The one sure way I can tell I’m not feeling well, physically

Exercise turns on my brain – in more ways than one. So does this blog.

I tend to have a hard time figuring out when I’m not doing well, physically speaking. When I’m in pain, or when I’m not getting my exercise, or I’m generally not feeling great in my body.

I can get so wrapped up in my life — like for the past three weekends, when I had so much to do, and work was full of pressure — that I don’t get regular exercise, and the pain starts to bother me… including headaches. But I’m so busy, I don’t notice. It’s all I can do, to keep up.

Of course, eventually, I don’t keep up. I get bogged down. My head doesn’t work right. My thoughts are scattered and unreliable, and I stop using my adaptations to make sure I’m okay.

The one sure way I can tell when I’m headed off the rails, is when I don’t blog here. It doesn’t take me long to write a post. It takes 10-20 minutes to put something together. And I have more than that much free time, each morning, the way I’ve structured my days. If I can’t spare 10-20 minutes to write something here, then my life has really taken a turn for the worse, and I need to get myself back on track.

That means… exercise. Like I did this morning. I had an extra-long bike ride, then I did an extra set of lifts with my little weights. And while I was doing that, I thought about how I can get more weight lifting (with machines) in my life. There are some great gyms at the different buildings of my work campus, and one of them has a pool. So, I need to avail myself of the resources and take steps. Because I’m gaining weight, losing muscle tone, and my thinking has not been as sharp as I’d like it to be.

If I can manage to blog here regularly, it means my executive function is firing on all cylinders. It means I have enough energy to get into my day. It means I’m being pro-active and taking initiative in my life. It means I have left myself some wiggle room to do what needs to be done, and that’s exactly what I need to in my daily life.

I’ve been letting myself get too tired, lately. Work has been very, very busy, and also stressful. Long hours, especially every other weekend when we have software releases and I need to work overnight hours. This weekend is one of those times, and after starting work at 8:00 a.m. yesterday, I was till 4:00 a.m. this morning, working on problems that other people caused.

I’m not in a position to change jobs, right now, so I just have to tough it out… or look for another position at the company, so I don’t have to get dragged through the horror of outside interviews and having to prove myself all over again. Toughing it out and managing things as they are is actually more appealing to me than switching positions, at this point. I like most of the people I work with. Some of them make me crazy, but most of them I love… and they love me. So, there’s that.

Can’t put a price on love, you know?

Anyway, I’m a little delirious after getting only 4 hours of sleep last night (and I need to check in later today to see how things are going with work). I just need to get back in tune with myself and get myself back on track about my physical health and my mental state — support the body, and the brain will follow suit, is what I say. That’s always been the case with my TBI-addled brain. Not until I got into regular exercise and focused on taking care of my body, did my brain start to cooperate… and heal.

Until then, all bets were off. And I was miserable.

So, it’s better if I get my act together and get my exercise back on track. And keep blogging here. Each and every day. Or at least as often as I can manage.

Concussion / mild TBI recovery is not only possible, but highly likely. As many people need to know this as I can tell in one lifetime.

ONward.

UPward.

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The up-sides of the down-sides

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

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

And deal with it, I did.

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

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

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

That’s just how I’m built.

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

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

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

And it makes the down-sides manageable.

It’s all part of it.

Onward.

Move movement

shotput athleteAll this immmobility is seriously giving me problems. My day job is very sedentary, and I don’t move nearly enough. And it’s been taking a toll on me physically.

If I’m going to last for the long run, I absolutely have to get moving more often. Even if it’s just adjusting my posture or moving my shoulders, I must move on a regular basis.

I’ve been doing a bit better with that, lately. I do my morning exercise bike ride, then I do some new movements, similar to martial arts and Qi Gong, that wake me up. In the past, I’ve done a lot of weight lifting, in combination with my bike riding, but the repetitive motions actually worked against me, and I developed back and shoulder problems as a result. Now, I’m doing more natural, more complex movements, to stir the energy and get my body woken up.

The way I see it, the real danger of brain injury is to the body. We can become so stressed, so preoccupied with what’s wrong with us, that we stop living our lives, we stop actively taking chances, and we stop learning. We can also stop moving. It’s so easy, these days, to “veg out” in front of the television and not do anything, or lie in bed looking at social media on your phone. Plus, the cocooning that’s often recommended after a concussion encourages immobility.

As it turns out, cocooning might not be the best thing for folks after a concussion, after all. We need to move more. And if you think about it, it makes sense. Concussion releases a lot of chemicals into the brain that need to be moved out. How does the body move things — by moving itself. Increased blood flow. Increased circulation. Increased breathing. Over-exertion isn’t a great idea — in fact, it may expose you to additional injuries, because your coordination may be impacted, and you may also not be able to gauge risk, or react to the environment as quickly.

You need to be careful. But you also need to move.

But I digress. This is really about me and fixing decades of sedentary life. I’ve allowed myself to get comfortable in non-movement, and now it’s almost like my body seems to have forgotten how to really move freely. In fact, that’s what happens. You get muscle amnesia, and your brain stops understanding how to move your whole body.

I need to do something about that. I look around at my peers, and I’m not impressed by how non-active they are. It’s pretty bad. They can’t move freely. They might play sports, go skiing, or run, but they don’t have fluidity of movement. They’re too busy looking the part of a respectable adult — and it amazes me, just how restricted your movements have to be, when you’re doing an impression of a respectable adult. Especially for women. Don’t run, don’t spring into action, don’t move in unexpected ways… No wonder our bodies run out of juice. We don’t use them.

Well, I for one am not going to end up like that. Yeah, I’ve got some pain going on. I messed up my shoulder again over the weekend. But I’m working through it. I’ve got my movements, I’m getting into motion. I’m also using my stand-up desks at home and at work, to get me off my a**. I’m going up and down stairs at work, instead of taking the elevator. Even if I’m carrying a heavy load — especially then.

And that’s good. It’s helping. It’s working itself out.

Onward.

When you find something that works… work it

railroad tracks leading into the distance with "start" painted on a tieI’ve been having a lot of trouble with my shoulder and back, over the past months. Dealing with all the snow, along with spending a lot of time being sedentary — alternating between slothfulness and frantic activity — has done a number on me.

I’ve been trying to get my shoulder to loosen up, so the pain in my arm eases up. I’ve got a lot of shooting pain, tingling, weakness, etc. in my left arm, and sometimes it also goes over to my right side.

And that’s no good.

I need to keep myself in good working order. Life goes on, and I absolutely need to be up for it all. I can’t afford to get waylaid, especially when we’re talking about just regular life. I know I’ve got some disabilities, and I know I need to make accommodations for myself, but once I do that, I need to stay in the game. I can’t use my intermittent issues as an excuse. No way, no how.

After months of wangling with this pain, I finally found something that really seems to work. I’d been doing stretches and trying to release the tightness in my muscles with movements designed to lengthen them. But that seemed to be doing the exact opposite.

So, I tried something that’s worked for me in the past — doing muscle releases by doing slight tightening and then relaxation. Apparently, a muscle contraction will actually loosen the muscle, where a stretch will shorten it. So, I did some exercises I’d read about (and used with some pretty amazing success) a few years ago.

And lo and behold, I’m finally getting some relief. It’s pretty amazing, actually. The sense of relaxation that comes from it, is a welcome change, compared to what I’ve been dealing with for months, now. It’s not always perfect, and I still have to refine my technique, but I’m learning how to move so that my body isn’t at war with itself.

That’s huge. Immense.

So, now it’s time to get moving, and get on with my day.

Onward.

Brain: Yeah, that’s enough. Body: Nope, we’re just getting started

human body with swirls of light
It’s ALL connected

Life has thrown me a bunch of curve-balls, lately, and I’m feeling it physically. It’s been a while since I’ve been this sore — lots of lifting and carrying and pushing and pulling, over the past few days. And despite the pain, my body is actually responding well to it.

I’m sleeping better. I’ve been getting about 8 hours a night, for the past few nights, where I was stuck at 6 hours for quite some time. I need 8, or I can’t function well, and things start to fall apart.

I’m also thinking more clearly, with less static and “clutter”.

I’ve been doing more stretching, which has really helped, too.

Spending less time in front of the computer has been great. Because let’s be honest, not that much changes, from day to day, despite the steady stream of sensational headlines and “news” stories that are all just different angles about the same-old-same-old.  I can literally check in every week or so, and the story will still be the same. So, I’m leaving it alone, and that’s making me happy and freeing up a lot of time.

Also, spending more time exercising is helping. I’ve been riding my bike for 20 minutes a day for years, but now I’m changing things up and focusing on burning calories. I’m keeping at it, till I burn 400-500 calories, and not stopping before then. That’s making a difference, I think. Ultimately, it’ll help my weight (I’ve regained weight I thought I could keep off). And it’s also good for my mental health, because I feel like I’m actually doing something. Plus, I can be more involved with my diet and its effects, overall. I need to do that. Eat more variety. Get better nutrients in me.

It’s funny, yesterday I was feeling really hungry, and I started to go after my usual crackers and cheese (protein helps). But then I stopped and decided to take some of my multivitamin “gummies”. And when I did that, it cut my hunger. I suspect that craving feeling is my body telling me it needs more nutrients, but when I go for the cookies or crackers, instead of actual vitamins, it just disguises the need and distracts my system with the sugar rush.

So, now that’s going to be my go-to. Instead of snacking, take some vitamin gummies. Not overdose on them, but just the usual recommended amount. I’ve got a number of different types that have been sitting in my cupboard, instead of me taking them. So, now I can take them. I just need a way to work them into my life, in order to get with the program.

Huh, it’s funny. My brain very quickly decides that it’s done with stuff — exercise and physical activity, especially.  But my body wants to keep going. Like with the bike riding. If I can just get my mind off its desire to go do something else, I can keep going with my workouts. And when I’m working hard, my distractable brain can come up with all kinds of other things it’d rather be thinking about. But I need to keep working. Keep my body going.

So, I just need to keep this in mind, when I’m trying to keep myself on track. Keep my mind out of the picture, and let my body continue on its pace. And watch what happens. To my health — physical and mental.

My brain wants to quit, but I should know better than to listen to it.

I should know that by now. And yeah, I do. I just need a reminder. Like now.

Onward…

Ouch – time to get back to my regular exercise

mechanical torso skeleton of King KongOkay, enough work. Time to get some balance back in my life.

Last week was incredibly busy. I had meetings for work from dawn till dusk, and beyond, and I spent a lot of time hunched over my computer or sitting at a table concentrating on what was being said, not to mention the ramifications of what people were saying.

I was so intent on keeping up, I didn’t keep up with my exercise, and now I’m feeling it in a big way. My bum shoulder is acting up again, and so are my elbows, back, and knees. I’m in a fair amount of chronic, low-level pain that keeps flaring up at odd times. It’s tiring. And it puts me in a bad mood.

Typically, I start the day with exercise. I ride my bike for 20 minutes (sometimes more), then I lift weights. If I don’t, I start to feel the ill-effects within a few days. And last week was so packed, I didn’t do much of anything in that department for over 5 days. Not good.

What I notice most is the drop in my strength. I lifted a little this morning, but the weights felt much heavier than usual. And it humbling, to feel that. They shouldn’t feel that heavy to me. Not under normal conditions.

But these aren’t normal conditions.

Well, anyway, enough regrets. I know what to do, and I can do it. Now I can get back to my regular exercise — and then some. I really need to do more, anyway. I used to swim several times a week, but that dropped off, for some reason. I need to get back to that, if only because it exercises my entire body all at one time, instead of just focusing on one muscle group at a time. It also feels good to be less weighted in the pool.

And on the weekends, I need to move more, do more lifting, do more … period. I’m here in the house. And I need to get out, go for the kinds of walks I used to. Get myself moving. Get myself up and at ’em.

It’s kind of strange, how I’ve gotten away from being as active as I used to be. I don’t go out for those time-honored walks, like I used to. I don’t putter around outside, like I used to. I don’t do as much physical activity as I need to — I’ve been working on thinking projects for the past couple of years, sitting at my desk or the dining room table, coming up with ideas. And that’s fine. I’ve made a lot of progress. But I can also think while I’m walking — in fact, I’ve had some of my best ideas while hiking through the woods.

So, it’s time to get back to that. It feels like a New Year’s resolution, but it’s really just common sense.

And not wanting to be in so much pain…

That, too.

Onward.

Keeping safe, keeping sound, keeping rested

stick figures in different positions of falling over, standing upOne of the major long-term issues I have, thanks to all those mTBIs, is that I tend to get tired… but I don’t realize it, until I’m so tired I can’t rest enough to catch up. When I’m tired, my thinking is off — as in off. I get more impulsive, and I also get angry quickly. It kicks off a self-fulfilling prophecy of lots of activity, followed by increasing fatigue, followed by lots of activity (to pump myself up with adrenaline), leading to increasing fatigue…

And before I know it, I’m so tired, I can’t rest.

I’m tired. I’m wired. And I’m unbelievably impulsive. As in – reserve a new domain name and launch a new online business impulsive. As in – push myself to make poor choices that pump me full of adrenaline that make me feel like myself again, even though I’m putting myself in danger. These choices can range from driving while exhausted, to starting a  new thing before I finish something else, picking a fight with someone over something stupid, or staying up even later to watch a movie I’ve seen a hundred times before.

Of course, the whole “new thing” crashes before long, because I run out of steam, I implode, or I rapidly lose track of what I’m doing. And after I get a nap or a couple of good nights’ sleep, I realize what I’ve been doing – and I know for sure, it’s never going to work.

That happened to me, last weekend. I had a lot going on. Too much, as it turns out. And I was tired. I was tweaked about things going on at work, and I was feeling the burn of the long winter and a lack of sunlight. So, I pushed myself. And pushed myself. And I ended up frittering away a lot of time over the weekend on things that I didn’t need to be doing — that I shouldn’t have been doing. And I tired myself out, even more.

I didn’t exercise as much as I should have. Because I was tired.

I didn’t finish the things I’d started earlier in the week. Because I was tired.

And I ended up eating a lot of junk food to keep my energy up… and also due to an impending migraine. I get ravenous when a migraine is brewing. And I ate a bunch of stuff that put on some pounds, made me feel worse, and screwed up my energy… so I was more inclined to eat more junk food, stay up later, and basically waste my week.

I don’t have weeks to waste. Only in the past several years, have I even felt like a real human being, thanks to my TBI rehab. I’ve lived for decades in the shadows, not feeling even remotely real. I’ve struggled to keep up, year after year after year, and I’ve never had the kind of connection with my work that I have now. I can’t afford to waste any time in my life, because I only have this one. And I’ve been wanting to do so much, for so long, only to be blocked and thwarted at every turn… I can’t waste any time, now.

So, all that being said, it’s incredibly critical that I keep myself in line and properly manage my energy, my eating, my exercise.  And always keep in mind the fact that, just a few years ago, I wasn’t able to maintain this level of activity, let alone have a realistic expectation that I’d be able to live up to my plans and dreams. It was all just “throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks”.

Now, though, things are very different. Indeed, they are. And I have to keep that in mind, when I’m tempted to fritter away time on things that have no ultimate purpose.

It’s good to take a break, every now and then, but it’s important to stay on track and follow through. I can finally – finally – do that.

And I don’t want to take it for granted.

Onward.

A little here, a little there, and all the while paying close attention

All those details bring the brain to life

We think too much in our daily lives. Most of us, anyway.

We read too much news that has nothing to do with us personally, and about which we can do nothing. Nothing at all.

We spend a lot of time and energy, packing our days full of activity and “achievement” and all the while we are getting farther and farther from the very things that give us satisfaction and a sense of meaning and purpose.

We move too fast, thinking that will get us more to think about and enjoy and experience.

I’m seeing that with my parents, who are on a hell-bent all-out rush to do everything they can pack into their lives — apparently wanting to get everything accomplished before they die. They’re not getting any younger, and they seem keenly aware of that. It’s almost impossible to pin them down, these days. They pick up and go at a moment’s notice  — camping, traveling, hiking, doing, doing, doing, doing….

The tyranny of a life devoted to checking off all the items on your “bucket list” is cruel and sadistic. You race and race and rush and rush, doing everything, seeing nothing, experiencing nothing, just having a completed checklist at the end.

But the simple fact of my own life is that doing less and digging in more, is far more satisfactory than packing in all kinds of hyperactive pastimes that produce far more fatigue than awareness. I’d rather stand still in one place, examining the toad that has taken up residence near my back door bug light, feeling the sun on my skin and the wind at my back, and even the mosquitoes flying around my ears… than race from Point A to Point B at top speed, just for the sake of getting there.

I’m really in no hurry.

Maybe it’s because I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid to lose, I’m not afraid to die. I’m not afraid. So, I’m in no rush.

Not today, anyway.

This, of course, is a huge change from where I was 10 years ago. Even 5 years ago. Even 5 months ago. It’s where I am right now. There’s no guarantee I won’t be wracked by fear in another 5 hours, but right here, right now, I’m pretty chill, with my feet firmly planted on the ground, and no — I mean no — fear of the unknown.

And I’m taking my time today, just soaking it all in. It’s good for my brain. It’s good for my life. Stopping to really zero in on what’s around me, having a really in-depth experience with it all… that’s the ticket.

I’m doing some reading, some writing, some work around the house and the yard. I’m moving through my days, just letting them all sink in, and enjoying them for what they are. I’ve been thinking hard about my life up to this point, and I’m feeling pretty damn’ good about how far I’ve come. Especially since my TBI in 2004. My ten-year anniversary is coming up… and I’m starting to get reflective, pensive… and extremely grateful for the recovery I’ve been blessed to experience.

It’s funny… the other day, I bumped my head as I was getting in my car. Ouch. I’ve had a little bit of a headache since, but I haven’t lost it over the whole thing. I’ve had bumps and falls, over the past few years, and they freaked me out a bit. But this time, I’ve been pretty chilled out about it. I have a sore spot on my head and a little bit of a headache, but other than that, I have no other symptoms.

I’m still paying close attention to what’s going on with me, because I don’t want to have any complications building on my past TBIs, and I don’t want to let a potential concussion go unattended. It’s all too easy to let things slide, and then end up worse off over the long term.

However, based on what I’ve experienced so far — no detectable cognitive or motor issues, no fogginess or other ill-effects — I seem to be fine.

Speaking of fine, it’s time for me to get out in this day. I have another day off work, which is fantastic. And I have a few hours before I need to head into the city to do some errands. Life is good. And it’s worth spending the extra time to pay close attention to the details.

Getting lots done is all very well and good. But in the end, I’d rather be able to remember and appreciate what I’ve experienced along the way.

Onward.

I finished reading a book

Here’s a blast from the past. About a year ago, I wrote this post (but forgot to publish it), absolutely giddy about having finished reading a book. Looking at where I’m at now, it’s pretty amazing the changes I’ve been through. After not having been able to get through an entire book in years (although one of my favorite pastimes was always reading), last November, I actually finished reading a book.

Here’s the post:

November, 2009

Yesterday afternoon at about 3:30 p.m., I finished reading Aging with Grace, the book about the Nun Study of those long-lived School Sisters of Notre Dame, which explores how and why some people live long and never succumb to Alzheimer’s or dementia, and why others may be more vulnerable. This book has a lot of meaning to me, because as a multiple TBI survivor, I’m statistically more vulnerable to dementia, and about the last thing I want, is to be incapacitated and demented later in life. No thanks…

I found a number of tips and clues about what you can do to avoid dementia — even if you do have some brain degeneration — and I read reports of nuns who had all the signs of advanced Alzheimer’s, but no symptoms whatsoever before they died. Sounds good to me.

I’m invigorated by this new information. I highly recommend it to anyone. And I’m even more invigorated by the fact that I actually finished the book! It took me a month to read all 219 pages, but I did it!!!

This would not be big news for most people I know. Most people I know read books as a matter of course, and when they start a book, they generally finish it (unless it’s truly awful and/or they run out of time). I, on the other hand, have not finished reading a book I started in a number of years. It’s hard for me to remember the last time I actually reached the last page of a book I started.

Let me walk around my study, looking for a book I know I’ve read cover to cover… Let’s see… I am reasonably certain I’ve read about 56 of the books in my study, which constitute maybe 10% of the total on my bookshelves. And the  most recent one I finished prior to Aging with Grace was consumed in a hurry back in 2006. I may have read something from cover to cover in 2007, but I cannot recall.

Now, mind you, I have tons of books, but most of them I’ve only read the first couple of chapters, if that. It’s a lifelong habit that goes way back to when I was a kid, and I never even really realized it was a problem, until this past year or so, when I started to take a long, hard look at my reading habits — or lack thereof — in the context of my TBIs.

It’s a complicated issue — part difficulty with the material, part difficulty with keeping focused on the material. I can be really distractable, so I often end up wandering off on cognitive tangents, when I’m reading. But part of what feeds my distractability, I think, is the fatigue that sets in after I’ve been reading for a while, as well as the discouragement I feel when I realize my eyes have been skimming pages for the last half hour, and I cannot remember what I just read. It’s complicated. And it sucks. And it never occurred to me before that I might have difficulty reading. I’m such an avid infovore — I’m usually reading something. Who would guess that reading is such a challenge for me?

It’s taken some adjusting to get used to this fact. And the adjustment has been as much of a hit to my self-image as anything else. I was always known as a bookworm. Much of my knowledge comes from books. If I’ve been reading at substandard level all these years without knowing it… and also not grasping a lot of what I was reading… what does that say about me, as a person? Does it completely invalidate many of the beliefs and assertions I’ve had about myself, for over 4 decades? It’s troubling to think so.

But now that I know reading is a problem for me, I can take steps to do something about it.  And that’s good. I literally cannot live this way, not being able to read a book from cover to cover. I am NOT going to continue in life this way. Something must be done. I need a plan. Here’s my plan — which so far has worked well, the first time through.

I need to acclimate myself to reading for longer periods of time, by reading for fun and pleasure, getting up to speed with that, and then starting to read for learning and understanding. I need to practice regularly and build up my stamina, and also develop different strategies for how to handle the material I absorb.

First, for the fun reading, I need to identify a topic that interests me which will stimulate me. I need to have some investment in the material, some payoff, some reward that comes with it. Preferably, I need to find something to read that also has “companion” material, like a movie that was made of it. I need to have the information presented in different formats, that different parts of my brain can “hook into”.

I chose The Bourne Identity, because it’s an action adventure novel that’s broken into relatively short chapters. It’s also got a movie made of it that is one of my favorites, and I have visuals of the action to prompt me as I read along

Second, I need to set aside time to read. I have to have time to do it, when I have time to rest either before or afterwards, or both.

I do this on the weekends. I take naps on the weekends to catch up with my rest. And I read during the afternoons.

Third, I need to gradually increase the amount of time I spend reading. I pay attention to how much time I’m spending, how I’m feeling, how my pace is. And I really congratulate myself, when I’ve read more than 10 pages at a sitting and understood what was being said the whole way through.

I can do this, but I also need to make sure I’m not tiring myself out. I need to make special efforts to reward and praise myself for having read as long as I have. I tend to get down on myself and think I’m stupid, when I’m not reading well, and I assume that it should be easy for me. But my reading has never been as strong as I always thought, and since my fall in 2004, it’s got even worse.

Fourth, I will then transfer my stamina and interest and good experiences with action/adventure fiction to my other non-fiction reading. And I must pace myself, gradually working my way up, again, and re-reading the things that I didn’t get the first time around. I need to keep an action/adventure book on hand, to keep my interest bolstered. I don’t worry so much about finishing the fiction in a timely manner. It’s more for the sake of keeping my spirits up and having a good experience while reading, so I can focus my more intent energies on the non-fiction/professional reading.

This is what I’ve been doing, on and off, with Aging With Grace over the past month. And now that I’ve done it and see that it works(!) I am ready to move on to my professional reading.

This is such important work. My survival and success depends on it. I’ve got a bunch of books I bought in the past that I need to read for work, but I haven’t been able to crack them. Now, I’ve got to do it.  Now I have a strategy and a plan, and I’ve proved (at least once) that it works. Reading really is fundamental. And the fact that I have done it with Aging With Grace has really lit a fire under me.

But before I go any further, it’s time for my Sunday afternoon nap.

Not crazy, not bad, not stupid. Just brain injured.

I’m checking my stats today — “head injury and now i hate myself” came up 8 times in the past week.

And I’m sure the person(s) who were searching on that were/are not alone.

Lots of us feel this way — head injury and now i hate myself.  Our brains don’t work the way they used to, and so much of what we have come to understand about ourselves, which is directly related to us functioning in a certain way and being able to predict and manage our own behavior, and generally control our lives… well, a lot of that goes away.

Can it come back? I am of two minds on this point.

On the one hand, my understanding is that once fragile connections in the brain are severed, they don’t get put back together again. So, the autopilot methods for living our lives we have developed over a lifetime are fried. Shot. Gone baby gone.

BUT that does not mean that we cannot develop other pathways that help us accomplish the same results — just in a different fashion. Just because the well-worn paths through the jungles of our lives are blocked by fallen trees, doesn’t mean we can’t blaze a new path (or two or three or more) and still reach our destination.  Grab that machete!

It may take time and tons of deliberate effort — not to mention a whole lot more patience and perseverance than we’re inclined to devote to the effort. All those vines and shrubs and trees in the way… And all those snakes and howling monkeys… But it can happen. A new trail can emerge over time. I’m not saying that it will, 100% guaranteed. But it can. And it might.

A lot of it is up to us, and how we choose to approach our lives. It can depend on how determined we are to fix this sh*t. It can depend on how much we have to lose. It can depend on how much we hold others responsible for our difficulties. And how much ability we perceive in ourselves. It can depend on how motivated we are, and how we end up feeling after each of our attempts — failed or successful, or a work in constant progress.

Of course, there will always be things out of our control. And given the  nature of this type of injury, in some cases there’s literally only so much you can do, at any given point in time. But here’s the thing, see — how much we can do will necessarily change over time. We change. We grow. We improve. We fall back. But we never truly stay the same.

So, it’s important to not give up and not paint yourself into a corner, and block yourself off from the rest of the world, telling yourself — over and over and over and over — that you’re brain-injured, and that means you can’t have any of the things you want in your life. It’s tempting, I know. I’ve done it myself, plenty of times. But why decide you’re crippled, when you’re just re-learning to walk?

You didn’t give up learning to walk when you were a year or two old, and you kept falling down. So why start now?

Look — You might not be able to have it all, but then, who can? Brain injuries can have a way of making us a lot more inclined to over-estimate and over-reach and over-react, than we would normally. It’s important to remember that, and not derail yourself over your perceptions of success and failure and what constitutes a “good life”.

And it’s important to not get hung up on externals, when it comes to how you feel about your life.  Seriously. In my situation, I am living so close to the edge, I can smell the sulphur of hellfire and brimstone from here. I’m literally a paycheck away from disaster, and I’m not in a permanent job, which makes my situation all the more precarious. And I’m the breadwinner for my family. But you know what? That situation can change. And it can change for the better. And anyway, I have to block out the chatter in my head about “You’re going down! You are so screwed! Who would want to hire you full-time, you loser?! You’re going to lose everything you worked so hard for! You’re brain-injured, and that last fall is going to do you in, big-time!”  and stay steady, no matter what. Keep my head on straight, and not let thing like a temper flare or a forgotten appointment throw me for a huge loop.

I just have to stay steady. Keep that chatter in my head down to a minimum. And do things regularly that feed me and make me feel whole and human again. Like work out each morning and wake my body and brain up. Like spend as much time as I can outside. Like connect as best I can with the people around me who are connected with me, and who can help me live my life better.

My head will tell me any old crap it feels like spouting, at the moment. And it’s usually not helpful. So, I have to use my mind, my past experience, and dedication to the kind of life I want to feel, to block out that mess. And just get on with living my life. Stay steady. Keep the faith. I have to remind myself — I’m not crazy, not bad, not stupid. I’m just brain injured. And injuries either heal, or we learn to live with them. We might limp a little bit, or we might need to use a walker or wheelchair. But if we want to get from Point A to Point B badly enough, we can find a way.

I figure, if Martin Sheen can sustain a heart attack while filming Apocalypse Now and struggle 1/4 a mile to the road to get help, and then come back to filming six weeks later… and go on to have the kind of career he’s had, I can figure out a way to keep my act together.

Really, for me, it’s about keeping the faith any way that I can — remembering that I’m contending with an injury that never quits, and keeping myself strong in the face of it. I can choose to beat myself up, sure. But I’d rather relax, regroup, and just get on with my life.