Great weekend… and a big week ahead.

Calming it down, one breath at a time
It’s all coming at me pretty fast, but if I keep relaxed and keep breathing, it can all happen. It can all turn out pretty well.

I had a full and productive weekend. I caught up on a number of things I’ve been needing to get done for weeks, now. I also got some things done around my yard that HAD to get done before it rains later this week. I feel pretty good about getting those things done. It was not a small task, but I did it.  Woot.

Some important-but-delayed things I did not get done. But I got enough important things done, that it offsets the disappointment. And it gives me more motivation to get moving on those things I didn’t finish (or even start).

I’ve also been working on my breathing. Focusing on relaxing and feeling where my body is “at” — where I’m tense, where I need to loosen up, where my breath seems to have stopped. I need to keep it moving, not get stuck in fight-flight, which is what happens at times, when I hold my breath unconsciously.

Years ago, I was very intent on working with my breath and getting in touch with my body, so I could more effectively manage stress. It was a regular part of my daily practice, and it did wonders for me. Somehow, I got away from that. I got caught up in everything else, and I was in serious survival mode for several years, while I dealt with creditors and paid down my years-salary-worth-of-debt. I lost sight of the big picture with my approaches, and while some things improved in my life — like my job situation and my perception of myself in the professional world — other parts fell by the wayside.

Including my breathing. I’m working on that again. And swimming is a big part of it — since it involves both movement and breathing. And it’s great exercise. Just great, great exercise.

This week is a pretty big one for me. I have my weekly neuropsych appointment, when I work on problems with making progress and getting things done. I have a whole lot of things I need to get done on a regular basis. I’ve been doing them for years, I just haven’t been doing them as efficiently as I should – and it shows. I may need to take some of them off my to-do list and put them on my ‘would be nice to do’ list… and then not worry about them till later.

One project, in particular, has been drawing a lot of energy off the other projects I really need to do. It’s training materials for people who are in a certain part of the job market and don’t understand how things work.

The thing is, if I start on that, it’s going to be pretty all-consuming. It’s not just some training materials — the whole plan also involves public speaking, public appearances, and a lot of writing and publishing and networking. And I just don’t have time for that, now.

It’s a great prospect for me, and it could bring in a fair amount of money for me, but I have so many other things I want to be working on, I can’t really afford to spend the time on it, to do it full justice.

So, I’m tabling that — putting it on the “back burner” to simmer for a while. I’m really treating that like my backup-plan “B”, in case I lose my job or the 9-to-5 thing doesn’t work out for me. That would be the ideal time to cut this project loose and set it free — when I actually have time to fully devote to it.

I’m in the process of cooking up a number of other projects, many of which I find really inspiring and motivational. So, I need to make room for them, and find where I can fit them, while not burning out. I’ll work through this with my neuropsych this week — and in later weeks, as well.

In addition to that, I’ve got a town meeting this week, when we’ll discuss the fate of a company that wants to expand. I’ve had my ups and downs with the board I belong to — they don’t always seem to respect me, and they sometimes ignore me or talk over me. People in town have laughed at me, when I asked one of my “stupid” questions, which was completely disrespectful (and ill-advised, since the board I’m on makes decisions about what people want to do on their properties, and I’m not the sort of enemy you want to have). I let that go, though, and I continue to serve on the board. It connects me with the larger community, and it also puts me on good terms with the local authorities. It’s a lot easier dealing with the local police, when they run my personal details and realize I’m also an “enforcer” who serves the public good.

I probably would have gotten in more trouble, had the friction not dissipated when the cops realized who I was and what role I play in local government.

Another thing is, I’m seeing my neurologist later this week to talk about the headaches and my other issues. Actually, I’ll be seeing their assistant, as the neuro proper has kind of washed their hands of me. They didn’t find anything on the MRI (even the DTI-MRI) that gave them any clues about what was going on with me, and since they can’t diagnose me with anything, how are they supposed to treat me (and bill the insurance companies)? I feel for them, but I don’t appreciate being pushed aside.

Fortunately, while I was sorting through my stack of insurance statements and various papers and notices, I found a promotional flyer for one of those services that gives you access to second opinions by highly qualified physicians and healthcare experts. I’m going to check in with them, to see if they can help me, because this current neuro approach is not working. I really don’t need to take hours out of my day to drive to an office where I’m just going to be brushed off, and my concerns aren’t going to be taken seriously.

Just as an example, the neuro-in-charge told me that my concerns about falling and having a worse TBI than the one I had before, were unfounded. They told me that concussions are NOT cumulative, which contradicts just about everything I’ve read… and after weeks of consideration, I have a lot of reservations about their abilities and willingness to be of help.

Then again, I do fit the profile of someone in the “miserable minority” — I’m very much like the first individual profiled in that seminal 1996 paper, which touched off a chain-reaction of further studies and diagnostic / treatment approaches to folks with lingering post-concussive symptoms. So, maybe the neuro was referencing that profile.

My own feelings of insult and dismissal aside, the “miserable minority” approach may have done more to perpetuate misery, by steering away from the functional and structural issues that come along with traumatic brain injury, and focusing so deeply on the psychological factors.

I’m not saying psychological factors don’t come into play. I’m saying there’s more to it than that, and it’s my belief — after many, many years of unfruitful and counter-productive therapy approaches, followed by amazingly fantastic progress after far fewer years of basic functional retraining — that a focus on psychology, without addressing the underlying neurology, has done more to perpetuate PCS than anyone would guess.

Of course, people mean well. They’re just misguided. And they’re so caught up in proving that they’re right, and they deserve a place at the rehabilitative table, with all the respect due highly trained professionals, that they “circle the wagons” and get Balkanized — cut off from others, hostile and uncooperative and territorial, and always ready to battle over some piece of territory.

Unfortunately for those of us who need their help, we get sucked into that dynamic, and that’s no good for anyone.

But there it is.

There it is.

Friday is free and clear for me — no meetings, no appointments. I do need to do some shopping this week to pick up some black pants for my business trip next week. I’m going to be presenting at a client conference, and I need some black pants. Or maybe I don’t need to go shopping. I have a couple pairs of black pants I can probably wear. They’re just not as casual as the conference wants us to be. It’s definitely “dress down” — although we still need to present in a professional manner.

I also need to practice my presentation. I’m doing one technical talk that’s only about 10 minutes long, and I’m going to be “on call” to answer questions about the company’s full product line, which is a pretty extensive collection. I just need to  have a quick 2-minute “spiel” I can launch into, for a variety of topics. That’s probably the biggest undertaking of this week, and I’ll be practicing while I’m driving to and from work, as well as to and from my appointments.

Memorizing things used to be easy for me as a kid. I can still memorize things, if I go over them 30+ times. 35 times seems to be the magic number, but I don’t have that kind of time — 35 times for each of the 10 different spiels is 350 separate practice sessions. At 2 minutes apiece, that’s 700 minutes (11.66 hours), minimum. I can break it up, sure, but it’s still a lot of time to spend.

So, again, I’ve got to pick and choose.

And so, I shall.

Onward.

If it works… why mess with it?

forest-walkYesterday, I decided to do things a little differently, and go for my walk in the woods before I started writing. I intended to spend most of the day working on a piece I started about “chronic blogging”.

I had a lot of good ideas in the course of my walk, but by the time I got back, there were SO many, that I just couldn’t keep up with them all.

So, I went back to bed.

Turns out, my daily routine is a routine for a reason – it works.

I really need to stick to my standard approach of exercise, followed by breakfast, followed by writing… followed by either going to work, or having a good hike. If I hike before I write, my brain gets too muddled, and I lose the benefit I got from the vigorous exercise I did earlier.

Walking is exercise, yes. But it’s leisurely. And it’s not always conducive to my writing. I need to trust my gut and just do the thing I intended to do, to begin with.

Another thing that works for me, is talking through my daily life and logistics with my neuropsych. Not delving into my emotional landscape. Not digging up all sorts of old hurts and pains to “heal” them. I totally understand how that’s helpful. But for my purposes, I really need to focus on my day-to-day and manage the things that are functional problems for me.

I’ve been under the weather and feeling wiped out, in part due to my new NP’s fondness for “exploring emotions”.

Good God. Please save me.

Anyway, I’m not doing that anymore. I’ll set the tone and set the agenda by myself. This NP is quite a bit younger than me, and they’ve got a youthful vigor and excitement for “the hard stuff”. Please. I’m an old warhorse. I’ve done the hard stuff. Now I just need to function.

And so I shall.

Onward.

Keep going, keep working

Time to dig in
Time to dig in

Yesterday was my last session with my old neuropsych. They’re relocating to a different state and semi-retiring, and they don’t do phone/video consultations, so it’s time to move on.

This is a pretty huge loss for me. Their help really made it possible for me to get through some tough times and mend my broken life. In many ways, they were more of an advisor than a “rehab therapist”, as they had a ton of life experience and in-depth knowledge, and they knew very well how to help me.

Even the times when they were off-base with their approach (which happened now and then), it really helped me to think things through and reach my own conclusions. In some ways, the times when they were wrong, were even more helpful than the times when they were right.

Anyway, it was an emotional parting. I will really miss them.

At the same time, I need to keep moving forward. With this new neuropsych.

I want to do things a little differently, this time. I’m in a very different place than I was in the past, so I’m able to be more creative with my thinking. I’ve decided to put down in writing the things that come to mind, and to make the effort to follow up and really make an effort to explain myself and provide details that get missed along the way.

An hour a week is not a lot of time to cover all the ground I need to cover. My brain tends to “stovepipe” — go deeply into specific areas, to the exclusion of all else. The result is an incredibly rich experience with much greater detail and elaboration than most achieve, but it also shuts out other “fringe” factors that might be worth considering. I get very hyper-focused, you see…

In some ways that narrowed thinking works very well for me, but in others, it gets in the way. And putting things into writing is good practice for sorting out my thoughts in a wider sense and bringing other considerations into play.

So, I’m doing that. Putting things in writing and letting it go. I’m going to be able to cover a lot more territory in writing, than in talking. And this new neuropsych may just learn a thing or two, in the process. I know they’re going to learn more about me – that’s for sure.

And today is a good day. I’m helping my spouse with an event they’re presenting at, and once we get there, I’ll have the afternoon to get some of my own work done. I’ll hang out in the van and write. And edit. And write some more. I’ve got some compelling projects in the works, and now that I’ve said “good-bye” to my old neuropsych, I feel like a lot of my attention and energy has freed up.

Or maybe I’ll just sleep. I didn’t get much rest last night — I got woken up early by an unsettled stomach. Ate too late last night. And didn’t get to bed at a good time.

Oh, well. Whatever happens today… happens.

Just gotta keep on keepin’ on.

Onward.

Moving on… and slowing it down

flash-electric
What just happened?

So, I didn’t see the neurologist yesterday. I saw the nurse practitioner (LPN). My MRI looks good – no sign of structural issues on the imaging. So, what I gather is that there’s really nothing the neuro can do for me. I must be one of those “miserable minority” people who just needs coaching to make the necessary changes in their life.

I’ve got no diagnosis from them – just symptoms. And I’m ambivalent about dealing with the LPN. They’re nice enough, but they’re also a bit snarky, making cracks about my employer, who has a bad reputation in the region. And they move too fast. It’s wild – they don’t seem to get that folks with processing speed issues can’t always keep up with them. And they looked at me strangely, when I had questions or needed clarification or when I was writing down my notes. They also didn’t do a very good job of communicating the information clearly to me. It was very scatter-shot, and they didn’t cover everything that had gotten tested. My bloodwork, for instance, never got mentioned. And they were kind of all over the place.

Not this again.

I really think it has to do with the nature of their work. There’s a lot going on, and the neuro is splitting their time between that practice and another practice they’re opening several states away, so the LPN’s workload is probably pretty heavy. It could also be that they’ve got an attitude because they’re “just an LPN” and they don’t get the respect they feel they deserve. It could also be because they’re a “jock” and they have this whole athlete mystique thing going on.

Long story short, they aren’t the most dignified or professional sort, and that’s a little irritating to me.

But that’s fine, because it will keep me away from them. I have the info about my MRI (more or less) and I’m not in any danger. I’ve got this whole headache thing, as well as balance issues, but apparently sleep is the problem — I don’t get enough of it, and that screws everything up.

The other thing I need to work on, is this new neuropsych. They’re really nice, but they talk too fast, and I can’t actually absorb everything they’re saying to me. It’s like a non-stop barrage of ideas and concepts and questions and statements. Good grief. They really need to slow down. I’m a little out of sorts, this morning, after talking to the LPN and the neuropsych yesterday. It was a lot to take in, and I’m still kind of shaking my head, wondering “What just happened?”

Anyway, I’ll focus on my sleep, I’ll work on my balance, and I’ll use my noggin about things. This new neuropsych looks like they’re going to be pretty good. But I don’t need a snarky LPN with an attitude (and possible emotional issues) to confuse me — and gloss over the details I need to cover. I’ll continue to take care of a lot of things myself.

Anyway, it’s a new day, and I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. So, I’ll do that. And work on my sleep.

I got 7 hours last night, which is better than I’ve been doing, lately.

It’s all a process.

Onward.

And tomorrow would be a new day…

Happy Spring!
Happy Spring!

I just confirmed my neuro follow-up appointment for tomorrow. I had gotten a call from them on Saturday, confirming me for 10:20 a.m. tomorrow morning, but I could have sworn I made it for 2:20 p.m.

So, I called them back this morning, and yes, it is at 2:20 p.m.

2:20 on the 22nd of the month. Gotta play those numbers:)

Anyway, after that appointment I’m also meeting with my new neuropsych. I did a little research on them over the weekend, and it turns out that they’re about 15 years younger than I (they got their B.A. in 2001 – which is really hard to believe… but there it is). They’ve had their Ph.D. less than 10 years, and they’ve been primarily engaged in group practice work, in an academic lab, so this whole individual thing may be new to them. I know they have worked directly with a variety of different kinds of folks (and they did their obligatory VA training), so it will be interesting seeing how this goes.

I have high hopes.

In any case, it will be great to be getting back to seeing someone on Tuesday evenings. Neuro rehab is really the central organizing theme of my life — improving myself, better understanding my brain, organizing my thoughts, and also figuring out how to deal with my spouse as they decline… it’s all part of it. And it helps to have a working relationship with someone who is a professional — no personal strings attached, no implied reciprocity, no emotional entanglements… just someone to talk things through with, who has an expert outlook on it all.

So, I’m gathering my thoughts for tomorrow. I need to take my bloodwork numbers from the past years, so they have something to compare to, and I need to collect my questions about my MRI images.

There’s a lot there I’d like explained. And this neuro is the only person I know who can explain it for me.

So, tomorrow is a new day. Literally. And it feels pretty danged good to be starting something fresh.

Happy spring.

Students: Looking for a field to go into? Brain injury and recovery research has potential.

Featured Image -- 8673There are nearly 2 weeks left in Brain Injury Awareness Month, and I’m feeling as though I haven’t done nearly enough. There is so much to discuss, so much to investigate. The whole realm of TBI recovery is incredibly rich with data and experience, and there are as many variations on the themes of injury and recovery.

Now, if you’re a student looking for a field of study that’s dynamic and ever-changing, and has a direct positive impact on people’s lives, go into neuroscience —  neuropsychology. Brain injury research. Brain injury recovery research. It’s relatively new — nascient — and people are finding out more and more every day.

Indeed, we know so little about the brain, and we learn something new on a regular basis, the sky’s the limit for areas to look into. There’s so much involved in our neurology, and so much variation and interconnection and cross-pollination in all the issues that go along with it, that it’s literally an infinite field.

If anything, the problem is more about narrowing things down — picking an area of focus — than it is about finding what’s out there to explore.

You can pursue medicine. Or psychology. Or research. Or psychiatry. You can pursue physical fitness or physical therapy. Occupational therapy. Vision, hearing, movement… cognition, emotion, philosophy. You name it, the brain’s got it. And someone, somewhere is going to need help with it.

…Because there is no shortage of people who have had brain injuries. Millions of Americans are concussed every year, and that’s not even including all the moderate and severe brain injuries… or the strokes, aneurisms, tumors, and other disorders that muck with our wiring.

People talk about there being a brain injury epidemic, and I suppose that’s true. But brain injury is such a part of our collective experience, it seems more like just another wrinkle in our lives, rather than a sickness.

It’s just there.

And there’s an awful lot of it.

So, if you’re a student and you’re looking for a field to go into where you can make a real difference, consider brain injury research, treatment, or rehab.

You’ve got an audience of millions hoping for more people like you to show up and help.

Gist reasoning – The most invisible loss of mild TBI

catching-up-6I am thinking a lot about losses, these days. Loss of friends, loss of doctors, loss of family, loss of jobs, loss of money, loss of hope.

I’ve been actively working on my brain injury recovery since 2007 — nearly 10 years. I got hurt at the end of 2004, so it’s been over 11 years since my last TBI. And my expectations and hopes have varied, during that time.

I always expected to be able to build back my abilities to at least some extent. I expected to be able to be able to retrain my brain to build back my memory, to address my distractability, to handle my fatigue, and basically all-round get myself back to where I wanted to be.

But that hasn’t happened. The one area where I have significantly improved, is in my gist reasoning, which is really the biggest “functional” deficit I had. Not being able to see what ideas are important in a sea of details is one of the most debilitating effects after mild TBI. It’s also a better predictor of how well people “deal” after mild TBI.

Even if we look great on other scores, even if we only have a few measurable deficits, if our gist reasoning is not great, we’re far more likely to suffer and stumble and have troubles. Nothing seems to make sense. Nothing seems to fit together. And we make one mistake after another, miscalculating and mis-reading cues in ways that really make our lives (and others’) very difficult.

And for no apparent reason.

It’s a hidden thing. And it’s a real problem. On top of that, it’s not recognized as “a thing” by a lot of folks. One refrain I’ve heard repeated, over and over from my neuropsych, is that I only have a few measurable deficits, and they aren’t even that terrible, so I should be able to get back to my life without too much struggle. It’s been kind of demoralizing, hearing that each week, as things just didn’t seem to fit together for me. Yes, my tests said that I was supposed to be in good shape — better than I felt I was. Yes, my tests said I have just a few deficits. But nothing made any sense.

It just didn’t make any sense at all. And it’s been constant work for me to get myself to a point where A) I don’t feel stupid and lazy and useless, and B) I actually understand the nature of my issues and can deal effectively with them. I’ve worked at it, I’ve really concentrated on it, and I’ve made some pretty amazing progress, actually. Even more than my neuropsych ever expected.

The thing of it is, if I’d listened to them and just and said to myself, “Well, my measurable deficits really aren’t that many, and relatively speaking, I haven’t been impacted nearly as badly as other people have,” I might have just sat back and not worried about it… and kept screwing up. I probably never would have made this much progress. I wouldn’t have had a need to. I could have just scaled back my discontent and kept my sights lowered, and eventually just settled in to working around the specific problems I had.

But a focus on the specific problems is a huge problem — especially with gist reasoning. It completely misses the point. Gist reasoning is about bringing everything together to sort through it and make sense of it, and if you just think about (and disregard) the smaller pieces, it’s not going to help you build overall strength in your gist reasoning.

So, just looking at my handful of small deficits wouldn’t have helped me at all. At the same time, sitting back and saying, “Well, I’m not nearly as bad-off a other people are, so I should just get on with my life and not worry about it,” would have put the kaibosh on my progress. Because in fact it’s the combination of taking those small things seriously and tweaking them — within the context of my overall functionality — that kept me going over the years.

And it still does.

Now I am changing neuropsychs, and it will be interesting to see how they approach things. I’m a lot less concerned than I was before, because I’ve been thinking about all the ways my old neuropsych was wrong, over the years. I’ve always felt that dealing with their wrong-ness was even more helpful than dealing with how they were right. It’s been an important process for me, to really think through what they’ve told me, and decide for myself if they were right or wrong. And the times when they were wrong – oh, so wrong – have been pretty educational for me.

So, yes, they can go, now. Sure, I’ll miss them. But it’s not the end of my world – it’s the end of one part of it, and the beginning of another.

Onward.

Two down, one more to go

DTI-MRI
DTI MRI – Diffuse Tensor Imaging that shows all the connections in your brain

My watershed week continues. It’s been a full week — I had to get my furnace serviced on Monday, because the pump that circulates the hot water through the registers was broken and overheating, which is why it was shutting down after running for a few minutes at a time.

Wednesday, I had another training to be a tour guide at a local park. We’ve got a few days allocated at work each year to donate to a cause of our choice — I chose some outdoor tour guide work at a place I love, which was also on the list for volunteering. It’s a significant step for me, because I have to study up on the park, its history, and all the wildlife and plant life there, so I can tell people about it. And then I’ll need to train with another seasoned tour guide, to learn the ropes and understand how best to talk with people.

I decided to do this because I need to get out and be more social with people, but I don’t do well in unstructured situations. I don’t always pick up on people’s social clues about when to talk — or when to stop — so it gets awkward. But if it’s in a structured setting, and there’s a time limit and I can follow a sort of “script”, I’m good.

Wednesday was the second of three trainings, and even though the weather was dicey, I still went, and I’m glad I did. It seems as though there are a number of folks exactly like me there — nature nerds who love to learn new things and share them with others.

Yesterday, I had my appointment with the new neurologist, and it went even better than I’d hoped. These folks are really on top of things — and  even better, when we talked about the diagnostics and the imaging I’d had before, they didn’t even bother looking at the MRIs. Because for someone with my history of brain injury, they are not the right kind of MRIs. They told me that DTI is really the only way they can look at the actual connections in my brain — the axonal connections (signs of past shearing), as well as possible micro-bleeds.

I am so excited – it’s taking a monumental effort to resist typing this in all caps.

But I’ll resist, out of courtesy.

This is an incredible relief. Because it signals that these people actually understand what the hell is at the root of my issues. And they also know that a standard-issue MRI is not going to show them what they need to know. I will need to travel to the one facility in the extended area that has the equipment to do the DTI-MRI, but I’m more than willing to do that. Heck, I’d walk there, if need be. I had been hoping that something like this might happen for me. And in fact, I was thinking of getting the imaging done myself, while I still have good insurance, and then hiring a consulting doctor/radiologist to interpret the findings for me. I know of some resources for finding doctors/radiologists online who can interpret test results for you for a pretty low sum. At diagnose.me I paid $50 to have a radiologist from Vienna to take a look at my two prior MRIs and do a comparative analysis and tell me what they saw. So, I could cobble the steps together and use them again, if need be.

But now I don’t have to do that, and I actually have a very experienced neurologist (who specializes in sports) who will look at all the imaging themself and interpret the results for themself. Imagine that. Even though I had to take half a day off work and drive a ways through traffic and bad weather, it was well worth it. I’d do it all over again, in a heartbeat.

This DTI-MRI and the other tests I’ll be taking — for my autonomic nervous system function, as well as an EEG to check out how the electricity is flowing in my brain — might actually be my chance to figure out just what the hell is going on with me, and get past all the psychobabble that abounds. All the best guesses, based on personal observation and interpretation, make me nuts. (That’s the engineer in me talking.) I need hard data, numbers, actual images, to understand things — and so does everyone else. When you rely on human interpretation of signs and symptoms to assess someone’s difficulties, you open yourself up to way too much margin for error.

That’s one of my chief complaints with my neuropsych. Although they mean well, and they have some pretty amazing domain experience, and they have helped me tremendously, their interpretations of what’s going on with me have been an on-and-off source of aggravation. If they weren’t the only person I have regular access to, who is a highly educated professional who can talk at length about things other than politics, Game of Thrones, and Kardashians, I probably would have dropped them some time ago. But when I meet with them, I get to exercise my mind, as well as my brain, so it’s been very useful in that respect. They’re smart enough to know that I’ve done the lion’s share of my recovery, myself, so there’s no illusion about them having a Svengali-like hold on my poor little mind (as some therapists have fancied themselves). At the same time, though, their cultural biases really come through.

They interpret my experience along their own lines — as someone who grew up in a very secular, culturally homogeneous urban area, surrounded by professionals, and living a very entitled life. Whereas, my experience is that of growing up in both a racially mixed, working class urban area, and a deeply religious rural area where the optometrist, dentist, and doctor were the only professionals you ran into on a regular basis — and with them, maybe a handful of times a year. The conceptual gaps between our worlds are long, wide, and deep, but they don’t seem to realize it. And when I’ve tried to raise that as an issue, they flatly denied that it could play a role.

News flash – it does play a role. A huge one.

But that’s going to be changing in a month, because they’re leaving. And today, I’m meeting with their “replacement” — a neuropsych who comes highly recommended. This could be good, because this new NP is not from here. They’re an immigrant from Eastern Europe, and they don’t speak English as a first language. That’s good, because while they are highly educated and they teach at a university in a nearby state, they probably won’t take as much for granted, as my old neuropsych. I’ve lived overseas and also worked a lot with folks from other parts of the world, and I actually find it easier to talk to people who come from a different place and speak a different language.

When you don’t assume that you know, you pay attention more. When you realized that you could be misinterpreting what someone is saying, you listen more closely. It was like that when I was living in Europe, 30 years ago. And that’s how things were when I had to travel to Europe in my old job, 3 years back.

So, that third Big Event is happening today, and I’m pretty stoked about it. I’m also stoked about finding some very cool new reading — and that I actually can read it.

Five years ago, I had no confidence that this would ever be the case. I took what I could get, and I made the best of it. But this turn of events now is just huge for me. It’s like a new chapter is turning over in the book of my life.

And boy, am I ready to let that old one go…

Onward.

The roots of our brain injury recovery

What's beneath can be much more compelling than what's visible
What’s beneath can be much more compelling than what’s visible

Whether you’re concussed, had a stroke, were involved in a motor vehicle accident, or something in your brain ruptured… that injury has literally turned you into a different person.

Read more here — where I discuss the various aspects of understanding the nature of TBI and recovery on  my TBI research blog at https://tbiresearchriffs.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/the-roots-of-our-brain-injury-recovery/

Gearing up for the new neuropsych – and beyond

Let's find out what makes up this life of mine...
Let’s find out what makes up this life of mine…

This coming Friday, I have an in-person meeting with the new neuropsych my own NP has recommended. I did some research on them online, and they look like a very interesting and sympathetic person who genuinely cares about their patients/clients.

This is good. But I’m nervous. It’s change. I hate change.

So, I’m doing some research on them in PubMed, also, to see what they’ve researched and published about, and to see where their interests lie. Then I’ll have a better sense of how I can talk to them. Obviously, I’m not going to be able to speak as a peer, but knowing what they’re professionally passionate about certainly can’t hurt. Also, Google has some interesting stuff, including some very positive personal testimonies from patients.  That’s a good sign.

My interactions with this new NP are going to be about as scientific as I can get. I don’t want to get into all sorts of emotional processing with them. I want to “use” them as a resource who can give me scientific insight into the brain-related things I’m encountering on a regular basis. That includes my stuff, as well as my spouse’s and my parents’ stuff. My folks are getting older and starting to show signs of decline, and as the eldest in the family with no children of my own, I’m “on point” to take care of them (or make appropriate arrangements) later on. We’ve already had a “fire drill” a few years ago, when my father had a heart condition and had to undergo emergency surgery. That really brought everything home. So, yes, I need to be properly equipped for handling my parents as they get older and decline cognitively.

It’s already happening. Why not be prepared?

I also got the details for a psychologist I can see to sort through the details of my life. Again, this is not an “emotional excavation” exercise — it’s to follow through with the growth and development work I’ve been doing. I need to keep my progress going, and that goes best when I have someone to talk things through with.

For so many years, I was isolated and alone, because I would “get lost” in conversations and would not realize it had to do with my short-term working memory. I would forget what people said to me, just a few minutes after they said it, and then I’d have to cover up the fact that I was lost. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to ask them to repeat themselves, and I didn’t feel comfortable saying back to them what I thought they’d said. I didn’t realize my processing speed was slower, and I’d be always rushing to keep up with fast conversations.

Again, I’d get lost. In a very big way. So, I was basically cut off from the rest of the world by just a few simple challenges. And I wasn’t used to talking to other people at all.

Now I’ve become a lot more comfortable with it, and I need to speak with someone regularly about the things going on in my life. I also need to talk with someone who doesn’t look at me like I’m impaired or an idiot– someone who can just hang in there with me and help me sort things through in my head. Executive function development, and all that.

I’m pretty nervous about both of these new relationships. I don’t know if they’ll be successful or not, and the whole idea of starting over from scratch with veritable strangers puts me on edge. When I’m on edge, I start to act strangely, and that worries me, as well. But at least with the neuropsych, they’re used to seeing people who have “issues”, so there’s less pressure to cover up all my little quirks.

Of course, some sort of preparation is always good. Even if it’s not useful for the other person (i.e., I tell them things that are significant to me, but not to them as a clinician), it helps me to organize my thoughts. I need to not get classified as a member of the “miserable minority” whose issues are purely psychological, stemming from emotional issues or past trauma that I can’t suppress anymore. Looking back in my interactions with neurologists and other psychologists, I can say pretty confidently that that’s how they perceived me. And the conversations stopped being about understanding the functional features of my brain and life, and they started being about “How’s your relationship with your parents?” Or “When was the last time you took drugs?”

Sheesh. How terribly unproductive. I just can’t go through that again. It diverted my course away from my goal — to understand the workings of my brain/body and adapt my approaches accordingly, so I could just get on with my life.

So, I’ve started making some notes about what to convey — Why I’m meeting with them. What I hope to achieve by meeting with them. What insurance they take. How often it would be useful to meet. What their history and main professional interests are. What their philosophy and orientation are. I don’t want to get into too much detail from the start — I need to just focus on the essentials and get a general sense about them.

Ultimately, of course, they’re not going to be the Silver Bullet that Fixes Everything with me. That’s my job. I just need some additional support to do the best job I can.

And so I shall.

Onward…