Organise yourself tool. Idea for busy brain injury survivors.

Looking for ways to organise me after brain injury

Those of us who struggle with memory issues can find everyday life difficult to organise. I’ve written before how things that I would have easily accomplished previously, have become a challenge now. Whether it’s because I confuse dates, or do things in the wrong order it always ends with added stress I don’t need.  Stress when you have a brain injury can end in disaster.

Help was offered.

Many of you will know I post my articles on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. One day I got a direct message from Serg, the Founder of an app called Q-card. He explained he had been following me for a while as he too is a brain injury survivor and enjoyed my articles and how I attempt to help others. He had been in computer programming and web development since University. So he put his skills to use in developing an app to help people stay organised. He had tried diaries and appointment devices before, but found they didn’t help him the way he needed. So by having a better understanding of what it is like to suddenly be cognitively impaired he developed Q-card.

Serg offered me free access to it in hope it might support my recovery. I have no doubt that as I have vowed to share anything I find that helps me with my readers, he was hoping I would write about Q-card.  But  he never specifically asked me to, and I haven’t been paid.

How Q-card helps me organise my medication.

I take a number of pills. Most of which I organise myself into a organised pill box and just take them first thing in the morning. I like this because I can quickly see if I have taken today’s. As it holds a month, I know when to order my repeat prescription.  However I need to take multiple iron tablets through the day as well. This is harder to organise because they shouldn’t be taken with other tablets or tea. Iron is difficult to absorb, and it if attaches itself to other drugs, it can stop them from being absorbed properly too. Also as tea is a diuretic it should be not consumed close to when you are having your iron tablets as it can decrease its absorption rate further.

Is this the answer to how to organise me after brain injury?

I have started to use Q-card to remind me about my iron tablets. I use the “Quick reminder” tab to schedule a time later in the day reminding me to take them. This can be set to alert me every day so I don’t have to keep wondering if I have remembered to take them.

Q-card handles my appointments.

In Frustratingly dreadful with dates, thanks brain injury  I explained how I can turn up to appointments days early, or miss them altogether. It is because just putting it in my diary isn’t good enough. I get confused about today’s date, so then trying to think ahead is tough. But now when I set an appointment in the “Appointments” tab I can set a reminder a few days before too. That helps me plan ahead. This is particularly helpful seeing as I have to travel 3 hours for my dads appointments and sometimes stay over. So it gives my time to consider things like, has the car got enough petrol or is there something I need to bring for him? When it comes to my Doctors appointments,it can be as simple as a reminder when I need to leave the house to avoid being late.

Trying to organise me after brain injury

Everyday tasks can have simple steps recorded.

People who haven’t suffered a brain injury don’t always understand why we find “simple” activities a struggle. Today is the first time a managed to add salt to the dishwasher unsupervised! Previously I had tried to put it in where the rinse aid should go. James spent ages trying to undo my mess.

But this time I created a “Guided Task” on Q-card to remind me what I was doing. I included details like where in the salt intake is in the dishwasher. Knowing how long it takes to complete a cycle, so I scheduled it for when it would finish the load it had. I would able to pack those items away and start with an empty machine. You do have to give every step a expected time taken, the minimum being 5 mins. It doesn’t take me 5 mins to unscrew the intake or the other steps. But it’s not a big deal that it thinks in total it takes me 20 mins. I have added it to my favourites so it’s I can find it again when I next need it.

Feeling more organised after my brain injury

Tasks can be shared with caregivers.

As James works so hard and is as busy as Mother Nature, I don’t use this with him. But I understand you can share your schedules with another person who uses Q-card. As you can either ask it to repeat the reminder/step of the task/appointment or confirm you have completed it. They can rest easy knowing you have completed those activities. I imagine that helps reduce the burden on them. They don’t have to keep trying to think of what they need to remind you of. Or you can set tasks and reminders for each other. Now that’s what I call delegation!

How to get it.

Currently it is available for iPhone users, but an Android version is on the way. It is priced at $1.99 (US dollars) per month but for those of you in Canada and America can get it free. If you go to their website  www.qcard.ca you can get a 30 day free trial which for those who would have to pay can try it out first.

Serg tells me “Insurance companies (automobile and workers compensation) cover the cost of a lifetime version. Some health plans also cover the cost under rehabilitative or assistive devices. Very true in Canada, but also applies in the USA… currently things are a little uncertain in the US when it comes to Obamacare – waiting to see what happens. But usually, as long as it is recommended by an Occupational Therapist or Healthcare Professional, it usually gets covered by insurance.”

If you want more information visit www.qcard.ca

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the product mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Are there tools that help to organise you? Would you be happy to pay $1.99 per month for a service like this?

 

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Overlook other problems & wrongly blame brain injury

Mustn't overlook pain just because you have a brain injury

I have had limited support with my psychical symptoms following my brain injury. So I have started to try to just accept my reality, and push ahead.  Previously I wrote in Is my brain injury making me paranoid? about how I wondered if I was looking for problems too much. Getting the balance between identifying issues to deal with, and obsessing about it is harder than you think. I chose the wrong problem to overlook this time.

Being knackered has become my base level.

Fatigue is part and parcel of most brain injuries, so my constant tiredness is something I have come to expect. And as I was in a car accident I expect things to ache forever now. The nerve in my left leg was damaged so I have limited feeling, but it continues to improve. When I was 21 I fell off a ladder and landed with my left leg twisted under me. Initially I thought I was OK, but then the years of pain followed. But the nerve damage meant that old injury stopped being reported to my brain. It was great. So when I started to notice it again along with lower back pain I thought I would just have to overlook it. I assumed that as the nerve healed, I had to accept my old injury would raise its ugly head.

I chose to overlook my fatigue as I have a brain injury

Has my lack of strength affected my pain threshold?

The pain was worse than I remembered it. Just walking up the stairs suddenly became exhausting and severely painful. But life goes on, so I thought I had to grin and bear it. Perhaps it was my fault for not exercising enough. Anyway, as I was tired of feeling like there was nothing Doctors could do for me, I did nothing about it.

That is until my partner James insisted I make an appointment. He argued that as I’m always a bit anaemic maybe I should have a blood test. So I did and my doctor decided to test a few different things at the same time. She told me to call in about a week to check the results were OK. Then I received a note in the post before the week was up to make an appointment regarding my results. I knew then that they had found something. But I had already decided I would just be told to take more iron tablets.

Churchill sums it up

This time it wasn’t just iron I was deficient in.

I was surprised when she told me I was SEVERELY LOW in vitamin D. As the UK is so far north, it’s common for Brits to become a bit low on vitamin D during the winter. As our skin creates it from the energy of mid day sun on our skin, its not strong enough that time of year. Plus we are indoors much more, and when we do venture out we tend to be bundled up in numerous layers. But it’s unusual to be severely low. As vitamin D it known for helping bones grow and repair, perhaps I had used more than usual for my injuries. A common symptom of the condition is pain in the hips, pelvis and lower back –the pain I had written off as my old injury. Plus tiredness as vitamin D is used to aid the absorption of other nutrients, including iron.

Having a brain injury doesn'y mean you should overlook your symptoms

If I had continued the ignore these symptoms it could have resulted in osteoporosis, a condition which causes fragile bones. I’m now taking a high dose of vitamin D and trying to get out more. It will probably take about 2 months to restore my levels and I’m hoping the tiredness and pain will ease. There shouldn’t be any long term damage, but that’s only because James pushed me and my doctor was vigilant. The moral to this story is don’t assume you know everything and heard it all before.

Do you sometimes overlook your issues because of your brain injury?

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Relationships vanish magnifying the trauma of brain injury

Missing lost relations after brain injury

Nothing about living with a brain injury is easy. But time and again I hear how survivors feel abandoned by their friends and family. For anyone it is difficult when key members of their social network do a vanishing act on them. But when your world has been turned upside down, and it’s void of those relationships, it can be soul destroying. However, that doesn’t mean they are bad people, just that they are struggling too. I have written in two other guest blogs about how not long after my car accident, my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (a form of dementia).

Maddy at home – Alzheimer’s  where I try to explain how I tried to support his independence in the early stages of his condition.

The brain injury hub – One decision away from a different life – I touched on how my experience of brain injury gave me an advantage when trying to understand what he was going through.

Effectively I have walked on both sides of the cursed coin. And I can tell you, they are both difficult. I have made loads of mistakes, and I’m not proud of them. But I’m hoping I can help those who are questioning others behaviour. I’m not going to attempt to solve the issue, because I can’t. But perhaps I can help people forgive and begin the next stage of their journey.

Missing losr relationships after brain injury

Facing a brain injury with a loss of relationships

When something bad happens to you, or you’re just feeling down, most of us have someone who we turn to first for support. For me, which it is for many, that was my Mum. But she passed away suddenly just 3 weeks after my accident.  I’m still heartbroken about it, but at least I know she didn’t abandon me. So the pain I have felt in the absence of other key people of my social network has been different. I’ve gone through several stages in my grieving for these lost relationships.

  • Denial – To begin with I made excuses. It’s not that they were avoiding me, it’s just that they were busy. Don’t worry, when they have a moment they’ll be in touch. This happens because you have to pace your sense of loss, and as you have so much to contend with you park this issue for now.
  • Anger – When I finally had to admit some individuals were not going to see me, or pick up the phone, I became angry. This is just a part of the healing process. I know I would gladly have those people back, and would now welcome them with open arms. But you go through anger just because you care and miss them.  You feel let down and I was obsessed with the feeling of injustice. Embrace it, you need to express yourself. Just don’t shout at that person. Maybe privately write it down or go in another room to scream it out.
  • Bargaining – Next we find a way to blame ourselves. I’m grumpy, snappy and take forever to find my words, so I’m terrible company. I wouldn’t want to have to deal with me. We are trying to find a way to identify the problem, so we might be able to find a solution. But the reality is, sometimes the decision is not ours to make. We might not like their choice to go on without us, but that’s their right.
  • Misery – I was so sad that those relationships were missing after my brain injury. This added to my depression and made me question my self worth. In a way our nervous system is just trying to take a well earned break. This is to give us a chance to adapt. Whilst this is painful, it is necessary in the same way the Australian bush experiences regular fires. It clears things and allows space for the next stage of growth.
  • Acceptance – It’s not that I do or don’t agree those people should have walked away from me. But in the same way I have had to accept my Mum isn’t coming back, they have made their decisions and I respect that. There might be some learning points, or there might not. Either way, one just has to move on.

Lost relationships after brain injury

How it feels facing a brain injury survivor

I have had to witness my Dads’ decline. Hopefully for many survivors they will have had a period of recovery, but may still have bad turns. Even though I can relate to his struggles, I have at times forgotten how he is different now. I just expect him to be the same, strong, clever, funny man he has always been. So when he says something silly, or keeps asking me the same thing again and again I can become frustrated.

There are times that I just don’t feel I have the emotional capacity to give him my patience. We never know what others are facing in their lives, and I know there are times I don’t call him because I know at that time I don’t have any more to give. I feel terrible about it, but when I’m drained I can do more damage than good. I might snap at him and that isn’t what he needs. So I think it’s better for us both if I retreat until I can have a more positive effect.

I am the youngest of his children, but as his power of attorney, I have now swapped roles with him and become the guardian. However, he is still fiercely independent which can lead to him picking the wrong battles. He wants to feel in control of his life and will refuse help. I know I have also been guilty of cutting off my nose to spite my face. Sometimes when he is like that I think In that case, why do I bother? I can be left temporarily feeling undervalued, and of no real use.

Lost relationships after brain injury

In fact I am grieving for the person he used to be. And believe me that’s a real challenge. In many ways I’m probably not meeting that challenge very well, but I’m trying. So perhaps those relationships we have lost happened because they care so much, they are grieving for us. In time all we can do is forgive, and open our hearts to accept our future.

Do you think your are or have been grieving for the loss of your relationships after your brain injury? Or am I wrong and they are just selfish?

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Drained but not beaten. Tips from determined brain injury survivor.

Feeling drained after brain injury

Us brain injury survivors are regularly talking about how tired we can become, and how that affects our lives. Whilst I am moving in the right direction, a recent event zapped the life out of me. It was a long day, so most people would have struggled, but my recovery time is extraordinarily long. I was left drained and grumpy for days so I am looking for ways to avoid this.

Why I get drained after brain injury

The draining event.

I had to go have a meeting about my elderly fathers care. That meant a 3 hour journey to the other side of the country. That alone I find difficult enough, but needs must. Of course the subject matter is an emotive one and there are many complex issues to try to understand. All together that is a massive work out for any brain, let alone an injured one.

By the end of the meeting my word finding skills were shot to pieces, and I was being a bit random. A lady in the meeting was trying to build rapport by talking about how years ago she lived in the town I currently live in. As she politely enquired about how good/bad the journey is back using the M25 (otherwise known as the worlds biggest car park) I had a random fact fly into my head. A famous singer had been a workman who helped build the M25. (For those who are struggling to work out what I’m prattling on about: It’s the circular motorway which runs around the outside of Greater London.) 

I could picture him, but I couldn’t place his name. Or the group he sung in, or the 1990’s breakfast show he produced whilst his wife presented it. But luckily after much effort, I remembered the name of the event he is most famous for: Band Aid. Bob Geldof! Brilliant, where did I think I was going with that one? Quick, exit stage left.

Feeling drained after brain injury

Drained but inspired to find solutions.

As this was followed by days of sleeping like I was hibernating, I decided I must find ways to cope better. Life is for the living, I don’t want to spend it sleep walking to my grave.

Diet and exercise are key. But I wanted something that feels a bit more like I’m taking instant control. I stumbled across a short article about how athletes can experience brain drain  when they spend too much time worrying about their performance. Obviously that’s a bit too specific, but there are points to  be taken from it.

Over thinking can leave a brain drained. Even too much activity for a brain injury survivor can result in fatigue. I attempted to explain why in Fatigue. Wicked exhaustion backlash after brain injury. So the key seems to be in pacing yourself, and training your brain to give itself a rest. Many brain injury survivors suffer with increased anxiety. For me that means going over things again and again in my head and panicking that I’m not resolving something. That’s why the techniques recommended to athletes interested me.

Trying to beat the brain drain

Cues to tell your brain to take a brake

Essentially it’s about finding a way to interrupt the unhealthy circle your brain has put itself in. As we don’t all have a life coach following us around reminding us to relax, we need to find other automatic reminders.

  • Physical cues – A short activity to ground yourself again. The article suggests the snap of a rubber band on your wrist. I’m going for a cuddle with the cat and a cup of tea.
  • Verbal cues – Word/s that you or others can say to remind your brain to stop what it’s doing. They recommend “calm” and I would go with that coupled with a few deep breaths.
  • Visual cues – Looking at something that resets your thought process. They mention having something written on the back of your hand. I’m not sure I want to have scribbles on me, but positive notes in the home or on your phone I could do.

I could go on, but I’m going to take my own advice and tell my brain to call it a day. I’m afraid there’s no magical solution but if you count the pennies the pounds look after themselves.

Letting go of the draining effects of brain injury

What things do you find leave you drained? How do you minimise brain drain?

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Scramble consequence of brain injury. Unaware of the muddle.

Language skills are often affected after a brain injury, and mine was hugely affected. When I was in the hospital and wanted some water for my dry throat, all I could think to say was “Glug Glug Glug!” Luckily my partner James understood what that was supposed to mean. So the fact that I am able to write a blog shows how far I have come. But I am still not 100%. I regularly muddle up my words as my brain makes a scramble for the word I’m looking for.

Causing confusion.

It can be difficult for others to know what I mean when I mix my words up. I do it with names and activities. Quickly the statement I’m trying to make can become something entirely different from what I intended. It’s certainly one way to keep the listener on their toes! Even when they say “I’m not sure that’s what you meant”, I can’t recognise which word is wrong or why.

Scrambled words after brain injury

Machines don’t cope well with my word scramble.

I went to a high street retailer to buy a wall mounted kitchen roll holder recently as I had a paper gift voucher to use. It didn’t have a code you can use online, so I had to go into a store. (Those who are regular readers will know how much I dislike this.) So I went to Argos, who sell lots of things in a catalogue. You pay and queue up whilst someone finds the exact item for you. To make sure you’re not wasting your time you can check that they have the item in stock at a terminal. But the technology is getting pretty old. It doesn’t always bring back as many items to choose from as it could. It doesn’t fully recognise similar words, so unless you type the one word it’s programmed to recognise, it won’t show you that item.

Knowing the brand of the item I wanted, I typed in “Superhuman” and was frustrated that it said there were no matches found. Stupid thing, I hate this rubbish system! Instead it suggested alternatives like Superman. It’s for holding paper towels not saving the world!

I carried on searching and found it, collected it and went home. And that’s when the penny dropped. It’s called “Simplehuman”, which I knew, but I hadn’t realised why the machine had made the link to Superman. I was so quick to blame the machine, but actually this time it was me. But why did it take me so long to realise my mistake?

Maybe being muddled is OK after brain injury

I might spot your muddle but I can’t correct it.

James had a wisdom tooth out the other day, so the Dentist recommended he use Corsodyl mouthwash as a precaution. He’d never heard of it before, but I was familiar with it so we got some straight away. The next morning he asked me “Where’s the Cortisol?” I know Cortisol is a stress hormone so the question didn’t make sense. But I couldn’t think around it to work out what he meant. Once he told me he was referring to the mouthwash I couldn’t think of the right name either. Hearing the word Cortisol, and knowing it was similar to the name had over written my brain. I had to go get it just to remind myself how to say it’s name, as well as pass it to James. By the way it was in an obvious place in the bathroom. But James does the “Man look” most of the time, so often needs me to get things.

Scramble thoughts thanks to brain injury

I’m impressed when people can unscramble my word scramble.

Yesterday we went for lunch and I ordered a cocktail. I know, not very healthy but an occasional treat is allowed in my book. I knew what I wanted from a section called “Home grown” as they have been designed by their own staff. So as I went to say the name I also pointed to it on the menu, in case I pronounced it wrong. But what I actually did was say the name of the one beneath it. But the waiter asked if the meant the first name, and so thanks to him I got the right drink. He pretty much made my day, as I felt he did so well to cope with my jumbled brain.

Do you scramble your words? What tips do to you have for when in a muddle?

 

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Impatient insight. 5 tips on building tolerance after brain injury.

Being impatient after brain injury

“Good things come to those who wait”, that’s what my Mum always told me, amongst other things. Those wise words helped me to grow up to be a respectful and patient person. Even if someone was really pushing my buttons, I was strong enough to soak it up and not give them the pleasure of seeing me crack. (Most of the time.) Following my accident, I am still more impatient than I used to be. But I am building my internal strength again and thought I would share how with you all.

Rigid expectations

My thinking process was affected in my brain injury, and I feel some of my unfavourable characteristics were exacerbated. As I was over the turbulent teens, and twitchy twenties I was more self assured in my tenacious thirties.  So I couldn’t accept that I was wrong about a lot of things. Or at least that there might be elements I hadn’t considered. That made me have skewed views, and led to impatient behaviour. At the time though, I’m not sure I understood this. It’s only as I have regained insight that I my caught myself doing it. Initially all I could do was acknowledge it, but not stop it.

Trying not to be so impatient after brain injury

Demanding millennials

I was ashamed that I had morphed into this grumpy, ungrateful person. That wasn’t what my parents taught me to be. Recently I read an article about how employers are having to develop new ways to cope with a workforce which includes millennials. On average they are the most demanding and impatient age group in living memory. Apparently as they have been brought up at a time when their parents were living on credit and over stretching themselves to give their children the best of everything, they have an attitude of entitlement. This rubs other colleagues up the wrong way, as they believe in earning things through hard work, results and loyalty.

Not fitting the mould

Technically as I was born in the early 80’s I am in the millennials group. But I don’t identify with this behaviour at all. Maybe that’s because my parents were older and therefore had a slightly more “old fashioned” approach.  I wasn’t given the opportunity to be fussy about food. “You’ll get what you’re given, or go hungry” and “You can leave the table when everyone has finished” were mantras I heard a lot. I’m sure some of my peers would have felt that was strict, but actually it helped teach me manners and the importance of being considerate to others.

And I was taught to save up for things. I didn’t get pocket money so any money from birthdays and Christmas I squirrelled away so when I next saw something I wanted I might be able to buy it. If not I would have to carry on saving up for it. But my parents weren’t poor, and I didn’t go without. We had great holidays and lived in a beautiful Georgian house. They explained it was only possible to afford that lifestyle through their hard work, and saving where possible.

Being impatient after brain injury

Spurred into action

Whilst my behaviour still was different from what this article described, it got my thinking. I felt so annoyed at the image, whether it is accurate or not, I knew I needed to make sure I would never reflect it. Having accepted that my irritability at times is connected to my impatient behaviour, I decided to change it. So this is a journey but I am getting closer to the old me, who I like better. Here’s the 5 actions I’m using to get me there:

Be aware of your impatient buttons

When we are stuck in traffic there is always someone who is honking their horn, even though no one can go anywhere any faster. So their action doesn’t achieve anything, apart from make everyone else role their eyes. But whilst most of us queue obediently in the traffic, our minds can be a different picture. Whilst thinking of all the things we have on our to do list (or worrying about the things you can’t remember that need to be on your list) can make us feel hurried.

Writing down all the thoughts whizzing around in your head can help you to see what’s important, and what are not so urgent. This helps you feel more in control and might lead to somethings even being deleted off your list.

Take a deep breath

Imagine you’re in that traffic jam, and there’s nothing you can do but wait. Do you find yourself sighing? It’s a natural reaction but actually it’s the key. Focus on those deep breaths and it will help to calm your mind.

Learn to wait for it

We have grown to expect things too quickly. Ordering online probably has a lot to do with this as the world has been put at our fingertips. But if we make ourselves wait sometimes we appreciate it more when it arrives. Like when I would save up for things when I was young. My friends probably already had it ages ago, but when I finally used my cash to buy it, it meant the world to me.

Embrace change

Routine is important, particularly for those of us with memory issues. But that doesn’t mean we can’t add in new things sometimes. Just because something is different we can become uncomfortable. But it we introduce a little bit at a time we can prove to ourselves that we can become stronger.

Be grateful

We all have different challenges and that can become overwhelming. But if you spend some time considering all the things you have to be thankful for, you become more optimistic. That traffic jam is taking up your precious time, but it might have been caused by a car accident. We are so lucky to live in a world where the emergency services do all they can to help in these situations. A lot of people were extremely late of work, school, whatever the day I had my accident. But they were grateful that they weren’t in my place that day.Battling against impatient behaviour after brain injury

Do you find you are more impatient after your injury? Have you found a way to take a step back?

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Fall asleep faster. Tips to give brain injury cold-shoulder.

Fall asleep quickly tips

It has been well documented that sleep is our best friend when it comes to the long process of recovering from a brain injury. At one stage after my brain injury I slept so much that I couldn’t imagine ever needing sleep tips. As I had experienced insomnia from a young age, I was thankful I could finally fall asleep with ease. However that wasn’t to last and I ended up in an awful routine of going to bed but tossing and turning all night. I previously wrote about how I was recommended a technique to break this cycle. Now I want to tell you how I make sure I fall asleep quickly.

Why your not asleep yet

Make sure you follow a good routine

I have written before about sleep hygiene, and making sure you have a sensible sleep routine. So I’m not going to lecture you about that again, but you can review it in Sleep after TBI: unlock 11 endorsed steps . It’s essential that you put these into practise so if you are struggling to sleep it might be worth having a refresh.

Tired, but struggling to fall asleep

Most people who struggle to fall asleep quickly say they just can’t stop thinking. This is particularly linked to anxiety which many brain injury survivors, like me, suffer from. Even though I realise I can’t change any of the things I’m worrying about, my brain still keeps running though everything. It’s like it thinks we’re going to have an epiphany if we just keep trying. And maybe that’s possible, but not if I’m sleep deprived. I might have ideas, but they won’t be well thought out and I’ll be too tired to action them anyway.

The struggle of falling asleep especially after brain injury

I’ve found my secret “OFF” button

Wish you could mute your brain?  Fed up trying hypnosis and meditating to induce sleep? Don’t get me wrong, both of these are wonderful techniques which I have used before. But sometimes when you’re in a bad place it’s hard to concentrate. I try to imagine my safe place, full of wonderful things. But if there is something big stressing me out I keep going back to it. Even if I’m listening to a guided meditation I find my big stressful issue makes me ignore the calming words all together.

So I’m delighted to tell you, there IS an “OFF” button for the brain, or at least there is for me. Our brains are amazing and are used to doing many things at the same time. I’m rubbish at multitasking, but it doesn’t stop my brain from trying. But there are some cognitive actions which take extra concentration so it’s really difficult to think of anything else at the same time. Thus you can’t keep worrying about that big bad issue. Sounds good doesn’t it! And even better news is that you don’t have to do anything fancy!

How to fall asleep, and it helps those with a brain injury

No sheep needed to fall asleep

We used to be told to count sheep, but this doesn’t work. Believe me, I’ve tried, but it’s also been proved by Oxford University. (They are serious boffins who are some of the worlds smartest people so it’s tough to argue with them.) But counting is involved…. just backwards.

  • Start from a high number, 300 works for me but you can try 500 or even 1000.
  • Breath slowly and after each breath count down. By involving your breath this way you are staying present and not worrying.
  • Think of you breath as purifying.
  • Don’t worry if you loose count, either go back to the start or just estimate where you were and continue.
  • I can’t remember ever getting past 250 as my mind drifts off quietly and then I fall asleep.

The counting backwards takes more effort than counting forwards so it distracting your brain. But it’s not too taxing. Or if you prefer you could try letters instead.

Have a try and let me know if it works for you too? Have you got any other secret tips others can try?

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Multitask plan doomed to fail after brain injury

A brain injury pampers the ability to multitask

It has become just a part of our nature now to do several things at once. Sometimes because we think that’s quicker, more economical, or just because we are lazy. I am guilty of what my Mum used to call “The lazy mans load.” To save myself an extra trip, I will carry as many things at once possible so I don’t have to go again. This can include carrying all the laundry downstairs, plus all the used mugs, ready to make more tea. This particular multitask I have down to a fine art, but I’m dreadful at almost anything else. (I have literally just done this ridiculous task yet again this morning, whilst trying not to step on the cat as I negotiated the stairs. Why do they always just stand in your way?!)

Previously in 7 Executive dysfunction challenges after brain injury I mentioned how the ability to multitask can be impaired by a brain injury. Today I thought I would give you an insight as to how that affects me in everyday life.

Stuggling to multitask after brain injury

Internet shopping.

As most of you know, I’m not a fan of going into shops. Unfortunately they attract the “general public”, and since my accident I have more in common with a hermit crab. So instead I turn to the internet and see what items can find their own way here, without me having to venture into the big wide world. Internet shopping can save you money too, which is always helpful. But sometimes the postage can tip the balance and make it expensive. In an effort to be a savvy shopper, I will then try to think of what else I might need which I can get at the same time. Good plan Batman!

But what if the retailer I was going to for item #1 , doesn’t sell item #2? No problem, I will shop around I see who does sell item #2. Ah found one, but that colour is all wrong. Keep going…. Ooh I like this one, but it has to come from China and that takes weeks. No good, keep looking. *Knock at the door* Package arrives of a previous internet shopping experience. I better deal with that first. Now where was I, oh yes item #2. This is too hard and I don’t really need item #2, I was just trying to make the postage more economical. That’s it, forget it, I’m not getting item #1 either. What a royal waste of time!

Housework.

OK so you know I favour “The lazy mans load”, which probably says a lot about me. It means I just want things done and out of the way. But in many other ways I manage to make this look difficult.

For example today I need to put the dishwasher on and there is a pile of laundry I need to sort out. Oh of course you already knew that because I told you I took it downstairs.

Now usually there is an order to how I would deal with this scenario. We have a washer-dryer due to lack of space in our kitchen. (Don’t ask me why, but I like to call him Mr Washy Washy, even though I’m not 4 years old. The dish washer is called Mr Dishy Wishy. Please don’t send the men in white coats round to get me, although I realise that does make me sound mad.)

So they aren’t at fisticuffs with each other over the water, I usually start with Mr Washy Washy first. As for him to wash and dry can take up to 4 hours. If I have been a bit disorganised recently, and decided I want to do 2 washes in one day, this is the best use of time. When he moves on to the dry cycle I can start Mr Dishy Wishy as the water is available. This saves about 2 hours and then I can have some quiet again. I can’t shut the kitchen door as that is where the cat flap is, so I try to get it out the way early.

But today as I took “The lazy mans load” to the kitchen, I realised I’d made an error. Although this is a well rehearsed multitask sequence, I had already put Mr Dishy Wishy on.

Multitask fail after brain injury

Knock on effects of multitask failure.

Alright I know I sound like I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill, and I hope you’re still with me and not bored to tears. This isn’t a big deal, but it can be frustrating. It means I never quite achieve what I set out too.  As I hate ironing I get it done in one shot. But as I can’t finish all the washing today without Mr Washy Washy making a racket during dinner, I will have to deal with it tomorrow. And who knows what non sense will happen tomorrow to stop me from completing this simple task.

Multitask problems after brain injury

So please don’t be hard on brain injury survivors if they don’t seem to be achieving as much in a day as you think they should. Being well meaning, just doesn’t always translate into “job done” for us.

Can you multitask after your brain injury? Have you got any tips?

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Balance feeling unstable due to brain injury, it’s awkward

balance problems following brain injury

Balance is a very complicated thing, but it starts with your inner ear. Effectively we are fitted with our own little spirit level called the vestibular system. If it becomes damaged it can make balance a lot more difficult. I mentioned before in Tinnitus, the loathsome bells of brain injury that I have suffered with tinnitus for many years. But since my brain injury it has got worse. But whilst a Doctor was trying to diagnose my condition all those years ago, I was asked to perform a simple test. I was told to close my eyes and walk forward. A nurse was stood behind me in case I fell. After just a few steps I heard voices saying “It’s OK I’ve got you.” Apparently I had been about to topple over, but I didn’t recognise it at all.

Dealing with balance issues after brain injury

All the elements that go into balance.

What that test showed that I was using my sight to help my brain decide which way was is up. Once vision was taken away I was forced to listen to my inner spirit level, showing how inaccurate it was.  But as long as I continued to walk around with my eyes open, I was able to cope.

But my brain injury changed that. There are so many reasons that might be the case as balance is a complicated recipe.

  • Vision – As your eyes give you a picture of what the world looks like, that information helps massively. Unfortunately as I have double vision now, this sense is not as reliable anymore.
  • Muscular strength – It takes a number of muscles able to produce a lot of force to keep us balanced. But as I have left sided weakness even that causes an imbalance within me.
  • Coordination – Being able to confidently place a foot on the floor as you take a step is something we learn early on in  life. But my nerve damage means the communication between my limbs and my brain is off-kilter. Therefore I might expect my foot is about to touch the floor, but it’s not.
  • Brain-stem – As it controls movement it is also essential when taking those steps. I had a bleed which was next to my brain-stem and irritated it, affecting my control of movement.
  • Inner ear – Your in built spirit level. But we already know mine is broken.

Dealing with balance issues after brain injury

When the world is spinning.

Together this means I can have spells of vertigo. Even if I’m sat down my brain can still be convinced the world in spinning. Some people find that if their head is spinning whilst in bed, putting a foot on the floor stops it. This is most likely because the information your foot sends back about the flat, still ground, helps convince your brain that is correct. Sadly this has never worked for me. I found this would be at it’s worst when my vision was particularly bad. Not a good combination, I can tell you.

But I have improved, maybe it’s because a little more strength is back. Or maybe it’s because my cognitive abilities have improved. You don’t realise all the calculations your brain does, and all the information it analyses in a fraction of a second. So just as my brain had learned to listen more to my eyes, than my spirit level, perhaps it is re-calibrating to the current inaccurate data.

Balance problems following brain injury

 

Wish I had a tail.

Lots of animals such as monkeys, squirrels, cats and dogs have the advantage of as extra limb. The tail. And it helps them balance in the most challenging of situations. They swish it around to move their centre of gravity to counteract any imbalances. And don’t they just look majestic when they do this. Think of how a Leopard changing direction to chase their zig zagging prey, flashes it’s tail to the side to do a hand brake turn.

Instead I have arms. So often when I get up in the night of go to the toilet I look like I’m walking a tight rope. Except it’s not impressive when your walking on a carpeted landing.

I don’t use a walking aid anymore as I need to keep practising for the re-calibration process to be successful. But it would help the rest of the world know as it rushes by to give me a little more room.

Has your balance been affected? Is there anything in particular that has helped you?

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Information overkill about brain injury is daunting

After my accident it was 3 months before anyone said I had a brain injury. Even then I thought it was a concussion. But it was a diffuse axonal brain injury, which only 10% of patients awaken from. Many are left in a permanent vegetative state. It was actually classed as a severe traumatic brain injury. So I was confused about the lack of information I was given regarding my injury.

The internet has a wealth of information.

As my partner James and I started seeing private specialists we built a better picture of what my condition was. Maybe I’m a control freak, but I keep reading more and more about it. Doctors advise against doing that too much because you can begin to worry about things you don’t need too. And I do agree with this point. But the temptation is too great.

My brain injury only happened 2 years ago, so I think I’ve made strong progress in that time. But I still don’t want to entertain the idea that this might be as good as it gets. A neurologist said it would probably be within the first 5 years that I might still see improvement, although the 2 year period is the standard. The more articles I read, the more I see that most say recovery happens within 12-24 months. So I’m beginning to panic that this could be it.

Information overload

Why can’t I just do as I’m told?

There’s a reason why they say “ignorance is bliss.” I’m just torturing myself by continually looking for new information. As every brain injury is unique, just because I have a medical term for it, it doesn’t mean I will be a perfect example for what an article claims.

So why is it that although I understand this, I still do it? I mean how stupid can you get? A part of me wants to manage my expectations. Like how a child in a third world country doesn’t expect their parents to buy them expensive, indulgent gifts. They just want love, opportunities, food and water.

But reading about the long-term prognosis does frighten me. So I’m going to try to stop it. What will be will be. I need to concentrate on what I can do to improve my chances. Diet, exercise and tasks to challenge my brain.

Gathering information on brain injury to manage my own expectations

I better appreciate why Doctors don’t want to be drawn on details.

Doctors talk in facts, but there isn’t much that anyone can be certain of when it comes to brain injury. So trying to guess can be a dangerous exercise. And there’s the impact that information can have psychologically, both on the patient and their family.

James has been incredibly supportive, but I know this process has been very difficult for him too. If we had been told all the awful things I have since read as soon as it happened, who knows where we would be. For many loved ones they would question themselves as to if they could go through this for the rest of their lives. And that isn’t a criticism as I don’t know if I could do it. I guess you never know until you are in that position. But it shows that by Doctors not giving you the warts and all version, they are doing the responsible thing.

Tempation of searching for more information on brain injury

So my advice is don’t keep looking for things as I have done. Just focus on yourself and your family. Life is what you make it, don’t waste it.

Do you find yourself looking things up too much? Does the information help you?

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