Breaking my fast

I get to eat the good stuff again

I had a good fasting day yesterday. I managed to get through the entire day without blowing up. I got a little frayed, at a couple points, and I got pretty revved over some things. But then when I stepped away from the situations, I was able to calm myself down and chill.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes for me — removing myself from the tense situation (if I can) and chilling out. I check Facebook or look at my email or I read one of the books I’m working on.

Part of my irritability was fatigue-related. I only got 5-1/2 hours of sleep the night before. I just woke up at 5:30 and I was awake. I didn’t feel really tired or out of it. I was just awake. So, I got up and got on with my day. I lay down later and took what was supposed to be a 1-1/2 hour nap, but I slept through my alarm and my spouse woke me up an hour later. So, I added 2-1/2 hours to my sleep quota. And I even got to bed before midnight last night. too.

Breaking my fast was interesting. I was starving by the time I had supper at 7 p.m., but I didn’t go wild with stuffing myself with all sorts of junk. I had a decent sized dinner with meat and starch and vegetables, then I had a piece of chocolate, a natural fruit popsicle, and some frozen cherries. I’m finding that frozen fruit really does the trick for me, as a snack. It’s not full of processed sugar, and since it’s frozen, it takes a little “doing” to eat it. It’s not like I’m just pushing cheap carbs into my face. I’m actually consciously having a snack — that starts out too cold to eat (I’m very sensitive to cold)… then it melts gradually, and I can slowly eat it. Not only does the slow pace curb my hunger, but it also gives me something to do with myself and my attention while I’m snacking.

I did quite well with breaking my fast, and I’m very happy about it. I’m even happier that I didn’t spend the day in emotional turmoil, the way I did, last time I fasted. The last time I fasted, I felt like a raving lunatic all day, and all I could think about was when I was going to get to eat next.

Yesterday, though, I kept it together pretty well. And I had a lot of energy. It was intense, focused energy that makes me feel a bit like the posters I see of Bruce Lee — coiled, intent, and ready to spring into action. This kind of energy makes my spouse nervous, and they switch to “high alert” when I get that way — even if I’m not going to do anything frightening, they are still on alert around me.

I probably need to learn how to manage my energy levels when they are that high, and that intense. I know I can get pretty revved at times, and I don’t always handle myself well. I fly off the handle, I say and do things that I regret later. Fortunately, I didn’t act on anything yesterday.

And that’s good. Because last night there was a situation that could have gotten out of hand, had I given in to the impulse that came up in me. I was in heavy rush-hour traffic, and some a-hole was riding my ass for a ways. I pulled into the right lane to let them pass, and they pulled up beside me. Then they came over on me, like the were trying to push me off the road. I honked and fell back and let them get ahead of me, and I put my brights on, so they would get the message that I was not pleased. And then they turned off to the right into a parking lot.

At the time, I wanted to follow them into the parking lot, pull out my jack, and break out their headlights, smash their windshield and beat them senseless. Insane, right? Well, it’s one thing to think it — lots of people do. But last night, I did NOT do that. I wasn’t even close to doing it, as I just let that thought come up… and then disappear. I did not follow the thought, and I did not follow that person into the parking lot and I did NOT assault them. Not even close. The idea came up, and I let it go.

This is progress. Just a few weeks ago, I got into a verbal confrontation with a police officer for legitimately pulling me over. They had every right to pull me over, and they were actually really decent with me, giving me just a verbal warning. This time, I had every right to be angered by the behavior of the other driver, but I did not put myself into a situation that could have gone really badly. I didn’t even take that thought all that seriously. It’s just what came to mind. And it went away because I didn’t give it any more thought. I just let it come up… and I let it go.

After all, who knows why that person was behaving the way they were? Maybe they were an a-hole, or maybe they were a frightened parent, rushing to their sick child… or a newly single parent whose own parents were not well, and who needed to catch a flight out of town to get to their bedside. Maybe they had a really bad day at work and weren’t thinking properly. Maybe they had been drinking and were dangerous, themself. Maybe they were just intensely distracted, being on the phone and not paying attention to what was going on around them. There are a million different explanations why they might have acted as they did. But I picked the worst case scenario and could have gone for it, had I actually held onto that idea and focused on it and made it into a “thing”.

Instead, I was able to just watch it come up, and let it go… And away it went. So, here I am, a free person, walking around without having to post bail. 🙂 As Martha Stewart would say, “That’s a good thing.”

This is where the mindfulness / sitting / za-zen / breathing meditation stuff comes in handy. Also the exercise, which helps me direct my energy somewhere positive, instead of getting “backed up” to where it’s making me crazy and dangerous. Meditation and weight training trains my system to not follow every single impulse that comes up. It keeps me focused and grounded and level-headed. That keeps me out of trouble. It keeps me out of jail. And that’s a good thing.

The last thing I need, is for my impulses to land me in trouble with the law — and ruin the life of someone who may have had a family emergency they needed to handle. That’s not how I want to start the year. 2014 needs to start on a good note, and me not giving into that road rage was an excellent start.

Onward.

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Last batch of quick responses to loaded TBI questions

What lies within...

This concludes my little series of quick answers to queries people have entered into search engines to get here. You can read the previous posts here:

  1. head banging leading to brain injury  – This happens. Not all the time, but it can. If it happens in conjunction with other conditions, like mental illness or some form of autism, I would expect it to complicate matters even more. Add TBI to the list of other issues… wow.
  2. brain injury learning to read again – I had to do it. The thing that really made reading difficult for me (and this isn’t true of everyone) was my attentional issues. Getting constantly distracted by every little thing, so that by the time I was done with reading a chapter – even a page – I had forgotten what the beginning was about, and how I’d gotten there. I’m much better at it now. I’ve been practicing. And I try to practice with things I really enjoy, so that keeping my attention trained on what’s in front of me is enjoyable.
  3. brain injury if consciousness was lost can you remember thing prior to the accident – Maybe. It depends. Some people have memory loss about events prior to the accident, others lose their memory during, others lose the memories immediately after. It’s very unique.
  4. brain injury and lying – Could be anxiety causing them to say whatever will get them off the hook. Could be confabulation, where they literally don’t know they’re lying. Could be impulse control issues. Not easy to “diagnose”. Pay attention and see if there’s a reason. And see if you can get rid of that reason.
  5. coping with anger brain injury – I’ve written a lot about that. Search this site for various ideas.
  6. is there a difference between a minor head injury and a concussion?  – Depends. Some people say concussion IS a head injury, while others say concussion is the initial hit, and injury applies if the injury and effects are lasting. I think it’s safest to treat any concussion like a brain injury and err on the side of caution. I think… Then again, it might be counter-productive to make a HUGE deal out of a concussion that clears after 3 months. This is one of those annoying “wait and see” things.
  7. traumatic head injury transposing numbers, can’t spell out loud – That happened to me. The transposing numbers thing. After my last head injury, all of a sudden, I was turning numbers and letters around, and I was having trouble spelling. I’m not sure about the spelling out loud, but it’s quite possible that I just never tried, because it was so challenging for me. I did have a lot of trouble reading numbers out loud — they would be right in front of me, but I’d have a hell of a time reading them off in sequence. It’s been really terrible at times — those were some of my strong suits.  I still have trouble doing these kinds of things as easily as I used to. When I’m tired, I tend to get my words and numbers turned around. And I sometimes have to get people to repeat numbers to me several times, even if I’m looking right at them.
  8. best way to get a buzz even with a head injury – Chances are, you’ll have no trouble at all, because head injury can make you more susceptible to drugs and alcohol.
  9. head injury vague nerve – I think they mean “vagus” nerve. The vagus nerve is the largest, longest nerve in the body, and it helps to regulate and stimulate the parsympathetic nervous system — that part of our bodies that helps us rest and digest and get off the fight-flight-freeze roller coaster. It’s really important, especially for folks with TBI, because we can often get jammed in high gear, which makes everything worse. Developing a good working relationship with your vagus nerve can help repair a lot of damage from TBI — especially in the years to come.
  10. how do you tell the diffrence cuncusion and just a minor head injury – See #6 above
  11. head injury “delayed loss of consciousness” – I’ve heard of this happening. Get hit, walk around, then all of a sudden — boom, you’re down. I think it sometimes has to do with swelling/bleeding in the brain… it can take a while for the pressure to build up, then when it does, the brain can “conk out.” This is dangerous – remember Natasha Richardson? By the time she lost consciousness after her fall during skiing, she was almost beyond help.
  12. broken head injury – There are different kinds of head injuries – closed, open, and ones that involve varying lengths of unconsciousness.
  13. blog head injury beautiful mind – I think they meant me? Or not. I hope there’s someone else out there who fits this description.
  14. head injury effect on mental illness – Search this site – I’ve written about this a fair amount.
  15. aggression in the brain – Ditto – see above
  16. photo sensitive brain – Since my last head injury, I’ve been very sensitive to light, especially when I’m tired and/or stressed. Sunglasses help. So does getting enough rest.
  17. mental issues following brain aneurysm – See above. Search this site. Mental issues following a brain aneurysm are probably very similar to TBI issues.
  18. what can a lot of head cuncushins do to u – First of all, they can mess up your spelling. And they can reduce your patience and impulse control. I suspect the person who searched on this phrase has had a few — witness the spelling, and the quick use of “u” instead of the longer “you”
  19. overcoming mental damage – In some ways, “mental damage” is all in our heads. We tend to think we’re much worse or much sicker or much less capable than we really are…. for a number of reasons. The main thing is – there are many, many ways to overcome these kinds of things — either through fixing them, adapting to them, or avoiding situations where they get worse. You just have to keep at it. Consistency can save your ass.

More quick responses to loaded TBI questions

question-brain
More Questions…

Here are some more answers to questions I found in my search stats the other day. It’s a continuation of this post: Quick responses to loaded questions

  1. tbi and no setbacks what does it mean? – It means you’re very, very fortunate. More fortunate than many. And you have every right to be happy about it. But it’s a double-edged situation. If you have a TBI and you have no real setbacks, are you actually injured? Do you need help? Do you need special consideration? Does your injury even count?
  2. broken bodies shattered minds book tbi and vision loss – This is a tough one to give a quick response to. It’s out of my league. A broken body is a hard, hard thing. It may come back, somewhat, depending on the nature of the injuries, but it can be a long road back. And the mind can be shattered by the experience. Mind and body are so closely connected — break one, and the other can easily follow. Likewise, healing one can help heal the other. Focusing on physical fitness and physical healing can do wonders for the mind. And putting the mind back together can help you see clear to healing the body. But in my experience, the body comes first and then my mind follows. As for vision loss and tbi, traumatic brain injury can result in spots in your vision, double-vision, vision loss, light sensitivity… the optic nerve is managed by the brain, so if that part of the brain is injured, your vision can be affected. See http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=93&TopicID=417 or http://www.lowvision.org/traumatic_brain_injury.htm for some info. I’m not sure about how to fix it. I think there are corrective lenses — especially Irlen lenses for light sensitivity — and I think there are therapies you can do. But it’s not something I know much about; aside from being sensitive to light, I don’t believe my vision has been affected by TBI. Although… now that I think about it, when I was seven or eight, I had to get glasses. I looked up at the moon, and I saw double. It could have been a result of my TBI(s) when I was a kid. I really don’t know.
  3. how to keep a tbi journal – Journaling has proved to be very helpful for people with TBI. I used to journal a LOT to track my issues and come up with alternatives and solutions. I kept track of the things I needed to do each day, and I tracked how well they came out. If they didn’t come out the way I wanted/planned, I spend time figuring out what I needed to do to have them turn around and be better the next time. It helped me immensely, just to write it down and see what was going on in my life from a distance. It also helped me get in the habit of thinking things through while I was doing them. What I had been writing in my journal stuck with me through the following days, and it made me more present, more mindful. There are a number of different ways you can keep a journal that works for you. You can keep a diary where you write about your life experiences in general. You can keep a journal where you track specific issues. You can even keep a blog, as I do. Whatever works for you is important — and make sure it works for you, doesn’t pull you off track. I kept journals for years, where I simply perseverated on the same topics over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Looking back, I used up a lot of notebooks and paper, saying pretty much the same thing, day in and day out. This blog is a better way for me to manage things, because chances are someone else will read it, so it keeps me honest. It also keeps me in touch with the outside world, instead of being off in my own private Idaho.
  4. tbi and evil – I once heard about a doctor who said that TBI survivors have no sense of good and evil. So much for their medical education. I think that when it comes to “evil” people’s perception of it can be relative. TBI can certainly reduce your inhibition and impulse control, causing you to mindlessly do things that seem evil to others. Or maybe they really are evil. But I’m not sure TBI actually causes people to do evil — I believe it makes them more inclined to do what they already do, but without the impulse control. If someone is already an evil person, an angry person, an aggressive person, TBI can make them worse. If they are a good person, an easy-going person, or an accommodating, gentle person, TBI can change them to seem more evil than they were before. I think it’s really about mindfulness and intention. Paying close attention to what’s going on with you and not giving in to whatever impulse comes up. But does TBI automatically make people evil? I vote no.
  5. discipline techniques for children with tbi – This can be quite a challenge, as kids with TBI respond differently to discipline than other kids, and the techniques everyone assumes will work with them, simply don’t. Project LearnNet has a nice tutorial on Discipline for kids with TBI – http://www.projectlearnet.org/tutorials/discipline.html – where they talk about different kinds of discipline styles, which involve different combinations of authority by parents, reward and punishment, arbitrary punishment, and permissive approaches. It’s a really great tutorial, and well worth the read — not only for people dealing with kids with TBI, but for all of us. My understanding about discipline for children with traumatic brain injury, is that you need to be consistent, clear, and not only rely on punishment to keep kids in line. Being positive and focusing on what they should do, instead of what they shouldn’t, is very important.
  6. +alarm with finder for tbi patient – I suspect this question is about locating a TBI patient who is prone to wandering off and getting into trouble. I’ve had elderly relatives with dementia who would do that. It’s very scary. There must be some products out there to help. Check with your local Brain Injury Association chapter for tips.
  7. tbi screaning for cognition/communication – again, I’m not sure about the screening possibilities. Check with your local Brain Injury Association chapter for tips.
  8. adolescents with tbi isolation – That would have been me. It still is me, to some extent. With TBI, you can get so turned around in social situations, and have so many bad experiences, that the anxiety becomes overwhelming, and it’s just easier to keep to yourself. It’s REALLY hard when you’re an adolescent with TBI. I was in the situation where I entered adolescence with TBI issues, so nobody knew me any different, and I was able to make some friends after some effort. I have to say, though, that the effort was often on the part of others. People actively worked to bring me out of my shell — I was more content being by myself. I was incredibly fortunate to have people reach out to me. But when I had a couple more concussions in high school, I withdrew again. Got into drugs and alcohol. Distanced myself from the people who tried to be my friend. Just isolated. It was easier. It was disorienting and depressing to always be surprised by the unexpected. Things just got jumbled in my head, and it was overwhelming. So, I withdrew. “Who needs ’em?” is what I told myself.
  9. tbi rage management – Classic TBI issue. Manage the fatigue and the anxiety and stop telling yourself you’re a broken-ass loser, and the rage may be reduced. That’s what I do, and it works for me.
  10. mbti and tbi – Traumatic brain injury comes in various shapes and sizes. Mild (mtbi), Moderate, and Severe. These definitions relate to the initial type of injury, not the long-term outcomes. The BIA website has a page all about brain injury severity at http://www.biausa.org/about-brain-injury.htm#severity. The important thing to remember is that mtbi and concussion ARE brain injuries.
  11. anger from a tbi – See Quick responses to loaded questions for discussion of anger and rage. Keep in mind, TBI alone can make you angry. And fatigue, anxiety, confusion, frustration, all that, can make it even worse.
  12. is it harder to suffer a tbi at a younger age or an older age? – It’s never easy. But there are differences between the injuries. People used to think that kids who had TBIs would recover better, but now research is showing that this may not be the case. A young brain is still maturing, and traumatic brain injury may affect development. It’s hard to say what the real deal is, but more people are studying this issue, and I would imagine we will learn more in time. In my case, having sustained TBIs both as a kid and as an adult, the concussions/head injuries I sustained as a grown-up were much more impactful, because I am dealing with the cumulative effects of past injuries, and they tend to affect you more if you’ve had ones in the past. I also had more to lose, so the job troubles, relationship troubles, money troubles all made for more serious impacts in my everyday life. But the impacts to me when I was growing up had to do with my development, so I’m sure that those setbacks affected me psychologically as well as cognitively. I think a lot of it depends on the person and the injury, but there’s no one simple answer to this question.
  13. husband is a tbi survivor– See these documents:
  14. mtbi online courses – Check out this course: http://www.neuroskills.com/edu/ceumtbi1.shtml to learn about MTBI and get continuing education credits. Also, check out Brain Injury Tutorials – LearnNET from BIA of NY State. They are really, really good, if you want to learn about how TBI can affect kids in school.
  15. how do you think after a tbi – Very carefully. Seriously. I’m not being flippant. After a TBI, you have to think pretty carefully, often about things you used to take for granted. It can be a long process getting back, but you have to keep at it. Remember, you’re building up connections where they have either been damaged or they didn’t exist before. Thinking things through, planning activities, and following through are very important.
  16. career change after tbi – I kind of did this. I used to do a lot of computer programming, but now I’m doing more general work that involves a wider array of activities. It’s actually better for my career. Staying specialized in that old programming area was not something I could do very well, anymore. I had a few false starts with trying to make it happen — made some poor job choices — until I found this present situation, which is working out much better for me. It’s important to be realistic about a career change. First, can you afford to do it? Second, do you HAVE to do it? Third, what can you do that is going to move you forward, not set you back? I had it in my head for some time that I was going to have to “downsize” my career and do things that were simple for me. But it turns out that I needed to go in the opposite direction – do things that involve more learning for me. One of the saddest things I’ve experienced is hearing a person with TBI telling everyone at a support group that they had to give up the career they loved so much, and they had to throw away all their materials and supplies, because it was out of their reach. I’m not sure that was true. TBI survivors often overstate our difficulties and understate our abilities, so we can make choices that work against us. Keep that in mind, if you’re considering career change after TBI.
  17. how long can’t i do things with tbi? – That depends on your TBI and it depends on what you want to do. If you are still healing, then you have to take it easy and rest and let yourself heal. If you’ve been dealing with TBI for a while, and your physical situation has healed, and you’re still not doing things because of your injury, maybe you need to start doing those things. It’s a fine line. On the one hand, no one is in a better position to re-injure us, than we are, ourselves. We can have poor risk assessment skills. We can misjudge situations, and we can overstate our abilities. But at the same time, we can really benefit from trying and practicing things that we want/need to do. Too many times, we are held back by the people who love us, because they are trying to protect us — trying to protect themselves — from another injury. Finding a balance between what you can and cannot do, what you can’t do now but can do later… it’s one of the great challenges of TBI.
  18. effects of tbi on schizophrenia – I have no idea. It might make it worse?
  19. tbi recovery gunshot – Here’s a great article on this subject: http://main.uab.edu/tbi/show.asp?durki=85704. From the article:
    Outcome After Brain Injury Due to Gunshot WoundIt is difficult to predict what type of physical and mental problems a person might experience following a gunshot wound to the brain. It depends on what areas of the brain have been injured, which varies from case to case. Some areas of the brain may have been spared injury, meaning that the functions controlled by those parts of the brain are unaffected. Because the frontal area of the brain is often injured, many people with gunshot wounds have difficulty with attention, learning, memory, and problem solving. These mental difficulties, along with physical problems (for example, paralysis of one side of the body) can impact the independence of the injured person. It is common following a gunshot wound for the injured person to need some assistance and supervision from family members. Sometimes people are able to return to work and to live independently, but that cannot be guaranteed. Return to driving may be impacted by the presence of seizures.A person can experience emotional problems following a gunshot wound to the brain. In part this may be caused by the area of the brain injury. In many cases, problems with depression are caused by the change in lifestyle for the injured person. The sudden lack of independence and the presence of significant mental and physical problems weighs heavily on some people, leading to depression. In some cases depression was a problem before the injury, particularly among those whose brain injury was caused by a suicide attempt. It is important that people experiencing emotional problems after brain injury receive treatment. In most cases, there is a good response to anti-depressant medication and counseling.So, it seems like TBI from a gunshot wound can be extremely challenging. If the gunshot is from a suicide attempt, you clearly have to address the problems around deciding “I’m going to kill myself.” TBI recovery is never easy, however.
  20. tbi brain stem injury disequilibrium after walking – See this web page: Balance Problems after Traumatic Brain Injury – it explains a lot. My own balance problems seem to be related to food allergies. If I eat/drink something I shouldn’t, my inner ear feels like it’s filling up with fluid, and then I have balance problems for days. I’m not sure my brain stem was ever damaged. There doesn’t appear to be damage on my MRI from several years ago. But balance issues are a real problem. With me, they create tremendous stress and anxiety, which in turn exacerbates everything else.

More to come…

dealing with behavioral health issues from closed head injury

A usually mild-mannered driver, suddenly not.
  • tbi and road rage
  • tbi and adrenalin
  • dealing with behavioral health issues from closed head injury
  • mental disordes from brain injury
  • restoration of self after traumatic brain injury
  • overcome concussion
  • stress effecting performance
  • can avoidance emotinal numbing ptsd symptoms end a relationship?
  • self part of brain
  • tbi anger

So far today, 17 people have searched on these combinations of words — 5 of them about road rage. And it’s early, yet.

I wish I could see the time of day people are searching – I suspect it’s late at night, after everyone has gone to bed. They are thinking back on their day and the close call(s) they had while they were driving, wondering if their freak-outs had anything to do with their head injuries/concussions. Maybe they were going to work. Maybe they were coming back from work. All they know is, they flipped out and almost lost it behind the wheel of the car.

While it was happening, it felt so normal, it felt so right, it felt so justified.

But after the dust has settled, and they look back on the incident from a distance (and after a good meal), they realize that their reaction was wildly out of proportion to what actually happened. Somebody cut them off once too often. Somebody else wasn’t paying attention and did something bone-headed. And they could have killed them. Literally.

Is a stupid-ass move on the interstate worth pulling hard jail time?

You be the judge.

Anyway, yeah… behavioral health issues from closed head injury… When I think about it, the real problem factor is the “closed” aspect — in part, because a closed head injury isn’t obvious, like a broken leg dangling limply, or a ragged gash across the face. It’s hidden — from everyone — and it’s damned hard to manage. Believe me. Closed head injury is no piece of cake, especially for the survivor. Our brains can be pretty convinced they’re right, when they are anything but. And no one can tell us anything, because we’re so convinced that this right feeling is a right being. It’s not, but we often don’t realize it till much later.

And after the damage is done.

There’s another “closed” part of the troubled TBI dynamic that’s problematic, too — the closed minds of people all around us. The people who either make up their minds that you’re deficient and damaged and you’re not going to get any better… or the people who are closed to the idea that you need to do things differently in your life, like get to bed at a decent hour or have a conversation about what needs to be done, that’s more in-depth than a handful of instructions/commands/demands… or the people who are afraid of their own human frailty and marginalize you because you’re different and you remind them that they are not omnipotent.

The more I read and the more I look around and the more I think about things, the more I’m convinced that social isolation is one of the worst things you can do to a closed head injury survivor. Or any injury survivor, really. But especially TBI survivors. Because we need to be “in the mix” with other people. We need to be involved. We need to be able to watch other people and remember/re-learn how to act. We need to be able to interact with other people and take cues and close from them. We need to remember what is “normal” and practice at it. We’re not lost causes — unless everyone (including us) gives up on us.

Practice, practice, practice. With other people. Build up the connections in our bodies and minds that help us conduct ourselves as regular folks. Re-knit the synapses of our brains and re-establish connections that restore our sense of selves. Our sense of self is a funny thing — it’s often best defined in relation to others. So that we can only be truly unique and original when we are surrounded by other people who are like us, but yet very different.

But when we’ve got these behavioral problems — which are so very often triggered by physical issues that nobody can see — it’s tough to hold your own in the company of others. We get tired, because we have to work so hard at simple things, and we may have to work harder to keep our balance, deal with hyper-sensitive senses, or adjust for changes in our speed of processing. And when we get tired, we get irritable. And/or our attention wanders. And/or we get agitated. And we start to act out. We speak out of turn. We strike out at perceived threats. We snap at the ones we love, we chew out our co-workers. We think we’re standing up for ourselves, but we’re launching offensives against people and events that may pose no real threat to us at all. We just think they do. We get scared. We get confused. We’re all amped up on adrenaline, and we fly into a rage like a fighter pilot taking off from an aircraft carrier. We ride the anger roller-coaster. We jump on the temper train and take off for the frontier, six guns shooting all the way.

And because the people around us very rarely appreciate our situation — or if they do, they just forget — we end up looking like friggin’ idiots and imbeciles. Which doesn’t help our case, even if we have a justifiable right to be angry and upset.

So much for social integration.

Especially if you’re surrounded by people who have a lot invested in playing it cool. Who insist on everyone being smooth and chill and controlled. They need this veneer, this packaging, this mythic strength about them and everyone around them that instills confidence, even if there’s no justifiable reason for that confidence. They pour all of their energy into coming across a certain way, and expecting everyone around them to do the same. If there are any cracks in the armor, it spells trouble. They lose confidence. Quickly. And then all seems lost.

What’s amazing to me, is how un-real so many people in the world are… How they build their entire lives around playing roles of the cool folks, the most popular kids in high school, and even when they mess up, they never admit it — they either cover it up or deny it completely. They just won’t let their guard down for a moment. Because then the jig would be up, and they’d be found out for who they are — people just like everyone else. Pretty lonely, actually. And closed. Closed to the full range of human experience and emotion and evolution.

This is the “closed” part that hurts us the most — the smallness of the minds of so many. We may have had closed head injuries, but so many people willingly close their perfectly functional minds to the vast possibilities out there. And not only do they distance themselves from people around them and make it harder for all of us to just be who we are, but they also cheat themselves of the full range of life, imprisoned in their own definitions of what is and is not acceptable.

But when I think about it, it seems to me that these folks — the closed ones — are probably as hungry for acceptance and freedom as anyone else. They are that way for a reason. Perhaps because others have ridiculed them or made life difficult for them. Maybe they’re short. Maybe they’re not beautiful. Maybe their parents were cruel to them. Maybe they’re sensitive and have been hurt too many times by bullies. Maybe the only way they can really survive in the world, is to be that way — closed. Who am I to judge?

All I know is, being closed doesn’t help any of us. We have all been hurt. We’ve all been injured in some way or another. And we can all use some generosity of spirit and help, as we go about our lives.

dealing with behavioral health issues from closed head injury… it’s always a challenge. But it can get better. The main thing to remember is that anxiety and stress and pressure don’t help the situation. The first thing to do, with TBI, is reduce the stress, take the pressure off, ease off the adrenalin accelerator, and quit being so hard on yourself. Learn to laugh at the things you do, and they will no longer rule your life. We tend to take things so seriously, we TBI survivors, and we see such gravity in everything. Every event can seem momentous and earth-shaking, but it ain’t always so, and the sooner we learn to lighten up, the quicker we’ll find our wings.

If nothing else, remember – you are not alone. Plenty of other people feel the way you do, and they manage to make it through somehow. TBI isn’t the end of the world, and neither is a temporary overdose of gravity. Behavioral problems come and go, and our health is often relative. If we can just be grateful for the good we have in our lives and focus on that, it can help a great deal. And if we can get some extra rest to take the edge off our sleep-deprived agitation and ease our exhaustion-related behavioral issues, all the better.

I recently read a statement that the human condition with its ups and downs is a lot like the weather — seasons come and go, passions rise and fall like floods during summer storms. Weather comes and goes. That’s just what it does.

And yet we survive. Look around. We’re still here — and that’s pretty amazing.

Quick responses to loaded questions

The life of the mind

Jump to the 2nd part

I checked my site stats this morning — since I started this blog, WordPress has recorded 98,278 views, all-time. Getting towards 100,000 — cool. I’m not sure what it is with us humans and round numbers, but it feels momentous. And the thought that people have looked at this site 100,000 times is pretty gratifying. So, thank you for your support.

I checked the search terms for the past week, and I pulled out all the ones that relate specifically to TBI/head injury/concussion. Here they are — 101 search terms, with quick responses. I know that this is hindsight, and people have probably since moved on, but just in case anybody comes back to see more, here goes:

  1. difference between concussion and tbi – Check out this post: The difference between concussion and mild traumatic brain injury
  2. will i ever get better concussion – Probably you will. A lot depends on what you mean by “better” and a lot depends on how well you take care of yourself and do the things that will help you get better. Concussion is not a death-sentence. It’s a disruption. It doesn’t need to completely derail your life, but all too often, that’s exactly what happens. It happened with me. Several times. Yet, I continue to get better… because I’m now doing the kinds of things that help me get better.
  3. life after a concussion – Never boring! You just gotta roll with it.
  4. will concussions make you stupid – See this post: After concussion – you’re not stupid, it just feels that way
  5. brain gym after concussion – I’ve seen this advertised online, but I have no idea if it really works. Try it, it might help. It certainly can’t hurt to try.
  6. can you get stupider from concussion – See #4 above
  7. can you drive if you have concussion – That depends on the concussion. If your vision is screwed up, and your balance is off, and you have executive management issues (as in, you fly into a rage over people behaving badly while they drive), you probably want to have someone else behind the wheel, at least until you can function normally again. Also, if your concussion was/is accompanied by seizures, then you should not drive. Some states even prohibit it. But over time, if you are getting back to some semblance of normalcy, then you may be able to work your way back to driving again. Just be smart. And realize that your brain is going to over-state its readiness, more often than not. Get a second opinion from a friend or relative. And don’t take it personally, if they tell you something that doesn’t sit right with you.
  8. dif between a busted head and a concusion – See #4 above
  9. how to convince a doctor you’ve got concusion – The CDC has a great Heads Up program with information for doctors called Facts for Physicians  — print a copy and take it with you to your doctor. Also, list out all the symptoms you have, explain to them how it is impacting your life, and emphasize that you want this information so that you can improve and get better… not get your doc to convince your employer that you need to go on disability, or you want an insurance company to cover all the expenses. When I was first seeking help for my TBIs, I made the nearly fatal mistake of mentioning the insurance issue to one of the neurologists I met, and it snapped the door shut on any productive interactions with them. Why do you want to convince a doctor you’ve had a concussion? If you’re looking for a way to get out of work or other responsibilities, don’t bother — it’s a pain in the ass, expensive, humiliating, and frustrating. But if you’re looking for a way to improve your life and heal from a potentially catastrophic injury, then use the CDC material, and call your local Brain Injury Association chapter for help.
  10. kill myself concussion – Don’t do it. Concussion and its effects can be temporary and can be managed and dealt with. Death, on the other hand, is permanent. And it does a lot more damage to the people around you who care about you, than your concussion ever will. It is very easy to fall into depression and want to give up, when you have to deal with this crap, day in and day out. Just this morning, I woke up feeling just awful, like nothing would ever work again, and I’d be better off not being around anyone. This was just my brain telling me stories that simply aren’t true. Concussion is NO reason to kill yourself. Remember, your brain has been injured, so your injured brain is about the last one that should be running the show. Give yourself and your brain time to rest and heal, and then see how good life can get. But don’t just give into it.
  11. post concussion syndrome reinjury – This would be the story of my life. It’s happened to me a number of times, and believe me, it’s no walk in the park. Reinjury can happen because the injured brain is not quite up to the job of protecting itself from getting dinged again. After concussion — especially in sports — there can be a huge, overwhelming impulse to get back into the game and keep going harder, stronger, faster. But the brain and body aren’t capable of doing that. Reaction times are slowed. risk assessment is dulled, coordination is off, as may be sight and hearing and balance. It’s a potent recipe for disaster, and if an injured brain is reinjured before it gets a chance to heal, you’re asking for a whole new world of hurt.
  12. concussion intelligence – See #4 above
  13. do concussions make you dumber – Likewise
  14. are there lasting effects from a concussion – There can be, but sometimes there aren’t. The vast majority of people do get better. And then there are people like me. Lasting effects can range from mood disorders to physical disabilities. See this page: Then And Now – Managing TBI Issues Over the Long Term for a list of issues and more discussion.
  15. what is the difference between a cracked skull and a concussion – Check out this post: The difference between concussion and mild traumatic brain injury
  16. is concussion baseline testing a good idea – It depends who you talk to. And it depends on the test, the tester, the test-taker. There are many critics of the Impact system, which is a computerized test that is not 100% comprehensive. Some testers will be numbskulls, while others will be sharp and smart. Some people taking the test will “game” the system and create an artificially low baseline, so that if/when they get concussed, they will not look worse than they were when they started. I also believe that you can have good days and bad days, so creating a baseline from a single test on a single day is a problem. I am not a neuropsychologist, but I can figure that much out.
  17. concussions make you smarter? – Who knows? They may. When the brain is injured and heals, it may create new connections that reshape the brain in new ways. I have heard a number of stories about people who started painting after their TBI, and they became amazing artists. It might not have happened without the TBI, probably. Not that aspiring artists should go out and hit their heads, mind you. Also, someone once suggested that my history of TBIs may have forced me to become more mentally flexible and open to different solutions to problems. I can totally see that. When you have your “standard set” of life possibilities altered or removed for no apparent reason, and your brain just doesn’t behave the way it should, you tend to come up with alternative coping solutions. In that way, perhaps concussions have made me smarter. But they’ve also made me a bit of a bonehead in some ways.
  18. things people do when they get concussion – Not sure what this is about — Good things they do? Things they do to heal? If you’re looking for healing ideas, rest is at the top of the list. And eating right. And getting plenty of exercise. And taking up some sort of meditative activity. Being mentally active, even when it’s a challenge. Just keep living your life, and don’t stop looking for new and different ways to approach things.
  19. impact concussion testing wiki – see #16 above
  20. life stressors after concusion – You mean… everything? Concussion has a weird way of turning little molehills into vast mountain chains. Depending on your injury, it can make the smallest of events seem like an epic drama. I’m just coming off a harried weekend after falling down that rabbit hole on Friday. The problem with life stressors and concussion is that concussion makes little things seem big… then the big things get out of control… the big things wear you out and fatigue you and stir up all kinds of drama you have to sort out later… and the fatigue makes you even worse at thinking. Bad brain days and all that. TBI issues and life stressors can become self-fulfilling prophecies and feed off each other. It’s often not very pretty at all.
  21. computerized concussion testing – see #16 above (… looking at the clock, I need to get ready for work. I’ll pick up on this later…)
  22. … Okay, starting again… tbi and road rage – You’re on the road, driving… Maybe you’re fatigued from not having enough sleep. Maybe you’re fatigued from a lot of traffic. Maybe you’re stressed from the “antics” of other drivers. Maybe you’re restless and anxious about work or something else. Being in a car, by yourself, alone with your anger, is a potent environment for road rage. Especially when TBI is involved. TBI can cut down on your impulse control, causing you to completely miss the warning in your brain that tells you it’s not such a great idea to race after someone to teach them a lesson. Agitation and fatigue feed into each other, and when you’re behind the wheel of a car in traffic, being on high alert from the activities of others can really wreak havoc with your peace of mind. The big problem is, TBI will tell you you’re perfectly justified and correct in behaving like a jerk in traffic. It will tell you that you have every right to fly off the handle, race after people, threaten them, rage against them… all that. Just not good.
  23. rage and tbi – see above. Especially when you are feeling helpless and defenseless and small and vulnerable, rage can well up — quickly. Fatigue feeds restlessness and agitation… and they tire you out even more. The brain needs energy to function, and when you’re tired and stressed, it can go haywire. On top of that, you can have a lot of stress hormones — adrenaline and whatnot — coursing through your veins, so the agitation and concern gets even more amped up by that chemical cocktail. For me, rage comes up most frequently when I feel vulnerable and attacked. Nobody has to even do anything to me. If I just feel like I’m defenseless against a threat, I’ll go after whatever it is I feel frightened by and “hit it harder” than it will hit me. Keep in mind, the threat only needs to be perceived. It doesn’t need to be REAL. This is how wars start with me — and then drag on, as I feel the need to justify my boneheaded attacks, throughout the ensuing hours, days, weeks, months, years… Rage and TBI – intricately connected and a huge pain in the ass, for me and everyone around me.
  24. tbi and mental health video – Check out YouTube here
  25. no dreams after tbi – That’s happened to me. In fact, compared to how things were before my last fall, I’ve had far fewer decent dreams than in the past. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe my brain has become more literal, or maybe I’m just too danged tired to dream. I’ve had some really great dreams over the course of my life, but since 2004, not so many great ones — and the ones that were good have been fewer and farther between. This changes over time, however. But I do miss having more interesting dreams.
  26. treatment for slowness after tbi – Just keeping on doing the things that I want to do, which I have been doing more slowly, is the ticket for me. For example, once upon a time, I had real issues with getting ready for work. I would forget what I was doing, what I needed to do, if I had washed my hair in the shower, if I had done the things I needed to do… and the things I did do, I did far more slowly than I cared to. What I had to do, was create tools and props for myself to help me do the simple things. I made lists. I put stickie notes around the kitchen. I kept a timer in the bathroom so I wouldn’t spend half an hour in the shower and be late for work. I also made checklists that I followed step-by-step. Eventually, I got to a point where I was able to do without them. But I used them as long as I needed to, and it helped me speed things up. People around me thought I didn’t need the lists and tools, but I did. I used them anyway. And they helped me.
  27. hate my tbi husband – And he probably hates himself. It’s not much fun turning into another person. If you want to relieve yourself of the burden of that hate, learn as much as you can about TBI and learn to help him avoid the kinds of behaviors that cause you to hate him. Is he over-tired a lot? Does he melt down a lot? Maybe he needs more rest. Does he do all sorts of things that annoy you? It could be he’s having trouble in ways you can’t tell. I really encourage anyone who’s dealing with a difficult TBI person to seek out help from their local Brain Injury Association chapter to help them better understand the situation and get support from others who have similar issues.
  28. assessment of tbi – I believe this is best done by a qualified neuropsychologist, not a computer program.
  29. tbi and lying – MIght not be lying, exactly. See this post: Growing up with TBI – The Confabulation Kid
  30. schizophrenia from tbi – I think this can happen. Google it… I’m no expert.
  31. tbi and psychiatric illness – TBI can lead to a number of mental disturbances, which can feed into full-blown mental illness. The problem is, lots of mental health care folks don’t know about TBI, and they think it’s trauma or some other abuse issue. Or some purely psychological thing. It’s a problem. I really encourage therapists and other psychiatric professionals to learn as much as they can about TBI and how it affects thinking. Too many people are “treated” the wrong way, when they need a specific kind of approach, which they just can’t get, because their care provider is clueless about TBI.
  32. tbi anger blurting – Impulse control issues. A real problem. I’ve dealt with this many times over the years, and in some ways, it’s one of the most problematic issues I’ve had. Embarrassing. For everyone. Not good. What to do? Take a breath before speaking, and when in doubt, keep really quiet. People sometimes give me crap for being “too quiet” but trust me, it beats the alternative.
  33. tbi screening tools – I’m not sure about this one. ImPACT comes to mind – the computerized testing system, but I’m not sure how great it is. Divided opinions.
  34. ptsd and tbi – go hand-in-hand, in my opinion. A Traumatic Brain Injury is trauma-inducing by nature, and that means you get not only the injury, but the complications of trauma that go with it. I personally believe that trauma plays a much more significant part in TBI outcomes than a lot of people talk about. I think people don’t talk about it as much, because the trauma field has been dominated by sexual abuse issues, as well as war wounds, and those are two areas not everyone feels comfortable exploring. I feel the focus on sexual trauma, while important for many, short-changes the whole field and brings too narrow a set of concerns to the issue. More research and writing should be done on the traumatic aspects of TBI. I hope to add to that discussion over the coming years.
  35. skin rash and tbi – I looked this up, and I found some web pages where they talk about medications prescribed for TBI symptoms. Anti-depressants can cause them. The one thing I can think of that might be a possible explanation of a connection is the stress that can come after a traumatic event, as well as the stress that comes during the process of healing from the injury. TBI can be very stressful to deal with — socially, personally, mentally, spiritually, physically — and if you’re susceptible to rashes when you get stressed, I can see how that could happen. Other possible explanations are some sort of infection getting into an open wound, or another medical issue that’s overshadowed by the TBI issues.

Rage, rage and more rage…

I’ve had a bunch of people finding their way to this blog, looking for info on rage. Road rage. PTSD. Anger. All that.

It’s getting late, and I need to finish my taxes, but let’s consider for a moment how the ‘rage thing’ works with TBI.

The brain gets its wires crossed.

It doesn’t quite understand why it’s getting confused.

It revvs up and goes into overdrive, trying to get things sorted, but it keeps getting stopped.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is like, “Come on! Hurry up! What’s taking you so long?!”

And the adrenaline gets going.

And it goes and goes and goes, and the parts of the brain that can usually talk it down are impaired, so it never gets chilled out. And the ptsd kicks in. And the whole works gets churned up.

Rage, rage, and more rage…

And that’s not even talking about possible seizures.

Back from the holidays, back to work

Of course, the holidays are really just beginning, but the holiday travel piece is over.

I will not be traveling over the December holidays… it’s just too much energy, too much exertion, and it completely overwhelms me far past the level that I’m comfortable with.

Once upon a time, it was fine and dandy for me to constantly push the envelope… travel throughout November and December… push myself to do-do-do for the holidays, doing all the shopping, all the driving, all the travel, all the social maneuvering… just putting my head down and soldiering through, regardless of the toll it took on me.

No more. This year, I am seriously taking care of myself. I did my family duty for Thanksgiving, and it really tested me in some scary ways. Ways that I don’t care to repeat in another month or so. I was able to get periodic naps in, and (for the most part) I was able to watch what I was eating and doing and saying and thinking, so that I didn’t get too far out ahead of myself. But the few times where I did lose track of what I was doing, how much I was sleeping, what I was eating… I melted down in some sad and sometimes scary ways.

One of the times, I was visiting an old friend who had company drop in to visit for a little while, and the shift to lots of social interaction really threw me off and triggered a major meltdown after they left. I had anticipated — and desperately needed — a quiet evening with this person, just catching up about what’s been going on in my life for last couple of years, but I was unexpectedly thrust into the midst of a lot of very happy, very gregarious people who had no idea how loud they were, and had no comprehension of what the effect of their noise was on my sleep-deprived head. I held it together for the hour or so they were there — I didn’t feel I had the right to chase them away, and I didn’t want to spoil their fun, just because I was having auditory processing issues. But when they left, I just fell apart — tried to hold it together and have a pleasant conversation, but ended up in tears.

Feeling damaged. Feeling deficient. Feeling unfit to be around people. Because I just couldn’t follow what they were saying, I was so tired, so overwhelmed, so unprepared. I hate it when I get like that — it ruins the simplest of times, the happiest of times, and I have a hell of a time dealing with the fact that I’m affected this way.

Fortunately, this friend of mine has seen a wide range of human behavior in the world, and they’re not easily intimidated — especially by me, who they know better than I know myself, in some ways. They have an uncanny ability to discern who is really inside the person they’re interacting with, and when I broke down in mortifying uncontrollable tears and couldn’t talk for half an hour, they let me be, rubbed my back, brought me a glass of water and a blanket to wrap around me, and just let me be, till I got my bearings and could be human again.

The other time I started to lose it, was when I was behind the wheel of my car, which was not good. It was raining and dark, and I was having a hell of a time seeing my way through the night. On top of it, I made some poor choices about how to avoid the parking-lot traffic on the freeway, and I ended up taking long back roads that didn’t have a whole lot of human presence nearby. A little scary… not terribly frightening, but what might have happened is haunting me a little today.

I was okay company in the car, until near the end of the trip, when my traveling companion started to talk to me, and I started to flip out — yelling and saying unkind things and generally being a really difficult person to deal with. It was a really shitty way to end up what was otherwise a mostly okay Thanksgiving, and I really regret having said the things I did. It’s like these words were coming out of my mouth, and I couldn’t stop them. I think the talking got to me — the auditory processing stuff, again.

Thankfully, as I drove through the night being a total asshole, I was able to dimly perceive that I was in no condition to be indulging the rage that was coming up in me… that I was operating on diminished resources, to begin with, and I needed to just shut the hell up, which I did.

The last half hour of the trip was no friggin’ fun, and my outburst(s) made a taxing time even more troubling. But at least I was able to shut up, eventually. And my traveling companion may yet forgive me for saying what I said before I dropped them at their place.

Just one more thing I need to make amends for. Thankfully — and I mean thankfully!!! — I am NOT traveling any more for the next six months, at least, I will not be dealing with family up close and personal for at least another 6-9 months, and I will have plenty of opportunities to clean up my act with regard to the person I roasted the other night.

Plus, I’ll be getting my neuropsych results back in the next month, so I’ll be able to explain myself better… and take steps to:

A) Fix what can be fixed

B) Compensate for what can’t be turned around

C) Avoid like the plague those things that cannot at all be helped

If nothing else, there’s always tomorrow, always another lesson to learn, always another chance to make good on the promise I have, as well as more chances to make up for the parts of me that are not cooperating the way I and/or others want/need them to behave.

Onward and upward…