New neuropsych identified – woot

Just keep climbing
Just keep climbing

I had a quick chat with my neuropsych yesterday, to let them know I wasn’t going to make it to our standing weekly appointment. Too much to do at home, too much going on. Couldn’t make it.

I have less than two months to see them, which seems strange, because we’ve been meeting weekly (used to be twice a week) for something like eight years. It’s the longest I’ve ever bothered with anyone (including work colleagues). It’s been an incredibly productive time, and I’ve made amazing progress. I will miss them very much.

But now there’s a new neuropsychologist on the scene — and ironically, it’s the one whose office we’ve been meeting at for some time, now. My neuropsych is retiring, and their lease ran out on their old office last year, so we’ve been meeting in this other office on a different floor. Turns out, the resident doc there is a really great clinician who I believe has agreed to take on some of the “patient load” of the retiring doc.

I did some Googling yesterday, and I found some very positive reports about them, so this is hopeful. They have a strong background in research and academia, and they are also into brain imaging. I’m not sure how that will play out or if I will have any additional imaging, but I’ve been looking for someone who’s as interested in imaging as I am – and who can read what they see. My current neuropsych is interested, too, but they’ve been far more focused on talking me out of my lousy mindsets about things — and keeping me from making rash mistakes that will get me in trouble. Or get me arrested. We just haven’t had the time to explore my MRIs the way each of us would have liked to. Time is short. We have to make the most of it, while we have it.

I’m none too keen on having more MRIs with contrast agent. Gadolinium can be nasty stuff. It’s radioactive, after all, and the first time I had it, it upset my digestive tract for a few days. I’ve read other things about it that I’m not happy about, but I understand the need for contrast agents. You’ve gotta be able to see what’s in there. Ideally, I’d love to get some fMRIs done that show the connectivity in my brain, as well as other stuff that’s there. But not if it involves more contrast stuff.

But aside from imaging, I’m hopeful that this new neuropsych will be able to point me in the right direction to handle some of the issues I’ve raised with my current neuropsych, which they couldn’t address in the time we have left. The headaches have been back, along with the tremors and tics and intense sensitivity to light and sound and touch. I haven’t been able to do a lot of things this week, because I’m so friggin’ sensitive to sounds and touch. Cleaning has been out of the question, because of the sound of the vacuum cleaner… even the sound of running water. And while cooking isn’t optional, and I’ve powered through, dealing with the clanging of pots and pans has pushed my limits.  I’ve been a lot snappier than I’d like to be, and it hasn’t been easy for my spouse.

Sunlight? While driving to work? Close the danged overhead sunroof cover, already, put on the sunglasses, wear the baseball cap pulled down over my eyes. I got my haircut yesterday, wearing my baseball cap while I was waiting. The fluorescent lights in that place were crazy — as was the glare of sunlight through the windows. I was so hunkered down, the barber who has been cutting my hair for years didn’t recognize me at first.

I haven’t spent much time discussing my sensory issues with my current neuropsych. They have been more focused on getting me socially functional, which is essential, because my conversation difficulties (thank you, short-term memory problems) have a way of getting me in trouble. With the police. With employers. With friends and family.

So, this is a chance to have a new start — without having to start over from scratch. The new neuropsych is in a location I know how to get to. I have the route down “pat”, complete with shortcuts and the best lanes to travel on the freeway, while getting there. I know how long it takes me, which helps me plan my days. And I know the best routes home, afterwards. My routine doesn’t need to change all that much — except that I’m going to be seeing them a lot less frequently, probably.  There’s another therapist-type person who my neuropsych wants me to work with, in continuing to move forward in my life with my plans and goals.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in “analysis” with a bunch of different people. I’ll probably trade off between the two. I do need to talk with someone on a regular basis about the plans I have and how to best move forward. And I need to talk through work scenarios that might derail me, if I stay inside my head about them.

So, this is different.

I’m none too keen on the change of schedule and change of venues, but it is what it is, and I’ll make the best of it.

Speaking of making the best of things, it’s Sunday, and I need to take advantage of the fact. Yesterday I didn’t get my walk in, because I was tired and not feeling well. It’s a beautiful day today — clear and sunny, if a bit chilly. Time to take myself out and air myself out. I’ve got to catch a nap later and rest up for that Super Bowl business — when we’ll collectively watch teams of massive, powerful, full-grown men repeatedly hit their heads and bodies against each other and the ground.

I wish I loved football less.

But for now, I’ll pretend that everybody knows what risks they’re taking and are able to absorb the blows one last time before the end of the season.

Out into the world I go — with sunglasses on, for sure. Onward.

Not myself, this past month or so

I hate to admit it, but for the past month or so, I haven’t felt like myself. That is, the self that I had come to know myself to be, over the past years… the self I had trained myself to become — and to notice.

I’m not whining about it. I just need to go on record, so I remember it later. Not all is hunky-dory, and I’ve spent an awful lot of time masking all this and keeping myself from thinking too-too much about it. That’s counter-productive. I hate hearing myself talk about what’s wrong, but I need to be aware when things are not ideal, so I can do something about it.

I haven’t got time right now to chronicle everything I am doing to address these issues, so for now, I’m just going on record.

Lately, I’ve felt like things are unraveling… starting back in September when my PCP died, and the only doctor I ever felt comfortable with was gone forever.

Then in October came the announcement that the company I work for is being acquired, and all the assumptions and plans I had about my future (going back to school, getting my degree, staying on there until I could finally retire)… that all became incredibly tenuous.

Then in November my neuropsychologist tells me that they’re retiring this coming spring, and the one working relationship I’ve ever had with anyone who didn’t make fun of me or treat me like there was something wrong with me when they simply didn’t understand, suddenly got an expiration date.

The car needed a couple thousand dollars of repairs over Thanksgiving, and my bank started warning me that I was low on funds.

And then in December I find out there will be layoffs, and I and my group barely missed being cut. Someone I really depended on for advanced technical support got laid off, so now I’m sorta kinda hung out to dry, in one respect.

It’s just been a heck of an end of the year.

At least my spouse and I are reasonably healthy (aside from some nasty colds — knock wood), and we’ve had no other calamities. But piece by piece, some of the main supports I’ve been relying on, have been removed.

I guess it’s time to find new ones.

And it’s been strange. I haven’t really felt like myself for over a month. I’ve been a lot more on edge, blowing up more at my spouse, getting confused and disoriented at work. At Thanksgiving time, I was balancing between completely losing it and letting off very controlled bursts of angry steam. And while I’ve rarely been a real Christmassy kind of person, this year especially I just haven’t been in the mood. The weather has been strange, but after the absolutely sh*tty winter we had last year, I don’t care that it’s going to be warm and sunny on Christmas Day. That’s this Friday, and, well, it can come and go, for all I care.

I just don’t feel like myself. Nothing seems worthwhile, and in all honesty, the only thing that brings me total satisfaction is trapping the mice in my basement. I rigged up several traps on a little ledge where I’ve seen them run in the past, and I’ve caught four of them, so far. I have a feeling I’ll be trapping all the mice in the neighborhood, by the time all is said and done, because my garage is not very well sealed, and I’ve seen them come in through gaps in the trim. Right in front of me. Brazen.

Well, now those little brazen bastards are getting dead. And while I do feel pang of quasi-Buddhist regret that I’ve taken a life, I do NOT feel regret that these creatures aren’t running amok through my basement. I figure, I’m releasing them to their next incarnation — just speeding up the cycle of life for these rodents.

It’s not the death that appeals to me. It’s the yes-no, success-failure, instant gratification of seeing that at least something I’ve done is working. It’s basic. It’s primal. And I’m managing to successfully defend my castle against at least some maruaders.

I just wish I felt more like myself, instead of being shaky and tired and disoriented and prone to error. I’m spaced out, a lot of the time, I feel like I have more on my head than I can handle, and while I’m sure things will be fine and I’ll be able to handle whatever comes along, it’s still tiring, and I feel like I’ve lost my mooring.

Maybe I have. Maybe I have.

I just have to get it back, I guess. It’s now officially winter, and I’m ready for it. I just want to hibernate, go underground, and maybe that’s what I’ll do, more or less. The last several months with the company change have been very chaotic and unsettling for myself and everyone at work. It’s next to impossible to make any plans, and nobody knows what the criteria are for deciding who stays and who goes. Nobody can give us any clue, either, because that might tip their cards, and everyone might just take matters into their own hands, and then the deal might fall apart.

So, hibernation (figuratively speaking) might be the best thing to do. Keep everything simple and lay low. Cut back on social media (which I have). Stop reading the news (which I must). Concentrate on what matters most to ME (not the rest of the world). And focus on the basics — eating right, exercising regularly, and doing things that appeal to me and that I love and which also make a constructive contribution to the rest of the world.

I also need to get back to dealing with the logistical issues that come up with me. Sensory issues are problematic — light and sound and touch have been giving me problems. I’m dizzy a lot — almost fell over the other day for no good reason. I’m space-out, foggy, and I feel a split-second delayed, though that could be a symptom of me still being sick. I have problems typing, and my handwriting is a mess. I skip the first letters of words while I’m writing in long-hand, which is a new one for me. My temper is short, I’m getting “snappier” than usual, and I have bouts of intense depression. And lately, the headaches are back, along with the episodes of sudden pain shooting through my head, followed by feeling dull and out of it.

But hell if I’m going to take that Imitrex. F*ck that sh*t. Talk about feeling spaced-out… I feel bad enough as it is, without adding medication to it.

So, I do my breathing exercises and get my head out of a stressed-out space, and it helps a bit. It also helps to ignore it and just get on with my life. But the headaches are getting intrusive, again, and when people like my chiro or my massage therapist ask me about them, it just irritates me, because the things they do for me don’t actually seem to help all that much, but they’re so convinced that those things are The Ticket. It’s nice that they try, and I know they want to help, but there’s nothing that seems to really Work for me. Not these days.

And trying to explain that to them is a pain in my ever-lovin’ ass. People get so sensitive and offended and frustrated when I tell them what they do is not working. No science, no tweaking their approach. Just getting irritated and frustrated — and keeping on doing the same thing as before. So, I quit saying anything. Because even when I try to explain, it doesn’t help.

It’s the classic tension between what appears to be, what people think really IS, and what my experience of things is. And that fragmented collection of disconnects makes me absolutely crazy.

That, and the fact that my weekly schedule is about to change, with my neuropsych seeing me on Fridays at noon, instead of Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m.  Argh! Change! I hate it!  And I hate that it makes me so unsettled. I wish it weren’t so.

But bitching about it won’t change anything. I just need to get on with my life.

My new mantra: Screw it. Onward.

And in the end, we learn…

Some days you nail the holidays, sometimes the holidays nail you.
Some days you nail the holidays, sometimes the holidays nail you.

This trip to see family for Thanksgiving has been chock-full of lessons. I’m still sorting them out. Some of them, I may forget, by the time I get home, so I’ll write them down here, and come back to them later.

  1. Having a perfect life is no guarantee of happiness.
  2. The people who appear to be the most powerful and privileged are often suffering under terrible burdens. Sometimes it’s their very burdens that drive them to be more poweful and privileged than anyone else.
  3. People who are innately talented and sharp, don’t always end up in the best circumstances. People who work-work-work their asses off can accomplish great things.
  4. The people who seem to be the most wealthy, are often very poor in their own hearts.
  5. It helps if you’re attractive and have a ready smile.
  6. People are surprisingly judgmental of others who are simply different.
  7. No matter where you look, there are people in some kind of need.
  8. People dislike having to question their most fundamental beliefs. They’re a whole lot easier to get along with, if you pretend to agree with them — or at least don’t judge them.
  9. Most people I know are very set in their ways about how women should act, and how men should act. Come to think of it, they’re very set in their ways about how “normal” people should act.
  10. It usually pays off to keep your head about you and maintain a cool demeanor.
  11. If you can’t do #10, step away. Give it a few minutes.
  12. Getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and eliminating regularly, will do wonders for your interpersonal relationships. It’s all about the flow…
  13. Life is short. Be kind.
  14. Sometimes, all it takes to get people back on track in mind and spirit is a long card game.
  15. Winning a hand of cards is restorative. Losing gracefully, four hands in a row, is ennobling. Having a good laugh at yourself being a sore loser is good for everyone at the table.
  16. Many things are awful. But they pass. It makes no sense to let awfulness get hold of you and trick you into thinking it will last forever.
  17. Everything looks easier in hindsight.
  18. All those old resentments I held against my in-laws for having so much more than me, and providing so much more to their kids, now pales compared to the peace I have in my life. They don’t have that peace. Their opulence is not saving them.
  19. My “country hick” insecurities around my in-laws are still there. I still feel like an idiot when I am around them.
  20. However, I have not understood the source of my insecurities, till recently. I thought, for years and years, that I was less intelligent than they, and I was too slow. As it turns out, by the time we reach their home, I am usually exhausted from driving, my sensory issues are out of control, after dealing with my own family, and I am literally not myself. My ears are ringing, I’m slowed down by fatigue, my noise and light and smell and touch sensitivities are all on HIGH ALERT, and I can’t understand what anyone is saying because the television is usually blaring. It’s a total onslaught of sensory overload, which my in-laws have to immerse themselves in, because they are so deeply unhappy as they follow all the rules, and they need something to dull their intense pain.Their coping mechanisms make it very difficult for me to function. It’s not me, that’s the problem, it’s the environment.
  21. My in-laws are trapped in a “perfect” life, doing things they never really questioned, and their difficulties with that are simply too much for them to handle. They’ve decided to be happy, simply being successful and popular, everything looking good on the outside, but deep down inside, being so sad and lonely.
  22. My in-laws cannot accommodate people who are different. They get disgusted with people who aren’t functioning”normally” due to invisible conditions. They don’t understand how people can have limits that are difficult to explain, and you don’t live up to their specific expectation of how you “should” function, they can get pretty mean-spirited. Their intentions are good, but their follow-through sucks.
  23. My parents are surprisingly resigned to getting old and infirm. Well, my father is, anyway. He’s giving up and giving in… I read some things he wrote, and it makes me sad that he’s not fighting it more. He’s got a lot of years left in him, but he’s talking and thinking like he’s going to die before long. His handwriting has gotten noticeably worse over the past year. I think his diabetes is catching up with his brain function. And I’m literally not sure when/if I’m going to see him again.
  24. My family is much better at accommodating individual needs and limitations, than my in-laws. My in-laws think a pill fixes everything, while my family believes community fixes everything. Small wonder. We’re all a bunch of farmland hayseeds, here, and there are plenty of “neurodiverse” people in our midst, due to brain injuries, congenital defects, poor medical care, etc. There are a LOT of “different” people here, so folks know how to handle them, for the most part. And the social rules here are so strict, everybody knows what they should be doing in any given situation, so it makes it possible for people to function, without thinking much about anything. It’s interesting.
  25. Holidays are borderline hell for me. There is TOO MUCH ACTIVITY, and the expectations are too high. It’s TOO LOUD. Too many smells and changes in routine. I dread it. Every bit of it. Including all the parties and social activities. And the holidays are not easy for my spouse, either, who also has sensory issues but is less aware of them.
  26. Both of us struggle terribly, at times, so it’s important for me to keep my act together, so only one of us is going off the rails at the same time.
  27. I am so happy to be driving home today. It’s a full day’s drive, and we’re going to take our time. Get out and stretch. My left hip is killing me. Not enough exercise.
  28. I’m glad we made this trip. And I’m even more glad to be going home.

And now, it’s time for a walk.  A long, long walk, before I get in the car and sit for 9 hours.

There’s a whole lot there

image
It's amazing what all goes on in there

So, yesterday I was supposed to go to a screening of a movie that a friend of mine created. I was listed as one of the contributors, since I provided an idea that they used to really build out the plot. I even got a credit 🙂 And the screening last night was to give everyone who contributed the chance to see the product of their creative inspiration.

I was planning on going, but yesterday morning, I bailed. I’d actually been leaning towards bailing for the past week, as things have been very busy at work and I am behind on my sleep. I probably could have gone — that is, if I had remembered it was actually last night, instead of Monday evening. But for some reason, I had it in my head that it was on Monday. So, when bailed, I bailed for the wrong date.

Oh, well. At least I got back in touch with the filmmaker before the date had passed. That would have been embarrassing.

Anyway, there was no way I could have gone yesterday. My sensory issues were acting up, and I felt very “off” all day. Like I was walking around on another planet or something. Off  balance. Jumpy. Spaced out. Feeling like I’m in a fog. Very sensitive. And in pain. My back and hips are giving me problems again – I may need to adjust the seat in my car some more.

Being around other  people was not an option. And anyway, my spouse was out of town last evening, so I had a lot of time to devote to myself and my reading. I found some really great articles online that I printed out, and I took a lot of time to think about them. One of them is a huge challenge for me, because it’s full of formulas and physics, which I don’t understand and can’t follow. I’m going to read it again today to see if it makes any more sense to me.

The interesting thing about formulas and calculations, is that I can look at them and not understand what they’re saying, but I still feel like I “get” what they are about. It’s like there’s a part of my brain that understands in a non-verbal, implicit way, what the formulas and calculations are about. I couldn’t recreate them to save my life, but reading them, they make sense. At least, to my thinking, they do,

So, last night was good. I got to spend a lot of time with myself and in the deafening silence that is my brain crunching through new information. My spouse says they can hear the gears turning in my head, sometimes, and I have to stop thinking so hard around them, because it’s too “loud”. Ha. So, the old machinery is still working 🙂

One thing I’ve noticed is that the way my brain works is very different from most people’s. It has been that way since I was a kid, and while it does not make it easier for me to interact with other people, it does make it easier for me to interact with information. Data. Formulas. Calculations. I can look at something and “get” what is going on there. Even though I cannot always articulate it or explain it or even replicate it, there is a sort of visual processing that goes on in my mind/brain that can process data at a glance and identify patterns in it.

I cant’t explain how it works, or even why it works, but it works. And I have  come to realize that much of the difficulties I have had over the years in school and work interactions have had to do with me trying to fit my thinking style into an approach that other people understand and can relate to. It’s a trap. Because when I try to wedge my non-verbal thinking into a verbally oriented way of processing information, I lose the very thing that makes me strong and capable.

I’m not sure if TBI has anything to do with altering how my brain works, but I do know it has a LOT to do with me trying to make myself into something and someone I am not. TBI makes my thinking rigid. It blocks my ability to see multiple possibilities. It makes me inflexible and I get stuck in a thinking rut that’s very difficult to get out of. And the ultimate result is that I think there is something wrong with ME and how my brain works, when the real problem is how I am thinking about myself and what I’m expecting of my brain.

I think maybe this is what my neuropsych has been trying to communicate to me, lo these many years. I have been so rigidly focused on being and thinking ONE CERTAIN WAY that really doesn’t suit me as well as the variety of ways I have to choose from. Now, years later, I’m getting it.

And it’s good.

So, that’s the deal for today. I am having a blast, reading these new papers, and I am also having a blast mapping out the ideas I get from them. I have a bunch of papers I downloaded over the years when I was really digging into scientific papers for the sake of idea density (I read a book about the Mankato Nun Study which discovered that having a lot of “idea density” in your  language/thinking correlated with reduced symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and with my history of head trauma, dementia has been an ongoing concern for me). I have a ton of papers on TBI and related subjects, many of which I have not actually read in depth. I just scanned the abstracts, and that was good enough for me at the time.

Now it’s very different, and I look forward to digging into them again.

Oh, and there are the several works I’ve been working on that I think could really help people better understand TBI and the after-effects, so that we can treat the right underlying issues, instead of chasing the symptoms around the block and back again.

There’s a lot going on with me, these days. And it’s good.

Onward.

They say it’s the brain, but it’s also the body

It's ALL connected
It’s ALL connected

TBI can seriously mess you up in the head. That’s a given.

But it can also seriously mess with your physiology.

In fact, out of all the problems I’ve had over the years, the physical issues I’ve had have far outweighed the cognitive ones – if anything, they contributed to my cognitive and behavioral issues.

  • Fatigue – bone-crushing, spirit-sapping exhaustion;
  • Problems keeping my balance, which messed with my moods.
  • Heart rate increase – or decrease, as well as blood pressure changes.
  • Light and noise sensitivity.
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Sensitivity to touch, which really messed with my head, as well. Imagine never being able to have human contact… it’s not much fun.
  • Constant adrenaline rush that wired me out, something fierce.

When your brain gets injured, it can affect your whole body. Because as we know, the brain is mission control for the rest of the works below the neck.

 

I lowered my heart rate from 90 to 73 in a minute

Last weekend, when I was recovering from a migraine, I checked my blood pressure and pulse:

100/59 with a heart rate of 90
Before… 100/59 with a heart rate of 90

My heart rate was up, for some reason (this was just after noontime), and my pulse seemed a little off. 100/59 might seem awesome, but it seemed a little low to me.

So, I did my breathing and checked again:

95/66 with a heart rate of 73
After – 95/66 with a heart rate of 73

I was able to bring my heart rate down to 73, which felt better, and I raised my “bottom number” on my BP to 66, which actually felt better.  I don’t want my blood pressure to get too low, and I can bring it up with my breathing.

So, I did.

I made the mistake of not checking my bp and pulse while the migraine was setting in. I’ll need to remember that later, so hopefully I can head it off at the pass… before the stabbing pain sets in.  Who knows? Maybe I can head off the other symptoms at the pass: light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, sensory issues, balance, dizziness, etc.

In any case, this is probably a good thing to do on a daily basis, no matter how I’m feeling. It might save me a lot of hassle – and it’s definitely easier and cheaper than dealing with medication.

Migraines have been under control

trepanning - migraine relief?
Fortunately, I have a better solution than this!

Summary: Controlled breathing seems to be helping me control my headaches, especially my migraines. After years and years of having constant headaches, I believe I’ve found a way to control them. This is good news, because constant headaches are no fun, and they kept me from really living my life.

I’m happy to report: My migraines have been under control – The headache part, anyway. Last week, I had a weird couple of days, where I was definitely altered… very strange feelings, colors brighter and higher contrast, everything feeling like it was moving in slow motion… I didn’t take any meds, because I didn’t have a headache, and I wasn’t actually sure if it was a migraine, or if it was just one of those things that comes up.

I will occasionally have bouts of dizziness (well, not occasionally… more often than that). And I will have my bouts of clumsiness and feeling spacey. Especially when I’m under pressure, feeling emotional, or I haven’t slept, it can be a problem, and with the last days of my current job winding down, all three of those boxes get checked off.

So, I just let it ride. And Saturday evening (after my nap, ironically), the headache set in.

But to be honest, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it has been in the past. Certainly not as bad as when I was cutting back on my coffee and went through that miserable withdrawal that lasted for days. And I actually have been feeling pretty good, without the constant headache. I think I must be doing something right.

The thing that seems to have moved the needle, is that I’m actively working with controlling my heart rate and blood pressure with controlled breathing. I can bring my heart rate down from 93 to 73 in a minute, using my technique. And I practice this on a regular basis, sometimes because I need to, sometimes out of curiosity.

It seems to be helping my migraines.

Now, the thing to be careful of, is thinking that one thing leads to another, when there could be other issues happening, too. I have also drastically cut back on caffeine, which supposedly helps headaches. That’s ironic, because I always heard that caffeine will help a headache, and to be honest, the times when I have been really struggling with the pain, having some dark chocolate or a bit of strong coffee really seems to help. If nothing else, they make me feel human again. I’ve also been exercising more regularly — at the very least, riding the exercise bike for 15-20 minutes each morning, and usually lifting light weights to boot. That could certainly be helping.

The thing is, I couldn’t exercise regularly for a number of years, because the headaches were keeping me from it. Nowadays, I still do get little headaches when I exercise, now and then, but when I do my controlled breathing and relaxation, they go away. Pretty amazing, really.

This is how it goes for me, these days:

Exercise: I get on the exercise bike and ride. I set the resistance to about medium, because I don’t want to overdo it. I’ll bump up the resistance and push myself, now and then, but when I do, I will sometimes get a little headache… which in my experience can turn into a big one — and big problems for the day. I back off on the resistance and check my pulse on the handlebars (there’s a pulse monitor there). If it is really high, I will control my breathing and bring it down. And the headache goes away.

Emotional Upset: My spouse and I have always had a “fiery” relationship. Our discussions sound like all-out fights to people who don’t know us. Our actual disagreements literally make other people run away. It wasn’t a problem for me, when I was 15 years younger (we’ve been together nearly 25 years), but in the past years, I’ve been getting more upset by these kinds of exchanges, and I’ve noticed a connection between the upset I feel and screaming headaches that come on — especially migraines. Sometimes I get so upset, I get an 8-out-of-10 headache (complete with light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, sensory issues, balance problems, dizziness, and nausea) that lasts for days. So, I need to find a way to deal with it. Now, when I get upset and I feel something coming on, I immediately “disengage” and focus on controlling my breathing. Sometimes I will go to a dark room and block out all sensory input. I can usually feel my blood pressure and heart rate going way up… but after a little while (maybe 15-20 minutes) of slowing everything down, I can “rejoin the living” and have a logical conclusion to what was probably a silly argument, to begin with. And no headache to speak of.

It’s pretty cool.

And it’s a relief.

Because now I feel like I can live my life without being in constant fear of headaches and migraine symptoms, etc.

Of course, there’s the other host of symptoms that come with migraine. Like feeling like my left side is carved out of a block of wood. But that’s also diagnostic. It tells me I need to take better care of myself, rest, get something decent to eat, and take the pressure off.

Bottom line is, I figured out a way to manage my migraines, and I’m pretty happy about it.

Eggs are great – with a few small exceptions

Soft-Boiled-Eggs1
Aaauuugh! That drip makes me crazy!

Every morning I have my egg. I soft-boil one after I finish my workout, at the same time I make my coffee, and by the time all is said and done, I have coffee and egg (and some fruit or gluten-free granola) for my breakfast.

People are often alarmed to hear that I have an egg every single morning, but my triglycerides are all of 38, and my good cholesterol is 104 (40-60 is the good range, so I’m way above that), so that offsets my LDL cholesterol level of 142. My Chol/HDL Ratio is 2.4, which is well within the 1 – 3.5 range, so I’m good. No harm from those eggs, apparently. If anything, the Omega-3s are helping to lower my triglyerides. I only eat pastured/free range vegetarian brown eggs, sometimes with extra Omega-3s. They seem to taste better than the white eggs my mother always got when I was growing up.

Today was no exception to my routine. I rode the exercise bike (sometimes I lift weights – but today is a rest day for me), then made my breakfast. I really like the ritual of it all… especially running cold water over the hot egg, setting it in the egg cup, and clipping off the top with a quick chop of a butter knife. I get my salt and pepper and hot sauce, and I scoop out the first part of my breakfast carefully, so the runny yolk doesn’t drip down the side. And then I eat. Very carefully. Taking my time. Adding more hot sauce as I work my way down to the bottom of the shell. What a neat little package, an egg is.

One thing about eggs that I hate, is when they run, splatter, or drip. That happens pretty regularly, and it makes me nuts,  because then everything gets sticky, and I cannot stand sticky things. Must be a sensory thing with me. Especially lately. For some reason, my hands are really sensitized to everything they touch. And touch is a big way I both navigate my world and also soothe myself when my nerves are frazzled. When I am off-balance, my sense of touch allows me to right myself. It’s extremely sensitive, and it’s what I rely on, when I’m on sensory overload, with my hearing screwed up by tinnitus, my eyesight focused on straight lines so I don’t fall down, and my sense of smell and taste practically non-existent. If my sense of smell and taste are almost nill, and my hearing is stopped up by tinnitus, and my vision is engaged with keeping my balance and making sure I stay upright, then that leaves my sense of touch to keep me connected with the rest of the world.

Plus, when I am stressed out, I tend to “stim” — or “self-soothe” — to calm myself down. Touch is a big part of that. I will either wring or rub my hands or run my hands over nearby surfaces. Once, I was visiting relatives and I was completely whacked out by the long drive, the sensory overwhelm of travel, not to mention fatigue from the drive, and I went for a ride in someone’s new BMW. I hopped in the back seat, and immediately started running my hands over all the surfaces. Leather interior. Soft and smooth and clean. Nice. My spouse had to explain to the driver (who was watching me curiously/weirdly in the rear-view mirror) that I’m “just really tactile”. And that was that. I felt like I couldn’t resist running my hands all over everything around me. It was incredibly soothing.

Yes, being able to directly contact the physical world around me, balances me out — in more ways than one.

So, when things are sticky or slippery, it makes me anxious. And few things make me more anxious than runny eggs that have escaped the container they’re supposed to stay in.

Runny eggs on a plate of bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns, are welcome. I can deal with that – so long as they stay on the plate.

Runny eggs dripping down the side of the egg cup are not.

Runny eggs splattering on the counter where I’m eating… makes me want to snap. Throw something. Break something. I don’t. But I sure as hell feel like it.

So, it’s always a balancing act, when I’m eating my breakfast. I need to be very careful, to keep the egg from dripping and splattering, and when I get it right, it’s beautiful. When I don’t, it’s yet another opportunity to practice keeping my wits about me and not losing my temper.

So, either way, I get what I need.

It’s just not always pleasant.

Anyway, it’s Sunday, and I have a lot on my mind. A friend of mine hit their head a few weeks ago, and they’ve really been struggling with behavioral issues since then. All over the map, emotionally and logistically. Forgetful. Impulsive. Explosive. They’ve been struggling, and they’ve been telling everyone to leave them alone so they can heal, but I’m not sure they even realize how they’re supposed to be healing, and from what. They’re clearly in stress, and their system is telling them to GO-GO-GO, even while they just need to slow down… stop. Catch up with themself.

I need to write to them. I’m not sure if it’s going to help, but I need to at least try.

Oh, and I also need to call my Dad, since it’s Father’s Day. I kept forgetting to get his card, last week, and it’s probably not getting to him till tomorrow.

But most of all, I need to to take a break. I intended to do that yesterday, but it ended up being a git-er-done kind of day. I did a lot and rested a little. Today I’m supposed to meet a former coworker who is starting their own company, and they want to get my opinion on a software program they’re designing. I’m going to take a rain-check on that. I really need to get back to center. Take a break. Get some more sleep. I think I got about 8 hours last night, but I’m still feeling wiped out. Still dizzy. Last week was a huge week for me. And this coming week is not going to be small, either, what with the finalization of my new job coming through. (Oh yes – I accepted the position, in case I hadn’t mentioned it.) And then I need to give notice to people who are really depending on me being THE ONE to handle certain key responsibilities through the end of the year.

Not gonna happen for them.

They really should have planned and prepared better. But that falls into the category of “not my problem”.

Onward.

Still dizzy… hanging in there… doing the right things

BEEP – BEEP – BEEP – BEEP!

They’re painting the walls at work. Horrible. And the lifts they use to paint the high parts of the walls and ceilings have Klaxon-alarm type alert beeps that send me through the roof.

Frankly, I don’t think any of this is helping my dizziness.

But I’m sticking with my routine and getting things done. Have gotten a few things taken care of today. Then I’ll run another errand and fall into bed.

I’m wiped out.

What a week.

Doing the right things feels good — exercise, regular meals — but I’m fried after this past week.

One more errand… just one more. Then I’m done for the day.

Accommodations needed? Just not recognized?

It *looks* cool – till you try to concentrate and get some work done. Then it’s nothing short of hell. Look at the overhead lights and all those hard surfaces. Good grief. Nightmare.

I had a pretty good conversation with the last interviewer yesterday. They have only been in their present role for 6 months, and they are hiring like crazy to staff up.

So, either they will go for it and try to sign me up, or they will go with someone else who fits better.

One thing that may affect their choice, is that I brought up the types of workspaces they have. They asked what type I prefer to work in, and I said I prefer a space with walls high enough to block out ambient noise and distractions. The whole “open workspace” plan does NOT work for me. I found that out the hard way at my last job, and the main reason I am leaving my present job (sooner or later) is that they are moving — along with everyone else in the cosmos, apparently — to an open space / “bullpen” type arrangement, where there is constant noise and interruption — that’s the point, actually.

The very thought of moving to that makes me physically ill.

I’ve been having a lot of sensory issues, over the past couple of weeks. All of a sudden, I’m sensitive to things that I haven’t been bothered by, for some time. Rough wood grain is a tough one for me — especially wooden eating utensils. Like the wooden “spoon” that I got with a frozen dessert I got about a week ago. The feel of the wood grain on my tongue literally makes me gag. And the feel of biting down on wooden utensils also makes me gag.

I’ve been more susceptible to overwhelm, and when that happens, I get more literal in how I think and speak, and I start correcting my spouse over every little thing they get “wrong”. Like calling an SUV a “van” and not caring that they are two completely different things (in my mind, anyway). I’ve been much more prone to correct my spouse over every little thing, which makes them nuts and sets off their anxiety, because hearing someone constantly correct you can mess with your head.

Anyway, that’s been going on. And the ringing in my ears is making it hard to hear what people are saying to me. It’s also the ambient noise, that seems like it’s bumped up intensely, lately. I blame it on barometric pressure and the weather in general, when I talk to people. Telling them my TBI symptoms are acting up again, doesn’t create the impression I want to give people — the kind of impression that will get me jobs.

So, back to that conversation about workspaces. I said I prefer a cubicle with walls high enough to block out distractions and interruptions. I need to concentrate. I don’t think people understand just how intensely I concentrate, when I do. Or what that concentration produces. I recognize patterns. I find things that no one else sees. I’ve had to learn to concentrate with single-pointed focus, because of all my issues. And it’s stood me in good stead.

I wonder if that counted against me — not being flexible with the kinds of workspaces the company mandates. Nobody wants someone who’s a complainer or a prima dona. Nobody wants to deal with extra accommodations and folks who are in a position to sue. They can find any number of reasons to not hire you, if you look like you might be trouble. I  know, because I used to be part of several teams that interviewed and hired folks, and there are a million different ways to disqualify someone who looks like they might be a litigation risk.

But it occurs to me that I may have been needing accommodations all along — an enclosed workspace where I can retreat from the stimuli and focus on my work. Years ago, I had an office with an overhead light I could turn off and blinds I could close. I had a desk lamp that provided the perfect amount of light. I could close the door and work in silence, and it was ideal.

Then they moved us to an open space floor plan, and it was hell. And I am pretty sure it did not help my recovery at all. Too many distractions. Too much input. It was so wrong. And I’m at the point now, where I know I need to never go there again, except for short periods of time. I don’t mind it for brief periods, but holy f*cking sh*t, it is miserable and stressful and prevents me from doing my absolute best work.

Which completely negates the whole point of going to work each day.

So, what I come to, now, is wondering if I actually needed special accommodations all along, but never realized it. And certainly never got them, except in rare and accidental circumstances. I know I need to actively screen out and disqualify those kinds of workplaces, and the kinds of companies that are in love with them. And it becomes more and more clear to me that I really need a remote job — either half-time or full-time. I need to work in ways that let me perform at my best, and keeping clear of open workspaces is the first step in that direction.

Anyway, whatever happens with this interview, it’s just a step in the direction I need to go. I’m going to start scoping out companies that offer more than 50% telecommute / remote positions, and see who’s good to work for. And I’m going to keep working on my own projects, so I can get a good foundation in place for my future. I’ve just turned 50, and I have a much better idea, now, what I need to do and how I need to work, than I did just 5 years ago. So, here’s to the next 50+ years of productive, happy, healthy life – with the right choices made for all the right reasons. And the wrong choices left behind in the dust.

Onward.