Getting it all sorted – and having fun in the process

microscope-at-tableThis past weekend, I didn’t get much done that I’d intended to. Including my day off on  Friday, I had four days to really dig in with some of the reading and writing I’ve been doing, and I was hoping to make some progress on a project I’ve been thinking about.

But Friday I met with my neuropsych to talk about the new providers they’re connecting me with. It was nice to just have the day, so I wasn’t racing to their office from my office, and then fiddling with my smartphone to answer emails from work. Then I met my spouse at their doctor’s office, and we reviewed the test results they got back. Their numbers were not where they were supposed to be, and that really worried us all. But now there’s a plan in place, my spouse is getting their act in gear and taking responsibility, and as a result of this “mini-scare”, they are making some choices about who NOT to work with.

That’s a positive step in the right direction. They’ve always had a bad habit of joining forces with shady types… people on the margins… outlaws of sorts… so they could produce events — workshops, concerts, gatherings. Alternative community, and all that. The only problem is, the alternative community scene that I’ve been observing over the past 20 years has a lot of people in it who struggle with mental health issues, but never seek formal help for those issues. So, there’s all sorts of behavioral “anomalies” that crop up — questionable behavior, controlled substance abuse, conflict that seems like it’s a case of multipersonality disorder or bipolar or schizophrenia, not to mention a fair amount of borderline criminality that just barely qualifies as legal. I was a part of that world, too, until I got into my TBI recovery. Once I started managing my neuro-cognitive-behavioral issues with both feet planted in reality, things started to clear up. But that’s not happening with my spouse or the crowd they work with.

So, that’s an ongoing cause for concern.

But my spouse realizes that being sucked into that world is wreaking havoc with their health, so they’re cutting ties with a number of folks who have been behaving in ways that aggravate my spouse’s chronic health issues.

So, that’s a new cause for hope.

But it still took up the vast majority of my time on Friday — and over the extended weekend.

On Saturday morning, I was hoping to get some good drafting done on an ongoing project. There was a chance I could even get it done (it’s not big). I did some more research into the persistence of post-concussion symptoms and the preventability of PCS, and as often happens, I found new threads of inquiry that I just couldn’t resist following. So, I got pulled off in a number of different directions that distracted me from my primary topic. That trend continued until yesterday evening. Three days now in my rear-view mirror that turned out unlike what I’d planned/expected.

One of the things that distracted me was Twitter. There is some serious scientific goodness posted there, as well as some compelling debates unfolding. The tone of discussions were bothering me, so I un-followed a handful of people who have just been complaining and sniping and taking pot shots at others. My feed immediately improved. No more cringeing when I logged in. That’s a plus.

I also realized that I can’t really dispense with Twitter, because as an outsider to the scientific and academic fields, it’s the one place I can actually keep up on research that’s coming out relative to my own interests. Twitter has really opened up a lot of ideas for me — some of them filling in gaps that had been, well, gaping for a number of years.  So, yeah… I won’t be dispensing with Twitter anytime soon. Even if they do change the feed to relevancy-related, instead of sorted by time. It just gives me too much access to stuff I’d never otherwise encounter.

I really shouldn’t be surprised that I veered off course, almost from the start of Saturday.  I am so focused on my schedule all work-week long, that by the time Saturday rolls around, I can’t be kept on the leash anymore. I need to move at my own pace. I need to be free to roam around and take the pressure off. I need to just let my mind think — not toe the line. As much as I like the idea of being ultra-streamlined-productive on my weekends and getting things done, the simple fact is, I need the time off to just let my mind relax and unwind.

And in the process of relaxing, amazing things happen.

That “open space” in my mind gives my organizing mind a much-needed opening to “what else is out there”. I get to play… with ideas… with concepts. I can let my mind stretch its proverbial legs and wander about and come up with entirely new (for me) concepts and approaches. It’s the kind of leeway I don’t get during the work week, when I have to keep on my schedule, and I’m so tightly wound, it’s crazy. When I loosen up and don’t put any pressure on myself to Think Of Just One Thing, amazing things happen.

That’s exactly what took place on Saturday. I got an inspiration for a project I’ve been working on, that feels like it’s gotten way too big. I figured out how I can “chunk it out” to be more useful — to myself and hopefully to others.

I found a bunch of research papers that intrigued me, and the more I looked, the more I found. So, now I’ve got a pretty sizable cache of papers that are just waiting for me to dig in.

And dig in, I shall. I started a new site a few months ago, called TBI Research Riffs, where I can discuss the brain injury and recovery research I’m coming across from the vantage point of someone who’s actually using it. Of course, being a multiple mild TBI survivor kind of disqualifies me in academic circles, thanks to the implication of brain damage and compromised thought process, but so what? It’s not hurting anyone that I’m playing with some of the ideas. I have no institution to answer to, I’m unaffiliated with any “camp” or governing body, and my words are my own.

Plus, I have a blog… and a Twitter account… and a bit of a following… so why not ask some pointed questions? The TBI research site has a horned bull as a logo for a reason 😉

Why not have some fun with it? I’ve been in and around the academic / scientific world all my life. My father was a college professor, my mother is an underachieving mathematical genius (think Good Will Hunting as a woman), my grandfather was a science professor and once served as the head of a statewide scientific academy, I have a cousin who’s a biochemist whose team just found a cure for a certain kind of cancer, my closest childhood friend and intellectual sparring partner is in the process of redefining an esoteric corner of philosophy, and I’ve got a handful of doctors in my family on the in-laws’ side. Being around them — both while growing up, and now — I’m continually struck by the political and logistical limitations that academia and funding put on them. It’s quite stifling, and it discourages them from really letting loose. And it’s a shame to see them so stymied by the requirements of their respective institutions.

That’s a shame. From what I’ve seen (and studied voraciously, back in the early 1980s), the real conceptual leaps are taken when you let your imagination run wild. But I don’t see much of that happening — at least, not in public.

In private, however… in the anonymous blogs, in the private journals, in the hidden workshops of independent and unaffiliated researchers, philosophers, and scientists… there’s a rich body of work emerging. And that’s pretty exciting to me. It seems to me that some of the most compelling science is happening on the margins. It almost has to — like Cavendish’es work — because the distractions and political exigencies of the institutionalized world are often antithetical to pure science.

So, I’m formally expanding my work in that area and getting better organized. I’m moving my research work off this blog and over to TBI Research Riffs. I’m going to keep this blog focused on my own personal experience, sticking with my day-to-day discoveries and developments from a personal point of view.

All my “sciencing” doesn’t really belong here. It needs its own space, where it can stay on topic. If anyone wants to read about me flailing around with great wailing and gnashing of teeth over logical inconsistencies in 20-year-old research papers, they can join me over there.

That will give me room to “play” in both domains, without blurring the lines with a bunch of pontificating and whatnot about esoteric or specialized topics that may not interest anyone other than me and the handful of people who dig into the research themselves.

Ultimately, of course there will be overlap. I’m a whole person, and each part of my life blends together and informs each other. Personal experience and scientific research are very much intertwined, as they should be. But this blog has always been about what it’s like to just live your life. So, I’m going to keep it that way.

And now, to start moving posts around.

Onward.

The roots of our brain injury recovery

What's beneath can be much more compelling than what's visible
What’s beneath can be much more compelling than what’s visible

Whether you’re concussed, had a stroke, were involved in a motor vehicle accident, or something in your brain ruptured… that injury has literally turned you into a different person.

Read more here — where I discuss the various aspects of understanding the nature of TBI and recovery on  my TBI research blog at https://tbiresearchriffs.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/the-roots-of-our-brain-injury-recovery/

#concussion hysteria? Enough spitting – let’s team up

camel-spittingBrain injury is a society-wide issue.

Poor understanding, ineffective preventive half-measures, and inconsistent care, are the specters that lurk around every sporting event, every high-velocity activity, every action sport.

Indeed, nearly every aspect of our lives harbors some threat of concussive brain injury. From getting in and out of the shower, to walking down stairs, to getting in the car and driving to work, to going out to lunch, to moving computer equipment around, to changing paper in a copier, to just enjoying your weekend, one wrong move, one hasty decision, and your entire life can change.

I’ve got plenty more to say on the subject – you can now find the post at my TBI research blog – https://tbiresearchriffs.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/concussion-hysteria-enough-spitting-lets-team-up/

I hope you’ll join me there for more focused discussions of emerging neuroscience and brain injury research.

More clarity – yes, more clarity

clarity-of-thoughtSo, I posted a TBI injury and recovery story from a reader, the other day, and it seems like a lot of people think her story is mine. Not at all.

Well, of course, there are some similarities, but it’s her story, not mine. I’ve just gone back and updated it with a notice at the very top and quotes around the story — it was easy to fix.

I wish all misunderstandings were that easy to fix.

I’ve also been fielding some comments in Twitter about things I’ve said, that apparently came off wrong. It is really, really easy to be misunderstood on Twitter. I’ve had people thinking I was attacking them, or their sport, or something else they held dear… and then they “fought back” with both barrels blazing, when all I was doing was raising some questions.

All around, it seems like the online world is just primed for misunderstanding — and consequently, a fight. All around us, we are trained to see opponents and aggressors. And that’s a huge problem, when you can’t even disagree with someone and/or challenge their thinking without being seen as an aggressor (or micro-aggressor). There’s a fantastic article in The Atlantic about this (click here to read it), which I came across a while back. It explains a lot — especially with regard to the younger generation who seem to have amazing potential, but also seem incredibly hung up over every little thing.

All the fighting… good heavens. There’s a reason I backed off Twitter for a while. But there’s so much good research coming out that gets posted there, I have to check it out. There’s seriously some great reading available, thanks to all the tweets flooding my feed. I think the key is to not follow a lot of people who get snarky and vicious and outraged. Especially about politics. ‘Nuff said about that.

Anyway, I’m taking more time to think things through before I say / post / tweet them — or trying to, anyway. It’s hard, when the moment to respond presents itself, and there’s something in your mind that seems 100% appropriate and on-point.

I should know by now that that feeling of 100% certainty is a tip-off to the exact opposite being true. The more convinced I am of something, the more likely I am to be very much mistaken. So, I do know that. But that doesn’t always rule how I react and interact. Impulse control issues and all that.

I guess that’s what keeps things exciting. I just have to keep revisiting things that need a little tweaking… making sure I don’t do more damage along the way. I also need to know when to let it go. Not everything needs to be fixed the way I want it to be. It’s also important that I hold my ground and not give into bullying. Just state my case, say my piece, and leave it at that. If people understand, then great. If not, there’s no guarantee I’ll convince them.

Sometimes it’s best to just move on and leave it at that. Or just stop following some people… which I have been doing regularly, when their tone gets too unremittingly intense.

Anyway, it’s a new day. It’s Saturday. I have some time to myself today, and my headache has abated somewhat. I’ve got some reading I want to do, as well as some thinking. “Tinkering and thinkering” as I’ve heard it described in something I read recently. I’ve always got to be careful when I have free time, because I can very easily get carried away in all sorts of distracting directions.

Last week, I was caught up in researching mind-control techniques of expensive large group “personal growth” programs… and a week before that, I was caught up in some fringe neuroscience that is so far beyond me, it became apparent after two days of compulsive reading that I couldn’t even scratch the surface enough to wrap my head around the name of the phenomenon. Admittedly, it is good for me to range a bit farther afield in my reading and studies, but I can get too caught up in too many fringe activities, and then I lose valuable time for the things that I really do want to work on.

Like the handful of books I’ve started to write and got 3/4 of the way through, but are all waiting for me to pay attention to them again, so I can finish them up.

Anyway, today is different. I’m not feeling great — and ironically, not feeling great is a key factor in how well I am able to focus. When I’m feeling rested and fully functional, I get pulled off base very easily — all that energy gets spread too thinly — and I get nothing done.

But when I’m not feeling great — I’m at maybe 65% today — I know I have to be more deliberate in my activities and pick and choose. So, more gets done. And oddly, I have more clarity when I’m under the weather, than when I’m feeling at the top of my game.

I wouldn’t mind feeling just a little better today. Who knows? Maybe I will by the time the game is on this afternoon. I’ll pace myself. Take naps when I need to. And pick and choose the things I want to do.

That should be good.

Onward.

Eight years ago, today, I started this blog

I was just coming to terms with all my TBI issues, just learning about them, just realizing how very much all my TBIs had cost me, over the years. So, in hopes that I could somehow spare others the pain and isolation (and outright desperation) that comes with a mild traumatic brain injury, I started a blog. In part, it was to share what I had learned, as well as to keep a record of what I was finding so I wouldn’t forget it later.

I had a few up years and a few down years, but in 2015, things really took off.

brokenbrilliant-yearly-stats-2015

I think the thing that really put wind under my wings was the algorithm changes at Google. As soon as they updated their methods of finding content, I started to get more visitors. The more visitors I got, the more interested I was in writing.

brokenbrilliant-comments-email-followers-2015

And the more feedback I got about what I was doing.

brokenbrilliant-visitor-numbers-2015

It’s been a wild 8 years.

And I’m committed to even more. Another 8? Maybe. Possibly even more.

Concussion/TBI Cluelessness: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it

The pieces are all there. We just have to put them in their places.
The pieces are all there. Really, they are. We just have to put them in their places.

An interesting subject came up on Twitter, earlier today, and 140 characters is not enough to speak to it. So, this is my more considered contribution.

I sent out a slightly disgruntled tweet about how concussion / traumatic brain injury ratings really only apply to the injury itself — but they say nothing about the long-term effects of concussion/TBI.We need to consider the aftermath – with a different set of criteria that truly classify where a survivor is — and which helps them to get where they want to go.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — the real trauma of traumatic brain injury often happens after the injury itself. Compared to the maddening sh*tstorm that can follow you rest of your life, getting clocked / dinged seems minor by comparison. And unfortunately, it often gets worse — especially if you don’t get help right away.

It took me almost three years to figure out why all my money was disappearing, I couldn’t hold down a job, and my marriage was constantly on the rocks. I got help because I was desperate and relentless. And I got lucky.

Rating brain injuries based only on the physical injury is — to put it lightly — problematic. The TBI classifications of mild, moderate, severe are all linked to specific qualities of injuries, involving various degrees of loss of conscious, and other criteria. From the Northeastern University website – http://www.northeastern.edu/nutraumaticbraininjury/what-is-tbi/severity-of-tbi/, here’s what they say:

Mild TBI

  • Brief loss of consciousness, usually a few seconds or minutes
  • PTA for less than 1 hour of the TBI
  • Normal brain imaging results

Moderate TBI

  • Loss of consciousness for 1 – 24 hours
  • PTA for 1 – 24 hours of the TBI
  • Abnormal brain imaging results

Severe TBI

  • Loss of consciousness or coma for more than 24 hours
  • PTA for more than 24 hours of the TBI
  • Abnormal brain imaging results

Which is great — for doctors and insurance companies. It gives them a way to grade the injury up front, so they can apply the necessary techniques to treat the injured party… and approve them for payment.

But after the injury, what? The literature/research on long-term outcomes after traumatic brain injury is not nearly as voluminous as, say, material applying to schizophrenia or depression. There’s a reason for that — as a society, we’ve really only started to pay attention to traumatic brain injury / concussion as “a thing”, in the last several decades. Certainly, there are folks who have known a whole lot about it, but if our society isn’t aware of it as “a thing”, then funding doesn’t flow to the researchers as readily, attention doesn’t get paid, and the kind of development that needs to happen for real success just doesn’t occur.

We’re much better off now, than we were just ten years ago, but we still have a long way to go. And one of the areas where we have a long, long way to go, is how we address long-term effects and issues after TBI/concussion. The dangers of CTE are real — but only for a certain group of folks (athletes who repeatedly bang their heads in the course of practice and competition). For the rest of us, the dangers are different, but no less daunting.

One of the things that I’ve heard repeatedly from readers on this blog, is that they’re just grateful I’m putting into words things that they feel and experience, but nobody seems to know about. Over the past 7 years (which has racked up 402,548 page views — over 100,000 of them in this past year alone), I’ve talked about my intense mood swings, confounding emotional lability, anger/temper issues, light- and noise-sensitivity, tactile defensiveness, depression, a sense of isolation and defeat, chronic pain, headaches / migraines, cognitive difficulties, memory lapses, as well as the many advances forward I’ve achieved through hard work, lessons learned, a bit of professional help, and applying what I’ve read from a whole lot of TBI research. I’ve bitched and moaned about quality of life issues, relationship troubles, job difficulties, money problems. And I’ve done my best to celebrate and give thanks for the many good things that have come into my life.

I’ve also tried to discuss these issues with others, who have alternately dismissed my concerns and talked me through conceptualizing them differently, so they don’t derail me. I have far more strengths than weaknesses, and my actual measurable impairments can be counted on the fingers of one hand. So, I have every reason to Focus on my Strengths, Not my Weaknesses. Be grateful for the good, and get creative with how I live my life. Don’t dwell on the hardships. Take heart – be brave. I’ll be fine, if I just keep working at things.

The knowledge about my measurable issues has been both empowering and defeating. On the one hand, it means there’s plenty of room for me to grow — and not a huge need for me to stress out and worry. On the other hand, I sometimes feel even more crazy for not having a better grip on things.

If I were anybody else, if I continuously thought, “Well, I didn’t lose consciousness for more than a few seconds, and my measurable deficits are relatively few, compared to others,” I might be inclined to give up. But I’m contrary. And I like to think for myself, so…

But countless other concussion/TBI survivors are dealing with dismissal and minimization on a daily basis. Once we recover from the physical injury — the lump on the head goes down, the headaches ease up, the all-consuming brain fog abates (somewhat) — we have very few places left to go. And should our evaluations turn up with numbers that make us look, well, pretty much “within range” for normal life, that reduces our options even further. Unless we can connect with someone who truly understands the scope and impact of TBI, we have to rely on the kindness of strangers whose willingness to “indulge our delusions” is our only ticket to any form of rehabilitation. Left unaddressed, persistent TBI-related behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and physiological issues can become an avalanche of hurt.

In the absence of neurological expertise, we so often have to turn to psychological approaches, which are geared towards mental illness, not structural brain injury. While they are much more robust and well-developed, pure mental health approaches carry a host of hidden dangers — among them, serotonin-suppressing meds that exacerbate our brain fog and depressive symptoms, and a type of emotional “excavation” (Tell me how you’re feeling, deep down inside – don’t hold back. Let it all out!) which follows transient emotional lability’s magically winding Pied Piper path to explore dead-end paths that have no substance in reality, but feel real enough to us, because of our neurological condition. My God, if I had a dime for all the times my neurological issues were mistaken for childhood trauma issues and I was encouraged to dredge up my deepest, darkest secrets because it was supposed to help me, I’d have no money problems. At all.

We really are in a wasteland of measurements and data, with regard to long-term outcomes for TBI/concussion.There are some post-TBI quality of life studies out there, but they are relatively sparse. And the fact that there’s so much self-reporting is a little troubling — quality of life scores could be based on anything, really, and conditions that have nothing to do with TBI could contribute.

What’s more, quality of life is a subjective rating. And it may not pinpoint the specific areas that need to be addressed. If you’re going to measure stuff, you need to be at least a little detailed and objective. The game of baseball, which is a relatively straightforward game, has a more advanced and complex (and universally agreed-upon) way of keeping track of the action, than TBI recovery. Throughout the sports world, stats collecting and tracking is a veritable art form — and that’s for entertainment, not a life-and-death health issue. We can’t manage to invent the same for TBI recovery? Really? Something is wrong with that picture.

The house is my ongoing situation. The vision is the established neuroscientific approach.
The house is my ongoing situation. The vision is the established neuroscientific approach.

What’s even more wrong is that so many people who are in a position to actually take action and make a contribution to TBI recovery are failing to step outside their system-imposed box and simply consider — just for a moment — that there might be more going on with the concussion survivor in front of them, than what’s on their chart and what’s in the eval results from a test taken six months prior. Their focus too often stays on the quantifiable data, guiding them in a specific direction, while they ignore the gaping blind spot — a veritable case of advanced macular degeneration in the “sight” of the neurosciences industry.

I’m confident that eventually measurements will be developed for the right kinds of data. As more and more concussed/brain injured folks report about how absolutely shitty their lives have been after their injuries, and how much that’s cost their families, employers, communities, commercial ventures will be started to serve that “market”. Funding will appear for studies to help standardize the methodologies and terminology — as well as develop new billable treatments. A whole ecosystem will spring up to fill this need. It’s only a matter of time. But we’re not there yet.

Not even close.

Great list of #concussion resources

Right Relevance has a great list of concussion / tbi resources at http://www.rightrelevance.com/search/influencers?query=concussion&taccount=concussionsrr&time=1451316933.24 – you need to login to see the whole “batch”, but it’s well worth it!

Good morning, Monday

Hello to the new week

I had a pretty very good weekend. Had a headache yesterday, but it seems to have gone away and is not bothering me right now.

That’s fine. If it were still here, it would be fine, too. Just a distraction, but one I can keep out of my main focus, by using my noggin properly. Zeroing in on what I want to think about, not the constant intrusions from all around me.

The best thing about this past weekend, is that I made a lot of progress, but now I’m not terribly pained about it being over. I’m still making progress with my projects and interests and studies. My days are all pretty much blending together, as I develop a good routine each day to make progress on the things that matter most to me.

I spent a lot of time, actually, getting clear about what I do NOT want to spend a lot of time on. I’ve made lists of my projects over the past several weekends, and I have sorted and prioritized what I want to work on. And I see that I have been distracting myself by getting sidetracked on things that don’t actually help me finish what I’ve started.

So, I have taken a bunch of things off my list of “must do” pastimes, and I’ve turned them into rewards for finishing the things I’ve started. There are a couple of projects I am very eager to start, but they are keeping me from completing what I have already started. So I am treating them like rewards for finishing what I’m doing now. It’s doing wonders for my motivation. Really wanting to move on to the other things is getting my butt in gear to finish what I’ve already started.

I’ve also found some really good books to read. And listen to. I signed up for Scribd, which now has audiobooks included in the subscription. It costs $49/year, which is about $4/month. I can afford that. And what I get out of it is worth far more than $4/month. I’m listening to Sir Richard Branson’s memoirs — he talks about the mistakes he made as a kid, and also not doing well in school, thanks to dyslexia and what would probably be considered ADD. It really is inspiring, and he offers some great tips on what makes a person great — and effective.

Things like being generous. And taking copious notes (by hand). Asking a lot of questions. Being engaged.

Sounds good to me.

Anyway, it’s Monday, and I have an early meeting at the office. Hello and good morning to all.

Onward!

Diving into my brain

Check out what’s in there…

Time to break out the old MRI again. About five years ago, I had a series of weird experiences that other people assured me were seizures. I honestly didn’t know what to think — my eyes would start jumping rhythmically back and forth, I couldn’t keep them focused on any one thing at a time, and I had these extreme and overwhelming floods of emotion that really leveled me. I even went blind for a few minutes, one afternoon while I was spending time with family.

After talking to a bunch of folks, including epilepsy doctors, I had an MRI and an EEG, and nothing came back definitive, other than a pineal cyst — which is common in the general population. About 40% of autopsies uncover a pineal cyst, but it doesn’t seem to make a ton of difference in quality of life, other than headaches and other issues in extreme cases. My pineal cyst was fairly small, so the doctor just told me to keep an eye on it and get re-scanned every couple of years to make sure it’s not getting worse.

I haven’t been back since, as I’m not having any symptoms or issues that seem worth the trouble. Also, the contrast agent they pump into you to make things light up made me sick, and there have been lots of reports of bad side-effects, so no thanks.

Anyway, reading about dopamine and how it’s produced in the body and the parts of the brain that are involved, I’ve dug up the old MRI files to look at, and it’s as fascinating as ever. The thing is, my brain doesn’t look like the textbook images — I must have lay on my back a lot as a baby, because the back of my head is flattened and the cerebellum is pushed forward and up. I have found other images on Google that look like me – and we certainly don’t look like what’s in the Netter’s anatomy book I have.

Fascinating. Not that this means there is anything wrong – it’s just different.

So, anyway, I’m looking at the physical structure of the brain, trying to see where all the action takes place. There’s a ton of stuff going on in there – it’s hard to distinguish between the different pieces, based on my limited knowledge, but I guess the most important thing is that everything is intact — and I have the capacity to explore and question and discover for myself.

That, in itself, gives me a rush, which is exactly what I need.

I need a rush that is for something meaningful and useful. For years, I devoted hours and hours of my time to activities that just took the pressure off and distracted me from what was really going on — writing for hours and hours in journals which never served any useful purpose, other than providing a rhythmic, solitary activity that would soothe my jangled nerves… studying history and obscure facts in order to better understand life around me (had limited success with that)… and drifting from one project to the next, each time convinced that I was going to hit the big time and make a fortune, then dropping each undertaking in due course because I got bored or it didn’t pan out the way I expected. I was really quite aimless — in large part because I only wanted to take the pressure off my head and my heart… not actually do anything with my life.

I suppose it was good for something. The interests and the discipline I developed over the years have stood me in good stead, with researching my TBI issues and figuring out how to address them. So, it wasn’t all for naught. But I spend a whole lot of time doing a whole lot of nothing — mainly because I just needed to take the edge off my anxiety and depression and low energy levels.

Now I’m able to focus that attention and activity in a productive direction. And getting the hang of tweaking my dopamine levels and increasing my general feelings of well-being, is just the ticket. It’s fascinating to me, and that can’t hurt.

So, the day is waiting. The brain is an enormous domain that’s full of all manner of fascinating areas and abilities. Looking at the anatomy can be overwhelming, but when I think about the dynamics of it — just how it works, and how I can better use it — a lot of it makes more sense.

Time to dive back in and get fascinated again.

Onward.

Time for a Serious Re-Set

Getting the gears turning again…

I took a break from public life for the past week to recalibrate and re-balance, and I have to say, it’s been heaven.

I ducked out of sight from all my social circles (including this blog), and I worked on developing some ideas that have been coming to me — fast-n-furious — for about the past month. I haven’t been able to think this clearly since I don’t know when. And the beauty part is, I can both feel the gears turning more cleanly, and it shows in what I’m getting down on paper. I’ve probably written at least a hundred pages of notes over the past week or so, and it’s not bad stuff. It needs a lot of thinking and re-thinking, but the process is good, and I both feel and sound a hell of a lot more clear than I have in many years.

What a relief, to just step away from all the exterior work – even if just for a few days.

I did minimal email checking and answering, I did minimal discussions with recruiters, I kept my head way down at work and just focused on getting things done, and I didn’t pour a whole bunch of time and energy into some of the more social projects I’ve had going on.

The most “extroverted” thing I did all week, was go out on almost-daily walks. Either first thing in the morning before work, or mid-day, when I worked from home or it was a weekend.

I was almost totally focused on “internal” work for the past stretch of days — the kind of introverted thinking and writing that I used to do constantly, before I got hurt in 2004. I used to spend hours and hours, each weekend, just reading and studying and writing and figuring out my world view — a cosmology, if you will — that helped me make sense of my world. Granted, I spent an awful lot of time writing down blather that was very repetitive and not nearly as ground-breaking as I thought at the time, but I do believe that all that soul searching and exploration of the mind really helped to mature and develop me in ways that I don’t see many other people developed. Most people I know actually aren’t much interested in developing their minds and spirits; they’ll settle for being comfortable and feeling loved.

After I fell and injured my brain in 2004, things went haywire. The weird thing is, they didn’t fall apart right away. They gradually came undone over the course of a few years, and by the end of 2005, I had lost my ability to read fluidly — and with it went a lot of interest in things that used to captivate me. By 2007, I wasn’t writing much anymore, and my mind was becoming seriously unhinged.

Fortunately, I got help within another couple of years. If I hadn’t gotten help, I don’t know what would have become of me.

I thought about this a lot, this past weekend. Especially during my walks. I remember all too clearly, how lost I felt, how disconnected, how fragmented I felt. It was like I’d been dropped from the top of a tall building and cracked in a bunch of different places, but those cracks didn’t show up until I’d stressed my system and some of them started to show more than others. Some of those “cracks” were pretty serious, too. There were some parts of my life that I was sure were gone for good, and I’d never get them back.

Reading was one of those things. Studying. Writing, too.

I said good-bye to a lot of friends and activities I regularly participated in, and I thought for sure my job situation was going to suck for the rest of my born days. I didn’t feel like myself, I didn’t recognize myself, and I thought I was a goner, for sure.

But over the past while things have gotten so much better, to the point where I’m actually feeling like myself again. At least, to some extent. There are still parts of me that are missing in action, and I stumble over them now and then — usually when I least expect it. At first, I get angry with myself because I’m clumsy or I can’t think of something or I’m freaking out over stupid stuff.

And then I remember — Oh yeah, I got hurt…

It’s hard to put my finger on that feeling of losing parts of myself and describe it exactly… It comes and goes, but it’s like I don’t recognize the “sense” of myself — like I’m living in someone else’s skin. I don’t have that old sense of self-confidence, self-assurance, that I always had. It feels very uncertain and unstable, like I’m walking across a bog and I don’t know if I’m going to fall through the crust on top and be swallowed by the swamp.

I look around me at things I recognize, but they don’t “feel” familiar to me. They just look like things I recognize, without a sense of where they fit in my life. Some things I’ll pick up — like the items on my desk — and I’ll remember what they once meant to me, but it’s like I’m looking at a movie of my old life from a distance, and I don’t have that same sense of connection with these things anymore. Some things around me, I know I picked up along the way and they used to mean a lot to me, but now I can’t remember where they came from, or what they once meant. All I know is that I recognize them, they are familiar to me, and they give me a sense of continuity and familiarity in my work space. Other things, I’ll suddenly remember — hey, I was looking for that a while back — and I’ll feel better, because I found them. But all in all, my experience of the things in my life is pretty strange.

And I feel completely cut off from what has meaning in my life.

I can’t spend all my time feeling isolated, though. I’ve got to live my life. So, I turn my attention to other things, and I get down to work, creating a new life for myself. That’s what I’ve been doing, lately — creating a new life for myself, and re-learning what parts of my old life I can still use.

Taking time away from the rest of the world, this past week, was part of that process. I got to “reset” my internal compass to match what I wanted to do with myself, instead of being in constant interaction with the “outside world” and all the people around me who don’t share my views, my perspective, my values, or my priorities in life. I’m realizing more and more that the people around me — at work, mostly — are living in a world I left behind years ago, chasing after the trappings of success and money and all that, as though it’s going to save their asses. Looking at their words and actions and priorities, it all seems so futile to me — largely because I went through what they’re going through about 10-15 years ago (unrelated to TBI, by the way), I figured out that I wanted something very, very different for my life, and I diverged from that world of chasing-after and started blazing my own trails.

I’ve been really making an attempt to connect with the people I work with, to give them the benefit of the doubt, to see their humanity, to appreciate their points of view, and to just be kind and gentle with them as much as possible. That’s fine. But where does that leave me? Extending myself a whole heck of a lot, without much reciprocity. My attempts to see their points of view and relate to them, seem to have convinced them that I agree with their points of view and that I share their same value system.

I don’t. They are locked into a self-destructive, petty, irritating way of life that is fragmented, disjointed, conflicted (inside and out), and is making them all very stressed out. They appear to get a charge out of the stresses, and they don’t do much to prevent or mitigate it. They actually seem to thrive on it, which I can relate to — because I was once the same way.

And every day, it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that “getting in synch” with them for the sake of team spirit, is a soul-sucking, mind-wasting frittering away of my time and energy.

Hm.

So, needless to say, it was a most welcome “reset” for me this past week, when I was “unhooked” from that collective stress feeding tank. I really took a lot of time and space for myself, I didn’t get all worked up over TO-DOs that had to get done. Screw it. That can all wait. I didn’t spend a ton of time explaining myself, I didn’t spend a lot of time chasing after my dreams. I just focused on getting my head on straight, I spent a lot of time thinking in ways I haven’t been able to think in years, and I made a ton of progress, just in terms of getting my self back. I can feel it.

I was so busy doing, I didn’t spend a lot of time talking about doing — I just did. And it reminded me how good it feels to take action, instead of talking about the action I’m going to take. It reminded me how good it feels to think things through in the silence and privacy of my own head. It taught me that I can indeed build myself back, piece by piece, till I have a version of myself that I truly feel comfortable with. I can live in my own skin again. It might not be the  exact same skin as before, but at least its mine.

Onward.