Getting past the energy crisis

Proper form is essential to avoid injury and build strength
Proper form is essential to avoid injury and build strength

I’ve been in a bit of an energy crisis, over the winter. I just haven’t felt like doing anything much, and I’ve felt my energy waning. I haven’t been exercising as I should. I do ride my exercise bike in the mornings pretty regularly (it’s rare that I don’t, which is good), but I haven’t been lifting or swimming as much as I should be.

I start, then I feel tired and sore, and my motivation gives out.

So, I stop lifting… I stop swimming… and then I feel even worse.

The thing is, when I DO exercise — lifting and swimming and stretching — I actually feel great all day. And my energy is great. It’s just getting myself to actually do the initial work, that’s the problem.

But now it’s springtime. And with the days being longer, I feel my energy returning. I’m a real “sun person”. I love to be in it (within reason, so I don’t get sunburned or drained by the heat). And despite my sometimes painful light sensitivity, I love the sight of sunlight brightening the world around me. It just makes all the difference, as does a few extra hours of sunlight each day.

But with my energy being as low as it has been, it’s hard to work up the enthusiasm to make the most of it. Energy is a self-fulfilling prophecy — the more of it I have, the more I get… the less of it I feel, the less of it I can generate. And even if I want with all my heart to “kick it”, if I don’t have the strength and the energy and resources to do it… well, it doesn’t happen.

So, I have to do something. I need my physical body to support the wishes and desires of my mind and heart, and without conditioning, that’s not going to happen. Keeping in shape is about more than keeping the pounds off and looking good. It’s about keeping myself as functional as possible — getting myself to a place where the strength of my body is on par with the drive of my mind. It’s about never giving up, never quitting, always keeping myself functional in ways that actually let me live the life of my choosing.

Just an example: I have water delivered. In those 5-gallon bottles. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, so that’s a 40-pound weight I need to lift intermittently, when I change out the water cooler. It’s never really been a problem for me in the past, but over the last year or so, I’ve had less coordination and strength. It’s been an interesting challenge to A) hoist the weight up, and B) flip it over onto the top of the cooler without dousing everything around it with water.

Normally, I can do it fine. But the last couple of times, I’ve given the nearby shelf a good splash. It’s not that big of a deal, because everything can be dried off. But then it’s one more thing I have to do, and that puts a crimp in my flow. It also annoys the crap out of me. I hate that. I hate being weaker than ever. I hate being uncoordinated. I hate the disheartening sound of water splashing out of the well where it’s supposed to be.

It’s not the end of the world, but it bothers me. And it’s something I can actually fix.

So, it’s time to do something about it. I need to get my behind in gear and get serious about my strength routine. It’s for the sake of being more conditioned and capable, as well as better balance. Plus, I need to be smart about it and not injure myself by doing too much too soon.

Now I’m adding another aspect to my workouts — the mental warmup in the morning, before I get out of bed. I’ve read in a number of places how visualizing physical activity actually primes you to do it properly. The brain simulates the activities before you do them, and that gets the right connections firing.

Here’s an excerpt from Visualization in Sport

Visualization in sport is a training technique that forms a part of the larger science of sports psychology. Visualization is also known as mental imagery and rehearsal. Visualization is used primarily as a training tool, one that improves the quality of athletic movement, increases the power of concentration, and serves to reduce the pressures of competition on the athlete while building athletic confidence.

Visualization occurs when athletes are able to create an image or a series of images relevant to their sport, without any external prompts or stimulation; the images are mentally generated by the athlete alone. Visual images are usually the most important to athletic training and may be employed as the sole mental training method. Athletes may also depend on auditory images (sounds), kinesthetic images (movements), tactile sensations (touch), and purely emotional stimulation, in combination with visualization or as freestanding training aids, as may be appropriate to the effort to elevate the performance of the athlete.

There is a powerful relationship between mental and physical performance in sport. The development of a wide range of mental powers, such as focus and concentration, elevates athletic performance; over-analyzing detracts from the athlete’s ability to react instinctively, an attribute that is usually a more desirable quality than the ability to reason through every sporting circumstance.

Visualization is intended to take the athlete to an image that conveys what perfection represents in the particular aspect of the sport. During visualization, the brain is directing the target muscles to work in a desired way. This direction creates a neural pattern in the brain, a pattern identical to the network created by the actual physical performance of the movements. A neural pattern is similar to diagramming the specific wiring and circuits necessary to transmit an electrical current. Alexander Bain (1818–1903) of Great Britain was the first scientist to develop a theory as to how the brain built such patterns to direct and control repeated physical movement. Numerous researchers since that time have expanded on the concept. Visualization alone will not develop the most effective mechanisms in the brain to later perform the desired action, but physical training coupled with visualization will create better recognition of the required nervous system response than physical training alone.

This technique has been around for a long, long time. And I used to do it, when I was competing in high school sports. Somehow, the practice didn’t always translate properly to my regular life away from sports, and somehow I thought that because my non-athletic visualizations just weren’t working, I was either doing it wrong… or it just doesn’t work.

I’ve modified my beliefs about visualization — down-sized them a bit, you could say. Now, instead of using it to shape my entire life, I’m focusing on visualization of basic physical activities, those very kinesthetic behaviors that actually respond to the brain’s visualizations.

I’m visualizing proper form while I lift weights. I’m thinking about the feeling of my body as it moves the weights up and down, back and forth. I’m visualizing workouts, and I’m imagining how good it feels to do it. And this morning, after I lay in bed for 20 minutes, waking up gradually and thinking through my workout, I felt really good, doing the workout itself. And at the end, it was even more satisfying than ever.

So, this is good. I know I’ve done it before — I’ve started out strong, then I lost my focus and stopped doing the visualizations… and some of the exercise. Part of the problem in the past, is that I would get over-tired, push myself too hard, then get injured, and I’d take time off to heal… and then I’d never get back to my former practice.

I’d just forget about it. As though it didn’t even exist.

And by the time I remembered it, I would be de-conditioned again, and have to start all over.

How demoralizing.

Now, though, it doesn’t feel demoralizing. I feel energized. And I know I’m doing the right thing by taking it easy and just getting used to the motions again. I am working with either very light weights, or no weights at all, to re-develop my kinesthetic and proprioceptive sense. I also have access to a strength trainer at work who consults with employees about exercises and nutrition. So, I’m going to take advantage of that benefit.

I’ll carve out time in my schedule, and I’ll just do it.

Because I can.

Spring is here. Summer’s coming. Then fall. Three seasons — followed by winter, which I actually love. All of them ready for me to get moving into.

Onward.

Advertisements

Vacation is coming… vacation is coming…

Soon...
Soon…

I’ve been working fast and furious, trying to get my act together so I can go away on vacation. I don’t want my job to slip, and I’ve got a big deadline coming up.  It matters to me. On the other hand, I actually don’t care if it comes of 100% without a hitch… because one of the things I’m trying to retrain people to think about, is making incremental improvements to things, rather than having everything work 100% out of the box.

Good enough — then fixing later — is the new way to do things. Plus, now we can do it that way, because the technology we have is better.

Anyway, the thing about my job is that there is so much that I want / need to do, but there are only so many hours in the day. People who have been there a while say that’s how everyone feels. It’s a great problem to have – back in the day, I would watch the clock, waiting for 5:00 (or whenever I got my 8 billable hours and could leave). Now I’m racing the clock, half the time.

Still stressful, but in a good way.

So, this vacation is going to be half working. I’m going to spend some time in the mornings of Tues, Wed, Thurs getting ready for the deadline in two weeks. I’ll still have a lot of time to myself — but not so much. I get antsy (and difficult to live with), if I don’t have a certain amount of structured activity and pressure. I expect it to be a nice balance between work and play, which is what I really want, anyway.

I might even get to watch the Miss America pageant on Sunday night. Miss Oregon is a TBI survivor. She got injured in cheerleading. And that’s her platform. So, maybe I’ll get to see that.

Anyway, speaking of stress, I’ve been working out more, lately. I’m a bit sore, but not in a bad way. I’ve noticed that when I work out with intense intervals, I feel fantastic all day. Something about stressing my system triggers a energy-producing, healing response. And the inflammation goes down. My shoes fit my feet again.

I need to build that into my day more regularly. Take just a few minutes to run down to the gym during the day and work out. Get in some intense intervals — riding the bike or doing other exercises — and finish out the day on an up note. I did that the other day, and while I was pretty tired by the end of it my waking hours, I felt great at the same time.

Speaking of intermittent intensity, it’s time for me to get going to work.

I’m really looking forward to that vacation…

Onward

Wiped out and feeling great

Got home from work at a decent hour tonight – and that was after working out for half an hour and then going for a swim… in the company pool.

Yes, that’s right. They have a pool. Olympic sized with 5 or 6 lanes, and just the right temperature. And clean. Very, very clean.

I cannot tell you how good it felt to get in the water again.

Phenomenal.

Now I’m completely done. Happy – done. Very happy – done.

 

Aaaannnnddd… Problem solved.

Like mine, but in better condition

I’m glad I didn’t get rid of my old bike — “Old Ironsides” I call it, because it’s an ancient three-speed similar to the one my dad used to ride to work each day. I guess I hung onto it, because it reminds me of those days when my dad was still young and vigorous and had the energy to bike to and from work — and come home for lunch in the summers so we kids could spend time with him.

Anyway, I picked up Old Ironsides one day when I was out doing errands. Where I live, when people don’t have use for things that haven’t yet worn out, they put them out on their curb with a ‘free’ sign, so people will help themselves. I threw Old Ironsides in the back of the van, and it’s been in my basement for the past 11 years or so.

I’ve pulled it out, now and then, to ride around, but it’s an old rattle-trap, with a slightly bent wheel in the front, and a bit of of bumpiness when you ride along. But the brakes work, and the gears still shift. It’s still a solid bike, and I’m glad I hung onto it.

I have been really challenged with my physical fitness, lately. I am lifting weights more deliberately now, and I also spend time each day juggling, which is good for my coordination — and my frustration tolerance. I have an exercise bike, and I ride it sometimes. I also take long walks on the country roads around my home, as well as hike in the woods. But sometimes I need more.

I used to have a really awesome bike — a Specialized Roubaix road bike, which was so light, and so good on bumpy surfaces. It was easy to ride, easy to handle, easy to put in the back of my little car and take wherever I wanted. The thing was, when I had it, I was struggling with balance issues, and I was not doing well with being out and about on my own. Riding my bike on back roads really concerned me, because of traffic and distractions and the potential of falling.

So, I sold the bike to someone who would love and care for it very well. It was a wise choice. But I have missed that bike ever since.

In the past years since I sold it, I have gradually gotten better about my balance and my ability to stay focused on what’s happening in front of me. I am still uncomfortable with the idea of ranging far and wide beyond my home on a bike, because I can’t afford to get hurt and not be able to get home. There are also lots of hills around my house, so it’s a killer workout to ride bikes around here.

But within two miles of my house, there are enough gently rolling hills and enough untraveled back roads that I can ride Old Ironsides on. It really gives me a workout, just pedaling up gentle inclines — let alone the 45-degree slopes not far from my front door. I have enough road to ride, just within a 2 mile radius, to get some exercise, get my blood pumping, and feel the wind rushing past me. Also, my bike is not good enough to go that fast, so the issue of velocity is… negligible.

So, this afternoon, I dragged Old Ironsides out of the garage, hauled it down to the gas station, filled up the tires, found my good bike helmet, threw on a fluorescent orange t-shirt, and took the bike out for a spin. I didn’t have to go far, to tucker myself out — but I also had a good time pedaling and covering some ground. I know it’s not the most advanced piece of machinery, but it got me exactly where I wanted to go, and back, so that’s good.

I’m feeling really positive about this. Another fall is not something I care to experience, and that chance was always in the back of my mind with the other bike. This one is literally incapable of moving at the kind of speed that’s a danger to me. It’s sturdy, solid, and it does the job it’s meant to do — move a person from one place to the next quicker than they could go on foot.

So, I’ve had my exercise for the day, and I’m looking forward to doing it again, when I get some time. Safety first. And then plenty of fun.

Well, it’s time to get some supper.

Onward.

Committing to failure – on a regular basis

Good to be back

With the long weekend, I have had time to rest up and pay attention to things that normally sneak by me in the course of my busy life. I’m getting back the energy I had lost to that horrible commute to and from that horrible job, and I’m noticing things that I let slide for about three years.

My level of physical fitness (or lack thereof) is front-and-center with me, these days, as I am wearing lighter clothing and noticing how weak and spindly my arms and legs have gotten. I’ve also been having a lot of back and hip pain, which partly came from those years of driving so much each day, and partly came from poor posture — which came out of the commute, I’m sure.

Also, my level of cognitive fitness is getting my attention. I have made huge strides, over the past several years, however I’m not quite where I’d like to be. I still have issues with feeling foggy and slow — much moreso than I am comfortable with. And while I have been reading more and making more sense of things, and my ability to respond to ideas and comments by people has improved by leaps and bounds, since I started juggling and also having my butter-coffee each morning… my brain still feels foggy and slow, and I need to address that.

I know what has helped me in the past, on both counts — exercise. It’s one thing to want to keep fit so I can have a longer life.  I do, absolutely. At the same time, I want to get fit, so I can have a higher quality life, here and now. In the past, I have exercised deliberately and regularly, and I really benefited from it. Back in 2010, I read about how exercise helps the body AND the brain, and I developed a morning routine that was satisfying and also challenging.

Then it became regular – routine – and it got boring. So I stopped.

And ever since I’ve been on a downward slide. The slide didn’t start right away – it probably took me about a year to see the benefits erode. But for the past couple of years, I’ve really felt like I’ve been declining. Back to being fuzzy and dull — not sharp, like I used to feel.

In the past, I had a routine of lifting relatively light weights for 10 reps of a set sequence of exercises. 10 arm raises to the front, 10 arm raises to the back, 10 press-ups, 10 flys, 10 rows, 10 biceps curls, 10 triceps extensions… It was all very predictable and measurable, and it felt good. It helped my brain as well as my body. And I felt very sharp, indeed.

However, I did it every single day, and there were days when I used heavier weights, and I did not rest afterwards to give my body a chance to catch up. So, I overtrained. And it wasn’t much fun anymore.

I needed to give myself time to catch up, but I frankly overdid it on the “rest”  — and now, after several years of resting, I am pretty much a lump, and it’s not only draining my energy but also my self-esteem, as well.

I used to be in terrific shape — not Ah-nold Schwarzenegger shape, but more of a “swimmer physique”, and I was able to do just about anything physical I set my mind to. Now it’s very different, and the concept of myself as being physically capable has really eroded.

So, I’m doing something about it.

I have made a pact with myself to remedy this by working out on a regular basis and pushing myself to failure each time. Pushing to failure really strains your muscles, it creates micro-tears in the tissue, which then rebuild later to make you even stronger. At first, it’s tough and painful, but eventually the body rebuilds (if you give it a chance) and you end up stronger than ever.

I won’t exercise every single morning, but I will do it at least 3 – 4 times a week. I will go to failure each time, and I will not exercise the same muscle group two times in a row, to give my body time to rebuild and restore. I’ve doubled the weight I was using before, and I’m doing fewer reps, which feels good.

Half an hour of vigorous exercise in the morning, 3-4 times a week, is what I’m setting my goal at. I’m going to go to failure — gradually working my way up, and concentrating on specific muscle groups each time. I’m going to keep my caloric intake the same, and cut down on the carbs (yet again — the 4th of July weekend, with its chips and potato salad are killer). I’ve kind of gone off the reservation on keeping to my diet, eating coconut or almond milk ice cream with abandon (it’s almost as good as dairy ice cream), and chowing down on chips and popcorn while watching t.v. at night.

I’m also back to doing intermittent fasting (IF) — I did that on Friday, until I broke my fast at 7 p.m. with hamburgers, potato salad, and chips. And I’m going to do it once a week, to get myself trained to not be so driven by food. Each time I do IF, it gets easier for me, so I need to keep at it. Going without food for 18 hours, one day a week is not going to kill me. If anything, it’s going to make me stronger in mind and body.

I’m feeling really positive about all this. And I want to keep that positive mood going.

I did this new workout routine this morning, going to failure on my biceps and shoulders. I might have done things a little differently — and I will next time. But for today it feels fantastic. My arms were tired after I was done, and I could feel the effects. And then the good energy set in. I notice that when I really wear myself out with exercise, it may make me feel terrible for a while, but then the good energy kicks in, and it lasts a long time. It also helps me sleep.

I have no idea why I quit exercising like that. Maybe I was afraid the headaches would come back, and I might have a stroke or some other injury. Or maybe I just didn’t feel like having a headache all day. So far, my head isn’t feeling too bad. It’s a little tight, but it’s not pounding. And that’s pretty cool.

Anyway, speaking of energy, I’ve got to run and take care of some things before my weekend is over. I have removed an afternoon-long commitment from my calendar, so that takes the pressure off… and it leaves me more room to move at my own pace, while getting a whole lot of things done.

Yep. Onward.

Hard work – and stress – paying off

Yeah, it’s paying off 🙂

I don’t want to sing the praises of stress right now, because I don’t want anyone getting the idea that I think stressing yourself out is a great idea. I will say, however, that the added strain of working long hours, this past week, is paying off — in terms of a full day off work, so I have an uninterrupted day to do some things I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

I’m getting my neck worked on. The left side is very sore, and the tightness there is translating to a right hip that feels arthritic. I know it’s not arthritis — it’s muscular, because of the location of the pain, but it’s keeping me awake at night, and it’s making my life more difficult.

I’ve been trying to do physical therapy and acupuncture, but the results have been slow. I need to have someone just work on my neck and get my back and shoulders loosened up. Kind of fast-track it.

I also worked out this morning more than I have in months. I actually got on the exercise bike for 10 minutes. I rode easy for 5 minutes, then I did a few 30-second alternating intervals of fast/easy, and I finished up with 2 minutes of slow and steady. Then I lifted slightly heavier weights than I have been, in the past – fewer reps, more weight, with tons of attention to form.

And it felt great. Just working up a sweat felt great. It’s been a long time, since I really pushed myself — partly because I’ve been having headaches when I push myself while exercising. I do have a slight headache now, but I can live with it. I’m just drinking extra water and stretching my neck and shoulders.

I’m also taking some time to get on Facebook and reconnect with my friends there. I miss my coworkers from my last job. Well, some of them, anyway. I think the thing I miss most is their predictability. My brain and system got used to dealing with them, and it developed behavioral habits that I came to depend on, to add structure and meaning to my life.

One thing I do NOT miss about them, is how young and frivolous they can be. I really could tell that most of them were 20 years younger than me, and it’s nice to not have to deal with them anymore.

I’m also getting my head on straight about my new job. Turns out, the crowd I’m working with is about 10-15 years younger than me, which has also turned out to be a bit of a pain. Their priorities and interests are completely different from mine, and frankly I can do without every singe conversation centering around who’s getting pregnant, who’s having kids, what their kids are doing, if their kids are sick, the dance recitals, the summer vacations. There are a few folks there who don’t live their lives around “little ones”, so I’ll need to seek them out more actively. The team I’m working most closely with is quite focused on child-rearing, and I’ve got nothing to offer there.

So, I’m going to take some time today and over the next few days to do some heavy-lifting thinking and really dig into some of the writing I’ve been doing, lately. I’ve got a handful of projects I’m working on, and some of them are very demanding, mentally. It’s like I’m going down a rathole of abstract concepts, and each one leads a little bit deeper in. So, it feels like I’m “flying blind” into the abyss… and I love it.

I’m the only one who knows the details about the abstractions I’m exploring. I’ve tried to explain them to others, but I haven’t had much luck communicating. They’re “thought experiments” of sorts, just exercises to tweak my thinking process and help expand my working memory capacity.

The main thing with these thought experiments, is that they really excite me and delight me. So, there’s a real motivation and impetus to explore. To expand. To see how much I can extend my own abilities. Of course, I need to balance this out with plenty of rest and recovery, so the connections I’m building in my brain have a chance to “set” before they’re tested, again.

That’s what the past week or so has been about. I really pushed myself cognitively for a few weeks, back when I was changing jobs and everything was in flux. It was a great way to both take my mind off the stresses of my daily life transition, and also get some new types of activity going on in my brain. I really need that — new activities that test me.  Sometimes I may overdo it, but that’s where rest and recovery come in.

And it’s good. It’s all good.

So, stress… I’ll write more about that later. I am a firm believer in periodically applying stress to test the system, then backing off to let the system recover and recuperate. I believe that’s what makes us stronger — for me, with my TBI symptoms, I need to be careful about over-doing it. Obviously. But if I can realize — and remember — that added stress is the source of my issues, and then take the edge off when I need to… it doesn’t have to doom me.

The main ingredient is mindfulness. And responsibility. And being realistic about my limits and working with them so that I can expand them, rather than trying to avoid/deny them and then shooting myself in the foot.

It’s really a balancing act. And now it’s time to balance out my day with some reading, juggling, and a bit of relaxation.

The ghost and the machine

It’s all about your perspective – “Ghost in the Machine” by linnsetane

I had a pretty good weekend — no, I had a pretty phenomenal weekend. I had an exquisite balance between body, mind, heart, and spirit, that I haven’t felt in some time, and I actually felt like myself.

Again.

It’s been a long time, since I truly felt like myself. I was reading and studying again, doing some journaling. I did chores around the house and cleaned up outside. And I was out in the woods a whole lot, with naps in between.

I didn’t “accomplish” some of the goals I set out to do, but you know what? I don’t care. I feel really solid, and that matters more than any external goals I set for myself. On Fridays, my weekend goals seem so terribly important. But by Sunday morning, I’ve “rearranged the furniture of my interior life” and a whole new set of priorities come out, which are a lot more life-giving than the ones I identified on Friday last.

It has taken me a long, long time to get to this place. I have been “in the woods” in a not-so-good way for many years, and at last I’m at a really stable place, where I’m not all over the map for no good reason.

Now, in some ways, I still feel strange to myself. But that strangeness has actually become an integrated part of my life now. See, the thing is, I don’t just see myself as a person whose character is set in stone — and that’s it. I see myself now as more of a person whose character is constantly developing along certain lines that are “me” — it’s not the particular details of how I’m feeling and what I’m doing, that make “me” the person I am. It’s actually the process I go through to get where I’m going, that makes “me” the person I am.

For example, I am usually in pain of some kind or another. Either I have a pulled muscle or I have a headache or a backache or joint pain. I literally can’t remember the last time I did not have some kind of pain — and this goes back to my childhood, when I had a very rough-and-tumble kind of life and I was usually getting scuffed up or knocked around by someone or something or other. I was extremely sensitive as a kid, and a lot of times, if someone touched my arm or my back, it felt like I was being hit. It stung like fire ants or burned like fire or it felt like someone had me in a vice and was twisting. Being young, I couldn’t really explain it. That’s just how it was.

And when I was younger, because of that, I felt like I was always being punished. Because when you were really bad, you got hit or paddled or yanked around by an adult. And that hurt. But I wasn’t being constantly punished — I was just having that kind of experience without any connection with reality. My body didn’t realize it, and my mind couldn’t process that.

So, I’ve had this complex — pretty much my entire life — about being a bad person who needed to be punished.

Well, now that I know more about my situation, that’s not burdening me anymore. I know that my sensitivities are connected with how much tension I’m feeling — when I’m tired or stressed or upset — and they’re not about me being a bad person who should be punished. Pain is happening because I’m doing good things — not bad things. Pain is a sign that I am genuinely trying to do better and be better.

It’s like after a hard workout. Your body is absolutely wracked for days on end, while it recovers and gets used to the “new you”. It’s not a bad thing — it’s a by-product of a good thing, and it will totally be worth it in the long run.

So, I have a completely different view of my pain, these days. And I have a very different attitude towards my experience. Thinking of my pain as the result of me pushing harder to be better, makes the pain about me being driven to be better. That’s a far cry from the old way of thinking and feeling — which was all about me being bad and deserving to be punished.

It’s kind of a “no pain no gain” mentality — “pain is weakness leaving the body” and all that.

So, while I don’t feel physically peachy-keen, most of the time, which at times makes me feel really terrible about being in my own skin, the way I think about feeling crappy has actually restored some of my sense of self. Rather than the pain meaning that I’m deficient, it means that I’m genuinely trying to do better, that I’m motivated and really trying. Waking up today with a headache and fatigue means that yesterday I wanted to be better, and I did something about it.

It’s not about me being in an ideal state at any given point in time. It’s about me being in the middle of a process of improvement that is taking me towards a variety of ideals which I can experience at different points in time. Life isn’t always going to be perfect. Where would be the challenge in that? In fact, it seems to me that the more “yourself” you are, the most challenges you’re going to face, because life likes to keep us guessing — and so do we. I have seen so many people unconsciously create situations that get them in trouble, and I’ve seen so many “good” people dragged into complicated messes, that after close to 50 years of wondering “WHY?!” it’s all I can figure.

Being a good person doesn’t mean I’m going to have all good things happen in my life. It means I’m going to have plenty of opportunities to create more good in the lives of myself and everyone around me, no matter what the circumstances.

And that goes for TBI. Lemme tell you, it has been one tough motherf*cker, getting through this, and in a lot of ways, I feel like the “old me” is gone for good. But the “new me” — or maybe the “real me” that I never recognized before — is not so much about being a certain way in certain circumstances, thinking certain thoughts and having certain feelings about things. Maybe the “real me” is actually a dynamic personality who is constantly learning, constantly changing, constantly leaving the old behind.

I think that once upon a time, I knew this. I cleaned out my study, over the weekend and found some old journals from 20+ years ago. Back when I was still wet behind the ears, I had this amazing capacity for fluid adjustment. I think because everything around me was changing all the time, and the multiple TBIs messed with my head so much, I realized that it was pointless for me to try to hang onto anything for long. But then I “grew up” and got all adult-like and what-not, and for some reason, I had it in my head that “I” was a certain way, and that “I” wasn’t going to change.

How strange.

It got worse after my 2004 injury — my thinking just got so rigid and fixed and brittle. And now that I think about it, that “self” that I felt I had lost… that “self” may have never even existed, because my thinking was so one-dimensional and fixed. I had this vision of myself in my head that was distorted and confused, and for some reason, I thought that was “me”.

It was like going into a funhouse and looking at all the mirrors, and then deciding that one image of myself I saw was THE REAL ME, and I invested all kinds of energy in hanging onto that distorted image of myself. Even though it was as far from “me” as you can get.

So, this weekend, it was all about the process. All about loosening up, all about cleaning out dusty spaces and getting things in order. My study is still in some disarray, but that will change. Gradually, I’ll work my way through — one shelf at a time. And by this time next year, there’s no reason to think that it won’t be in decent shape.

Truly.

So, that’s the result of my great weekend. It felt so good to just let go of the Friday-fatigue-flavored expectations of last week and just let things flow. Letting things flow didn’t get me “off course” – if anything, it let me get some rest and more inspiration for the coming week. Now I’m coming back to my work week with a renewed energy and a better understanding — the machine of my life is just that: a machine. But it’s the ghost that does all the driving.

Can you tell Halloween is coming? 😉

Onward.

Less dizzy. Still busy.

The whole dizziness thing is easing up, thank heavens, and things have calmed down quite a bit. In some ways they’ve calmed down, anyway.

I’m going full-steam on my projects, and it is demanding a lot of me. It’s a real roller-coaster with something new and unexpected happening on a regular basis. But that’s forcing me to cope and develop new ways of keeping myself functional and motivated, each and every day. I have a LOT to do, so I can’t waste a lot of time on head trips and second-guessing.

I’m still working out in the mornings — moving and stretching and lifting weights — and now I am incredibly sore from starting to do movements I haven’t done in many months. I haven’t worked out regularly in about a year, and it shows. The changes I’m making to my diet — cutting back on the bread and wheat-containing foods — seem to be paying off. I feel clearer, and I am also losing a few pounds, which is nice. And I can feel myself becoming stronger. I mowed the lawn this past weekend, and it was not nearly as rough as it’s been for me in the past. The mower was much more manageable — the mower hasn’t changed. I have.

Another thing I’m doing is connecting with motivational and inspirational Facebook pages. I have to be on FB regularly because that’s how I connect with people who are involved in my main project. The sad thing is, there are a ton of upset, unhappy people who are constantly agitating on FB. And most of the people I’m “friends” with love to sound off about something or other. It gets tiresome, reading all that chatter every time I log on. So, I’ve “liked” a bunch of motivational sites, so that their sayings are most of the things I see when I’m on FB. It’s good. And I get to share those things, to do my part to get folks to ease up and lighten up and direct their attention in a positive direction.

I’ve also still got my lists of notes going on. I’m nearing the end of filling up my most recent notebook, and my system is working pretty well. I have gotten better at not writing down every single little thing that needs to be done — and thus overwhelming myself — and I’ve gotten a lot better at just recording the essentials, and trusting that the details will become clear. If they’re not, I can make notes about them, but I don’t need to break everything down into step-by-step moment-by-moment diagrams of every single friggin’ thing that comes to mind. Yes, it’s very soothing to do that, at times. But ultimately, it just gets in the way.

So, that’s progress. Big progress, in fact. And I’m also doing better at gauging and managing my time. I’m going to have some more days of having the house to myself next week, so I’ll be able to do more project work that involves power tools and making a ton of racket and mess. As long as I have everything cleaned up by next Wednesday, I’m good. I’ve rearranged my schedule somewhat to free up time during those days, so I can make the most of my time.

That’s helping. It gives me something to look forward to and work towards, and it keeps me focused.

The other thing that keeps me going is knowing that I won’t have to be at this god-awful job much longer. Two months and a week is the max. The overlords who run the place from afar are just a nightmare to work with, and it’s a breath of fresh air to see hope in my future. I’m also thinking about how I’m going to structure my future work — building in some public transit commute time, so I can read and do other work while I’m in transit, instead of sitting in my car, frittering away the precious hours of my life on an annoying, stupid commute.

I’ll let someone else drive – and catch up on my reading.

It’s a plan — and the thought of it is just so delightful to me. It’s all good.

Beautiful day today

Uppsala, Sweden – I’ve never been there, but it’s a nice picture

And I got my exercise this morning, to move things around a bit in my cells and wake them up. It’s been a few days since I really exercised, and it feels good to do it. I’m tired, I’m behind on my sleep, and I have a big afternoon ahead of me, but at least I got my exercise in. That’s something.

I’m going to have to watch my energy again today — I need to make sure I do not get too overwhelmed. I’m going to a big picnic with some folks I work with, and I’m feeling a bit of anxiety and pressure over it. I usually just work-work-work with these folks, but today we’re going to relax and play. Who knows? It might actually turn out well.

But I’m concerned that I might get worn out by the experience and end up melting down tonight and taking it out on my spouse — which is what sometimes happens when I am socially active and expend a lot of social energy.

So, I’ll just have to pay attention. And if I get too tired and too turned around, I’ll just step away for a moment, breathe, and head back to the party when I feel better. I also don’t have to stay forever — we have some other plans for later this evening, so I have an “out”.

The main thing is to just enjoy the day. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal. I can just relax and enjoy myself. Who knows, I might even have fun…

The thing to remember is that I do have backup plans. I have coping strategies and tactics I can use. Breathing is a big part of it. Just breathing steadily and staying aware of what goes on around me. And not filling my head with all sorts of messages about not being able to handle social situations… not being able to make it through a day of activity without losing it.

I know my spouse is a little concerned, but I can’t let their concern stop me from trying again. They have social anxiety that’s even more pronounced than mine at times. Between the two of us… but today I need to focus on the positives, be grateful for this amazing weather, and just relax… and enjoy.

Give me exercise, or give me trouble

I woke up this morning feeling blah and groggy. After my very active weekend, this past Sat and Sun, I was feeling the burn yesterday, so I took it easy with the workout and spent the day in a relatively sedentary state. I didn’t want to push myself, but let myself rest and recuperate from all that activity — more activity than I’ve had, two days in a row, in quite some time.

Mistake! (And a most valuable lesson.) I felt pretty good all day, but by the time evening rolled around, I was feeling really down, depressed, worn out and used up. I also had a chiro adjustment, and I think the release of those points along my spine may have loosened up some old ‘stuff’.

I see a network chiropractor, who works with the meninges and points in the cranial and sacral areas. Not so much cracking and popping — mostly gentle pressure that frees up the cerebro-spinal fluid to flow more freely and help the brain connect better with the rest of the body. I highly recommend it, especially for folks with TBI or whiplash or some other head or neck or back injury. The difference it’s made has been amazing. But of course, there are sometimes occasions when the pent-up energy that’s released causes me to feel physically worse for a day or so, before things even out. It goes with the territory… and eventually it clears up as the whole system rights itself. But the initial experience can be emotionally and physically upsetting.

That’s what it was like for me, last night, after my adjustment. I got very emotional and, much to my chagrin, I started to cry. I took myself away and sat out on a hilltop, read a book, and watched the sun go down, then had a little bite to eat and went home to crash. I just felt terrible about myself, like I was so broken I wasn’t much use to anyone, especially myself, and all my failures and failings rose up like spectres on a late October night to haunt and taunt me.

My mood was actually dangerously low, and I was in a place where I was rapidly spiraling down-down-down to where nothing and no reason could reach me. The tears wouldn’t stop, and when my spouse asked me what was wrong, all I could say was that I felt like my life was a waste, all I was, was a wage slave, I wasn’t good for anything, and I had no future. I could see, so clearly, the things I once had going for me, and I could feel so vividly all the hopes I’d once had as a kid – I wanted to be a doctor or a large animal vet, and I wanted to do big things and travel the world – compared to the reality that eventually came to be. I just felt wasted and spent and good for nothing, and no amount of compassionate reason could talk me out of it.

Ugh. I hate when that happens. And I did the only thing I could — I went to bed at a decent hour. It was probably the smartest thing to do.

Fortunately, I managed to sleep pretty much through the night. I’ve been waking up drenched in sweat, lately. The weather is warmer, it’s true. But I think it’s also stress that’s doing it.

At least I have been able to get back to sleep — and sleep past 4:30 a.m., even with the sun rising earlier. Today, I managed to sleep till 6:30, wonder of wonders.

But this morning I got up and felt pretty wiped out. Going down in those “emotional valleys” often leaves me feeling hungover in the morning, and I had a heck of a hangover today. I dragged myself downstairs and put the kettle on, then figured, what the heck, I’ll just get on the exercise bike for a few minutes and warm up.

Well, once I got going, I started to feel better. I rode for 15 minutes, doing some conscious breathing at the same time. Then I stretched my creaky bones and decided to lift just a little. Maybe do some movements holding my weights. Nothing big, just a little weighted movement.

Well, once I got going with that, I started to feel much better. Just the simple movement, and the focus on my form really got me out of my funk. It took a few sets, but the more I did, the better I felt. And by the time all was said and done, I had gone through my entire workout — and then some — and I was feeling a LOT better.

I’m still feeling a little groggy and hungover from last night. I think the chiro adjustment “knocked some stuff loose” that needs to settle and/or move on through… like infection being moved out of my body by lymph. I’ve got a long history of physical problems, so moving them through and resolving them (or just learning to handle them more effectively) isn’t necessarily the easiest or simplest or most pain-free process. I’ve read about other TBI folks having excruciating pain just before something released with them, and they became a lot more functional. Bottom line, even if recovery is uncomfortable and challenging, it’s got to be done, so…

What I learned from all this, is quite valuable, the discomfort notwithstanding. As much as I may want to physically take it easy — for whatever reason — I do need to be active — more active than most people I know — and keep my system moving throughout the course of each day. I was way too sedentary yesterday, and I didn’t get up and MOVE much at all. And the energy I typically have seemed to get “stuck” and backfire on me.

Now, people around me love to tell me to “take it easy,” but when I do, I end up feeling really bad — physically and emotionally. I just have to move. Be active. And not take it quite as easy on myself as I’m tempted to — and others encourage me to.

I think that’s one of the sticky pieces about recovery/rehab. On the one hand, you don’t want to over-do it and your brain can really actively advocate for taking it easy and not pushing the envelope. But if you slack off, you can find yourself worse off than you were the day before. It’s a fine line, to be sure, balancing rest and recovery with activity and evolution. But for me, I’d rather err on the side of activity. For me, being wiped out from being physically tired is a lot easier to handle than being wiped out from being mentally tired. Yesterday was a mentally tired day — not necessarily because of too much activity, but because of too little.