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TBI Recovery Building Block #3: Rest – a long day deserves a long rest

Posted Oct 09 2012 9:12am

I wasn’t fooling with one of those 18″ plastic snakes or something manual to wrangle with. This called for a power auger and a power drill. There were two clogs – about 10′ and 15′ down the line.

Unclogging a severely stuck drain is no small feat. Nor is working your way through all the choices on the wall of potential tools the hardware store, all of which cost a fair amount of money…  deciding which ones  make the most sense.

And then there’s the process of remembering where you put the other tools you need, gathering them all, and arranging everything so that it’s in easy reach when you’re up to your elbows in gunk and the location of the clog is not in an easy-to-reach location.

I slept like a log last night, after I got the drain cleared, cleaned up the work area, and ate my supper. I crashed on the couch, then I dragged myself to bed at about 2 a.m. … and continued to sleep like a log – all but dead to the world. This morning I can tell that I was really working last night, thanks to the physical discomfort of muscles that had to do things in ways they are not accustomed to.  But most of the work was actually mental, as well as emotional and behavioral – I had a couple of near meltdowns, when I was on the phone with my buddy, and I almost quit a bunch of times, thinking it was useless, I wasn’t going to be able to figure this out, and I was going to have to call a plumber after all… who was probably going to show up and tell me what an easy thing it would have been to fix — and promptly charge me $300 to do it.

No thanks. The thought of that was enough to keep me on track, so I didn’t give up. And after one false start (the drain cleaner was a little delayed doing its work on the tunnel I opened up in the gunk), it turned out perfectly fine, with the deeply satisfying sound of water draining – fast -  down the drain.

I wasn’t expecting to sleep through to the alarm, this morning. I’ve been waking up earlier than I wanted to, lately, and it was really wishful thinking when I set my alarm last night. But I did sleep through to the alarm, and I’m better for it. I’ve resolved to stop counting the hours I’ve slept – it just makes me crazy and only serves to make me feel badly about myself.

The main thing is, I got enough sleep to help my brain recover a bit from the added workload it took on last night. The wild thing about TBI recovery is that it’s not just our cognitive functioning that pulls on the brain’s reserves. It’s not just our thinking. It’s also our physical activity and our emotions. Because when we’re not moving smoothly, it takes more thought and more deliberate coordination and attention to function – and that pulls extra reserves from the brain. When our emotions are all over the map, it also saps precious energy from our everyday activities and makes even the most average activity more challenging. When we are overly fatigued, TBI survivors are more prone to be agitated and angry… and then we can get into a vicious cycle that pulls us down and makes us crazy and drains our energy, which makes us crazier… and so on.

So, having some good rest after a very long and demanding day can only do a body good. I tend to underestimate how much things like home repairs take out of me – but in fact they do, which is part of the reason why I’ve avoided making home repairs for years. It was just too confusing, too overwhelming, too draining. There’s a lot I need to do, to get my house back in the shape it was when I fell in 2004, but one piece at a time, I can do this. Yeah, I can do this.

I feel a little foggy and out of it this morning, and I’m sore as hell in my feet and back, but I my energy feels good, and that’s carrying me through. I rose to the challenge yesterday, worked my way through it, and I came out on top – feeling truly great about myself and what I can accomplish. I’m sure plenty of other people would not think twice about doing stuff like this, but this is the first time I’ve successfully completed an important project with this many moving pieces in something like five years — and I handled it without making things worse. That’s incredible progress that I wish and hope everyone in my shoes gets to experience.

Working through the anxiety, the confusion, the self-doubt, the tool selection (and tracking down the different tools I put away months and years ago), the problems with sequencing, having to read the instructions on the different labels a bunch of times till they made any sense to me, asking for help with the job, talking it through with my buddy, and then sticking with it to the end… this ranks right up there with figuring out how to jump-start my car, a few months back — without blowing up both batteries (as I’ve nearly done in the past). I may not be able to do all of this as fluidly as I could before my fall in 2004, but hell — if I can figure out how to work through this, I can certainly figure out how to work through other things as well. And the more I do it, the better I can get at it. It’s about getting the experience… laying in the synaptic connections that lead to greater skill and ability. Neurons that fire together, wire together. And the first step to getting them to fire together, is to take on the stuff that I need to do, without running or dropping it all, before I can finish.

And that’s the thing — it’s not all about being able to know things up front. It’s about being able to figure them out gradually, as needed. This is a huge piece of the puzzle for me. It’s not what I know at the outset, it’s what I learn as I go.

And on top of it, I’m able to follow through after the fact with the kind of rest I needed to let my brain recover from the exertion. I can’t believe how well I slept last night. Incredible.

That being said, I need to settle in and focus all this great energy on the day ahead of me. I have a lot to do today, and I’m running a little late. Oh well. It will all be there when I get to the office. It’s not going anywhere. But I am.


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