I’ve been thinking a lot about how things have changed for me and my TBI recovery, over the years. Thanksgiving is behind me, along with the anniversary of my fall in 2004. I’m now looking forward to 2016, looking back on my past and thinking about the future.
I have had some pretty amazing leaps forward, and now that I am in the process of finding a new neuropsychologist to work with, I am thinking a lot about where I am, relative to where I’ve been — and where I want to be. Truth be told, I have a long ways to go before I am where I really want to be. Maybe I’ll never get there. But I have my dreams. Likewise, I am so much farther along than I had been in the past. And the past year or so has seen a tremendous change in my mental state, my cognitive abilities, my resilience, and pretty much every aspect of my life. There are places where I am falling down and coming up short — memory issues, losing track of the big picture when all the details turn into many-headed hydras of problems, impulse control problems, and snapping at people (and internally) over nothing. But my ability to identify these things and deal with them is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was, just a few years back.
The thing is, at just about every turn in the road, even when I was making good progress, it felt like a struggle for me. Until the past year or so. Even when things have not been great for me, functionally, I’ve been more resilient, better able to handle the ups and downs, and I’ve learned. Lightning speed, compared to how I was before.
Coincidence? Just a fluke? Cumulative effects of good choices? I think nutrition changes have actually made the lion’s share of the difference. I mean, when I look at my life now, compared to prior years, there’s just no contest.
Today someone actually asked me about a ketogenic diet. I had toyed with the idea of that, some time back, thinking it would be helpful for me to “fine tune” my system and break my “addiction” to carbs and junk food. That was all very well and good, but it turned out to be a huge amount of work for me — I would have had to turn into a full-on zealot convert, to succeed. Plus, it turns out that the benefits can take a while to kick in. No thank you. I need to see results fairly quickly, or it just doesn’t keep my attention.
My bad, I know, but at least I know myself.
What I diddo, however, is add healthy fats to my diet. The low-fat diet I was following was good, according to popular perception, but the more I read about the benefits of healthy fat — and thought about it too — the more sense it made to get some fatty goodness in my life.
And boy, am I glad I did! If there is one thing I did that really tipped the scales in my favor, I believe it’s adding healthy fats to my diet. This is something my neuropsych would never tell me (because they’re not a nutritionist or doctor, so they don’t feel qualified to recommend these things – which is a shame). I had to find it out for myself. But if you think about it, it makes sense. We need protein and fats and good nutrition to keep our bodies nourished. A starving body has a hard time healing, and since saturated fat is one of the main components of brain (which is 60% fat, as it is), if you don’t have enough of the right kinds of fats, the brain just isn’t going to function at its peak.
I believe that’s what was happening to me over the years, and I suspect that’s what really delayed my recovery. Ten years seems like too long a time to recover from the fall I had — I know I have had a bunch of head traumas over the course of my life, but falling down a flight of stairs and hitting the back of my head doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that should nearly kill me and wreck my life for years on end.
I can’t help but wonder how things might have been, had I gotten more healthy fats in my system at the start. The brain, like any organism, needs help to heal. And by keeping my diet low-fat, I believe I was prolonging my recovery.
If there’s one thing a person can do to help themself after a TBI/concussion, it’s get more healthy fats in their diet. Put a glob of Kerry Gold grass-fed butter in your coffee, instead of cream. Eat fish with high fat content — deep-water / cold water fish, especially — and foods with the good stuff, like avocados.
Drink your water. Get your exercise. Get plenty of sleep. Avoid stress.
And support your system with healthy fats, so your brain can heal faster and better.
So, I’ve been listening to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast with Dr. Rhonda Patrick, and it’s pretty amazing stuff. Google it or search on YouTube. I’m not going to give you the direct link, because you should find it yourself – and beautiful things can happen when you start searching.
You’ll probably find more info out there, than I can point you to, anyway. It’s all about initiative, focus, and follow-through. And if you’re like me, you’ll go off and start searching, find a bunch of stuff that is both more relevant and a total distraction… and then 30 minutes later, you’ll realize that you were really looking for that podcast, and you have to regroup and refocus.
Which is all good practice, anyway.
I’ve been listening to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast (Powerful JRE), and in between the talk about MMA and smoking pot (which I don’t, for personal reasons, as well as what I’ve seen long-term smoking do to friends), there are podcasts featuring really smart people who know a lot about how the human system gets damaged — and how to fix that damage.
Dr. Mark Gordon is one of those people. Dr. Rhonda Patrick is another one. And they’re all talking about head trauma, what it does to you, and how you can mitigate the effects.
I’m also getting confirmation from scientists on the JRE podcast who really know how to explain things to the rest of us, that’s confirming what I’ve read and believe – in ways that really stoke my determination. Exercise has become even more important to me, thanks to their on-camera talks, and more specifically, interval training is taking center stage. I’ve been more active in the past six weeks than I have been in quite some time, thanks to the fitness centers and the pool at work, and I’d backed off on my morning workouts. But now I’m back to them, especially on weekends, pushing myself harder than I have in quite some time. Just really making myself work does wonders for my mood and alertness, over the course of each day.
I’m a little out of it this morning (workout notwithstanding). I had a long and busy week, and then I was up late last night, getting some must-do items out of the way. I also woke up early, and I’m groggy and foggy. I’m not a big fan of feeling this way, but by this afternoon, I will be on a beach, probably lying down under the umbrella, just chillin’. I’ve got a week ahead of me to balance out a little bit of work with some major chill-time, so that’s something to look forward to.
The main thing is, I stay aware of my surroundings, I take care of myself, I don’t rush, and I just be deliberate about every.little.thing.
I can’t afford to have an accident or get hurt, and I’m sufficiently depleted and spacey, that it’s a definite risk. I also can’t afford to not do the things I need to do. I’ve got errands to run and bags to pack and vehicles to clean out, before I go, so…
The main thing with me, these days, is to keep safe and get healthy and strong. There’s a tradeoff, of course, because it’s tough to get really healthy and really strong without some element of risk … or stressing your system. If you’re pushing the envelope regularly, you’re going to develop in certain ways, and those ways will probably also be accompanied by stress. It’s tough to push yourself past your limits without stress — and a bit of damage.
So, the task at hand is to not back off and avoid stress and risk and situations that test me, but to figure out how to recover better, build myself back, and develop strengths rather than weaknesses.
Some people come up against challenges, and when they fall short (or feel like they do), they interpret it as meaning they’re deficient. And as they face one challenge after another, they keep confirming their suspicions that they’re not up to the task – or any task at all. And they block themselves in, building a wall around themselves that keeps the world out and also keeps them out of the world. Eventually, it keeps them from doing anything and everything that matters to them and gives their lives meaning. They’ve done it to themselves, but they think the rest of the world is to blame.
When I fall short, I take it as a challenge and important information about where I need to improve, in order to reach my goals. If anything, I want those experiences to tear down the walls and give me more access to strengths and abilities I never knew I had before. Sometimes you have to really take a hit, before you can access hidden talents and gifts.
But you don’t want all the hits to tear the crap out of you, so…
You’ve got to build back up. Recover. Be smart about things – which can be difficult, if you’ve gotten hit in the head a bunch of times. I’m lucky, in that I know that I have executive function difficulties, so I can make some really bad decisions, especially under stressful situations or when I am tired. It gives me pause. A reality check.
Speaking of reality check, I’m getting my raw DNA data sequenced online. I uploaded my raw DNA data from ancestry.com to the website promethease.com/ondemand, paid $5, and now I’m waiting for the results. It takes about 20 minutes to do it, so I’ll go get my shower and get ready for the day, then check back in.
Fascinating stuff. Largely recreational… and who knows what I’ll find. Hopefully, I’ll get some more data that will show me where I’ve got vulnerabilities, so I can do something about them. Finding out if I’m generically predisposed to Alzheimer’s will change things for me, I’m sure. After all the TBIs I’ve had, I need to know if this could be a problem. It’s always in the back of my mind, but why not find out what the data says.
Anyway, time to get moving. This day won’t move itself.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I want to live my life, lately. I want to be free. I want to be healthy. I don’t want to kill myself through neglect and laziness. I want to eat well, live well, recover well, and have the best life I can have under the circumstances.
I’ve been changing up my diet — adding a whole lot of fresh fruit and cooked (and raw) vegetables to the mix. I feel great. My spouse feels great. It makes a difference. I can’t say I’m that keen on getting really orthodox about what I eat and don’t eat.
For about the past year, I’ve been trying to eat more “Paleo” with lots of meat and vegetables, but not a lot of carbs. Lots of healthy fats and oils. The Paleo diet is big, just like all the other diets that have come along over the years. It makes logical sense to me, and it has emotional appeal.
But does my body like it?
Not so much. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but it’s not panning out over the long term. It feels foreign. Our ancestors may have eaten this way, but they weren’t living under current conditions. They didn’t have constant energy demands. They didn’t go-go-go from morning till night. They had a completely different lifestyle, which bears no resemblance at all to the lives we live now. I would think that would disqualify the Paleo diet from being even remotely considered, but there’s that emotional appeal of “getting back to basics” and ditching all the unhealthy modern habits that have gotten us into the messes we see around us. Countless religious movements have produced lots of different denominations precisely from this mindset. Now health and fitness seem to have taken the place of religion.
For me, if I were living on the savannah, hanging out around the fire, collecting berries whenever I felt like it, and going on occasional huts, yeah — I’d be total Paleo. But my energy demands are many hundreds of times greater than that lifestyle requires, so Paleo makes no sense at all, in my book. That’s not to keep folks from making plenty of money off the illusion that we can ever go back — or that we should, to the extent we can with things we can control… like our diet.
Now, I’m no doctor or nutritionist. I’m just an everyday person who thinks for themself. And I’m thinking that carb restriction and calorie restriction over the long term is just not healthy. If you do it for short periods, it can be very beneficial. But as a continued way of life? No way. Under-carbed people are unhappy people. They are aggressive and combative, in my experience, and arguments with people who are hypoglycemic generally don’t go well.
The other thing is, since I started supplementing my diet with healthy fats and oils, I’ve gained weight. And while I do get a lot of energy off the grass-fed butter and coconut oil, and it keeps me going through the morning, my metabolism doesn’t seem to want to let go of the fat. And it’s storing it up. Supposedly, you can reach a state of ketosis where you’re burning fat instead of sugar in your body, but you have to be so strict with it, and so completely cut out carbs as an energy source, it can take you years to get to that point. And you’ve got a lot of interim pain and suffering to get through.
Plus, if you know about physiology, you know that glucose is a critical energy source for every cell in your body, so if you avoid sugar and carbs like the plague some folks say they are, you’re literally starving your body. And when you starve your body, it turns around and produces more of the glucose it needs from inside — the liver. So you’re stressing your system. That sucks, all around.
And all sorts of interesting things happen to your insulin resistance, etc. You have folks like Dave Asprey (the “Bulletproof Exec”) on medication for Diabetes 2 — an acquired condition that’s often directly related to diet and exercise habits — or the lack thereof.
So, I’m going to take nutrition advice from a guy who’s given himself Diabetes 2 and who says that fruit is like candy — a shot of pure sugar — and should be avoided like the plague?
He’s not the only one out there coming up with all sorts of ideas about how we should eat. There are tons of experts who are infopreneurs making good money off their educational-slash-marketing efforts. And we just eat it up. Literally and figuratively.
Whom do you believe? Whom do you trust?
Personally, I am getting more and more impatient with people who study things in a lab and then turn around and insist they can be applied to real life.That, and folks who insist that correlation implies causation — because two things occur together, then one must be the cause of the other.
It’s patently untrue. Studies are done all the time with too small a selection of people, and the only things that they’re looking at are what’s on their radar. They pick out 5 overweight adults and 5 normal weight adults and give them food choices. They look at who chooses what, and then they say that certain foods will make you fat. Or that certain foods will keep you slim. There’s no gathering of data about the states of mind of the test subjects, there’s no information on who’s been overweight their entire life and who lost the weight or who gained it. The foods they put in front of the participants may or may not have been selected according to broad criteria, and they may or may not have good quality foods, or even foods that taste good and are appealing. There are a million different variables that come into play, including time of day, the current physical/mental health status of the participants, and what happened with them over the long term before they ever participated in the study.
And yet, we’re expected to trust those results, and we’re supposed to believe the folks who are quoting their interpretation of the results — usually for a price.
Yeah, I’m not really feeling that.
Anyway, I digress. I guess my point is, a lot of people get really alarmist about nutrition and fitness. For good reason — there’s an obesity and Diabetes 2 epidemic going on in the western world, and it’s spreading to other countries. Like Japan — check out the article. And when you’ve been unhealthy for a while, your reactions are going to be skewed to the extreme. Especially if you’ve had physical injury or mental health issues that either came from trauma or traumatized you (usually works in a vicious cycle – cause and effect feed the trauma imbalance), you’re going to react more precipitously — FREAK OUT — a lot more quickly.
Plus, you’ve got a lot of people haggling and arguing and jockeying for position in the health and fitness field, so you’ve got a higher pitch overall to the conversations — especially with folks who are fundamentally unhealthy (overweight, with terrible bloodwork numbers, and very de-conditioned) who are trying to keep up with the rigors of an active infopreneurial lifestyle.
So, the tone of the discussion is more like a heated argument.
All. The. Time.
Which just clouds the issue for those of us “on the ground” — or as the marketers say, those of us in the target audience.
So, what about this “fast” business (as in quick, not fasting). Make changes fast. See results fast. Expecting things to change for you right away is unrealistic and unsustainable. It takes years and years to see substantive health and fitness changes, and it takes ongoing commitment and discipline to make those changes stick to where you don’t have to deliberately think about it and focus on it.
It takes time and effort to get things to improve. It takes time and effort to heal injuries and get to a point where you are fully functional. Especially with mild traumatic brain injury (concussion, if you will), where the brain — which is constantly working for us — committing to a program of recovery and sticking with it, day in and day out, over the course of weeks, months, years… That’s something our fast-oriented culture just doesn’t know what to do with.
It really doesn’t.
But all the voices in the marketplace are screaming at the tops of their lungs about how damn’ URGENT everything is. Yeah, okay, it is. No doubt about that. But all too often, the ones pushing us to change our ways are only in it for the short-term. They’re with us long enough to make their case and collect our money, then they move on to the next target audience member who hasn’t yet signed up for their life-changing program.
I have friends who are devotees of some famous health gurus. The experts have them jumping through hoops to mix up specific types of smoothies and avoid sugar in all its forms.Their trusted leaders have them so freaked out about the dangers of certain foods, that they’re willing to completely rebuild their lives around this new program — which is expensive and is coming to them later in life, when they are heading into retirement and will not — I repeat NOT — have significant sources of income within a few years.
It kind of freaks me out. Their orthodoxy and strict adherence to this “life-changing program” is well nigh complete… except for when they “slip” and end up bingeing on crap that their bodies would have no interest in eating, were they adequately nourished, to begin with.
All this, because they feel the need to make change FAST, and stave off the demons of their impending demise.
On top of it, these folks look miserable. Every time they post a new picture to Facebook, they look more haggard and drawn… puffy and stressed. It’s just not good.
But they did get their 10 days at “the institute” in Florida, and now they have their special powders and potions to mix up and tell themselves they’re seeing transformational results more quickly than they’d realize them on their own.
As for me, I’ve been a devotee of plenty of independent researchers and health/fitness educators. I sign up for their newsletters. I read their blogs. I watch the videos, and I’m usually impressed by their passion and the way they communicate. But there’s a whole lot they don’t say, and if you look behind the scenes, you see that there’s even more that goes unsaid. Like the Diabetes 2 diagnosis. Like the lousy bloodwork. Like the failed relationships and the weight gain.
It doesn’t take long for a lot of these folks to fall out of favor.
Which brings me back, time and again, to myself. How does my body feel? How does my head feel? How does my life feel? When I use that as a guide and check in on a regular basis, that tells me everything I need.
Like I need to cut back on sweets.
Like I need to cut back on coffee.
Like I really need to eat some red meat.
Like I need to eat chicken or fish or not have any meat for one day.
Like I need more fruits and vegetables.
Like I need to not eat that cake and ice cream.
Basically, I’ve found that following the advice of gurus works best when I do it intermittently, but not constantly. Destabilizing myself with bad science and treating it like gospel is no way to go. I need balance, and I need exercise, and there is usually much behind the scenes of what gurus teach, that we’ll never learn and never know.
So, when I follow my own path and get more information and apply it sparingly, so much the better. Some things work for some people, based on their chemistry and a host of other factors. Some things don’t. Ultimately, it’s up to me, and the proof is in the pudding.
Yesterday was a pretty good day. I was up early — couldn’t sleep past 4:45 a.m., and it was the first day of the long weekend, so I thought, “Screw it”, and got up to just get into my day. I had a really good morning — juggled a bit, had my breakfast, did some research for a project I’m working on, ran a bunch of important errands, took a nap, and then went to a nearby vacation area with my spouse.
I hadn’t expected the place to be crowded, since we were getting there late and the day had been gorgeous, giving people lots of reasons to be out in it, from early morning till late afternoon. The traffic was heavy, getting to the middle of the town and down to the beach, but when we arriving, people were already leaving the area in droves, heading out to dinner with tired kids.
We found a spot to park, pulled out our lawn chairs, and then I went for a walk down to the water. Got my feet wet. Splashed around a bit. Ran with the waves. And just chilled.
We spent a few hours by the water, my spouse getting some sun, and I getting some exercise. We brought snacks, and I ate too much. Then we went and got some dinner, and I ate too much again. There was a lot of fatty fried foods, and my stomach started to hurt. Gall bladder. Not too bad, but noticeable.
After that, it was getting late. We decided to go exploring a bit, so we took the long way home and took a side road back to an overlook that was marked as “scenic”. We wound around through dark stretches of backwoods, and eventually came out to a vista overlooking a wide valley with towns far off in the distance. Overhead we could see the milky way and more stars that we’d seen in a long, long time.
It was beautiful, and a lot of other people thought so, too. There were lots of cars parked in the lot, without a lot of people in sight. Every now and then, we’d see people emerge from a trail with a flashlight. There must be trails down below that give you an even better view.
We took note of where we were, and we resolved to come back again in the future – during the day, so we can explore the trails and see what everything looks like broad daylight.
Then we found a place that sold coffee, got a couple of cups and a blueberry muffin, then hit the road and got home around midnight. Not bad for a day trip. And on this trip, there was no yelling, no fussing, no arguing. Just me and my spouse making an effort to really have a good time.
I went straight to bed, when we got home. I was bushed, and I fell asleep with my bedside lamp on. Around 2:30 in the morning, I woke up with a terrible stomach ache, feeling like I was going to throw up. Gall bladder.
I got up and went downstairs to find the Pepto Bismol, which is the only stuff that ever truly works for me. There was only a little bit left, and I drained the bottle. I went back to bed, my gut still aching, feeling like I was going to throw up. I did some acupressure points I found that let you stimulate your gall bladder, so it can do its job better. Thankfully, after a few minutes it worked. My gall bladder gurgled, and I felt a little whoosh of gall bladder emptying, and my stomach ache started to ease up.
I got back to sleep and slept till 8:00, which puts me at nearly 8 hours of sleep, last night.
I’ll take it.
My gall bladder is still bothering me a bit, but I did the points on my hand, foot, and belly, and I’m starting to feel better. I need to be careful of my gall bladder, because I’m drinking my butter coffee “rocket fuel” on a daily basis, and the fats don’t always sit well with me. Yesterday, I had several servings of “rocket fuel” at two different times in the day, I ate a bunch of potato chips, and I had fried fish and french fries for dinner. And I finished up the evening with some dark chocolate and part of a blueberry that was really rich — delicious, but still more fat. Yeah, not so great.
So, I’m taking it easy today with the food. I’m eating light, because I’ve been really eating a lot, lately. More than usual. And the wrong kinds of foods. I sorta kinda went off my routine, over the past week, eating McDonalds once for lunch, and snacking on more junk. I also started eating grains again, which is not good for me. I’m sensitive to the gluten, and it messes up my stomach.
So, no wonder I was in rough shape last night. I was afraid I’d gotten food poisoning. But once my gall bladder kicked into action, I was good. So, obviously the food was not bad — just not the right kind for me.
I’ve really got to watch my eating, these days. I’ve got a lot going on at work, so I’ve been eating more for “energy”, when what I really need is more sleep. And exercise. I haven’t been getting out as much as I should, and it’s showing. I’m not gaining a ton of weight, but I’m still feeling like pretty much of a lard, which doesn’t do much for my attitude and energy levels… so I eat, to pick myself up… which is even more problematic.
So, rather than sitting here feeling bad about everything, I’m going out for a walk. I’ve got another couple of days off work, so I’m going to make the most of them.
I was flying solo last evening, moving at my own pace and enjoying having the house to myself. I watched a bit of t.v., then realized what a huge waste of time it was. I hate watching t.v. alone. So, I got online and started doing some research. One thing led to another, and eventually I looked at the clock and it was nearly 1 a.m.
And here I’d planned on getting to be early…
Well, it’s no biggie, because I took care of most of my chores yesterday, so I would have today free. I have a full day ahead of me, pretty much wide open without a lot of stuff I have to do. I’m thinking of taking a long walk. I exercised this morning on the stationary bike. Worked up a good sweat and got my blood pumping. That was helpful.
Yesterday was a pretty good day. I got some work done around the house, I went for a short bike ride, and I had a nice nap in the afternoon. I could have slept longer, but I didn’t want to wreck my sleeping schedule by sleeping too long.
We see how that worked out.
In any case, my goal today is to stay active enough this morning to tire myself out early this afternoon and have another nap to make up for the lost hours — and not sleep so late in the day that I wake up at 7:30 like I did last night.
That clearly does not work.
I’m also looking forward to lying in bed and reading. I’ve really gotten into a lot of reading, these days, now that I can. I’ve missed it. And I’ve also missed being able to read narratives — fiction and real-life. For years, the only thing that held my attention was scientific papers. That’s fine, if you’re a scientist and understand everything in them, but I’m not — and I didn’t. At least it was something to read. And I was under the impression that I “got it” in some way.
Whatever. It did me a lot of good. It got me reading in small chunks that seemed to make sense to me, and that were informative and very motivating.
Now I’m reading fiction. I read while I’m on the exercise bike — it gets my mind off how incredibly BORING riding an exercise bike is, plus it gets my brain engaged, along with my body. I’ve been able to ride longer and also read more, thanks to this combination. It’s really a brilliant solution to what can be prohibitive. Plus, I’m reading real-life stories (or fiction that’s based on real life), so there’s a reason for me to pay attention to what I’m reading.
I’m learning a lot in the process — mainly about how people go about their everyday lives in foreign countries. It’s like a vacation from my current life, which is really a nice break from that crazy old global deal I used to be in. I don’t have to be on European AND Asian time zones all the time, but I actually miss the variety… So, I read about those places, watch Anthony Bourdain, and think about cooking food.
I’m seriously considering taking up more active cooking. I do most of the cooking at home, because my spouse isn’t up to it. And over the past years, it’s been pretty much maintenance cooking — just getting the basics on the stove, with reliable, predictable, dependable recipes that don’t have a whole lot of excitement to them.
I think I need to change things up a bit — especially because it now feels like I’m/we’re just eating to get food in our stomachs, rather than really enjoy what we’re eating. I need some different tastes, and some different textures. I also need us to eat a wider variety of fresh vegetables. It’s summer, for heaven’s sake. Now is the time to get fresh fruits and veggies. The more organic, the better — the less chemical taste to them, the better, that is.
Food is becoming my favorite vice… or rather my salvation. Cooking does wonders for my sense of timing and pacing — my sequencing — as well as my frustration tolerance. On top of it, when done properly, a well-cooked meal feeds all the senses, which is incredibly good for the brain.
It’s the kind of activity I can really get behind. It does the body, brain, and spirit a whole lot of good.
Something has really turned around for me. I have been noticing it recently – I have not felt that same bone-crushing fatigue that used to just Wipe. Me. Out. I used to feel so awful, if I had not had enough sleep — even if I did get enough sleep, I still felt awful. It was like I was constantly running on fumes.
But ever since I started drinking coffee with grass-fed butter and MCT oil in it, it hasn’t felt that way. I can feel tired, sure, but not like I’ve been flattened by a steamroller. And when I do feel tired, I’m able to take myself to bed more easily.
Each morning, I start my day with this special mix of coffee — I call it rocket fuel. It’s pretty phenomenal. And it seems to really be affecting me for the better. I’ve also been taking some capsules that have butter oil and cod liver oil in them — more oils the body needs. In fact, there have been documented cases of people literally coming back from their deathbeds, thanks to that combination of butter oil and cod liver oil.
That’s kind of how I feel. Like I’m back from the dead. I feel like I’m actually capable of participating in my everyday life, even though I’m behind on my sleep. In fact, I don’t feel like I’m behind on my sleep at all. I mean, I know I have not gotten a full 8 hours of sleep, and I know that I should, and I’m dragging a bit (sometimes.a lot) now and then, but it’s not that old killer exhaustion that just fried me like nobody’s business.
Plus, even when I’m tired, I’m still thinking more clearly than I have in a long time.
And it makes me think that when it comes to brain injury recovery, good nutrition — especially getting the nutrients your brain and body need for energy — is key. Without the proper nutrition and sources of energy for your brain and body, how the hell are you going to heal and improve? Brain training is all very well and good — I love doing it. But if my brain doesn’t have the proper support to make those changes and physically alter itself for the better, building up different synapses and connections, then WTH?
Why even bother?
And that’s the thing that has really eluded me, all these years — the proper nutrition that zeroed in on the specific needs I had that were not being met — certain kinds of oils and fats that my body and brain needs for energy. For so long, I relied on carbs to keep me going. Carbs and sugar and unhealthy fats. That, in my opinion, is the biggest culprit that prevents TBI recovery — poor nutrition that puts you on a physical and emotional roller-coaster, and keeps your mind and body stressed for the sake of cheap energy.
That energy always goes away. It always disappears. We have trained ourselves — individually and as a group — to revel in eating and drinking that cheap energy that weakens us, instead of making us stronger. It literally is killing us, in so many, many ways. And it’s keeping a lot of us from getting better from the things that are doing us in.
It’s funny — I’m sure that I’ve heard a lot of people say this, over the years. But not until I had the personal experience myself, did it sink in. Having other people tell me things just isn’t the same as me experiencing things for myself. I have a kind of “expert filter” that’s hyper-active, because in our marketing-driven world, where everyone is selling something, and everyone is billed as an expert in one thing or other, I tend to actively discount their input. It’s all very well and good for someone to present themself as very knowledgeable in certain areas, and hearing what they say can be compelling. But unless I can have the experience myself and find something that works for me, all their expertise doesn’t impress me terribly much.
Or maybe it’s because I’ve been knocking around on the planet long enough to know lots of things for myself.
Anyway, whatever the reason, I rely on my own experience. And I’ve got plenty.
My most recent experience has to do with simply feeling better.
Getting a new bed. Drinking my rocket-fuel coffee in the morning. Juggling. Doing my brain training exercises. Cutting out sugar and carbs. Eating right. Eating less. Intermittent fasting. Doing all these things to support my physical health has really improved the state of my brain and mind. It’s all good.
And I feel a lot less tired. It’s amazing. I know I’m tired. I’m just not wiped out and really struggling like I have been for years. I have energy. I’m alert. And even when I know I am tired and feel it, it’s not killing me like it used to. It’s just there, and I can function anyway.
Oh, sure – there are those times when I am really struggling with fatigue. Yesterday I had to step away and sleep for 20 minutes. I was completely wiped outby mid-afternoon. But I was able to actually remove myself from my work space and chill, without getting all tangled up in a foggy brain and indecision.
So, I made myself a different sort of coffee this morning, and the results were fantastic. Just after a couple of cups of joe that had some high-fat grass-fed butter and coconut oil in them, I felt like a completely new person.
Pretty phenomenal. And I didn’t even do the full dose.
I had high energy all morning, and I got a ton of stuff accomplished. I felt clearer than I have in quite some time — and this from just one morning.
I went out for a walk and then ran a bunch of errands, and then I came back, and was feeling a bit down. So, I had a nap, and was up an hour later to help my spouse and their business partner with some packing and hauling stuff for a trip they’re taking tonight.
After they hit the road, I made myself a big cup of tea with some butter and coconut oil, and sure enough, the energy is back again. I can’t even express how amazing it feels.
If I didn’t feel so excellent, I would weep for joy. But I’m way too happy for tears.
The thing is, I got about six hours of sleep last night. I went to bed around 10:30, but I didn’t get to sleep till around 11. Then I woke up at 5:00. Just woke up. And I was dreading today, because I have two days to do a lot of things, including some day-job work that I didn’t get done last week. But after my “bulletproof” coffee, I had such incredible energy, I felt like I’d had 8 hours of sleep, easily. And the energy lasted till about noon, when I started to drag. Six hours of steady energy is pretty danged good, considering my long-term track record.
Then I had my nap, but I was still dragging a little bit. I was feeling a bit out of it and foggy until I had my tea with the butter and coconut oil. Now I feel like myself again — with a lot of really great energy that’s not wired and jumpy. I just feel good. Like I can go for hours again. And I probably will.
So, it’s got me thinking…
I had six hours of sleep — “not enough” according to conventional wisdom — but I felt fantastic all morning.
Then I had a nap, which perked me up a bit, but still left me feeling a bit dull.
Then I had some tea with butter and coconut oil, and I’m feeling fantastic again.
Maybe the issues is not so much that I’m not getting enough sleep… as it is that my body isn’t getting enough good nutrition (high quality fats) to keep going.
Maybe the problem is not inadequate rest. Maybe the problem is available energy, and how my body is able to access and use it. Maybe my overstressed system just hasn’t been doing a good job of converting all the available resources I have into useful energy.
Maybe my brain isn’t getting what it needs to operate at peak.
But today I had a very different experience. Today I had a whole new view of what my life can be like.
More focus. More energy. More stamina. That’s been my day today. On six hours of sleep. And a nap. With two cups of “bulletproof” coffee and a cup of butter-coco-oil tea.
This means the world to me. Ever since my TBI in 2004, I have felt extremely stressed. By just about everything. That stress has been very real, and it’s cost me jobs, it nearly cost me my marriage, and it’s driven a lot of people away from me. It’s worn me down and made me feel like just a nub of a person, it’s aged me considerably, and it’s taxed me on all conceivable levels. Things got so jumbled up in my head, and I got so turned around, every day was a struggle to just figure things out. It was like trying to chop my way through the jungle with a dull machete. Just not good. Exhausting. Confusing. Frustrating. And totally unavoidable.
I had to live my life, after all, whether or not there were trails laid down for me in the jungle.
So yeah, I’ve been pretty tired for a long time. My system has been overworked, overtaxed, and I’ve been running on fumes for a long, long time.
Which is why I’m so incredibly stoked that I discovered this new way of making coffee — that actually works for me. It actually works.
I don’t want to overdo it… I’ve gotta pace myself. And it could turn out that eating all those fats doesn’t suit me for the long run, but the way I’m feeling right now, it’s like the heavens just opened up and God handed me a second chance.
Now I just need to do the right thing with it.
I’ve got some more work I need to do tonight. And again tomorrow. I think I’ll take a crack at some of it, and then save some for tomorrow. It’s all good.
And with this energy I’m feeling, I’m also better able to tell when I’m physically tired… I’m getting there.
It’s all a process, for sure. I find my life stabilizing, and now I’m ready to start rebuilding for sure. I have really gotten hammered through the years, and now all my hard work is finally paying off. So, I’ll make the most of it, and keep on keepin’ on.
Today I fast again. It’s been about a month, and I’m feeling like I need to focus my energy more, instead of building my day around breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I have a lot that I want to get done, and the whole hunger-tyranny thing is getting in my way.
I spend way too much time during the day, thinking about where my next meal is coming from. I have no shortage of nutritious food around me. All I need to do is buy it and/or prepare it. I don’t eat a lot of junk food, and my diet is fairly limited, because that’s what’s healthy for me.
But I find myself spending an awful lot of time thinking about food, planning my meals, and thinking about what I’m going to eat in a few hours. I spend too much time thinking about whether or not I’m hungry, what I should eat, how much I should eat, and
It just takes up too much of my time. And I have way too much to do, to spend a lot of time frittering away my hours thinking about… food.
Plus, I have a fairly easy day today — no long commute, because I’m working remotely, and I don’t have a ton of critical meetings today. I have a fairly balanced schedule, and I should also be able to get a nap in there, somewhere. Just a short one. On the new bed I’m getting delivered today.
I’ve been sleeping on the same mattress and box spring since 1989. I know. It’s crazy. 25 years is way too long to be sleeping on the same bed. It also dates back to my first marriage, which was pretty much of a disaster, so it will be good to get it out of the house.
Why didn’t I do this before? Simple. Money. Beds are expensive, and frankly I like the old style mattresses better than the new ones. There’s been a sort of comfort in the familiarity, to tell the truth. And it’s been years since I had any association between the mattress and my first (failed) marriage.
So yeah… time. Fasting to save the time of planning meals, eating, and then digesting. Fasting to get my head back on straight. Fasting to get free of the impulses that drive me by instinct and reflex… getting out of the reactivity, and into deciding for myself what I will feel and think and do.
I applied for a job today with one of my old employers. I was with them for over 10 years, total, and they’re the place I worked when I fell in 2004 and had that TBI that really screwed me up. I wasn’t able to hang in there with them for more than a year after my brain injury, and that’s where things really melted down for me. I went back and worked for them, a few years ago – just prior to my current position. I was still on the mend — it was five years ago, that I was back with them again for about a year.
I had a mixed experience with them, the last time I was there, and I was happy to leave. But the past four years have been unbelievably trying for me, in this new position, and even though I have really made great strides in my recovery, I wouldn’t mind going back to a company that has a clue. The company I’ve been with for the past four years has a long way to go before they’re worth working for. It started out okay, then the restructurings started to happen, and now they’ve tipped even closer to useless.
Of course, in a world where people just move on ever few years, who the hell cares about whether things will work properly in the long run?
That’s the mindset I’ve adopted, lately. It’s a little sad, that I’ve just let go of the idea of staying there. I do enjoy the people I work with — somewhat. Mostly, the appeal of my teammates is that they are familiar to me. I don’t absolutely hate every single one of my coworkers, which is a plus. A handful of them, I enjoy talking to. But I don’t seek them out for company while I’m at work. Ironically, I have a better rapport with people I don’t work directly with — who I know from socializing in line at the cafeteria or getting coffee or water in the employee lounge.
And to be honest, if I never saw most of these people again in all my life, I wouldn’t care. I just wouldn’t. I don’t miss the ones who have moved on, and I can’t imagine I’m going to miss many of them when I move on. I’m not even sure why I bother with most of them on Facebook.
Anyway, I’ll get what I can out of the experience I’m having, and quit worrying about the change that comes along with finding a new position in a new place.
I just figured something out that can free me up to move sooner than I’ve been expecting to, and that really takes a load off my mind. Getting more flexible with my thinking… that’s a good thing, for sure.
That’s one of the things that fasting does for me — it gets me thinking along different lines. It gets me out of my comfortable routine — if only for a day. And it frees up the energy and time I’d usually spend spinning my wheels about meals, to think about other more important things – like my next steps. It clears my head — all the junk gets sorted into separate piles, and I’m not on autopilot like I usually am. And that’s good.
I had an unexpected opportunity, last night — I got to fast, because I ended up flying solo for the evening, and I had to work late, so my schedule was all thrown off, and I didn’t need to make supper. The last thing I ate yesterday was at about 2:30 p.m., and I fasted till about 8:00 a.m. today, so that’s close to 18 hours, which is about the right amount of time for me to fast.
I’ve been meaning to fast more often — not dysfunctionally, but on a regular basis, to not only keep my calorie count down, but to also give my system a rest from digesting and also trigger some autophagy… where the body “eats” up the unnecessary gunk in your cells and cleans itself.
Fasting overnight seems like a good option for me. I can do it fairly easily — all I have to do is distract myself during the day, and then I get a steady period of sleep where I am not even capable of feeling hungry. It could work. I’m sure the physiological mechanisms of fasting are different between night and day, but even so. It’s something.
I’ve been really giving a lot of thought to how I eat, lately. I do it pretty sparingly, actually, while keeping up pretty good nutrition. I have a breakfast with protein and some fruit, I have an apple a day, and then I have a light lunch that’s balanced — either a big bowl of soup or a salad, sometimes a calzone (when I’m in the rare mood)… and my snack is a cup of trail mix that’s made of dried fruit and mixed nuts. For supper, I’ll make a full home-cooked meal made from scratch, with meat and starch and vegetables.
All in all, I think I eat a heck of a lot better than the average American, and I eat a heck of a lot less, too. I’ve sworn off junk food, I seldom have bread/grains/gluten, and only rarely do I have candy or soda/carbonated drinks. I’ve just lost all interest in most of them, and I can stand in the candy aisle at the supermarket and not feel the slightest pang of hunger when I look at most of the crap on the shelves.
In fact, I have no interest in eating just about anything in the center of the grocery store. The center of the store is where the processed foods are stocked — all the stuff that’s so laced with chemicals that it will survive “fresh” long enough to see my grand-nieces and -nephew’s great-great-grandchildren.
Yah, no thanks.
Anyway, I’m hoping this little bit of fasting will help me flush out some of the cold-season gunk that’s been building up. I’m feeling a little low — lots of excitement at work — and I don’t want it to get the best of me… especially because I’m going out of town for business in another week. Gotta stay healthy, for sure.
A few days back, I bought some L-Tyrosine capsules to help my body produce more dopamine. I didn’t get the heavy-duty dosage. I wanted to keep things simple, for starters. In theory, it was a good idea, because I have really been feeling the burn of low energy and distractability and memory issues and sleep problems and a lot of other issues that can be related to low dopamine levels.
On top of that, I also learned that the part of the brain that produces dopamine is very vulnerable to concussions, so there we go… more reasons to supplement my system with a little extra.
I’ve been eating more foods that are high in L-Tyrosine, the amino acid which the body converts to dopamine. Bananas, peppermint tea, eggs, avocados… it’s been good. But even though I felt great, I thought I needed to boost just a little bit more, so I picked up a supplement to take.
I’ve been taking it for the pas three days, and today I have just not been feeling well. I feel weird, if anything — woozy and off, with a headache and lots of vertigo. I feel a bit like I’ve been drugged, which tends to happen with me and supplements. I’ve tried to take L-Carnitine in the past, to help with recovery from workouts, but that just didn’t work. It made me feel worse.
L-Tyrosine seems to have the same effect with me.
So, I’m stopping the extra supplementation and I’m focusing on the food. I hate feeling this crappy — especially when it’s my time off from work, and I have free rein to do what I please, however I please, whenever I please.
Well, whatever. I’m going to make myself some dinner and chill out. I’d rather focus on food, anyway, and not get into chemistry which may or may not work. I’ll take it easy tonight… read a bit and work on some finances stuff. Just chill out, while I can. The week is starting up tomorrow, and it’s time to ramp up for the new year. I have another day off work on Monday, then I work one day on Tuesday, then New Year’s Day comes on Wednesday. And then Thursday and Friday come down the pike, and it’s back into it the week after.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time figuring out new year’s resolutions and such. There’s no point to that. I know what I need to do, and I will just do it, regardless of the time of year. The things I want and need don’t have best-used-by expiration dates on them. And they don’t become more important just because of the calendar. I sometimes think of the new year as a fresh start, but it’s really no more of a fresh start than every day of my life. I have the ability to start fresh whenever, so that’s what I do.
But for now, it’s time to chill. And make some good food for dinner.