Now is not the time to make any major decisions

When I woke up this morning, I wanted to:

  • divorce my spouse
  • quit my job
  • take off down the road
  • change my name
  • work my way across the country, moving from town to town, earning enough to survive on by fixing people’s websites, washing dishes in restaurants, and doing odd jobs

Every now and then I have this same impulse, and it usually involves getting a stray dog and a beaten-up old pickup. Somehow, it all seems so much… better... than what I have going on in my life now.

Then I think about winter. And I think about getting robbed. I also think about not being able to shower for days on end, and what that might mean for my job prospects.

And I realize how very tired I am.

The past several weeks of going non-stop has torn the heck out of my system. I’m definitely not myself, these days. Oh, I’m myself — but the parts of myself that I can usually manage to moderate when I’m reasonably rested, are jumping out all over the place, like they do when I am on Prednisone. Steroids make me a crazy-person, and so does stress and lack of sleep.

So, I need to factor this all into my world view. And not make any major decisions until I can sit up straight for extended periods of time and walk a straight line when I get up, without needing to rely on this adrenaline rush to keep me functional.

In 24 hours, I will be on vacation. This is good. I will have a full week to unwind, do absolutely nothing at all, if I so choose, and only do the things I really want to do. There will be none of this jumping to assist someone who has brought misfortune to themself and everyone around them… none of this fixing things that others break… none of this covering for people who are not interested in doing a complete job… none of this working overtime to decipher and accommodate unreasonable requests.

At least, I hope not.

But if there is, I will have had plenty of sleep to keep up with it all.

My plan… Sleep, get up and eat breakfast, go for a walk outside, stretch and exercise, come back to the beach house and relax… then sleep again.

Sounds good to me.

I will also have time to read up on some of the things I have been unable to get to, because of my schedule. I have some really interesting reading I’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t been able to, because of the mind-numbing stupidity at work. Seriously, the work is so mindless and rudimentary, it has not helped me at all. Plus, I’m surrounded by people who are far more consumed with food and shelter and feathering their nests, than with the intricacies of the human condition.

Looking back, I can see how the last three years have really dumbed me down — a lot. No, not dumbed *me* down, but the quality of conversations each day haven’t really held a lot for me, intelligence-wise. Come to think of it, my neuropsych is the one person I’ve been able to talk to about really transforming my life, at a level that I’m comfortable at. We’ve had some seriously good discussions — some of which have irritated the crap out of me, but that irritation has helped me define further in my own mind the things that I truly believe.

So, that’s been helpful. But I’m in serious need of more frequent mental stimulation than that — and along different lines than what to eat and how to fix up your house.

And for the next week, I can get exactly that — more stimulation of the type I need. I’ll have time to unwind and let my mind expand… get uncrimped from the contortions it’s been going through, and go in directions that are of my choosing, rather than necessity. I know, deep down inside, that I can make any situation into anything I want, yet I’ve been so tired lately, I haven’t had the ability to think outside the little box that I seem to be in.

So yeah, now is not the time to decide to change my life wholesale. It’s not the time to make any major decisions about relationships, work, living situations, or really any major aspect of my existence. It’s time to kick back, take stock, think about what I truly want my life to be like — what sort of qualities I want it to have — and give myself the freedom to just feel good in general.

Rest and relax. Unwind. Uncrimp. I’m sure there are better times ahead for me, I just need to make certain I don’t jump the gun and burn a bunch of bridges… and make things worse for me, just because I’m stressed and tired.

Onward.

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Worn OUT

Oh, man, I am so beat. This week has been a roller-coaster, and I’m wiped out. I still have a full day of work to go, and I’m not happy about it.

It’s been good, though. I’ve gotten a ton of important things done, and I’ve made excellent progress. I’ve been adjusting my mindset, as I go, disregarding all those little messages that keep going through my mind that cause me to doubt and question myself and my abilities.

Sometimes, it’s not about adding in more good things. Sometimes it’s about removing the bad things, and letting the good things just be. I waste a whole lot of time doing damage control from bad habits of thought and action. What if — just what if — I didn’t do/think some of those things, and didn’t have to spend the energy sorting out the fallout?

These are the kinds of things I’m figuring out, these days, and it’s hugely helpful. That, and reading books and watching videos about people who do extraordinary things.  That’s giving me a huge kick in the butt. And it gets me out of my “grandmaster funk,” as I call it.

Yeah, motivation and inspiration is turning out to be so important for me. I’ve always been into self-improvement and better performance, and I’ve always had a thing for a good motivational speech. Some of the turning points in my life have come after hearing or reading a motivational individual share their experience. I’ve done myself a huge favor by “liking” a bunch of Facebook pages that are all about motivation – especially sports motivation. They give me a much-needed kick in the a$$, and then I can pass them along to others.

They seem to appreciate it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have some motivation when they get on FB? Keepin’ it positive feels pretty great.

I’m also hoping to get in a nap today. I’ve been stepping away around lunchtimes, now and then, to listen to my relaxation audio and rest. It’s been good even half an hour has a positive effect on me. Right now, all I can think about is sleeping, which is not good. I have an important meeting in half an hour, and I have a bunch of things I need to get squared away pronto.

So, I guess I’ll have that cup of coffee now. I had some strong tea, this morning, hoping to get myself off the whole coffee habit. But I’ve picked a bad day to do that.

Time to get that coffee and get into the day and see what I can find that moves me in the right direction.

Onward.

Stop. Then go.

Ready, set...

I’m taking some more time tonight to step back and take stock of my situation with work. This is important. I get so caught up in my doing-doing-doing, that I tend to lose sight of the larger picture. I took the day yesterday to do this, and it was good. It gave me some much-needed perspective, and that was good.

I know it’s not in my job description to step away, now and then, to take stock, but I feel like I’ve got to, nearly a year into this job.

Actually, maybe it is in my job description to do this – not explicitly, but it’s implied that I’ll do what I need to do, to ensure I’m doing the best I possibly can. And if that means taking some time to step away, then so be it. I just can’t get stuck in taking breaks, that I don’t actually come back online.

Like yesterday – I stepped away for half an hour, mid-day, to rest and relax. It was pretty good. I need to remember to take some extra clothes to change into when I lie down, because I got up looking a bit rumpled, and that’s no good. This mid-day nap business is going to take some getting used to. But I know I need to do it, because my sleeping schedule is shifting, and I need to get enough rest to keep going all day long, without having to pump myself with caffeine from morning till night. I get too wired, and my stomach hurts me.

Anyway, after my nap, I was feeling pretty good. Relaxed. Then I had a meeting with my boss’es boss, and they (in their usual form) were ON. They seem to have this as their new persona at work — being Way On — bad-ass, tough, pushy, aggressive. It’s ironic, because at the start, they were anything but… but I think their boss has been putting pressure on them to become a bad-ass, for whatever reason. Maybe they think it delivers better results?

Nah. It just puts everyone on edge and makes us all more prone to mistakes and oversights… which is what’s been happening. I don’t think they see it, though. They think there’s something wrong with us, that we’re not performing properly. Hm. Certain gaps in knowledge, there…

Anyway, the point is not that management is a misguided pain in everyone’s ass, but that when I got up from my nap, I needed to get back in the game… not languish in that sense of feeling solid and centered and grounded. It’s one thing to be solid and centered and grounded. But when the expectation is that you’ll be ON, and that’s part of your job, well, I have to figure out a way to do that. Even though it seems counter-productive. Even though it seems more like people are trying to prove something and put on a good face, than actually get something done, you know?

Regardless of what I think of the nature of the situation, I still need to adapt to it and rise to the occasion, which means coming back online when the situation calls for it.

It’s the coming back online that’s problematic for me. I do tend to get “stuck” in the sense I had of being relaxed and mellow and calm and centered.

I get caught up in a loop, and it feels comfortable for me, and I don’t want to get out of it. I take time off, but then I have a hell of a time coming back online. And then I get all turned around and bent out of shape, because things aren’t going as smoothly as they might.

I would like to stay in that place where I’m chill, but in the environment I work in, that’s a huge problem. Because we’re not supposed to be that way or do things that way. We’re supposed to be always-on, always pushing, always moving forward, never looking back, finishing off jobs and moving on to the next thing. And never, ever let your guard down and let people see your vulnerabilities. That’s not allowed. Showing any sort of vulnerability in the workplace… it’s heresy.

Occupational hazard? Probably.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, first thing is to realize that this is the situation, and be prepared for it. Not be surprised when people expect me to be ON and refuse to interact with me as regular people who share common goals, common dreams, common interests, common space.

And not be surprised when people come gunning for me, looking for vulnerabilities they can exploit to make themselves feel better about themselves. Ironic, how I seem to have landed in the midst of a group that just loves to do that. My boss, my boss’es boss, and my boss’es boss’es boss are all that way – and in this situation, the trickle-down theory does work.

The thing is, I have the distinct impression that they are really very unhappy in this way of doing things. They can’t see their way out. They are all tired and overworked and exhausted, and they are falling back on old patterns that play to their most base aspects. They are pandering to their “lower selves” and that’s familiar and comfortable for them. They may not be happy with it, but they are comfortable with that familiarity. They may have never worked in environments where another option was open to them, where they were able to let their guard down. They may also be pushed against the wall in life in general, and they may have too much to lose by letting their guard down.

Anyway, they’re kind of stuck and caught. And misery loves company. The thing is, I have no intention of being miserable. And I have no intention of staying in this situation where I succumb to the unhappiness of people around me. People make their choices, and I make mine. I choose to make other choices. I choose to promote some change in the workplace, in the corporate world. I choose to create the kind of world I want to live in, and get some work done, and have a good time, too.

I choose to take up with people who are as aware as I am of the issues that the workplace is creating for people, the illness it is fostering, the unhealthy relationships it’s instigating, the stresses it’s building… all for the supposed purpose of “success”. There are a number of thinkers at work in the world who are working towards changing the corporate landscape to be more… human. And I need to align myself with those folks.

Stop. Just stop the participation in the bad habits, the bullying, the pressure tactics, the undermining, the playing along with that way of doing and being.

And go. Go into the midst of the storm, stake out my place and say, “You know what? I’m not going to do things that way. You can choose to behave that way and do those things, but I’m not gonna. You can try to screw me over, throw me under the bus… whatever. I really don’t care. I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to do it. And I’m going to do it in a way that respects the dignity of everyone involved and doesn’t treat others like objects to do my bidding, or threats to my ultimate goals.”

I’m going to build up my strength, add to my endurance, take good care of my physical health. I’m going to work my ass off to get to a place where I can support my own body weight and move through the world with fluidity and ease.

And I’m going to rest. Because the body and the brain and the spirit all need that. I’m going to stop. So I can really go.

Toward rut-less-ness

A new trail...

I need a new gig.

Not a new job. Not a new life. But a new way of structuring my days — that incorporates a whole lot more flexibility into my schedule.

I guess I need a new kind of gig.

I took some time yesterday to step back from everything and really think things through. I worked from home and took a nap in the afternoon. Took my time at things. Didn’t focus so much on the little tasks, but thought about the larger picture… what I’m actually DOING with my life.

It’s not enough, anymore, to just take care of issues and meet requirements. I need something more. I need some meaning behind it all. When I was 25, it was enough to do what other people told me to do, and it was profoundly fulfilling to just do the things that I thought I couldn’t do.

Now, though, things are different – very different indeed. And why I do appreciate the need to deliver on promises and achieve goals, there needs to be something more to it, than just doing as I’m told.

I think a lot of people get to this point when they get to be around my age — mid-40’s — wondering “what’s it all about?” I won’t say it’s a “mid-life crisis”, because it’s not a crisis. It’s more of a check-in along the way. I also won’t say “mid-life” also because I plan to live past 90. I’ve got relatives who are in the 100-year range, and they grew up without a lot of the medical and health resources I have. I believe it’s entirely possible to life well past 90, in my case. So that’s what I’m planning for.

That means I’ve got a ways to go. And I need to pace myself. I need to not drive headlong into the future just for the sake of driving. I need to live my life fully — mindfully. I’ve tried it other ways, and I got hurt a lot, when I did it that way.

I don’t want to get hurt, anymore. It’s time-consuming, soul-consuming, and very, very expensive. Hard to bounce back from. Been there, done that. Still kind of there, in fact. Don’t much care for it.

So, back to this “rut business”. I’ve noticed that I’m getting more and more tired, as time goes on. I’ve changed up my sleep schedule, because I just don’t do well with going to bed early. But I don’t really sleep in, either. I’m getting maybe 6 hours of sleep a night. 7 if I’m lucky. At the start, it wasn’t a big deal, but it’s catching up with me.

I really need to start taking naps around mid-day, and stop pushing myself through. Or at the very least, step away and do progressive relaxation for 15-20 minutes. I feel SO much better, when I am at least slightly rested. I’ve also noticed that being tired takes all the joy out of what I’m doing.

Sure, I may be feeling high and pumped from the extra adrenaline, but it’s taking a toll on both my body and my spirit. I want to enJOY what I’m doing with myself each day. And I can’t do that, when I’m overtired and struggling just to keep awake. When I’m rested, everything just flows… and I don’t need as much structure, as much of a rut, to keep me going. I just keep going, because it feels great, and I’m really into what I’m doing. When I’m rested, when I’m alert, I’m so much better able to participate and contribute. Because I’m all there — and I don’t have to funnel my energy into the most basic activities. Rest takes care of those for me, so I can focus my attention on the higher things. The really, really important things — like what all I’m doing with my life.

And why.

I really do need to be disciplined about this nap business. Really make the effort. Do this nap thing on-purpose, regularly, for six weeks — that’s how long it takes to develop a habit — and see what it gets me. I suspect it’s going to really help. I’ll have to report in regularly about this… now I’m curious.

Well, speaking of discipline, it’s time for me to get ready for work. I’ve had my exercise and my breakfast, and I’ve written a little bit to keep myself on track. Next up — the rest of my day, wherein I work with others towards common goals and greater prosperity for us all.

ONward.

Starter Naps – A different sleeping strategy

This is another installment in my series Then And Now – Managing TBI Issues Over the Long Term

Lots of people with TBI have issues with sleep. They either sleep “too much” or they have trouble falling asleep and/or staying that way. I’m one of those people. After my last TBI, I was awake every morning at 3 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. What a miserable time that was. I have also had a lot of trouble falling asleep.

Yes, I’ve been struggling with sleep issues for quite some time, and if you’ve come across this blog in the past, chances are you’ve heard me talk about it. I’ve tried everything from homeopathic sleep aids to Benadryl to stretching to progressive relaxation to working myself ragged to forcing myself to go to bed every night at 10 p.m. It’s been a continuous struggle, and I’m pretty sick of it.

Recently, I have started to do things a little differently, and it’s actually helping me to feel more rested and get more sleep. I also don’t walk around with dark circles under my eyes all the time, anymore. For about a year, I was looking pretty ragged at times. But now I think I’ve found something that works for me: breaking up my sleeping patterns with “starter naps”.

Conventional wisdom (at least in my mind) says that you need 8 continuous hours of sleep each night – possibly more – to be fully functional. Studies have shown this, and people have written about it.

But I’ve also come across mentions (primarily not in scientific circles)  about sleeping in smaller increments, and getting up in between to do other things — getting no more than 4-5 hours of sleep at a time, but sleeping more frequently.

Now, I don’t think either one actually works 100% for me. The first one is almost impossible for me to do, because of my schedule and work life. The second one definitely would be a problem.

What does work for me, is lying down on the couch later in the evening, but well before when I really want to go to bed, and letting myself take a little nap for an hour or so before I actually go to bed. It probably sounds counter-intuitive, like I’m messing up my sleep schedule, but it’s actually helping me get better rest.

See, when I’m over-tired, I tend to stay up later. In fact, the more tired I am, the harder it is for me to relax and fall asleep. Also, I don’t much care for the idea of going off to bed at 9:30 at night. I really don’t want to – I want to stay up and watch television and hang out with my spouse. And even when I do go to be early, I often wake up early, like around 3 or 4 in the morning, and then I can’t get back to sleep.

So, after dinner, when we’re sitting down to watch a movie, I’ll watch for a while, then I’ll be so tired, and I’ll lie down on the couch where I can watch lying down. Pretty soon, I’ll be asleep, and I’ll rest for maybe an hour or two… sometimes three.  When I wake up (say, around 1 a.m.), I still feel tired, and I really feel like going to bed. So, I do.

And I sleep through the night — even till 7:00-7:30 a.m. sometimes, which is new for me, after not being able to sleep past 5:30 for quite some time.

Not only do I get sleep earlier in the evening, but I still manage to get another six hours — which is what I used to get without a “starter nap”.

All in all, I think I’m sleeping more than I have in the past. I’m just doing it in different bits and pieces. The important thing is to not tell myself I’m doing things “wrong”. This works for me, and it’s helping. So, I’m sticking with it as long as it works.

84 ways TBI can make your life really interesting

Some time back, I compiled a list of possible issues TBI can introduce into your life. I combed through a bunch of sources and then put them all together, took out the duplicates, and came up with a list of common complaints related to traumatic brain injury. I’ve refined the list over the past couple of years, and I’m sure there are more issues I’ve missed, but this is what I’ve  been working with, thus far.  These apply to mild, moderate, and severe. And a lot of them are problems I have dealt with on a regular basis throughout the course of my life.

Here’s the list, broken down by category:

Behavioral
1. Impulsiveness
2. Aggression (verbal/physical)
3. Raging behavior

Communication
4. Trouble being understood
5. Trouble understanding
6. Trouble finding words
7. Trouble communicating in general

Emotions/Moods
8. Agitated, can’t settle down
9. Angerrrrrr!!!
10. Anxiety – Feeling vague fear, worry, anticipation of doom
11. Depression, feeling down
12. Excitability!
13. Everything feels like an effort
14. Feeling unsure of yourself
15. Feelings of dread
16. Feeling like you’re observing yourself from afar
17. Feelings of well-being
18. Feeling guilty
19. Feeling hostile towards others
20. Impatience
21. Irritability
22. No desire to talk or  move
23. Feeling lonely
24. Nervousness
25. Feelings of panic
26. Rapid mood swings
27. Restlessness
28. Tearfulness, crying spells
29. Feeling tense
30. Feeling vague longing/yearning

Day-to-Day Activities
31. Being overly busy (more than usual)
32. Feeling like you can’t get moving, you’re stuck
33. Feeling like you can’t get anything done

Mental
34. Altered consciousness
35. Aura or weird reverie, trance
36. Trouble concentrating
37. Trouble making decisions easily
38. Trouble reading
39. Analytical skills suffer
40. Trouble telling what’s real or not
41. Being easily distracted
42. Being forgetful, can’t remember
43. Nightmares
44. Worrisome thoughts

Physical – Eating
45. Food cravings
46. Eating less / more than usual
47. Heartburn / indigestion / upset stomach
48. Losing weight

Physical – Head
49. Headache(s)
50. Stabbing pain(s) in your head

Physical – Hearing
51. Hearing music others don’t
52. Ears ringing (tinnitus)

Physical – Pain
53. Backache or back pain
54. General body aches
55. Joint painf or stiffness
56. Neck pain
57. Touch feels like pain

Physical – Sleep
58. Waking up too early
59. Being fatigued / tired
60. Difficulty falling asleep
61. Waking up during the night
62. Sleeping too much

Physical – Vision
63. Trouble seeing at night
64. Being sensitive to light
65. Double/blurred vision
66. Spots, floaters,  or blind spots

Physical – Sensations
67. Your skin feels like it’s crawling
68. Feeling like you’ve gained weight
69. Sensitivity to cold
70. Sensitivity to noise, sounds
71. Smelling odors / fragrances that others don’t smell

Physical – General
72. Feeling dizzy / have vertigo
73. Your heart races or pounds
74. Hot flashes or sudden feelings of warmth
75. Losing consciousness / fainting
76. Metallic taste in your mouth
77. Muscles spasms or twitching
78. Muscle weakness
79. Seizures
80. Nausea
81. Sexual desire feeling “off”
82. Skin breaking out / acne
83. Hands or feet swelling
84. Vomiting

Now, some of them might look like they are duplicates — #3. Raging behavior should be grouped with #9. Angerrrrrr!!!, right? I’ve actually split them up because one is behavioral, and one is emotional/mood related. Just because you’re angry, doesn’t mean you’re going to have raging behavior, but anger can still be a significant problem.

One thing that struck me, as I was compiling this list over the past few years, is how many of the symptoms are physical. It almost doesn’t make sense. You injure your head, you hurt your brain, and your body starts acting up? Where’s the sense in that? Well, considering that the brain is like the command center of your body, I guess it does make sense.

The other thing that has jumped out at me, as I’ve considered this list over the years, is how the non-physical issues can often arise from the physical. Being dizzy all the time can really mess with your head, and it can make you cranky and mean and short-tempered. Likewise, having constant ringing in your ears can shorten your fuse and make you much more temperamental. And chronic pain has a way of depressing the heck out of you.

Now, not everyone with a TBI will have these issues, but lots of people will have one or more of these problems, and lots of them can come and go over time. It’s just one more handful of pieces to the puzzle that is TBI. A big handful, actually.

Getting a grip on my fatigue

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m tired. Really tired. I hate being tired. And the odd thing is, the more tired I am, the harder it can be for me to see that I am.

I tend to just drive myself — the more tired I am, the harder I push — and I end up getting in over my head, taking on all sorts of projects, writing, drawing, painting, doing-doing-doing…

It’s just crazy.

Over the past year, this really hit home with me, as I looked through all my notebooks for what I’d been doing with myself, and to see if there were any indicators that something was not quite right with me, when I thought it was. What I found were pages and pages and pages of notes about projects I wanted to start and work on… most of which I never finished, and many of which I completely forgot about, when I got distracted and started doing other things. I literally completely forgot about a bunch of projects I’d started that were intense burning desires with me, when I started.

Then all of a sudden, I went off and did something else, and I never came back to the projects.

Now, someone might say that it sounds like ADD, but it feels a whole lot more extreme to me. It really does. It’s not simple distraction. It’s having something you once loved and were 100% devoted to… simply cease to exist in your mind. It’s just dropping something you have hundreds of hours invested in and wandering away to do something else, and never, ever coming back to your original plan. It’s misplacing a notebook (or putting it somewhere you cannot see it) and experiencing life as though that notebook and that plan had never even existed.

This is something far deeper and more extreme than ADD. It’s got to be.

It’s sleep-walking through life because I am so worn out and exhausted by all the activity going on in my mind that I cannot think clearly… and I don’t realize I’m not thinking clearly, because I’m way too tired to grasp that fact. It’s never seeing the whole picture, because in the process of pushing yourself too far, too fast, too hard, you’ve shattered the image and are working off various little pieces of the whole, never fully aware that there is more to the whole than what you’re able to see.

It’s exhaustion-driven over-achievement… that ultimately goes nowhere.

Fortunately, I have (slowly but surely) come to realize the impact of fatigue/exhaustion/busy-ness on my life and productivity. And I’ve thankfully come to realize that one of the prime indicators that I’m intensely fatigued, is me thinking that I’m not at all fatigued… I’m just fine, thank you!… mistaking my agitation for energy… and doing way too much. I’ve come to realize that my agitation is not necessarily positive energy… it’s not necessarily productive drive… and it may actually be a fear-driven gut instinct to avoid the innermost anxieties that haunt and taunt me, so I don’t have to admit there  is something not quite right in my head.

It’s a physical phenomenon, as well as a mental and emotional one. The drive is a physically palpable thing… and the true fatigue underlying it is really well-masked by… fatigue.

What saves my ass, is my self-assessments. i have my list of things that I ask myself objectively, if they’re going on with me. Am I tired? Am I anxious? Am I agitated? Am I excitable? If I am answering objectively “yes” to these… and “I’m busier than usual” — I can say, “Hey, I must be fatigued!” and it sets off alarms with me. It makes me step back for a moment and check in with myself and see if I’m getting myself in any hot water, due to my over-activity. It gives me permission to admit that I’m pushing myself too hard. It gives me permission to slow down. To stop.

And then I can rest.

It’s the weirdest thing, that… but typical for my TBI experience. My body reacts to its deficits by overcompensating and telling itself it’s doing great. My brain has been altered in ways that cause it to think it hasn’t been altered at all — Adventures in Anosognosia!!!

Ha. Well, as long as I keep a sense of humor, I guess I’ll be okay. Really okay. After all, laughter oxygenates the blood and brain, so that can only help.