harder everything becomes, and the worse my brain mis-behaves.

And the more I have to adjust and adapt.

Which takes more time and energy.

Man, oh, man… there is so much I want to do. And it’s all good.It’s not only for me- it’s for others, as well. But I’m pushing myself too hard and too long, and it’s burning me out. To the point where I just want to walk away from it all. Take the $700 I have in the bank and just split. Forget about everything I am planning, all the things I want to do and experience, and just say “screw it all”. Just leave. And never look back.

Part of me feels like it should be enough for me to just be functional. To just get through the day and  find some enjoyment in my life. Who cares about making a difference in the world?  It’s never going to work, anyway.

That’s what the tired-out voice in my head is saying, these days.

You know, it’s funny… Now that I look at things, I realize that I may be getting sucked into someone else’s idea of what “awesome” is. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time thinking about and planning launching a formal business for all my various undertakings… really becoming independent in whole new ways. The thing of it is, that’s probably not the way I should go. I should probably not aim for total independence, because I know as well as anyone that if I go solo and have the chance to withdraw from the world, I will. I’ll isolate. I’ll stop interacting with anyone outside my immediate circle. I will stop being social, and I will hide myself away like a hermit.

Is that really the best thing for me? Or my business?

No.

I need to be out and about. I need to be social. It forces me to improve, to be better, to interact. And it’s good for me and my brain.

My tired-out brain…. That gets fixated on a Single Idea — in this case, becoming independent in every sense — and telling the rest of the world to go screw. That gets worn out and desperate and frustrated and starts fantasizing about some pretty much impossible/implausible goal off in the future, which takes me away from my present.

Good grief. All along, I’ve been convinced that I was working towards a cohesive goal… when I’ve actually been burned out and pushing myself harder and harder to Get There, just to keep the pain and frustration and anxiety at bay.

I don’t want to be 100% independent and blocked off from the rest of the world. I want the freedom to experiment and try things and relax… and not have to work 18 hours a day, every single day.  I want to be able to kick back and enjoy the progress I’ve made… enjoy the process of doing all the things I love to do. I can’t keep putting all that pressure on myself to “execute my plans”, day after day.

I need to stop doing this to myself. I need a break.

From myself.

So I can quit burning myself out.

That’s a bad habit.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have fun, every now and then?