Feeling crappy, feeling great

I know it sounds like a contradiction, but that’s “where I’m at” tonight.

I am really tired – mentally and physically. I feel like crap. I am so sick and tired of my job and the politics and the confusion and people being all bent out of shape over every little thing… and I’m tired of being bent out of shape, too. I’m just sick of it, and I’m feeling a bit ill in general. My head feels fuzzy and thick with pressure, my lower back is a knot, I’ve got intense springtime allergies that are making my eyes look like I’ve gone five rounds against Mike Tyson, and I have no interest in going to work each day. I just do it because it’s what I do.

On the other hand, I’ve accepted/resigned myself to this state of affairs for the time being, and I’m paying attention to other aspects of my life which are much more enjoyable and uplifting – I’m catching up with a good buddy of mine who I worked with, years ago. I’m able to stretch and relax better than ever, and the sound of the cracking and the sensation of my joints loosening up is like a magic elixir during a dark journey.

I’m actually quite relaxed tonight, despite being so baked. And I feel good. I feel like a new person, actually, with all this relaxation and stretching business. And I’m not even noticing the commute, these days, having plenty to think about that interests me… and that needs sorting out in my head, anyway.

I’ve pretty much let go of the job thing – it is what it is, and while I do look around for other things now and then, I have yet to find anything that really grabs me. I’m going to start looking again in June, so I can move on in September or October. The whole job thing makes me ill, just thinking about it. But I’m not going to be there forever, so… what-ever.

Yeah, what – ever. I’m actually in a really good place at work – key people want me around a hell of a lot more than I want to be around, and I know I have a place with a really tasty project that is going to be very high profile and good for my career, if I actually follow through with it. Meanwhile, I found another amazing opportunity in a field I’ve been wanting to get into, doing the kind of work I really enjoy doing. And I’m going to apply for it, just to see what happens.

Either way, it’s good. It’s fine. Sure.

But I’m tired. I’m done for the day. Good night.


Rolling with the changes

Roll with it

So, the new managers from HQ have returned to their homes, and we have one last day with the old boss — who is definitely not the same as the new uber-boss. In spite of the uncertainty and the stress of dramatic change, I am very glad that this change is happening at work. I feel like I can breathe again. Literally.

I hadn’t realized just how strongly I had been affected by the behavior and demeanor of the old uber-boss. They were just so manic. Always pushing and pushing and pushing and instigating and maneuvering and working an angle and promoting their agenda, which has seldom been the same as the company’s agenda. It’s been very stressful to walk that fine line between what the uber-boss tells you you’re supposed to do, and what the company (and their boss) expects of you. Frankly, it’s really screwed up the past two years of my performance – I haven’t been able to serve two masters effectively, but that’s exactly what I’ve had to do.

I think those days are behind me, and I’m feeling pretty positive about this change.

One more day with the uber-boss in the house. One more day…

They’re not a bad person, just problematic. And badly behaved. Hurt and insecure and passive-aggressive. They are also in a marriage that doesn’t work for them, which I’m sure contributes to their level of stress and their bad behavior.

Anyway, that is nearly behind me now, and it’s time to move on to what’s next. What’s happening now. I have a lot to catch up on, and now that there isn’t constant interference and people constantly trying to steer me in the wrong direction, I can relax.

And stretch. Last night when I got home from work, I was so wiped out. But then I stretched a bit, and it felt like some life was coming back to me. I have been so tense, and I didn’t even realize it. Or maybe I did realize it but I figured that’s just how things were, so there was nothing I could do aside from accept it. So I just went with it and tried to do what damage control I could.

Now I feel like I am out of damage control mode, and I’m loosening up again. Stretching my tight and tense muscles, cracking my joints, feeling my whole body loosening up. I don’t feel like I have to be in a protective state anymore, always braced for what new foolishness is coming down the pike, and it’s pretty great. All these changes, I can take, because it’s not personal anymore. It’s not individual. We’re all in the same boat, trying to keep afloat and move in the right direction, which is a very different scene than it was before.

So, change… I do need to take care of myself, and make sure I get some good sleep this weekend. I am listing all the things I need to do this weekend, making my schedule now, so I don’t have to think about it for the next two days. Just do it. I’ve got to replace some insulation in my basement, and clean up a bunch of crap, so I can move things around and have a decent living space. I also need to get some extra sleep — a nap on both afternoons, if at all possible — and get some exercise, too. I am feeling a lot of energy coming back to me, and I need to pace myself, so I don’t wear myself out. It’s all very exciting and dynamic; I just need to make sure I don’t over-extend myself in all the excitement.

Fortunately, that seems to be the direction that our new management is going – they don’t want to move too fast and make changes too quickly. And that’s good. It will give us time to adjust and adapt and figure things out as we go along. I’m sure there will be conflicts and confusion along the way, but in the end, I do believe it will all work out okay.

Good to stretch

Image credit: fitnessachievement.com

So, the weather is getting colder, and with it comes more pain. It woke me up overnight and kept me up for a few hours, so I’m behind on my sleep.

It’s time to start stretching before bed again. I’ve been sitting for long periods of time, again — interspersed with yard work, raking leaves and cleaning up before winter comes. So, my body is out of whack a bit, and it’s cutting into my quality of life.

A few days ago, I had a pretty good evening without pain — and without needing a bunch of Advil.

I started the day with a good warmup, and I got up and moved during the day, stretching and moving. And I also drank some water with a little bit of baking soda, which I hear helps to cut down on acidity and helps get lactic acid out of your system. (That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.)

Whether or not all of that worked — or a combination of a few of those things — I had a pretty pain-free night.

Then the next day it was a different story entirely.

So, this morning I got up and did my warmup. And I stretched a bit. I’m going to need to stretch during my days — as well as move, instead of sitting like a lumpy rock at my desk all day.

God, I wish I could go back to my chiro, but I just don’t have the money. No way can I afford $30/week. That’s $120/month I need for food and gas and all the other costs of living.

Maybe someday. But not just yet.

In the meantime, I’ve got my stretching and my movement. It’s good for me to do this, anyway. I just can’t stand the idea of going down that long, slow slide that people “my age” are supposedly doomed to experience. I know people in their 70s and 80s and 90s — and beyond — who are still vital and active. That’s what I want and that’s how I want to be.

So, I’m taking steps. I’m doing what I have to, even though it doesn’t feel that hot when I start it… once I get going, I start to feel better. And I get better.

I’m working with it. I’m making do. I think I’ll go mix some baking soda in water.


Rest day – sort of

My right shoulder has been giving me some trouble, lately, so I didn’t lift today. I stretched. Amazing how tight my shoulder is. It feels better now – I think I just haven’t been stretching it enough, and the muscles are pulling everything out of whack.

So, I stretched. And I need to do more of that during the course of my days. It doesn’t take much. I just need to remember to do it. Sitting in front of a computer all day tends to be hard on the body.

I’ve got an appointment with my neuropsych this afternoon. Today we’re going to talk more about my eventful childhood in hopes of better understanding some of the gut reactions that slow me down and make my life more difficult than it has to be. My history of pediatric TBI “loaded me up” with a bunch of experiences that have burdened me for many years, and my rigid thinking kind of cemented some self-perceptions in place.

Now I have a chance to turn that around. I don’t want pity, and I don’t want to get too overwrought over things. My NP tends to be good about not riling me up, and when I do get bent out of shape, they’re pretty good about backing off.

Except when they’re not.

But that’s another story.

Anyway, I am asking for help at work with some things I’ve fallen behind on, and that’s a sign of progress. I just realized that this morning — it’s progress, not a sign of failure. Everybody needs help now and then. What makes me so different?

Anyway, I’m trying to get to work at a decent time today. I don’t want to run late like I did yesterday — it gets my day off to a bad start. I’m off to a better start today, than yesterday. I got 5-1/2 hours of sleep last night – up from the 4-1/2 on Sunday night. The relatives coming to visit over the weekend really got me unbalanced, with regard to my schedule and my nervous system, and some things happened last night with my spouse that also got me riled. Not terrible things, just upsetting stories about what happened on their business trip.

So, I’m pretty tired today. And I see my NP this afternoon… and then I have a late meeting at 7:30 p.m. with some colleagues overseas. Fortunately there’s a “quiet room” at work where I can lie down and take a nap if I need one. I did that yesterday, and I woke up feeling 100% better. Well, 85% better… but that’s a hell of a lot better than when I decided I needed a nap.

More progress — I took myself to the quiet room and got 20 minutes of rest, instead of driving myself with caffeine and sugar.

Anyway, time to get going. More to come.


Sometimes it helps to make a bit of a mess

I spilled water yesterday morning, while I was making my coffee. Twice. Oh, well. It was easily cleaned up. And when I did wipe it up, I also cleaned the counter, which had the odd spot and speck on it.

After the small pond had been sopped up, the whole counter was cleaner, and so was that corner of the kitchen.

I worked most of the day yesterday. Catching up with things I’d fallen behind on. I got an early start and worked through the evening, till late. I took a nap around 4 pm and then got up and go at it again.

It may sound like a lot to do, but it’s actually really relaxing. I actually got to sort out all the things I couldn’t get to during the week, for sheer lack of time.

I love my job. I really do. And it loves me — so much, that I’ve got this never-ending stream of things I love to do… that I need to do. It’s kind of a drag, having so much to do, that you can’t enjoy the things you’re taking care of, but that’s kind of where I’m at. Not much time to relax and recoup. Management has some odd (and fairly uninformed) ideas about what makes people effective. They seem to think that constant change and shifting priorities are exciting.

If you consider adrenal exhaustion exciting, then I suppose it is.

Anyway, I did get a lot done, and I got to do it at my own pace — thoughtfully, mindfully, with an eye on the larger picture. Good stuff. When all was said and done, I didn’t feel like I’d been working — just doing my thing and enjoying it.

I’ve got a new sleeping approach that’s working pretty well for me — not worrying about getting a full 8 hours (and stressing about it, if I don’t), but taking intermittent naps, and pacing myself with time-outs that let me deeply relax. I’ve also found some stretches and pressure points in my neck and lower back that seem to be like “switches” that put me into an incredible state of full-body relaxation when I do them. It’s pretty amazing. I do progressive relaxation at times, working from my toes to my head… but these stretches and points are like an instant shot of relaxation.


Another amazing thing is that I’ve realized that it’s not so much the lack of sleep that wrecks me, as it is stressing about lack of sleep. Getting all tense and uptight just wears me out even more. Of course, it’s not optimal to be running around on 6 hours of sleep each day — and running at a pretty fast pace, too, I might add. But I find that if I don’t stress over it, and I incorporate things like regular stretches throughout the day, as well as naps when I can get them, I can stay in a pretty good space.

When I tense up and get all tight, it actually drains more energy from me. Even with 8 hours of sleep, if I’m stressed and tight, I feel/do worse, than if I have 6 hours and relax into the day.

Mindfulness, too — I have to stay mindful and present and pay attention to what I’m doing. If I get 9 hours of sleep but am just driving myself mindlessly through the day, things have a way of getting completely screwed up. In fact, there’s something challenging about being fully rested. I get so amped up, I tend to overdo it.

Well, it’s all an adventure and an experiment. I got a lot done over the weekend, which makes me really happy. And I found some techniques for instant relaxation, which makes me even happier. I never thought it was possible to feel this good about such mundane things. But I do.


Stretching for more

April first. Surprise. I have a noontime appointment scheduled with my neuropsych today to follow up on some things we didn’t get a chance to talk about on Tuesday. I’ve got the time, so why not use it? Except that the weather is bad. And I’ve got things I’d like to do with the three hours it would take me to drive in, consult, and then drive home. Like sleep. Seems to me, sleep might actually help me more than driving through bad weather, sitting and talking, and then driving back.

It might shake me out of my funk. I have to admit, I’m not very good at vacations. I like my schedule, my routine. It has been good, getting out of the schedule-driven mainstream for a week, but I’m ready to get back into work. I’m ready go back to my job, my office, my roster of duties. I don’t quite feel like myself, when I’m off my schedule. I have more time, but I get less done.

Still and all, it’s been good to get out of the frantic go-go-go of the daily grind. Working in technology sets a grueling pace, which is promoted by people of a distinctly darwinian bent, who think that the better you are, the faster you’ll go. Hm. Not sure about that. Seems like speed is its own justification, at times. They just want to feel like they’re doing something. They just want to feel like they’re making progress.


Anyway, the weather is letting up, but I think I’m going to cancel my appointment. I have a standing appointment on Tuesdays, and I’ll be closer to the neuropsych’s office on Tuesday than I am today. Time savings. Life savings. I just don’t want to wear myself out even more than I already am. Didn’t get my nap yesterday. Got busy running around in the evening. Also didn’t get things done that I need to get done.

At three years into my active recovery, I’m finding that I need to make some substantial changes to how I go about living my life. Discovering that mild traumatic brain injury was the cause of many of my difficulties throughout the course of my life was amazingly freeing and totally unexpected. It set me loose in the world, the way few other things have. It gave me a framework to understand myself and my own personal situation, and it gave me a route to follow to address specific issues I had in a systematic, common sense way, rather than the scatter-shot trials and errors of my life to that point.

Discovering the root cause of my issues gave me the means to address them. And address them, I have. Now that I’ve made all this progress, a different approach is called for. It’s about using the tools I have and the knowledge I’ve gained, to take things beyond the basic survival tactics I’ve employed for the past three years. The basics are pretty much in place — being, my understanding of my history and how it’s affected me — and I have the tools to address my issues, like fatigue, irritability, anger, aggression, and memory issues.

With these in place, it doesn’t make sense for me to keep subsisting at a fundamental level, “just happy to be alive”. Sure, I’m VERY happy to be alive. Don’t get me wrong. But I don’t want to fall into the rut that some acquaintances of mine are stuck in. They’re my “recovery friends” on the mend from histories of violence, abuse, addiction, and other things that strike at the core of who we are and what we think we’re all about. They literally tell me, “I’m lucky to just be functioning at a basic level,” and they mean it. But from where I’m sitting, it seems to me they’re capable of a whole lot more than that. They’re just not taking that chance. They’re not testing their own limits. They’re sitting in their stuff, feeling sorry for themselves or telling themselves they’re really badly off… when they’re really no worse positioned in the world than most of the other non-recovery-focused people I know and work with.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dismiss their troubles and their issues. Lord knows, I’ve got my fair share — we all do. But that’s the point — we all have our issues, and nobody goes through life without some measure of pain and suffering. Even the richest and most entitled people in the world experience excruciating pain — which must actually be worse than being in pain as a “normal” person. It must be awful to suffer, when you’re well aware that all of life is arranged around you to minimize, even prevent, any sort of pain at all.

But who can say why or how or for what we experience what we do? Lessons, I suppose. Just a lot of lessons.

Which is where I find myself now, on the last day of my official vacation. I’ve had a lot of time to think and ponder and examine my life, and while I’ve come away with a pretty good sense of being in a far better place than I was three years ago, something is missing. Something more. Maybe it’s in my nature, being the sort of person who is always looking for what’s next and what else is out there. Maybe I’m just naturally inclined to push the envelope. Bottom line is, I need more challenge. I need more living. I need more life. I need to get beyond this immediate situation of mine and look to the future, with my tools and strategies as a good foundation for moving forward.

More life. Different life. I’ve been spending more time stretching, the past few days, and I’m realizing that I probably need to shift my daily routine away from straight weight training and more to strength-building yoga. Lifting weights is great, but it also shortens the muscles (when you build bulk), and that may be contributing to my pain. Also the tightening causes me to tense up. I’ve been tense for a long, long time, and I need to find a different way of living in the world.

I have to say, I feel much better when I stretch. I steered clear of yoga for many years, because it was painful for me to do the stretches and hold the poses. But I’m at a point now where I’ve done enough stretching on my own to get past that excruciating pain. Stretching on my own, taking it easy, and being focused on my own movement (rather than a roomful of people) has been good. And I really need to do more of it — in a different way… in my own way.

{Pause to stretch}

Stretching… yes… in more ways than one. Physical stretching, as well as mental and professional stretching. I’ve had a lot of time this week to contemplate my work, why I do it, what it means to me. And I realize that the “career path” I’m on is less about climbing the ladder and more about having a quality experience… and sharing that experience with others It’s all very well and good for others to chase after the brass ring and climb over each other to reach the top, but that tends to be pretty debilitating for me. All that adrenaline pumping all the time — the constant go-go-go is all very well and good, but where does it eventually take you to? And once you get there, is that really where you want to be?

In the years before my last TBI, I was living that life. Fast and furious. Fiercely driven. I was a force to be reckoned with, and I was alternately feared and respected by my peers and highly valued by my employer. Then I fell, and it all fell apart. Then someone close to me died, and I sat and held their hand as they slowly slipped away from a life they had dearly loved and hated to leave. Then someone else close to me became seriously ill, and I was their caretaker for about a year. Three big hits in about three years. Even one of those would have been plenty to handle. But no, there had to be three.

Anyway… Coming out on the other side of it, now with three years of active rehab under my belt, I see how those experiences changed me, and how they have shaped my attitude towards life and my work. I know, having watched the young children and loving spouse of my loved-one who died all too young, that none of us has any guarantees in life. Even when the doctor gives you a clean bill of health and tells you to expect to see your kids graduate from college… they could be wrong. Even when you think you’ve got it all together, something as simple as a fall down the stairs can wipe out some of your most prized, cherished coping mechanisms. Even when you’re locked on target and think you’ve got your path figured out, serious illness can manifest and leave you feeling and acting like a six-year-old child, with all certainty erased.

And I realize — with the last week’s perspective — that no matter how hard I work, no matter how hard I push myself, it will never be enough. Not for me, anyway. And it will never be enough for the world. There will always be other things that need to be done, other endeavors to perfect. I also know for certain that the most important thing to me in my work is not the work itself, but the experiences I have in that work. That’s something that can’t be taken away. I need depth of experience. I need the kind of engagement and connection that makes memories for years to come. In the past, I have been so focused on getting things done, that I never stopped to fully experience what it is I was doing. I was so driven by results, that the process got lost along the way.

And that’s a shame. Because my memory is already iffy — why make it even worse?


The ironic thing is, when I take my focus off the delivery dates and bottom lines and pure results, and I focus on the core essentials — doing good work for the sake of doing it, and sharing the success with others to really create a working environment that, well, works — the results turn out even better, the bottom line is fed, and the actual results are longer-lived and more sustainable than ever. Getting the focus off the short-term, and putting it on the long-term, creates success not only in the present, but in the future as well. In the process of transcending the bottom line and delivery dates, those very things are fed. And it turns out better in the long run. For everyone. And I have real memories of live to look back on, later, not just a handful of deliveries and goals achieved.

Well, despite the weather, it is a beautiful day. I think I’ll step away from the computer now and have a good stretch.

Today I stretch

At the chiropractor, the other day, I was informed that my right side is “very tight” and that it’s throwing my back out of whack. That makes sense, because I’ve been sitting at my desk, nearly motionless, for days, now, trying to meet my deadlines. The only movement I’ve been doing, for hours on end, is typing and moving my mouse, which is on the right side.

I guess I need to stretch. And not only for my chiro’s sake.  I also need to stretch because when I get tight and tense, I tend to get tired. More tired than usual, actually. And it becomes hard for me to relax.

I notice this especially when I am trying to get to sleep at night, or I wake up in the middle of the night. 7 times out of 10, if i’m having trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep, it’s because I’m tight and tense, and I need to stretch — especially my back/spine.

It’s pretty amazing, the difference a back stretch makes. I do two different kinds of back stretches, in this order.

First, I do the cat/dog thing, where I am on my hands and knees, and I first arch my back (like an agry cat) and then I lower my back and stretch it that way. Usually I can hear/feel my spine popping and adjusting when I go from cat to dog. It feels pretty great.

The second stretch I do is a side roll. I lie flat on my bed with my arms at my sides, palms down.  Keeping my back and shoulders flat on the bed, I lift up my right leg (keeping it straight0 and bring it over across my left side, swiveling my hips as I lower my right leg to cross my body. I gradually turn my whole torso to that side, keeping my shoulders flat, so that my spine is turning. I usually hear/feel 3-4 cracks and pops, from my sacrum up to my middle back, when I do this. And it feels great. It’s like this huge pressure is relieved, and I can breathe again.

I hold that stretch for a little bit, then I do the same with my left side, lying flat and lifting my left leg up and over my body to point to the right side. I often get more cracks and pops from that, and I get the same relief from the pressure when I do it.

Then I straighten out and lie flat again. Sometimes I’ll repeat the stretch a few times, just to make sure. Even on the nights when I don’t get cracks and pops, I still get a lot of relief from the stretching. Heaven.

And then I can sleep.

A lot of times, when I wake up during the night, it’s because my back is tightening up and I’m not able to relax. Doing this side-to-side stretch often gives me just the kind of relief I need.

Try it. You might like it.

Anyway, I’ve been feeling a little sick, the past few days, with a sore throat and aches and chills. I think I need to take it easy today. Of course, I still have lots to get done, but I’m going to focus more on stretching today, than strength-building. I’ve been on this strength-building kick for some time, now, and I’ve done pretty well at my daily workouts. Nothing huge, mind you, and more about maintenance than out-and-out strength building. But my focus has been so much on cardio and lifting, that the stretching thing has kind of fallen by the wayside.

And I think it’s cutting into my overall health. Reason being, I’m on the go so much, I don’t give myself nearly enough time to rest and relax. Part of the reason  seems to be due to my tightness and lack of flexibility. I’ve noticed that being tight actually tires me out, and I’ve also noticed that stretching seems to free up some pretty amazing energy — it’s like I can breathe again. My body can communicate with itself again. And I start to feel more human. I start to feel like myself.

Which is good.

And it’s good for me to keep this in mind, when I’m pushing through to Get Things Done. Sometimes I don’t need to force issues and MAKE things happen — I need more to loosen up and let myself be inspired, let some of the answers that I’ve been ignoring (because I’ve been so busy trying to force things through) actually bubble to the surface.

It’s all a balancing act, of course, and there’s no simple solution to lots of the issues I come across, but having one more thing I can do to help myself when I’m getting in a jam is a good thing.

Miles to stretch before I sleep

So, I have been stretching before I go to bed each night, and am I glad I have.  The pain is much less than it has been, and it’s easier for me to relax and get to sleep. It’s also easier for me to relax during the day, if I stretch periodically.

This relaxing thing is becoming increasingly critical to me. One of the ways TBI can wreak havoc with you is by making you more agitated and restless. And that  feeds — and feeds off — fatigue, which makes everything worse, including cognition.

By consciously relaxing throughout the day and tracking the times when I get knotted up, I can just kind of let go and allow my mind and body to relax a bit. Which in turn frees up more energy for me to use in productive activities. Like getting some work done.

Such a little thing — stretching — which makes such a big difference.