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.

 

Laser in, work it out, rest up, and repeat

One of the common problems after TBI/Concussion, is fatigue.

It can be a killer… especially because we can become fatigued from (over)doing things we really love and that make us happy.

When our brains become fatigued, they become more distractable. And when we are more distractable, we can end up expending valuable energy in many different directions.

Which means the limited energy we have is further dissipated. And that’s no good.

That’s where I am right now. Really tired out from four very intense days. I thought today would be easier, but it was actually packed full, with a lot going on. And now I am beat. One of the projects I was on at work got presented to senior leadership, and the president and CEO of the company was there — and liked it very much. My team members really got some good time with the Pres/CEO. I was worn out and couldn’t stay, but I’m glad the rest of them got to hang out with the top brass.

Anyway, I’m winding down, now, feeling pretty good about this week overall. I’m really excited because a project I started back in 1999, that has gone through many different iterations, is coming around again in a big and beneficial way. It’s pretty exciting, to tell the truth, and I’m diving back into it with more realism and fervor than ever before. Not only do I have more energy, but it’s much better educated and better organized than ever.

It’s very exciting.

And I need to pace myself so that I don’t burn out. I need to take things very steadily, very systematically, and not let things flare wildly out of control. I can so easily let myself get carried away by all the excitement, that I wear myself down and end up wrecking my progress. And then I’m worse off than before.

And then I get down on myself.

And then I end up even worse off than back at Square One.

Let’s not do that again, shall we?

So, my path is clear. I know what I want to be when I grow up — at least for the next few years. And I can relax now. I’m both excited and relieved. I can see a way out of my malaise and morass.

Laser in, work it out, rest up, and repeat.

Onward.

But first, a good dinner and a full night’s sleep.

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}

I can hear the Glenn Miller Band playing “In The Mood”

Or should it be “In A Mood”…?  I am in such a terrible mood, these days, it’s not even funny.

Fortunately, I know it, so I’ll spare you my emotional ups and downs.They’re artificial, really. Not based on anything substantive, other than that I’m extremely tired and over-taxed, and there is a lot of change going on at work.

Very little of which seems to be managed well. By others, or by me.

No, scratch that. I am handling it all pretty well — all things considered.

I’m just very, very tired and wading through unknown territory as best I can. I have to be careful that I don’t let my physical state trick my mind into believing that I’m worse off than I am. That happens to me all the time, and for years it really messed me up, because I interpreted feeling bad as being bad.  Not the same thing. Not even close.

I might as well get used to this, because the way things are going for me, it’s not going to get easier or simpler, anytime soon. The people in charge are seeing what I can do under really challenging circumstances, which will only bode well for me, job-wise. So, in that respect, things are good. At the same time, if nobody else is stepping up except for me… well, you get the picture.

Getting ahead of myself, though. Way ahead of myself.

The wild thing is, things are actually going really, really well for me. When I step back and take a look from 30,000 feet up, and I can disengage from all my internal angst — not to mention the pain and confusion and frustration I’m in — things are looking great. But my biochemistry is completely out of whack, and I’ve been running on adrenaline for a bit too long.

So, screw it. Just keep going. I’m sure everything will brighten up, on down the line. It just feels like I’m not making headway, my spouse is perpetually under the weather, I have too much on my plate, the new car is having issues, and I’m feeling pressured all over again in a multitude of ways.

Okay, I’ll stop now. That’s enough for one morning. Time to just get moving and do something about this.

Taxes, Healthcare, Day-to-Day Tangled Messes – Complexity as a form of social control

Got ‘er done

I finished my taxes last night.

Hoo

Ray.

Now, I need to refile some other taxes which I messed up in years past. I figure, I’m still in tax-filing mode, so why not?

I messed up, years ago, thanks to a number of factors — not least of which was my TBI in 2004. I just wasn’t doing that great at handling complexity. Even with my tax prep software, just collecting everything together and organizing myself was a monumental task.

I managed to do it, but I did it wrong.

And that really messed with my head.

It messed with me so completely, that I missed the re-filing deadline last year, and I missed out on recouping thousands of dollars that I really needed. That’s on me – I should have reached out for help, but I didn’t. I guess my pride got the better of me on that one.

Anyway, now I’m busting my hump, trying to get myself into the frame of mind that will let me finally do these remaining taxes.  Git ‘er done, you know? And considering how challenging it is for me, I can only imagine how challenging it is for others who are in much worse shape than I am.

And it occurs to me that the powers that be probably profit handsomely from our confusion. We pay too much, because we don’t understand how to navigate the hidden complexities that could give us an advantage. We don’t get the refunds we deserve, because everything is far too complicated for us to grasp, and we don’t always know where to turn for help. When we do manage to reach out for help, we’re still screwed, because we may not know how to talk to the person(s) who are helping us. We might not be able to communicate our situation, and so we don’t get the assistance we need.

This can apply to taxes, healthcare, and just about every other complicated thing in life. Especially where older and/or cognitively impaired folks are involved. Seeing what my spouse went through after their car accident, where they totaled our van and had to talk to all sorts of insurance folks and navigate the healthcare system, made it all the more clear to me just how disadvantaged people can be… simply because everything is so hugely complicated.

If you don’t think the way the people in charge think, you’re so out of luck. You’re on your own, really — this is America, after all. And unless you learn how to fend for yourself, you’re pretty much out of luck. On the one hand, this is great incentive for people who have that kind of orientation and are able to adapt and learn — or at least take a beating and keep on going to fight another day. But for people who are genuinely impaired and who need assistance… well, shit. You’re just out of luck.

Now, this is not to excuse people who just can’t be bothered to get up off their asses and make something of themselves. We all know people like that — who use every excuse to get themselves off the hook and not live up to their potential.

This is about recognizing that not everyone has the same skill level or capacity to think things through and navigate tricky situations, as the people who design the convoluted systems of our lives. It’s about recognizing that the way things are structured, these days, has become so specialized and so professionalized, that everyday people are being cut out of their own world. If you’re not professionally trained or you don’t have access to assistance from someone who knows (or can figure out) the whole system, you’re pretty much screwed.

Of course, there are plenty of people who will help — for a fee. There are also people who will help for free.  But it’s not always easy to find them. And you may not know exactly what to ask or what you need help with, when find them.

All of which seems like a really cool way to “manage” society — split our culture into levels and classes, putting the people who organize things at the top, people who can figure things out in the middle, and people who can’t make sense of any of it, at the very bottom. I’ve been in all three classes, over the course of my life — as many of us are, in a variety of ways — and scraping the bottom of the barrel is no fun at all.

The thing I can’t help but keep coming back to, is the idea of how much money the federal government makes off us, how much power they hold, and how much they do, simply because they’ve created a system that’s far too complicated for any average, normal person to get their head around. If everyone understood how the tax code works and had the wherewithal to get every penny back that they are owed, how different would things be?

I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe it wouldn’t be that different from how things are now. Some people are naturally inclined to amass power and abuse their position. And those people tend to gravitate towards powerful positions. Even if we did get rid of the god-awful tax code and went to a flat tax for all (which I strongly support, by the way), there would still be people who would seek out positions of power and control in other ways. Maybe having a convoluted tax code serves as an outlet for people who absolutely crave the experience of screwing everyone over, and it keeps them from branching out into other areas, thus sparing us their sickness of mind and spirit in other more obnoxious ways.

In any case, the whole system is a screwed-up mess in more ways than any of us knows. For me, rather than tilting at the windmills of social injustice, I’m fending for myself. For many, many years when I was younger, I was bound and determined to change the overall system. That got me nowhere.

Now I’m focused on building up my own skills and becoming as self-sufficient and independent as humanly possible. The things that would give me an advantage in the world — namely, a college degree and social connections to people who can be of assistance to me — are pretty much out of reach. I doubt I’ll ever have the time or money to go back to school and put in two years of academic work required to get a degree. And fatigue and exhaustion are such major factors with me, that I am absolutely done by the end of each day. And I spend my weekends just getting back up to normal speed. So, I don’t have the energy for socializing and getting into the circles of people who can help me get ahead.

Even if I could do all that, I’m not sure I’d want to. I think those ships have sailed for me, and I’ve gotten so accustomed to making my own way, it suits me now. I don’t want to be in the midst of a corrupt and corrupting system. I need to be on the outside, making my own way IN my own way. It works for me. And from what I see of the people around me, it works better for me, than it does for them.

Anyway, I’ve got a full day ahead of me, so I’ll sign off now. With any luck, by the end of today, I’ll have a prior year’s taxes refiled and I’ll be able to check that off my list.

Onward.

5 ways mental slowness is less of a problem

For the past month or so, I’ve been feeling mentally slower than I’d like. Almost as though I was wading through mud. I tried explaining it to my neuropsych, but I didn’t do a very good job of it.

This week, though, things have seemingly lifted off me. And while I’m not feeling 100%, per se, I’m not feeling as burdened by my slowness as I was before.

First, I’m not feeling as slow as I was a few weeks back.

I started exercising again. That might have something to do with it. Either it’s getting my mind off things, or I’m genuinely feeling healthier. I think it’s the latter. In addition to not feeling as slow I as I was… I’m also feeling comparatively sharper than a lot of people around me. I’ve been watching others around me, and they are not holding up very well. So, I know it’s not just me. And that makes me feel a lot less self-conscious.

Second, I’ve got too much going on, to notice how slowed down I am.

I am doing so much that’s new for me, these days — or that is a combination of old things that are showing up in new ways, that I almost have no way of knowing if I’m actually thinking more slowly than usual, or if I’m just taking my time to make sure I don’t miss anything.

Third, I realize that my old “need for speed” was pretty much of an illusion.

I had it in my head that I needed to be going 500 mph all the time, when in fact “haste makes waste” and I was bumbling all over the place, screwing up, messing things up so royally that I was constantly scrambling to catch up. I wasn’t necessarily operating at a higher speed, I was having to back-track and retrace my steps a whole lot, which had me in a frenzied panic state, a lot of time. I thought it was speed, but it really wasn’t.

Fourth, I’ve realized that while my processing speed may be slower than it used to be, that has its advantages – namely, that I can slow down to sift through more information.

I’m 10 years older than I was when I had my last TBI. And a whole lot has happened to me, since that time. I’ve been through a lot of upheaval and struggle, and I’ve had some big wins and losses along the way. I now have more “data” to sift through in my head, and that means it’s going to take me longer to put things in order and make sense of them. Even if I’d never gotten clunked on the head along the way, I would still need more time to parse through everything and make sense out of it.

Fifth, I may feel slow today, but I am pretty sure that can change.

I haven’t been sleeping as well as I should, and I know that has an effect. It’s also been a long winter, and I’m foggy and dull. I have seen my mental performance turn around in the past, and with the right hygiene and exercise and just getting all the gunk out, I know from past experience that that can have a positive effect on me.

I’ll just keep trying. Everything changes, and this can get better. I just need to keep a positive attitude, use my head, not be stupid about my sleeping habits, and do the best I can each day.

Somehow, it works out.

Adversity is my friend, this week

Up and over

This has been an extraordinarily challenging week. Thursday and Friday, especially. All sorts of stuff “blew up” at work — most of the drama being emotional.

Hm. I know all about that. Over the years of struggling with unexpected behaviors and results after my fall and mild TBI in 2004, I’ve had more than my fair share of meltdowns, freak-outs, blow-ups, and countless hours of feeling like a miserable piece o’ sh*t for long stretches of time.

The positive outcome of all this (now that I’ve learned how to modulate my inner state – which, I can tell you, has not been easy) is that I am much less thrown off by intensity and seemingly impossible situations. I’ve already been to the depths of that pit, and I know how to pull myself out of it.

And in the process, I can pull others out of their tailspins, as well. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of days — keeping a cool head, so I could do a “knowledge transfer” from someone who was leaving the company — and was the very last person in their group to leave, effectively taking all the resident expertise with them.

{insert big sad face emoticon here}

Anyway, everyone has been pulling a “nutty” and freaking out — yelling at each other, slamming their hands on desks, and spinning in circles — because a few key people in management didn’t put two and two together, and they got caught out with a big massive gaping hole in their staff.

Ooops.

Oh, well.

So, I got pulled into the mix, because I actually have years of experience doing the sort of thing the departing individual did on a daily basis. I used to do it everyday, in fact, and it surprised me that nobody reached out to me to loop me in.

Of course, I was all booked up with another massive project that has been nearly going off the rails, on and off, for the past few months — in no small part because management is making decisions that negatively impact the lot of us, without so much as an explanation why, or providing any sort of support for our transitions.

Oh, well.

Anyway, the good news is that I’m a contractor, so no matter what goes down, I still get paid, and this sh*tstorm can’t hurt my future prospects. All it’s done is given me opportunity to get involved in the kind of work I’ve been wanting to do for some time, now, but haven’t been able to.

Plus, I figured out how to automate a seriously drudge-work task yesterday, and I’m working today on programming a tool that will save the sanity of many people to come after me.

So yes, this is not so bad, after all. I get to step up and save the day, I get to be the hero, and I get to expand my skillset — in a practical professional manner, in a way that goes right on my resume (woo hoo). This just makes me stronger, in the long run, because it shows that I can rise to the occasion and keep my cool in the midst of a mess… and come out with a solution that works for everyone.

And to be perfectly honest, if I hadn’t spent years in the pit of despair, not knowing how to pull myself out, stuck in my fight-flight sympathetic nervous system overload “soup”, I wouldn’t be able to keep calm, right now. I have developed some serious skills over the years, at handling these sorts of experiences, with varying degrees of success. And actually, nothing that has happened to me over the past few days has come anywhere near close to the level of distress, panic, anxiety, and meltdown that I used to experience on a regular basis.

Compared to the emotional upheaval I used to marinate in on a regular basis, this is relatively minor.

Which just makes me look good. Calm in the midst of the storm. So much calm, in fact, that I’m going to build a little app that will offload a sh*t-ton of manual drudge-work from the hapless soul who has to do it in the future.

So there.

I’m pretty wiped out from the past few days, but I’m energized by the programming I’m going to get to do, and it’s all good. Just have to pace myself and catch up on my sleep.

For sure.

Onward.

 

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.