#Mobilgeddon works for me

See? The web world did not end.

So, a week ago on April 21, Google released an update to its search algorithm that gives a boost to mobile-friendly pages in their results.

At first, web mavens reacted with dire warnings, as though the end of the world were nigh. Some said over 40% of top websites could get dinged and lose visibility. Yet, over a week later, the collective response has turned into more of a shrug (sorta like Y2K), with people either realizing that they’re doing okay, or they set out to make additional changes that they really should have made, anyway.

For me, I think the results have been favorable. Already, on April 22, the day after, my page views went from numbers that hovered in the mid-200 views per day, to over 300 views per day.

after-mobilegeddon-days

Overall page views – before and after “Mobilegeddon” – click the image to see it full-size

It’s still early, but I’ve seen a 20-35% increase in daily page views that inexplicably happened, starting after 4/21.

after-mobilegeddon-days-4-22-15

Overall page views – the day after “Mobilegeddon” – click the image to see it full-size

And on top of that, it seems that WordPress may have made some changes on their side, because a week later, three days in a row, I had a sizeable boost in traffic – close to 400 views per day. From me doing nothing different from my usual posting – if anything, I’ve been posting less, because I’ve been so danged busy.

after-mobilegeddon-days-4-28-15

Overall page views – the week after “Mobilegeddon” – click the image to see it full-size

So, what does this tell me?

First, WordPress is on top of things.

Despite all their “interesting” choices for how to render their sites that just get in the way for people who aren’t 24 years old with a Mac and a broadband connection, they still manage to keep the platform running. It’s reliable, and considering everything that could go wrong, they do a decent job of keeping up. The fact that my stats jumped another 50 views/day as a result of me doing absolutely nothing different from usual, tells me something happened behind the scenes. It had to be WordPress updates. 50 views a day is not a lot by big-business standards, but it’s 1/5 of my usual 250-views-per-day traffic. I’ll take that 20% boost, thank you very much.

Second, my “content strategy” is working the way I want it to.

I’m just a solitary individual seeking to educate others about concussion / mild traumatic brain injury and provide support to those who suffer from persistent symptoms by sharing my own challenges and successes. I don’t have an editorial calendar, and I don’t do a ton of keyword research and write my content to be super-Google-friendly. I just write what is in my heart and head, and do my best to provide something of value. Considering that I’ve had over 382,000 total views on this site since around 2008, that seems to be getting some notice — and hopefully filling a need.

Third, when it comes to optimizing for a machine, your best friend can be another machine.

That’s what Google is — a machine. It does what it does with an algorithm (a magic formula of logic), and it does it automatically millions, if not billions, of times a day (or hour? or minute?) It “speaks its own language”, and it looks for web pages to be consistently formatted in ways it understands — work which is best done with a platform like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, or some other templated content management system.

Back in the day when I was building web pages by hand, there were very few reliable content management systems available. The ones that were on the market, just sucked. I know, because I evaluated a bunch of them for an employer. None of them were worth the price their inventors were asking. So, you had a vast sea of “creatively” built web pages filling the web — not always by people who knew how to code properly or organize their pages in a way that made sense to anyone them.  Especially not Google.

But nowadays, there are so many content management systems out there, and there is so much need for consistency of design and reliability for all the devices and search engine requirements, it only makes sense to use a content management system like WordPress (or the others I mentioned above).

That goes especially for the hosted versions (like this one), which is continually updated and kept spiffy by the folks behind the scenes. If you know what you’re doing and can keep your WP instance up to snuff with all the continual updates, database backups, etc., then good on ya. But if you’re a solitary blogger trying to get the word out about your ideas, educate others, and provide something valuable that will help others, and you don’t have time to spare to maintain your infrastructure, website platforms that others build and maintain can go a long way towards helping you.

So, “Mobilegeddon” didn’t ding me. If anything, it appears to have helped. So did WordPress, I believe. And that makes it possible for me to help even more people — I hope.

Onward.

Routine and Habit – what helps you recover from TBI / PCS

When you’re recovering from mild TBI or post-concussion syndrome (PCS), having to reinvent the wheel for simple tasks is Enemy #1.

Having to re-think everything that you do, every hour of the day, is a killer. It sucks up critical mental cycles that could be used for other things, and it fills your brain with sludge from exertion. It turns you in to that Sisyphus, that mythical guy who pushed the rock up the hill each day, only to have it roll back down.

If you can create a daily/weekly routine to follow that gets you where you need to go on a regular basis, you can get on autopilot and make some real progress

That’s one of the things that’s been doing a number on me, lately – being off my routine. Starting new things and having to really rethink a lot of assumptions about how I can live my life.

Freedom is a lot closer to me, than I realized.

There’s change in the air. It’s exciting. And with that excitement comes additional work and stress. And I have additional things to do with myself that I need to create a new set of habits for.

So, I’ll do exactly that.

More to come.

Onward.

Knowing when to get out

Gotta know when to make a run for it

I can’t believe it’s Sunday, already. Seems like it was just last Tuesday.

I’ve been pretty tired, over the past week – lots going on. Plus, I’m working out in the mornings again, so that’s making me more tired, on top of everything else that’s going on.

So, I need to factor that in, whenever I go about my business and interact with others. I need to track where and when I’m doing not-so-well, and take steps to correct my situation, when I see/feel myself going awry.

Like this morning. I got to bed late, last night, because I lost track of time in the evening and I had to run out and buy supper late. So, we ate late. And we watched a movie that kept me up till midnight. And true to form, I woke up at 6 a.m. — so, I’m operating on 6 hours of sleep.

Not great. I’m feeling sick, and when I got started this morning, I made the mistake of getting into an extended discussion with my spouse about things that need to be done. I only wanted to make a cup of coffee before I went out on my morning walk. But within minutes, we were both sparring, and the conversation rapidly spiraled downhill, with my spouse perseverating, accusing me of perseverating, followed with angry accusations from them, and finally petulant tears.

I didn’t help matters any, by finding fault. And in the end, I managed to get out for my morning walk and work off the aggravation.

Lesson learned. When I am over-tired and not feeling well, I need to just excuse myself and get out of an angry conversation as soon as humanly possible.

It’s the only way. My spouse has their own neurological issues, which they cannot seem to see, and when we are both tired — like at 6:00 a.m.– and I’m trying to get out of the house for my walk, while they are trying to get me to spend some time with them, it’s a volatile situation that’s just no good.

The crescendo develops in a few predictable ways.

First, I am tired, and when I am tired, I am more irritable.

I’m more likely to get tweaked over every little thing. Something as minor as the sun peeking up over the hill behind my house can set me off… let alone getting sidetracked from my activities by my needy spouse. Plus, when I’m tired, it’s hard for me to think and I am less coordinated, so that irritates me all the more.

Second, to wake myself up, I often use anger.

I discovered this little “trick” about 20 years ago, when I had to get up at 4:00 each morning to drive my spouse to work. I would drop them off and then head over to my job… and as I was driving, I’d start to nod off. I discovered that if I made myself angry about things, it woke me up. And it did it quite effectively. So, I have been doing that for many years, and while it’s effective, it’s also a bad habit I need to break.

Third, my spouse loves to wrangle when they are tired, too.

So, the two of us can rapidly escalate to the same-old-same-old nagging and grousing we’ve been doing for years. When I was 10 years younger, it didn’t bother me as much. But now, it’s just a pain in my ass. And a total waste of time.

And I know better.

So, I need to do better. I got myself out of the house without indulging in more drama. I didn’t go back and try to smooth things over, when the tears of frustration started to flow. I just walked away, because I’ve been pulled into that many, many times. It’s just my spouse’s way of trying to pull me back in, and it never ends up well — for me, anyway. They’ll be fine. They’re just worked up, and they need some time away from me. Just like all the other times, we’ll reconverge later in the day, and things will be fine. I’m not getting into it, just getting on with the day.

I’ll take a quick nap around noon to recharge — and another one later in the afternoon. That will keep me going.

And I’m not going to engage. Because I don’t feel well, I’m fatigued, I’m behind on my sleep, and I still have a lot to do before the next week starts.

Lessons learned — yet again.

ONward.

 

Work makes it worth it

Time to dig in

Time to dig in

I’ve been going-going-going for the past five days, and today is another going-going-going day. I’ve got a lot to fit into my hours, and nothing will wait. It’s just one of those times.

I feel like I’m coming down with a bit of a cold, so I have to take care of myself. I’ve been around a lot of different types of people, over the past days, and some of them have been sick – as in, sneezing-hacking-coughing sick.

No fun.

Also, at the height of the craziness over the weekend, I forgot to take my vitamins, so I can’t imagine that helped. I usually take Vitamin D, B-Complex, B-12, Calcium-Magnesium (it combines well with the D), and Vitamin E. But for several days, I didn’t take them. And on top of that, I ate food that I know I’m allergic to, which did not help. I usually get sick when I eat dairy, and although it’s been a few days since I had that cheese pizza (which was an incredibly bad idea) I’m still feeling the effects.

Anyway, I’ve got a lot going on these days – including my upcoming neurologist appointment on Tuesday May 5. I finally got an appointment. I need to gather my notes about my symptoms to discuss. It’s hard to know which ones matter, and which ones don’t, and I’m not sure how much detail to give. I’ll pull together high points to review, and discuss from there, I guess.

I have never had much success with doctors before. The neurologists I saw in the past were almost deliberately difficult, as though I was suspect from the start. I present well, and nobody really can tell how much difficulty I’m having, so I’ve gotten to the point of not even bothering to try to explain myself or communicate what I’m experiencing to others.

The one exception to this is with my writing. I guess I’ve  just been doing it so long, that I’m able to get more across in the written word. At least, it feels that way to me. Too bad my doctors don’t/won’t read what I have to say. There’s a lot of nuance in my situation, a lot of fluidly, shifting conditions that come and go and aren’t easily controlled with a pill or a shot. It’s subtle and it’s confusing and it changes without warning, at times.

So, what good can modern medicine / healthcare – so hurried, so oversimplified, so formula-driven – possibly do me? … Well, imaging, for one. A doctor can order a scan that will speak volumes about my situation — will it kill me, or won’t it? … But beyond that,

Talking things through with a doctor — including my neuropsych — is another story. The words just don’t get through. Which worries me and puts me on edge about this upcoming appointment in about 2 weeks. Is anything that I say going to make sense? And are they going to believe me, when I tell them what my experience is like? Will they dismiss me, like so many others? Will my time with them be wasted… and the whole thing turns into another “diagnostic adventure” that quickly devolves to a medical boondoggle?

Well, whatever happens, the bottom line is, it’s not the end of the world. If it turns out to be not-so-helpful, I’ll just walk away and get on with my life and find other ways to handle things. I have bigger issues to deal with, besides medical ones.

The main one being Work. It’s quite the roller-coaster at work, these days, with tons of uncertainty. But my Work is keeping me grounded and sane. The projects I have going are really shaping up nicely, and it’s keeping me engaged on a level I need to be engaged.

I had gotten really bogged down in other people’s “stuff” at work, but this past week has shown me that I don’t need to get stuck in what bothers them. What gets my imagination going and keeps my spirits up, is what I should be “stuck” in. Focusing on the Work I do, for its own sake, is really liberating. When I focus on doing my tasks at work, as though they are part of my own business, and as though they are taking me towards something bigger and better, it makes it all tolerable. The difficulties I go through are training for later — because sure as anything, there’s no way my life is going to get a whole lot simpler, any time soon.

So, I might as well get used to handling all the excitement.

Anyway, that’s the thought for the day — Work, in and of itself, is what truly gets me going, and it’s there that I can (and will) keep my focus today.

Onward.

Can a concussion make you not think?

Working Hard… getting nowhere

Someone found their way here to this site yesterday by searching for an answer to this question.

Can a concussion make you not think?

Why yes, yes it can.

With a concussion, your brain has got its wires crossed, and that can be distracting.  Already complex tasks become even more complicated, because in some ways your brain needs to figure out exactly what it needs to do, all over again.

Also, concussion can really do a job on your impulse control, causing you to say and do things that you used to stop and think before doing. Weird things can come out of your mouth, that’s for sure. And even you may be surprised at “who” is talking.

The other part of concussion, is that it can make you more distractable, so you may not pick up every clue and cue that is being sent your way. So, you might get distracted for a moment and not notice a signal that used to stop you from doing something — like a tone of voice or an actual traffic signal.

Your brain is working really hard, trying to sort things out… but it keeps missing things that it should get.

It’s thinking … about the wrong details, or it’s not realizing it needs to think about more information that what’s getting through.

But to everyone else (and maybe you, as well), it seems like you’re just not thinking.

{Sigh}

Not in the mood today

TBI Myth #4: The Lourdes Phenomenon (or... Don't Expect Miracles)

Monday… again?

It’s Monday, and normally this does not bother me.

But today, I’m not feeling it. I think it was the long walk in the woods yesterday that was so excellent, I did not want to come out.

That, and the continuous drudgery of my work. Right now, it’s pretty much of a slog, and I’m not feeling all that inspired or motivated. Not that it should matter — I always do what needs to be done — but today got off to a rough start, from the moment I woke up.

One of the things that’s on my mind and dragging me down, is that I have a neuro appointment coming up in a month. Glory be… I guess. I want to make sure the tremors and headaches I’m having are not something serious to be concerned over, and it would be nice if I could get a break from the pain… so I need to go. I’m actually looking forward to going.

Except that now I have to be all cogent and what-not, and be able to communicate. I haven’t been feeling all that coherent, lately, and I’ve run into some “speed bumps” with my neuropsych, who persists in interpreting my symptoms as primarily psychological, rather that neurological or biochemical or physiological. So, I feel like a head-case when I talk to them. And they’re compiling a “comprehensive” profile of me… which makes me incredibly nervous that my neuro will head off in the wrong direction and I’ll end up on yet another boondoggle, like I did 25 years ago after a car accident when I was wiped out with chronic pain.

Oh, screw it. I’m going to work. I’m going to focus on what’s in front of me, and let that be that. I’ll cross the next bridge when I come to it. Main thing is that I stay rested and drink plenty of water.

On-ward.

A few quick visualizations of TBI data

From 2001-2010, sourced from the CDC and BIA USA

bi-types-incidence-2012

Types of Brain Injury – TBI happens nearly twice as often as other kinds of brain injury (of course, this is only what’s reported)

tbi-deaths-2001-2010

Total reported deaths from TBI from 2001-2010 – Note: this does NOT show all the unreported deaths.

tbi-causes-2012

What causes TBI?

The long, slow road back from TBI

Making my way along this road … as best as I can

Last night, everything kind of caught up with me. For some reason, I was so desperately sad and felt like I was giving up. I don’t know where that “came from” — I had a pretty good weekend, and I took it easy, did things I wanted to do, and I got a couple of much-needed naps in.

But by Sunday night, I was just so sad… feeling washed up, small and vulnerable. And I wept inexplicable, bitter, mournful tears for some time, before I finally went to sleep.

One of the things that pulled me down was actually a good new development in my life – cutting out all the busy-ness to keep my mind and attention occupied. I have used the stress of loading up on tons of projects to not think about the pain I’m in… get my mind off the confusion I feel… give myself some direction and hope for the future. Over the past week, I have realized just how fruitless this approach ultimately is. It actually keeps me from completing anything, and the purpose of it is not to accomplish, but rather to keep busy.

Some people use video games and Facebook to take the edge off their existential angst. I use projects.

And ultimately, we all come back to the same conclusion — everything ends, in the end, and we have nothing personally to show for it. Yes, we may make some amazing contribution to the world, but honestly, you never know how your work is going to impact anyone, and you never even know if people are going to really “get” what you’re doing.

So, for me, the only thing to do is focus on the present, what’s right here in front of me, and really soak it all up as best I can, so that my life experience is full and rich.

Reading that sentence I just wrote, it sounds like I’m giving up… that this “only thing” is a capitulation of sorts… a surrender to the anonymity and pointlessness of life. But it’s not that, actually. I may feel like I’m giving up inside, but this approach is actually the thing that can save me — it’s the thing that has saved me on this road to recovery. For all the different rehabilitation techniques used by professionals, it seems to me that the most useful and most important approach — which we can all use ourselves — is to pay intent, rapt attention to the world around us, really get involved with that world, and bring ourselves along with that attention.

There are a number of reasons I believe this works.

First, it trains you to pay attention.TBI makes you extremely distractable and vulnerable to overwhelm, so you have to build back the neural networks that make that possible. It doesn’t happen overnight, so you have to keep at it, keep trying it.

Some people meditate, which has been shown to really strengthen the brain in important ways. For me, sitting for long periods of time is both uncomfortable and cuts into the free time I have to do things I love to do (instead of what I have to do for my job), so I choose to focus on the amazing world around me, instead.

Second, it slows you down, which we all need to do,TBI or no.

Too much busy-ness makes us more prone to fight-flight tendencies, and that blocks our brain’s ability to learn. TBI recovery is all about re-teaching your brain to do things that used to come naturally, so if you can’t learn because you’re constantly marinating in adrenaline and cortisol and a bunch of other stress hormones, it will make your recovery more difficult.

Third, concentrating intently for periods of time on things that you enjoy watching (or love to do) develops new pathways in our brains.

You have to take frequent breaks, so you don’t wear yourself out and make things worse in the long run, but finding something that really grabs your attention and exploring that, experiencing it, and really getting into it, does wonders for an addled mind.

And last but never least, repeating those same activities at regular intervals makes those pathways permanent in ways that restore our Sense Of Self and make us feel like ourselves again.

The things we do over and over again — the thoughts we think, the feelings we feel, the activities we pursue — all make us what we are. They let us recognize ourselves over time. Repetition promotes familiarity and mastery. Mastery feels great. Feeling a sense of mastery and familiarity does wonders for your Sense Of Self, your self-confidence, your self-esteem.

Even something as simple as sitting still and watching the colors of the sky change during a sunrise or sunset, can bring you back to yourself. You just have to do it with all your heart and soul. And get plenty of rest in the process. It is a long and winding road, and you have to be careful that you don’t fall into the cracks and chasms along the way. You’re gonna fall in, now and then, but you can pull yourself out once more. That’s just how it goes with TBI recovery.

Or maybe any recovery, for that matter.

In the end, for all the advancements in rehabilitation and all the different approaches you can take to get yourself back, there’s nothing like just living your life and letting all the lessons sink in, to get you on down that road. There’s no guarantee that the road is ultimately going to be perfect. Life does what it will do. But we can definitely develop the skills to roll with it and handle it in ways that make us proud and happy and feeling — at least somewhat — like ourselves again.

“What are your goals for care, and how can I help you to get there?”

The road to recovery … long, winding, not always with an end in sight

This is the question just about every patient wishes their doctor or other healthcare provider(s) would ask them.

But they rarely – if ever – do.

I’ve never been asked this question myself, and I wish to high heaven I had been.

It would have gotten me thinking. And that would have been a good thing. Because it would have gotten me thinking about the right thing(s), from the get-go.

What did I want from care, and how did I want my healthcare provider(s) to help me get there?

I rarely, if ever, thought in such specific terms — partly because I didn’t have much past success with A) identifying goals, and B) achieving them. Outcomes were something general, something approximate, that amounted basically to “I just want to feel better,” without ever fully realizing what “better” meant, or how it would really feel to be that way. Expecially with TBI, everything was such a blur, such a source of confusion. But if you asked me a specific question and gave me something focused to react to… then I had a fighting chance.

More than 10 years after my last TBI, I can hardly believe what a difference an active recovery has made. It’s like night and day, compared to how I was before. Yes, I still have my issues, but now I know how to handle them, and they’re not as much of a killer as they were before.

There have been specific things that have helped me:

  1. Actually realizing that I was struggling with issues related to mild TBI.
  2. Learning about the details of those issues and understanding how they affected me each day.
  3. Actively working, each day, to come to terms with them, work through them, and learn to live better, a little bit at a time. Keeping notes. Or not keeping notes. Tracking the results of things I try, and trying again when things get screwed up.
  4. Having someone to talk to regularly about my life, focusing on my progress and positive experiences. Just practicing talking to someone on a regular basis — someone who is not in my immediate social circle, who is interested in the same sorts of things that I am — philosophy, quantum physics, human performance — that has been hugely helpful for me.
  5. Blogging about the things I have a hard time discussing out loud.

I’ve been looking back and past posts I’ve done, and it’s pretty amazing how much things have improved with me over the past seven years. I started blogging in earnest in 2008, and reading what I wrote then sounds like reading what a child wrote, years ago.

I guess I was a case of arrested development, back then. Really cut off from the world, by choice as well as by default. Overwhelmed. Unsure. On the defensive about, well, everything. On my own, in more ways than one.

Anyway, I seem to have veered away from my original topic — what healthcare providers could/should ask us about what we want and how they can help. I guess my point is really that through it all, I’ve had to help myself. And that hasn’t been all bad. I’m not sure my neuropsych or doctors have had a clue what was really going on with me in my experience. Whatever. I knew. And I dealt with it, when they couldn’t (or wouldn’t).

In any case, I’m a whole lot better now. Getting back to myself. Getting back my Sense Of Self. Slow going, but at least it’s going… Whether or not anyone is offering to help me in a professional capacity.

ON-ward.

Not for the faint of heart

The path must be there somewhere

The path must be there somewhere

I’ve been thinking a lot about my recovery, lately. What I lost to TBI, what I’ve gotten back, and where I go from here.

Scratch that. Yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about it, but thinking is not the point.

Living is.

Looking back at where I was, just a few years ago, it amazes me that I was as functional as I was. I mean, even just five years ago, I was grappling with all kinds of crap like intense mood swings that would completely wreck my day, and a ton of money troubles — creditors calling me constantly, threatening to take me to court — and some of them succeeding.

I landed in court at least twice (maybe three times?) that I can remember, and I totally screwed up one of the appearances, where I didn’t realize I needed to go into the actual courtroom. Even though I was sitting right outside, they logged me as a did-not-appear, which didn’t do much for my case.

Oh well. That’s over now. Don’t plan to go back there again.

Anyway, everything was so turned around, and it was literally all I could do, to keep up. I was in constant reaction-mode, constantly pushing, constantly fighting, constantly going against a grain of one kind or another. I was off my moorings, cut loose from the life I’d once known, and I was dealing with my spouse’s illness, as well.

All this, while having no real sense of who I was, or what I was about. I was on auto-pilot, just hacking my way through the weeds. And there didn’t seem to be a clear path.

To anywhere.

Now things are different. Very, very different. And I’m coming out of the jungle with a clearer view of where to go. It’s like I can actually see a path in front of me. It’s not ideal, but it’s still a path.

That's more like it

That’s more like it

And I’m still walking. Running, now and then. I’m also making progress, each and every day. I just need to make sure I get enough rest and good food, to keep going. That means real food, not a handful of candy and junk food at 3:00 in the afternoon. That sh*t will do me in.

Anyway, life goes on. I’m putting some distance between my past and present, and that’s giving me some needed perspective. I was so caught up in just getting through, so turned around, so uncertain about how to live my life.

All the things that had seemed so familiar to me — the old ways of thinking and doing and being seemed to be smashed to smithereens. From the simplest of activities like brushing my teeth and coming my hair in the morning, to making breakfast, to what I did for work each day… all of it morphed into something different and unrecognizable.

And it was really hell.

I think the hardest thing was losing my innate skill with little simple things, like being able to hold things without having to think about it. Dropping stuff all the time did a number on my self-confidence, and I couldn’t figure out how to get it all back. I just felt so stupid, so dumb, so inept. The simplest things were challenges for me, and I didn’t understand why they were hard for me.

That just stressed me out, and stress biochemistry does a number on your ability to learn.

More stress meant it took longer for me to re-learn, to re-train my body and brain, and it just prolonged everything. I didn’t understand the nature of my problems. All I could see was that I had those problems — or rather, they had me — and there didn’t seem to be any escaping it.

Now I know better, of course, but it’s been a long, hard road. And frankly, it’s sucked.

It was lonely. It still is lonely. Because nobody seems to understand what it’s like to actually lose your Sense-Of-Self. What it does to you. What it does to the people around you. How much it takes out of you, day in and day out, to have to reconstruct your life. I’ve rebuilt a huge amount of aspects of my life as I once knew it, but to be honest, I still know that I’m not the same person I used to be. And while I’m “close enough”, still…

I don’t feel the same way as I used to — about my life, about living my life, about, well, most things. And that loss of Self, that loss of the Sense of My Self, has been the hardest thing to overcome. I know how to rebuild. I know what it takes. But it’s still not easy, and most days, I’d rather not have to.

There’s a reason people don’t readily jump into finding out what it’s like to recover from a TBI. Or Concussion. Or stroke. Or brain aneurism. Or encephalitis. It scares the bejesus out of them to think that the brain can change as dramatically as that, and they just don’t want to think about it.

Some of us have to do this work. But it’s not for the faint of heart.