Getting my act back together

checklistOver the past couple of years, I feel as though I’ve let a lot of things slide. The main focus (with my neuropsych) was really on getting myself to not have such a harsh view of myself, and to lighten up on the “Type A” behavior and mindset.

That had its advantages, and I did learn to have a lot more compassion for myself. But it didn’t come without a cost.

I let a lot of things go. I wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked, with my undertakings and follow-through. To some, it looked like I was doing great, but under the surface, I was borderline-dissatisfied with how things were going.

And I knew I wanted to do better.

So, what sort of things do I want to improve?

First, how I take care of everyday business – paying bills, taking out the trash, keeping my home neat and clean. I get so blocked by all the details, and I end up feeling so overwhelmed — and then stupid, because I keep thinking, “it shouldn’t be this hard for me”.

And then nothing gets done.

So my new neuropsych is going to help me with this. They’re going to help me sort out the things that overwhelm me — and I can’t be embarrassed about getting overwhelmed about things. I just have to say it like it is, and get some help.

It’s more important to me to get myself in order and restore some real structure to certain aspects of my life, than to look good. I had that problem with my last neuropsych – I was a little too concerned with not looking like an idiot. But this one seems to have a much more frank perception of my issues, and they’re much more interested in working with me in goal-oriented ways.

Which is good.

So, this is a shift. It’s a change. And change is never easy for me. The thing is, I’ve been needing to make this change. I’ve been whining about feeling like I was being prevented from making this change. So, it makes no sense for me to block it from progressing.

Baby steps. One at a time. Crawl, walk, run… Or maybe just walk for a while, rather than running. The main thing is to keep going consistently and use my head, so I don’t get blown out of the water by my own enthusiasm. I tend to do that.

On it goes. Onward…




The useful discipline of simple things

What holds you back can teach you a lot
What holds you back can teach you a lot

The last five weeks have been a whirlwind tour.

It’s taking a lot out of me, as you may be able to tell from the slow-down in postings on this blog.

I just don’t have the energy I had in the past – not yet, anyway. And I need to find a new cadence to work by. I’ve been very sensitive to perceptions about my performance – especially when I arrive and when I leave for the day. It’s a small thing, I know, but it makes an impression.

Fortunately, my new boss does not micro-manage how I use my time. So long as the results are good… that’s what matters.

I can’t let myself get too tied up in sticking to a timetable. Yes, I do need to show up at work “on time”. But that can range anywhere from 7:30 a.m. to 9:15 am.

In any case, today’s a light day, as most folks are disappearing from the office around 1:00. For me, that’s like Christmas, because it means everyone will be gone, and I will have some uninterrupted time to focus and really concentrate on my work. My boss encouraged me to work from home, but I actually prefer to work at the office. I have two computer monitors at work, and I have all the water and light I can ask for. There’s nobody asking me to do anything that they can actually do themselves. And I can be in my own world.

That’s good.

Moving into this new job, I have been forced to make some significant choices. I can no longer spend hours and hours on my other creative projects. I have to pick and choose. I just don’t have the time or the energy to follow up on everything I used to work on. Whatever I do, I have to make it count – like living a haiku life.

I have constraints — not as much time, not as much energy, not as much inspiration, but lots of constraints. It’s probably a little like living in Japan — all those very busy people doing very BIG things on relatively small islands with limited resources. It forces you to make choices. And the results are not necessarily worse.

It’s all about economy, now. Focus. Getting things done in a very brief amount of useable time.

This is useful discipline. It pushes me to do more with less, which is a very good thing. No more excess and largesse… no more taking things for granted. Do one thing at a time, and do that thing to the absolute best of my ability.

And rest.

Get plenty of rest.

And move.

Get plenty of movement.

I think in TBI recovery — or really any recovery where you have less after the incident, than before — this is a useful mindset to cultivate. Going easy. Keeping focus. Holding to a simple pattern, and getting as much out of that as humanly possible. It teaches you much.

And that’s good.

Stabilized now… and rebuilding

Okay, I’ve been at my job just a few days shy of two weeks, and I’m getting settled in my new role and routine.

I’ve actually been able to get about 8 hours of sleep each night, most of the nights since I started my new job. Some nights I only get 5 or 6 hours (like last night — I woke up a little before 4 a.m., which gave me about 5-1/2 hours), but it doesn’t kill me like it used to.

So, this is good. And I’m settling into this new routine quite well.

This is an amazing opportunity I’ve been waiting for, for quite some time. It’s a chance to get myself stabilized with my rest and activity, to focus on my health, to get myself re-oriented towards what matters most to me — and spend the time working towards those things. I feel so fortunate, really. After so many years of struggling and battling and being pretty miserable, I’m finally at a place where I have some peace. And I can catch up with myself.

The biggest hurdle right now is distraction — losing sight of what matters most to me, and getting pulled off in a bunch of different directions that have no purpose, other than to distract and entertain me.

I gave up my smartphone when I quit my last job, so Facebook and social media have consumed a lot less of my life, in the past few weeks. That’s as it should be. I really don’t need to waste a bunch of time on the prattle that goes on there. Seriously, it is almost worse than useless. It’s actually a real problem, because what I get back is nowhere near what I expend on it.

It’s good to be done with that.

This new turn of things is a huge opportunity for me in so many ways. It’s also a chance for me to better manage my time. I’ve noticed that when I have tried to get places on time, the harder I try, the later I get. It’s very frustrating. It’s almost like the more I try to hit the gas, the harder I pump the brakes. So, I need to take a different approach.

So many different pieces of the puzzle of my life are coming together — largely because I now have the time to relax and step back and clear my head. I’m not perfect, by any stretch, and I’ve made some errors of judgment that have stressed me out a lot and tweaked my anger. I’ve had some blow-ups, and I’ve had some stresses from thinking about things wrong, so I need to do something about that.

But this will sort itself out, I am quite sure. I just need the time and space to get settled.

That’s happening. It has a chance to happen now.

And I’m taking advantage of that chance — like my life depends on it.

Because… well… it does.


Settling down and keeping up

Zen Rock Photograph – Frank Burnside – click here to buy a Fine Art Print

I got to bed at a decent time last night — 10:30 p.m., versus 12:30 a.m.  Then I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and almost couldn’t get back to sleep. I lay there for a few minutes, then decided to sit up and do my breathing exercises, which have helped me get back to sleep in the past. It did help me this time, too. After about half an hour, I got back to sleep and was down until 7, when my alarm went off. So, I got at least 7 hours of sleep last night. I can’t be 100% positive, but I’m pretty sure.

The interesting thing is that the more sleep I get, the more groggy I feel these days. It’s like I’m not stressed out enough to be alert. And that sucks.

So, I’m doing something about it. I had a pretty intense talk with my neuropsych yesterday, when I told them about a bunch of things that have been giving me trouble that I haven’t brought up before. The lurking, constant sense that something is going to go wrong, that I’m going to screw up, that I’m going to mis-speak and alienate people… that I’m going to keep talking trash and running my mouth and get myself in trouble…  It all lurks in the back of my mind, and it keeps me from really engaging fully in conversations and interactions with people. It keeps me from really engaging fully with my NP, because I’ve said things to them that have come out wrong, and I couldn’t back up and correct it — too slow to realize, then really felt like crap and was too busy being dismayed at what I’d said, to correct it.

It’s been hanging over my head – that happened over a year (maybe two years) ago with my NP, and it’s had a dampening effect ever since then. They don’t seem to realize how much it holds me back, and I definitely need to raise it as an issue and bring their attention to it. Because I’m telling you, I’m really, really good at covering things up, so how would they know?

I really don’t think they appreciate the extent to which this hobbles me. It also holds me back, in that I actively seek out situations and people that are hard on me — or when others are really tough on me, abusive even, I don’t stand up for myself and correct things. This has been an ongoing problem with my spouse for years — they can get pretty rough at times, and they can be very volatile and verbally aggressive. But I generally don’t say anything, because frankly having them yell at me keeps me sharp and it keeps me on my toes.

But it gets a little old after a while.

Likewise, when people at work are really hard on me, or they’re piling up more on me than I can reasonably take on (as they’ve been doing for the past 18 months), I don’t say a word. I welcome it, even. Because the added stress keeps me on my toes, and the added workload — even if it does exhaust me (maybe because it exhausts me) — sharpens my focus and blocks everything else out.

Like getting good sleep. Somehow, I don’t actually think I need to sleep, when I get in a hyper-stressed state.

But that all takes a toll. Big-time. Eventually things start to break down. I start to break down. And looking back on my employment history, I can see many, many occasions where I’ve skipped out of a job when I was completely maxed out and couldn’t continue. When I was so stressed and fried, I couldn’t think straight anymore. I had to get out. I had to start fresh. Because I was starting to make mistakes that came from the extended stress, and I cannot stand performing well and/or at less than my full capacity. I just hate it. So I’ve always moved on.

Now, however, I’m so maxed out and fried, that even if I did want to make a move, I would be incapable of making a decent choice. I’m seriously overloaded, and I’m stuck in reaction-gear, with reactivity running my days, rather than pro-activity. I’m just beat. And that’s not good. It has implications for my daily life. And it has implications for my future. The insights I got a few months back about the direction I want to go in for my career have stalled, and I’ve gotten pulled off in a dozen different directions that distract me from my ultimate goal — a goal that makes sense and serves my future. The stress of my present situation (which I thrived on for the first 9 months or so) is coming around to bite me in the ass in a very big way. And if I can’t turn this around, I’m going to continue to make the kinds of choices that put me in “professional harm’s way” time and time again. It’s just not good.

So, the first order is to get more sleep. I realized in a very immediate way, early this morning, that with my breathing and progressive relaxation, I can actually spend my time awake (if I do wake up too early) feeling well and relaxed, as well as doing body scans that help teach me how to gauge my stress levels — which can help when I am in dangerous situations. I don’t have to feel stressed and sick to my stomach, the way I did at 3:30 a.m. When I sit up and do my measured breathing, as well as do some relaxation, I actually feel physically better, and that helps me to relax further. And when I do my progressive relaxation and body scans (I tend to forget how tense my back and shoulders get), it helps me manage my stress all the better.

I have techniques I can use. And I have skills. I mustn’t forget that. I need to develop the kinds of habits — such as doing these exercises when I wake up too early, so I can get back to sleep — that will translate into a solid foundation of progress… and ultimately help me get to a place where I’m making decisions about people I’m around and work that I do for a living, because of the good they’re going to do me, not the attention-spiking threats they present to me.

So, I have work to do. But ironically, that work is about easing up… loosening up. It’s like with my shoulder. I’ve been lifting a lot, over the past couple of months, and I haven’t been stretching enough. And now my right shoulder (which was my throwing shoulder when I was in track in high school) is giving me trouble. I’m taking a few days off the weights to stretch and let it rest. And then when I get back into it, I need to be easy and remember to get plenty of rest then, too. It’s all a balance, but for some reason, balance feels like it’s “off” — probably because there’s not all this stress involved in it.

It’s not “off” — it’s just unfamiliar. Coming up with new habits that make this more familiar and help me to relax and just “be”… that’s the next step for me. Well, steps. ‘Cause I’m not sure that’s ever going to end. It’s a process. Heck, it’s life.

But enough writing. Time to live a little.

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