Getting back that Sense-of-Self

stones-bambooIt’s an amazingly beautiful day today. I didn’t get enough sleep, last night, and I’m feeling foggy and a little ill, but nonetheless, the outdoors awaits.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got my Sense-of-Self back. It has been back for at least a year, now. After feeling like a stranger in my own skin for years and years, I finally feel like me again.

How did this happen?

I think  it’s really been about habit. Developing good routines I can do, every single day, and also developing the discipline to follow through with things. It’s been difficult, but it’s been worth it.

As an example, this morning I took care of a Sunday task that I often leave until the end of the day. It drags me down all day, filling my mind with dread, and sapping my energy. But it needs to get done, every single week. No exceptions. So, this morning after my breakfast, I just sat down and did it. I spent maybe 20 minutes on it, following a series of somewhat complicated steps that have to be done in a specific order. I mess them up, now and then, but this morning I was totally focused on them. And I got them all done in good order.

And by 8:00 a.m. I was done with that, and ready for the rest of my day. I felt so fantastic, I was trotting around the house, and my spouse wondered why I was so chipper.

It’s because I did that unavoidable task exactly the way it was supposed to be done. I followed my own detailed instructions. I did my weekly duty. And the successful and smooth completion of it all left me feeling with a real sense of accomplishment, as well as a renewed sense of myself as a capable and … well, good human being.

I firmly believe that TBI robs us of a Sense-Of-Self by changing our internal reactions and our long-familiar capabilities, and thus making us into someone we don’t recognize. Even the slightest of changes in our accustomed inner experience of life can make us feel like a stranger to ourselves.

But when we re-learn how to do things, and we grow accustomed to the experiences we’re having with them — when those experiences become familiar to us again, just as our old experiences were — we can once again recognize ourselves… and get on with our lives as the capable people we once knew ourselves to be.

TBI recovery is very much about re-acquainting yourself with yourself. It might be a whole new you, in some ways, but it’s still you.

You just need to learn to recognize yourself.

Sharing: Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . Rogan Grant – from Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury

Rogan Grant – Brain Injury Survivor

 

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Rogan Grant

2. Where do you live? (cityand/or state and/or country)

Edinburgh, Scotland

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

I acquired my brain injury in 2006. I was 35.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I was attacked outside a nightclub by some customers I had thrown out of my pub the previous week.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

I knew something was wrong when I woke up the next day. I was admitted to the hospital and then released the next morning. A friend found me unconscious and in a pool of blood and vomit. I was rushed back to the hospital. A few weeks later when I was released, I thought I was OK, but I kept forgetting things. I set the kitchen on fire three times in one week because I forgot I was cooking. Once I even went to bed and left a full meal cooking. I knew then I needed to be around family “for a week or two, until I cleared my head.”

Read the rest of Rogan’s story at: Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . Rogan Grant | Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury

No exercise, no waking up

rain-on-leavesI didn’t feel like exercising this morning. I just lay in bed and pulled back the curtains… watched the gentle rain fall and listened to it pinging on the chimney cap outside my window. It’s a beautiful day to stay indoors and just chill out… reading, thinking, blogging… just chillin’.

If only.

But if I don’t get up and get my circulation pumping — get on that bike and ride — I’m no good for the rest of the day. I bypassed my morning ride, and I was dragging all day. And that was no good.

So, after I lay there a little while, I got myself out of bed and went for my ride. I’m not sure how long I rode. It was at least 20 minutes, I think. Nothing huge, just enough to wake me up and work up a bit of a sweat. Then I had my big glass of water and made my breakfast. I didn’t lift this morning, because I’ve been lifting and carrying heavy objects for days, now, and my body needs a rest. As much as I’d like to have that morning “pump”, common sense prevails.

I know how unproductive it is, when I overtrain and overdo it, so I’ll use my good sense and not do that today.

Yesterday, I swam again. It’s good. I only swam once last week, in the pool at work. I managed to get in a friend’s pool over the weekend and have a little bit of a swim on Sunday, but it was no workout. Just a cooling-off, really.

When I swim at work, it’s a whole different thing. I go around noontime, when everyone is either eating lunch, or they’re in the gym. I usually have the place to myself, but yesterday there was someone else there. I like to swim hard from one end of the Olympic sized pool to the other, then float on my back and relax, letting my heart rate and breathing go back to normal. It’s probably the most relaxing thing in my day, to just lie there and float… weightless, feeling myself floating free… The other person in the pool looked at me strangely, and I wonder if maybe they thought there was something wrong. But after my heart rate and breathing were back to normal, I went back to swimming… and they jumped out of the pool and went back to their work day.

I’m going to see the neurologist again today, to look at test results. I think this whole thing has been a boondoggle, quite frankly. But I had to follow up on it, because it would be remiss for me to overlook a serious problem that could impact myself and my spouse, on down the line. I’m the sole $upport for us, so I have to take care of myself and do my due diligence wherever possible. I don’t like it, but it’s gotta get done.

So, I’m doing it. I’m not sure what’s going to come out of this. I’m tempted to just bag it and say, “Okay, I have these issues, and you’ve been unable to medically find anything significant to address. I know they’re issues for me, and I need to manage them, so since you’ve got nothing to offer me, I’ll take it from here.”

The medical establishment doesn’t have the nuance and sophistication for people like me, so I’m not going to waste any more of their (and my time) with requests for help that they’re unprepared and unable to give.

Time to just take things into my own hands, and be done with it. I’ve given it my best shot, but it’s time to call an end to this search.

It’s taking up way too much time and energy, and I just don’t have the time and resources to keep chasing this the way I have. Anyway, I’m really just following this up because of advice from my neuropsych(s). I would have just left it alone and dealt with it, myself, but they’ve been so keen on me figuring out the medical piece of this, so I don’t fall.

The crazy thing is, months ago (and before I spent lots of time and a bit of money on this), I could have predicted this outcome. But then, I’m the brain-injured one, so what do I know?

Well, maybe today will see the end to this. If I ever get concussed or brain-injured again, I know where to find these people. But until then (and hopefully that never happens), I’m just going to get back to my life. It’s been interesting, but it hasn’t been that productive.

And frankly, exercise and a good diet, getting rest, keeping active in my life, and really diving into my life experience to learn as much as I can, is turning out to be the ticket to my ongoing recovery.

That’s just fine with me.

Onward!

Giving my system a break

Louis_Rémy_Mignot_SolitudeWell, I’ve overdone it on the trail mix. All those little seeds have caused my diverticulitis to flare up, and last night I was nearly doubled over in pain. It’s that lower left quadrant pain that tells me exactly where my colon is. And my intestines definitely were not happy, last night.

That’ll teach me.

Today, I’m taking it easy on my digestive system. I’m drinking a lot of fluids and staying clear of the fruit-and-nut combination. I’ve been eating too many nuts, lately, anyway. Worst of all, those little tiny seeds are what get me, and I had a bunch of them yesterday.

Gotta take care of the digestive system.

Today, it’s a raw fruit and vegetable kind of day – and plenty of distilled water. Something to keep everything from shriveling up from dehydration.

I had a good meeting with my neuropsych yesterday. They’re helping me get my act together and take care of all the stuff that has… languished, since I fell in 2004. I haven’t been able to rally very much at all, and the progress I’ve made has been stop-and-go… very uneven.

So, I’m fixing that. I had great plans, when we bought this house in 2002. but then I fell less than 2 years later, and everything fell apart. I’ve been trying to get myself back in gear for some time, but my old neuropsych didn’t seem very focused on helping me do that. It was really about just keeping me stable. That was my priority, also, because I didn’t have a good foundation. Now I have a good foundation, and I can finally start digging in.

So, this weekend, I’m going to take care of a few key things that have needed to be done for some time. My spouse is out of town for 3 days, and I have the place to myself to get in order. When they’re around, I’m limited because their health is not great and they can’t tolerate a lot of noise and dust and smells. While they’re away, I can take care of things that have been on my list — some of them for years.

First, clean out the lower cabinets, re-surface them with contact paper, and replace all the pots and pans in an orderly fashion.

Second, wash the curtains from all the bedrooms.

Third, check a gap where I think some bees have been getting in/out of the house walls — and plug it. I don’t want bees in my walls.

Fourth, put up a new house number, so emergency vehicles and delivery vehicles can find us. We do have numbers, but they’re not as visible as they need to be. I have been meaning to tend to this for years, now, but this weekend, it’s actually going to get done.

And that will be an accomplishment. I’ve got a few other things I need to take care of — yard work, some more minor maintenance, and just cleaning up after myself. I need to get organized, so I can actually live my life without making things even more difficult. I need to cut myself a break from all the various distractions — and that includes clutter.

It’s happening. And about time…

So, it’s all coming together. And it feels pretty good. And it’ll feel even better, when I manage to cross some of these items off my list. My gut is feeling better, now, and I don’t have the radiating pain coming from my lower left side. That’s progress.

It’s all progress.

Onward.

Are you a TBI Fake? | David’s Traumatic Brain Injury Blog

injured_brain_2AI found another good post at another blog: Are you a TBI Fake? | David’s Traumatic Brain Injury Blog

 

I was accused of faking my brain injury for attention
There is no way to soften the blow of a statement like this. I took what is arguably the toughest hit of my life, had to be rushed to the nearest trauma center with cuts, bruises, broken bones and a damaged brain – and was subsequently called a fake.

As I began my second life as a brain injury survivor, I found myself having to play defense against stunningly hurtful and relationship-ending accusations.

Brain injury is blatantly misunderstood by so many. The healing process for most injuries follows a predictable path.

When I was plowed down by a car back in 2010, my orthopedist let me know that I would be in a cast for three months and that most of my pain would be gone within six months.

Broken bones heal at a predictable rate. In fact, you could have set the Atomic Clock by his prediction. Six months after my accident, almost as if scripted, my physical pain ended.

But not so for my brain injury.

 

Read the rest here: Are you a TBI Fake? | David’s Traumatic Brain Injury Blog

Listen first… then talk

Here's the drawing practice for the day
Here’s the drawing practice for the day

So, this new neuropsych is kind of a pain in my ass. And that’s fine. Because the last one could be a monumental pain in my ass, sometimes, and it did me a lot of good to meet with them regularly.

Why, pray tell, would that be so? you may ask?

Well, because dealing with people who are completely off-base is good for my reasoning faculties. And it also shows me how on-track I really am, when someone I’m talking with is clearly not recognizing what’s right in front of them.

This new neuropsych, as I’ve mentioned, is 30 years younger than my former neuropsych. They are 15 years younger than I. And it shows. One of the ways that they really show their age, is that they don’t stop to listen and really understand what’s going on with me, and they jump right into fixing things before they have a strong grasp on what the situation is.

For example, I’ve been talking about how I need some help getting to-do items off my list. I have a ton of things I’ve been wanting to get done, and many things that I intended to do in the first 5 years that I had my house. But less than 2 years in, I fell and got hurt, and I was “checked out” for some time after that. I’m just now — almost 12 years later — getting back to a level that’s near (in some ways) to where I was before. In other ways, I’m nowhere near, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be again. But the basic gist of it is that I need to gear up and take care of things that have been languishing and neglected, lo these many years.

And what does my neuropsych give me, but a sheet of paper where I should write down my goal, figure out my motivation, and then do a visualization about what the reward will be, if I get it done. And then write it down in my planner, and just do it… after doing a little visualization about how rewarding it will be to get it all done.

Oh. My. God.

Someone please help me.

I am so beyond that rudimentary approach, and I need something completely different. But when I tried to explain that to them, they just dismissed me — and insisted that visualizing rewards is a cornerstone of making progress.

Okay. So, that’s their opinion. That’s fine. There’s some truth to it. But I really need help just walking through my priorities and seeing where everything fits in my life. I don’t need motivational help. I need organizational help — and getting my head around the big picture of what I’m doing — and why.

It’s not just about getting things off my plate. That’s important, so I can free up my thinking to handle things that are bigger than a breadbox. But it’s also about prioritizing and getting my head around the complexities of my day-to-day.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of confidence in them, with regards to that. I’m not sure I have a lot of confidence in anyone in the healthcare professions, right now. At least, not that I’ve encountered. I’m sure there are excellent doctors and providers out there, but the only one I found who could actually work with me effectively died last year. And even they didn’t exactly do a bang-up job of covering all my bases.

Ultimately — and this is the amazingly profound irony of it all — it’s the people who need help who are on the hook for making sure we get what we need. The very people who don’t have the comprehensive knowledge about all the physiology and possible conditions that might be at work… and who are having trouble thinking and functioning, to begin with… are the ones who have to manage our situations, be our own advocates, and so forth.

If nothing else, as frustrating as my situation is, it’s good practice for me. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like people could really wrap their heads around my situation, anyway, so this is not new. I just had unrealistic expectations that I could pick up where I’d left off with my old neuropsych and start there with this new one.

Nothing of the kind. They’re even farther back than the last one, and I feel a bit like Kevin Costner’s character in Bull Durham where he has to train an up-and-coming athlete who has a better chance than he at going to “The Show”.

But I guess that’s how things go, as you get older. I’m just not used to interacting with people younger than myself – especially healthcare providers. But news flash – that’s going to continue to happen, so I might as well get used to it.

Okay – pause – let’s see how my memory for that starting image is doing:

memory-test-4-29-16

Not too bad — I just forgot the hash marks on the left line, and the circles are a little far apart, with the lines longer and the circles smaller.

I’ll try again later.

Anyway, it all comes back to the idea that when it comes to our health and recovery, we are often on our own. It’s sad, but true. And some days, I feel as though I’d be better off just not even dealing with any trained professionals, because the benefit I get isn’t equal to what it costs me.

Sometimes, it is equal. But you know what? Those are the times when I pull out all the stops and put my focus into my own direction and my own program, just using the experts as a reference point.

I’ve got a few weeks before I see them again. And I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. I’ll figure something out, I guess.

Onward.

Training my new neuropsych – and myself

circles-3-lines-2-1-r-up-circx-5-hash-UNeven
Here’s my memory exercise for today – look at it, memorize it, then try to draw it later, when I get to the end of this post.

Don’t get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for my new neuropsych. They have great intentions, they are smart — brilliant, really — and they are driven and determined to help people who are in need of assistance. I’m lucky to have been connected with them.

Here’s the thing, though — they’ve got 30 years less experience than my former neuropsych. And that really shows. It shows in their pacing, their approach, their focus. It’s my understanding they’ve been working in clinical settings that have been largely academic, for most of their career, so far, and they’re relatively new to individual clinical practice.

My former neuropsych had 40+ years experience in clinical and rehab settings. I believe they once ran a rehab center, in fact. Or two or three. Anyway, they had decades of high-level experience in rehabbing brain injury survivors, and I benefited from that for the past 8 years or so.

Now I’m working with a “spring chicken” — it’s not the most professionally respectful term, I know, but that’s how they seem to me. They’re 15 years my junior, which just amazes me… And it shows.

Good God, do they have a lot of energy. It’s that kinetic, over-the-top-can-do kind of enthusiasm that people have before they hit a lot of walls, personally and professionally. They have an exuberance and optimism that I used to have, too.

Then I got hurt. And life happened. And a lot of crap came down the pike for me. And now I am where I am now — with a pretty big deficit where all my own exuberance and optimism used to be.

Although… maybe that’s not entirely true. Maybe I still do have that energy — just not to the same willy-nilly degree that I used to. Or maybe I do, and I just need to bring it back. Access it again. Play off the energy of this new neuropsych, who is in some ways like a breath of fresh air, compared to the dour pessimism and personal cynicism that sometimes “leaked through” with my old neuropsych.

Oh, another thing just occurred to me — I’m working around a lot of people who are my age or older. And that’s affecting my perspective, too. I work in an older environment, very established and staid, and compared to my peers, I feel like a spring chicken, myself.

So, I’m balancing out the energy of youth, as well as the balance of age. My new neuropsych is clearly still learning about things like how to pace their speaking, and how to give me space to sort things out. They move too fast for me, at times, and it’s frustrating.

But it’s good to get pushed. Again. After years of being accommodated. I need to be pushed. Quit feeling sorry for myself. Really work on my reaction time. And get back to my memory exercises. See above.

Here, let’s try to draw what I had at the start:

memory-test-4-28-16

Not bad – I just had the proportions off a little bit, but all the elements are there.  The right circle with the “x” is higher than it should be, and the vertical line off it is longer than the original. Also, the hatches on the left line are longer than they should be.

I’ll have to try again later today, and see how it goes.

Gotta get back to doing my exercises. Get myself going. And continue to make progress. Keep moving forward. Keep at it – give myself time to rest – but keep at it.

Onward.

Try again…

Everything gets all jumbled up, sometimes
Everything gets all jumbled up, sometimes

I got some of what I intended done, yesterday. But I spent a lot more time being distracted and letting my mind wander in all sorts of different directions.

A lot of remote managers at work are in town, this week. And the recruiter who placed me in my current position stopped by my cubicle yesterday. They haven’t done that in close to a year. What the heck are they doing in my part of the universe?

I could be wrong, but it seems to portend yet more changes on the organizational horizon.

And that is most distracting to me.

HowEver (and this is a big new development for me), I actually know what direction I want to go with my career in the future, and the path is open for me, anytime I want it. I’ve got a veritable army of recruiters all eager to place me somewhere and get me into a good-paying position. The more I get paid, the more they get paid.

So, it’s no big deal, if I get laid off.

But it is a big deal, if I’m not prepared — and that’s something I forgot to do, yesterday. Last week, I found a bunch of free training at our company’s employee intranet, that will really help me gear up for the next steps in my career. It will help me get free and be fully qualified to do the kind of work I am aiming to do. And I did some of the training on Friday afternoon. But yesterday I was so distracted by so many different things, I forgot to resume it — that is, I forgot why I should resume it. I didn’t have good focus, and I was pretty scattered, trying to organize myself and get my planning and follow-through system in place.

I worked at it all morning, and by afternoon, I was tired, but I pressed on. And I actually “got lost” in the process — ended up spending way too much time re-hashing numbers and calculations and scheduling items, that I would be better off just putting aside and coming back to, later.

Plus, I didn’t get my swim, yesterday. My last meeting ended early, and I could have gotten to the pool in time. But I got distracted and by the time I got around to driving to the fitness center, the parking lot was full, and I realized it was way too late to be swimming.

So, I turned around and drove back and finished up the day on a pretty strong note.

Still, I didn’t accomplish all I set out to do. And I need to have a better system for handling things. I get so caught up in things, I lose track of time… and then I get tired and get even more distractable.

So, I need to break down my activities in to smaller “chunks” that I can handle more effectively… and not get lost.

This is especially important for this new training I’m doing. I’m really excited about it, as it offers me a clear path forward — and the methodology they use is not only widespread, it’s also really, really good for me. It “ticks all the boxes” for me in my work, and it’s a skillset that’s very much in demand, so there’s no lack of work.

So, it’s important that I follow through. And that I not forget to keep going with it. I really went off the rails yesterday. Then again, I did get some important things done, so it wasn’t a total waste.

I just need to try again today.

And so I shall.

Onward.

Beautiful day – how shall I use it best?

It's off to see the trees, with me...
Off to see the trees, I go…

I have a commitment this afternoon, and I have to leave the house at 1:30. It’s nearly 12 now. I figure I can get a quick hike in, then be back in time to shower and change… and get on with my day.

I got some of my major chores out of the way, early this morning. And I really do need some alone time in the woods. I have other things I need to get done, but I was so product and busy yesterday, I really do need a break – some time off the leash, so to speak.

So, off I go to the woods.

Later today, I’ll get a quick nap in and then do some more chores. It’s all good. And there’s time enough for everything, if I plan it well and follow through as I know I should.

So, I don’t really HAVE to do it the hard way?

accounting-calculatorI’m going to finish my taxes today. I got them 1/4-way done yesterday — all my own income and business expenses have been tallied up and accounted for. Now I need to pull in my spouse’s numbers, and that will be a bigger task, since they are self-employed, and they have a lot going on.

Fortunately, this year, we did the smart thing and split up the work, so I only did the bank-numbers-collecting, and the tax software forms-filling-out, and they took care of tallying up all the checks and the items that I couldn’t make sense of. So, it actually worked out well. And they produced two pieces of paper that have neat calculations on them, rather than 10 sheets of paper with a thousand individual items listed.

It’s progress — real progress. And it tells me my spouse is actually doing much better, neurologically, than they’ve been in a number of years.

In past years, I explained what I needed, and they didn’t understand. They just didn’t get it. No matter how I phrased it, no matter how many times I repeated myself, they just didn’t get what I needed, and they went ahead and did what they wanted to do, anyway… which made my life extremely difficult at this time of year.

Now they’ve gotten their system down, and they did it in the space of a day, rather than dragging it out for weeks on end. That’s huge progress, too. They’re more focused, more cognitively streamlined, more motivated.

And it’s all good.

So, today I finish off the work. I do this every year, so now it’s very familiar to me. And that’s a great thing, because each year, I get all tangled up in anxiety about going through this process, and I become convinced that I won’t understand it, or I’ll get confused, or I’ll get turned around. Doing my taxes used to be a fairly straightforward thing, before I had several businesses to account for. Once upon a time, I could do my taxes in the space of a few hours in the afternoon. But when both my spouse and I got our businesses going, things got very complicated — it would take me weeks to get it all done. And ironically, our businesses really took off and got way more complex during the early years of my TBI recovery — after 2004.

Doing taxes turned into a huge undertaking. I would collect all the data and sort it and categorize it and compile it into several different spreadsheets, and then sort it again. I’d have to re-assign numbers that I did wrong, because they really belonged with one business, not the other. And I sometimes wasn’t sure if I’d done it all correctly, which was a massive source of stress for me.

This year has been different, however.

As it turns out, my own thinking is much, much clearer now than in the past. I got a first inkling with that, when I was exporting all my banking information to sort and plug in. I’ve always been extremely thorough, sorting and categorizing everything, from start to finish, following dates. I got so caught up in it, in fact, that I had intended to collect all the numbers on a quarterly basis and sort through them, so that at tax time, I could just plug them in.

Of course, that never happened. I did it last April, after I’d finished my 2014 taxes, and just the exercise of sorting the numbers of three different bank accounts in multiple formats was too much for me. Hundreds and hundreds of transactions, large and small. How could I keep up with it?

Answer: I couldn’t.

So, I abandoned the exercise, and I was feeling bad about myself, when I went back to my 2015 taxes directory on my computer and saw the failed attempt from last year.Then, it occurred to me yesterday, that that exercise was actually a total waste of time. I didn’t have to collect and sort every single transaction. I didn’t have to categorize every trip to the grocery store, barber, and fast food joint. I could just cut them all out, up front, and only categorize the numbers that actually applied to our businesses.

It seems so simple now, but this was an epiphany for me. Rather than biting off a massive chunk of work, I could work with only the most necessary pieces, and concentrate on them — and pretty much disregard everything else.

So, I did that yesterday evening, and what used to take me days, took me a couple of hours, max. And that’s a good thing, indeed.

I should be able to get our taxes all squared away in a matter of hours, really. And that’s fantastic. Because I can keep doing this new and improved approach each year. The progress continues. Even if it’s the sort of thing that should have been totally obvious to me… it wasn’t. I got so mired in the details, I couldn’t see the easy way of doing things.

Now I can see it, though. I’ll have to make a note for myself to do this again next year.