Shaking things up just a little bit

railroad tracks on a gravel bed, one of them ends in the gravel
Time to step off the track and improvise. It’s good for my character.

I took a break from my memory training yesterday. I need to let my system just chill out and acclimate. I pushed myself for several days straight. Now it’s time to let the new connections in my brain (and all-over nervous system) chill out and have a rest. I’ll come back to my exercises in another couple of days.

I’m changing things up a bit. Heaven knows, I love my routines. I have had a lot of trouble in the past with getting things done – especially everyday things – so I have routinized many, many aspects of my life. It’s to the point where I don’t even need to think about doing a lot of things that used to really trip me up — getting myself out of bed, showered, dressed, fed, and out the door to work. It used to be such a trial and a pain — and every morning started with rage.

That’s a terrible way to live. So, I did something about it. I developed a routine I would stick with, each and every morning. It was rudimentary. It was far beneath my actual capabilities. But it relieved me of the need to think everything through, each and every day. So, it served a truly valuable purpose. I credit that routine with giving me a functional foundation again. And saving my self-respect in the process.

Now it’s time to shake things up a little bit. Change up the routines to get my brain to work a little harder.

As helpful as it is to do things the exact same way, in the exact same sequence every day, it’s also easy for my brain to just check out and not have to work at things as hard. When you’re struggling just to get out of bed and out the door to work each day, routine helps. But when you’ve got that down, and you know how to do it rote, sticking to the exact same routine can be a little deadening.

Because if you’re not continuously moving forward, then you’re actually moving backwards. Maybe not right away, but over time, if you don’t move… you’re in trouble.

So, I need to switch things around a little bit. I’ve been doing that at work, where I’m getting there earlier in the day. And I’ve been handling a wider variety of work, interacting with different people, taking on a wider array of responsibilities. I’ve been stepping into the kind of role I want to play in the future, and it’s been good. I figure I have the next year to figure out where I want to go and what I want to do — and that includes money. It turns out, I’m under-compensated. I checked on, and apparently, people are making a lot more money than I am, for doing the same work. I tend to lowball myself, because I tend to think that expensive people get cut first, but I may be wrong about that.

Anyway, I’ve been doing a wider array of things in my everyday life, too — more cleaning around the house, organizing, freeing up space and seeing how I can improve my living environment. I’ve been exercising religiously each morning, which itself is a bit of a change (I used to do it every now and then). I’m lifting weights differently. And I’m working on my swimming, doing more strokes that are harder for me and demand more of me. I’ve also been pushing myself to do extended laps, rather than just floating from one end of the pool to the other. It feels great to be in the water. And it also feels great to be tired, when I’m done with my workout.

I haven’t been doing as much walking on the weekends as I should. The summer was so hot and buggy. I just didn’t want to go out. I was also pretty tired. But I have to push myself to do better about that. I need to get out and walk today. Just up the road and back. Maybe on the hiking trails. It’s been raining for the past day or two, so things are wet and slippery, so I probably won’t go into the woods, where I could slip and fall and maybe not be found right away. I need to keep safe.

My spouse has a business engagement tonight, so I’ll be helping them get everything together for that. I have been more involved in their work, lately. It’s not quite to the point where I used to be involved, but I am doing more than I had been, over the past few years. They have lost a lot of supporters, over the past few years. I think their erratic emotions and highly demanding nature has put people off. Plus, my spouse expects people to do a lot for free — or be compensated just with words of thanks and gratitude. There’s more to compensation than that, but the don’t seem to understand that.

Well, that’s not my problem. I just need to take care of my own stuff.

But that also includes taking care of them. Because they’re getting older, and they’re not going to be 100% functional forever. We’ll need to make some changes — as my spouse becomes less able, and I continue to need to keep my career going, keep working, keep taking care of myself. I can’t see the point in sacrificing my success for them — no, our success, since everything I do really benefits us both. I am the breadwinner, after all.

So, I’ve been doing some research with regard to in-home care. It’s a thing now. I’ve had people tell me I should put them in a home, right after they had their severe health collapse, about 10 years ago. I was having trouble dealing with their constant neediness and the increased responsibilities of helping them get back on their feet, and a number of people told me I should look into some sort of managed care — that I shouldn’t stick around and have their bad decisions and habits affect me.

It’s just so bizarre to me, how people can be so cavalier about just ditching people who aren’t 100% functional and able-bodied. And I also can’t believe how easily others give up — that they don’t see how you can help someone work their way back to functionality (at least, without professional help). What a shame and a waste. Maybe if fewer people gave up, and more people realized just how much you can really do, we wouldn’t have as much human suffering. Maybe…

Anyway, after months and months of concern about how I’m going to help my spouse if/when they are unable to care for themself, I now know — I will find in-home care. It will be someone who they like, someone who’s really good and helpful. And I think it will be affordable. My spouse is on Medicare, so that might help pay for some of it. If not, I will find another way. If I can just stay at my current earning rate for the next 20 years (even if I never get another raise), I can afford to pay someone to come for 4-6 hours a day, four days a week. And if Medicare can help, even better. Unless something terrible happens to me (which is always a possibility), I can maintain my own state for the foreseeable future, just as-is. And that will let me adapt to my spouse’s changing status, as well.

This is yet another reason why I need to change things up with myself and my daily routine. I need to be flexible and capable under a variety of circumstances. I need to know how to keep my cool and soldier through. I need to be adaptable and not lose it, when things shift around me — as they invariably do. My current job is not secure, it’s not stable. It’s there for the time being, but I am pursuing different opportunities within my role at the company so that I can add them to my resume and beef up my desirability in the job market. Everything around me is an opportunity to improve and make myself stronger, more valuable, and able to command a higher dollar amount. I need those higher dollar amounts. It’s just ridiculous, that I should be paid less than I’m worth, so I need to start doing something about that.

And I am. Both by doing new and different things, and training myself to do those new and different things without losing my cool.


#Brain training test results – 10-20-16

Here are the results of my testing yesterday. I got my test sheet and folded it in fours, then I studied the image below, committing it to memory. I traced the lines with my finger, and I also stood with my shoulders wide and my hands on my hips, to have a kind of physical memory of it, because it looks almost like a robot standing with its hands on its hips. I tried to take my time, but I was distracted by my busy day ahead.

Starting Image

I noticed when I was starting out, I was a bit impatient. I was tired (still am), and I was running behind schedule. So, I felt very antsy while I was studying the image

About four hours passed until I did my first attempt at recollecting.

First Attempt

I did pretty well, getting the lines and all the pieces correct. However, I was a bit rushed, and the proportions were not correct. The top bar was too “chunky” (even though I remembered that the bar doesn’t go the whole way across). And I remembered the location of the circles in the middle. But I crowded them, and the bottom squares are too small. For some reason, I start out big, then I get smaller. I get nervous. I get rushed. And it shows.

At the end of the day, I took another shot:

Second Attempt

I was clearly tired and rushed — I started drawing the bottom squares too quickly and forgot that I needed to leave room for the circles. Then I caught myself and course-corrected. The bottom squares are still too small, proportionately speaking. And the right one is smaller than the left. When I’m tired and nervous, I draw smaller. And I was rushed. I didn’t take my time — I think because I was nervous about possibly forgetting what I had in my mind.

So, what does this teach me?

Mainly, that I need to come up with a more effective technique for remembering things and keeping them in mind. I also need to relax and not rush. Because that gets me in trouble. It might not seem like that big of a deal here — it’s just a drawing — but that generalizes to other parts of my life that I really need to keep clear and steady. The skills I build while doing this can come in handy in other ways.

Here you go – downloadable memory training/tests you can use over and over.

Well, that took less time than I expected

I’ve collected 17 similar images for memory training into a single document. Here it is: Memory Training with Circles, Squares and Lines

It’s a PDF you can download and print out. It’s 17 different versions of the circles and bars and squares training I’ve been doing. From the introductory text:

This collection of geometric shapes is designed to help train memory and attention to detail.

How does it work?

First, you fold the paper into four sides – in half in one direction, and then in half in the other direction.

fold the paper twice, in directions, then use the blank spaces and also the notes
Here’s how to fold the memory test sheets

Then, you study the image for a while, committing it to memory as much as possible.

Then you put the image aside and go do something else – you can think about the image a lot, occasionally, or not at all. You just get on with your life.

After an hour, or several hours, or maybe a whole day, you draw what you think is an exact replica of the image on one of the blank sides of the paper.

Then, you open up the sheet, so you can see your image beside the original, and you study it to see where you got details wrong, as well as where you got things right.

You can write down notes about your observations of your memory – what you remembered, what you forgot – and if anything “jumps out at you” about your drawing.

Repeat this process again, drawing what you think is the right image on the other blank part of the paper. Then open up the sheet and compare what you drew with the original.

Writing down notes can be a good way to train yourself about the kinds of details you missed. Nobody’s perfect, and some of the images are trickier than they seem.

Also, the images on all the pages look enough like each other that, as you do this exercise each day, you may find yourself remembering things that you committed to memory from before. This is on purpose. It’s meant to test you, to get you to really focus in on the unique and original image in front of you – not something you saw before.

At first, it may be tricky. And you may find yourself noticing things or forgetting things that surprise you. Let yourself be surprised. Learn about your mind and how it works. And learn how to memorize, one day at a time.

This collection of sheets is meant to be printed out, and each one used separately. You can re-print sheets to re-try. You can also make modifications to the original images to make them your own. You can also color in the sections of the original image and work on your color memory, too. It’s up to you.

You can use this however you want – just use it. Get better. Be better. And have fun, while you’re at it.

I hope this helps you and you find it useful. Just after doing my memory training for a few days, I was able to remember three items on a shopping list I’d left at home that morning. There were three items on the list. And I remembered them all. I was able to recall them mainly because I was able to visualize the writing — I didn’t remember the things, as much as I remembered the look of the writing of the list. But either way, it’s good. And it was such an awesome feeling to be walking through the grocery store with my other list (which was pretty long) AND remember the three items on the little list I’d forgotten at home that morning.

Obviously, I can’t guarantee results for everybody else. We are all very different from each other, and I’m a very visual thinker. So, my results are going to be probably be different from someone who is a verbal thinker, or someone who needs audio prompt.

But my philosophy is that every little bit helps, and strengthening one part of your brain can — and will — strengthen other parts as well.

So, give these exercises a try. I’ve made it easy for myself — and others — to use this. It’s not cumbersome. You have a rectangle of paper you keep around for as long as you need it. And then when you’re done with it, you can either toss it in the recycling (please don’t just throw it away – recycle, please), or you can keep it in a folder to track your progress over time.

It’s funny – when I think about my test the other day, I never even realized that the two squares underneath the bar were supposed to be separated. I totally missed that, both when I was drawing, as well as when I was reviewing. It took me a day to realize that. And then it was so obvious! Duh! But that’s how it goes with me, sometimes. So, I’ve gotta cut myself a break. For sure.

I hope you find this tool useful. I will absolutely be making more. It’s fun! And it helps! What could be better, than making life better for everyone?

Here’s the PDF download link again: Memory Training with Circles, Squares and Lines

Additional test for today – and every day


Here’s a shape I’m going to study for a while… then write a post… and then see if I can replicate it from memory. I’ve found that this helps me really improve my ability to notice details and also remember things. I used to do it a lot. Then I got distracted by other things, and I stopped. I think I’ll start again. Like… now.

In the midst of just going about my life, I’ve gotten to a point where a lot of things I used to really struggle with, have now become rote. I’ve put a ton of energy into developing routines and also getting the discipline together to follow them.

And now I need to shake things up a little bit.

This past weekend was such a shaking-up time. I spent a day and a half going at top speed, helping my spouse with an out-of-town event. Originally, they were going to have friends help, then that fell through.

Rather than leaving them to their own defenses, I agreed to go along, drive the long hours, and help them with prep and wrapping up after the event. I’m actually glad I went, because it got me out of the house and it got me out of my rut. Now, I’m exhausted and I had to take the day off work to recover, but I’m still feeling pretty good, overall. And it was a good exercise for me — good training to work on my composure and ability to plan and follow-through.

I do need to work on a number of things:

  • My memory, which I’ve gotten a little complacent about. I’ve gotten used to forgetting things and then scrambling to make up the difference. I’d like to do better about remembering, to begin with.
  • My planning, which I’ve gotten lax about. I like to “go with the flow” at times, but that tends to get me in trouble, and I lose track of what I’m doing.
  • My follow-through, which doesn’t always happen… thus screwing up the plans I had made, in the first place.
  • Keeping things clean and tidy. It’s not that I’m dirty — I just let things get a little disorganized at times, and that makes everything more complicated than it needs to be. I’d like to simplify my life, which means I need to tidy up more often. So I don’t need to expend energy figuring out what’s where, and how I can find it.
  • Simplifying things by just saying “no”. I expend an awful lot of time deciding between competing priorities. I used to have a “never gonna happen” list, and I put a whole bunch of projects on it. But I still need to do more pruning, and not get pulled off-track by different ideas and intriguing pastimes. I need to just turn down offers from folks who want to collaborate, and stick with My Main Activity, till that’s done.

All in all, I’m feeling pretty positive about my life and the changes I’ve made over the years. Now it’s time to bump it up a notch. I need to test myself more than I have been. I feel as though the rest of my life has taken off without me, and I’m riding in a wagon with a team of galloping horses. I’d like to have a better handle on the reins, if that’s how it’s going to be.

I also need to spend a lot more time thinking about what I’ve done right, after I’ve done it, than get bogged down in the things I want to do better… eventually… whenever I get around to it. I tend to get so caught up in making lists, that I lose sight of actually just doing the items on the list. So, I need to focus on the completion of items, and thinking about them after the fact, rather than planning ahead and getting myself all psyched up … that tires me out. And then I have no energy to just get everything done.

Okay, now for my attempt at recreating that image…


Mostly, it’s right. I’m feeling pretty positive about it. The places where I messed up, are with the direction of the “flag” on the left, as well as the sizes of the circles, relative to the lengths of the lines. The circles need to be a little bigger. I often seem to under-size the circles, for some reason.

All in all, though – it’s a good “go”.

Because we can… recover from #braininjury

wilderness trail going up steps and into the woods
Nobody said it’d be easy, but there is a way

It’s no secret to people who read this blog regularly, that I’m not a fan of the “you’ll never recover from brain injury” proponents.

How silly.

I mean, sure, there skills and abilities that will change — some of them drastically. And we may never be able to do certain things again.

But how damaging to talk about “recovery” only in terms of those things.

Recovery is about more than motor abilities. It’s about more than cognitive abilities. And behavior. It’s about quality of life, adjustment, getting yourself back, regardless of how much of a stranger you may feel like.

In fact, I would say that brain injury recovery is far more about recovering your Sense Of Self, than it is about re-learning how to walk and talk and do the things you used to do.

Because think about it — throughout our lives, we change. Our capabilities change. Our capacity changes. Our cognitive reserve changes. But we don’t declare ourselves disabled and incapable of having a real life, when our memory starts to “sputter” and we’re not able to run a 12-second 100-meter dash anymore. When we start to creak and ache in the morning or after a long day’s work, we don’t say, “Oh, well that’s it. I’m done for. I’ll never be any good again!” and give up our humanity, or our aspirations to living our lives.

And yet, that’s what we’re expected to do, when our brains change after an injury.

Because supposedly “there is no full recovery after brain injury”.

I don’t even want to think about how many people have been deeply harmed by this statement… how many people have been stripped — from the inside out — of their dignity and hope, because some individual in a white coat had a skewed vision of what “recovery” is all about.

We can recover from brain injury.

We DO recover from brain injury.

I — and many, many others — are walking, talking proof of that.

And nobody can convince me otherwise.

Using bad for good

I want to do more than keep my head above water.
I want to do more than keep my head above water.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. No – wait – three weeks, actually. Ever since the middle of September, things have been… exciting.

And I’ve been getting emotionally overwrought over little things that shouldn’t even be “moving the needle”. It’s costing me sleep. And it’s very intrusive. I’ll be going along, going about my business, just living my life… then all of a sudden, this rush of thoughts and emotions over stuff I have no control over (and don’t really understand) wash over me, and I’m hijacked by all that.

I’ve tried tamping it down, but that’s not working very well. It’s really bothering me, too. So, I have to do something different.

And I’m using that rush of emotion, the intrusive thoughts, the “riled” state I get into as motivation and propulsion to do good things. There’s a lot I want to do with my life, and there’s a lot I can do. So I’m using that unwelcome energy in welcome ways.

Getting my act together — cleaning up my work spaces… doing fall cleaning around the house… working out… really kicking it at work… being incredibly productive — far more than in the past… and finding ways that I can elevate myself. Somehow. Some way.

And also doing my mindfulness meditation, my zazen, just sitting and breathing, slowing down my racing mind and focusing on the in-breath and out-breath.

I can’t always control my thoughts. I can’t change what’s happened to me. But I can control what to do with it, and I can use the energy to accomplish things that I’ve been wanting to do. There are a bunch of things I’ve been wanting to do, so now I can use this rush that I get for something productive.

It’s all a learning process, of course.

This isn’t my favorite thing, but at least there’s something I can do with it all.

Balancing my system, taking better care of myself

rocks piled in a balanced arrangement on a beach with the sea behind them
All the pieces fit together. Steady… steady…

I had a good session with my new neuropsych on Monday. They’re a little concerned about all the stress going on in my life. Between job craziness and the challenges my spouse is having, and the ever-present danger of me actually injuring myself… sheesh, I’ve got a few things to manage.

And they’re not alone – I’m worried, too. Not so much worried… no, actually worried. I have to stay steady, I have to keep my act together. This is no time to fall apart. The thing is, life isn’t going to get any less exciting anytime soon. Everything feels like it’s ramping up, and I’m being forced to learn a lot. I’m not adverse to learning. I just get very rigid and brittle when I am under pressure, digging in my heels, walking away from challenges, and being generally difficult with others — who are relying on me to step up and play my part. On the outside, I seem fine, but inside, I’m freaking out, going through all kinds of mental “gyrations” over how unfair everything is, how much trouble I’m having, and how nothing ever works out in my favor. It’s a pity-party extraordinaire.

And that makes it difficult to change and adapt to the extent I — and others — need me to. I need to be there for people. I need to step up. But I get tired, and that rigidity kicks in. I push back. That’s not helpful. I need to just go with it.

That rigidity and brittleness is such a problem. But I know what can help assuage it… take the edge off… relieve the pressure. It’s called extreme self-care.

As in — doing my stretches each night before I go to bed. Doing some modified yoga stretches for my back and stretching my legs and arms and shoulders. If I don’t stretch, I wake up in the wee hours in all kinds of contorted pain.

As in — doing my intentional breathing after I’m done stretching. I sit on the edge of my bed and focus my attention on a spot on the wall across from me, and I do slow breathing — 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out — for a little while, till I feel my system relax and my breathing becomes easier. When I first start out, my system is all tight and tense, and I have a hard time just breathing regularly. But after about 10 in-and-out breaths, my system starts to relax, and I can actually do it without forcing myself. It doesn’t come automatically. It takes a while to get going. But it happens. And then I can relax.

I have also started doing measured breathing in the morning when I wake up. I don’t want to get out of bed, anyway, so I might as well work on my breathing and also relaxing. I lie there and relax my body and breathe. And after a while, I’m not as stressed out, and I actually want to get up. Then I go downstairs, get my exercise (cardio every day, weight lifting every other day), have my breakfast, and get into my day.

So, I have my ways of dealing with my situation — regulate my fight-flight response and keep my heart rate in a healthy range. Strengthen both my body and my mind, and keep making continuous progress.

One thing that is throwing me off, is that I have to do this at all. Most of the people I know don’t have to go to great lengths to rise to the occasion and deal with these crisis situations. They just do it. And they adapt without a lot of apparent pain and suffering. It seems like everyone else in my group is able to adjust and “jump on it”, while I’m still struggling to just get out of bed in a proper frame of mind.

It’s a little discouraging, but I’ve got “stuff” going on with me that nobody can see, and I know how much it affects me. So, I can’t lose sight of that — of my own issues, as well as my spouse’s issues. I’ve got a lot on my plate, even when everything isn’t falling to bits around me. And when everything gets that much more “exciting”, I have to take extra steps that others seem to not have to bother with. They can skip their exercise. They can eat anything they want. They can go without more than 4 hours of sleep, night after night, and it never seems to block them. They keep on.

Of course, it only goes for so long… No matter what, the human body can only take so much abuse. But in the meantime, they’re quite unaffected and love to wax eloquent about how much abuse they’re taking, and how much they’re getting done, regardless.

It’s all a smoke-screen in many cases, of course. At least I know my limits and I know how to work around them. It’s just a little demoralizing that I have to, while others can sail along without problems — getting the favorable attention of everyone who makes decisions about promotions.

In the end, though, all I really want is to lie down in peace at the end of the day. And that’s something I can control and manage on my own. The fact that nobody else really knows I have as many problems as I do, is testament to how well I’m doing.

And I want to keep it that way.

Because letting everyone around me know how much I’m struggling isn’t good for my career prospects, position on my team, or my life in general.

Just keep on… keep on…


Taking care of what needs taking care of

fairground ride spinning wildly
The ride’s getting rough – when can I get off?

Life is pretty crazy for me, right now. And it’s not going to get less crazy, anytime soon.

So, I need to create systems for myself… and stick with them.

I’ve got a pretty good system down for getting to bed at a decent hour. I just need to work on my ability to get as much sleep as I need.

Last weekend, I lost a day to socializing — a day I usually spend catching up with myself, my chores, my sleep. I spent the afternoon with some friends, instead of taking care of myself and catching up on my sleep. I really feel it now. They want to get together this coming Saturday, but I just can’t do it. Frankly, we spent the whole time discussing one person’s dysfunctional life — which has been caused by poor decision-making. It was very stressful to listen to, because they just weren’t all that coherent — and they were constantly apologizing for it, rather than doing something about it.

Plus, we were meeting in a Starbucks in a busy part of town, so there was constant noise, constant foot traffic, constant interruption, which made it hard for me to hear and also concentrate. It was exhausting to be honest. And there was an hour drive to and from – both directions.

That sort of activity doesn’t work for me. If I’m going to spend time on anything, it needs to be productive and beneficial for me, not just everyone else. I didn’t enjoy myself that much, to be honest. It was fine to be social, but then again, I get that at work, each day — way too much, each day, to be honest. When the weekend comes, I just want to drop.


So, this coming weekend, I’m doing just that — dropping. I’ve told them I can’t make it, and I need to stick with that. I have so little time to myself, I can’t spend what little I have on people who offer me nothing in return.

Anyway, I need to sort out my systems. Get myself on a better schedule with work. Take things a bit at a time, and plan things better in advance. I have a bunch of stuff I need to do with my house — fall cleaning, getting ready for winter — and most of all, I have to take care of myself.

It’s no good pushing myself, especially over other people’s self-created problems. I’m sorry they are going through all that, but I have no patience for folks who wallow. Especially when I’m having so much trouble, myself, and am just dealing with it all.

I have been having trouble, lately. I’ve not been sleeping well. I’ve been waking up in pain from my legs and back, and then I can’t get back to sleep. I’ve been having terrible dreams about traveling and missing flights, forgetting my passport, losing track of time, feeling like I’m dying, being told I’m going to die, having people threatening to kill me. It just hasn’t been fun, lately, in my dreams. And that takes a toll on my days.

Of course, this will pass. I will figure it out. I will sort through things and find out what’s next… what’s coming down the pike. To get there, I just need to keep steady, keep focused on what’s important — and what’s not. Get my exercise — I rode my exercise bike for nearly an hour, this morning, and I lifted heavier weights, and later today I plan to swim. Eat properly — I’m eating big salads for lunch, I eat fresh fruit and a bowl of raisin bran instead of junk food to keep my energy up, and I drink about half a gallon of distilled water each day. Take care of my body, so I have the strength and stamina to make it through.

And I will make it through. I have my dark moments, with pauses of silent tears when no one is around and I can let down my defenses. But that’s all part of it, I suppose. There’s so much going on, I’m overwhelmed and terribly uncertain about my spouse’s and my future. I don’t know if I’m up to the challenge of caring for them, as they age in the coming years. I don’t know if I’m up to the challenge of interacting with all the doctors and various providers we deal with. Plus, my spouse’s PCP died last weekend, and he was the one who really kept them going, kept them motivated, and believed in them. Now we have to find another doctor … and that’s a big source of concern with me.

We just need to take things one at a time and figure it out as we go. Some things you can’t plan for. So, I need to keep strong and flexible, for those times when an emergency comes up, or I get hit by the unexpected.

That means sleeping. It means eating right. It means exercising religiously. Treating my body like my best friend, which it is, really.

One thing at a time, one day at a time… it’ll happen.


Tricking myself into being functional

board-connectionMy memory is horrible. Terrible. I can be very clear about What Needs To Happen Next, in one minute, then a few minutes later, I’m lost (again). I forget all kinds of important things – like renewing my car registration on time. I just renewed it — after it expired at the end of September.

I knew I needed to do it. I just put the renewal form in a place I thought I’d see it, for sure. But then I didn’t spend much time in that place, over the past few weeks, and I only just saw it again.

I forget to turn on/off things before I leave the house. I was supposed to fix something on my spouse’s computer on Saturday, and I was getting ready to go meet some friends in a few hours. So, I turned on the computer, so I could quickly make those changes before I left. But I lost track of what I was doing, spaced on it, and then I took off without remembering it. When I got home six hours later, the computer was still up and running, ready for me to work on it.

It’s not a bad thing. Just a waste of energy. And time. And electricity. And money.

I’ve just renewed my car registration, and I need to print out the confirmation, which I can carry in my car for up to 60 days, while I wait for the stickers to arrive. There’s a chance I (or my spouse) will get pulled over because of tags, so I need to put the printouts in the car in an easy-to-find space — and also notify my spouse that that’s what’s happening.

My printer is downstairs on the other end of the house from where I’m working. And knowing me, I’ll be running late to work, so I’ll fly through my preparation before leaving. So, I need to trick myself into remembering that the printouts are on the printer, and I need to take them with me and put them in the car before I take off for work.

To do that, I’ve turned on extra lights in the room where the computer is. One of the lights is in plain view from the place where I put all my stuff together before leaving for work. Even if I forget about the printouts, I’ll see the light on in that room, walk in to the room to turn it off, and then see the other lights on around the computer, which I’ll also turn off.

Then I will (most likely) see the printout and remember to take it with me.

It would have been easier for me to renew my registration when it first came in, but I was lazy. I was also frazzled from work. I couldn’t get started. Executive function pretty much checked out on me, and I didn’t have the energy or motivation to overturn it.

I’ve been noticing more executive function challenges, lately, and I need to do something about that. I’m generally feeling like I need to strengthen myself, overall, and go back to working on my memory as well as my detail focus. I have been strongly oriented towards understanding the big picture issues in my life, but I feel like I’ve lost track of a lot of details. It’s a balance I need to find…

And so I’ll find it. Or create it. Or think of something.

In the meantime, I’ll just find ways to trick myself into doing the right thing, and work from there.

From Ken Collins – What is a Brain Injury –or- What 40 years living with a brain injury has taught me.

injured_brainWhen we injure our brain, we injure an important part of our body.

Our brains control our ability to think, talk, move, and breathe. In addition to being responsible for our senses, emotions, memory, and personality, our brain allows every part of our body to function even when we’re sleeping.

The brain can be hijacked by the limbic system after our brain injuries as outlined in this source:

Wikipedia: Amygdala hiijacking – Amygdala hijack is a term coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.[1] Drawing on the work of Joseph E. LeDoux, Goleman uses the term to describe emotional responses from people which are immediate and overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat.[2]

From the thalamus, a part of the stimulus goes directly to the amygdala while another part is sent to the neocortex or “thinking brain”. If the amygdala perceives a match to the stimulus, i.e., if the record of experiences in the hippocampus tells the amygdala that it is a fight, flight or freeze situation, then the amygdala triggers the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and hijacks the rational brain. This emotional brain activity processes information milliseconds earlier than the rational brain, so in case of a match, the amygdala acts before any possible direction from the neocortex can be received. If, however, the amygdala does not find any match to the stimulus received with its recorded threatening situations, then it acts according to the directions received from the neo-cortex. When the amygdala perceives a threat, it can lead that person to react irrationally and destructively.[3]

Goleman states that “[e]motions make us pay attention right now — this is urgent – and gives us an immediate action plan without having to think twice. The emotional component evolved very early: Do I eat it, or does it eat me?” The emotional response “can take over the rest of the brain in a millisecond if threatened.”[4]HYPERLINK “”[5] An amygdala hijack exhibits three signs: strong emotional reaction, sudden onset, and post-episode realization if the reaction was inappropriate.[4]

Goleman later emphasized that “self-control is crucial …when facing someone who is in the throes of an amygdala hijack”[6] so as to avoid a complementary hijacking – whether in work situations, or in private life. Thus for example ‘one key marital competence is for partners to learn to soothe their own distressed feelings…nothing gets resolved positively when husband or wife is in the midst of an emotional hijacking.'[7] The danger is that “when our partner becomes, in effect, our enemy, we are in the grip of an ‘amygdala hijack’ in which our emotional memory, lodged in the limbic center of our brain, rules our reactions without the benefit of logic or reason…which causes our bodies to go into a ‘fight or flight’ response.”[8].

Understanding the role stress plays on triggering the limbic system fight or flight response is critical for people to learn about after our brain injuries.

Brain injuries are often described as either traumatic or acquired based on the cause of the injury.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an insult to the brain, not of a degenerative or congenital nature, which is caused by an external physical force that may produce a diminished or altered state of consciousness, and results in an impairment of cognitive abilities or physical functioning. It can also result in the disturbance of behavioral or emotional functioning.

A TBI can affect our ability to, think and solve problems, move our body and speak, and control our behavior, emotions, and reactions.
Acquired brain injuries are caused by many medical conditions, including strokes, encephalitis, aneurysms, anoxia (lack of oxygen during surgery, drug overdose, or near drowning), metabolic disorders, meningitis, and brain tumors.

Although the causes of brain injury differs, the effects of these injuries on a person’s life are quite similar.
This is why understanding “what’s going on between our ears” is important after a brain injury to improve our quality of life and wellbeing.

Information about the role the Sympathetic Nervous System plays in the brain injury recovery process is seldom talked to us about by doctors or professionals because they only treat the symptoms.

The following information is critical to understand and has great value for people with brain injuries and their families to understand.

The Sympathetic Nervous System – “limbic system and autonomic nervous system” creates many problems people with brain injuries face during our recovery process. If people with brain injuries don’t understand the Sympathetic Nervous System and how it works – our family members and friends react to our emotions and unwittingly create more stress for us for us to deal with.

This stress triggers the “limbic system’s fight or flight response” into action.

We do not have any control over what we are reacting to because of the stress that is being generated by our emotions shuts down the thinking part of our brain – pre-frontal cortex. The stress The prefrontal cortex al

What happens next is – we react and they react, the stress builds and we lose control, get angry and have emotional meltdowns or worse.

The “limbic system” is autonomic. The fight or flight response in the limbic system has been triggered and is in control because the limbic system is in “survival mode”.

During any stressful situation our loved ones react to our “actions” and we react to theirs – which increases our stress during those hard and difficult times.

We (family members/ people with brain injuries and friends) get caught up in a reactionary mode instead of being proactive to keep the limbic system in check.

If we set up daily routines, have structure and find purpose and meaning in our lives we have a better chance of controlling stress and the situations that trigger the limbic system fight or flight response.

If we do not control the stress, our families and friends will constantly be reacting to issues we have little control over. Learning relaxation techniques like mindfulness-based stress reduction can help to stay calm so the limbic system is managed.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction can help with this and I encourage you to look this up on the internet because there is a lot to learn about this tool that can help us rebuild or lives after a brain injury.

After our brain injuries “emotional outbursts, anger, and memory issues” are an expression of the problems caused by our limbic system fight or flight response under stress. By understanding how our emotions can get out of control we will have a better understanding of why we react to things that don’t make any sense to us.

There is a reason for all this madness and by learning the role the sympathetic nervous system plays in our recovery, the better chance we have to live full and rewarding lives again – after our brain injuries! Amygdala hijack – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Amygdala hijack is a term coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.