I think something is amiss

It’s not usually this bad

A couple of months ago, I had several episodes that really threw me for a loop. I had a couple of meltdowns and it felt like something in my head “popped”, and then I was numb and dumb for a number of days after that. I thought maybe I was having a stroke, but it didn’t seem like I was having all the symptoms, so I thought maybe it was a migraine. It’s hard to tell with me — I have so many sensory issues in the course of every day, it’s hard for me to sort out the exceptions from the rules.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve had some “jumpiness” in my left cheek, and for several days, a spot on the left side of my upper lip was twitching like a Mexican jumping bean. It was driving me crazy, but it came and went, so I didn’t want to make a deal out of it. Then, last night, I realized that my left hand is more numb than my right – I can feel things and I can move it, and I don’t seem to have any loss of muscle strength, but it feels a little numb, and I don’t have the same level of sensation that I do in my right.

Also, I almost cut the tip of my left index finger off, last week, when I was fixing supper. For some reason (and I never do this), my finger was extended, and I almost didn’t stop myself, as I was bearing down. I cut most of the way through the nail – fortunately at an angle, so it didn’t go into the flesh under the nail. And it freaked me out, because A) I can’t afford to cut off the tip of my left index finger — I need it for working on the computer, which is my bread and butter, and B) it’s very unlike me to not keep my fingers away from the knife while I’m cutting. It’s been years since I had anything like this happen to me.

Then, this morning when I was putting on my socks, I could not raise my left leg up as high as my right one. I just didn’t have the strength. I know I have had different levels of strength in my left and right, and I haven’t been able to lift one knee higher than the other for some time, but I can’t remember if it’s been the right one or the left I have trouble with. And it’s weird how I keep misspelling things.

So, I think I may need to get checked out. The only problem is, I don’t trust the hospitals that are closest to me, and the one my PCP is affiliated with has really sh*tty neurologists. I have dealt with them in the past, and the one in particular treated me like I was hostile, they kept asking about my history of drug abuse, and they basically just went through the motions till they got me out of their office. I’m sure they’re not a total asshole, but that day, they did a great impression of one.

The other problem is that I have gone through whole batteries of tests over basically nothing — just stress. I get diminished when I am tired, and I have been extremely tired, lately. I’m just going-going-going all day, every day, and it’s caught up with me big-time. So, I don’t want to go crying “stroke!” when it’s really just stress and will get fixed with a lighter schedule, more sleep, and taking it easier than I have been.

Fortunately, tomorrow afternoon I’ve got an appointment with a counselor whose office is closer to a nearby city that has excellent hospitals, including the one where I had my MRI and got checked out for possible seizure activity, several years ago. They’ve got an MRI on record with me, as well as an EEG, so they’ll have a baseline and I won’t have to request records from other hospitals. I have my appointment with my counselor at 5, then I’ll discuss the situation with them, and if it really seems like I need to get checked out, I’ll drive the extra 45 minutes to get to the hospital in the city.

I’ll need to prepare for this — make sure I have everything with me that I need — including my work laptop and stuff from home. I’m packing a bag, just in case. And I’m also packing up my cubicle tomorrow, because we’re moving to the new office building on Tuesday evening, so I need to have it all ready to go, in case I’m not in the office on Tuesday.

I just need to prepare. And make sure that my spouse is all set, in case I need to stay overnight, or things run late. Maybe I’ll go get some extra food today, to have us covered.

I’ve got a headache, but that could be anything. I usually have a headache. No surprises there. And concentrating on the thought that something might be WRONG, is not helping me.

I’ll check with my counselor tomorrow. And I’ll see if I can get hold of my neuropsych, too. It’s really hard for me to tell what to do, and how best to do it. I have a lot of responsibilities, and I need to keep up with them, because people are counting on me. It’s almost impossible to tell what’s a product of anxiety and worry and being all stressed out with concern, and what’s the real deal, so while part of me wants to go to the ER and get checked out, I’ve been there a bunch of times over things, wasting precious hours amongst sick people. And when all was said and done, I was told, “Oh, it’s nothing. You can go home now.” I get sick and tired of being treated like I’m malingering or am overreacting. I literally don’t know if what I’m experiencing is a legitimate problem, or not. I have had a lot of neck problems over the past year, which affected sensations on the left side of my body, so maybe it’s just that. It’s hard to know. There’s a lot of competing information coming up in front of me all the time, so how do I sort it out?

Anyway, I think I have a plan. I’m still walking and talking reasonably okay (that slurred speech and sensation of a drooping cheek isn’t much fun, but it comes and goes). I’ll put everything in place for what needs to happen, should I need to go into the hospital. I’ll get myself coverage, and I’ll make sure things are lined up, so I can just take care of business.

Like paying my mortgage. For some reason, I had direct deposit set up for one bank account, but not for my house mortgage account. I discovered that yesterday, when I was checking my bank balances online. So, I’m late on my mortgage this month. Fortunately I’m not terribly late, to the point of getting “love notes” from the bank. I set up the monthly deposit to go into my account regularly, so that problem’s solved.

I also discovered that I have $8,000 more in the bank than I thought I did. That’s enough to keep me afloat, if something keeps me out of work for a few months. It’s amazing how much money you can save, when you don’t pay your mortgage 😉 Of course, that $8,000 is all the money I have in the world for a safety net. Compared to the $400,000+ I used to have saved for retirement before my TBI in 2004, it’s sad. But it’s a hell of a lot more than I’ve had for a number of years. So, I am grateful for what I do have.

Oh, this is annoying. I can’t seem to spell. My hands keep typing the wrong letters. I need to take a long, hot shower, then lie down and get some rest. Take care of a few errands, then sleep for a few hours… or more. As much as I need. It’s Sunday. I’ve had my walk in the woods and my breakfast, and it’s turning out to be a perfect day for sleeping. Gray. Overcast. Drowsy. With a breeze blowing in the trees. Nice.

After I get some sleep, I’ll make my list. I’ll type up my symptoms from the past few months, and I’ll print out a copy, in case I need it tomorrow. Everything may be perfectly fine — just stress — but it’s not feeling fine, right now.

Whatever. Time for my nap.

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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.

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?