Real-world TBI recovery

I can *try* to play it safe... but it's not in my nature. (Don't try this at home, by the way.)

TBI recovery is like anything else – if you want to do it well, and if you want to get a good foundation to work from, you have to have discipline, constancy, and you need to keep practicing, keep training.

Overcoming TBI is like doing the impossible. Like being in Cirque de Soleil. Like freerunning or being a parkour traceur. You end up doing things that nobody else ever thought was possible.  Until you did it. And even then there are skeptics — or just plain people who don’t understand or appreciate how “impossible” the thing you just did really is.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to get to a point in my life where I’m “good”. And it occurs to me now, after my morning walk-run-jump, that where I’m at my best, is in the unknown. Far outside the comfort zone. Making myself nervous – for a very good reason.

If there’s one thing that has held me back, over the past years (probably my entire life), it’s been the mis-conception that there can ever be a comfort zone for me. It just doesn’t exist. I’m mentally, spiritually, even physically incapable of staying inside a comfort zone. I don’t belong there. Never have, never will.

And the times I’ve gotten most into trouble, have been when I started aiming for a comfort zone… got it in my head that I needed to get to a safe place, get settled, get integrated. That doesn’t really work for me.

‘Cause when I get comfortable, I stop paying attention to the level I need to. I back off. And backing off is about the last thing I need to be doing. I need to be ON. I need to be alert. I need to be with it. And I need to do it in a way that doesn’t fall back on stressing my system unnecessarily to produce the stress hormones that keep me ON.

That sort of “On-switch” is far from sustainable. It just takes too much out of me.

So, I need to find a new and better way.

I’m looking for that now. Looking for how to do this. Looking for how to be this.

I realize I’ve gotten comfortable in this job, which is a huge mistake. Being in synch with everyone is fine, but I can’t get too comfortable. People around me crave comfort. And safety. And predictability. And their physical condition (or lack thereof) shows it.

That’s not me. Not me at all. I need to stop trying to assimilate with them. Just stay true to my vision, follow my own lead, and do what my decades of experience tell me is the right thing to do. TBI did not take from me my general fund of knowledge, just my facility at accessing and using it appropriately. And that’s coming back now, thanks to working with my neuropsych.

Adieu zone de comfort. I’m off and running…

Diving back into the real world, for a real-world recovery.

There will always be walls… and reasons… and more

What's stopping you?

“My name is Daniel Ilabaca. I used to have nightmares. I used to be angry. I used to try to run through walls. I used to battle with my obstacles. I used to try to fight with my fears. It used to make me tired. But I found a better way. I knew there would always be another wall and another place to fall. I learned to use my obstacles. I learned to go over them. And around them. Now I am free of my fears. Now I am awake. Now I am happy. My name is Daniel Ilabaca. And I live what I dream.”

Just got done watching this:

You should watch it, too. Don’t try it at home (unless you’ve been training like a beast for a very long time), but watch it.

I’m a little sore today. Changed up my workouts. Pushing myself harder, doing the kinds of movements that actually have something to do with my life.

It’s more than about getting in decent physical condition, losing the winter weight, getting rid of the extra pounds. It’s about stamina. Strength. Being able to go higher and do more and not getting worn out in the process.

I’ve noticed that I do much better, overall, when I am in good physical condition. TBI can screw up your metabolic system — how your body creates and manages energy. It can also make you tired more quickly, and tiredness can lead to agitation as well as a host of cognitive and behavioral issues. I find that when I’m tired, I get angry quicker, I do stupid things more, I say things I don’t mean to say. Things fall apart more, and I react more strongly to them.

Things rapidly fall out of perspective, when I am tired.

So, I’m working on my stamina, which really depends on my strength. Physical strength. The ability to sustain physical activity without running out of steam. If I have more physical strength — and flexibility — I have more reserves to draw from. I can do the simple things for longer, without getting thrashed. And that means I can postpone the meltdown — or avoid it entirely — better than when I am out of shape and do not have the energy and strength to go on.

Make no mistake — brain injury, even mild, does a number on you. And the mild stuff is even more pernicious, because it’s not obvious, but it takes an internal toll that over the long term can be VERY difficult to navigate and negotiate.

So, if I build up my strength and flexibility — take good care of my body overall — it gives me the ability to do things more easily in my everyday life. And I feel better about myself, being in decent condition. Able to lift myself up. Better able to support myself, literally as well as figuratively. And balance. It lets me balance.

Oh yes — BALANCE — that’s gotten a whole hell of a lot better. I used to have to hold onto the handle of the oven in the kitchen, when I did my leg lifts. Now I can stand and balance without needing to hold on. And I can even stand on one leg, arms outstretched, and do my leg lifts — front, back, and side — and not fall over.

This is big. Because balance has been such a challenge for me over the years, and few things set me off more than being off balance. It’s exhausting. But with more strength, more core strength, especially, I can balance and I have more of a foundation to rely on, so even when I am having trouble with my ears, my legs and core can compensate for it. And I don’t need to fall over.

See, here’s the thing – no matter what, there will always be walls. There will always be obstacles. There will always be something getting in the way. Whether it’s TBI or mTBI or concussion or constant pain or vertigo or tactile defensiveness or headaches or mental fogginess… there will always be something that gets in the way. But I don’t have to let that stop me.

Watch parkour on YouTube for a few hours, and then tell me the usual obstacles need to always get in the way. The point of watching this is NOT to go out and do it. I don’t have anywhere near the physical strength to pull this stuff off, and I really can’t take the chance of more concussions, from jumping from high places and climbing up walls. The point of watching this IS to see how others negotiate obstacles in their own individual ways and truly defy common “wisdom” saying that such things are not possible.

It is possible, and with the proper training and dedication and mindset, it IS possible. They even make it look easy.

In much the same sense, I see no reason why those of us who battle these complications of concussion and TBI shouldn’t find our own way of overcoming the obstacles that get in our way. The obstacles could be as mundane as going to the grocery store, or as overwhelming as taking on a new job or a new career, or navigating the hazardous waters of human relationship.

With the proper training, consistent discipline and practice, and true commitment to living the best life possible, who knows what else could happen in your own life? I’m still working on figuring out what else can happen in my own.

Care to join in?

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