Monday, June 18, 2018

Concussion Recovery 4: I don't even know somedays

The face of frustration
Someday's I think I have some handle on TBI and it's related issues and others I feel like I'm pissing in the wind.  The good day / bad day mixture is such that I haven't been able to definitively lock down what I'm doing/not doing on the good that fosters and/or creates the issues that continue to crop up on the day(s) that follow.  Am I sleeping too much or not enough?  Am I too active or not active enough?  Should I be wearing my glasses more or less?  Should I be working one exercise more than another?  Does X exercise cause problems that I'm not aware of?  Should I be writing more to help rebuild neuro pathways or is that time offset because I'm looking at a computer screen?  Should I be be doing X,Y, and Z or should I only be doing or or none of them?  These are all constant questions and discussions that I'm working through on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.  I have some conclusions regarding a few of them but overall I still feel lost almost two years post accident.

As I've mentioned previously, my last accident was only the most recent in a string of head injuries.  In the past I'd joke that I'd forget things because I'd been a long time football player with a slew of head injuries.  And while it seemed funny at the time, the truth is, that I'd been noticing some issues well before the tree came down.  For a couple years I'd had multiple times when I just couldn't find the correct word.  Times when I'd be speaking and the wrong word would escape.  When I'd walk into rooms and forget what the hell I was doing.  Some of these happen to everyone of course and were no reason to cause great alarm, but I'd mentioned to my wife on numerous occasions that there were days when the frequency of occurrence was causing some concern on my part.

The truth is something that I've not yet fully accepted.  My brain does not function either like it might have without injuries nor even like it did a couple years ago.  Something or things within are not and do not respond well to certain actions or stimuli and that's manifested into the side effects that are elicited on what seems to be a near daily basis.  My dysphagia and dysarthria has become more frequent and prominent, to the point I've begun to learn ASL (American Sign Language) in the off chance it eventually become permanent.  It's to the point now where my OT is also working to help me get referred for further neurological testing.  There is the possibility that some of my issues are unrelated to a head injury, which obviously does not settle my nerves about all this but all avenues must be considered if I wish to continue improving.

In addition to the dysphagia/dysarthria, there are other symptoms that take place which seem to be normal among other TBI/post concussion syndrome patients. For myself personally, dizziness, vertigo, fatigue, memory issues, concentration issues, irritability, anxiety, and sensitivity to noise and light are probably the biggest ones.  Often they can very in severity depending on a variety of factors but if I have a hard day with one or especially multiples, by the evening and generally into the next day, they're all enhanced and create barriers.  Unfortunately, as each symptom rises so does my frustration which only makes matters worse.  A person can try to keep the emotional toll at bay but eventually it does hit you not matter how much hard you fight to keep it at bay.  The human brain is a pain in the ass like that.

So what does all this mean?  Hell if I know at this point.  There will no doubt be more testing.  More trial and error on my part.  I'm already taking specific supplements to try and help rebuild damaged neuro pathways.  I try to spend some time reading new literature, conclusions, and implementing strategies from the latest studies on brain injuries.  I'm still working with OT, working on my diet and physical fitness in an effort to reduce the signals my brain has to process due to body and overall health complications.  I'm trying new techniques such as creating daily and weekly lists of jobs/chores to accomplish and have recently begun brain dumping in an effort to both obtain better efficiency in life and work as well as remove unnecessary and potentially prohibiting thoughts from my melon.  As always, there is more that I can do and tasks I can improve upon.  I need to be better at maintaining a daily journal and task list.  I need to be more consistent with my nightly stretching and foam rolling.  It's imperative that I work on my eye exercises on a much more regular basis.  And these are where I'm hoping the brain dump and subsequent organization of thoughts and tasks will really show value.

If I'm being honest, I get tired of most if not all things concussion related sometimes.  At the same time, I'm hoping that I'll be granted the opportunity to help others through my own experiences down the road as well.  At this point, I'm finally beginning to accept that this is something that's not going away.  Yes I can still thrive and improve, but I also need to mentally understand that I can't do some tasks the way I always did.  I have to ask for assistance from time to time.  I have to develop new habits.  Different doesn't have to equal worse, it just equals different.

For the next few posts I'm hoping to discuss some other topics other than concussions.  Frankly, I feel as though I need to force myself to take a break from being so single subject focused, at least from here given that some days it feels all encompassing.  Instead I'm going to focus on some other areas of interest, discuss some new thoughts, ideas, and practices that I've learned, and in general try to present fresh outlooks on everyday subjects.  If you found this blog because of the topic of concussions, I'll understand if that's your only interest and wish to skip them but if you'd like to check those out as well, as always I love receiving feedback and certainly invite you to do so.       

Monday, March 19, 2018

Concussion Recovery Part 3: Moving Forward

When I left off last, I was feeling like shit with a return of many symptoms, had resigned my coaching positions, and accepted a new job.  That was early August 17'.  In the months following improvement would be slow and frustrating not just for me but the family as a whole; especially Shawna.  The level of gratefulness I feel for her during that time can't be measured, especially given that Caden would receive a concussion during his football season that would not only end his season, but his high school football career.  The load she had to handle while dealing with her previously described medical issues had to have been damn near overwhelming.  But, I'll come back to that later because as I mentioned in my previous post, doing two things at once is absolutely not my strong suit.

Stress, I've found, is a key culprit.  The lower my stress, the better and longer I can work, study, read, and interact with people.  The higher my stress the more reclusive I become, the less I talk and interact, and the higher my requirement to find a way to "zone out".  What do I mean by zoning out?  It's simply an activity that allows my brain to initiate autopilot.  There are a few ways I've found to accomplish this.  Mowing and tractor work works great.  Physical exercise can help sometimes but not always.  I've recently found that playing some video games can provide relief so long as they're not that ones that require constant eye movement.  I tend to also re-watch the same TV programs.  NCIS and Burn Notice replay a lot because focus isn't required.  It annoys the hell out of the Misses but while there are many new fantastic new shows available, most are almost too good for me to enjoy.  They're so well done and in-depth that they require levels of focus and attention that cause mental fatigue.  Fortunate for the viewing public at large, not so much for me.

Unfortunately the way the previous summer worked out I've also been dealing with excess self-induced stress this winter because I fell so far behind.  I didn't even manage to get all my firewood cut and split so I've literally taken a day every week or two to get enough wood put in the basement to get us through until I can process more.  It's frustrating as shit on multiple levels, not the least of which is the fact that I'm a Mainer who was completely unprepared for winter.  If someone asked for my Maine card back, they'd be justified frankly and that hits the ole' pride right in the heart.

Working in a beautiful environment doesn't hurt.
While stress plays a big part in life, my new job has been great for my recovery in many ways.  I'm just the maintenance man at a horse stable but between the work, the animals, and my co-workers, the atmosphere and job type were just what I needed.  One of the areas I've seemed to have the most trouble with is learning new, complex ideas.  Trying to study my personal training manual so I can become certified has been a practice in frustration.  Memorization and trying to fully understand complex concepts is admittedly, at times, a struggle.  There are days, and they're adding up more and more, where I can study like I did in college and really retain new material but to try and do that at a job and then do it while chasing my own dreams at home would be and I've found is, quite an obstacle.  What my maintenance job requires is the type of work that I've either done previously or is close enough that I'm not having to learn completely new tasks .  It's also work that I enjoy doing for the most part.  When I'm at home I'm often out on the tractor working the land or renovating the house or homestead.  It can be physically demanding, frustrating, cold, hot, wet, and smelly but in general I can make it through the day without being both physically AND mentally wiped.  I can give an honest days work there, help my wife at home, and not always but generally, have a little brain left over.  I've found a job that actually helps aid in my recovery and I'm thankful for that.

Sleep and rest are two other essential requirements that were and are overlooked not just by me, but by our population as a whole.  However, when it comes to brain injury/recovery, it's essential.  Essential.. I'm not even sure that word is strong enough.  And I'm not talking for immediate post recovery, though it's key there too.  What I'm talking about is for life going forward.  There is a noticeable difference in how I feel, perform, and process when I'm consistently getting enough sleep and rest and when I'm not.  When I'm limiting my screen time, have good amounts of physical exercise, limiting stress, eating properly, and finding enough downtime to let my brain refresh and recharge and when I'm pushing too hard for too long.  I can get away with pushing myself to the ends of my current capabilities for a time, but eventually it catches up and when it does, everything becomes a struggle.  I get off the path I discussed in a recent post, I stop doing things I should be because they feel like additional work, my brain goes into a state of autopilot where I can get most of my daily tasks done but nothing extra, and I devolve into my cranky asshole-iest.  It's certainly not unnoticeable to myself or those around me when I hit this point and like dealing with weight, it's much easier to fall into the realm of unhealthy than it is to dig out of it.  Unfortunately, there's only one way to feel better in these instances and that's to slow down, put what's unnecessary on hold, rest, sleep, and spend some days consuming quality foods, and maintaining hydration.  Basically, get back to life at it most simplistic.  Sounds easy right?  Easy to prepare, harder in practice for whatever reason. 

In the first paragraph I mentioned what a rock Shawna has been through all this.  Between Caden and I this place can often feel like a mental madhouse.  Throw in the day's her health isn't so good and I can't even imagine what this place must look like to an outsider.  But through it all, communication has been immense and for the most part the three of us have been pretty decent at it.  Yes there have certainly been times when we've all struggled but that's not uncommon for A.) Marriage, or B.) a house where a teenager resides.  I'd venture a guess that there aren't many households in the area that are as knowledgeable and aware of concussion issues, recovery, and treatment as ours and we're constantly trying to use that to our advantage.  While I'd like to say it's not so, I also think that the past few years navigating a home containing a person with some physical limitations has also helped.  We'd already spent considerable time devising  systems and learning to overcome physical and mental roadblocks so when faced with new ones, it wasn't nearly as taxing as it might have been for a family new to such changes.

So that's part 3 of what I'd thought was going to be a 4 part series.  Coming soon with be a discussion regarding my treatment(s) thus far, some of what I've learned, and perhaps even some discussion regarding the future.  Then again, perhaps that'll be a part 5.  Like PCS recovery, at this point, it's anyone's guess how this will continue to develop.

Concussion Recovery Part 1                                   Concussion Recovery Part 2

Friday, March 2, 2018

Concussion Recovery Part 2: Stepping Back

The day after hitting publish on the first Concussion recovery post, I had a couple thoughts. First and foremost, the writing was shit and clearly a step back from where I'd been months before.  Secondly, I didn't fucking care because the point wasn't to write my masterpiece, it was simply to write something, almost anything, and hit publish.  Getting a win in this facet of life was important, perhaps vitally important if I were ever to continue.  When I initially expressed my thoughts regarding the (lack of) quality the misses thought I was preparing to delete and began protesting until I informed her otherwise.  Clearly she also recognized that while it wasn't my best work, simply publishing was where the value lied.  The third thought was that I'm going to have to revert back a bit in this discussion because I left out far too many details that are inherent to explaining what's happened.  Frankly, much of it was nothing more than a jumbled mess that seemed to leave more questions than answers.  I could, of course, delete and re-write the entire draft but to do so would remove what I believe to be an important step on this road to recovery and some clear evidence for readers fighting similar issues that they're not alone.  Recovering from TBI is a long, pain in the ass road that will be filled with victory and set-backs and we must acknowledge, learn from, and accept our failures as well as our successes on the road back.

When I left you last, I'd mentioned experiencing a relapse.  I'll discuss that shortly but first let me step back a bit farther and explain a few things.  First, I don't really remember the months immediately following the tree accident and the relapse is much more clear so it's easier for me to discuss.  Sometimes memories come back from that time frame but it seems to be the exception not the norm.  As an example:  My cousin was married post accident during the summer of 2016.  I actually attempted to drive us to the wedding (this was before Shawna was able to get her license back after getting her seizures under control) but only made it about a mile up the road before deciding I was not well enough to complete the trip.  A few months later, upon noticing their rings I asked them when they'd run off and gotten married.  That day was when I began to truly understand the severity of my trauma.

For grade school and collegiate athletes,
trainers are the first line in concussion
diagnosis and recovery.
This was not my first head trauma.  I'd gotten hurt a couple times as a young child and later would play football in both high school and college prior to the many recent advancements regarding concussions and protocols.  I had missing pieces of games and practices during those years.  Headaches, nausea, and who knows what other symptoms.  I also dealt with years of depression but I can't say for certain how much of a role head injuries played in that honestly.  If today's rules were available, I'd probably have been pulled from contact sports.  This is in NO WAY an effort to cast any sort of dispersion on coaches or training staff because honestly, they were operating under incomplete information in good faith.  Basically, they didn't know what they didn't know and it appears that certain highly visible organizations may have been hiding knowledge in an effort to protect brand and bottom line.  Unfortunate but certainly not surprising to anyone with a ounce of understanding regarding human behavior.  Thankfully today their lies and deceit have been uncovered and the next generation it proceeding forward with much more knowledge.  We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who pursued and to those who lost their lives in an effort to bring this information into the public domain.  If it hadn't been for their sacrifices who knows how many more lives would have been effected not because of actual trauma but because of undisclosed information.

But I digress.  My relapse happened sometime around the middle of June 2017.  Up until that point I'd been on what I'd thought was a decent road to recovery.  I'd begun a new position doing overnight security at a school for youth, was coaching as an assistant for the local high school baseball team, writing a blog post per week, attending to all Shawna and Caden's needs and appointments, knocking out home projects while hitting the gym consistently.  I was pretty happy with the way things were progressing.  And then I began to notice some issues.  In retrospect, while they seemed to come on all at once, that wasn't actually the case.  Even though the job was only two overnights per week, it fucked my sleep pattern for the other 5 as well.  On top of that, all the other endeavors I'd taken on now became hindrances to rest and my symptoms intensified quickly ; the biggest being anxiety, specifically the inability to calm down in a timely manner once it set in.  But while anxiety was probably the most noticeable, others such as lack of concentration, slurred speech, increases in emotions, and inability to process information productively also returned.  It was almost like being back at square one, minus the memory loss.  And because I was acutely aware of what was happening, it only served to increase my anxiety.  To know, or perhaps it was just to feel, as though you're not who you are, is a sickening, troublesome feeling that's hard to explain to those who've not  felt it personally.
Because of those who spoke out and sacrificed much, including their own lives,
more information, studies, and protocols are available to aid concussion avoidance
and rehabilitation.

Eventually, after meeting with my OT (Occupational Therapist), talking with the Misses, and doing some research, it was decided that I could no longer work that job.  Between the inherent stress that sometimes arises with such a position and working overnights, it was simply not an option. Anyone who's worked graveyard shifts knows that overnight positions can be extremely taxing on everything from the body and brain to relationships and life goals.  I finally had to admit that I don't have the ability to function and my brain apparently cannot handle the type of stress such positions cause and require.  I would have to formulate a new plan in regards to employment.  It was also during that time a quagmire began regarding a different team that I was an assistant coach of which only exacerbated the situation.  Instead of taking the break I desperately needed I elected to step up into a more pronounced position for the summer than I'd have preferred and unfortunately due to the length of time that was required to sort the situation out, I was over the top exhausted and had fallen nearly back to where I'd begun my PCS journey a year prior.  The addition of a new job would seal the deal and my high school coaching career would come to an end.  While PCS was certainly not the only reasoning behind my decision to resign my positions, it played an undeniable role.  My circumstances had changed and with it, my attitude and expectation were required to as well.

It's not always about stopping, sometimes we must simply choose a different road.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Path

I came to the realization today that I've been off the path.  You may be asking yourself, what do I mean by that; being off the path?  Being off the path means that I've not been pursuing, never mind accomplishing, tasks that are in line with my long term goals.  Essentially I've been failing to chase my own dreams.  The realization has been on the tip of my tongue but while out for a run the other day it found a label.  Much like other life realizations, once I'd defined my feelings, it was though a weight lifted.  It's a feeling I've felt a few times in life, the last time just a week prior, but it still always feels a little strange.  I've been off the path.  And you know what, it's OK.

This is where often times self flagellation sets in for people, myself included.  And honestly, it has that place.  Kicking ones self in the ass from time to time is mandatory in order to improve in my estimation.  Frankly, if we can't criticize ourselves our ability to accept it from others will be limited.  Conversely, constantly beating ones self down doesn't work either.  There has to be a balance of when to criticize, when to congratulate, and when to simply accept and move on.  (This is a lesson parents and coaches 100% should strive to understand)  And that's where I'm at, understanding that I've been off the path, and accepting it.  It's not like I can go back and do the things I probably should have been doing.  No, the only move now is to acknowledge, understand, adjust, and look to learn from my failure(s).  There's a good likelihood that it'll happen again somewhere down the road but with experience comes the ability to not just avoid pitfalls that led me here to begin with, but to get back on the path in a more timely manner if/when it happens in the future. 

So how did I get off the path?  The easiest answer is life.  The more complicated answer is that I wasn't paying attention to enough of the things I should have and too much attention to things I shouldn't.  For example, given that rest and sleep are much more important now than they were pre-concussion, I know I should be fitting those into my days and nights.  They're musts if I want to chase dreams.  So the fact that I've been staying up to late fucking off with Netflix and internet is obviously a problem.  Yes, there are some extenuating circumstances here but facts are facts and prioritizing sleep and rest are musts.  Not working out has kept me far, far off the path as well.  Yes, I work at a manual labor type job but it doesn't remove the need to continue exercising, at least not in my mind.  Between life, health issues, misunderstood orders from PT, and my own mental blocks, I haven't put in any consistent work since well before the year turned.  Not acceptable.  Yes, I need to make adjustments for medical and time constraints but as I look back now, I've been fucking out of it in regards to training which is a pretty big issue given my long term goals.

Now comes the difficult part; getting back on.  You see, often times getting off the path means falling back into old habits.  And the more recently you've broken a habit, the more likely you are to fall back into it.  At least, that's how it's always been for me and without researching it, I'm willing to bet I'm not alone.  My initial thought would be to just stop what I'm doing and go back to exactly where I left off.  Problem is, doing so is the equilivant to jumping into a diet with both feet; I'll set myself up for failure by trying to do to much, to fast and then getting discouraged when things don't go 100% correctly.  So if I'm not jumping right back in, what am I planning to do?  Start simple and keep it simple, that's what. 

Keeping things simple can be hard as hell.  Yes, I meant that exactly as I wrote it.  It's as if psychologically we're tuned to believe that if something seems too easy, it can't be right.  And I'd guess 75% of that time that's an accurate feeling.  That, combined with the constant bombardment of the idea that, "anything worth doing is difficult", can be hard to overcome.  Sometimes, yes, things worth doing are difficult. But it's certainly not the truth in all cases.  Sometimes things worth doing are simple.  Brushing ones teeth isn't really that difficult but can prevent a host of health issues.  Taking a few minutes a day to meditate isn't that difficult but may help mind and body both.  Keeping a day planner isn't really that difficult but may save minutes and hours in the long run. Those are just three simple daily items that probably take less than ten minutes a day but can have a world of impact.  Where the difficulty can come arise is deciding where they fit.  And that's where I'm at with my simple changes currently, deciding where things fit.  I've been trying to make use of my daily planner more regularly, meditation is on my list of daily activities to do immediately upon arriving home from work, brushing my teeth was just an example but is also on the schedule now because planning is of great importance to me.  I've also re-instituted a morning ritual that I've found helps my day get off to a better start, am simplifying and shorting my workouts, have added running back in both because I need more cardio and I actually kind of enjoy it. And lets be honest there are not a lot of workouts that are simpler than running or walking and while they may get boring, with summer coming the woods will be open and I can try some new challenges.

I've been off the path, and whether your running, hiking, driving, or simply chasing dreams, getting back to where you're supposed to be is a process that requires first, admitting that you are where you are, i.e. lost.  Second, taking the time to understand where you are and accessing the situation.  And third, creating a plan to get you back on track.  That could be stepping back.  If you caught it early it may just be a quick adjustment or two.  Or, and I'm unsure how often it actually happens but it certainly can and does, once acknowledgement of location is made looking ahead may provide a point where current and intended paths merge.  I can't say what plan is right and until you're in the situation, neither can you.  At times, it may be a mixture of all three.  I've stepped back on some as I readjust, others I'm already continuing on with, a there are one or two that I've benefited from BECAUSE I fell off the path and will utilize going forward; which fits number three. 

Success is more obstacle course race than flat desert ride
In the short term, success and failures are easy to recognize but over months and years, those lines can blur.  What seemed like a failure may lead to a future success and at that point, you may ask yourself how to tell the difference.  Frankly, I don't have an answer.  What I do know is that I have dreams and those dreams have a current path of pursuit.  A path that I'll step off from time to time no doubt but a path I feel, at least today, I must try to at least keep in consistent view. 

I've been off the path, but yesterday I made progress.  And today I did too.  Tomorrow I will be a step closer.  Are you on the path to your pursuits?


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Let's Try This Again, Shall We.

So here I am again, trying to kick start my writing one more time.  Frankly, it's beginning to feel like quitting tobacco with all the starts and stops.  But given that it's been almost two years since I got off the nicotine I figure if I keep at this enough times eventually it'll stick too.  I actually enjoy writing; when my brain is working well enough to do so.  And in the second half of 2017 that was almost never.  But it's not 2017 anymore, it's 2018 and with the changing year also came changing goals.  So here I am, sitting at my computer once again, coffee to my left, my fancy new Protopreneur Protoplanner (more on this later) day planner to my right and a quickly filling blank screen before me.

I won't cover too much of last year today because to do so would remove some potential topics for future posts.  And frankly, I'm not confident that I can consistently come up with new topics on the fly as I've done previously so I need to maintain ideas already in development.  I do have the second part of the concussion post begun and that's very likely to need a third and perhaps fourth installment.  I'm hoping to do an update on my intermittent fasting fairly soon as well for those who are or have been interested to read how that's coming.  But for today I'm foregoing discussing those topics and instead will discuss some information regarding goals, goal setting, and adapting goals to fit circumstances.  And this blog is a perfect place to begin that discussion.

Entering 2017, I had the goal to write two posts per month.  Before my concussion relapse I was actually producing closer to a post per week.  I felt like I was on fire.  I had ideas and those ideas were turning into words.  My writing was getting better and more fluid.  Don't get my wrong, I was a long ways away from being an actual professional but the consistent practice was clearly paying dividends.  And then, if you read this blog, you know that everything came to a screeching halt mid summer and after that almost nothing.  It's taken me this long to get back on the horse and to even get this far, some serious changes have been required.

First, I had to decide if this was still something I wished to pursue.  Given that it absolutely is, next I had to come up with production goal.  Last year I began with two posts per month.  Currently that feels a little daunting so for 2018 it'll be a single post per month.  If I manage to hit one or two extra here and there, fabulous.  But for this year, this entire year, I'm keeping the one post per month goal.  Doing so alleviates the possibility that I'll add any additional pressure regarding this task and that's an important part of my recovery and life change requirements.  Third, I've planned a day for blog production weekly.  For now, it's Monday evenings for an hour.  At that time I'll brainstorm, write, edit, ect that months work.  Perhaps I'll have something I can post the next day or maybe it'll take all four monthly sessions to have something shareable but it doesn't matter.  I have time carved out to write.  Just like I have time set aside for studying, working out, spending time with family, ect.  It's not to say I can't write at others times if I'd like as well, this simply gives me a fixed window for this task.

The Simple Things is not the only place I've been working on some goal adjustments but it's obviously the most relevant here.  The truth is I've had to make many adjustments and one of the biggest was opening up to allowing some fluidity with my goals.  While I think some goals should be more rigid than others, the reality is that life happens and sometimes we have to change what we're doing on the fly.  Sometimes we can detour around said changes and get back on the same path we were on previously, sometimes we have to seek a new path, and other times we have to change the destination all together.  The hard part is deciding which move is required.  Too much rigidity and one risks constant failure.  Too much fluidity and no real goals will ever be set or met.  All such decisions must not only be made on a case by case basis, but the method for making the decisions must be carefully analyzed as well.  The need for consistent, unbiased review of ones path and goal  is a paramount yet often overlooked part of a successful process.  In truth, it can be tricky to not become so overly focused with planning and reviewing that work is never accomplished but being aware of the possibility that that can happen is a good first step to avoiding it. 

This is where having support comes in handy.  And I say this as someone who's overly independent and does not like to ask for help (drives my wife NUTS).  Your support has the ability to see things you don't, brings different experiences and perspectives to the table, and can let you know when you're off track.  You might not want to hear what they have to say, may not like their opinions, but even if you choose to stick to your original plan, there's value in having as much information as possible.  The reason I have my new planner is due to my wife.  She had one and I really liked what she was doing with it so she purchased one for me and has been helping to set it up in a way that will hopefully enable me to accomplish more.  Her support will hopefully enable me to pursue my own dreams in a healthier and more efficient manner and had it not been for her and coming up with these solutions, if I wasn't currently experiencing another relapse I'd be damn close it.

And there we have it, both my first post in the past three months as well as my first post of 2018.  Won't lie, this feels like a huge win.  Not only that I somehow managed to get the damn thing written and live before the end of January making me 1 for 1 this year.  Who's to say what next month will bring but tonight it doesn't matter.  Tonight I'm on track for the year.  Tonight, with post ideas in tow and a couple weeks to work on them, I'm ahead of the game.  Tonight I'll hit publish and The Simple Things will be live once again and trust me, that's No Simple Thing. 


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Concussion Recovery: Part 1

I've had a considerable amount of this post written for some time; months in-fact.  But what I've found is that traumatic brain injuries/concussions don't work on our timetable, they progress at their own speed.  In-fact, the more one fights against it and attempts to push through the longer the symptoms linger.  These are just a couple of the many lessons I've learned in what's now approaching a year and a half since my accident and injury.  Another is that in order to write this properly, it has to be raw.  Perhaps that was one of the issues prior.  Back when I began I was a school coach and as such, tended to scale back my language and how I wrote things.  I no longer have that concern thanks in part to some of the side effects that have come along with my now and finally diagnosed,
"Moderate Post-Concussion Syndrome"  I put that in quotes because that was what the neurologist diagnosed me with and clearly for this post, it's important to insure that it's given its proper reference.   

The helmet I was wearing sitting atop pieces of the tree involved.
If you're a sports fan it's next to impossible not to know about the advances and acknowledgements surrounding concussions.  It's been all over the internet and stations like ESPN and Fox Sports due to the high amount of professional football players who've been diagnosed postmortem with CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) as well as the controversy surrounding medical implications that were not acknowledged/possibly covered up.  This has now transitioned to a vast discussion not only about what concussions are, but also how to prevent, diagnose, and treat. As a former coach, I paid attention because I wanted those whom I worked with to be healthy and to limit the chances for injury to the highest degree possible.  For me, understanding concussions is as important as understanding how the goal line defense compares to a 5-2 or 4-4 in short yardage situations.  (If you're not a football fan, I apologize if my analogy doesn't make much sense). Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, beginning last summer I became much more an expert on the subject than I ever could have foreseen.

The rest of the tree.  This was the base so no directly involved
but when the issues no doubt began on my end.
On July 20th of last year I made my way behind the house to do some wood cutting and land clearing. I had my chainsaw, some wedges, and on that particular day, a forestry helmet.  I knew walking in it would be necessary for a dead cherry tree to come down because it was both in the way and presented a clear safety hazard.  I checked the immediate area in search of another tree I could fell in that direction, allowing me to take it down while lessening the danger but unfortunately none were present.  I directed Caden where to safely stand and instructed him to wait for my signal before moving in for cleanup. Helmet on, I looked over the tree, decided where I wanted it to fall and began cutting.  It was pretty well surrounded by other trees so I made the decision to have it fall in a way that it would graze the limbs on a nearby pine and slide down. Unfortunately, dead trees don't always do what you expect and on this day, it made a valiant effort to live up to the "widowmaker" moniker. Rather than hitting the pine branches and sliding off, it hit the branches and came straight back at me. Whether I felled it exactly where I wanted I have no idea but it's safe to assume, not exactly.  (Caden would later tell me it was going exactly where I'd planned but hit another branch that I apparently didn't see) I cannot remember seeing where it hit but I do remember seeing it coming back at me.  I waited as long as possible before moving in what I thought was to be the safe direction but I was again wrong.  My guess is it again hit something else that changed it's direction but I don't know for sure.

 I remember turning enough so when it hit me it was on the back left side of my head and knew immediately I'd been dinged pretty hard but I've been hit in the head hard a lot so the idea of being genuinely hurt didn't enter my initial thoughts.  Funny enough, after a moment or two and letting Caden know I was OK, I picked up my saw again to get back to work when it become apparent I should have Shawna (a former Army medic) check me out.  I walked back to the house, entered, and since she was sleeping, I was forced to wake her (which I actually remember feeling badly about.  HA!)  Startled because I don't generally ask for medical help (there are other stories there), she was awake instantly and running me through some basic concussion testing.  Most were OK but not great and I honestly thought that I'd probably panicked her for nothing when my speech began to slur.  That continued to get worse until we made the decision that seeking medical advice was a good idea.  We made a call and got a ride from family so the Dr could do basically nothing except charge me a fee. Limited cognitive testing, no MRI/cat scan, no advice except to rest. Looking back, I'm pretty pissed by the medical treatment I (didn't) received because I made decisions based on their reactions and advice.  This is not to say that I would have listened to everything but I should have had those options much earlier than I did.  And yes, I should have listened to my wife but when you're in the state I was, you put a certain amount of trust into the hands of your doctors and frankly, I'll never fucking do it again.

From here, some (many according to Shawna) details are fuzzy.  I thought I'd be up and on my feet in a day or two but that turned definitely wasn't the case.  I tried to go outside and work a few days later but that only magnified my symptoms.  I tried and did work as an assistant football coach at the local high school, but I definitely wasn't myself.  I would not come to realize how bad I was until I was sent to see an Occupational Therapist who helped me understand the shape was actually in by running a battery of simple tests that left me feeling fucked up not just following the appointment, for for a day or two after .   However, even then, I honestly didn't take the whole thing nearly as serious as I should have.  I continued to do things against her, my wife's, and pretty much everyone around me's recommendations because I thought for sure I could simply out-tough my injury.

Eventually, a couple months later, I finally began to feel like myself.  I got to watched the Cubs finally win the World Series (I'm a Red Sox fan first, Cubs fan because of so many years of shared and understood misery)  made it through the holidays, enjoyed watching the Pats pull of their epic Super Bowl comeback for the ages, was writing weekly blog posts while working on and beginning to lose some weight, and was even an assistant coach for the local high school baseball team in the spring.  It was also during that time that I found a new job and began working an overnight security gig at a local specialized school.  Everything seemed to be back to normal and going well...Right up until it began not to  And that's when the fucking relapse happened.     


Monday, July 17, 2017

Quick Update

It's been about 6 weeks since my last published post.  I haven't given up on this but physically and mentally I simply haven't been able to sit and work.  I have a new multi-part post that I'll hopefully be posting part one of next week regarding concussions, mine specifically, and it's coming along nicely; albeit very slowly.  My fast ins't showing great benefits but I've also not been overly strict either, though I'm still progressing with my training so I'm not even mad.  I have moved it up to 14/10 and sometimes 16/8 (first number indicates number of fasting hours, second eating hours) with my fasts and have not found difficulty generally with adherence to the hours.  My current issues have revolved around the what I'm eating not when but we're making efforts in the house to change that currently. I'll certainly have more to come on the subject down the road but for the next couple posts at least, I'll be going a different, yet equally important direction.

If you're a follower please bare with me for a bit longer because I'm hoping to have some more and even better work produced in the coming weeks.  Thanks again for following along with the Simple Things.