Not myself, this past month or so

I hate to admit it, but for the past month or so, I haven’t felt like myself. That is, the self that I had come to know myself to be, over the past years… the self I had trained myself to become — and to notice.

I’m not whining about it. I just need to go on record, so I remember it later. Not all is hunky-dory, and I’ve spent an awful lot of time masking all this and keeping myself from thinking too-too much about it. That’s counter-productive. I hate hearing myself talk about what’s wrong, but I need to be aware when things are not ideal, so I can do something about it.

I haven’t got time right now to chronicle everything I am doing to address these issues, so for now, I’m just going on record.

Lately, I’ve felt like things are unraveling… starting back in September when my PCP died, and the only doctor I ever felt comfortable with was gone forever.

Then in October came the announcement that the company I work for is being acquired, and all the assumptions and plans I had about my future (going back to school, getting my degree, staying on there until I could finally retire)… that all became incredibly tenuous.

Then in November my neuropsychologist tells me that they’re retiring this coming spring, and the one working relationship I’ve ever had with anyone who didn’t make fun of me or treat me like there was something wrong with me when they simply didn’t understand, suddenly got an expiration date.

The car needed a couple thousand dollars of repairs over Thanksgiving, and my bank started warning me that I was low on funds.

And then in December I find out there will be layoffs, and I and my group barely missed being cut. Someone I really depended on for advanced technical support got laid off, so now I’m sorta kinda hung out to dry, in one respect.

It’s just been a heck of an end of the year.

At least my spouse and I are reasonably healthy (aside from some nasty colds — knock wood), and we’ve had no other calamities. But piece by piece, some of the main supports I’ve been relying on, have been removed.

I guess it’s time to find new ones.

And it’s been strange. I haven’t really felt like myself for over a month. I’ve been a lot more on edge, blowing up more at my spouse, getting confused and disoriented at work. At Thanksgiving time, I was balancing between completely losing it and letting off very controlled bursts of angry steam. And while I’ve rarely been a real Christmassy kind of person, this year especially I just haven’t been in the mood. The weather has been strange, but after the absolutely sh*tty winter we had last year, I don’t care that it’s going to be warm and sunny on Christmas Day. That’s this Friday, and, well, it can come and go, for all I care.

I just don’t feel like myself. Nothing seems worthwhile, and in all honesty, the only thing that brings me total satisfaction is trapping the mice in my basement. I rigged up several traps on a little ledge where I’ve seen them run in the past, and I’ve caught four of them, so far. I have a feeling I’ll be trapping all the mice in the neighborhood, by the time all is said and done, because my garage is not very well sealed, and I’ve seen them come in through gaps in the trim. Right in front of me. Brazen.

Well, now those little brazen bastards are getting dead. And while I do feel pang of quasi-Buddhist regret that I’ve taken a life, I do NOT feel regret that these creatures aren’t running amok through my basement. I figure, I’m releasing them to their next incarnation — just speeding up the cycle of life for these rodents.

It’s not the death that appeals to me. It’s the yes-no, success-failure, instant gratification of seeing that at least something I’ve done is working. It’s basic. It’s primal. And I’m managing to successfully defend my castle against at least some maruaders.

I just wish I felt more like myself, instead of being shaky and tired and disoriented and prone to error. I’m spaced out, a lot of the time, I feel like I have more on my head than I can handle, and while I’m sure things will be fine and I’ll be able to handle whatever comes along, it’s still tiring, and I feel like I’ve lost my mooring.

Maybe I have. Maybe I have.

I just have to get it back, I guess. It’s now officially winter, and I’m ready for it. I just want to hibernate, go underground, and maybe that’s what I’ll do, more or less. The last several months with the company change have been very chaotic and unsettling for myself and everyone at work. It’s next to impossible to make any plans, and nobody knows what the criteria are for deciding who stays and who goes. Nobody can give us any clue, either, because that might tip their cards, and everyone might just take matters into their own hands, and then the deal might fall apart.

So, hibernation (figuratively speaking) might be the best thing to do. Keep everything simple and lay low. Cut back on social media (which I have). Stop reading the news (which I must). Concentrate on what matters most to ME (not the rest of the world). And focus on the basics — eating right, exercising regularly, and doing things that appeal to me and that I love and which also make a constructive contribution to the rest of the world.

I also need to get back to dealing with the logistical issues that come up with me. Sensory issues are problematic — light and sound and touch have been giving me problems. I’m dizzy a lot — almost fell over the other day for no good reason. I’m space-out, foggy, and I feel a split-second delayed, though that could be a symptom of me still being sick. I have problems typing, and my handwriting is a mess. I skip the first letters of words while I’m writing in long-hand, which is a new one for me. My temper is short, I’m getting “snappier” than usual, and I have bouts of intense depression. And lately, the headaches are back, along with the episodes of sudden pain shooting through my head, followed by feeling dull and out of it.

But hell if I’m going to take that Imitrex. F*ck that sh*t. Talk about feeling spaced-out… I feel bad enough as it is, without adding medication to it.

So, I do my breathing exercises and get my head out of a stressed-out space, and it helps a bit. It also helps to ignore it and just get on with my life. But the headaches are getting intrusive, again, and when people like my chiro or my massage therapist ask me about them, it just irritates me, because the things they do for me don’t actually seem to help all that much, but they’re so convinced that those things are The Ticket. It’s nice that they try, and I know they want to help, but there’s nothing that seems to really Work for me. Not these days.

And trying to explain that to them is a pain in my ever-lovin’ ass. People get so sensitive and offended and frustrated when I tell them what they do is not working. No science, no tweaking their approach. Just getting irritated and frustrated — and keeping on doing the same thing as before. So, I quit saying anything. Because even when I try to explain, it doesn’t help.

It’s the classic tension between what appears to be, what people think really IS, and what my experience of things is. And that fragmented collection of disconnects makes me absolutely crazy.

That, and the fact that my weekly schedule is about to change, with my neuropsych seeing me on Fridays at noon, instead of Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m.  Argh! Change! I hate it!  And I hate that it makes me so unsettled. I wish it weren’t so.

But bitching about it won’t change anything. I just need to get on with my life.

My new mantra: Screw it. Onward.


How easy it is to fool myself!

It's so easy to get pulled into the illusion
It’s so easy to get pulled into the illusion

TBI can certainly make life interesting… in the sense of that old Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”. One of the “interesting” things about TBI, is how it can screw with your sensory perceptions, as well as you interpretation of those sensations.

Anybody with TBI can probably tell you how life takes on an unreal quality when you’re hurt. Things slow down. Or speed up. Things that never bothered you before suddenly become unbearable. Things that you used to not care about, suddenly take on all the importance in the world.

And life can seem pretty unreal.

Our lives are turned upside-down in a number of ways.

  1. We may not sense our environment the way we used to. First off, our attention can get wonky — TBI often makes you more distractable, which means you’re not paying consistent attention to the world around you. And your short-term working memory (the short-range stuff that makes it possible for you to talk to people and remember what they said earlier in the discussion, or that lets you start a task and complete it) can be messed up, too.That means you don’t pick up all the clues you could, or you drop the ones you get — and never know it. I had a hell of a time with holding conversations for many, many years, because I didn’t realize I was losing track of what people were saying — and I never took corrective action until after I found out. (I’m much better, now, by the way.)  Distractability can also affect your perception of the world around you, keeping you from sensing. It’s not uncommon for me to walk into furniture and never see important details and also not hear what I should, thanks to distractability. So, the world around us is literally changed at the very first point we contact it.
  2. The information that does get through to us can get distorted along the way. Chemical_synapse_schema_croppedWithin the body, between the synapses, there’s this thing called the “synaptic cleft” — a space between the synapses that electrochemical impulses need to “jump” to transmit information.  Per Wikipedia, it’s

    An electrochemical wave called an action potential travels along the axon of a neuron. When the action potential reaches the presynaptic terminal, it provokes the release of a small quantity of neurotransmitter molecules, which bind to chemical receptor molecules located in the membrane of another neuron, the postsynaptic neuron, on the opposite side of the synaptic cleft.

    There are 100–500 trillion synapses in the human brain alone — and considering that there are also neurons elsewhere in the body (the gut, for example), that’s a lot of tiny little spaces that signals have to get across. On top of all those billions trillions of connections that need to be made properly for info to get across, TBI can mess with your biochemistry, your neurochemistry, either increasing or decreasing neurotransmitter action, so that very sensitive, very fine connection that needs to get made… just so… stands a pretty good chance of getting at least a little mucked up.

  3. And then we come to our brain. The very thing that got hurt. Our brains may not process what comes across in exactly the same way they used to, and our experience of the information that gets through may be distorted. The stories of light and noise sensitivity are myriad, along with accounts of sensitivity to touch, the inability to tolerate certain scents and sensations after a brain injury. With me, even years later, some days can feel like my whole body is going haywire. And I can’t deal. When I’m tired, when my brain is taxed, when I’ve run out of steam… yah, all of the above… and more.
  4. Our interpretation of those experiences may be messed up, so we interpret what’s happening completely wrong. I’m especially prone to this. And the armies of TBI/concussion survivors who are impacted by this, are legion. In my own personal case, my mood and emotions are strongly impacted by how I feel physically. When I am in chronic pain, I tend to get depressed and feel like there’s no way out. When I am exhausted and feel  physically ill with fatigue, I can slip into a state of mind that doesn’t care if I wake up in the morning. When I am just feeling physically worn out from the stress of dealing with the day-to-day, and I have to work extra hard to interact with people, I tend to interpret that as not being good with people, being anti-social, and generally being socially useless. It has nothing to do with the facts of the matter. I’m just feeling that way, and I’m letting that feeling hijack my judgment.

So, TBI hits you on a number of levels that can progressively screw with your entire perception of yourself and the world around you. It’s a whole-system head-trip, and the end result can make us feel / think / act like we’re crazy.

Which may seem like bad news… but it doesn’t have to be.

See, the thing is… even without TBI, our bodies can play tricks on us that eventually affect our minds. We ALL have those days, when we’re distracted and not paying attention to the world around us… which causes us to miss important pieces of information. We do it all the time. We’re paying attention to our phone screen and miss the last sentence someone said to us. We’re fiddling with the car radio and miss our turn off the freeway.

And all the other conditions apply to everyone, as well:

  • Everyone’s neurotransmitters need to jump the gap, every time our senses communicate what we do manage to detect, and neurotransmitters can vary without needing an injury to complicate them.
  • Everyone’s brains need to decode what comes across, and the human brain is notoriously inconsistent — especially when it comes to fatigue, poor diet, illness, and other factors that screw up our cognition.
  • And of course, we’re all subject to flights of fancy and delusions, where we misinterpret what we think has “come across the wires”. People are extremely good at reading meanings into situations — regardless of whether those suspicions are valid.  Most people are walking around with a made-up version of what’s happening around them, and most of us are wrong in many subtle ways. Basically, we’re so good at forming our own meanings and inventing stories that make sense of an often senseless world, that countless people are cognitively isolated and living in their own private Idahos, even while thinking everyone else is living in that same state with them.

The benefit of TBI, is that it accentuates all these conditions and can make them so exaggerated, that even we can tell we’re full of sh*t. Which is a helpful place to start from. Think about all the people walking around who think they’ve got it all figured out — and are making life a living hell for themselves and others. Now, TBI can absolutely blind you to the wrong spots in your thinking and process, so that can be a problem, but for those of us who understand that our brains have been impacted and our minds have been warped by this thing called traumatic brain injury, we’re actually a bit ahead of the game.

If you want to live well, you need to understand your own limitations and factor them in — and not take yourself so damn’ seriously. Being ultra-familiar with your own feet of clay is a good place to start from, for having no clue of how clueless you are can make you downright dangerous — to yourself and others.

Knowing what’s busted is the first step to fixing things, and far from being a liability, it’s ironically a very strong place to start from.

After that, anything is possible.


Remembering what matters

spiritualityI had an interesting exercise, over the past week or so.

My hosting account got hacked, earlier this month, and my hosting provider shut down access to all of my websites.

So, I had to go back in, make copies of everything, and then clean out the directories.

At first, it seemed like a daunting task. And the thought of removing all the work of the past 10-15 years, seemed mammoth.

But I did it. I systematically went through all the sites, backed them up, then tore out everything I could, leaving almost nothing behind.

And in the end, what had seemed like a daunting, overwhelming task, turned out to be for the best.

Because I realized as I was working, that all those sites were a kind of busy-ness I had used to occupy my mind and keep my thoughts off my troubles, while my troubles piled up around me. They served a purpose, for sure — keeping me mentally engaged and interested in something outside myself. But in the end, they amounted to distractions, basically, and not much more.

I never did manage to take any of them further than just standing up websites, putting some info in place, and then going off to do something else that was more interesting. They were hobbies, really, which I told myself were supposed to become something bigger… or make me money… or become a business…

None of it ever panned out the way I hoped it would, but no surprises there. I never stuck with any of it long enough for it to get a foothold. Starting something real often takes constant work — almost non-stop work — for months and years on end. I thought I could do it, but constant fatigue pretty much killed that off.

In a way, I kind of scuttled my own armada of remote-controlled toy ships. I didn’t keep up with the security updates, and I ultimately disqualified myself from the game I thought I wanted to play. Turns out, I didn’t actually want to play that game of constant work and vigilance. I just wanted to play.

I wanted to explore. To discover. To try things — on my own — and not be interrupted by concerns about the everyday. I wanted to be a mad scientist of sorts… the kind of investigator who ventures into uncharted territory and finds what’s there before the rest of the world even has an inkling that there might be something “out there”.

I like to come up with new ideas and inventions and programs, I just don’t like to have to sell them to others. Heck, I don’t even like to have to explain them. I just want to invent and work with them. I like my solitude. I like my quiet. And when everybody is milling around clamoring to get a look at what you’re doing (or make a comment on it), that’s not exactly the quiet solitude I crave.

Ironically, the more solitude and quiet I have, the more productive I am. After I ripped out all those websites, I spent a fair amount of time going through old files and folders I had, and I rediscovered a bunch of notes I collected over the past couple of years about metaphysical subjects that used to fascinate me.

After my TBI in 2004, I lost the constant sense of spiritual connection that I’d had ever since I was a little kid. I felt both religious and spiritual, and when I was growing up, I was a very religious kid. I was really into studying the Bible and prayer and contemplation — when it came to religion, it was really the people who turned me off. I just couldn’t stand the hypocrisy of people who treated their “salvation” like it was a get-out-of-jail-free card that absolved them of all their weekly wrongdoings when they showed up to church on Sunday. I felt so strongly about what I considered a “misuse” of true faith, that I convinced myself that I was not a religious person — I was just spiritual.

But, in fact, I was deeply religious. Perhaps too religious for the everyday world.

After my fall in 2004, all that was wiped away. I lost a lot after that brain injury — my ability to read, stay focused, my emotional control, my ability to think clearly in stressful situations, executive function that let me make good decisions (that had been a bit lacking before my fall, but after, what little I had just flew out the window), and decent sleep/rest… to name a few.

But most notable to me now, is my loss of spirituality or religious feeling. At the time I lost it, it was the strangest thing — I felt as though I had never had it, in the first place, and I could not understand why anyone would even want it. I could remember feeling spiritually connected in the past, but it was like looking at an exhibit behind glass.  Very interesting… but irrelevant.

Now things are very different. A year or two ago, I started to have religious feelings again. I would have these incredible rushes of feeling like I was connected to Everything, and I would feel absolutely ecstatic. Sometimes, it would be almost painful… that bittersweet sense of being plugged into it all.  And sometimes it would be just a gentle rush that was a great comfort to me. And when I would look up Bible verses online or crack open one of the four Bibles I had from my childhood, I would get that same old sense of devotion and reverence I remembered from being a kid.

And I found myself starting to pray again.

It felt a little strange, but it made me feel better.

Anyway, looking through my notes and books I’d been studying, 15 years ago before my TBI in 2004, I suddenly remembered why they had meant so much to me. I realized why I’d kept them, despite feeling nothing for them, when I looked at them, for many years. I’ve had them on my bookshelves all this time, not sure if I was going to keep them, but not able to get rid of them. I couldn’t even box them up and put them in a safe place. I kept them on my bookshelf in “their place”.

I do feel something for those books and ideas, now. And I remember — not just mentally, but in my bones, so to speak — why those things mattered to me. Why they still do matter to me. The writing and research I did for so many years before my brain injury… that’s still with me. And the interest endures. It’s taken 11 years for it to come back around, but it’s there. I made a wild and massive detour — a bunch of detours — along the way, and some of those almost got me killed, but in the end, it’s enriched my understanding of who I am and where I fit into the world I inhabit.

And it makes me better able to feel compassion and patience for others who are working through their own difficulties.

Some of the things that used to matter so much to me… that went away… are back. I don’t know if it will endure. I don’t know if it will all dissolve in a matter of weeks, months, years, decades…. or if I’ll simply forget they exist (as I often do) and go back to that feeling of disconnection that has become so familiar.

But whatever happens later, right now I am connected to one of the threads that has made my life so incredibly meaningful ever since I was a little kid. And it feels pretty good.

And then I hit my head (again) – now I can’t sleep

Man, this is so messed up. When I think about it, I start to get pissed off. And then I remember what getting really pissed off does to me, and I back it down a bit. I get my mind off it. I think about other things. I redirect the energy towards something constructive – like working out.

Or thinking things through and coming up with a workable solution to problems in front of me.

Last week, when I was getting ready to come home from vacation, I was loading my car, and somebody pulled up right behind me, almost blocking me in. I could swear they were looking for a fight, because when I asked them to just pull back six inches, they got all defensive and “explained” to me that they were trying to leave room in the back for someone else to park. Looking behind there car, there wasn’t even enough room for one of those little Fiats. Maybe a scooter. But no, they were adamant that they needed to park that way. And when I asked again, they said some sh*t that questioned my ability to drive, if I couldn’t pull out of that spot.

I was tired and hurried, because I had all of 10 minutes left before we had to be out of the condo unit, so I just told them to forget about it. They wanted to keep talking it through, but I didn’t have the time, so I dismissed them and just decided to take care of my own stuff, rather than waste precious time on an prolonged discussion with this lonely-hearts type person.

I f*cking hate people who start arguments just to get attention. I really do.

I could just barely open the back of my van for that last load, and then I was done. I grabbed the gate and pulled down hard…

You know those moments when you have a fleeting sense that something is amiss, but you can’t think what it is? For a split second, I had a feeling that something wasn’t right…

And then >clunk< – the corner of the descending gate caught me on the top front of my head.


It wasn’t so hard that it dazed me. I didn’t see stars. It didn’t feel like I got my bell rung. It just hurt like a motherf*cker, and it was at the worst possible time for something like this to happen. It’s also one in a series of bumps to my head that I’ve experienced over the past few months. I keep hitting my head on car doors… while getting in… while getting out… while packing for the trip home…

I stopped for a moment to feel my head to see if I’d drawn blood, but there was none. Not even a bump or a knot. It felt like I’d dented my skull, but my pate is pretty bumpy and knotty to begin with, so I couldn’t tell if this was a new or existing dent. The whole area around where I hit my head hurt, so I had a hard time telling where exactly I’d gotten clunked. (Interestingly, almost a week later, I can tell more clearly where I got hit. It still hurts. And it seems like there is a definite dent there.)

The thing that really got me was the cascade of muscle tightness in my head, jaw, neck, and shoulders. Everything started to tighten up and cramp. My jaw got really tight, and ever since then, I’ve found my jaw clenching more than usual. I need to do something about that. It’s not good for my teeth. Or my relaxation. I’ve noticed it’s really hard to relax, when my jaw is tight.

We got out of the condo unit in time, and then we headed for the beach. I couldn’t tell that anything was different with me. I did feel a bit more antsy than usual, but I chalked that up to leaving a beautiful vacation spot for my usual home…as well as the company of a friend who joined us for one last afternoon on the beach. We drove home late, got in late, and that was that.

Back to regular life.

Things have been going pretty well, overall, and aside from some residual tightness around my skull, I haven’t noticed many pronounced differences in how I feel on a regular basis.

One thing that does stand out, however, is that I’m having a harder time getting to sleep at night, and I don’t feel as rested when I wake up. I can’t seem to sleep like I had been before. I’ve been antsy and agitated, and I haven’t A) been able to really relax, or B) felt like relaxing. The thing that gets me is that it has a cumulative effect, so I need to not let it get ahead of me.

On the bright side, I’ve been very motivated to get things done. On the downside, I’ve been feeling really scattered and despite going-going-going, I feel like I’m getting less done, which is tiring on top of everything else. I can’t let myself get as tired as I used to. It’s no good for me. And I can get hurt again, if I’m not careful.

So, what to do? The main thing is to really get how this is affecting me, and do something about it.  I can’t leave myself in ragged shape. Gotta get moving and do something about it.

That includes making a point of getting good rest. Not staying up late and getting up early.

It includes eating right (which I have been) and getting good exercise (which I have been) and making sure I rest well and don’t just push myself like a crazy person, 24 hours a day.

It also includes finding a new doctor. I’m going to find an osteopath, rather than an M.D., who works with the whole body to adjust and align things. I’ve had it with M.D.s and the whole mainstream AMA medical establishment. They’re way too dysfunctional, and I need to find a provider who makes a point of understanding how the body is put together — not just what medicines will do what for which condition.

So, I’ve got steps.

The day is waiting. Onward.

#10 Thing I wish they’d told me after my concussion(s)

10. Plenty of other people have had mild traumatic brain injuries (concussions), and most of them are getting on with their lives.

It's not the end. It may feel like it, but it's not
It’s not the end. It may feel like it, but it’s not

Brain injury / concussion is extremely common – millions of people in the US experience once each year, and many more experience them globally.

Getting clunked on the head is something as old as the hills. If it were catastrophic every single time, the human race would not have survived. So take courage – you’re in good company.

While brain injury recovery can be time-consuming and there are no hard-and-fast guarantees, rest assured that many people have bounced back after concussion and gone on to live productive, satisfying, fulfilling lives. Those who haven’t had such an easy time are in the minority. And while I am a member of that minority, I can tell you that even the long, hard road has had many blessings along the way.

You may notice some changes in your personality and abilities, but some of the changes may be for the better. I know that in my case, overcoming all the difficulties of symptoms and blocks that were put in my way trained me to persevere and be diligent – and also to pay attention to important signals that I was screwing up again and needed to make a course correction.

Nobody wants to injure their brain. But when it happens, there’s a lot of useful lessons to be learned. And those who learn and adapt, are the ones with the highest success rate.

You can be one of the successes. No doubt about it!

What to do?

Be patient.

Pay attention.

Be the best person you can.

Put forth your best effort and learn from all your mistakes.

And remember: This is not the end.

concussion-now-whatDid you know there’s a Kindle eBook version of this post? It’s expanded, along with the other posts in this “Top 10” segment.

You can get it on Amazon here$1.99, instant download

#9 Thing I wish they’d told me after my concussion(s)

9. You may feel like this for a while.

It feels like no one understands... and heck if you can describe it to them
It feels like no one understands… and heck if you can describe it to them

Yep, it’s unpleasant. Yep, it can suck. And yep, it can take a while to get all figured out.

It’s practically impossible to explain to others what it feels like to have post-concussive symptoms, and it can be almost as impossible to convince other people that concussion / TBI is a thing. Heck, I have long-time friends and family who still refuse to believe I have any issues – and I’m not the only TBI survivor who has that experience.

Never mind that. Just take care of yourself and pay attention to your own recovery.

And don’t lose hope. I had just about given up of ever feeling normal again, when suddenly I felt like my old self again.

It brought me to tears.

It was amazing.

And it comes and goes.

The thing to remember is that, through the course of life, we never ever stay the same person. We are constantly changing, constantly growing, and expecting ourselves to stay the way we were “before” isn’t realistic.

It was never going to happen, anyway. Even if you hadn’t gotten injured, life would have changed you in some way. You would have lost or gained many, many things (and people) along the way, and those experiences would have changed you, too.

Just be aware, that brain injury / concussion isn’t the kind of thing you can rush. The brain will take its own sweet time.

So, buckle up for the ride of your life!

What to do?

The best thing you can do is be patient with yourself and be aware of the ways that you are not functioning as well as you would like. Make a note. Try again. And keep learning.

Don’t rush it. These things take time. Eat healthy food, stay away from a lot of junk food, sugar, caffeine, and stress, drink plenty of water, and get lots of good sleep.

Exercise can also help a great deal. It reduces stress, and it gets your mind off your brain for a while. The times I’ve felt best, are the times I’ve been exercising regularly – even light exercise for 10 minutes at the start of each day. Just don’t overdo it. Recovering from an injured brain is hassle enough, without adding an injured body to it.

concussion-now-whatDid you know there’s a Kindle eBook version of this post? It’s expanded, along with the other posts in this “Top 10” segment.

You can get it on Amazon here$1.99, instant download

#8 Thing I wish they’d told me after my concussion(s)

8. You might feel like you are crazy… like you’re losing your mind.


This is another very common complaint after concussion / TBI. Your brain is working differently than before. Maybe you’re saying and doing things that don’t make sense to you – and others around you. Maybe you can’t find the right words. Maybe your body is super-sensitive to every little stimulus. And you certainly don’t feel like your old self.

Believe me, this is common. Thousands upon thousands of people with concussion / TBI feel like they’re losing their minds. Some feel that way longer than others, but for the vast majority, they get back to feeling normal before too long.

That’s how it was for me for many years. I’d get hit on the head, be dazed and confused for some time… then eventually I’d be back to feeling like myself. This last time, it took me 10 years to start feeling like myself again. But at least I’m back. For the most part.

Some days, I still feel like a stranger. And I don’t know what happened to the old me I used to know so well.

Yes, it can make you feel crazy.

But you’re not crazy. Your brain is just “recalibrating” and figuring out how to do the things it used to do so easily.

It’s not a small thing, however. This complicates life in so many ways – including your interactions with others. One way it is particularly troublesome, is with doctors. If you have trouble expressing yourself and words aren’t coming out properly, it can be hard, if not impossible, to get good medical help. In my case, I was so “all over the map” that one neurologist after another treated me like I was mentally ill and just looking for attention and pills. Needless to say, it made it hard to get help. But I stuck with it, and my persistence paid off.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as fortunate as I have been.

The important thing to remember – no matter what doctors or friends or family members say – is that the source of your troubles is your brain. It’s not something you’re making up. It’s real. And you need to reckon with it.

Remember that neighborhood I talked about earlier? The one that got hit with the microburst?

storm-damage-tree-downThink about all the wiring in that neighborhood immediately after the storm. At first it’s down, then it comes up, little by little. Eventually people can turn on their lights without a brownout. And they can watch t.v., although it takes a while for them to get their heads on straight, after working around the clock to clean up their street.

That’s what’s going on in your system. You’ve got the t.v. on, but you keep hitting the wrong buttons on the remote, and the shows keep jumping around on your mental screen. It’s just the recalibration process running its course, and until things get sorted, you’re going to feel a little crazy.

But you’re not going nuts. It just feels that way.

What to do?

Be patient with yourself. Your brain needs time to figure things out again.

Have a sense of humor. Seriously – some of the stuff you do is pretty funny, if you think about it. If your system is going to go haywire for a while, you might as well have fun with it. It’s not the end of the world. Plus, you’ll have a hell of a story to tell, on down the line.

concussion-now-whatDid you know there’s a Kindle eBook version of this post? It’s expanded, along with the other posts in this “Top 10” segment.

You can get it on Amazon here$1.99, instant download

#7 Thing I wish they’d told me after my concussion(s)

7. Being tired makes you cranky. It also can make you more emotional than usual.

Cranky after concussion? You're not the only one
Cranky after concussion? You’re not the only one

You may find yourself behaving in “strange” ways, or thinking “strange” things. You may also find yourself getting much angrier than before — and much more quickly than before.

A tired brain isn’t just a distractable brain – it’s an irritable brain, as well. Fatigue can cause an injured brain to overreact – to everything. It can give you a hair-trigger temper and make you unpredictable and volatile.

That’s not good for anyone.

I wish I’d known this from the start. It would have saved me so many years of real pain over watching myself blow up over nothing at times becoming a danger to myself and the people around me.

I blew up with family, friends, co-workers, bosses, healthcare professionals, and yes, police officers. I lost jobs and relationships because of this.

It was so debilitating to watch myself go ballistic over things like dropping a spoon on the kitchen floor, or not being able to understand what people were saying to me. If I had known what fatigue does to my brain – because of my injuries – I would have worried less about being a bad person, and worried more about getting to bed at a decent hour.

What to do?

Pay attention to how tired you are. And pay attention to when you have a bad day – or a bad incident. Notice any connection?

Earlier tends to be better for a lot of us
Earlier tends to be better for a lot of us

To combat this problem, you can schedule important things for the morning, when you are still fresh. And you can postpone (or avoid) doing social things when you are tired.

Important activities where you need to keep your cool need to happen when you’re not fatigued. And that means doing important things earlier in the week, too.

By Friday, no matter how early it is in the morning, you may still be tired enough to fly off the handle over nothing at all.

There are medications that can help with the exhaustion that comes with TBI. Some meds will help you think better, so you get less tired, period.

If you want to go “med-less” (that’s what I prefer), you can always have a cup of coffee before an important event. But you have to watch out that it’s not too late in the day, or it may keep you from getting to sleep. A cup of coffee at 3:45 p.m. may help for that Thursday-afternoon meeting, but it may put the screws to your Friday.

concussion-now-whatDid you know there’s a Kindle eBook version of this post? It’s expanded, along with the other posts in this “Top 10” segment.

You can get it on Amazon here$1.99, instant download

#6 Thing I wish they’d told me after my concussion(s)

6. All of this is going to make you feel very, very tired.

TBI / concussion can make you feel wiped out.
TBI / concussion symptoms can drain you.

The sleep thing again…

I’m repeating myself, because it’s that important.

Fatigue is one of the top complaints of people who have sustained a brain injury. For some, it resolves in a matter of weeks or months, for others (myself included), it goes on for years. Giving yourself a chance to heal up front is probably a good idea.

TBI / concussion can make you feel wiped out.

When your brain is going haywire and it’s sending strange messages to your body, and your body is hyper-sensitive to just about everything… it’s exhausting. I spent years in a near-constant state of exhaustion. I had maybe a few good hours in the morning, then I was done.

Especially at the start, when your brain is figuring everything out – it feels like for the first time – you can end up feeling fried before you get half-way through the day. I drank way too much coffee for years, just to keep going. I didn’t understand what the problem was. I just knew I was exhausted, and I had to keep going.

You may need to sleep more than usual. If you can get it – take the opportunity. I functioned for years on exhaustion, because I had no choice. I had no access to public benefits, and if I didn’t work, I didn’t eat or have a home. So, I worked. Through the exhaustion. It was no fun at all – for me, or for my loved ones. We all paid a steep price for my fatigue.

What to do?

Sleep is precious. It helps your brain clear out the gunk that gets released when it gets injured, and it restores your sanity. Get as much sleep as you can, whenever you can.

You may feel like a loser for needing so much sleep, and/or others might call you a “slacker”, but they don’t live with your brain. You do. Give it a break. Give yourself a chance to feel human again.

no-x-outAlso, consider cutting back on all the stuff you think you need to do.

A lot of us stay busy, just because everyone else does it, or it makes us feel more productive and needed. In the end, you might be productive and needed, but you still feel like death-warmed-over. It’s up to you, but I’ve found that cutting back on all my customary activities was a magical relief.

All the “friends” I used to have? They’re still running on their hamster wheels. And they’re no happier now, than when I departed from their midst.

concussion-now-whatDid you know there’s a Kindle eBook version of this post? It’s expanded, along with the other posts in this “Top 10” segment.

You can get it on Amazon here$1.99, instant download

#5 Thing I wish they’d told me after my concussion(s)

5. You are probably going to be more distracted than usual.

Everything looks important
Everything looks important

Brain injury can make people very distractable. In my case, I am very light and noise sensitive, so on bad days, every passing shadow or bright light or sound catches my attention. With all the excitatory neurochemicals loose in our brains after concussion, our brains are on high-alert, and that can make us instantly notice tons of details that don’t mean a thing.

Your brain can get confused and not always know what details it should be paying attention to. It can get confused about what it really important and what it can safely ignore.

And because you have so much rattling ’round in your head, you might have more trouble remembering things — especially important things, like dates and schedules and appointments.

It actually takes a lot of brain power to notice lots of details and know what to pay attention to, and it takes special attention to commit things to memory. If your brain is so busy noticing everything and categorizing it without understanding what’s really going on, it’s not going to have a lot of bandwidth to devote to memorizing critical things.

Concussion / TBI is stressful, and stress make us more distracted than usual. It puts us on “high alert” where we think everything is important and needs to be noticed. This is a huge energy drain, and it tires you out even more.

A tired brain is a distractable brain.

And distraction makes the brain work harder, as it tries to “track” all the different pieces of information and put them in some kind of order – which makes it even more tired.

See the irony?

Yes, you’re right. It does suck.

What to do?

Again… sleep. Get plenty of rest. Your brain needs to heal, and pushing the envelope isn’t going to help. A tired brain is a distractable brain, so the less tired it is, the better your chances.

There are exercises you can do to increase your focus. Puzzles can help, and some online training supposedly helps, as well.

Meditation and mindfulness are highly recommended. They can literally alter the structure of the brain and strengthen the areas for focus.

Be careful of medication. Some meds actually make the brain more tired (some anti-depressants), which doesn’t help with concentration after a brain injury. Other meds will get you cranked up to high speed, which can fry your system. Be careful with meds, even over the counter ones. And talk to your doctor, if you’re concerned.

concussion-now-whatDid you know there’s a Kindle eBook version of this post? It’s expanded, along with the other posts in this “Top 10” segment.

You can get it on Amazon here$1.99, instant download