Another day in someone else’s paradise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking sleep

fairgroundThe countdown to my business trip is T-minus-4-days. And in the meantime, I’m taking care of my everyday life as best I can.

I’m seeing the neuro nurse practitioner tomorrow, and I’ll be reporting in about my sleep.

Below is a chart of the numbers I’ve collected for every night over the past month. It shows how many hours I’ve slept, as well as how many hours I napped. And it shows how I stack up, relative to my target time of 8.5 hours.

sleep-log-april-2016

I’ve been falling short consistently, apparently. I’ve been thinking I’ve been doing well, but when I see a chart, it’s clear I have a ways to go. A couple of weeks ago, I was really behind on my sleep, due to work stress and a conflict I had with a friend of mine that really got me bent out of shape. I know I shouldn’t let it get to me, but it did.

I am human, after all.

So, this is all stuff to work on. Things to stay mindful of, and not let it all get to me. And to find ways to calm myself down and chill out, rather than getting wound up and bent out of shape. Maybe I’ll put a printout of the chart beside my bed. Yeah – that’s a great idea for a reminder.

I’ve been prepping for my business trip next week, doing some shopping and also some checklists, as well as practicing my talks for the trade show booth. I’m not feeling a huge amount of pressure, though. If I do a good job, then fine. If not, I’m not sweating it. In a way, I don’t really care about the event. I care about the customers I’m going to meet, and I care about the people I work with, but I’m not personally invested in the company. Not anymore. Not since they’re selling out, lining the pockets of the people in charge, while laying off a lot of people.

So, I’m treating it like a free trip to a part of the country I’d never normally go to. Resorts in warm climates are fine, but I hate amusement parks and places where large crowds gather, so yeah, this will likely be the one and only time I ever go to this place.

One good thing is that I’ll get to see a relative I haven’t seen in over 30 years. They’re living in the area, and I’ll get a chance to catch up with them, which will be nice. That will get me off the hook of hanging out with my workmates, who just want to run wild and party while they’re away from their spouses.

I have no interest in joining them. I see them every day, as it is. I’m just going to do my job, and then come home. I wouldn’t even go to the place, if it weren’t for work. I need my sleep (see above). I need to eat right and take care of myself. I can’t get drawn into their version of fun.

So, I’m hoping my relative can provide some welcome respite from their company. It’s a plan, anyway.

In the end, I’m just looking forward to everything being over. Flying there, doing the job, flying home… and getting back to normal again.

But that all feels like a distraction from what my real focus is — getting enough sleep, so I can keep my health in balance… and also not have to use the sleep medication that was prescribed to me. My old neuropsych warned me away from it, because although it supposedly metabolizes quickly, that’s not true for everyone. And I’m so sensitive to meds, as it is, I can’t imagine my body is going to behave like everyone else’s.

The neuro visit this week is really just a way for me to check in — and check out. They don’t seem very interested in addressing the reason I actually went to see them – my balance. So, I’ll handle that myself. And never mind the pills. Or the procedures. They’re not that helpful, anyway.

I think my biggest frustration is that I go to these specialists in good faith, believing that they are willing and able to assist me. And then they just don’t deliver. Or show much interest in delivering. There are a million possible reasons, but figuring it out is not the best use of my time.

I’ve just got to keep the focus on myself, on keeping my own balance in every way possible, and keeping myself fit and capable as best I can. It’s really the only way my life is going to be as great as it can be.

And that’s my intention, really. To just have a great life — and enjoy it to the fullest.

Up early… and making the best of it

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

I finally got to sleep.

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

Not my favorite thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, on to the “chronic blogging” guide.

Ha! The extra exercise worked

It's important to keep the right balance
It’s important to keep the right balance

So, yesterday, I exercised twice — once in the morning, and again later in the afternoon at work. There’s an aerobics room at the gym at work, and it’s walled with mirrors. That’s exactly what I need, so when I’m doing some movement, I can work on my form and be mindful of how my body is actually positioned as I move it.

I picked up a lot of bad posture and positioning habits when I was younger, and that’s cost me valuable time later in life when I pulled or strained muscles, due to bad form. And then I had to sit out for a while, till they got better. And by the time they got better, I had forgotten about doing them at all. And I lost more time, till I got inspired to do them again.

So, keeping myself in good form is important. And I had the chance yesterday afternoon to spend about 20 minutes moving and watching myself move, making sure I wasn’t moving in ways that strained my back and hips and knees, and all the other connections that have given me trouble over the years.

I didn’t spend a ton of time on it, yesterday, but it was enough to wake me up, and also give me a bit more of a workout. I had been planning on getting an extra exercise session in, when I got home from work. But to tell the truth, I’ve got to make supper, and I’m so done with the day, by that point, that I just want to make supper, talk to my spouse, and chill out.

So, exercising for 30 minutes during the day is really a good option for me. It breaks up my afternoon, and it also wakes me up.

And last night I went to bed by 10:00 and I woke up close to 7:00 a.m. — nearly 9 hours of continuous sleep. Amazing. Just amazing. I’m still feeling a bit fuzzy and groggy this morning, but the fact that I got that much sleep makes it all the better.

Plus, this afternoon, I have no meetings, so I can do it again. I moved a little bit this morning, to work on my balance, and also get a sense for where my body is in space. With my balance issues — which are the one outstanding remaining danger for me and my physical safety — I have to do something. The neuro I went to see to help me with it, doesn’t seem to take my situation all that seriously. Hell, they don’t seem to take ME all that seriously. So, I’ll just have to take care of this all, myself.

I can probably do a better job of it, anyway, because I know what my issues are. I have no trouble articulating them, because I don’t need to — I’m walking around in a body that’s got movement and balance challenges. I already know first-hand what the deal is, and I don’t have to convince anyone of it.

And that makes it a whole lot easier to deal with.

Personally, I’m sick and tired of people not taking me seriously, not believing me, and dismissing me — or brushing me off with some bogus explanation, because they can’t be bothered to look deeper. Maybe it’s a function of the medical system (I won’t say “healthcare”, because there’s something else driving it than “health” and “care”), which routinely traumatizes and exhausts its members, and then expects them to turn in stellar performances. I have to factor in that I’m dealing with professionals who are A) impaired at a functional level — and have been, since they started med school, and B) honor-bound to flatly deny that lack of sleep, secondary trauma, and the pressures of the insurance companies could have a negative impact on their performance.

So, I have to take it all with a grain of salt. And just use them for what they’re good for — prescriptions, if I need them. IF I want to take them — which I usually don’t. They’re gatekeepers for insurance companies, and little else, from what I’ve seen. Just as many financial advisors are little more than highly compensated sales reps for financial services companies (I know, because I was recruited by a fin svcs company many years ago, and I got an inside look at how things work — and I opted out).

So, all that aside, it feels great to be doing something for myself. I forgot to contact that trainer at work again, to go over some complex movements and strength training approaches. I’ll make a note to do it today. I’m feeling a lot of anticipation about this spring… I think it’s going to be a good one. And an old project I had put aside, years ago, has now suddenly shown itself to be feasible, as a solution to one of the big conundrums I couldn’t sort out before has suddenly become obvious to me. So, that’s a nice thing. Very nice indeed.

It’s amazing, what 9 hours of sleep will do for you. I’ll have to try for this again… and again… and again…

Onward.

One more reason to not get too tired

With positivity you have the powerI’m tired. I need to catch up on my sleep. I need to recharge my batteries. Not get so tired. Get back to where I want to be.

When I get tired, I start doing things like stressing myself out, so I feel more alert.
I’m not alert. I’m just stressed. Big difference.

And one of the things I do to stress myself, is slack off on my job, procrastinate, and think about leaving for greener pastures.

Oddly, the better I do at things, the more uncomfortable I am. Because stress makes me feel alert. And if I’m not stressed, then I don’t feel alert.

I may be alert, but I don’t feel that way.

I have a long history of jumping ship from good jobs, for no apparent reason. I just got so danged uncomfortable — but that discomfort actually comes from fluency, efficiency, being plugged in and capable. Somehow, being stressed and behind the 8-ball makes me feel more alive, more alert, more able… even though it’s undermining me and making me feel insecure and vulnerable.

It’s a fascinating conundrum. And the best thing to do, really, is keep an eye out for it when it starts to happen and not let it derail me.

I also need to plug myself into some positive stresses, some real challenges — not the ones my imagination comes up with.

Foggy… fuzzy… not my favorite thing

These aren't a few of my favorite things...
These aren’t a few of my favorite things…

It’s been a long 5 days. Vacation with my parents went pretty well, considering I have to be on constant guard around them, and my spouse always acts like a rebellious 16-year-old when they are around my parents.

It turns into a battle of wills, because my parents are very set in their ways, and my spouse is, too. It’s never easy… and this past time was a bit of a trial, for the first 36 hours. After that, my spouse calmed down a bit and decided to have a sense of humor about everything. My parents continued on in their “mode”… and I kept being on guard against getting hit, slammed, cut, bruised, or otherwise injured.

Both of my parents can be pretty rough – my mother, especially. She’s very hyposensitive, and in order to feel where she is in the world, she has to slam into things, knock things over, bump and slam and careen through her physical environment. When she’s preparing a meal, knife in hand, she can be dangerous. You can get seriously injured if you’re anywhere near her.

And me with my heightened sensitivities under stress… with every form of physical contact feeling like I’m being beaten. It’s stressful being around my parents, so my pain threshold goes way down. And they get upset that I’m not very tactile with them. The rest of my family is tactile. They touch and make a lot of contact. But I can’t. It just hurts too much.

So, I keep my distance.

And they hate that.

But what can I do?

Now I’m back. I’ve been back for several days, but I’m still recovering. I had a borderline meltdown on Monday evening, when we got back. I was so over-done, I just couldn’t even talk. I was in a terrible mood, and I couldn’t hold a civil conversation. So, I just stopped interacting, cut my losses, and went to bed.

I’ve been foggy and fuzzy for days, now. It’s like I’m walking around in a daze. I have a ton of stuff to do at work, and it’s really hard to concentrate. I’m highly distractable, and that’s annoying, as I keep checking the news, which is consistently bad and upsetting, so why do I keep checking it? To jump-start my fuzzy head, that’s why.

I feel dull and stupid, and I hate feeling this way. I want to feel good and strong and clear. But that’s not happening. So, I keep on my schedule and hope that my system evens out and catches up with itself.

I wonder, sometimes if that will ever happen. At all. Maybe I’m permanently stuck with this fuzzy/foggy sense. Maybe this is how I will always be, and that’s that. Maybe I’ll never get back to being clear. Ever. And I just have to live with this.

But I can’t give in. I just can’t. I still haven’t lost hope. I’ve been working at catching up for days, now. I’ve been able to sleep pretty well, though I still wake up around 2 or 3 a.m. I can get back to sleep, but I don’t get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. At least I’m getting more than six. I was up too late, lots of evenings over the weekend, and it took a toll. But how often do I get to see my parents? Maybe twice a year. And who knows when I’ll see them again — if ever? They’re not young, and their health is declining. It’s at the point now where everytime I see them, I have to think it’s the last time. Ever.

So, I want to make the most of it.

Still, all the changes to my schedule take a toll. And I’m glad to be back home again, back in my own house, back on my own schedule, getting myself back in shape. I’ve been lifting heavier weights, lately, which feels good. It gives me more of a boost in the morning — a much-needed boost that I’ve been missing. I’ve also been shedding some weight, which is good. I could stand to lose about 20 pounds of fat – preferably balance it out with some muscle… but my body doesn’t build up muscle like it used to… part of getting older, I guess.

Still, it feels good to be working out more vigorously.

It buffers me against the stuff in my life. And it gives me more of an edge. I need that edge. I have a busy spring and summer ahead of me.

I also have just one more session with my old neuropsych. It’s such a trip – this individual has been in my life since 2008, or thereabouts. 8 years of regular meetings — and they’ve been my only reliable sounding board for years. Nobody else has ever been able to help me like they have, and their assistance has made so much possible — including this blog. I owe them a huge debt, which I can never repay. But I can at least try to express my gratitude on Friday, when we meet again.

It’s always strange, when people pass out of my life. I feel lost and disoriented… and then somehow, I sort of forget what it was like when they were around. And that makes me sad. Because I’d like to remember more. But I just can’t. It’s like the ocean’s tides rise up and wipe out the footprints I left behind me. I look back, but there’s no sign that I ever passed that way before.

So it goes.

I’ll just be happy if I can get some of my clarity back. All this foggy – fuzziness isn’t much fun.

Ah, well.

Onward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mixed day. Half day. Full day.

Well, there it is. It’s been a full day, but I got maybe half of what I’d intended done.

Of course I did. I am notoriously bad at estimating what I’ll be able to accomplish in my weekend time. For some reason, I always think I’ll be running at the same pace I do during the week, but weekends take on a pace of their own, so by 3:30 or so, I realize I estimated all wrong, and I settle in to just having a weekend.

Originally, the plan was to run some errands in the morning, mail out some Christmas presents to family, help my spouse get ready for a day trip they were taking with friends, do some work around the house, run some more errands, clean a little bit, take a nap, make some supper, set up the Christmas tree, and get a head start on another job I need to do tomorrow.

That’s almost how it went. Except for half of it. While doing one set of errands, I realized that I needed to run to the big box home improvement store and pick up a piece of lumber to patch a hole in the stairs of my house. I’ve had workmen step into that gap and nearly hurt themselves. And just the other day, another one broke  through the patch I created 10 years ago. I guess 10 years is about the lifespan of that particular patch.

I also needed to pick up some supper, so I ran to the store and got my supplies, along with some caulk. I stopped to ask some employees at the store about where to find caulk, and when they asked me what it was for, I couldn’t get the words out. I could see the pictures in my head, clear as day, but I couldn’t pull up the words “garage” or “trim”. I just stood there like an idiot, gesturing in mid-air with one hand, while I held the 2×6 in the other.

“It’s for outside,” I said. “Outside”. That was the best I could do. The lights were so friggin’ bright overhead, the space was TOO BIG, TOO LOUD, TOO MUCH, and I was still feeling sick — still am, right now.

Fortunately, they just told me where the caulk was (right behind me – d’oh), and they recommended the silicon type. I need to fill some gaps in the trim of my house around the garage doors, because mice keep getting in that way. I’ve seen them slip into that gap many a time, and I’ve had it with them. They’re dead.

I got home in one piece, trimmed the end off the lumber, patched the hole, and then set a bunch of mousetraps in in places where those little bastards tend to show up. When it gets cold outside, they come inside. And until I get those gaps filled (I need to wait till it’s warm and dry before I use it — it’s supposed to get that way, next week), it’s “killing time” for those little bastards.

One place I set the traps is along a veritable “mouse walkway” in my basement. There’s a high ledge along the outer wall where I’ve trapped them before with live traps. Once, I caught four of them overnight. Now I’m not bothering with live traps. They’re dead. Dead, I tell you. The thing is, with my snap traps, if they snap, they can go flying, and then they’ll end up God-knows-where, and I might not find them till I start to smell the little decomposing carcasses. It’s happened before.

So, I got all clever and tied some string between the traps and nails in the overhead joists. Now, if the trap goes off and flies off the ledge, it will just dangle there, instead of flipping into or behind a nearby object where I can’t find it.

Problem solved. We’ll see how that works.

After that, I took a long, hot shower and lay down for my nap, setting the clock for a couple hours later. I must have slept right through the alarm, because no less than 3 hours later, I woke up on my own. I guess I really needed the sleep.

I had a late supper, and then talked to my spouse who lost track of time and ended up staying four hours longer than expected. They’re on their way home. And I am done for the day. Tomorrow’s another chance to start again, which I shall do.

Onward… to bed.

 

There’s a reason I’m different – and doing better than expected

Piecing it all together
Piecing it all together

Last week was a busy one. From what I’ve been told, this is only just the beginning. As soon as I lose track of what day of the week it is, and I can’t recall when I had a conversation with someone, I’m told that will show that I’m officially one of the gang at the office.

A lot goes on there, each and every day. And what happens is very involved and intricate, a world within itself, so you can easily get lost. I have the advantage that I already know what that’s like. I already know how it is to not know where you are or what day it is or when something important happened — and still stay fully functional. So, I figure I’m ahead of the game.

It’s all experience. Just that. Experience. And I’ll be able to put it to good use, on down the line, I’m sure.

Of course, I’m playing along, pretending to be less adjusted than I am. People are surprised that I’m fitting in as well as I am, already. I don’t want to freak them out by showing them just how acclimated I am.

See, this is one of the benefits of learning to live full-on with TBI. In my case, I got used to lack of precision. I’ve gotten comfortable with gray areas. I’ve figured out how to function through the fog and the exhaustion and the frustrations. I’ve learned how to keep from losing my mind in the face of my own persistent limitations and shortcomings, as well as the pathological unhelpfulness of others.

I’ve had to. I didn’t have a choice, if I wanted to live my life. I’m not in a situation (or a country) where I can actually go on public assistance. And my verbal abilities are so remotely disconnected from what is going on in my head, that even if I could get some help, I doubt I would get the right kind at the right time.

People are surprisingly ignorant… dangerously so. And they never think to try harder, because they don’t know enough to realize they don’t know enough.

Living with TBI is one of the loneliest things you can ever experience. Lonely within. Lonely on the outside. Lonely all around. And for those who don’t do well with solitude, it’s like living in one of the lower rings of hell.

Alone.

Fortunately for me, I am fine with solitude. I prefer it, actually. People exhaust me with their poor choices and their complete unwillingness to question those choices or try harder. When I am alone, I can sort out my thoughts and go about my business without criticism or judgment. I used to get down on myself for not doing things the “right” way. Now I’ve give that all up, because I realized that the harder on myself I was, the more energy I was using up — energy I could have used to try again and get it right the next time.

I also made peace with the fact that I usually screw things up royally the first time… which frees me up to make all kinds of mistakes early on, so I can learn from them and get it right the next time.

When you quit judging yourself,  you win back a ton of energy. And you also get to have a lot of good laughs over the course of your adventurous life. In retrospect, shying away from mistakes robbed me of a lot of interesting lessons. And dropping the self-recrimination has been wonderfully freeing.

The other thing it does for me, is get me out of the fight-flight cycles that I used to use to keep myself going. My brain gets tired and then it gets foggy, and I turn into a smaller version of the Hulk, so keeping my brain sharp has been an imperative for me, lo these many years.

And nothing does it quite so well as adrenaline that comes from The Fight.

The only thing is, the long-term stress of fight-flight running my system is actually really bad for my overall functioning, so in the end it isn’t quite the silver bullet I always thought it was. I was instinctively seeking out and creating situations that would demand more of me than I thought I had… but it was taking a toll. It was really stripping the paint off my peace of mind.

So, I had to stop that. I had to get in the habit of just going to bed when I was tired, and slowing down my system when it was thrown out of whack.

My autonomic nervous system (ANS) — the system that moderates our fight-flight as well as our rest-digest — needed a tune-up. So, I’ve really been concentrating on that for the past number or years. Sometimes I would lose sight of it for months on end and not do anything with my breathing or heart rate. But I would always come back to it — and feel stronger than before.

Which is good. Especially since I continued to learn what to do with that strength.

So, the busy schedule and fatigue aside, I am doing quite well. I have my down days, and I have my up days, and all the while I keep coming back to a place where I am steady and solid. That’s because of my ANS work, actively slowing down my system with intentional action and deliberate choices.

And on top of it, the lack of psychopharmaceuticals has probably been very beneficial. Rather than masking the symptoms of my issues, I’ve been forced to deal with them head-on, so to speak. And the results have amazed the people around me. I’m not the same person as I was, 8 years ago. People notice this. At least, the ones that are still around after all this time, do.

More than handling TBI with psychotherapy and meds, I’ve had a strong focus on my physical fitness. Exercise has done wonders to level things out for me, and eating the right foods has helped, as well. I take a full-system approach to my recovery, and I use my cognitive state as a barometer to see how I’m doing.

Not all days are stellar, to be sure. But they’re a hell of a lot better than they were for most of my life. I’m here now. I’m actually here. And that’s pretty cool.

Speaking of being here, I’m about to be not-here. It’s time for my Sunday morning walk.

Onward.

Magic rest – it must be there somewhere

I’ve got to put all my notes in order. After just a few days of talking to people, I have a bunch of notes that I wrote on scrap paper, and I now need to sort through them and put them into my regular notebook.

I need to do this soon. It’s tiring me out, keeping everything sorted just in my brain, and halfway through Week 2, I’m getting fatigued and a bit turned around. My schedule is different, now, and I’m a heck of a lot more active than I have been in a long, long time.

So, yes indeedy doo – my system is pretty taxed, right now.

Not that I’d want it any other way. Doing things piecemeal — don’t fill up your schedule till you get accustomed to getting up 2 hours earlier each day… don’t start exercising till you settle in at work… — that doesn’t work for me. I need to test myself all at once, right from the get-go, because all the changes are consistent with each other, and I want my system to acclimate all at the same time.

And of course there is the danger. There is always the danger of getting too tired, or getting too overwhelmed, or pushing too hard. But I’m at a good place, right now, with everything happening at once. I’m not over-doing it. I’m just doing a lot. And it’s pretty awesome.

Now, for sleep. It’s important. For years, I thought, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” but that actually just makes me feel like I’m already dead. And it doesn’t help me function.

My head was spinning last night, and I couldn’t get to sleep when I intended to. My mind was filled with all the ideas from work, all the opportunity, all the excitement, and me getting home late after having to work around my grocery store losing power and not being able to sell me half the things I wanted because they were perishable. And then there were the storms that wreaked havoc in the towns around us, but somehow passed us by. And then there’s Facebook. I spent 15 minutes checking people’s posts, and that woke me up even more. Bad choice. No more tablet in my bedroom. That’s enough.

I finally managed to get to sleep by relaxing and breathing. Doing some muscle exercises that release the tension. I’m pretty sore from working out — today is a rest day — and my muscles are definitely adjusting.

But it’s good.

And today / tonight, sleep is a priority for me.

Today, relaxation is a priority for me. Keeping my inhale and exhale regular and the same count of 5 seconds each, is what I do to balance out my fight-flight adrenaline rush, and it really helps. Remembering where I am, and periodically remembering to stretch and relax and release… that’s so important in the course of each day. It keeps me going and it keeps me present.

Rest… relax… It’s not just about sleeping at night. It’s about how I go through my life. For so, so many years, I was wound tight as a spring. Never relaxing, never letting down my guard, always ON. It’s fine, if the situation calls for it, but I was wound way too tight for regular situations.

I think that’s why I gravitated towards tough jobs — the adrenaline and pressure calmed me down, and I actually felt normal. The stress made all the noise quiet down, and I could finally think, when I was solely focused on the One Single Thing I needed to accomplish.

But all that wound-up stuff takes a toll. For sure, it does. And I don’t have to do it, anymore. I have other ways of sharpening my attention and blocking out distractions. Single-minded focus.  Born of a my own brand of za-zen meditation — picked up from stories of old Samurai zen masters of years gone by. Somehow, I always seem to connect with old zen-typed warriors from all over the world who (either living or dead) talk about the exact same state of mind that I’m looking for — single-minded focus in the midst of chaos.

Without that focus, I’m toast.

And on that note, it’s time to get ready for work.

To rest while working… to relax while acting… and to get a good night’s sleep tonight… those are my goals.