Automaticity Part 1

Last week, I wrote my first draft blog post about a term that I have learned called Automaticity.

I wanted to write about Automaticity because I knew that I was expereincing a huge increase in it, and that it was automaticity that was allowing me to do much more than my “previous normal” would allow.

I had titled the post from the week before “I did it!” because I was so amazed that I had been able to do so much and knew it was because my brain was changing and allowing what I previously could not get done in a given time period.

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Integration, Vision and Neuroplasticity

A dear friend from Washington DC who knew about my setback this summer called last weekend to see how I was doing and offer her support.  She left a kind and supportive message on my voicemail.

While walking that next day, I wondered how to describe concisely how I was doing when I got back to her.  In many ways I am better, my functionality is very improved and I feel well enough that I have begun the daunting task of seeing the doctors that I was not well enough to see this summer for followups.

In other ways, I am still struggling after the setback.

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Neuroplasticity and Resilience

In the last couple of posts, I have been writing about my experience of neuroplasticity.  I am going to emphasize that I am writing about it, at an experiential level.

In other words, I am aware that my experience is anecdotal evidence for scientists and social scientists because to my knowledge, neuroplasticity has not been studied in a systematic way for as long as I have been living post-injury.  (According to Dr Allen Brown at the Mayo Clinic.   He presented the evidence from studies that have been done at the Mayo Clinic on Neuroplasticity after brain injury at the Brain Injury Awareness Day 2011 panel that he and I participated on as well as many other government, military officials and the wife of a wounded warrior.)

I am particularly interested in how vision therapy increases neuroplasticity.  I got to vision therapy relatively quickly after my concussion/brain injury because I couldn’t process what I was reading and because I was not getting help for this issue from my primary care doctor or my neurologist.  I wanted to get back to work and, even with my injury (and little overall self-awareness about its consequences or sequalae), I knew I had to be able to read.

In response to my last two posts about neuroplasticity  I am feeling following my 3 1/2 month unexpected setback this summer, I reached out to Sue Barry, a neurobioologist at Mt Holyoke for information about what’s actually happening in my brain.  I wanted to understand what’s happening.

Now I realize that there is value to me (and others) in trying to map my experience with what some scientists understand is happening in my brain.

In response to my question to Sue Barry PhD about the role of vision therapy and neuroplasticity, she wrote:

“Vision therapy changes the way we process visual information, and this can have dramatic effects on how well we function as both Anne and I have discovered.  In chapter 6 of Fixing My Gaze, I describe some possible ways that vision therapy techniques alter synaptic connections in the visual cortex.  In addition, our mental outlook  and mood alters the release of neuromodulators onto cortical cells and synapses from certain regions of the brainstem and basal forebrain.  These neuromodulators then alter the strength of existing synapses.  I cover some of this in the last chapter of Fixing My Gaze.  Thus, mental outlook and mood have powerful effects of brain function and plasticity.”   (By email, October 28, 2014)

So I have been reading and and re-reading her book, Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist’s Journey into Seeing in Three Dimensions by Susan R Barry with a foreword by Oliver Sacks. (It was copyrighted in 2009 by Basic Books in New York, USA)

And then this week, I went to an amazing panel at SXSW-Eco on “Networked Resiliency and Sustainability”.  It’s a long story about how I got to the panel, but the short answer is that much of my thinking about my brain and recovery is influenced by the research and work that I did on the broad topic of sustainability that I did at the Environmental Law Institute pre-injury as a senior environmental economist.   Post-injury, to the extent and when my cogntive function allows me to think abstractly,  I try to apply what I learned about sustainability and the economy to running my everyday life as an individual.   I learned alot about resilience when I finally got to rehabilitation after my brain injury, although it was not called that.  So I was attracted to the panel title “Networked Resilience and Sustainability” and wondered if it would apply to how I think about my post-injury medical problems.

It did.  It was fascinating and stimulating to see how the work on sustainability has been continued by others after the end of my career (due to the difficulties I had getting comprehensive post-injury treatment and possibly by the injury itself).

It was fascinating and stimulating to see the societal context for the work on sustainability that is being done around the world in 2014.

And it was fascinating to see how what I have learned about resilience and building networks to support optimal recovery from my injury is being done by cities to support optimal recovery after weather shocks such as hurricanes and tornadoes and other extreme weather incidents that we now understand the societal benefits of planning for on many different levels.

After listening to the talk, I understood that perhaps some of the euphoria I am attributing to neuroplasticity is really from the resilience I feel after getting past a setback that I know I am lucky to have cut as short as I did.

So I wondered how much of what I am describing as how I feel when I feel neuroplasticity is really how I feel when I feel resilience.  Probably some of both!

More on all of this in my next post.

Here’s the link to the “Networked Resilience and Sustainability” Panel at SXSW-ECo





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Being gentle with myself

I am 70% back to my baseline before the setback that I had.

My Neurologist, Dr Thomas Hill, thinks that the symptoms and setback were caused from headaches causing sleep issues for me which in turn caused increased cognitive deficits.  Since I already compensate around cognitive deficits, I am trying to adjust as best I can to the, hopefully temporary, increased cognitive deficits.   What I have learned in my recovery is that sleep deprivation causes the same symptoms as brain injury.  So the good news about that is that solving the sleep issues will solve the temporarily increased cognitive deficits.   And, like Dr Hill said, because I have successfully resolved 70% of my symptoms, it is likely that I will be able to resolve the other 30% of my increased symptoms.   He is confident of that I will, so my job is to be hopeful and continue to do what I have been doing and believe in his confidence.

It has been 6 weeks though and realistically I know that recovery from these increased deficits will happen at their own pace.

I also know that this recovery may not happen in a linear fashion.   What that means is that each step may not get me better, it may be that each step will lead to getting better but not all steps will look like progress until I am actually fully back to my baseline.   That is important because I know that getting my head and my psyche on board with my continued recovery is essential.

In some ways, achieving this last 30% back to my previous baseline will be much harder than one would think.

Here are all the things that I am balancing.   I want to resume my life as it was.   Its been 6 weeks, so I have put a number of things that I had wanted to do, “on hold”.   And I want to get back to them, above all.  Doing the things that I enjoy and give my life meaning–being a mom, a wife and an advocate–are what keep me going in life.   So not being able to do them like I could before, as a result of my increased deficits, makes my life tougher.

Since my deficits are not as bad as they were 4 or 5 weeks ago, after the setback but before I was able to turn the corner on getting better, it is easy for me to think that they are all gone.  They are not, and I need to finish the recovery, else this period of not being completely back to my baseline will be prolonged.   And I know from experience that it is easy to think that I can “push past” this period.   I also know from experience, and from the wisdom of my health professionals, that ”pushing past” the deficits I still have, won’t shorten this period of increased deficits.

My real choice is to continue to heal or to prolong my increased deficits.

My real choice is to spend more time and energy focusing of recovery and hopefully recover quicker, or to spend less time and energy focusing on recovery and recover less quickly.

The uncertainty of whether I will recover the last 30%, is of course the thing that ultimately is bothersome.   I have to believe in my doctor and my experiences of recovery and I have to have faith.

I was thinking this weekend that given what I am going through now, thank goodness I have been through this recovery and rehabilitation before so that I can rely on the increased awareness and knowledge and compensatory strategies that I learned in rehabilitation.

As usual, when I sit down to write, I have way more to write about than what I have planned.

Since I am still observing increased cognitive rest (20 minutes on the computer at one time), I am going to post this and save the rest for the next post.

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Compensatory strategies and Deadlines

One of the great things about writing my blog is that it is forcing me to identify what stands in the way of writing my blog posts.   I have learned in Rehabilitation that the first step to resolving a problem is to be able to identify the problem is that is challenging for me.  Then I can work to come up with compensatory strategies to resolve the issue (work around it) or I can ask others for help to figure out a compensatory strategy to help me get around the problem.

I want to point out that last week, I had to come up with a compensatory strategy sort of at the last moment and I did!   Looking back, I am pleased with myself about that.  I so wanted to finish the post I had planned and get it out. Instead I came up with a strategy when things did not work out as I planned.   I realized I just had to explain what I had tried to do and wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day and be satisfied with that.

Last week was a short week for us because we were leaving early for the Memorial Day Weekend and we were traveling (which, in short, means a lot of extra preparation and cognitive steps for me.)   I had looked ahead and made plans to get my blog post done early so that I could post it.   I had started writing my on Tuesday, as far as I recall anyway.   And I had scheduled time into my calendar on the Wednesday in order to finish my draft before we left on Thursday morning.  All was going well so far.

To explain this further, I am going to step back a moment and say that what I have learned in rehab is that planning and figuring out how to meet a deadline are all “executive-functioning” skills.   I have had to relearn executive functioning skills as part of my speech and language therapy and I was lucky to have some very good therapists who have helped me.   And before I could even begin working on executive functioning, I had to do a lot of work on attention and concentration with my speech and language therapists.   What I did not know before my rehabilitation was that attention and concentration  are important skills underlying executive functioning skills.   My vision therapy has also helped me with these skills.  While I still cannot describe how, I know that they have.

My executive functioning skills are much better then they were because of my rehabilitation.   Some of these skills are more automatic now.   When I say they are more automatic, it means I do not have to think about them and line them up consciously, they happen by themselves (again).   Like when I used to get in my car and drive before my accident, I didn’t have to think about the steps of driving my car.   I did not have to think first I put the keys in the ignition, then I put the car into gear, then I adjust the mirror, then I back out of the driveway.  I just did all of those without thinking.  That is what I mean when I say that they were “automatic” before my accident.

Suffice it to say that how my brain worked was not automatic after my accident.    I had to relearn many steps that most adults do without thinking.

Back to my last Wednesday and trying to meet my deadline of posting my blog with the skills I currently have.

It used to be that when I was not quite done with a deadline, my brain could figure out how to resolve a problem in a limited time and resolve it without me having to consciously think about it.   I still remember the brain that could do that.   Because of rehabilitation and a lot of practice since rehabilitation, I have to consciously remember that as much as I would like to be the person that could automatically resolve deadline issues, I am not that person anymore.   That means that I have to find a way to resolve the deadline issue that incorporates my current abilities around deadlines.

So I was pleased with myself last Wednesday when I realized that I needed to just wish everyone Happy Memorial Day! as a solution to not quite having the executive functioning skills I needed to finish my post and get the other things I needed to get done that day.

What compensatory strategies do you use with deadlines?

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Listening to my body

Perhaps one of the biggest gifts of recovery from brain injury is learning how to listen to the very subtle clues of my body and changing my actions in response to that information.

This week, the clues from my body were not subtle at all.    I have had a lot on my plate for awhile this spring.   At the same time, I have felt that I did not need to observe the same limitations that I have learned to observe in the past.

Its a tricky balance to figure out — how much to take on and how much to observe what I have already learned about my limitations.    Since I want to allow for improvements in my ability to function, I want to be flexible when I feel that I can take on more.    At the same time, I have to feel my way into how much my restrictions/limitations are changing  or how restrictive my new limitations are.   This is a trial and error process.

Earlier in my recovery, I call the trial by error process “error by trial”.    With a brain injury–with parts of ones brain not working well–its hard to learn to stop doing things that are making you feel worse, especially when I could do so much more before my injury that I had no sense for–and no experience about– the limitations that my brain injury imposed on me.

Earlier in my recovery, I needed a doctor or health professional who was knowledgeable about brain injury to help me with the trial and error process and to teach me awareness.    Because I did not get to appropriate health care early on in my injury, this meant I had to learn alot about my limitations on my own (which was very frustrating and marginally successful to say the least!).    I am especially grateful that my eye doctor, Dr Francke, helped me learn some of the basics on this by observing me twice a week at my eye class and by reviewing my activities with me on a weekly basis.

And the devil is in the details!   Figuring out the balance of how much rest and how much exercise for optimal recovery and when to increase rest and when to increase exercise is not easy.   For me, the help of a health professional was tremendous.   While my eye doctors have been very helpful for me with this, so too have been the speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists who eventually helped me with this as I was successful in getting more and more treatment.  Because they were observing me with regularity they could make seemingly suggestions or tweaks.  What I experienced  was that often small suggestions had large consequences towards improving my functioning.

As for this week, I had to stop everything that absolutely did not have to be done this week, until I felt better.   That meant resting horizontally as much as I could while my son was at school and getting increased sitters for the week.

It meant using all my compensatory strategies like:

–putting things that didn’t have to be done off,

–getting take out,

–limiting my driving,

–eating as healthy as I can;

–sitting down everywhere I went;

–getting a little exercise but not as much as I normally do;

–doing things that were inspiring or fun — like noticing the beauty of spring — that gave me some energy;

–and generally conserving my energy as much as possible.

I feel much better, but am still taking it easy to try to get back to my “normal”.

I didn’t think I was going to be able to write the blog this week.    I feel well enough to spend a little time on it but will spend less on it and come back to it if I need to next week when I hope to have more energy.





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The Road Ahead for the Blog–Part 1

I wanted to take a moment to look forward about where I would like to go with my Blog.

This assessment includes looking backward about how far I have come with my Blog.

Self-assessment is one of the gifts from my rehab.   After my accident and before I got to rehab, I had an immense difficulty learning from my mistakes.  When you cannot learn from your mistakes, you make the same ones over and over.   Making the same mistakes over and over again is very frustrating, to say the least.

I am grateful to rehab for giving me back the tool of self-assessment and new learning.  Having lost these abilities and having re-gained them, I am very aware of their value in my day-to-day life.

When I started my blog, my goal was to write a blog post once a week.   I have accomplished that.


Since September, I have written a post each week.   So that is roughly 8 months of practice doing a post once a week.

I must admit that doing that writing hasn’t been easy to add to my schedule.  But it has gotten easier with time, overall. On the rough weeks, I get my a post out by Sunday. On good weeks, I get it done earlier in the week.  But whether my blog post gets published on Tuesday or Sunday, I have been successful in getting one out every week.

Working something new in my schedule is always tough for me.  Its a piece of executive functioning that my brain is still working on.   And I have other things in my schedule that I need to stay on top of, like moving forward my son and family’s life and a lot of doctors appointments.  (I am still working on re-establishing my team of doctors here in Austin).   So managing all that takes a lot of work and compensatory strategies.  So that has been a tremendous challenge.   But I am managing it and it has gotten easier.

My process is usually to write a draft early in the week, give it a day or two, and then go back and edit it and finalize it.   That has been really helpful to let it percolate and go back to it.

Sometimes I realize that the topic I first wrote about isn’t what is compelling to me to write that week, so I start anew.

I had tried to post a picture on my blog.   I seemed to have dropped the picture around the holidays.   It was fun to do them and to think of the theme visually.   However, I haven’t learned how to post a picture, so I was dependent on someone else doing that piece for me.   Since it was hard enough coordinating my own schedule, I found needing to wait for someone else to help me with that piece was something I did not want to work on just yet.  It added to my frustration too much and I find I do better when I don’t do things that add to my frustration level.   I have enough frustration to manage with out adding more.

One thing that I have noticed is that I am not good at writing headlines.   I chuckled with I realized this.   I chuckled because as I reflected on whether this was a brain injury thing or not, I realized it may not have been a strength before my injury.   I recall my dissertation adviser, Kip Viscusi, telling me that I needed to learn how to write snappy headings for my dissertation.   While I remember when he said that to me, I don’t recall if I learned to write better headings after he made that suggestion.

And, one of the reasons I have difficulty with the title is that I typically sit to write one thought, and as I write I realize that that one thought is usually five thoughts.  Or that articulating the thought is much more complicated than I realized before I started writing.    So as I try to articulate the thought in a simple way, I sometimes forget to look as to whether the title syncs up with the body of the text.

Another thing that I am cognizant of, but haven’t yet figured out how to do, is make my blog more accessible.    I couldn’t use the computer for three years after my injury and still have to use compensatory strategies to use the computer.    So I am very aware that I want to make my website and blog as accessible as I can so that someone who has visual issues like the ones I have recovered a lot from, but still have, would be able to read at least some of my blog and website.

I reconnected with the accessibility community at SXSW.   I hope to get more help on improving my computer skills and knowledge to make using the computer easier and more efficient for me.   And to improve the accessibility of my website and blog.


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March 12 is Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill

In March every year the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force holds Brain Injury Awareness Day

I loved participating in this event every year when we lived in Arlington, Virginia.

Each year I would learn more about how to participate fully in the event and though that information, I was successful in bringing more and more fellow survivors of TBI to be a part of the event.

There are a number of activities to participate in and its noisy and there’s alot of activity in the House Office Buildings, so its a marathon event for someone with a TBI and sensory issues.   I had to employ all my compensation strategies and help other survivors to remember to use them.

There are four parts to the day:

–There is the “Fair” where private and public entities who are providing services for rehabilitation and daily life and employment can educate congressional staff and the public about the issues and what they are doing to address them.   There are people with information about promising therapies and new research.   And there are people showing off the programs for athletes and civilians to help with concussion monitoring and concussion recovery.   Over the year, the number of organizations at the fair has grown tremendously and each year, its exciting to learn from these people and their organizations about new ideas and new programs and new researcher.

–There is a Congressional Briefing on a topic.  The topic for March 12 2014 is “Return to Work and the Road Ahead”.     The briefing usually runs for an hour or so and its an opportunity to educate Members of Congress and their staffs on the topic as well as health professionals and the public.   Briefing topics and panel members statements are validating and helpful for understanding what is being done to solve important issues and some of the important entities involved.

–During the day, survivors, families, professionals and researchers make appointments with their Representatives and Senators and/or their staffs to talk with them about issues and to bring attention to upcoming legislation or budget legislation requests and the position that would be helpful to survivors and their families.   These requests are usually for improved services, research, reimbursement and funding.

–Lastly these is a reception for members of Congress, staff, survivors and their families and professionals and researchers.   There are announcements there as well as an opportunity to mingle and network.  There is food and its a lovely reception.

I first started going to Brain Injury Awareness Day in about 2003 when I volunteered at the Brain Injury Assocation of America.   No doubt, Robert Demichalis, a longtime survivor and intern there, showed me the ropes.   Over the years, I watched as Brain Injury Awareness Day grew and grew.   I learned alot about what was going on in Washington DC at the federal level and about the innovative programs at the State level that are supported through federal monies.

I also watched and cheered and felt inspired when I saw survivors from be part of the Congressional Briefing Panel.

In 2009, I watched Chris Nowinski, a former pro-athlete and a survivor and leader and advocate in the Sports concussion world talk about the work he’s done along with representatives talking about football and boxing and other sports where concussion is an issue.

And then in 2011, I was asked to participate on the Briefing Panel as the first civilian survivor to speak on the Panel.   It was an incredible honor and I was very proud to do it.  The topic was “The Value of Rehabilitation”.   It was a exceptionally meaningful topic for me to talk about for several reasons.

–I had to fight desperately to get to rehabilitation after my concussion (like many others have to), so I knew what my life was like without rehabilitation and how much my life improved with it.

–I had been told early on by medical professionals that I would never get better after two years.    Since I never gave up and did not even get to formal rehabilitation until after 2 years, my personal experience proved that neuroplasticity existed.

–Dr Allen Brown from the Mayo Clinic reported the research on what we know about how long the benefits of neuroplasticity can be attained.   He pointed to me as an example of anecdotal evidence that neuroplasticity last longer than the research has been able to show yet.

–Since I am trained as an economist, talking to the issue of “value” of services, was particularly meaningful.   Much of my career as an economist prior to my injury was spent working on measuring value.   Now my life story was being used as an example to inform others about the value of rehabilitation!

I was so proud to receive a standing ovation for my talk.   And Peggy Horan, the wife of a Wounded Warrior named Captain Horan also spoke about their journey and  received a standing ovation.   The stories of survivors are important and meaningful in Congress, especially that year.  You see, 2011 was also the year that Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot.  Brain injury and recovery were even more meaningful that year with the realization for persons in Congress that one of their own had fallen.

We moved to Austin that year, so I haven’t been back to Brain Injury Awareness Day since.   I have followed it and I still work to get survivors that I know through the Brain Injury Association of America and from other areas to attend.   I hope to go back soon.

Here is the agenda for the day:

Brain Injury Awareness Day 2014

Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill is Wednesday, March 12, 2014. BIAA is committed to helping the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force plan a successful event. BIAA thanks Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Tom Rooney (R-FL), co chairs of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, for their leadership. As in years past, several events will be hosted throughout the day.  A schedule of events is as follows:

10:00 AM – 2:00 PM   Brain Injury Awareness Fair, First Floor Foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building

2:30 PM – 4:00 PM Briefing: “Returning to Work: Making Headway After Brain Injury”, U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Meeting Room South

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM  Reception Celebrating Brain Injury Awareness Month, The Gold Room 2168, Rayburn House Office Building

Here’s the link to the advocacy section  of the Brain Injury Association of America website

For more information about vendors and researcher organizations and vendors at the Fair, please go to the BIAA website.




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Noticing the energy and hope from my new monitor — and thankful for how far I have come

My new monitor is so amazing!   Using it releases energy for me.   I can actually “feel” that my brain is more organized when using it.    And it feels like it takes less cognitive energy for me when I use it.

I was describing to a friend today how exciting using this new monitor makes me feel.   She told me that she notices something similar when she uses her ipad (a bigger screen) rather than her iphone (a smaller screen).  She says she is able to “think” better with her ipad.   I thought that was interesting feedback from someone who is not even trying to compensate around cognitive deficits from a brain injury.    Even she can notice a difference in the size of a screen.

Upgrading computer equipment that makes my day easier or does not take as much energy out of me allows me to do more with my day.

And the feeling that I have when I use the new computer monitor is that it is opening up new horizons for me because I can think better and it takes less energy for me to use.

To me, new horizons mean new possibilities for my functioning and these new possibilities both inspires me and gives me hope for improving the quality of life in the future.

Feeling this new energy also makes me reflect about how far I have come in my recovery about earning how to manage a burst of new energy.

Early on in my recovery, I might stumble upon strategies and activities that would increase my energy and I would think that that energy meant I was “well”.   Yahoo!  Yahoo!   I wanted to be well so badly.

But I wasn’t well, I just had a little more energy.

But erroneously thinking I was “well”,  I would unintentionally overdo it because of the short-term energy and hope I felt.   Sadly, I would exhaust myself without intending to or even knowing that I was.  Often I would become “too tired to sleep” so I wouldn’t be able to sleep.   And when I did get some sleep, I would often be fatigued for days.  Or worse, fall into a downward spiral that I would not know how to get out of.  Difficulty sleeping would lead to poorer cognition and then more difficulty sleeping and ultimately my mood would sink.

I had not learned important skills like acceptance about my injury and I had not learned awareness about my injury.    These are critical skills for recovery.   When I finally was referred to speech and language therapy, roughly 3 years after my accident,  I learned acceptance and more awareness.  And I learned about how to manage my injury better so that I could be more functional.  I learned to pay attention to my long term recovery.

As I write this, I realize I have come along way!

After years of increased acceptance and awareness and practice, I have learned to notice the increased energy and let it inspire me.   I have learned to work with the energy to help me improve slowly and easily over a longer period.

And, I have also learned not to get fooled by it.

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The Power of Reflection — revisited, at a deeper level

I love it when I am in a reflective place where I am appreciating how my life has improved during the year.

I was thinking about that improvement this morning.   I was heading out for my walk and I was cued by seeing my sun block so that I could use it BEFORE I started my walk. I have consciously looked for, and found, a place to put my sun block so that I see it on my way out the door. When  I see it, I am reminded to put it on.  The “cue” — seeing my sun block on my way out the door — means that I can get the sequence right (put sun block on before walk). The cue frees me up so that I am more likely to get sun block on either because I remember to do so (sometimes) or because I am cued to remember it. Either way, my life is better with the sun block on for my walk, and because I am training my brain about the sequence.

As I was putting on the sunblock this morning, I remembered what the pattern was like on my almost-daily walk in Arlington, Virginia before we moved to Austin, Texas. I would often have already passed by several houses when I realized I did not have sun block on, if I realized it at all. So I noticed that and tried to improve upon that. And over the years, I have. In Texas, wearing sun block is much more important than in Virginia because the sun is so much more intense here.   And I have made alot of progress on getting it on.

Like I have said, small things make big differences in my world.

I realized the other day after I posted on reflecting about my “rehab” accomplishments, that I had a lot more to say about the improvements that I have had this year in the continued “re-training” my brain department.

Why do I need to re-train my brain still? Because I have persistent symptoms from my concussion/mild traumatic brain injury that I am still working a way on and, in working on them, I am improving my quality of life and functionality. The kinds of persistent symptoms that I am working on are mostly in the executive functioning category. What is executive functioning? My non-technical definition of executive functioning is the more advanced brain functions like getting a process in sequence, getting things done in a certain time, determining what activity has priority over the others and accomplishing it, getting more than one thing to happen by a certain time and taking in new information into the process.  I will have to look up the more technical definition in a future post, but that is the working definition that I remember from my formal rehabilitation.

What I have learned is that the more often I can combine rewiring activities with another activity that I am already doing during my day, the better.  That way, I don’t have to find separate, extra time in my day to do the rewiring work.   Since I have to do the activity anyway, if I can work on rewiring at the same time,  then the rewiring work will be done on a regular basis. And the more I practice, the more I train my brain with the new habit.

The trick is that I often have to be conscious that I am doing a training activity — and that means doing it more purposefully to imprint it on my brain.   Doing an activity more purposely, sometimes can mean doing it slower.    I remind myself that I am training my brain the way I want it to work in the future and that slower will make it better in the long run.  (No multi-tasking allowed!)

Raising my son is the best example of a daily life activity that has also pushed me along in my rewiring.    As a mom, I have to think ahead — so that exercises my planning skills.   I have to think ahead about how to direct him and focus him on what he needs to know about and learn.   And I have to look for effective ways to encourage behaviors in him that are good for him and away from behaviors that are unsafe or are not age appropriate or that I don’t want to encourage.

My doctors have been very encouraging that I am at the point in my recovery where taking care of a child is beneficial to me.    There definitely was a long period where I couldn’t even take care of myself, much less another.  I have had a lot of help on learning about child raising and have been taught how to build a support system around doing it.   But my point in this blog post is that raising my child is rewiring that is mostly fun to do and that I am able to take advantage of during my day.

My son is 5 years old and thriving in his preschool class.   He’s doing well, loves school and loves his friends and family.    His progress is amazing.   And when I reflect on my accomplishments this year in my rewiring, I can count the progress in his growth and development as rewiring work and progress for me also.

If you would like to read ahead about motherhood and my injury:







Read More - The Power of Reflection — revisited, at a deeper level