#1 Takeaway: Vitamin D3 is essential for brain health, healing, and a healthy system. If you read nothing else, please make sure you get enough Vitamin D3. You can get it at any drug store or supermarket. It’s possibly one of the cheapest ways to heal up and stay healthy.
Including brain-healing and brain-healthy.
And it’s made a huge difference for me.
Now, for years my Vitamin D3 was low. My doctor (rest their soul) measured it each year and told me to just take 3,000 IUs a day, I’d get better. But they never explained to me exactly *why* I needed to take my Vitamin D3, other than it having to do with my bone density. So, I never actually took as much as I needed, and sure enough, year after year, my numbers went down… and down… and down… dangerously low. And I stayed that way in the interim, which can’t be good.
This is the doctor who just passed away last month after an 8-month battle with sarcoma. I really liked them, yet in some respects, I felt I wasn’t getting proper care. And if they hadn’t passed away, I would be working with another doctor. The Vitamin D3 thing is a big reason for that.
All the while I could have been checking intermittently to see how I was doing. But it wasn’t until I’d been low-low-low for something like 3-4 years that they actually scheduled follow-up tests. And then my levels bounced back. Because my neuropsych explained to me some of the importance of Vitamin D3 to cognition and feeling like a normal human being… and I also did some research on it.
But did my doctor (rest their soul) tell me any of this?
And that is a huge problem.
I’m going for my annual physical today. I’m 4 months overdue, because I was waiting for my doctor to return, which they never did. I’m going back to the same practice they were at before, because they have all my records, and I don’t feel like starting from scratch right now. After I have this physical and get my blood drawn and get my numbers, I’ll move on. I’ve found some doctors who look like possible candidates, and I’ll be interviewing them over the coming months. I take my health very seriously, and I am on a preventive care mission, to keep things from spiraling out of control like they have before… and also to make sure I am healthy for a long, long time.
I’ve just now come out of the woods with my TBI issues, and I don’t want to squander any more time on needless suffering and drama.
Vitamin D3 is a big part of it. I take 3,000 IUs religiously each morning – with my calcium-magnesium, B-Complex, Glutathione, Taurine, and a probiotic with 45 billion little bacteria to keep my gut healthy. I started with the Glutathione and Taurine a couple of weeks ago while I was on vacation, and I can’t sense any detrimental effects, so I’m going to keep taking them.
The king of them all, however, is Vitamin D3. I’ve been listening to Rhonda Patrick talk about it on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Here’s a video of it — it’s long — 3 hours. But the first hour has a lot of good stuff in it about Vitamin D3.
Apparently, D3 controls a whole bunch of things, and according to a theoretical paper by Dr. Rhonda Patrick, low Vitamin D3 could be implicated in things like autism. It’s all very complicated, but seratonin is involved, which is also related to gut inflammation, and it also has to do with other conditions where the gut is inflamed.
And I wonder if low Vitamin D3 hasn’t played a role in my brain not functioning properly — as well as often having been taken for autistic by people who just met me. I know I have a lot of abdominal inflammation — that’s another thing that my past doctor (rest their soul) said, every time I went in for an annual checkup. They noted it, but they didn’t actually take steps to do something about it. It’s like they expected me to tell them what to do.
I dunno. So much of the research is new and emerging, it’s hard to keep current, but if there are persistent issues that show up every single year and don’t change over time — and those issues can be connected with other health issues — then it seems like a prudent thing to actually do something about it.
I think so. And after today, I’m looking for another doctor who will take a preventive approach — not treat the human body like an overly complex system that cannot possibly be understood by any one person. That’s like saying, because I don’t understand the minutiae of electricity, I shouldn’t change the lightbulbs in my house, turn off the lights when I leave a room, or use energy-saving appliances. It’s like saying, because I don’t understand precisely how your car functions, you shouldn’t clean it or put gas in it, or do preventive maintenance. You should only take it to the mechanic when you hear a sound you cannot explain, or you break down by the side of the road.
People take better care of their vehicles than their bodies, by and large. If we know how to take care of our cars, why not apply those same principles to taking care of our bodies?
And why not take Vitamin D3? Seriously, the cost is so low, and the benefits are so immense, it only makes sense. It might even help clear up cognitive/behavioral issues for you — like it did for me.
I cannot say enough about this. And the more I listen to Dr. Rhonda Patrick talk about it, the more convinced I become.
Take your Vitamin D3 people. It is the one thing that will look out for you, when no one else will.
I’m cleaning up my home office, getting rid of a whole lot of junk stuff I have collected over the years.
To be fair, it’s not actually “junk” — it’s just leftovers from years gone by, which are no longer needed. I used to need these things. Or, in some cases, I thought I was going to need them, but it turned out, I didn’t. Lots of scrap paper… lots of cardboard I used to use for packing, when I was sending things to people. Lots of old equipment that needs to go to “technology heaven”.
And look… there’s the coupon for $10 off my next $50 spent at the hardware store. It’s good for another 3 days. That will come in handy — especially if I actually make it to the hardware store this weekend. I should. I have a number of things I need to pick up, and my garage needs to be cleaned out for the impending fall. Right now, it’s got too much stuff — and junk — taking up the space that my car should fill.
I’m feeling a little frustrated, right now. A lot of what I’m finding is a reminder of how much I have had to let go of. Or all the things that I had such hopes for, and never managed to make happen. I was really convinced, for so many years, that I was going to make all these dreams come true. But I never reckoned with the reality of fatigue, confusion, frustrations, and the constant toll that TBI-related stress and distraction takes on a person, day after day after day.
A number of objects in my office are from my spouse, and looking at them all, seeing how many things I’ve been given, which don’t actually suit my personality… or seeing how many of them were given to me in good faith (which I never followed through on)… that’s a little depressing, too. It’s a little disconcerting to have so many reminders that your significant other has never really understood you — and probably never will.
Then again, who ever really understands anyone? And in the midst of the sorting, I find one reminder after another of our bond — birthday cards, Valentine’s Day cards, little notes left for me that say “I love you!”… that’s really what matters. Everything else seems a best guess to me, anyway.
And I realize I am at a significant juncture in my life. I’m finally at a place, where I can relax and settle into my work, because it suits me, all across the board. For decades, I was not committed to my “day job” other than as a way to make a living and pay for the expenses of everyday life. I wasn’t invested in the least. I mean, it was hard to feel invested about anything in technology, back when the Web was first starting up. Nobody knew how it was going to go, if it would last, if it was “a thing”. It took many years for that to be proven, and now it’s a given.
And now, after so many years of work and pioneering and opening the frontier, the world I helped to create — as one tiny cog in a massive machine that has an intelligence all its own — I finally feel invested in it all. Because I connected with a company that’s invested in me. It really is remarkable, after so many years of being treated like I’m disposable, expendable, interchangeable. Like I didn’t matter, and nobody cared. The people around me cared, sure, but at the management level, it was all too Darwinian and it wasn’t at all conducive to getting the best performance out of the people who were committed to doing the work.
They didn’t even seem to realize that we were committed to doing the work. They just treated us like we showed up each day to earn a paycheck, and that was it. Eventually, no matter how much more it may all mean to you, if you’re treated that way, day in and day out, you can end up slipping into that mindset, yourself.
What a waste.
And for years — decades, really — my life was driven by a profound need to be more than just a cog in the machine, a plug in a hole that would have leaked if it weren’t plugged. I spent so, so many hours trying to fill that void left by my day job, seeking with every fiber and ounce to actually express myself in a way that made me “me”. It was a constant struggle to prove my identity, to prove my worth, to know that I was more than what I was treated like, day in and day out.
I wanted more, I needed more. I had to have it.
So, I created it myself. I carved out a niche for myself in my own life with constant work, constant writing, constant creation. I volunteered. I got involved in groups. I had an active life outside work, and I crammed a whole lot of stuff into it.
And for years, that worked. It just felt normal and right and free. As long as I was free, that’s all that mattered to me.
But then I fell and hit my head. And the freedom went away. It just seemed to evaporate overnight, and everything that had felt smooth and sensical, just turned into mush. I lost my spark. I lost the joy. I lost the passion that comes from within — it was replaced by a manic stress response that was fueled by pure adrenaline that came from post-traumatic stress, life-and-death choices, a long series of bad decisions that either trashed or threatened to destroy so much that I had worked so hard for.
The energy and passion I’d had before, which was always accompanied by hope, was replaced by rage and fear and anxiety. On the surface, it looked like I was still engaged and energetic, but inside I was a tangled mass of nerves.
Big difference from before. My fuel was not hope, but desperation. Confusion. Frustration. And the need to have enough stress in my life to keep my attention focused on what was in front of me.
The last 10 years have been a chaotic blur. A blur, because everything has seemed to happen so fast – and yet so slowly – and chaotic, because I could not figure out what was going on inside my head and outside of it, too. So much confusion. So much dancing on the edge of disaster — often without realizing it. So many poor decisions, so many knee-jerk reactions that cost me so much. Since 2004, I had 11 different positions – more, if you count changing roles within organizations. That’s more than one job change a year – I hopped from one position the next four times in about a year, back in 2008, without knowing why. Part of it was just bad decision-making, part of it was anxiety, part of it was not being able to function and needing to “skip town” before people found out how incompetent I was at the job I’d signed up for.
In the meantime, there were the marital troubles, the money shortage, the creditors knocking down my door and blowing up my cell phone, the logistical troubles, the health problems and cognitive decline of my spouse… Yeah, it’s been a wild ride.
And looking around me at my office, I see so many relics of the years before 2004, when everything seemed so simple and straightforward, and I was content to be living as I was. Back when my spouse was still healthy and working. Back when I was good with where I was, and everything just progressed and unfolded without concern for the future. Back before everything started to fall apart.
I’m cleaning up, now. I’m getting rid of the old stuff that I no longer want or need. And I’m saving what I can still use. The post-it notes that were given to me at a past job, when the company changed its branding and they had all these extra supplies to get rid of. The paper clips and butterfly clips. The pens I can still use. The notes I made, some time ago, about ideas that still interest me. Much of this I can still use.
But in a very different frame of mind. A relaxed frame of mind. A state of mind that makes it possible for me to settle in and concentrate — and not worry constantly about the outcome. A frame of mind that have not had in so many years. It’s more than relaxed. It’s at ease.
Finally, I can settle in and just enjoy my life again.
Not that things are completely event-less. Lately, there have been unfortunate losses in my family, a bunch of my friends lost their jobs, and things are not hunky-dory, all across the board. But my frame of mind is very different, now. And while I don’t much care for the tragedy, I can handle it without going off the deep end. I can walk through the crises without letting them wreck me, too. Whatever happens now, I feel as though I’m up to the challenge.
I know how to think things through.
I know how to break things down and take my time and work through them from start to finish.
I used to have that ability, years ago, then it went away. Now, ten years later, it’s back.
I think I found a new way to get a grip. I’ve written a bunch of times about how I’ve lost it over little things — dropping a spoon while I’m making my morning coffee, not being able to hold something firmly in hand, getting stuck in traffic, navigating tough situations at work, arguing with my spouse and having the argument spiral wildly out of control and escalate to the point of madness…and more.
It’s been an ongoing struggle for me, and it’s cost me plenty, to lose my grip and be reduced to an adrenaline-soaked pile of skin ‘n’ bones, shaking and sick to my stomach and regretting what I did or said for hours… days… weeks… sometimes years. Regret is a usual and customary part of my life.
In some ways, it’s the glue for my past. If I didn’t have regrets, and all the strong feelings that go along with them, I’m sure my perception of my life and my past would be very different from what it is right now. In some ways, I’m not sure my memory of my past would be as clear — the emotion of regret has pretty much locked some experiences in my memory for all time. Take away the regret, and you take away a big part of how I recollect my past.
Some folks say, “I have no regrets – I would do it all again the same way.”
These folks have no imagination.
I can think of a million different things I would do differently, if I had them to do all over again. And I can think of a million different outcomes that I wish had happened, versus what actually did. It’s not that I’m being hard on myself, it’s just that I see and recognize my limitations, and I am very clear about those instances where things did not go the way I wanted them to, because I “lost it”, sometimes for no apparent reason.
Do I wish I had not flipped out at my boss, back in 2005, and given him a piece of my TBI-addled mind? You betcha.
Do I wish I had not harangued and browbeaten and hassled my spouse, till they finally broke and threatened to divorce me — not once, but many, many times in the course of the past years? You’d better believe it.
Do I wish I had not gotten into those fights with the neighbor kids that got me in trouble with adults and other kids — who were older and bigger and meaner than little ole obnoxious me… and outnumbered me on top of it? How could I not?
Do I regret flying into road rage over nothing, really, and chasing people down a highway or side street to “show them”, several times, just a few months back? Absolutely.
My past is littered with poor decisions, as well as good decisions I couldn’t make good on, because of some stupid-ass impulse control issue or some idea that felt great at the time, but was a really dumb one, once I thought about it with a clear head. My life has been punctuated by overly emotional outbursts where my frustration and confusion got the best of me and turned me into someone I did not recognize. My memory is spotty to begin with, and the pieces I actually do have in place are anything but uniformly good.
So yeah, regret.
A lot of people tell me that regret is a “bad” thing to feel. They say it’s negative and it holds me back from really enjoying my life. They say the same thing about shame, but in all honesty I have a lot less problem with shame than with regret. I’ve heard shame defined as a humiliating sense that you should have done better, or somesuch. And then there’s guilt, where you make things that sucked into things that were your fault — as though you had so much control over those things to begin with. Shame isn’t such a big deal for me — sure, I usually have the sense that I should have done better, but it’s not that humiliating. It’s just a little embarrassing. Guilt isn’t such a huge deal for me, either, because things that suck are often just notmy fault, and I often have the very clear sense that I have no control over what happened or what resulted from it.
But regret? Yeah, there’s no lack of that with me.
But does it hold me back? Sometimes it does, but it doesn’t always have to. In fact, regret is probably one of the things that holds my life together. It might sound strange, but think about it — it’s a powerful emotion, and it’s always lurking right around the corner in my mind. I am keenly aware of all the things I’ve screwed up and how I wish I had done them differently. And that makes me even more keen to figure out how to NOT screw things up the next time.
See, that’s an important part of my recovery — being able to assess the outcomes of my behavior, see where I’ve screwed up, and then make an extra effort to get it right the next time. There is usually a next time, and when I’m using my head, I can make the most of new opportunities when they arise. It hasn’t always been easy, and I’ve often been humbled (and humiliated) by circumstances. But it’s paid off. Regret has served me well.
I’m currently having a new opportunity to re-do things that I’ve screwed up in the past. This is a big-time do-over, and I really want to make the most of it.
Basically, I have discovered that a very close relative of mine really screwed me over a couple of years ago. I won’t go into the details, because it’s complicated, but basically it’s about them pushing me out of the way (behind my back) and trying to cut me out of the family, because they believed I was “damaged goods” and I was a hindrance and a waste of time to my family. Things have been pretty touch-and-go with my family, over the years, and I’ve worked really hard to make up for the things I messed up — and I thought I was doing pretty well, a couple of years ago.
Now I find out (through old correspondence and writings) that there were some serious “operations” going on to push me out of the family, string me along on the surface, but keep me clueless about what was really going on. I come to find out that there were all kinds activities my family members were doing with each other over the space of a couple years — they had a great time and really enjoyed themselves, and never said a word to me. In fact, they hid it from me and pretended it never even happened. I thought something was up, a few years back, and I asked about it, but everyone flatly denied that anything was going on that I didn’t know about.
Two individuals, in particular, were driving the whole thing, and they kept me in the dark while organizing activities and having a grand time… while I was working my ass off at work, just trying to make ends meet, and generally struggling with so much on a daily basis without any real moral support.
Funny, I thought people were more distant than usual.
Now it turns out, I was not only right about something going on, but I vastly underestimated the extent to which I was cut out of things. There was even talk of some large-scale activities which involved people very close to me, to whom I have turned for support many times. Basically, they were going to ditch me and go traveling, see sights, do lots of different things… a full roster of family activities, to which I would not be invited. In the stuff I read, I was dismissed as an impediment to their fun, with talk about how so-and-so “handled” me and “talked me down” when I was upset. Like I was some kind of mentally deficient village idiot they just couldn’t be bothered with.
God, cut me, why don’tcha… When I read this stuff over the weekend, it really threw me for a loop. There was this whole other world that people very close to me were developing, and not only was I not invited, but I was un-invited, deliberately pushed to the side, like I was some kind of human flotsam. Dismissed. Disposed of. Like I didn’t matter, and they couldn’t be bothered. I had been feeling bad about feeling a bit pushed to the side, but I didn’t want to make that big of a deal out of it before. Now I realize that it was a much bigger issue than I ever imagined, and in addition to feeling hurt and betrayed, I also feel like a complete idiot for not realizing what was going on, and basically fulfilling their expectations that I was a clueless, brain-damaged idiot who would never know the difference.
And that stings.
Yesterday was a pretty rough day for me. It was like Day One of the new world… and I had a hundred different ideas about how to confront people and let them know that I KNEW what they had done, and although I never pressed the issue before, I still knew that something was going on. I’m not thatdamaged. I wanted them to know that I had a lot more details now, than they ever thought I would… and I wanted to take ’em all down. Cut them out of my life. Just dispose of them, the way they’d tried to dispose of me.
The only thing is, they’re my family. And when I really thought about it yesterday, I realized that over the past six months, they’ve been trying to do better with me. I think the guilt just got to them. And shame. The realization that what they were doing was really pretty shitty must have sunk in, and they decided to change their ways. They’ve been trying — noticeably — for the past six months or so, to make room for me and include me in things.
And now the question comes down to this — do I let myself fly off the handle with them, confront them, and try to punish them, for what they did before… or do I let it go and allow them to make amends for their callous unkindness? They really seem to be trying, and they seem to have had a real change of heart, and I don’t want to screw that up. It might make me feel better to confront them and make them “pay for what they did to me”, but in the long run, how will that help? I know what they did. They know what they did. Who knows why they did it, and who knows — maybe it was just one bad idea that someone had once, which then took on a life if its own… and then they all got carried away in the heat of the moment and continued to make those unkind decisions just ’cause it seemed like the thing to do.
I will never know that. Nor will I ever know what changed their minds about things and caused the change of heart.
All I know is this — years from now, when I look back on this time, I don’t want to remember flying off the handle and going off the deep end, doing my “scorched earth” meltdown freak-out thing with people who are my family and my main support. I don’t want to think back on this time as one when I lost it, when I trashed the attempts to make things right, out of my hurt and pain and insecurity and need to make others hurt the way I am hurting right now.
No doubt about it, this is very painful. It’s been excruciating. To be so dismissed and so marginalized and just pushed aside like a piece of trash… it just reminds me of all the other times in my life when that was done to me, and it just feels terrible. But even more terrible would be to let that pain and hurt take over my life and proceed to cause more pain and hurt in the lives of others.
That’s the kind of memory I don’t want to make. That’s the kind of experience I don’t want to have. Because no matter how justified I am in my hunger for revenge and vindication, no matter how much right I have to eye-for-eye justice, the long-term fallout of that kind of thinking and behavior is much worse than the original cause for it. It’s bad enough that I was deceived for over a year about things that mattered so much to me. It’s bad enough that the people I trusted most turned against me and made fun of me and treated me like just some tool. But if I let loose with a rampage, then any recovery from that is going to be delayed — for a lot longer than a few years. And knowing me, when I get going, I say and do things that can never be taken back. And if I let myself get to that place of uninhibited attack, I can do more damage than I intend to.
I should know. My past is littered with experiences like that.
And I don’t want to do it again.
So, I’m just letting it go. I have to. I am overworked and over-tired, and if I indulge my outrage, I’m going to be even more overworked and fatigued as I try to clean things up on my side. I’m doing my best to turn my attention to more positive things and focus on the good stuff in my life, not dwell on the bad. I know what it’s like to have a bad idea and then let it spring into life and let it get out of hand. I know what it’s like to not be able to stop myself from doing and saying those things and hurt someone I care deeply about. I know what it’s like to be human, and that’s what happened with my family — they just got really human, a couple of years ago.
And now they’re trying to make it up to me.
They’re being really nice to me. Considerate. Caring, actually. More than ever. I’m not going to push that aside, I’m going to let them do it, regardless of the reason. The past is the past, and while it hurts like hell to find out the inside story, it’s still the past. And I have a present and a future I need to take care of.
I can’t let the bad decisions and behavior of others dictate my own behavior and state of mind. I’ve let that happen in the past, and this time I have a chance to do it over — do it differently. I have a lot of really great prospects ahead of me, and if I let this revelation get the best of me, then Ilose out. And I don’t want to do that. I have been through some pretty tough things, but this is one of the toughest… and when I look back on this time, I want to look back with pride that I handled myself well, that I dealt with everything as a sovereign adult, and that I chose to rise above it and not wallow in petty hurt and pain, which only serve to make me unhappy and unhealthy in so many ways.
Life can really suck, sometimes. Pain happens. Betrayal happens. So does deceit and scheming and all kinds of sick little games. Freak-outs happen, too. As do meltdowns and breakups. But in the midst of this upheaval, I’ve got a new chance to handle the old shit in a new way. And I will. Because when I look back, years from now, I want my memory of this time to be full of pride, not only pain. I don’t want to have this be the kind of thing I regret and carry around with me as yet another example of how I can’t keep my act together. I want the moment to belong to me, not to others who tried — once upon a time — to ditch me and treat me like I was nothing.
They’re trying to make it up to me. They’re still not admitting anything, and they’re still hiding what went on, but at least they’re trying to make it up to me. And that’s a positive change for the better.
Life is waiting, and it has a lot in store — lots of it very good stuff indeed.
Time has really gotten away from me, this morning. I was up early with my spouse – who was up late (really late) – and we got to talking, which is good. I have a doctor’s appointment in another hour and a half, and I need to get ready to go. And here I thought I had at least another hour. Funny, how the time flies when I go online.
Anyway, it’s 12/21/12 – the big day, according to a lot of folks. Some go on and on about the end of the world, but what I’ve heard from more folks is that it’s actually the beginning of the next one. A new world. A new start. Not right away – for what really changes in an instant, if it’s truly going to last? But starting now, moving gradually towards What’s Next.
Now, I am pretty much of an agnostic, when it comes to this sort of stuff. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. Who the heck knows? But it is a way I like to think about things. And even if there’s nothing special about this day, other than it’s the marker of when the days start to get longer (and people Up North get closer to seeing some sunlight again), and that we have attached certain numbers to it, I can certainly choose to do with it what I like.
Just like I can every single day.
If I want numbers to inspire me, I can look at the clock — I can decide at 12:12 or 12:21, each and every day, to start fresh – hit the proverbial reset button. Or I can set my alarm for 3:33 each afternoon and treat that as a “reset”. Probably not a bad idea, since my daily clock seems to wind down around 12 noon each day, and then pick up each afternoon around 3:30 or so.
Numbers… Yeah, numbers. I have always played games with them, and I find them fascinating. When I’m driving long distances and I get tired, I play games with the numbered mile markers beside the highway, and that perks me up right away. Whatever does it for you to make your day a little more interesting, a little less stressed, a little more enjoyable… well, that’s alright by me.
And whatever it takes to get our heads out of a terrible space, is fine with me — provided it’s not killing brain cells or doing harm to others (which a lot of people find enjoyable, sadly). My argument about all the Doomsday stuff is that We Just Don’t Know. We can think we know, we can suppose to know, but doomsday-sayers have been in that business for as long as humans have walked the earth. And magically, we’re still here.
The only impact they seem to have is making us feel like crap, while we’re waiting for something that isn’t going to happen.
Now, I’m not going to get into a theological debate over this — I’m just saying that for all the people who have staked their reputations on THE END being just around the corner, how many of them do you remember? Few, if any. Because when they’re proven wrong, as they so often are, they just fade from view — and go back to their work doing whatever they were doing before. And all we’re left with is a bad taste in our mouths and a little more stress to drag us down.
So, on this momentous day, when certain people are celebrating the end of the old and the beginning of the new, I look to the day myself, and I wonder what else I can do that will improve my life and the lives of those around me. Whatever the date, whatever the occasion, it’s a good thing to do in any case. I think about the ways I can turn things around that I’m not happy about… including my doctor’s impression of me as a “risk taker” that I am very uncomfortable with. I shall be having a conversation with them in another couple of hours, and I’m writing it all down ahead of time, so I don’t lose my train of thought. I can turn things around at work by really focusing on what’s in front of me, not getting distracted, and doing a better job of following up. I can improve my experience overall, by improving the skills that make me feel like the person I really am with the capabilities I really have. And I can find other like-minded individuals who are seeking to make the same kinds of positive changes — both personally and on the larger social and cultural stage.
For some reason, this time really feels like a turning point for me. I feel pretty energized by the possibilities… and the thing that makes me feel even more energized, is hearing so many people talk about new beginnings, where a week or so ago, they were talking about drudgery and sadness and misfortune and all that. People are stepping up to take more responsibility for their lives and their situations, and that’s really exciting for me. Because I’ve always known it was possible — and now with this “new era” dawning, more people are starting to agree with me.
I guess that’s the thing that excites me the most about this Winter Solstice — that other people are realizing the same thing I’ve know for many, many years: that anything is possible, if we put our minds and hearts to it, and we don’t accept the same-old-same-old as a given.
Truly, it is a new day. And I’m so happy others are seeing it, too. 🙂
And there we have it — what we eat becomes what we are. And too many of us are not eating the right foods. What’s more, a lot of us who need more and better nutrition than others (athletes, for example) are drinking things like Gatorade, which has a bunch of stuff that’s actually neurotoxic, as well as processed foods that are full of sugar and chemicals that just get in the way of our bodies’ natural ability to heal and repair itself.
Personally, I’ve experienced really dramatic changes in my health and outlook and psychology when I’ve changed my diet and cleaned up my act. It’s remarkable what a difference a “real meal” will do for you — grass-fed beef, fresh green beans, corn in season, maybe a side salad, and something chocolate or non-dairy for dessert. Especially when you’re the one who cooked it.
And you know what’s in it. Because you prepared it yourself. (I won’t get into the whole GMO discussion here, because that’s a bigger and more depressing subject than I care to cover at this point).
Anyway, food. Yeah. And exercise. I went to bed sore and I woke up sore this morning from pushing myself pretty hard in my workout yesterday. What a difference a good workout makes. I’m being smarter about it than in the past, taking a day between each pushing-hard session to give my body a chance to recover. I definitely over-trained before, and it took it out of me. No more. Now it’s better.
And living. Yesterday I went for a walk in the rain, and it was amazing. The fall colors, the feel of the rain, the colors in the rain, and the feel of being out when everyone else was inside… I pretty much had the place to myself on my walk — except for one hardy soul who was out running… kindred spirit. We both recognized each other — not personally, but by nature. There’s nothing like stepping away from the everyday to find your tribe.
And I realize that if there’s anything that’s really helped me heal and get my life back in order, it’s been doing just that — stepping away from the everyday and finding my tribe… finding the people who are on the same wavelength as me, who have the same priorities, who have the same kinds of quirks and things that remind them, they are just a bit different from the status quo. I think most people have those quirks and things, but the big difference is in who follows through on living their quirks to the fullest.
And that heals, you know? Even when your life has become something completely different from what you remember and recognize and expect. Even when your abilities have changed, your personality has altered, and you don’t recognize yourself anymore. Just being this new person, living this new life, and doing it to the best of your ability is going to give you the needed practice to get to a place where you finally do recognize yourself, you can find yourself in the midst of all the newness, and you can both find others like the new you — and let them find you.
But that’s not going to happen until you push yourself to be and do and experience and just accept it all as the kind of stuff that just happens sometimes.
All this being said (and assuming that folks are reading this far into the post), I want to reiterate something I’ve mentioned several times in the past, but which is – to me – so very critical and crucial in terms of concussion/TBI response:
Shit happens. Concussion happens. TBI happens. And it can have long-term consequences. But we can heal. We can — and should — put our attention not only on prevention, but also responsible response and follow-up to mild traumatic brain injuries. It’s not enough to know it’s a terrible thing. It’s not enough to pass laws and develop new helmets and protocols. It’s not enough to have a computer tell you if something is wrong. At some point, we have to start living our lives — and live them to the fullest, NOT get stuck in the drama that comes in the aftermath. At some point, we’ve got to get down to the business of living our lives to the best of our abilities — which is actually a potent healing practice in itself.
Yes, there is a specter of long-term consequences that hangs over us. CTE. Alzheimers. Dementia. Scary stuff. But that specter should not keep us from living to our fullest in this moment. There’s no guarantee that any of us will live long enough to develop degenerative neurological conditions, anyway. We can’t just sit in the shadows, holding our heads, feeling sorry and depressed and victimized. Sometimes you just have to get up and go out into the world and see what happens.
It won’t always work, and for some it could be a lost cause. But why not at least give it a go?
Now, enough of this blog stuff — let’s get back to the business of life.
I’ve been having some interesting times, lately – and not in the sense of the Chinese curse about “living in interesting times”. I seem to have turned a corner of sorts, seemingly out of the blue… it’s like things have just focused for me and centered, and even though I don’t know the specifics of what I’m going to be doing about specific things, I have this certainty that things are going to roll out the way they should, and I will find a way to roll with them.
The vacation I took had a lot to do with it, as did the insane 3-4 weeks leading up to it. For about a month, I was all-out, just flat-out working-working-working, without distraction, without confusion. That focus came from a sort of iffy place — basically, I knew I was screwed. That much was plain. The work that I’d been doing for the past year came under a huge amount of scrutiny at work, and people decided it wasn’t what they wanted — even though they didn’t bother asking me about the specifics, they loaded me up with a ton of other work, and they just sort of shoved it all off on me like it was a pain and a hindrance. For two years, they don’t pay any attention to me, don’t listen when I give them updates, and they just dismiss this part of the equation… until suddenly it matters.
And it’s not what they wanted.
And they end up looking bad.
And it’s all my fault.
Hm. Okay, then, time to move. Time to groove. Time to hustle… right on out of there.
And I realize now that a big part of my stress has been the dynamics at work, where the boss is weak, the boss’es boss is weak, the uber-boss is a disorganized, impulsive, attention-deficient bully who’s also a bit psycho — and aggressive to boot… and all the while, the people who are running the show are actually thousands of miles away in a different time zone and a different world entirely. If sh*t rolls downhill, I ended up rolling around in it like a stressed-out pig. And everything I did to try to turn things around with my direct line of command just didn’t work out. On top of it, the people my boss reports to don’t really like me very much. They wouldn’t. They’re most comfortable with 20-somethings who don’t know enough to call them on their games. And that’s just not me.
So, while I was working my ass off before vacation, shoving everything off my plate except for those three massive projects that just had to get done, I had plenty of time to shake it off and just focus on the work at hand. I had plenty of time to get used to the idea that no matter what I did, no matter how hard I worked, no matter how much effort I put into my job, the fact that people above me don’t like me and aren’t comfortable around me is a bit of a gating factor — so long as I let it be, that is.
And it occurred to me that part of what was making me nuts and cutting into my happiness with my work and my focus and my energy levels, was my mindset that I was ever going to be able to get those folks to like me, to be able to sit comfortably in a room with me and have a conversation with me, to see the value and the reasons behind what I do… that they were ever going to appreciate and see eye-to-eye with me. It just wasn’t going to happen. And I was wasting a whole lot of time chasing something that was never going to be attainable… like I was crawling across the desert towards an “oasis” that turned out to be a mirage.
“Screw it,” I decided. I realized that I lost all respect for the people I report to, a long time ago. Nice people, but weak… poseurs. And pandering. And a little bit dangerous that way. They’ll say what ever they need to say to get along with their higher-ups and damn the truth of the matter. These kinds of people not only make life hard for their co-workers, but also for their bosses by not telling them the whole truth and actually fixing sh*t instead of covering it up and putting lipstick on the pig. All I wanted to do was get the job done and get it done right. I wasn’t bending over backwards to make anybody happy, I wasn’t going out of my way to soften things and paint them in the right shades of mauve. Screw it. I was just going to get the job done, and never mind what everybody had to say about it.
That freed up a lot of energy, actually. And I felt a whole lot better when I just let that sh*t go.
Then I went on vacation. I didn’t check my email, I didn’t pay any attention to work, I didn’t do squat that had anything to do with the workplace. I took time to myself. And I let it go. I just f*cking let it go. All that drama would be there when I got back. What was the point in getting all worked up over everything? No point at all, especially considering that I wasn’t going to “win” with these losers, anyway. So, I had a vacation. For the first time in years. And I came back feeling human and ready to rumble again — on my terms.
And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing — rumbling on my terms. And it’s been great. Seriously. My performance has been great. I have gotten so much done, and I’ve turned so much around in the space of a couple of weeks, my head’s spinning. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but I’m doing it. One step at a time. One day at a time. One task at a time. I am getting into a great routine, a great roll — exercising again, but in a smart way… taking time away from my desk to decompress and then come back in to the thick of things… making up for lost time… and getting sharper all the time.
How could I not? I’m moving. I’m taking time out to think and to get square away. I’m living. And living to the best of my ability has turned out to be incredibly positive, incredibly helpful, incredibly healing on a number of different levels. I can definitely tell that my thought processes are not as fluid as they were before my last TBI, but by God, I’ve got something else in place that is working – and it’s working better every day that I practice it.
See, that’s the thing – the practice. It . is . so . important. Hands down, it is the one thing that has turned my life around — practice, practice, and more practice. Getting a goal in mind, blocking everything else out, going after that goal over-and-over-and-over-again, till I have reached it. Not giving up. Not quitting. Not accepting temporary setbacks as a sign of true failure. So long as I just keep at it, there can be no failure. Because I’m not done yet. There’s a line from the trailer of the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” where someone says “Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”
That’s pretty much where I am, these days. Keeping on keeping on, till I get where I’m going.
And that’s a relatively new thing for me. One of the things that this TBI business has taught me, is how to stick with something, even when I appear to fail along the way. When I was a kid growing up, people gave up on me all the time. If I didn’t perform up to their standards or expectations right out of the gate, that was it. I was done. I was fortunate to have some native intelligence that let me quickly figure some things out — and also mimic others who were doing what they were doing — so I could at least pass some of their tests. But when it came to temporary setbacks, people would get very frustrated with me and wouldn’t work with me to figure things out. They just gave up on me because my performance was so erratic (and they thought it was because I wasn’t trying hard enough), and I never had anyone really talk things through with me and work it through.
Throughout my life, I’ve had a lot of experiences where I’ve been able to figure some things out pretty quickly and also mimic the performance of others who had things “down”, and get by pretty well in most things. I reached a certain level of proficiency, and things were looking pretty damn’ good. I had stock options in a very big corporation where I worked, and I was about 18 months away from being able to cash out, pay off my house, get out of debt, and really free myself up in general.
Then I fell and smashed my head on some stairs, and everything got scrambled. All of a sudden, things stopped making sense to me. And over the next six months, they just fell apart. Just . fell . apart.
And it seemed like it was going to be that way forever. The confidence about skills that I was so comfortable with before… gone. Not comfortable anymore. The skills were still there, but the confidence was gone. The abilities I had to self-regulate and keep a lid on things when times got tight… gone. It was like someone took a deck of cards and flipped them all into the air, and then I was expected to compete in a poker tournament in Vegas. Not happening.
To say that this has been difficult would be an understatement. TBI… concussion… brain injury… whatever you want to call it, it’s a bitch. A stark raving slovering bitch.
But you know what? All those cards — even though they were scattered all over the place — they could be picked up again, and I could get back a whole lot of what I’d lost. It has been a long and torturous road, and this Thanksgiving it will be 8 years since that fall. I have either lost or almost lost so f*cking much that mattered to me in the past, and I’ve had to work my ass off to get back to a level that’s not even close to where I was before. But with time, I am all but positive that I am going to get back not only to that former level, but also take it up a notch. Because now I know what it’s like to lose so much. Now I know what it’s like to get knocked down so hard, and have to work my way back.
And most importantly of all, I am learning how to hang in there and keep fighting, even when things are so hard against me – like this job situation, the political dramas, the tension and hostile dynamics at work, and the nagging doubts and lack of self-confidence that just eats away at me, if I let it.
Sometimes the only way we can learn how to fly, is if we get the legs knocked out from under us. Imagine what would happen to the ostriches, if they couldn’t use their legs to escape predators… a lot of them would die, sure, but others would probably learn how to fly, and a whole new species would emerge.
I guess that’s what I’m doing with my life — creating a whole new species, a whole new way of living and operating. It’s not perfect, but the way I was before wasn’t perfect, either. When I get honest about that — really honest — I know that there were a lot of things that needed improvement before, but because they seemed to be working fairly well (I had money in the bank and a job and a home) I had no incentive to change them.
Only when I got injured.. and then things got so bad and the pain got so unbearable… did I take a wholesale look at my life and find the things that hadn’t actually been working for a long time, but I could let slide because I was functioning acceptably overall.
To say that my life has changed, would be an understatement. It has totally changed into something else, something I never would have expected myself to be living — more settled, more deliberate, more focused, and more social than ever, ever, ever in my life. Amazing. But that didn’t start to change until things broke down so badly that I had no choice but to change.
That’s how it usually goes with us human beings, is it not? So long as we can “get by” we figure we’re doing pretty well. We like to take it easy. We like to not push so hard. We like to chill. We don’t like to take huge risks, unless it’s exciting for us and we’re into that sort of thing. On the whole, we’re creatures of leisure, and we like it like that.
Unless something comes along and kicks us in the ass so hard, it pushes us off the tracks we were stuck in. Something pretty significant needs to blow us out of the rut we groove for ourselves in our lives. And sometimes we don’t survive the explosion. But sometimes we do. In fact, I think we’re a lot more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. When we can get past the initial anxiety and worry and intimidation… things change.
But speaking of change, I’ve got to get on with my day. I’ve got a lot to do, and I’ve got my schedule cleared to do it. I was up early, so I hope to take a nap later, to keep myself going. If I work this right, I’ll be totally wiped out by 2 p.m., when I’ll lie down for a 30-minute nap… then get up and go at it again.
Practice, practice, practice. Build some more habits. Deepen the grooves. Get those neurons firing — so frequently in the same way that they cannot help but create new patterns, new abilities, new ways of living and being and seeing and understanding.
It’s a whole new day, and another chance to strengthen the new.
Just a quick note before I head out the door to work — I had a somewhat rough weekend, feeling sick and out of it, after my meltdown on Friday. I really felt like I’d screwed up, and I didn’t know how to make it better or what to do to fix it. I knew that I’d been over-tired, that I’d been stressed, that I’d really had a hard time handling everything, and that the next time I needed to do a better job of managing my time and my energy — and come up with an alternate plan, in case the first one doesn’t work out (d’oh).
Yesterday, though, while I was doing some work around the yard, I was giving this all a lot of thought, wondering what the hell would have possessed me to say and do the things I did. It made no sense. I know better. I have better sense. I am capable of better things than that, and I know it. I tried to do better. I really did. I almost pulled it together a bunch of times, but I could not let it go. And it tore the sh*t out of both my spouse and me.
So, why didn’t I do better? Why did I end up getting hijacked by those emotions and carried away to the abyss? Seriously, the things I was “up against” were minor, compared to other more serious things I’ve faced with more agility and control. So, why was I in such terrible form on Friday?
It occurred to me that the thing that got hold of me was not psychological. It was not mental. It was not a problem with my thinking. After all, on Friday while I was having that meltdown, there were periods when I was completely calm and lucid and at peace — then BAM! — everything changed in an instant, and I was off to the races again. The only explanation that fits, is that it was an actual neurophysiological reaction — a physical thing that got sparked by something that actually precedes rational thought in my mind. Of course, I could not defend against it, because it got hold of me before my mind could get a hold on it. And that has the hallmarks of an over-activated fight-flight response written all over it.
That is, it was not a problem with my thinking, per se, it was a problem with my body. The whole drama was based on a purely physical response. It was not a psychological drama that I created, it was a physical phenomenon — a physiologically rooted set of behaviors that kick into action way before any kind of logically calm and mindful activity could take place. In fact, it was based on a system of response that is hard-wired into me (into all of us, actually) to save me from being burned up in a fire or carried away in a tsunami. When things seem dangerous (and my body is primed to be hyper-alert to danger), like they did on Friday when things weren’t working out the way I wanted them to and I was really uptight over not having enough time to rest, my fight-flight kicks in big-time. And then look out.
Like on Friday.
Oh – I’m running out of time. Gotta go.
More on this later.
One last thought for the day: 50 bucks says that before the end of the decade, people are going to have a friggin’ clue about the role the autonomic nervous system plays in not only trauma and PTSD, but problems with TBI healing and recovery, panic-anxiety, anger management, various behavioral syndromes, ADD/ADHD, self-injuring behaviors, mental illnesses of many kinds, as well as autistic spectrum disorders… and they are going to actively incorporate physiological therapies (including regular well-designed exercise) into the mix that target specific physical elements that need to be strong and balanced, in order to get your act together. Less drugs, more exercise and attention to the body. Better health overall.
And fewer meltdowns. At least for me. (And not before the end of this decade for me 😉
I’ve been thinking a lot about healing TBI, lately… Thinking about all the different pieces of my physical health that I’ve addressed and that have helped me regain my balance and get so much of my life back… Thinking about behaviors that I’ve modified, expectations I’ve changed, and minor adjustments to my daily logistics that have made major differences.
Things like getting regular exercise…. backing off on the junk food… cutting out dairy… and getting good sleep. And let’s not forget the sitting and breathing and learning to relax. Those things have been huge.
There are parts of me I’ve had to leave behind, but to be honest, those parts are fading into distant memory. The old way I used to propel myself through life, just flying through my days on virtual autopilot, not paying attention to anything except what was in my mind — and unfortunately what was in my mind was often mistaken or erroneous because I didn’t have good information and I didn’t realize it.
In some cases it seems as though some of those old ways never even existed. It’s odd. I can’t even imagine doing some of those things now. Things like eating all that junk food… not getting any regular exercise… not fully engaging in conversations with people, but “winging it” and then missing important pieces of the discussions… going-going-going at top speed, not giving much thought to what I was doing, but just doing… getting hurt and not bothering to stop and rest.
I’m sure there are other parts of my past “old familiar” ways I’ve forgotten. There’s a lot of my past that I can’t remember. Is this normal? I have no idea. Other people seem to have lots of good memories from the past, but most of my memories are vague — and getting even more distant.
Maybe happiness isgood health and a bad memory. Because forgetting what once held me back doesn’t seem to be detracting from my quality of life. In fact, it may be improving it. People always talk about the NOW, living in the present, being fully engaged in the moment… and yet so many people are really caught up in their memories, their past, the things that used to make up their lives.
That doesn’t seem to be a problem I have. The past is becoming a dim memory… and with it a lot of memories of unhappiness are going away. I’m sure there are memories of happiness in there, too, but truly, you don’t miss what you can’t remember.
Anyway, enough of the memory digression. I’ve been a little concerned about my memory, to be honest. So, I get a little hung up on it. I definitely need to find a better way to think about it — a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m losing my mind.
What I really want to focus on is the positive, the healing. The recovery. There are so many things that can go wrong, that can seem wrong, that can throw us off… and if we get fixated on them being “wrong” we can miss out on the positive opportunities, the chances for things to be alright and good and getting better, the chance to see things as a step in the right direction, instead of a series of problems that are just holding me back.
I guess it’s true of just about anyone who’s been through some stuff — which would account for just about everybody walking around on the planet today. We are so often left with a slew of problems to wade through, and we get so caught up in experiencing those things as problems that we end up getting mired in the problems and then miss out on the good parts of our lives – some of which may actually come as a result of the “problems” we have.
For example, since my fall in 2004, headaches and fatigue have been a big problem for me. And I’ve really struggled with keeping going when I am wiped out and in pain. But at the same time, I have discovered that I am able to relax, when I put my mind to it. This is something I rarely had before. I just wasn’t interested in relaxing. It was boring. It didn’t light a fire under me. It was just a drag. But since I learned how to relax, I find that I have even more energy than I had before, and far from being a permanent state of dullness, relaxation actually brings me to life. So, having more fatigue and constant headaches in my life has brought some benefits to me that I wouldn’t have had the reason to pursue otherwise.
I’m not saying it’s been great, having the fatigue and headaches (and all the other issues over the years). But it has pushed me to make some changes in my life that I needed to make, anyway. And if I hadn’t made these changes, I’m not sure I’d be as happy as I am right now.
So, that being said, I do think it’s important that we learn to let ourselves heal — that we cut ourselves a break and learn to let ourselves be, so the unseen ways of life and our hidden systems can work their magic to get us back to some sort of balance. I do believe that the human system is built for balance, and if we can get out of our own ways, we can allow a lot of healing to take place.
It’s when we try to control and judge and drive the process ourselves that we can get into trouble. When we cut off our natural abilities to regain equilibrium, being so busy trying to manage our own recovery and healing, we can short-circuit the systems that are built into us to recover our balance and get on with our lives. It’s when we belabor our situation with all sorts of judgment and criticism, that we can stop ourselves from making real progress — progress which might look very different from how we think it should look.
So, all that being said, this morning, my healing looks like just getting on with my life… Having a bunch of stuff I have to take care of, and getting down to taking care of it… Being responsible and taking on more activities that are necessary and needed. I can let myself do this. I can let myself be successful. And I can let myself get on with my day. Anything less wouldn’t be the truth about me at all.
I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about how I’m managing to get my life back. It’s taken me a few years, and it hasn’t been easy, but I do feel like I’m finally getting to a place where I can really live my life just as me, instead of focusing mainly on overcoming all my hardships.
Now, mind you, the hardships have not completely disappeared. For the past week, I have been almost dangerously dizzy, and I have not felt well. I have not been sleeping as much as I need to, and my head has been filled with a fuzzy fog. It still is, in fact. I’m also a bit dizzy, still. And I don’t feel well. If I didn’t have to go to work today, I wouldn’t.
But even in the midst of not feeling well, being incredibly off-balance, and not knowing what I could do about it — apart from eat less junk food, get more sleep, and take my time doing things I can normally do quickly — I’ve still managed to do some important things. I’ve been talking to recruiters, looking for new jobs, and visiting an old friend who lives several states away.
There hasn’t been a lot of difference, lately, between how I feel now and how I felt three years ago. I had tons of balance issues, then — they appeared to be diet-related, and when I changed what I ate, the vertigo pretty much went away. The big difference now is that I am aware of the issues, and I’ve developed coping mechanisms to deal with them. I’ve got a lot of tools I can use to get through my day, even if I’m incredibly dizzy, off-balance, nauseated, and bone-tired. I may not be able to prevent these experiences from happening, but I do know how to manage them.
And I do manage them.
I guess this is the difference I see between my own TBI recovery and what I’ve heard others talk about, especially in terms of having to accept limitations and change your expectations of what life has to offer. I do believe that some of what I’ve got going on — the sensitivities, the fatigue, the constant restlessness, and more — may be with me for the rest of my life. But I also believe that I can manage them, rather than letting them take over my life. When I focus on my goals and intentions of what I want to achieve in life, and I make them the primary focus of my life, all the extra things that get in the way have a lot less power over me. Realizing that my problems don’t have to stop me — that I can come up with new and different ways of handling these things — has been a huge part of my healing.
I do say “healing” because that’s what has happened, which has made my recovery possible. Finding a way to, first, understand what was/is going on with me, and second, to constructively approach those things, has been like a balm to my spirit, and it’s made so much more possible in my life.
I really have my neuropsych to thank for a lot of this. And also people who work with PTSD and cognition and recovery and rehabilitation. I have a lot of people to thank, as well as all the readers of this blog, who have kept me going through the past months and years. So, thank you. 🙂
Anyway, speaking of getting my life back, I have a meeting in 10 minutes, so I need to wrap up here. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I am getting my life back, and it’s been a gradual process, focused on handling one thing at a time, one challenge at a time. Just learning to know what my different issues are — working my way through the 84 different things that can come up, and addressing each one, one at a time… or two or three or four at a time. But you get the point — it’s been incremental, really. My progress has been “all over the map” at times, but then, organic stuff usually is a bit messy and imprecise. There’s part of me that wishes it were clean and clinical and controlled, but that’s not likely to happen.
So, I’ll take what I can get, and get on with the day.
I just learned about the movie Marwencol. Check out the trailer video and visit the site. Fascinating.
This kind of reminds me of my own retreat from the rest of the world, over the course of my life. Although my own withdrawal from the world where I got hurt on a regular basis was not nearly as labor intensive as Marwencol, it was in fact my own private Idaho. It was a place where I could pull back and experience my own life on my own terms without danger of being hurt or mistreated or dismissed. I have that place boxed up in tens of journals I’ve kept over the years, and stashed on bookshelves filled with subjects of “study” that never came to anything.
My own removal from the world started when I was around seven or eight years old. And it stopped 35 years later. I can’t wait to see this movie, Marwencol — I’d like to see how someone else did it. And how it turned out for them.
It makes me wonder how many people are actually walking around with one foot in one world and one foot in the other.