And now I can rest.

Thank you for your service, USA veterans!
Thank you for your service, USA veterans!

Memorial Day. Thank you to all the vets (living and passed on) who have sacrificed so much for us. We literally would not be here without you.

I just wish you had a nicer day, instead of all the rain and cold.

Then again, if you’re like me, you welcome the downtime. And you can use a break from the rest of the world. This is your day. You should enjoy it.

I’m staying off Facebook today. Twitter is another thing, but Facebook has gotten too volatile for me, of late. I need to rest. I need to sleep. Nap. Take it easy. And let my frazzled sympathetic nervous system chill from all the fight-flight. Just chill.

I worked out more strenuously, over the weekend. So, now I’m sore. And that’s good. It means my body needs to rest, and I’m more than happy to do that. I did some balance exercises this morning after riding the exercise bike, just to get myself woken up. I was going to ride a long time on the bike (I had extra dessert last night). But I got tired.

Yeah, I need to rest.

So, that’s what I’m doing. I have a bunch of reading I want to do, and a bit of writing I need to do, as well. Ideas I’ve got going, which I need to continue to develop. The nice thing is, I can just let them develop and not make myself nuts over it all. This is a big change for me, and it hasn’t been an easy one.

For years before I fell in 2004, I had a number of my own businesses going in addition to my 9-to-5 job. I was quite prodigious, I have to say. Always on the go, always cooking something up. And I created some pretty cool products and services that other people really got some use out of. I was part of some pretty exciting ventures over the years, and even though I had a ton of fatigue and sensory issues all the time, I was able to power through them and keep going on the adrenaline alone. It was so exciting, and it was very satisfying to be part of teams working “on the sly” towards common goals.

After I fell in 2004, I couldn’t keep up the pace. I tried. For years, I tried. I really pushed myself to continue to code and be involved in events and ventures. I hatched all kinds of startup plans, and I went so far as to start a formal business for one of them. I had project plans for about 20 different ventures, most of them around selling information and spinning books off into videos and online courses.

But I couldn’t get any traction on them, I’d get confused and discombobulated and turned around… and then frustrated and angry and difficult to live with. So, about 4 years ago, I started backing off on a lot of those things. And I started culling the list of ventures I had planned and waiting in the wings.

It was a hard change, because DOING BIG THINGS was always such a part of my identity and my sense-of-self.  And no longer having a full roster made me feel lost and disoriented and un-moored. Like I’d been cut loose from my anchor and set adrift in the big, wide sea.

But you know what? After a while, I realized that it was a huge relief for me to not have all those things constantly “cooking” in the background. And I realized I could actually start to relax. I became less and less reliant on Super-MEGA-PRODUCTIVITY for my sense of well-being and direction, and I actually gave myself a chance to catch up with myself.

It’s taken years for me to feel more comfortable with this — and I have to admit there are times when I revert back to my old over-doing ways. But nowadays, it comes more naturally for me to plan less, rather than more. And in the end, whatever needs to get done, gets done.

Today, though, not much really needs to get done. I’m chilling out. Relaxing. Giving my body and mind time to catch up with themselves. Without pressure. Without agenda. Just so.

 

Two more days off – sweet!

Not till tomorrow, thank you very much!
Not till tomorrow, thank you very much!

I don’t have to go to work tomorrow… Psych!  It really is great to not have to think about Monday morning on a Sunday morning.

I can just take care of things I normally can’t — the repair jobs that take more than a day to complete.

The little chores and tasks that add up over the week, and I need to get out of the way.

More sleep. More rest. Naps.

Exercise! The clock isn’t ticking with me, and I can take extra time to exercise, change things up, get a little more creative with my morning workouts. The one thing I miss on days off, is that I can’t swim at the pool, but that will come on Tuesday.

I’ve been exercising in the mornings, every single morning, and then swimming on most days. And I’ve lost about 5 pounds in the past 6 weeks. That’s a safe pace, and it won’t screw up my metabolism and make me worse off than I am now.

Best of all, I can set my own pace – go as fast or as slow as I like. And stop whenever I like. Watch good movies. Or just sit at the back door and watch the birds at the bird feeder.

It’s all good.

And I don’t have to sweat the work thing for another 18 hours.

Sweet.

Finding balance – work and rest

Sometimes this is how it feels - like I'm a snail on a rock. But at least I'm balancing.
Sometimes this is how it feels – like I’m a snail on a rock. But at least I’m balancing.

In a few months, I’ll have been at my current job for a year. That’s very interesting. The merger with the other company is happening, and may take place before summer is over. But nobody knows for sure. There’s all kinds of activity going on around it. New email addresses, new business cards, new laptops, and who knows what else.

Management keeps trying to set our fears to rest, and they keep asking us to ask questions, but it feels like a trap — like they’re trying to see who’s “on board” and who’s digging in their heels. I’m not sure anybody trusts anything coming out of management, by this point. They’re getting rich, while everyone else… well… not so much.

I can’t really worry about it, though. I have to keep focused on my work, which is actually pretty challenging these days. The work, yes, it’s challenging — but even moreso is the focus.

The cadence at this company is very different from the startup-like frenzies I’ve experienced elsewhere. It’s much more staid… steady… and they don’t expect you to do earth-shaking things in the first year… or two… or more. They think you need at least a few years to ramp up, so expectations are low. But at the same time, I still need to move forward. I still need to take steps. I still need to do what I need to do for my own career, to move it forward.

I’ve kind of lost sight of that, in the past couple of months. The big business trip at the beginning of this month completely took over my life for 4-6 weeks prior to it, and I’ve been slowly … sloooooowwwwwllllyyyyy… recovering from that adventure. It’s taking much longer than I expected, and it’s tough to get back in the swing of things.

But get back in the swing, I must. I’ve re-ordered a supplement I found that actually helps my energy, and helps me sleep. And I’ve started swimming regularly, again. I had gotten away from it for months, for some reason. Just winter/early spring inertia, I guess. Now I’m swimming every chance I get — 3 days a week, ideally, sometimes more. And I’m going to start working out before my swims, as well. That’s so important. I need a better strength regimen than I’ve been doing in the mornings.

Mornings, I need to work on my cardio and balance — wake myself up, and get my balance together. I’ve got some exercises from the trainer at work that I can do, so I need to print them out and DO them. I keep forgetting to print them out.

Anyway, I’m figuring it out – and figuring out how I can balance out my work-work-work nature with the slower cadence at my job. They don’t actually expect miracles, first thing, and while that’s good in a way, it’s not how I work. I prefer to do miracles whenever possible, and not be held back by people who are telling me it’s not possible. It IS possible. Maybe not for them, but for me.

It’s all an evolving process, really. I want to go-go-go, but I know I run the risk of burning myself out, if I do. And then I’m not good for anything. I want to make progress, every single week, but then it doesn’t happen. And then I get down on myself. I’m tired of getting down on myself. I need to do better tracking of what I actually accomplish. I’ve been doing a better job of that, over the past couple of months, so that’s good. Now I need to work it into my routine.

I need my routine.

And so I’ll work with that. See what I can do. Take steps to both simplify and improve the systems I have. And keep on keepin’ on.

Onward!

Another day in someone else’s paradise

image

The sun’s coming up in the distance. Gradually. The sky is getting pink, and small clouds are hovering over the horizon. Street lights glow orange, and the tail lights of cars blink on and off on the streets below. My room is on the “boring” side of the hotel on this trip, which is good. The “exciting” side is bright and loud and exhausting. This room is my refuge.

I had a great time with my relatives, last night. I have not seen one of them in 30 years, and I had never met their spouse. You can really tell we’re related. Our mannerisms and sense of humor are very similar, and we talk about the same kinds of things. It was also good to connect with real people who are not working at the convention. Real people. Who talk to you because they want to.

I managed to escape the drunken forays of my workmates last night. I went to dinner with my family, and they went their own way – dinner and drinking till all hours. I cannot do it. I cannot tolerate alcohol, and being sleep-deprived is a hazard for me. My whole system starts to degrade when I am overly tired, and I make bad decisions that get me in trouble. I say things I should not say. I get combative. I get off-balance and am in more risk of falling. I make stupid choices and make myself even more tired, which compounds my difficulties. I cannot afford to get in that kind of trouble – especially in a work situation. I have a spouse and a home to provide for, and I also need to keep myself safe.

That is something that people with no health challenges can understand. They can just run around and do whatever they like without repercussions. A playground like this is paradise for them, and they can let their hair down and run wild, staving off their fears of dying and getting old.

My life, unfortunately, is all about repercussions. But I cannot tell anyone, because if people find out that I have “issues”, they can be very unkind. And they can start avoiding me. That’s why I never tell anyone about my brain injuries. They just don’t get it, and this is difficult enough, without adding constant isolation to the mix.

Brain injury can be deeply isolating. People do not want to confront human limitations – especially when it comes to neuro stuff. They just don’t. So, I spare them the discomfort of disclosure, and we can all just live our lives. But that’s the double-bind. If I don’t tell people I need special consideration and assistance, I can never get it. But if I do tell them, I can lose my job. And don’t tell me it’s illegal to discriminate. Employers, bosses, whoever… will find other ways to exclude you, if you’re “not a good fit”.

I like having a job. I like having an income. I like not being homeless and living on the edge. And silence is the price-tag on that.

Muddling through. Battling back the demons. Dancing carefully on the razor’s edge. And never letting on, just what is happening with me.

All the lights and noise and busy-ness that energize others… they exhaust me. I’m on constant guard against the onslaught. All the excitement, the long hours, the rich food and drinking… they fry my system, and I can barely keep it together… then collapse at the end of it all. I get so depleted, that I am pretty worthless for weeks after. It’s the price I pay for keeping up with “normal” people, and it has been this way my entire brain-injured life.

So, I suck it up. Keep going. Just focus on this being over in a few days. Three days and counting. And I really only need to work part of that time. I just want it to be over. But in the meantime, I enjoy what I can. Focus on the positives. Take time to myself. Recharge as best I can. And sleep whenever possible.

Focus on the good, so I don’t overwhelm myself with negativity. Just stay the course and be grateful for what good I can find.

Quiet day, quiet night

zen-stonesToday was pretty low-key. I got up early, helped my spouse get on their way to a business commitment… went for a hike in the woods… took a little nap… had some lunch… did some chores… and now I’ve been doing some organization on some old projects.

Tonight I’ll work on my taxes some more. I got a start on them a little while back, but I’ve been too busy and too tired to focus on them.

So, I’ll do that tonight. Just take it easy. And get in bed early.

After I’m done downloading bank info, I may watch a movie I saw with my spouse, last week. It was a great movie, but I couldn’t watch it in one sitting because I got home late, and I had to get to bed at a decent hour. It’s over 2 hours long, which is longer than I’ve had to spare, each evening this week.

Tonight I have the whole evening to myself, so I can watch it, start to finish. I’m looking forward to that.

That’s all for now.

And that’s more than enough.

The magic of voice-to-text

My hands are pretty tired. Time to give 'em a break.
My hands are pretty tired. Time to give ’em a break.

My hands have been giving me a lot of trouble, lately. I’ve been writing a lot – typing a lot – on the computer most of my waking hours. And it’s taking a toll.

The only problem is, I have a lot of writing I want to do. I’ve got a handful of projects that are just itching to get done – my Chronic Blogging project being the most pressing, right now. Maybe I’m just being spoiled, or maybe I’m finally getting to a place in my life — and my writing — where I’m really hitting my stride.

The latter, I think. I’ve been struggling with keeping things together for so very long, that just carving out time to write has been rough. And I’ve been foggy and fuzzy for so long, that it’s been a challenge to get the words together in decent order.

Blogging counts… but not exactly. It’s much more stream-of-consciousness, and it doesn’t require me to create a huge amount of structure around my thoughts. I can just get up, do my morning workout, get my breakfast, and then spend an hour writing about whatever comes to mind. It’s not the sort of activity that I have to plan out, structure, and then keep steady with.

Writing extended pieces takes a lot out of me. I tend to get distracted and lose my train of thought / resolve before I’ve completed the extended thought. That’s why I favor blogging – it’s “low-impact” for me, and it lets me mentally ramble more than I can in a structured work. I can also break down individual ideas into bite-sized chunks that are easier for me to digest.

But every now and then, I get a hankerin’ to write something more involved than my daily blog posts — something that demands real commitment, and which will have to do with more than the passing moments of my life.

Which brings me to my Chronic Blogging book-in-progress, and all the stuff that goes along with it. I have to figure out a way to elaborate on some really key points, without blowing out my hands and wrists.

Thus, the speech-to-text functionality of my devices.

I’ve got an iPhone for work, and an Android tablet of my own. The iPhone seems to do a much faster job of transcribing, although the Android tablet seems to be more accurate.

Speed vs. accuracy — the eternal quandary!

Anyway, I’ve been testing both of them out, and this weekend I’ll do some more work on my Chronic Blogging project, dictating rather than typing. I dictated about 1/3 of the book yesterday p.m., and it’ll be good to just plug it all in and edit it, rather than tap-tap-tapping away at the keyboard.

I need to break things up, anyway, and this will be a great way to do it.

So, as usual… onward.

Up early… and making the best of it

fatigueSo, I had a long day, yesterday, and I got home late. Which means I ate late. Which means I went to bed late… and then I couldn’t sleep. I was pretty emotional and uptight, and I couldn’t shut my mind off.

I finally got to sleep.

And then I woke up around 3:30 a.m. So, I’ve had about 4 hours of sleep, or thereabouts.

Not my favorite thing.

I know I’ll be fine today. Just dragging a bit, and uncoordinated. And that means I need to be extra careful on stairs, and while driving. And I need to get in bed early tonight.

But for now, I’m making the most of my time and doing something productive with myself. Working on my “chronic blogging” writing. I’ll be posting something shortly.

If I’m going to feel like crap, I might as well do something productive. I’ve already had my morning exercise and now I’m working on my breakfast. And I’ll get an early start on the day… and make an early night of it, tonight.

Work is actually going really well, right now. I’m making huge progress, which I can document (and have been). And I have three more days of an open schedule ahead of me.

The contact from my old job who contact me, hasn’t gotten back to me. I’m not holding my breath. I have plenty of other options out there to work with, and I know what I’m going to do.

So long as I’m not laid off, I’ll keep steady where I am, unless something really promising comes along. If it does, I’ll consider it. But I’m not making myself crazy over it.

And if I do get laid off in this merger, then I’ll contract for a few months in a role that I know I can do with my eyes closed, while I look for a permanent position that gives me everything I’m looking for.

So, let’s just take that off my plate, why don’t we? Just keep on keeping on. Keep my resume updated, keep my LinkedIn profile tidy. And document the progress I’ve made at my current job. Just in case.

Now, on to the “chronic blogging” guide.

After #concussion: Your brain needs to clear out the gunk. What can you do about it?

Sleep is goodAfter your brain gets injured by a concussion/TBI, you need to slow down and rest. Sleep, clean drinking water, and nutritious food have all been shown to help.

Sleep, especially, has been shown to help. Recent research has shown that sleep actually removes toxins and debris from the brain. While we are asleep, the brain is literally washing itself. That’s especially important here. Sleep is exactly what you want to do, if you can.

Drink plenty of water. The brain is about 80% water, and it needs to stay hydrated. Not having enough water in your system can give you a headache. That’s the last thing you need – so drink plenty of clean, fresh water.

Exercise has also been shown to help, although it can make your symptoms worse. Getting your system moving and increasing blood flow throughout your body can be beneficial. But it can also make you feel terrible, so listen to your doctor and follow his/her orders.

Every brain injury is different, but the process of injury and recovery after concussion is similar. Remember the graph above that shows energy levels vs. energy availability? You’ve got to give your brain a chance to catch up with itself. So, rest. It’s important

Take a break from all the screens, and avoid mental activity. Watching T.V., reading, playing video games, checking Facebook and Twitter, surfing the web, emailing… all those things activate your brain. You need to step away from them for a while, so your brain can catch up with itself.

Trust me, it’s no fun to sit still – especially after concussion.

Your brain is telling itself (and your body) to Go-Go-Go.

But remember, it’s been injured, and it has no idea what you’re supposed to do. That’s just the neurochemistry talking.

One other thing you can do is eat nutritious food. The energy crisis in your brain means it needs more fuel to keep going. Stay away from junk food. Too much processed sugar and “cheap” carbohydrates puts you on a roller-coaster, which can make you feel worse than ever. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and eat regular meals with balanced nutrition. That will give your body more of a chance to get your brain working again.

  • Eat right – avoid junk food
  • Sleep well – and stay off all the devices
  • Drink plenty of water

a little downtime this weekend

haven’t been feeling great

fighting off a cold – watching what I eat and getting some exercise

recovering from the past couple of weeks — and also gearing up fro the week to come

lots going on, before Christmas and the quiet week before the New Year

thinking about my resolutions from last year – can’t remember what they were, and I’m not sure I care

this is a new year – time to just move on

and in the meantime, rest

while I can

And suddenly, it is fall

Autumn coming... time to bring back the reservoir
Autumn coming… time to bring back the reservoir

I have been so preoccupied this week with the work changes and catching up with old friends whom I haven’t seen in over a year, that I have not directed much energy towards noticing this season.

I’ve been tired — with that kind of cognitive and physical fatigue that is particular to brain injuries. My head has been looking for ways to make sense of it all… past, present, future… and that’s been taking up a lot of my time and attention.

It’s a double-whammy. On the one hand, opportunities like I’ve had in the past weeks are rare — having three days of solitude to clean out my garage and basement… having friends from overseas come to visit… being part of the beginnings of a corporate merger… These are over and above the usual speed bumps and wrinkles that populate my days and weeks. These are different, and they demand a special kind of attention — the sort of attention I actually try to avoid: drama, excitement, speculation, intense work for 12-14 hours straight, without much of a break.

Rapid-floating-in-FinlandBut because of their nature, I have to  just go with it. Get into it. Be a part of it. Allow myself to be swept along in the current – like a proverbial kayaker who gets dumped from their craft in the rapids — as you get washed along in the current, keep your head above water, keep looking forward, and keep your ass up and out of the way of rocks.

The main thing is to keep your head up. Don’t drown. Keep looking forward.

One thing you learn from TBI, is that when it comes to activities, you have to pick and choose. I suppose it’s true of anyone who expends a lot of energy in their activities… or who is very effective in what they do. You mustn’t squander your energy on things that don’t matter. But especially with TBI, you have to be extra careful.There is literally only so much you can do, and if you try to do it all, you end up wiping out your reserve of extra energy — and then you have to spend even more time building back those reserves.

Because lack of energy and fatigue just make everything worse. It siphons off your cognitive abilities, it depletes your stores of happiness and joy, and everything can feel like a slog.

Even the good stuff, the fun stuff, the stuff you know you should be grateful for and happy about.

For me, that’s probably the most depleting thing — knowing that I should be happy about things, knowing I should be pleased and excited and uplifted… but just not having the energy for it. Even energy spent on good things, is energy spent. And building it back is not a simple matter of sleeping in on the weekends. For every two days of extra energy I burn through, it takes two weeks to build it back. And if I don’t have two uninterrupted weeks (like this past month) and exciting things keep happening to me, well, then everything gets that much harder.

In what ways?

  1. distractionI get more distractable. I lose my focus and find it next to impossible to concentrate on the tasks in front of me. I get caught up in all sorts of side activities — which seem so important at the time, but are not actually relevant to what I’m supposed to be working on.
  2. I get more irritable. I can’t deal. I get cranky and snappy like an arthritic terrier. I get anxious and difficult to live with — with others, and with myself.
  3. I get less attentive. My attention gets fuzzy, and I stop noticing details – like the leaves turning outside, or just how beautiful everything has suddenly become. Everything around me seems wrapped in hazy gauze, and my senses are not sharp. My sense are so busy just trying to attend to the basics, that the extra special things in life slip by me very easily.
  4. Joy sorta kinda evaporates from my life. I know (intellectually) that I have a lot to be grateful for, and I know there is so much that I have to be glad about, but I just can’t find the joy. It’s nowhere to be found. And any attempt at reasoning with me to get me to find that joy… well, that just makes me feel stupid and ungrateful. My neuropsych tries to do this all the time, and the net result is that I feel stupid and short-sighted… rather than realizing that I’m simply tired, and letting it go at that.
  5. It gets hard to sleep. The more tired I am, the harder it is to relax and sleep. When I should be getting to bed early, I end up getting on Facebook for 90 minutes — and completely blowing past my normal bedtime. And you guessed right — fatigue becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where I get more and more tired and wired, as the days wear on. All of the above continue to escalate. It’s awful, and it’s very difficult to stop it.
  6. I end up in a downward spiral. Unless I can get a bunch of good nights of sleep, I’m toast. Things get worse and worse, until I finally just  Give Up. And it turns out, giving up is the best thing for me. Some nights, I go to sleep hoping I never wake up again — I am feeling that depleted and used-up. But the very act of completely abandoning hope actually makes it possible for me to rest. And in the morning, everything looks quite different than the night before. Usually, anyway. Some mornings, I’m still not convinced I want to keep going.

So, fatigue is a thing. It’s a very real thing. And if I don’t stay alert to it, and recognize when it’s getting to me, it can get the better of me, which is never good.

For today, I know I’m tired. I have a full day of things to do, but I can pace myself and take my time… really soak up this fine fall day, and enjoy what I come across, as best I can. Seasons change. It would be a shame to completely miss this one, because I’m distracted.