A little more coffee, then I’m on my way

coffee and notepad and pen on a tableThis is pretty much how my morning looks – me with a cup of strong, black coffee and a notepad with a pen to write down what I’m supposed to be doing, this morning.

Under normal conditions, I’m usually out and about by this time (it’s nearly noon). But today is different. I’m more tired than normal, and I have a lot of catching up with myself to do from this past week.

Reading… blogging… organizing…

Getting myself together for the rest of the day, which will be all about getting my spouse together to go to the even they’re hosting tonight. It’s a lot of work. There’s a lot to remember. I don’t feel up to it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it needs to be done.

I need some motivation. Something to perk me up.

Then again, I think just resting tonight, spending time in my own home in solitude and peace is probably motivation enough. It’s been months, since I had any time to myself. I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like.

Almost, but not quite.

I think tonight, I’ll spend some time organizing my study. I have a whole room with books and workspace(s) for myself, but I’ve taken to using it just as a storage area, where I put things I don’t want to think about anymore. That’s gotta change. For sure.

So, I’ll do that tonight. It’ll be a really good use of time.

And now, out I go into the world today. It’s cold and windy and clear, and I have trash that needs to go to the dump. Recycling, too. And I’ve got to run to the store to get some supplies for tonight. It’ll all get done. I just need to rouse myself and get my act in gear.

Off I go… list in hand…



Changing Our Minds About #BrainInjury #Recovery

change your mind about brain injury
Change your mind about brain injury

No doubt about it, brain injury changes you. In some cases, a lot.

Your personality can change dramatically… like mine did after my mTBI in 2004. I went from being a positive, pro-active individual with an indomitable spirit, to an anxious and easily upset “hothouse flower” who flew into a rage over every little thing. I went from being attentive to everything others needed from me, and going out of my way to ensure they were protected and well-cared-for, to being selfish, self-centered, and oblivious to what other people wanted and needed.

Granted, there were other mitigating factors that came into play, but the difference between pre-TBI and post-TBI was remarkable.

I can say that now with some measure of calm, because after 12 years of really working on my recovery, I’ve made huge strides and am better off — all across the board — than I can ever remember being.

But back in the day, my recovery wasn’t a foregone conclusion. It was questionable, in fact.

The thing that made the difference for me was not giving up. Having help, in the form of a neuropsych who would just talk me through my week, every week, and let me sort things out.Β  They would question me, when I was on the verge of going off the rails, helping me sort through the mass of details to find a common thread that I could hang onto. For just one more day.

Just one more day.

And over the years, one more day led to another and another and another, and those days became weeks and months and years… till I stopped to catch my breath and look around. And I realized I had come through on the other side.

Everybody’s trajectory is different, of course. And along the way, we need to adjust. I had to let go of some dreams I’d had for such a long time. I had to let go of progress I’d made before my accident. I had to settle into a different life path. And I had to make peace with my losses. But that all led me to the light in the distance. And in the end, will not having every single dream come true make me less happy, less productive, less capable?

Nope. That’s just how things go. I’ve accepted that, now. And it’s good.

The thing is, if I’d listened to the experts, early on, I probably wouldn’t have gotten here. I was told:

  • I was exaggerating my issues. I wasn’t. If anything, I was understating them.
  • Getting hit on the head wasn’t a big deal. NO, it was a big problem. It nearly cost me everything I’d worked so hard for.
  • My brain would just recover on its own. It didn’t. I had to work with it constantly to get it to a place I was happy with. It took years to do that.
  • TBI recovery doesn’t happen. Obviously untrue. It did happen.

These are just a few of the things I either read or was told. And I didn’t buy any of it. I knew I was in trouble, and I did everything in my power to fight for what I needed. What my brain needed. What my spouse and the life I’d built up all needed.

So, let’s rethink brain injury, shall we? Yes, it’s serious. Yes, it takes a toll. But the damage is not irreversible, and it can be followed by incredibly recovery.

How amazing would it be if everyone understood that.

Changing plans and shifting priorities

tree growing above a rainbowI love my routines. They’ve saved my s$$ over the past 12 years. They helped me retrain my body and brain to be a heck of a lot more functional than they were in 2006. And when it comes to TBI recover, routine and repetition are my friends.

Seriously, they’re like the secret weapon against the disruptions of TBI. Just figuring out how to do things exactly the same way, over and over, till that way become ingrained and you don’t have to think about it anymore… it’s magic. And it does so much to rebuild and solidify the new connections that replace the ones that got frayed and pulled to pieces in the brain injury itself.

Every now and then, it’s good to change things up, though.

That’s where I am, now. I’ve done a lot of hard thinking, over the past weeks and months, and I realize I need to have a different focus in my daily life. I need to spend a lot less time focusing on my career and professional prospects, and spend a lot more time focusing on my health and quality of life.

I’m not gonna lie — I really had to double down on my work situations, over the past years. I was in a downward spiral of sorts, in one overly challenging job after another, working in very hostile conditions that eroded my physical and mental health. And the past 3-1/2 years have also been a real challenge, in some ways. The thing that’s made it the most challenging is that I got caught up in ideas about advancing, getting promoted, moving up in the world. And that sucked me into a vortex of caring about what other people thought of me, what other people said about me, what other people did to me at work.

And that wasn’t a good use of time. Because here I am, years later, no further along on my professional path (even set back, compared to where I was before), and just looking back at a whole lot of frustration and dead-ends.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m highly ambitious. I’m driven. That’s for sure. But at some point, being ambitious according to someone else’s rules is just a bad idea for me. I need to be ambitious according to my own rules. I need to drive towards things that matter to me — having decent relationships with people, doing my best work, learning and growing as I go — rather than getting caught up in other people’s power games.

Somehow, those games never work out in my favor. I just get played.

So, I’m pretty much over that. Time to focus on other priorities. Time to funnel my energy into things that are going to build me up, not tear me down, and pay off in the short- and long-term, when it comes to just doing a decent job.

Heck, I’m not even sure I want to get promoted, anyway, considering the kinds of people who are climbing to the top, these days. It seems like a much better use of my time to focus on my mental and physical health… learning interesting things and applying them to my life… sharing what I know…. and just having the best life possible. So long as I make enough money to support myself and I have the time and opportunity to do something truly useful with my life, that’s what matters.

And that’s where my head is at today.

Ha… we’ll see how I’m feeling tomorrow… or next week… πŸ˜‰

Back into the thick of it

windrader foundationThe title of this post is probably a misnomer of sorts. Because I actually never really got out of the thick of it, this weekend… er… the past month. Day after day, it’s been one thing or another, to the point where I’m not even sure what day it is, anymore.

Except for my calendar, which shows me what I’m supposed to be doing, and when.

I feel like I’m continuously building on all my past experiences, which is as it should be, I suppose. The bad experiences, along with the good — but that’s how life should be, right?

I just wish I didn’t get so tired…

Fatigue and brain injury are not a good combination. And more than anything else in my life, fatigue has really torn me down. It’s made my moods unpredictable, even extreme, it’s made my behavior volatile, it’s impacted friendships and work relationships, it cost me jobs, and it nearly ruined my marriage.

So, what to do?

First, have a decent sleep routine. I’m not perfect, by any stretch, but I do keep track of how I’m doing, and I make an effort to get good sleep whenever I can.

Second, work on my endurance. Do my daily exercises. Pace myself. Build up my strength and my ability to go for longer periods of time doing what needs to be done.

Third, stop doing things that tear me down. Quit watching t.v. shows that stress me out. Stop eating food that isn’t good for me and spikes my blood sugar, then wipes me out. Quit hanging around with people who drain me. And stop all the negative chatter inside my head.

There are things I can do to get myself headed in the right direction, and that’s what my life has to be about. I can’t control what’s going on around me, so I need to strengthen myself to handle whatever comes.

And yes… watch other people do amazing things and perform well.

Like the Olympics. It’s been really good for me to watch the games, this month. Lots of great lessons there.

And now it’s time to get ready for work.

Onward… and upward.

And… go. At my own pace and on my own terms.

human head with light switch and finger turning it on
I just have to think about things correctly

So, today’s the day we start our 36 hour project. I’ve got 20 minutes to prepare, then everything kicks off.

I’ll be working for the next 8 hours, then I get a few hours off to sleep, then I work another 6 hours overnight. I get to sleep in the a.m., then I may have to work in the afternoon.

My sleeping schedule is going to be completely screwed up, and that’s a problem. I don’t know why this job involves so much sleep disruption. Either it’s cross-country travel, or it’s off-hours work. Either way, it’s not healthy, and it doesn’t let me do my best work.

I haven’t done my best work in years.

Oh, well.

I’m not sure I even care, anymore. The company gives me a paycheck, yes, but I no longer have any emotional investment in them — or my work for them. They’ve made it clear what they think of their workforce. They’ve shorted us on our performance bonus, time and time again, and they lay people off whenever they like. I show up, I do the bare minimum — for the sake of self-preservation — and I collect my paycheck.

They still get more than they pay for, even when I’m not over-the-top productive and 1000% invested. I’m still a top performer, even when I’m not bothering to indulge in any loyalty to them.

It’s a shame, really. I used to be so invested and invigorated by my work. But that’s changed over the past years. And I have to say I’m actually happier now than I was, when I was anguished and fretting over everything I did, how I did it, and whether or not it turned out exactly the way I planned.

I’ve let a lot of stuff go, and it’s helped me.

But still, I do feel a bit of a void, where my personal investment used to be.

Oh, well. There are other things that brighten my day. Like my own interests and projects. Like my hobbies. Like my books.

There’s plenty of other things to fill that void.

Like taking the best care of myself, that I possibly can. No matter what everybody else does.

I just miss caring deeply about my work, sometimes…

Putting one foot in front of the other

footprint in sand with wave coming nearWell, this has been an interesting couple of weeks. I totally screwed something up at work, and I’ve been working overtime since the beginning of February to make it right.

It’s been so wrong, it’s been mind-boggling. How could I have screwed up that badly? Huh. It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything this egregious. In fact, I’m not sure I ever have.

But there’s a first time for everything.

Seriously, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. But it was bound to happen, eventually, under the current conditions:

  • Limited sleep
  • Additional travel
  • Intense pressure
  • No management support
  • Uncooperative coworkers who don’t keep me in the loop

The whole thing is really messed up, and I ended up at the forefront of it all. The good/bad news is that there are more pieces of this Monster Project coming not far behind that will have the same kinds of problems that my part of the project did.

So, I won’t be so alone, anymore.

Not that it’s any consolation.

I was pretty torn up about the whole situation, last week. Wrecked. But I’ve acclimated to this particular failure, and now… well, I just don’t care. What it means for my future… don’t care.

They’re going to re-org us, anyway.

Some people dislike my boss, and a lot of other people dislike my boss’es boss. And chances are, they’ll interpret this failure of mine as a failure of leadership (which would be nice, to not have to take the fall for a broken system). Everybody knows I’m smarter than the person who screwed up, last week. Something else must be wrong.

Well, anyway, it’s Saturday night, and I’m exhausted. Had a full day today, after a full week. Tomorrow might give me a break. We’ll see. I’m tempted to just stay in bed all day, but that will never work. I often think about doing that, and then 20 minutes after I wake up, I can’t take just lying there anymore. So, I get up. And get out. And put one foot in front of the other.

Some days, that’s all you can do.


Yeah, well, nobody ever said it would be easy…

pier and lighthouse in distance across a lakeI’m regaining my balance, after a pretty intense week. I’ve been working long hours, sitting for long hours, and that’s brought me a whole bunch of pain. On top of that, I attended a memorial service for a friend who passed, yesterday. They were very close friends with my spouse, who is taking the loss very hard. Death is never easy, but when it happens at a relatively young age, and the person taken is a central part of the community and people’s lives, it takes on a whole other dimension.

I’ve been up to my neck in one problem after another. It’s been like trying to stay afloat in the ocean during storm surges. No sooner does one wave ease up, and I catch my breath, than another one comes along.

It’s been pretty brutal on me, and having to juggle the logistics of the memorial service arrangements added to the overall stress. I was one of the people who spoke about the deceased, and I had to come up with something meaningful to say, which I did – and it was very well received. It was an honor. But it happened at a really bad time. Which, of course, I can’t control. At all. These things happen.

And I bottomed out. It was like driving down a rutted road and hearing the undercarriage of my car scrape every couple of meters. Nerve-wracking. Grueling. And I know my “miss” at work, which really screwed up the project I’ve been managing, is being taken very badly by others. Even though I’m not the only one working on it, I still seem to be getting the blame. And lo and behold, before my follow-up meeting yesterday, I was informed that my boss’es boss and his boss’es boss and his boss’es boss had a meeting. I’m quite sure they were talking about my project. How could they not? It was such a glaring failure, it’s breathtaking.

But hey, at least I go all-out, when I do things. There’s no half-measures for me.

All in all, looking at the project in whole, it occurs to me that one of the things that made my “miss” so dramatic was that I rolled it back. I pulled it back from the live website and went back to the technology that we were replacing. That doesn’t happen in the company that acquired my former employer. They roll stuff out and move on — even if it’s broken. They leave broken sh*t hang around on the website for years, and they don’t think twice about it. That will never do. And if they fire me over this, good riddance. I don’t want to work at a company that does that.

No wonder they’ve been losing close to a billion dollars a quarter. Not a million (with an “m”), but a Billion (with a “b”).Β  Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about why it hit me so hard, and I think the big reason was that it just wasn’t consistent with what I expect of myself. It went directly against my Sense-Of-Self, and the person I believe I am. It also went against the kind of person I present myself to be around other people. It was a flaming disconnect between Who I Am, and what I did. And I lost all sense of who I was, where I was going, and what was to become of me, in the process.

I had the same level of intense personal anxiety and despair that I had for years, after my TBI in 2004. And it was even more extreme, because I believed with all my heart that I’d gotten beyond the “lost-ness” of my past. I believed I’d trained myself out of my ineptitude, that I was keeping up, that I was on top of things. And when it turned out I wasn’t, it hit me hard.

And that’s exactly what happens to you after TBI, in general. You lose yourself. You lose connection to the person you were. And the more advanced you are, the more disorienting it can be. It can be absolutely crushing, to lose access to the Whole You that was so well trained in life, who could do things just by reflex before… but suddenly can’t manage the simplest things like tying a shoe properly or remembering more than 2 things on a shopping list.

It’s crushing. And I got crushed last week. Absolutely hammered. From theΒ Β  inside, and the outside. Because I’m not supposed to do that. I’m not supposed to fail that majestically. People are relying on me to NOT screw up to the degree I did (and I fully admit it and take responsibility for that). I let them down. I let myself down. I messed up. And now I have to dig myself out of the hole I fell down.

Of course, it’s not all about me. It’s not 100% my fault. What happened was the result of an extended process of everything being supremely screwed up, and people in a position to help not doing anything — in fact, doing the opposite: withholding help, keeping me out of the loop, not communicating, not collaborating, and forcing me to do their damn’ job. I was the last best defense against those people, and I wasn’t up to the task.

So, we live and learn. I’m working my way back to firm footing, even though everyone around me (except for people in my immediate group) are backing away from me like I’m anathema.

Well, good riddance. They’re part of what’s made the company lose so much money over the past years, and losing their allegiance is no loss to me at all.

Life goes on. Some days are better than others. Some years are better than others. This year is off to a crappy start. So it goes. Here’s hoping it gets better. If it doesn’t, it won’t be for lack of my trying.

when things fall down

things are pretty much falling down for me, these days

i don’t want to complain, and i’ve done enough commenting about how things have been developing for me, over the past years

unfortunately, the things that i’ve poured myself into have not panned out

and it seems like pretty much of a waste

i’m not sure what the point is, in doing all of this

no matter how hard i try, things don’t seem to ever turn out the way i plan, or even the way i need

maybe in the short-term, it looks like it, but over the long term… nope

all the things that looked like they were doing great — it’s all very precarious and fragile, and it doesn’t take much to wreck something that took years to build up

so why bother building it up?

seriously, why bother? if everything is so precarious and so easily wrecked, why sink a lot of time into it?

it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me

so, i’m backing off on my investment in a lot of things around me

there’s too much that’s out of my hands and beyond my control

i have no use for people who set me up for failure, and i have no use for people who sit by and don’t lend a helping hand and watch others slip into oblivion

i have no use for people who profit from others’ failures

which means i have no use for a lot of the people in my life, these days

everybody wants something, yes

and what do i get in the bargain?

everything is falling down for me, right now

and i don’t even know if i care

I don’t have to do a thing… everything changes for me

In years gone by, I had a terrible time sticking with a job for longer than a year or two. I’d get so overwhelmed and exhausted, I’d have to leave before people figured out that I was, in fact, overwhelmed and exhausted.

I’ve had a tough time sticking with this current job, too. And now it seems like I’m going to get a reprieve from the monotony of same-old-same-old, because apparently the company is being sold… again.

It’s only been a few years, since they shuffled us from one company to another. From what I hear, there were a lot of layoffs. I haven’t been personally impacted, other than losing a couple of people who were occasionally really helpful to me. And I certainly haven’t had my world rocked by restructuring, the way others have.

But this time might turn out to be pretty significant.

Or not.

It’s impossible to tell.

All I know is, the change I’ve been craving is right around the corner, most likely.

We’ll see how this goes…


Adding back coffee – a little at a time.

Kim-Sutton-Positive-Productivity-Coffee-and-ComputerI’ve been “off” coffee for a couple of years now.

Well, not entirely off, but severely curtailed. I went from drinking 3-4 cups a day (starting with two big cups in the morning) to barely one cup a day.

I’d start with 1/3 cup of really strong coffee, and then I’d have another small cup of strong coffee in the afternoon — preferably no later than 2 p.m., because if I drank it later, it would throw off my sleep schedule, and then I couldn’t get to sleep.

And in between, I’d eat chocolate to keep myself going. Because… chocolate. Caffeine. Sugar. Other tasty anti-oxidants in there to pump up my flagging energy.

But I had to give it up. Chocolate. Especially coffee.

What would make me do such a thing as give up my regular flow of dark and lovely caffeine? Well, all those cups were contributing to migraines — constant headaches that rarely went away. I had a non-stop headache, it seemed, for years. And I didn’t even realize it could be any other way. I figured it was just how my life was going to be, for now and evermore.


When I was told by a neurologist that caffeine (which includes chocolate) can actually trigger migraines, it amazed me. Here, I’d thought they actually reduced headaches. That’s what I’d been told, anyway. But the science is there — with some kinds of migraines, caffeine can actually make things worse. And discontinuing can help.

That’s what happened with me.

But lately, I’ve been reintroducing a little more caffeine (and occasional chocolate) into my days, without too much adverse effect. I’ve been having slight headaches, but nowhere near the intense ones that used to be constant with me. And since I notice them more, now, than when they were non-stop, those headaches are a good signpost for when (and how) I need to make different choices and do things differently.

Just the other day, someone had left some candy on the counter near the coffee maker at work. It was a kind I used to really love. Couldn’t get enough of it. I was able to walk past both the coffee maker and the candy all morning, but in the afternoon, as I was making my 1:30 p.m. 1/2 cup of espresso, I nabbed a few pieces and ate them slowly.

Sweet. On so many levels.

And then I drank my 1/2 cup of coffee. And I had another 1/2 cup a few hours later. No immediate headache. At least, not that I could tell.

I’ve been drinking a little more coffee, nowadays… and while I have developed low-level headaches (I have one right now), they’re not so awful that I can’t function. I’m keeping an eye on it, but so far, so good.

And the other good news is that with my regular daily exercise and eating a really healthy diet, I have been able to get to sleep, even if I have a little caffeine after 2 p.m. Sometimes I’ll have some at 4:00, and I’ll still be able to get to sleep. I think it’s because I’m really actively living my life. I’m “all in”, each and every day, and I also usually finish up the day with stretching and relaxing before I go to sleep.

That last bit — stretching my back and legs before I tuck in for the night — has actually done me a world of good. If I don’t stretch, I often find myself waking up at 3 a.m. in pain, and I can’t get back to sleep.

So, stretching before sleep is really helpful. As is relaxing before I turn off the light. Just consciously relaxing makes a huge difference. Until I learned how to do it (it didn’t come naturally), life was a whole lot harder than it needed to be.

Well, it’s Friday, and that’s a good thing. I’ve got a full weekend ahead of me, and I’m working from home today to get myself geared up. Relax a little bit. Tie up loose ends from the week. And get ready for what’s next.

It’s all good.