Saturday, June 19, 2010

Books of Interest

Last night I met a man who graciously let me have a piece of pizza when I was super sick from overstimulation.  Correction... three pieces of pizza.  Somehow it came up that I get sick since getting hit in the head, etc etc.  To make a long story, he eventually confessed in the last year he had a brain tumor removed and was dealing with many of the same things.

It made me think of a book I skimmed through a while back (first on the list). Many surgery, stroke, and other brain related events that are written about all kinda have the same theme. The thing that stinks when getting help after any of those events is that medicine is often so compartmentalized.  There's very little overlap... and even communication between... two different causes/diagnoses.

Anyway. Here are a couple books I've glanced through that involve tbi's, diagnosed and related.

1. I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse?  By Suzy Becker

2. Head Cases, By Michael Paul Mason

  -especially related to the chapter on Melissa Felteau

3. Fixing My Gaze, By Susan Barry

  -about vision related issues and vision therapy, she had a non tbi related issue... but many athletes use vision therapy too.  One of the most incredible thing I have noticed is how bad my vision was and how clear it gets after neurofeedback. And no, we have no idea why NF helps!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

New Phone

I just got a new phone. One that is capable of helping me out daily with more than just a calendar! I'm talking about list keeping, notes, reminders, ways to keep track of passwords, when I have migraines, and if I've paid my bills.  It's an android, by LG.  Finding apps has been a little tiresome, but so worth the organization!

It's taking me a bit to learn the ins and outs, but I finally found an android app that can publish to this blog! Once I remembered the password, I am now ready to test it out!  This could keep me updating more frequently...

And yes, I diligently added the login info to my password-keeping app :)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Eating Well to Be Well

I was stumbling along on Shine via this morning while waiting to see if my migraine would settle or erupt. Thought this was a pretty simple article that was able to wrap up a pretty complex topic. Eating well can be extremely difficult for anyone. Nobody's perfect. Changing learned habits are often impossible to break - and I'm not one to say things are impossible. But it can often be the first step to good health.

One thing I can be thankful for is that I've had a reset button pushed on my body and my appetite. As I've recovered, I've tried to get used to having some of the 'better' foods always around and learning what choices would be better (and just as easy) to buy at the store. I wasn't craving anything for a long time and I wouldn't ever get hungry. I got a second chance to learn how to worship my body as the temple it truly ought to be... and most certainly is, obviously!!

The last topic of caffeine is such a delicate one, especially after brain injuries. However, when I tried to mention that my mom should try to eat more veggies than she does, I know the first thing she yammered out was "I'M NOT GIVING UP CAFFEINE!!" Ok... Nobody's pressing that you had to, Mom. I never got on the coffee boat, but it's as tough to quit as smoking. So I don't feel I'm as well versed as I should be to go suggesting any particulars about the rather touchy subject! :)

Here's the article, 4 Ways Your Eating Habits Can Make You Happier:

Many people seeking help for mental health issues look first to chemical intervention in the form of a medication. There is another chemical intervention which you can utilize yourself - your diet. Having a healthy diet is crucial when trying to fight for your mental health, especially where mood disorders are concerned. How can dietary changes affect depression, anxiety and mood swings?

Good mental health is about maintaining balance, in your thoughts, in your actions and especially in your emotions. When addressing nutrition for mental health it is important to understand how food nourishes and fuels your body as well as the part it plays in providing your body with necessary nutrients for maintaining that balance that it is important for peace of mind.

1. Complex Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy. Your body will burn carbohydrates first before turning to protein or fats. A lack of energy sources in the body will result in the body shutting down and altering activity levels. People who are chronically tired often feel sad and hopeless as a result. To keep your emotions on an even keel it is important to have a slow steady stream of carbohydrates broken down and made available in the bloodstream for energy.

People struggling with depression and/or mood swings often rely heavily on simple carbohydrates (sugars) rather than complex carbohydrates (starches). Simple carbohydrates (candies, table sugar, honey, sodas, fruits, milk products) break down quickly in the bloodstream and hit it with a bang that provides immediate energy. This is why they are preferred by people with depression. However, what goes up must come down, usually with the same speed and intensity. The surge of energy is followed by a crash when the sugar is quickly burned up. This crash exacerbates depression, fatigue, impaired concentration and memory and irritability. However, all simple carbohydrates are not equal. There is a difference between the simplest carbohydrates like table sugar, sodas and candies which are referred to as "empty calories" because they provide so much glucose, an easily broken down form of sugar, and no nutritional value. Compare these with fruits and milk products whose sugars (fructose and galactose respectively) are somewhat harder to break down, enter the bloodstream a bit more gradually and have a somewhat milder crash and provide significant nutrition such as vitamin C and calcium. If you are craving something sweet have an apple or orange rather than a candy bar.

Complex carbohydrates (whole grains, starchy vegetables and beans) are even harder for the body to metabolize and provide and slow, constant stream of fuel for the body's energy demands. This avoids the peaks and crashes of the simple carbohydrates. Whole grains also provide lots of B vitamins which calm and stabilize the mood and help your body metabolize carbohydrates for increased energy.

2. Proteins

It is important to eat high quality proteins like chicken, fish, turkey, soy, dairy products and beans. (I am a very big fan of beans. They are usually high in protein, low in fat and high in fiber.) Proteins are made of amino acids. Your body uses amino acids to make neurotransmitters in the brain. These chemicals (like serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine and GABA) are the chemicals which antidepressants and anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medications) seek to increase to improve your mood and calm you. Chicken and turkey are also high in tryptophan, which the body also uses to make serotonin, one of the primary neurotransmitters for lifting and calming the mood. Running short on these neurotransmitters results in depression, irritability, difficulty thinking and remembering, insomnia, fatigue and anxiety. Having sufficient stores of these neurotransmitters available to the brain helps it regulate emotions and thinking. Providing your body with the necessary ingredients to manufacture these neurotransmitters is vital for improving your mental health and keeping things in balance.

3. Fats

The benefits of a low fat diet for fighting weight gain and heart disease have been highly touted. However, many don't realize that limiting your fat intake too severely of healthy fats can result in serious mood changes, irritability and aggression. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have been found to help stabilize mood swings and decrease stress. "Good fats" burn clean in the bloodstream compared to "bad fats" which clog the arteries and narrow the blood vessels. Good fats include olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocadoes and fish. Exchange that fried chicken for a grilled salmon. Replace a mayonnaise dressing with an olive oil and vinegar splash.

4. Caffeine

It's always amazing to me to find people struggling with serious anxiety problems who are still drinking a significant amount of caffeine everyday. Since I don't drink caffeine on a regular basis I have no tolerance for it and it literally makes me shake when I do drink it. I can't imagine throwing that in on top of an anxiety problem. If anxiety is the problem, I would eliminate caffeine all together and see if it helps.

For people with mood disorders, caffeine provides a serious rush of energy, but like simple carbohydrates (sugars) you crash when it wears off. This peak and crash pattern is not good for people trying to stabilize mood swings and the crash will exacerbate depressive symptoms.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Things I would like to know:

1) Is there an easier way to blog?

2) What easy tips do you have?
I took this picture of my Grandmother sitting on the steps of the BPL 8.09


That’s the name of the game. I think it is a main focus of anyone’s normal life, mainly brought to attention when their life begins to feel overwhelming. However, when recovering from a head injury – as severe or minor as it may be – the object of simplification quickly becomes front and center. How can things be… easier?

I reflect a lot. I write to help me reflect. I also really enjoy talking, so much I fear I’ve never grown out of that teenage girl phase! For a while, I had trouble stringing thoughts together to have a conversation. So writing gave me more time to put those thoughts somewhat together, change around my grammar, and look up words that I ‘misplaced’ definitions to. Right now, I’m reflecting on how much I’ve been able to get back over the last two years.

November 7, 2007 I had no idea how much I was going to go through. Often I heard the two year mark was what I should look forward to, when I would be the closest to ‘me’ that I would ever get. As my first year passed, I tried to celebrate. As my 18 month anniversary came, I took myself to a Red Sox game as a reward. I feel it’s important to reward yourself for anything you put your time into; I think it’s important to take your vacation time and spend money on a trip after working for weeks on end. So as two years came up on me, I’ve been shocked to find myself getting immediately upset at the very thought of it.

I’ve felt extremely stagnant, as I mentioned. I have been trying to find a job with every ounce of energy. I have fallen so far behind on my current course that I’d be foolish to try to catch up. And I’m right back to that awful phrase I had to learn two years ago: I just can’t.

What happens when I can’t do it all? Well let me tell you a quick story: I got pretty sick on Thursday, which happens. I wasn’t able to sleep Wednesday night. My father picked me up Thursday morning so I could drop him off at work and then drive to RI for neurofeedback. By the time we got to Braintree (about half hour from my door to his office) I was about to vomit. I hadn’t had a migraine in about a week while I made sure I would sleep two hours after every 5 hours being awake – and this one was over due. So I took my Axert and drove to the mall down the road to get away from the droning sounds of the school buses next to my dad’s work. I stayed there for an hour before I could drive to RI. On my way back, I tried to sleep in the car for a couple hours before taking the T back to Boston at 5 pm. I was miserable.

I got home and I eventually fell asleep. I slept all Friday. I slept all Saturday. I slept most of today and I’ve got a little bit of a headache. One bad day and poof! I’m down for the count.

Today, I’ve decided I need to let go. I have tried to find a pace and stick with it, but this pace is too much for me right now. So I am in need of simplifying. I am in need of getting back to the trivial things in life – like having food to eat. Everything else will just have to wait. And hopefully nobody will die because I couldn’t do my homework. Hopefully nobody will die because I don’t have a job yet. Hopefully I can make things easier so I can begin to congratulate myself on how much I have actually accomplished in the last two years, rather than come to tears because I am once again stagnant.

I can do math in my head.
I can write.
I can spell.
I can have a conversation.
I can learn.
I can understand complex medical jargon.
I can take out my own trash.
I can listen to music.
I can see well.
I can remember without writing every little thing down.
I got my freakin’ pharmacist license.
I can read a diagram and put things together.
I can be thankful.
I can love.
I can make things easier.

Everything else will come when it’s time. When it’s my time to have things, they’ll fall into place.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I just... ugh

I feel incredibly stagnant.

I have felt like I just need a door to open somewhere. Somewhere, just a crack, I’ll kick it all the way open myself. I need a J.O.B. I need one A.S.A.P. I need something promising to happen to me. I give and give and pray and put in a lot of effort towards wishing other people well, sometimes I just wallow a bit and wonder, “ok, I really am happy and all, but what about me?! When may I expect something back, when will it be my turn to receive?!” So when I feel like this, I resort to the only logical thing – giving more.

I passed my law exam and finally got my pharmacist license. [Uh, now what?] I finished the makeup homework from my course that I almost failed. And promptly, I was down for the count. Three endless weeks of trying to sleep, tending to migraines, and doing my best to hope it’ll pass sooner than later. Four days of no sleep followed by three days of incapacitated migraine, then a few hours of rest only to battle a constant burden of being uncomfortable. And I think the streak ended yesterday. So I’m writing.

The little time in between this battling, I was redirecting my attention back to what matters most to me. People. I have an extraordinary amount of love to give and I have an immeasurable amount of compassion for people. I would try my best to spend one-on-one time with some of my friends. It tires me out a bunch but it is honestly the best investment of my time when I’m not able to do much else. Not only am I giving my individual attention to them and sharing my woes intimately with them, I am keeping myself connected.

I luckily spoke with my friend from high school – who I have always admired since high school band. I read her blog daily and am so amazed that I never knew how incredible she was at writing. I asked her how she gets the energy to remind her self to write every day, and she said “it’s what I’m passionate about.” How did I not know this? I have been passionate about writing since I could hold a crayon and squiggle!

I never want to comment on her blog, because I don’t want to link my blog to it and thus pull the curtain off my anonymity. It’s important that I have a place to talk about my struggles in an uncensored and candid forum. However, I shared my blog with her because she is so candid with her life and I have utmost respect for her passion. I comment on her facebook instead, or tell her through a private message what I thought about her writing. And after talking with her two nights ago, she said something completely profound to me: Start writing again.

Well, I do… and sometimes all the time. But about things that are trivial – like mommy issues or why I find all boys to be duds and how to break up with them without breaking their hearts. Things that ruminate in my head that I don’t really care about but I pay mind because it feels like these things need to be settled and dealt with to be cast aside. However, I don’t think writing about these things to deal with the ‘here and now’ stuff is moving me in any direction – but when I read about concussions and reasons why LENS helps my vision and why my resting heart rate is consistently at 130… I want to move forward, I want to find a way to be creative and announce it to the world and to educate and inspire. I want to be the genius I used to be and I want the endurance to be that genius at all hours of the day without getting tired or falling short to a migraine.

I am three weeks behind on my homework – yes, after finally getting caught up I went down for the count! I am eleven assignments behind. ELEVEN. But nobody’s dead yet. And I think I just needed to find something to write about. I needed to find a little fire. I needed to read about what I’m passionate about; to get excited about solving the mystery of concussions and brain injuries and the desire to teach the world and make it a better place. So I’m incredibly behind and I’m feeling absolutely stagnant, but I needed to write.

Thanks, C. You’ve done more than you can imagine. More than most. Although, I can’t promise everything will now be hunky-dory.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I am Finally

A Registered Pharmacist in MA!!! I passed my law exam and was issued my license on 9-9-09 :) Thank Goodness!! This is a MAJOR milestone for me. I can now begin looking for legit jobs... however, as big of a milestone as it is, it may still be a while until I'm actually working again. But regardless, this is HUGE!

I'm trying to get caught up with all my school work. After this month, hopefully I'll be in a groove where I can come by and begin putting some more helpful tools and suggestions here. Slowly but surely, it'll happen.

Thanks for all the well wishes and prayers. I hope those who come by and leave a note know how much I appreciate it. I think of you often and hope you've all been making some strides towards comfort in your recoveries, too.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rollercoaster... can we have more coast and less roller, please?

Sorry for the two month hiatus, lets see if I can explain. To make it easy (for you or me?)... or possibly to add a little dimension and fun to this post (again, for you or me?)... we'll try a list format!

June 1: Started two classes - Lifespan development and History of Psychology
Way too much work for me to accomplish
Work submitted is A+ ... yay!
Work submitted late is 0 ... boo!
Work not submitted is 0 ... boo boo!
Played 'Ketchup' all three months
Ended Lifespan course with a 76%... a C... and I'm thankful.
I took Lifespan 4 years ago and ended with an A
Ended History with a 43%
Did not complete 7 assignments, one being a 10 page paper worth 40%
Talked to financial aid
Talked to Advising
Talked to disability
Talked to professor
Everything will be ok
Take out the 7 missed assignments, I had an A
Prof gave me an incomplete and until Oct 5 to complete these assignments
Enrolling in only ONE course for next quarter
I found a shadow in my shower, in the shape of a heart
...what else???...
Scrapping down after running out of money
Down to 98 pounds... so much for trying to stay around 107
Explored my attachment style in one of my papers - I have mommy issues
Explored my personality in another paper - I'm pretty cool
Still going to RI once every two weeks to get LENS
Started a medication that my neurologist could lose his license over if audited
First 13 days, I didn't have a migraine - just a few faint headaches
That's a miracle
Last month wasn't so bad other than the stress of incomplete school work
Needed to schedule an appt with vocation rehab... like 3 months ago??
Saved all my bday money to retake my Law exam to be licensed
$75, finally
Hadn't heard about my app for 6 weeks, so I called
$75 was the processing fee
I needed $185 for the actual exam - seriously?
If I can't figure that out, I shouldn't be allowed to take it
Needed a job to make money to take exam
Needed to take and pass exam to get a job
Uh? Anything wrong with the past two statements?
Less eating = more money = money for exam
Taking law exam Sept 3rd... prayers accepted in any form
I saw the fireworks on July 4th over the Charles in Boston
... I know there's more??...
My apartment's a mess
I became pretty isolated for a little while to figure out school and exam
Was pretty apathetic about anything or anyone else's life, or new house, or new car
When I'm upset... I look happy and smiley... don't you worry!
I gave up in trying to save the world for now
I need to belong to an institution to get a grant
My school doesn't have a place for me
I applied to some jobs and its competitive and I don't have my law exam yet
I applied to a couple small jobs, and I'm overqualified
I asked around hoping someone would want to do research with me and they don't care
So I'll wait until I'm in a better place w people to support research
I tried sushi for the first time courtesy of my friend Caleb from HS, who's now a cook
... anything fun??...
I went to a bachelorette party with my highschool girls
We had glow bracelets
Every guy asks to have one
My response "what will I get out of giving you one?"
No wonder I can't find a relationship
Their reply "... fill in blank here..."
Which translates "I won't follow through on anything... I should get one for free"
I no longer have patience for "You like to give and I like to take"
I'm absolutely bitter
My girls met guys and blew off the cab I found, but I had no money to pay
He wouldn't let me walk 45 minutes home
Drove me for free while I cried hysterically in public for the first time
Gave all four glow bracelets to the cab driver for his daughters
He deserved so much more than glow bracelets
Still shamelessly humbled by the generosity of a stranger without much to give

...ummm, anything else?...
Maybe that I'm really sorry
This blog hasn't been what I had intended
And still hope for
my Tough Boy Initiative hasn't been ground breaking for anyone
And certainly won't get me a gig public speaking around the world about this
Which I would love to do