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?

You do someone a favor…

I love to help others, but I never know what it’s going to turn into…

… and before you know it, it’s taken over your life. That seems to be where I end up a lot. Maybe it’s my impulse control issues cropping up again.Maybe it’s my tendency to get consumed by what I’m working on.Maybe it’s that the “simple” favors end up being quite complex because A) I have to work harder at them to get them done, and B) I find all sorts of things that need to be fixed along the way, and being the perfectionist I am — actually, no, I just want to get it done right — it’s got to get taken care of.

This doesn’t just happen with favors. It also happens with my own projects. I start out with a simple idea,and before you know it, I’ve complicated things beyond recognition, and I build out a whole life-altering drama around a simple project I started because “it seems like fun”. Again, I find additional things to focus on (all of which seem quite important) and everything balloons into something incredibly huge and complex.

In both cases, I tired myself out,and then I make sloppy mistakes and have to double back and try again, thus spending about twice the mount of time I originally intended to spend on it.

The irritating thing is,I don’t realize it until much farther down the line, when I have used up a lot of time and energy. As they say in Peanuts… Arrrrrrggggghhhhhh! It’s so frustrating. Especially when I get tired and I mess up other people’s stuff. Fatigue is such a Pain In The Ass. It turns me into an idiot — and I don’t realize it until much farther down the line.

In the end, though, I do these things, and they help other people. And it’s good practice for me. It’s no good, hiding away and not doing anything, because of fatigue. I just have to work through it, and learn from each time.

So, I’m trying to wrap up a project I’m working on for a friend. And I’m trying to wrap up TBI S.O.S., which actually does need to be “built out” a lot more than it is. I’ve got a lot of it written, which is great. But there’s a bunch of stuff that’s hidden inside that I need to sort out. and I have a feeling that when I start digging into it again (after a 2 month hiatus), it’s going to stir up a bunch of “stuff” with me.

Which is probably why I have taken a break from it for this long. Yes, I have some other projects I’m working on which have pulled me away for very good reason. But I’ve also been really struggling with some of the things I talk about, and it’s not always easy for me to function well, when I’m emotionally upset. And that’s even more emotionally upsetting for me, which turns the whole thing into a downward spiral that’s both mentally taxing and physically exhausting. When I get upset, I tend to get UPSET, complete with an internal storm (which may not be immediately visible from the outside) that throws me off for days.

When I’m “emotionally hungover” as some of my friends call it, I feel marginal for days. I have a hard time thinking and handling basic things, and I feel like I’m in a haze. It’s no good, when you have to really function at a very high level on a regular basis. Having a history of solid achievement in my professional life is a double-edged sword, which makes life … interesting, shall we say.

On the one hand, it puts me in an enviable position at work, where people look to me and rely on me for support and strength and reasonableness. In the midst of the madness, I project a demeanor of calm, cool, collected level-headedness, and people confide in me, at all levels. I’m discreet, so they know they can talk to me without it getting out to everyone.

On the other, it makes it all but impossible for me to be able to “slack off” (or even adjust my pace) in my life, to catch up with myself. Sometimes I just need to adjust — so I don’t wipe myself out and plunge into abject misery — but I really can’t back off my level of effort and my facade at work (and at home and in the world at large), because people are depending on me, and they need me to be something I can only be under ideal conditions.

The rest of the time, I’m faking it. Which is great for others, but really a pain in the ass for me… and ultimately for others, when I get tired and start to make stupid mistakes.

And then comes the scramble to adjust for those stupid mistakes and do damage control

Which, again, is tiring. And takes more of the energy from me that I need.

And all the world gets dim and grey and a lot more taxing than it should/could be.

And the inside of my head and world nudges a little closer to the edge of that abyss I spend so much time trying to avoid.

But nobody really knows or believes the extent of my efforts. So, it must all be easy for me, and I must be perfectly fine and have all this extra energy and surplus.

Right?

God, just thinking about how wrong that is, makes me tired. So I’m going to turn my attention — and the energy from all my frustrations — to writing some more. Doing something productive. Doing something meaningful for myself and for others. My hope is that I can get this book finished in the next couple of months, and then I can publish it and send it out to providers who think they know about how to address TBI, but aren’t factoring in the Sense-Of-Self issues. In all my reading and video watching and talking to my own neuropsychologist, I have not heard much reality-based talk about the effect that personal experiences with TBI has on prognosis of recovery and outcomes.

It’s not that people are idiots (well, some are, of course). It’s that they’re looking in the wrong place. And because folks with TBI are notoriously challenged at A) self-awareness, and B) articulation, what our experience is actually like, and how it affects the trajectory of our recovery, falls between the cracks and is lost — never to be found. Of course, you can’t look for something that you don’t know is there.

But I’m here to say that personal experience (or phenomenological influences, if you will) CAN and DOES have an enormous impact on recovery from TBI. And when you have providers who have not experienced it themselves, well then, my friends, we have a problem.

Time to do some writing. Onward.

Here’s some traveling music for you:

Using adversity as fuel

Sometimes these situations just come up

I’ve been complaining a bit more than I would like, lately. The space bar thing has thrown me off, to tell the truth. I really need to be able to type quickly, and it’s stopping me from doing that.

Maybe I’m in too much of a hurry, anyway.

It’s Monday. I’m tired from watching the Super Bowl last night and getting so pumped up at the end. But I did sleep till 7 a.m., which is a recent record for me. I’ve been waking up at 4:30 a.m., over the past few weeks, which has not done much for my energy levels.

I don’t have a lot of meetings today, so that’s good.

It will give me time to think things through with work.

It will also give me time to work on my coherent breathing, which has become much more important to me in the past weeks.

I have let my breathing practice slack off, for some reason. Maybe I got to a comfortable place and figured I didn’t need to do it so much anymore. Or I got lazy. Or I got bored.  Whatever the reason, I have been feeling the effects of having an out-of-balance autonomic nervous system, with my fight-flight way up there.

I think I let myself get into that state when I need the energy. I need to get pumped up to make it through,and I run out of steam with my daily schedule that is a long slog, each and every day. So I resort to stress to keep myself alert.

This is a common strategy throughout our culture. I’m not alone. But for someone with TBI, it can be a killer. It screws up our thinking process, and it makes it harder for us to function, even though we feel like we have all our ducks in a row. Too much fight-flight blocks your ability to learn, and that learning is the keystone of a solid recovery.

We have to retrain our brains to do many things — sometimes even the simplest of things. Learning is key for us. If we can’t learn, we’re screwed.

So, where does the energy come from? I’ve felt for a long time that we have massive stores of energy within us, waiting to be released. We just don’t always know how to release them. The trick is, figuring out how to release them. Figuring out how to access them.

One way to access the energy is through adversity — facing down situations that are tough and threatening, and rising to the occasion. And then really celebrating, when we come through to the other side in one piece.

My hands are getting tired, so I’m going to leave off now, but that’s just something to think about.

 

 

Whoa – tired

I dunno what it is, this week, but I am wiped out. There’s more drama at work, And the weather-related disruptions have not helped any. I’ve also been working crazy-hard on my projects, studying and testing the limits of my brain and attention.

So, of course I’m tired. I’ve been getting up early, and going to bed early, too.

As it should be.

And I have to always remember what fatigue can do to me. It clouds my judgment and makes it very difficult to think clearly. It makes me cranky and ill-mannered, and it makes me a little paranoid, too. I start to think people are saying and doing unkind things to me on purpose, instead of just being mindless.

It’s good to remember these things… so I don’t try to make people “pay” for things they haven’t even done.

Just a few things to keep in mind.

Endless headaches … continual symptoms… life goes on

What lies beneath – I live down there

For the past several weeks — on and off — I’ve been pulling together descriptions of what my symptoms are, Headaches, dizziness, nausea, feeling drugged and “doped up”, tremors and twitching in my face and hands… I usually don’t think about these things. I just get on with my life and don’t let them stop me.  Now that I’m putting them all down on paper to discuss with the new neuro, as well as review with my neuropsych.

You know, it’s funny… all this time, I’ve been really actively involved in my own recovery from TBI, and my neuropsych has had a very big positive influence on me, but not in ways that they probably intended. I think they’ve been thinking they’re helping me develop better skills and approaches — and they have.

But the real way they’ve helped, has been just being there reliably for me each week, to turn to and discuss matters of importance to me. Just being able to talk about my life to another person who can get it, is hugely helpful.

The only thing is, now I’m going down this path of digging into all these symptoms and complaints, and it feels very foreign to me. I spend so much of my time looking past the problems, disregarding the issues, coming up with ways to not have to deal with them explicitly – just work around them or do a variety of things to relieve them – that now I’m feeling the burn pretty intensely.

All the things I don’t talk about with others — because A) they can’t believe that it’s true, and B) they get all freaked out that I feel the way I do — is getting put down on paper. And it’s a trip.

God, I have a headache. And I’m sick to my stomach. Migraine? Who knows? And who cares?

There’s no sense in getting all depressed and upset about it. I can’t always do anything about the headaches — they don’t always respond to Advil, and the rest of the supposed “headache medicines” are like sugar pills to me. I’m much better off, just finding something I can focus my full attention on, and sticking with that.

Like my writing projects. Like the books I’m writing. Like the variety of things I have to occupy my attention. Fun things. A heck of a lot more fun than thinking about my headaches.

Anyway, life goes on, regardless. Or it doesn’t. Who knows how long any of us has, and why not make the most of it, while we can? I have my ways of dealing with headache that may even be more effective than medication. If you can’t feel the pain, you don’t have pain. So, if I can keep my focus on something that really captures my imagination and lifts my spirits, why not do that… instead of fretting about the headaches that never go away?

So long as it’s not something that’s life-threatening, why let it wreck my days? There is so much to do, so much to see, so much to experience… why let headaches stop me, when I know how to stop them?

Onward.