The up-sides of the down-sides

construction worker with ratchet on a steel beamIt’s been a wild couple of days. I had to work overtime twice in two days, which meant I was up from 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning till 3 a.m. yesterday, and I was working intensely for most of that time. We had a big project we had to get done, and we were missing two people on the team, since they had previously scheduled vacation and the big project’s schedule got changed to the worst possible dates.

Oh, well. We just had to deal with it.

And deal with it, I did.

I got 90 minutes of sleep between the two marathon testing sessions, and that was it. Half the time, I felt like I was dead on my feet, and my brain was mush. I was doubled over in pain, part of the time, because of eating the wrong stuff to keep my energy up, which led to digestive problems.

I have to be honest – it was pretty rough. But I got through it. And I ended up lasting longer than just about everybody else, which is typical. One of the upsides of dealing with fatigue and confusion and pain all the time, is that when things get really rough, all across the board, I can  — and usually will — persevere. I can stick it out and still perform. Because I’ve had plenty of practice. I know how to do it, because I do it, every single day, pretty much.

I’m usually tired, usually brain-fogged, usually struggling a bit at something or another. That’s pretty much the cards in the hand I’ve been dealt, because even if I weren’t dealing with TBI issues, I’d still be pushing myself — always harder, always farther, always faster. That’s just how I am. I’m not all that competitive against others. I’m mainly competitive against myself, and I always want to see how much better I can be, how much I can improve.

That’s just how I’m built.

So, of course, I’m going to experience these kinds of stresses and strains, these challenges, these difficulties. And when I’m called upon to kick in and contribute, I’ll do that to the max. To the utmost. I’m not going to hold back. It can be a problem, of course, because I can push myself too hard and overextend myself, but I’m aware of that risk, so I do something about it.

Bottom line, all the difficulties I’ve been up against, over the course of my life have strengthened and sharpened and honed me to this point. And even if I’m not as sharp and strong and honed as I’d ideally like to be, I’m still able to persevere, to hang in there. To stick it out and really do my best, no matter what.

That’s a huge up-side, for me and everyone around me.

And it makes the down-sides manageable.

It’s all part of it.

Onward.

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Unless we understand #TBI / #Concussion, we can’t really treat it

I’ve been more absent from this blog, this month, than I’d intended. Life… you know? It’s been very busy at work, and things are shifting with my role. I’ve had some additional training and workshops, and I’m still trying to figure out where I fit in.

Fortunately, I have help. There are a lot of folks at work who are eager to step in and pull people up to the level they need to be at. I’m not the only one who’s having some challenges navigating the new organizational structure, but fortunately, the expectation is that each and every one of us is going to have challenges and struggle somewhat.

So, that’s helpful, overall.

Getting support at work frees me up to get back to my mission: To write about long-term recovery from concussion / mild traumatic brain injury, and show that it is possible to restore your life after you’ve sustained a brain injury. There is a real dearth of information about this out in the world, and I’m (still) on a mission to do something about that.

I realize that all my … “gyrations” at work have distracted me from this mission. It’s been siphoning off all my energy and distracting me, which is the opposite of what I want and need. So, I’m settling down in my job, chilling out, and looking to my long-term future… 10… 15… 20… 30 years in the future.

And that frees me up to concentrate on the here-and-now with greater focus. It lets me get back to my mission.

The other day, while researching a post, I came across this article:

New Advice to Move More After a Concussion

When young athletes sustain concussions, they are typically told to rest until all symptoms disappear. That means no physical activity, reading, screen time or friends, and little light exposure, for multiple days and, in severe cases, weeks.

Restricting all forms of activity after a concussion is known as “cocooning.” But now new guidelines, written by an international panel of concussion experts and published this month in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, question that practice. Instead of cocooning, the new guidelines suggest that most young athletes should be encouraged to start being physically active within a day or two after the injury.

“The brain benefits from movement and exercise, including after a concussion,” says Dr. John Leddy, a professor of orthopedics at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, and one of the co-authors of the new guidelines.

And it makes sense to me. Because when you think about concussion / TBI in terms of what it is (an injury that disrupts connections and releases a bunch of “gunk” into the brain that shouldn’t be there), and you think about the brain in terms of what it does (processes information based on connections and makes new connections where none existed before), and you think about how the body works (moves all of that information through  – mentally and physically), then cocooning probably isn’t the thing to do for long periods of time.

TBI is a tricky thing. It’s different for everyone, of course, and something that works for one person might not work for another. But we’re all walking around in human bodies, and those human bodies function pretty much the same way.

So, if we use the principles of how the body and brain work, and we understand the nature of concussion, and we understand the dynamics of the whole scenario, new treatment approaches become clearer.

It surprises me a little bit that it took till May, 2017, to figure out how to better treat concussions. Then again, until the past 10-15 years or so, people didn’t really take “mild” traumatic brain injury that seriously. Everybody just laughed it off like it was no big deal.

Then we started to realize that onetime football players were ending up in a bad way — worse than the general public. And football players and their families started going public about their struggles. And people started talking — out loud — about stuff that used to be a source of terrible shame and embarrassment. The kinds of stuff that “you just didn’t talk about”, back in the day.

A lot has changed, thanks to research and increased awareness.

And we’re making progress in many areas.

But still, it surprises me, how much we don’t know… how much we still overlook… and how many people continue to struggle, months and years after a concussion or mTBI.

I have my own struggles, sure. A lot of the problems I had haven’t gone away completely. But after all these years of actively working on solutions, I’m doing a whole lot better at managing them, and that’s made all the difference. Maybe it’s true that brain injury can never be reversed, but then, life can never be reversed, and if we treat concussion issues as just another aspect of life that needs to be taken seriously and managed appropriately, it is very possible to have a “regular” life afterwards.

Sure, you’ll have to change some things. You’ll have to adjust. But life is full of those kinds of requirements. We don’t get a “pass” when we get injured, and the world jumps in to protect us. We just get a different set of challenges and difficulties and benefits to work with.

That being said, mental rigidity is probably one of the biggest hurdles to TBI recovery. The very black-and-white thinking that takes over when your brain gets injured can cause the injury to become even worse. Because you’re locked in a straitjacket of limited thinking. Getting your mindset out of the box and trying different things, living differently, getting on with your life, and being mindful about stuff… that can help hugely. I know it helped me more than I can say.

So, there are just a few more days left in Brain Injury Awareness Month. I’ve fallen far short of my stated plan to focus on brain injury recovery for the duration. I had such great plans… But of course… life. And my limits.

Turns out, what I’m taking away from Brain Injury Awareness Month is a reminder of how — yet again — I need to adjust my commitments and expectations and go a bit easier on myself. The thing to remember is that life goes on. And while I didn’t live up to my own expectations, the world keeps turning, the sun rises and sets, it snows and the snow melts, and the songbirds return to my bird feeder.

For today, that’s enough. It’s more than enough.

Starving today

bone with gristle on itI’m hungry today. As in, ravenous. I had my usual breakfast egg with some coffee, but that wasn’t nearly enough. So, I finished off a sandwich I’d made yesterday. I’m still hungry. This feels like the start of a migraine coming on, when everything feels weird and trippy, and I’m hungrier than usual.

It wouldn’t surprise me, if that were the case. It would make perfect sense, in fact.

Yesterday was a long day. I had to work, starting at 6 a.m., then I had to run some overdue errands. I had to prep for a trip to the next state, where my spouse and I were attending an art show by our friend who is literally on their deathbed. We were all hoping they’d be there, but they couldn’t make it.

Dying takes precedence. Especially doing it well.

I’ve had a lot of people pass in and out of my life. Death was a regular visitor to my family, when I was growing up. That’s what you get when you have a large family and you stay in touch with a wide array of second and third cousins (many of them once or twice removed). Grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends of the family… every year or so, somebody who meant something to me died, while I was growing up.

So, yeah, I have some familiarity with loss.

Plus, a lot of people have come in and out of my life through job changes, relocations, and just the usual migrations of people in these times. Whenever someone moved away, never to be seen or heard from again (this was pre-internet times), it was just as if they’d died. And that happened to me a lot.

It’s happened so much, that when people die, I don’t have the same level of devastation that others do. To me, dying is a mystery — which I’m not qualified to understand completely. I leave it up to The Great Almighty to work out. I don’t believe in hell, anymore, so I’m not really torn up when people die, thinking they might burn in fire and brimstone for all eternity. I tend to think of death more as a transition to a different state of being. The body dissolves, but it continues on. We’re breathing air that contains tiny bits of Beethoven, from what I’ve heard.

Anyway, yesterday was a marathon of sorts. I didn’t realize how tired I was, until I’d done my mid-day errands and had my shower… then started to crash. But there was no time to crash. I had to keep going. The 90-minute drive to where we were going took 2 hours (because my spouse forgot some stuff and we had to improvise & make stops at stores along the way). And when we got there, I couldn’t find parking. I couldn’t even find the venue where the art show was… it was really disorienting, and I was tired, so that was exciting.

I did find the place, though, and the evening commenced with way more social activity than I’ve seen in quite some time. I saw a number of people I used to hang out with a lot, and I did a lot more talking to like-minded people than I do on a daily basis. It was a very artsy crowd, which was a very different “feel” than the mainstream suburbanites I’m usually around. It wasn’t better, it wasn’t worse, it was just different. And doing “different” takes effort for me.

The ride home was trippy, too. I was even more out-of-it than I was driving there, and I nearly ran a red light. But we got home safe and sound, and I got in bed at a fairly decent hour. Slept like a rock. Strange dreams, though. To be expected.

Anyway, I have another full day ahead of me — a bunch of stuff to do this morning, then I crash this afternoon. All afternoon. The plan is to have a hot-hot shower at 1 p.m., then go back to bed and not set an alarm. Just sleep.

And that’s what it takes: a good balance between doing and not-doing, between going and resting. I’m at my best, when I’m hyper-engaged and keeping really busy doing things that matter to me. I haven’t done as much of that in the past couple of years, as I would have liked to. For some reason, everything felt like it was stacked against me, and no matter what I tried, nothing really worked out. But now this sense has unaccountably changed, and I’m feeling more optimistic and practically directed, than I have been in a while. It feels pretty good. I just need to remember to take good care of myself. When I’m starting to get signs of a migraine, take some time off to recover… and then get back into the flow with a good balance of what-is and what-will-be.

It’s always a balance, and now that feels even more important.

I’ve got stuff to do. I’ve got a life to live. There’s nothing like having someone close to you die, to remind you of how short life can be, and how important it is to bring your best to each and every day.

Duly noted.

Now, it’s time for another glass of water.

Adding back coffee – a little at a time.

Kim-Sutton-Positive-Productivity-Coffee-and-ComputerI’ve been “off” coffee for a couple of years now.

Well, not entirely off, but severely curtailed. I went from drinking 3-4 cups a day (starting with two big cups in the morning) to barely one cup a day.

I’d start with 1/3 cup of really strong coffee, and then I’d have another small cup of strong coffee in the afternoon — preferably no later than 2 p.m., because if I drank it later, it would throw off my sleep schedule, and then I couldn’t get to sleep.

And in between, I’d eat chocolate to keep myself going. Because… chocolate. Caffeine. Sugar. Other tasty anti-oxidants in there to pump up my flagging energy.

But I had to give it up. Chocolate. Especially coffee.

What would make me do such a thing as give up my regular flow of dark and lovely caffeine? Well, all those cups were contributing to migraines — constant headaches that rarely went away. I had a non-stop headache, it seemed, for years. And I didn’t even realize it could be any other way. I figured it was just how my life was going to be, for now and evermore.

Untrue.

When I was told by a neurologist that caffeine (which includes chocolate) can actually trigger migraines, it amazed me. Here, I’d thought they actually reduced headaches. That’s what I’d been told, anyway. But the science is there — with some kinds of migraines, caffeine can actually make things worse. And discontinuing can help.

That’s what happened with me.

But lately, I’ve been reintroducing a little more caffeine (and occasional chocolate) into my days, without too much adverse effect. I’ve been having slight headaches, but nowhere near the intense ones that used to be constant with me. And since I notice them more, now, than when they were non-stop, those headaches are a good signpost for when (and how) I need to make different choices and do things differently.

Just the other day, someone had left some candy on the counter near the coffee maker at work. It was a kind I used to really love. Couldn’t get enough of it. I was able to walk past both the coffee maker and the candy all morning, but in the afternoon, as I was making my 1:30 p.m. 1/2 cup of espresso, I nabbed a few pieces and ate them slowly.

Sweet. On so many levels.

And then I drank my 1/2 cup of coffee. And I had another 1/2 cup a few hours later. No immediate headache. At least, not that I could tell.

I’ve been drinking a little more coffee, nowadays… and while I have developed low-level headaches (I have one right now), they’re not so awful that I can’t function. I’m keeping an eye on it, but so far, so good.

And the other good news is that with my regular daily exercise and eating a really healthy diet, I have been able to get to sleep, even if I have a little caffeine after 2 p.m. Sometimes I’ll have some at 4:00, and I’ll still be able to get to sleep. I think it’s because I’m really actively living my life. I’m “all in”, each and every day, and I also usually finish up the day with stretching and relaxing before I go to sleep.

That last bit — stretching my back and legs before I tuck in for the night — has actually done me a world of good. If I don’t stretch, I often find myself waking up at 3 a.m. in pain, and I can’t get back to sleep.

So, stretching before sleep is really helpful. As is relaxing before I turn off the light. Just consciously relaxing makes a huge difference. Until I learned how to do it (it didn’t come naturally), life was a whole lot harder than it needed to be.

Well, it’s Friday, and that’s a good thing. I’ve got a full weekend ahead of me, and I’m working from home today to get myself geared up. Relax a little bit. Tie up loose ends from the week. And get ready for what’s next.

It’s all good.

Onward.

Five more TBI questions – and five responses

Am I OK?
… Am I OK?

Here are five more topics that people searched… and then found their way here. A lot of these sound familiar.

  • physiology of anger – Here are some links:
  • light drooling on right side after car crash – I occasionally have some weakness on the left side of my face, sometimes with tingling as well. Every now and then, when I am really tired, I will drool. Fortunately, that happens at home. The weakness happens most when my neck is messed up – when I rub my neck, I can feel the muscles in my face twingeing and tingling. Car crashes can really mess up your neck. So, who knows? Maybe this is related to a neck injury? Or some sort of nerve damage? That’s a good question for a (competent) doctor.
  • cravings following head injury – TBI is often associated with migraine. And migraine is often associated with cravings. I have bizarre cravings for junk food and other snacks, when I’m on the verge of a migraine. All of a sudden, I’m filling my face with all kinds of fatty, sugary, carb-heavy foods, and it makes no sense. Then the migraine sets in, and it all makes total sense — and once again, I wish I’d had the foresight to figure it out sooner. There may be other reasons for food cravings. TBI throws your biochemicals out of whack, and it rearranges your wiring, so why wouldn’t it affect your cravings? Makes sense to me.

So glad it’s Monday again

sunset-pineI’m sure you don’t hear that, everyday, but I’m really glad it’s Monday.

The weekend was long and rough – I was under the weather. All the activity of the last week caught up with me, and the transition to new providers is turning out to be more challenging than I expected.

Emotional lability is not my favorite thing. At all. It brings on migraines, and that leaves me dull and dumb for days on end.

I really need this transition time to proceed. Meeting with my old neuropsych once a week for the next five weeks is brutal. Just another reminder of change, which I have a hard time with, in any case. It might be easier if they were already gone, if they’d picked up and left without telling me. Then I could get on with my life, and put that all behind me.

But no. This is going to be a protracted process. A weekly reminder that things are changing.

Again.

Well, whatever. I just need to live my life as I have been – and get back into my week, when I can pour my energy into some focused activities. That’s really what saves me — getting out of my head and moving forward. Recognizing that there are going to be tough times, but that I can handle it, and in the end, everything is going to work out to the extent that I get involved in the action.

I made some good progress, this weekend on some of the projects I have going, and I spent a good amount of time in the woods. I got my naps, and I made some amazing meals. It wasn’t bad. I’m just glad I can get back to work and focus on something other than my own situation.

Onward.

How may I dismiss you? Let me count the ways…

blah-faceI read something really bothersome this morning – so bothersome, it’s tweaked my last raw nerve and put me in a mood.

It’s an article entitled “Top Ten Psychosomatic Symptoms” and apparently, it takes ~1 minute to read.

That should have been the first red flag. Nothing good can come of a diagnosis “aid” that takes 60 seconds to read.

Lo and behold, here are the top 10 symptoms created by your mind when the brain “attempt[s] to throw a person’s consciousness off guard by inducing physical changes in the body, in order to prevent the person from consciously experiencing difficult emotions, such as rage, sadness, and emotional distress.”

Oy. Here we go… all the ways that we’re not actually suffering from a real illness. The following may be all in your head:

  1. Chronic Pain Syndrome – not real pain… you just don’t want to deal with your emotions
  2. Fibromyalgia – odd… I thought it was settled, that it’s a real thing.
  3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – because repetitive stress injuries… nah, not really a thing.
  4. Gastrointestinal syndromes – maybe you should just try to relax
  5. Migraine headaches – apparently, the top-trending medical issue on Twitter is a chimera
  6. Frequent need for urination – because yer innards would never shift south and put pressure on your bladder, now would they?
  7. Tinnitus and Vertigo – okay… clearly the person writing this has never dealt with this crap on a daily basis… for years. I invite them to walk a mile in my shoes.
  8. Allergic phenomena – ’cause, like, our world is completely hypoallergenic. Not.
  9. Skin rashes (Eczema, hives, acne, etc.) – okay, possibly…
  10. Eating disorders – it’s been a long time since I read a more gross oversimplification

So, that’s the Hall of Shame for today, folks.

Be glad you don’t have the author for your therapist.

I sure am.

Of MLK Day and Migraines

ON THE MOVE: Dr. Martin Luther King, lower right, holds hands with his wife, Coretta, during an Alabama march. -- PHOTOGRAPHER: Associated Press
ON THE MOVE: Dr. Martin Luther King, lower right, holds hands with his wife, Coretta, during an Alabama march. — PHOTOGRAPHER: Associated Press

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everyone. If anyone deserves a holiday commemorating their work, it’s him.

What I love about this picture is that it shows that he was not alone in his work and his belief and his actions. He’s surrounded by a whole lot of people, some of whom look nothing like him.

That speaks to the power of A) someone who has a very, very clear vision of how things could be — and is willing to put themself on the line for it, and B) a cohesive group of committed people who support that cause and are willing to put themselves on the line, as well.

I grew up in the late 60s and early 70s, when students were bused in the small city we lived in, and the Black Power movement was on the rise. Those were the days after Dr. King’s life had ended, and I watched the Civil Rights Movement devolve into fractious fighting and chaos. I was attacked by other students a number of times because I didn’t look like them, and one of my most significant TBIs came at the hands of some of those kids. It was a violent time, a messy time, and there was a lot of harm done.

Of course, the pendulum tends to swing in different directions, so maybe that was to be expected. I’m not sure what would have happened, had Dr. King not been killed. There’s no guarantee things would not have descended into chaos, in any case. All I know is, those years of my childhood were extraordinarily tough, due to race relations, and I’m still dealing with the fallout.

Today is a holiday for many folks, including the schools. I actually don’t have the day off work. It’s an elective holiday for us, which means that office is going to be very quiet, as everybody with kids takes the day off to be with them. That also means there’s no point in me going into the office, and I can work from home.

That’s good.

I’m not in the mood to deal with people today. I’ve had a sick headache for days, now. It’s getting better, but it’s still around. Yesterday was better, probably because I got plenty of sleep over the weekend, I took it easy, and I cut out all that chocolate that I’ve been eating since the holidays. I’ve had at least 2 pieces of chocolate in the afternoons, for months. Sometimes I’ll have a bunch of it over the course of the day — to keep myself going. The amount has steadily increased, and I think it’s contributed to my migraines.

Chocolate has caffeine in it. Sugar, too. I’ve been using it as a substitute for coffee for those afternoon lulls. But that makes no sense — it’s still caffeine, which has been linked to migraines. I’ve also been drinking black tea (with honey) and yerba mate, both with caffeine. Come to think of it, when I started drinking more black tea (Red Rose is my favorite), the headaches started to come back.

So, I cut it all out for the past two days, and I’m feeling much better. I bit withrawal-ish, but better.

I had planned to get off caffeine completely, back in May, but that didn’t work. I have to have at least a little bit in the morning — I cut back on my amount drastically. The month of May came and went, and over the months, my headaches really subsided. But now, eight months later, I’ve slipped back into my old ways, and the headaches are back. So, I’m taking corrective action. And I’m just doing the smart thing — the thing that connects the dots.

I think there’s more to my headaches than just coffee. There’s usually more than one thing, with me. I ask myself: What all have I done differently over the past few months, that might have given rise to increased migraines?

  1. I was really off my regular diet over the holidays — eating a lot more sugar and carbs than usual, and not watching my portion control. I ate a LOT of candy, although I justified it by only eating chocolate, rather than a lot of other junk food. I told myself that dark chocolate is good for me, and it’s been linked with longevity. Who doesn’t want to live longer… all thanks to dark chocolate?
  2. I also stopped exercising regularly. I had a project in November that consumed my attention and kept me off the exercise bike, first thing in the morning. It also kept me off the trails on the weekends, and it consumed every spare moment of my time. Consequently, I lost muscle tone and strength and gained weight, and my energy level dropped. Not good.
  3. I was also pretty stressed at times over the holiday break. I got pretty bent out of shape about all the changes happening – work changes, doctor changes, etc. It got to me more than I care to admit, and it was definitely a factor in increased irritability. I wasn’t sleeping great, the stress was throwing me off, and I just didn’t feel like I could handle anything.
  4. Also… I worked from home for the week and a half around Christmas and New Years, and my spouse and I got irritable from being underfoot with each other. We had a couple of blow-ups, which shot up my blood pressure. I’ve been really struggling with my anger — and my heart rate — ever since. My headaches come on when my heart rate goes up, so it’s actually a helpful reminder to keep it down. And since I know how to lower my heart rate, I need to go back to just doing that. And so I have been. It takes time and practice — and I’ve been a bit out of practice.

think this is all inter-related, so I need to do something about it. And I’ve been doing just that. Laying off the chocolate. Doing my breathing exercises. Being extra-mindful about what’s going on around me and how I’m reacting to it. And taking action to reduce the stress. And making more of an effort to peacefully co-exist with my spouse. They’re making more of an effort, too. They actually asked me to work from home today, which is a huge change.

The most important thing for me is support. It make everything easier. I hadn’t mentioned my migraines to my spouse, during the holidays — I just did my usual shut-out thing, where I ignore the pain and hope it’ll go away. It didn’t, though. It just got worse. And of course, my spouse couldn’t figure out why I was in such rough shape, all of a sudden.

When I told them about my headaches, last week, suddenly there was support — compassion — and extra help with doing things like getting to bed at a decent hour and not overeating. They don’t do great with the whole TBI issues thing — it freaks them out, even to this day, and we can never discuss them without them going into some form of panic/anxiety. So, that’s no good. But they can deal with the idea that I have migraines. It doesn’t make them question their own safety and sanity.

If they think my brain is not working properly, they get frightened and combative, because it threatens their existence. But if they think I “just” have a sick headache, that poses no threat to them, and they can think clearly about how to help me. Migraines are less intimidating. Headaches are something they can relate to, without it turning into a life-and-death struggle… or pointing to a future filled with dementia and diapers.

So, “playing the migraine card” is a useful way to get the help I need, under these conditions. It helps, that it’s true.

And that’s good. Because all alone, dealing with all of this is a tough go.

Bottom line: when you have support from other like-minded individuals who share your vision and your dreams, you can actually achieve a thing or two.

Onward.

That food craving… Yeah, I guess it’s a migraine…

How my head feels, about now.
How my head feels, about now.

So, all last week, I was starving. All the time. I could not seem to eat enough, and I chronically over-ate at dinners. I was thinking it’s just the winter blues, and a way to keep my energy up. But it was most unusual, and unlike other times when I have been able to fight cravings (or just ignore them), I could not seem to resist that gnawing hunger.

Fortunately, I did not give in to the junk food cravings. I just ate more than usual, with extra trail mix, dark chocolate, non-dairy yogurt, and fruit. I really wanted to go to town on the chips and other snacks, but I managed to keep that at bay.

A few days ago, a headache started. It was “just” a throbbing on the top and front of my head, but I also had some tingling on the left side of my face, and my left eye was weeping a fair amount. I thought maybe it was a sinus infection, but my sinuses have been clear, so…

Now I’ve got a throbbing headache. Accompanied by nausea. And shakiness. Weakness. And sensitivity to light and noise. I lay down and took a nap, earlier today, and when I woke up, I was worse.

That’s how these things often go — I’m actually worse after I take a nap, which truly sucks.

Anyway, my weekend is pretty much clear of any obligatory running around, so I can take a load off and just relax for a few days. A dark room is my friend. But that’s hard, because all I really want to do is read up on some papers I downloaded, and do a bit of thinking and writing about them.

Knowing me, I’ll probably do it, anyway. I’ve been living productively with nauseating and half-crippling headaches for years. I had a nice respite for a few months, there, but now they’re back — and it feels worse now, because I know what it’s like to not have them.

Funny how that goes… So, whatever.

Drink my water. Take a little Advil just to make a statement — sometimes if I take two doses of a couple of them a couple hours apart, they have some effect. But usually, they don’t.

Oh, well.

Onward.

Until I got healthy fats in my diet, every improvement felt like a struggle

60-pct-fat-brainI’ve been thinking a lot about how things have changed for me and my TBI recovery, over the years. Thanksgiving is behind me, along with the anniversary of my fall in 2004. I’m now looking forward to 2016, looking back on my past and thinking about the future.

I have had some pretty amazing leaps forward, and now that I am in the process of finding a new neuropsychologist to work with, I am thinking a lot about where I am, relative to where I’ve been — and where I want to be. Truth be told, I have a long ways to go before I am where I really want to be. Maybe I’ll never get there. But I have my dreams. Likewise, I am so much farther along than I had been in the past. And the past year or so has seen a tremendous change in my mental state, my cognitive abilities, my resilience, and pretty much every aspect of my life. There are places where I am falling down and coming up short — memory issues, losing track of the big picture when all the details turn into many-headed hydras of problems, impulse control problems, and snapping at people (and internally) over nothing. But my ability to identify these things and deal with them is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was, just a few years back.

The thing is, at just about every turn in the road, even when I was making good progress, it felt like a struggle for me. Until the past year or so. Even when things have not been great for me, functionally, I’ve been more resilient, better able to handle the ups and downs, and I’ve learned. Lightning speed, compared to how I was before.

Coincidence? Just a fluke? Cumulative effects of good choices? I think nutrition changes have actually made the lion’s share of the difference. I mean, when I look at my life now, compared to prior years, there’s just no contest.

Today someone actually asked me about a ketogenic diet. I had toyed with the idea of that, some time back, thinking it would be helpful for me to “fine tune” my system and break my “addiction” to carbs and junk food. That was all very well and good, but it turned out to be a huge amount of work for me — I would have had to turn into a full-on zealot convert, to succeed. Plus, it turns out that the benefits can take a while to kick in. No thank you. I need to see results fairly quickly, or it just doesn’t keep my attention.

My bad, I know, but at least I know myself.

What I did do, however, is add healthy fats to my diet. The low-fat diet I was following was good, according to popular perception, but the more I read about the benefits of healthy fat — and thought about it too — the more sense it made to get some fatty goodness in my life.

And boy, am I glad I did!  If there is one thing I did that really tipped the scales in my favor, I believe it’s adding healthy fats to my diet. This is something my neuropsych would never tell me (because they’re not a nutritionist or doctor, so they don’t feel qualified to recommend these things – which is a shame). I had to find it out for myself. But if you think about it, it makes sense. We need protein and fats and good nutrition to keep our bodies nourished. A starving body has a hard time healing, and since saturated fat is one of the main components of brain (which is 60% fat, as it is), if you don’t have enough of the right kinds of fats, the brain just isn’t going to function at its peak.

I believe that’s what was happening to me over the years, and I suspect that’s what really delayed my recovery. Ten years seems like too long a time to recover from the fall I had — I know I have had a bunch of head traumas over the course of my life, but falling down a flight of stairs and hitting the back of my head doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that should nearly kill me and wreck my life for years on end.

I can’t help but wonder how things might have been, had I gotten more healthy fats in my system at the start. The brain, like any organism, needs help to heal. And by keeping my diet low-fat, I believe I was prolonging my recovery.

Not anymore.

If there’s one thing a person can do to help themself after a TBI/concussion, it’s get more healthy fats in their diet. Put a glob of Kerry Gold grass-fed butter in your coffee, instead of cream. Eat fish with high fat content — deep-water / cold water fish, especially — and foods with the good stuff, like avocados.

Drink your water. Get your exercise. Get plenty of sleep. Avoid stress.

And support your system with healthy fats, so your brain can heal faster and better.

Here’s a link to a site that gives you more information: http://greatist.com/eat/healthy-fats-best-foods-for-brain-health

Don’t be like me. There’s better information available, now. Give your brain what it needs to heal. Hopefully, you won’t have to be as patient as I have been, for as long as it’s been.

Onward.