Trying it the other way ’round

Left-handed-practice-writing.jpg
Getting started…

So, I had a thought yesterday, while I was sitting and thinking…

How would my thought process be, if I wrote with my left hand? I’m right-handed, and now and then I’ve tried writing with my left hand, over the years, but I never stuck with it long enough to get anywhere.

Now I’m thinking it might be a good way to job my brain to learn something new.

And it might be a good way to get me thinking along different lines than usual.

It’s funny — whenever I tried it before, I always gave up because it felt like I couldn’t write with my left hand. Now I feel more like, I can’t write well with my left hand. I can write — it just doesn’t look great. But just ’cause it doesn’t look great, doesn’t mean I can’t do it.

And my left-handed writing actually looks like my one left-handed sibling’s writing, when they were a kid. So, if they could learn to write that way, I can, too.

It’s a little like juggling. When I first started out, I couldn’t do it at all. But I practiced and practiced, and eventually I was able to do it. Now I can juggle three same-sized objects with a fair amount of skill. It’s really just brain training. And sure enough – after just a little practice yesterday, my penmanship was noticeably better. Also, it felt easier to write in cursive with my left hand, than in the hybrid writing style of my right hand.

Interesting. I’ll do some more practice today — right now, in fact. I’m working at home today, again, because while my cough is better, it’s still around, and I need to be able to rest during the day.

Before I start with work-work, I’ll practice my left-handed penmanship. And I’ll keep an eye out for any different ways my thinking starts going, as I write with my non-dominant hand. I’ve tried training my left hand to do various things, sometimes favoring it completely and trying to not use my right hand at all. But it was hard. So, I gave up.

I don’t feel like giving up. Not right now, anyway.

Onward.

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Hard work – and stress – paying off

Yeah, it’s paying off πŸ™‚

I don’t want to sing the praises of stress right now, because I don’t want anyone getting the idea that I think stressing yourself out is a great idea. I will say, however, that the added strain of working long hours, this past week, is paying off — in terms of a full day off work, so I have an uninterrupted day to do some things I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

I’m getting my neck worked on. The left side is very sore, and the tightness there is translating to a right hip that feels arthritic. I know it’s not arthritis — it’s muscular, because of the location of the pain, but it’s keeping me awake at night, and it’s making my life more difficult.

I’ve been trying to do physical therapy and acupuncture, but the results have been slow. I need to have someone just work on my neck and get my back and shoulders loosened up. Kind of fast-track it.

I also worked out this morning more than I have in months. I actually got on the exercise bike for 10 minutes. I rode easy for 5 minutes, then I did a few 30-second alternating intervals of fast/easy, and I finished up with 2 minutes of slow and steady. Then I lifted slightly heavier weights than I have been, in the past – fewer reps, more weight, with tons of attention to form.

And it felt great. Just working up a sweat felt great. It’s been a long time, since I really pushed myself — partly because I’ve been having headaches when I push myself while exercising. I do have a slight headache now, but I can live with it. I’m just drinking extra water and stretching my neck and shoulders.

I’m also taking some time to get on Facebook and reconnect with my friends there. I miss my coworkers from my last job. Well, some of them, anyway. I think the thing I miss most is their predictability. My brain and system got used to dealing with them, and it developed behavioral habits that I came to depend on, to add structure and meaning to my life.

One thing I do NOT miss about them, is how young and frivolous they can be. I really could tell that most of them were 20 years younger than me, and it’s nice to not have to deal with them anymore.

I’m also getting my head on straight about my new job. Turns out, the crowd I’m working with is about 10-15 years younger than me, which has also turned out to be a bit of a pain. Their priorities and interests are completely different from mine, and frankly I can do without every singe conversation centering around who’s getting pregnant, who’s having kids, what their kids are doing, if their kids are sick, the dance recitals, the summer vacations. There are a few folks there who don’t live their lives around “little ones”, so I’ll need to seek them out more actively. The team I’m working most closely with is quite focused on child-rearing, and I’ve got nothing to offer there.

So, I’m going to take some time today and over the next few days to do some heavy-lifting thinking and really dig into some of the writing I’ve been doing, lately. I’ve got a handful of projects I’m working on, and some of them are very demanding, mentally. It’s like I’m going down a rathole of abstract concepts, and each one leads a little bit deeper in. So, it feels like I’m “flying blind” into the abyss… and I love it.

I’m the only one who knows the details about the abstractions I’m exploring. I’ve tried to explain them to others, but I haven’t had much luck communicating. They’re “thought experiments” of sorts, just exercises to tweak my thinking process and help expand my working memory capacity.

The main thing with these thought experiments, is that they really excite me and delight me. So, there’s a real motivation and impetus to explore. To expand. To see how much I can extend my own abilities. Of course, I need to balance this out with plenty of rest and recovery, so the connections I’m building in my brain have a chance to “set” before they’re tested, again.

That’s what the past week or so has been about. I really pushed myself cognitively for a few weeks, back when I was changing jobs and everything was in flux. It was a great way to both take my mind off the stresses of my daily life transition, and also get some new types of activity going on in my brain. I really need that — new activities that test me.Β  Sometimes I may overdo it, but that’s where rest and recovery come in.

And it’s good. It’s all good.

So, stress… I’ll write more about that later. I am a firm believer in periodically applying stress to test the system, then backing off to let the system recover and recuperate. I believe that’s what makes us stronger — for me, with my TBI symptoms, I need to be careful about over-doing it. Obviously. But if I can realize — and remember — that added stress is the source of my issues, and then take the edge off when I need to… it doesn’t have to doom me.

The main ingredient is mindfulness. And responsibility. And being realistic about my limits and working with them so that I can expand them, rather than trying to avoid/deny them and then shooting myself in the foot.

It’s really a balancing act. And now it’s time to balance out my day with some reading, juggling, and a bit of relaxation.

Such a headache

Holy crap, I have a headache. It feels like a vice is pressing in on both temples, and my eyes hurt. I’m sick to my stomach. I have felt like this since early this morning. Probably all the pressure I’m putting on myself over what may or may not happen on Monday when I give my notice.

Silly. I have given notice at past jobs a bunch of times, and rarely has it been pleasant. But I always got through it. Once, I gave notice to a real jerk who had me in a very important position and was seriously hindered by my leaving, but that individual was an unethical creep who was in constant violation of official and unofficial ethical codes — both within the company and without. The really sad thing was, they were in a senior position, so they were unassailable. Powerful. They knew I could report them, and they used their power to intimidate me. The weird thing was, I was actually the one with the power, but I didn’t realize it then.

I think the same thing holds for my current situation. All too frequently, I think I have no power, when I’m the one who has the most.

It was a huge relief to get away from that creep. I saw them on television years later, at some security training presentation that was on public television. There they sat, all smug and sh*t, with their clueless spouse beside them. My stomach turned, when I saw them, and I was glad that I had left. Even if I was once worried about them retaliating at me. They never did.

Creep.

I think part of what is upsetting me about my present situation is the idea that it might harm my future prospects if I leave this job right now. I’m afraid that there will be backlash and it will get ugly, and I will not be able to keep myself from fighting back when I feel like I’m being attacked. I’m pretty much on alert, right now, and I am feeling like I’m under attack, even though it is the thoughts in my own head that are attacking me – and giving me a headache.

I need to calm myself down, so I don’t escalate with the wrong people.

As you may be able to tell, I have invented a whole scenario in my mind about “how things will turn out”… and it’s not good.

So, enough of that.

I need to focus on what truly is — making up my list of activities for my new employer, so they don’t consider my existing side projects to be part of their intellectual property… working on a bunch of slides for a presentation I’m giving to a local community group in another week and a half… taking care of household business… and staying healthy and happy all the while.

Maybe — just maybe — I am making myself out to be more important at my current job than I really am. Maybe I am just inventing this whole scenario about me being indispensable. Nobody is indispensable. At least, they shouldn’t be. I have no idea how things will turn out, I have no idea what the reactions at work will be. It could be that people are expecting my resignation on Monday, and they already have a contingency plan in place.

It could be.

Rather than focus on the maybe’s that are bad, why not invent some maybe’s that are good? And focus on them.

Maybe that will get rid of this headache.

I did manage to lie down and take a nap for a few hours, earlier. That was good. I’m also reading some books — “Psycho-Cybernetics“, which is a self-improvement classic… “Overachievement“, which is a new book about how to achieve top performance in unconventional ways… “A Benjamin Franklin Reader“, which is a collection of his writings and stories from his live… and some other books about money and power. And brains. And samurai legends.

I’m also reading a scientific paper on how perceived mental effort will wake you up — basically, if you believe a task is difficult, your “tonic arousal” (temporary state of wakefulness in your brain) will improve. So, that’s my new approach to getting boring sh*t done without screwing it up — tell myself it’s really, really hard, and it’s going to take a lot of mental effort to do it, so then my brain kicks into gear and gets with the program.

I’m starting to feel better, actually.

I should go juggle… but I’m still pretty sore from all the juggling yesterday.

I should probably stretch, as well, and get the kink out of my neck, which has been paining me for months. I’m sure that’s not helping the headache.

I’ve been doing some dual n-back training on and off over the past couple of days, and I have to say, the 3-back training is all but IMPOSSIBLE for me to do. I get maybe 1/3 – 1/2 of the questions right. It’s very discouraging, because I want to be at 100%, and I’m not. I think that is contributing to the headache, too. So, I’ll give that one a rest, even though I do want to think better, and I feel like it is helping me.

I need to rest. I really need to rest — so that I can be strong on Monday.

With regard to the dual n-back training, I think the best thing for me to do is hold the reins myself — always use the manual controls and work on specific areas of performance to improve a few main things:

  • reaction/response time – increase and decrease the time I need to respond in
  • number of pieces of information I retain – vary that from session to session
  • different combinations of sound, color, position, and shapes – target different mixes to keep myself sharp

I need to start in very specific ways and work my way up, not just use the generic settings in the program. That’s just maddening, and it’s not giving me the kind of precision training I want to get. I’ll talk to my neuropsych about what areas would be good to improve. I know that processing speed is one of them, as well as the number of items I can keep in my head at any given point in time. I could really play with that — set the response time to really long, and have a handful of different elements to remember each time. There are an infinite number of possibilities here, so I need to make the most of it. On my terms.

My frustration with the program is not helping my headache. So, I’ll do something about that.

But most of all… Take a break. Get myself a big glass of water. Do some stretching and movement. Maybe juggle a little bit, but not too much.

Balance. Relax. Take care of a few things that need to be done. Quit stressing over what has not happened yet — and may never happen.

And enjoy the rest of my Saturday afternoon. As well as my Sunday to come. It’s Mother’s Day. I’ll need to call my Mom.

Onward.

 

DIY OT for TBI

The magic koosh ball

When it comes to TBI/concussion recovery, we are so very often on our own.

We frequently don’t get the rehab help we need because:

  1. we don’t realize we need it
  2. we under-report our symptoms so they go unaddressed
  3. the people around us don’t recognize the signs
  4. our medical care providers don’t have a clue
  5. long-term options for ongoing treatment aren’t always great
  6. different sorts of therapy can’t go on as long as we need them (insurance won’t pay)

Now, most of us reading this know that. What we don’t always know is what to do about it.

I have found a number of “occupational therapy” (OT) solutions for myself that — in addition to getting regular feedback from a trusted source — have really moved me ahead in my life. They are simple, they address basic issues I have (but nobody realizes this, or they think I “shouldn’t” have), and they are practical — and fun — things I can do for myself, each day, to get myself on the good foot.

Some of these things are:

  • Making lists of what I need to do — especially things that I do regularly, that I screw up regularly, like get out of bed and get ready for work each day. When I started my TBI recovery process, just getting from the bed to the office each day was a bit of a gauntlet. I began using a list of all the things I needed to do — in the order that I needed to do them — and it solved a lot of issues for me. Things as simple as the order in which I brushed my teeth, showered and shampooed, got all jumbled up, and I spent way too much time thinking about “what comes next?” to have a very relaxing morning. A list of the most basic activities solved that for me. Even though people around me said having a list was too “remedial” for me — I knew it wasn’t. It truly helped me.
  • Cooking — breakfast and dinner. Again, this is about doing things in order at the right time. I have been the main cook of the house for years — ever since my spouse got seriously ill in 2007 and could not function as well as they used to. I started my TBI recovery about a year after that, when I realized that there was something very wrong with how things were fitting together in my head. Cooking helped me with organization, and timing things out. It also helped me with my emotional regulation. Years ago, if I was in the kitchen, nobody could talk to me because it would throw me off and I would mess up what I was doing. It’s been several years, since that stopped. Now I can have a conversation while I am cooking, most of the time. And when I can’t, I now know enough to say I can’t talk now, but can later.
  • Dual N-Back training — helps with response times and short-term working memory. It helps me think more “fluidly”, and it helps me follow conversations better. It also helps me interact with others more easily — and I am noticing this after only a week’s worth of work — so that is a huge help to me socially and in general. It gives me more confidence, it improves my self-image, and with my Brain Workshop program, which I have on my computer, I can do it whenever I like, without needing to be on the internet. I also have one for my smartphone, and I need to get one for my tablet, so I have it on the go, as well. It has really helped me, and I keep doing it each day.
  • Juggling — this is also a new one for me, which is a welcome addition to my daily routines. It helps me with
    • eye-hand coordination
    • timing
    • being able to pick up quickly after mistakes and move on without getting bent out of shape
    • dealing with frustration — not getting so upset over disruptions
    • physical stamina
    • left-side abilities
    • left-and-right-side coordination
    • sustained focus
    • resistance to distraction

    Probably more than anything, juggling has helped me gain a new balance and poise in my outlook and abilities. After just a couple of weeks of training, I am really enjoying it AND I am seeing the benefits in my outlook and my fluidity. It is helping me to keep calm in situations which normally fluster me, and that did wonders for me at my interview — which turned out successful on every single count. Six out of six people want me to join the company, and that’s a great testament to the power of just some simple exercises I do for fun and conditioning.

These four things are all DIY — Do It Yourself. They are also either free or extremely low cost, and some of them are part of everyday living — like cooking and making lists.

The one thing that determines the success of these approaches, I believe, is motivation and consistency. You have to do them, and you have to keep at them. You can’t just do them now and then, and take a long break to do something else. You have to really commit to them — like anything important — and be willing to learn the lessons they teach.

That commitment to work and to steady improvement — more than anything — is probably the biggest ingredient in all of this. Without that, none of these DIY techniques would work. In fact, it’s probably even true that just about any activity in the course of the day-to-day can be DIY TBI OT.

But juggling is a fun break.

And dual n-back has specific things it trains in your brain.

So these are good foundations to get the brain rewired in a positive direction.

 

 

 

 

 

Come Monday, a lot is going to change

So, it has finally happened. I had some phone screens for a new job, followed by interviews, and I got — and accepted — the offer!

Holy smokes, it’s actually happening… After years of fits and starts, fumbled attempts, and being pushed aside, I finally found a company that is looking for what I’m offering — and who can offer me what I’m looking for.

They contacted me after finding me on LinkedIn, and we’ve been trading phone calls and emails for about a week, now. I had a couple of phone screens with two different hiring managers… we decided together that one of the positions was better suited for me than the other… and I had live meetings with a number of folks I’ll be working with in the future.

We all really liked each other, and there was a mutual respect and professionalism that has been sorely lacking in my current situation. I’m not sure why the people I’ve been working with think it’s okay to behave the way they have been, but everybody’s different, I suppose.

At least now I’m going to be working with folks who have a more similar outlook to my own.

Pretty amazing. My head is spinning. Still.

I’ve been very on-the-down-low about this, because I didn’t want to jynx it, get cocky, make any assumptions, or otherwise let my guard down. This is important to me — so very important — and the company is GOOD. They’re well-known, and they have a department that matches what I’m looking for much, much more closely than anything I’ve been able to find in years.

The best thing is, they’re really excited about me starting, too. We really hit it off, on all counts, and everyone has been really enthusiastic about me joining their team.

I am so profoundly grateful for this. And I know that the work I have been doing with the dual n-back training and the juggling has actually helped me.

Just the boos from watching myself learn and grow over the past week, has been a huge help. Realizing that I actually CAN learn to juggle… seeing proof that I can remember things and improve my dual n-back testing response times… it’s been great. Just great. And I wish I could pass this amazing feeling on to everyone who struggles with these kinds of issues. Because there are things we can do to help our brains work better.

And that includes rest.

I am exhausted. It has been a wild ride, this past week, and it’s going to get even wilder for the next two weeks.

Off to bed I go.

Left hand focus and training

Keep it going – it gets better!

So, I took a day off juggling, just to let my body and brain rest. I got pretty sore in my shoulders and legs, from the new motions, and I needed to let everything sink in.

I was a little concerned that I might forget the motions – since the brain changes that are seen after 7 days of juggling disappear, after the juggling stops. But as it turns out, taking a day off had no negative impact on my coordination, my speed, or my proprioception (my sense of where my body is in relation to other objects).

In fact, if anything, they all improved. My movements are much more fluid than they were just a few days ago, and I feel much more relaxed. Three days ago, it was a real challenge to keep three balls in the air for more than five or six tosses. Today, I got to 10 – and beyond – a number of times.

Also, my one-handed juggling — where I toss two balls up in the air and keep them aloft — has improved dramatically. Two nights ago, I was really struggling to keep them aloft, but this morning, I was able to do so with much more fluidity and control.

My left hand needs help, however. I have issues with reaction time, fluidity, and also accuracy with my left hand. It tends to toss the juggling balls off to the right very quickly, so I can’t catch them with my right hand.

I use koosh balls because they have good weight and they are also easy to handle and they do not bounce and roll away from me. I learned my lesson last weekend, chasing bouncing and rolling balls all over the room, and crawling around on the floor getting them out from under furniture (and discovering godzilla-size dusty bunnies in the process).

Man, was I sore by Monday!

Anyway, the koosh balls are working much better, and I’m making great progress.

I do special drills to work on my accuracy — holding my arms close to my sides when I toss the balls up and down… juggling with only one hand… tossing balls back and forth just beyond my peripheral vision… and also tossing them over my shoulder and trying to catch them behind my back.

My left hand just needs some help with accuracy and speed.

So, I am training it especially.

I’ll work my left hand/arm for a while, then I’ll switch over to my right for a few repetitions. Taking a break helps my left catch up, too. I can see progress in just a few minutes break. I was working on my one-handed juggling and really struggling with with my left hand. I was only able to keep the balls up for 3-4 tosses. Then I took a break and practiced with my right hand, and when I went back to the left, I was able to keep the balls up for more than 10 tosses!

Fantastic!

Granted, I have a long way to go, before I’ll be able to juggle for more than a minute at a time, but I’m making progress in leaps and bounds, compared to where I was last week this time.

This is an enormous confidence-booster. Even if I never become an expert juggler, the fact that I can learn this — and how fast I am learning, too — is a 180-degree turn from where I used to think I was. I was literally convinced that I would never, ever learn to juggle. I just didn’t think I could do it.

And now I’m doing it. And that’s huge.

It translates into other areas of my life, as well. It encourages me to take on more challenges at work, to step outside my comfort zone — one step at a time — and to expand my idea of what I can accomplish, and when.

Doing the n-back training is helping me, too — I’m going to work on my response time, especially, because that’s an area that I’ve struggled with, and it causes a whole lot of other issues and insecurities in my life. I’m tired of those issues and insecurities. Frankly, they’re boring. And they make me feel boring, too.

So, I’m going to do something about it. Especially by training my left hand — which I never thought would be very coordinated. Turns out, I’m wrong. Turns out, I’m better than that.

Much.

Onward.

A different kind of juggling

So, I’ve really been enjoying juggling – it’s really a fun thing for me, and it’s an opportunity for constant improvement, which I really like.

After getting really excited about it yesterday, I did some research online and I found a number of tutorials and clubs that teach you different moves.

I’ve been trying to juggle three balls, but it hasn’t been going that great. I think it’s too early for me, actually. I’ve been working on my technique, and I realize that I have a lot of coordination issues — especially with my left hand.

Even more than I originally thought.

So, I am backing off and taking it a little easier. And I’m back to juggling two balls for as long as I can keep them in the air.

That is actually the challenge I’m trying to solve, more than getting three balls going at the same time – it’s just keeping my attention focused on the balls in the air, however many there are.

I am working with coordinating my movements, so that my left and right sides are more independent from each other. And I’m working on keeping going. So far, I can go for about a minute or so, before I lose focus. I’m working on that.

Looking at all the juggling tutorials and videos online, the real focus seems to be on mastering complicated movements and patterns with more and more balls, clubs, knives, or other objects. But for some of us, the biggest challenge is just keeping two balls in the air at the same time for an extended period of time.

Let alone all the fancy schmancy moves.

And I remember again why I took up this kind of juggling — not to join the circus, not to do anything particularly elaborate… but rather to work on my focus, my emotional restraint, and my ability to pick myself up when I drop the ball and keep going, regardless. It gives me something to do that occupies my attention, improves my coordination, and has plenty of opportunity for improvement over time.

Those are the things that my particular “juggling for dummies” brings to me. And frankly, I’m a lot more interested in those, than performing tricks and amazing an audience. For me, the real benefits lie in not having to perform any tricks to get by in my life, andΒ  amazing myself (and those who know me and what I’m up against) with how much better I can cope, compared with how things used to be.

If everything progresses as it has been, my next trick will be no trick at all.

10 Reasons I Keep Juggling

I feel like a clown now… but I’m improving!

It’s pretty amazing… the effect that juggling is having on me. It benefits me in these ways:

  1. It’s improving my eye-hand coordination. I am finding it easier to “juggle” other things, like multiple grocery items and bags I have to carry inside after work, along with my knapsack and travel mug.
  2. It’s improving my response time.Β  I am finding myself catching things that are falling or slipping out of my hand, much more quickly than before.
  3. It’s improving my quality of responses. I have problems with flying off the handle over things that irritate me, and lately I’ve been getting more short-tempered and reactive. Teaching myself to just pick up the ball(s) I dropped and move on without missing a beat, is so very important to know and do — all throughout my life.
  4. It’s improving my balance. Following the balls and keeping my center of gravity steady, is making a small but noticeable improvement to my balance. And that translates to better posture and more confidence as I go about my daily business.
  5. It’s improving my left-side coordination and abilities. I can now toss and catch a ball in my left hand much better than I could, just a few days ago. I think this has more to do with training my brain than my body. But whatever.Β  All I know is, my left side is getting a lot more coordinated and capable. And that cuts down on the distractions that come with fumbling around with crap — and also the frustration that accompanies the fumbling.
  6. It’s raising my frustration level. Dropping the ball over and over, and learning to pick it up and just move on without getting mired in frustration is good. Also, working through my frustration with not being well coordinated or very able to juggle, is good practice too. I can see myself improving a little bit each day, which is good. And I know that tolerating a little frustration now will pay off on down the line.
  7. It’s keeping me engaged and interested in something other than my boring-ass life. Some days, my life seems so incredibly boring, because I’m following my formulas and schedules and agendas — getting a lot of things done, but really bogged down in the drudgery of the everyday. Juggling gives me a way to pique my attention and get me interested in other things. I have a long way to go before I can say I truly know how to juggle, and can do it well. And even when I do manage to juggle more than two objects, and they are things other than foam balls (no chainsaws, thank you very much), I will still have room for improvement — and I will keep learning.
  8. It’s a cheap hobby that I can do just about anywhere, anytime. I have a bunch of small balls in a ziploc bag I carry around in my knapsack, and I also have balls lying around the house that I juggle when I get a chance. I can juggle pens and pencils and my toothbrush and just about anything I find lying around. I don’t have to shell out a bunch of dough, and I don’t have to reserve space to do it. I can do it indoors and outdoors. I can do it morning, noon, or night, for a long or short time.
  9. It gets me moving. Granted, it’s not the most demanding exercise, but it does get me out of a stationary state. And it does it for short periods at a time, so I don’t wear myself out. It’s really the perfect break in the middle of a long slog. And rather than pulling my attention away from what I’m doing, it helps me refocus and go back to what I was doing, sharper than before.
  10. Most of all, it’s giving me a chance to learn and develop a skill without any downsides. Nobody cares if I cannot juggle like a pro. It doesn’t matter if I’m a barebones beginner. All I can do is improve and learn and grow… and enjoy my learning and growth as I go.

So juggling is really helping me in a number of ways.

Try it – you might like it! Especially if you’re dealing with TBI after-effects, or some attentional issues.

Help where we can find it

You just have to keep looking till you find what will help

I’ve always been a very independent person. I think I’ve had to become this way, because I had so little help when I was younger. I had a lot of problems, when I was a kid, and everybody around me thought that I was either fine (and faking it), or I was just being lazy.

That’s a hell of a thing to put on a kid, but it happens.

It happens all the time.

And it happened to me.

Not to cry over spilt milk, I have been literally forced to become independent from a very early age, which I believe has also primed me for an excellent TBI recovery. Getting a mild traumatic brain injury was no fun, back in 2004, and all the concussions / TBIs I had earlier in my life certainly did not help.

So, I’ve gotten in the habit of just making do. I’ve been fortunate to find a neuropsych I can work with, who has helped me a lot. I’m not sure what would have become of me over the past years, if I had not found them. Maybe I would have figured things out for myself. I know I was in the process of figuring a lot of things out, when I first met them, and I have been the “driver” behind most of my initiatives in getting my life together — most of the time, our sessions consist of me just talking about what I’ve done with my life, lately, and what steps I’ve taken to remedy issues I have.

The thing that’s helped me tremendously, is having someone who is NOT mentally ill, being a sounding board for me. I have spent an awful long time — most of my life — around mentally ill people and folks who are pretty determined to prove that there is something wrong with them, they’re deficient, they are damaged, etc., etc.Β  So, I have not actually had a lot of really positive role models, as a kid or as an adult. Especially when it comes to TBI.

First, there is so much denial about what TBI really involves, the degree to which it affects your judgment and thinking abilities, and how pervasive it is.

Second, everybody’s TBI is different, and one person’s extreme challenges may be no big deal for someone else — who has another set of challenges, entirely.

Third, a lot more people are walking around suffering from TBI after-effects, than most of us know, so the thinking is generally clouded, out in the world.

Fourth, even the people who can help us, often can’t — because we don’t have access to them, we don’t know who or where they are, and insurance won’t cover us.

So, it’s really up to us to sort things out and figure out what to do and where to go. It’s unfortunate that we have to go it alone… but that’s where support forums like the Psychcentral TBI/Concussion forum (click here to visit) come in handy.

I have to make my own progress, which I am doing. I’ve been working on my juggling, which is going well. It is helping me learn to focus more and not get distracted, and also keep my concentration in the absolute present. I started with one ball, which I tossed back and forth from one hand to the other. Then I added a second ball, which I have been tossing in different ways. The important thing is not how many balls I am juggling – it is how long I can focus, and how well I can recover, when I drop one of the balls — or both. I’m learning to juggle, not for the sake of juggling, but for what it teaches me.

It’s helping me with my coordination, my attention, and my emotional responses. I’ll write more later about this, because it is seriously good therapy for TBI, and I think everyone should do it. There’s no reason not to.

I’ve also been doing some Dual N-Back practice. The site I found yesterday with the Silverlight plugin doesn’t work for me anymore. For some reason, the plugin has permanently crashed, and it won’t work for me. So, I downloaded an app that I installed on my laptop – http://brainworkshop.sourceforge.net/ – and that is working for me much better. It keeps track of my scores, which are sort of crappy — I’m in the 36.5% range. I’ve gone as high as 57% and as low as 25%, but I’m in the lower range more often.

It’s something to work towards. I’m just starting it, after all, and these things take time.

Again, it’s something to keep me engaged and learning… Something to repair the issues of my past.

That’s so important to me. Because I feel like I have a ton of lost time to make up, and there is so much I want to do in my life, still. Like so many TBI survivors, I have a sense of many “holes” in my life – gaps in my memory, gaps in my personality, gaps in my social life… gaps everywhere. And I need to fill those gaps with something positive and constructive… and rebuild a life that meets my own specifications, not everyone else’s — or the specifications of people who tell me I need to settle for less.

I’m not doing that “settling thing”.

No how. No way.

Onward

 

 

Learning to throw with my left hand

This is how my left hand throws
This is how my left hand throws

I really loved to play ball when I was a kid — basketball, football, soccer… and especially baseball, softball, whiffleball… you name it. If there was a ball (and preferably a stick to hit it) involved, I was in.

I loved the pace of the ballgame, the cadence, the mental game, the choreography on the field. Watching ballgames was less interesting for me than actually being on the field. I wanted to be IN it. Not watching.

So, I grew up throwing a ball. I often had a glove on my left hand, and now that I am practicing juggling, I can tell just how biased the use of my hands has been.

My left hand is kind of useless, when it comes to tossing a ball into the air to catch. It’s strange to realize this, because it never really occurred to me before. Maybe I never had to think about it before. But now I’m training myself — training my brain — to be better coordinated, so I’m finding out just how much work my left hand needs, to hold up its end of the bargain.

The simple motion of tossing a ball into the air, palm up, wrist flexing, is no easy feat for my left hand. I had no idea I was this uncoordinated. Is this a new thing, or have I always been this way? I suspect I’ve always been this way — or at least for a very long time — because I’ve always avoided even trying to use my left hand to throw. It didn’t look good. I looked like that guy on the VW commercial who’s trying to show his son how to throw a ball.

And it’s just awful.

But my left hand can relate.

So, I’m doing something about it. I’m paying close attention to how my right hand throws — the movement of my wrist and fingers and how coordinated they are, through the whole motion. I not only have to notice how my hand moves together to toss it, but I have to notice how my fingers contact the ball while I’m holding it, and how my arm moves to catch it when it’s on its way back down.

This is much more challenging than I expected. And I didn’t even realize I needed help, till I tried switching directions with my juggling a few days ago.

And my discovery that my left hand is way dorky, really put me off. It embarrassed and distressed me, so I stopped juggling for a few days.

Now I’m back at it, because I am NOT going to let it stop me. I am going to train my left hand to trow — or at least toss. I have to get both sides working independently.

And so I shall.

Slowly but surely, with plenty of rest in between. Because when I really focus on something for a short period, then I take a break and rest, my brain and body are able to integrate the information and grow and learn and develop new skills.

But I have to give it a rest. Pushing myself is counter-productive. I need to give my brain a chance to catch up.

Spring is here. And I think I’m going to start spending time outside when the weather is nice, practicing my juggling and throwing. It’s been a long time since I played ball regularly, and I miss it. But getting back in that game could pose certain dangers — like getting clunked on the head again. When I play, I lose myself in the game and I push it, so the chances of me getting hurt again are not neglibible.

What’s the alternative? Do some of the things I miss — like tossing / throwing and catching a ball. And do it in a different way — like juggling. That’s about as low-impact a sport as I can find, frankly. It might be a good use of my time.

Is juggling my new sport?