Category Archives: Tips Given to Me

Stop the shaking

Sometimes when I am excited, nervous or tired; one of my extremities will shake. An example of this is when I do the leg press machine at my gym. I get off the machine and my left leg is fatigued. When I stand as I allow my body to cover my leg, especially around my knee joint will shake out of control.

It’s very annoying.  So sometimes I get off the machine and limp, grab my leg, create expressions of pain on my face to give people a reason why my leg is shaking. That way if someone looked at me and saw my leg shaking they would say to themselves “oh, he’s in pain and that’s why he is limping.”

But I remembered something that my physical therapist had told me. He told me that if my leg began to shake, to push through my heel and this would resolve the shaking.

This works when I am dealing with nervousness or when I am anxious but when I am fatigued (during a strenuous workout) nothing helps. It has gotten better over the years and as I continue to run a mile everyday, the shaking has seemed to subside.

I think that may have something to do with it. I believe that running everyday has strengthen the nerves in my body and have made the connections stronger. I also began taking longer rests in between sets. This gives my body time to recover so that I am able to focus on the task at hand.


Trouble Sleeping? Try a trick from yoga

I assume, you or some one you know with a brain injury has a hard time sleeping. I know I did during my recovery and I still continue to struggle sleeping to this date.

In my quest to find a solution I have came to the conclusion that ONE of the main factors in finding a restful nights sleep lies in concentration.  I believe one of the biggest contributing factors to why people with brain injuries and even people with out brain injuries cannot not get a restful nights sleep is they lack the ability to concentrate for extended periods of time.

When I say “lack” the ability to concentrate, I am not saying that these people (myself included) are incompetent. I am saying it is very difficult for us to concentrate on a certain task. The task of falling asleep is a tricky one and can very easily be unobtainable.

It’s so easy to think about all the things that is happening in your life, instead of concentrating on sleeping. So what should you focus on that won’t get you excited or anxious?

I work at a health club and I had a conversation with a yoga instructor about how I am so excited about my life and the direction it is heading that I couldn’t sleep. He told me that I should try meditating. I said I had try that but I didn’t know what I should focus on to fall into that deep meditation and find peace. “How do you think about nothing?”

He told me to concentrate on my breathing. He said concentrate and the second you find yourself thinking of what you are doing, you are no longer meditating. He told me that it would take awhile but soon those breaks would become further apart.

The very first night I tried this I fell right to sleep. I listened to my breaths go in and out and I tried to control my breathing. Almost slow it down if it was too fast. It helped so much. The biggest area that it helps is that I am able to take my mind off of everything thats going on in my life and able to concentrate on nothing.

ADHD Issues

For many of us it is hard to focus once one receives a brain injury. It seems like you have no concentration any more. The slightest thing could immediately move your attention to one thing to another. There are tips that Dr.’s recommend but none of them work, well at least in my case.

I could never, no matter how hard I tried, pay attention in my lecture hall classes at UMass. Granted, this was only two years from the date of my injury. None the less I could not focus on anything. It seem like the teacher/ professor would be up on stage talking about nothing.

No, instead of actually paying attention my brain would start to think about other things. Such as playing baseball again, writing my book, and creating this blog to help other victims with brain injuries. I always felt like I had better things to do then to sit in class and learn about something I did not care about. I would also begin to get tired from attempting to concentrate so hard. I needed to nap after every class!

I went to my doctor with this problem. I told her that I was having a hard time focusing/ concentrating in class. So, she prescribed me Ritalin, like most brain injury victims. She started me off on a small dose because of the addictive nature of the drug and the strong potency of it.

I didn’t feel much of an effect so the doctor prescribed me a higher dose. As time went on, I still was struggling to feel the “great” effects of this wonder drug like everyone had proclaimed it to be. She kept uping the dosage but still no effect.

I just stopped taking it all together. The only thing it would do was not allow me to sleep. My mind still wondered off and thought about other things but my body was wired and jittery, I could not fall asleep. I know this because I had to study for a final so I took some the night before it thinking it would help me stay focus, instead all it did was prevent me from falling asleep!

After I stopped taking it, the only way I could concentrate is by reminding myself why I was sitting in that lecture, to learn! I had to keep telling myself to focus. This was the only way that I could retain any information. I would constantly catch myself thinking of other things and I would remember that I was not in this class to think about girls, I was in this class to learn about sociology or whatever the subject was!

Drinking Liquids

I know for me one of the hardest things to do is drinking liquids, especially clear liquids. Liquids of all kinds give me trouble. I learned how to swallow, while I was in rehab, but I still choke dramatically when ever I try to drink fast.

While I was in rehab the speech pathologist taught me how to swallow again. She taught me how to drink using a straw at first. I then graduated to a can, bottle or I drank out of a cup after I had left rehab.

There is a certain way to insure that you will not choke. That way is that you need to angle your head down and swallow. You can’t tip your head up because this opens up the air ways and the liquid will go down, causing you to choke.

You must keep your head angled down because this closes your airways, because of this you are no longer allowed to drink fast. Well you could but I do not encourage this. If you want to not choke then take little sips of your water and keep your head angled down.

When you drink fast you must angle your head up so make the liquids come out of the bottle/ can. Because your head is angled up your airways are now open. You will almost always choke when you try to drink fast, unless of course you use a straw.

I try to drink fast now but I still have a hard time with it. A large gulping sound comes from my throat. It comes directly out of where my tracheotomy was, right where the scar is now. It is so loud that I’ll be in the kitchen drinking a Gatorade and my parents in the living room complain about the sound.

I believe a lot of my choking comes a lot from having a tracheotomy. That and my left side of my throat is a lot weaker than my right.  I have developed a bad habit to prevent choking so I could drink faster.

The bad habit I have developed is every time I drink out of a can, bottle or even a cup I practically French kiss the bottle. I do this, subconsciously, to slow the flow of liquids. My friends make fun of me all the time.

I stick my tongue to the bottle opening or the end of the glass/ cup/ can/ bottle, I tilt my head back slightly and this slows the liquids from shooting straight down the back of my throat. Now, I am slowly stopping this habit.

I must consciously tell my self to not do it. I curl my tongue to touch the top of my tongue with the tip of my tongue, then I bring the beverage to my lips. I do it in this order to remind myself that this is the correct way to drink a beverage.

I have the hardest time drinking water. Nearly everytime I take a sip of water I choke. It must have something to do with it being a clear liquid. I am not sure, but I still struggle drinking this beverage.

Remembering People’s Names

I know how hard it was for me to remember peoples names. Especially, when I first went to school. I was barely recovered, my memory wasn’t up to par. Right when I got to school I was meeting all these new people and it was tough for me to remember their names.

All these people would know who I was and I had know idea who they were. I felt like the biggest jerk because they would say “hi, Zach!” and I would answer back “hey, you…” I felt terrible, because they knew my name and I had no idea who they were.

This wasn’t all due to my memory not being great. A lot of it was, but the main reason was that I would meet someone and I wouldn’t see them again for a couple weeks. With a brain injury I learned the best way to improve your memory is repetition. What I mean by this is that I would remember people’s names if I saw them everyday because I would refresh my memory every day or so.

Then my mother had given me a gift one day. It was this CD, that had tips on ways to increase my memory. I would often listen to this after my workouts my freshman year, when I would walk on the treadmill.  There was a section on how to remember names.

It listed a couple of tips, but the on that resonated with me was one that incorporated repetition. It said that people use other nouns rather than the person’s name when they greet them. For example, if the man’s name is actually Jon, “what up man.” The person is replacing Jon with man. I found this interesting and kept listening.

The CD told me to, every time you greet someone, use their name in the greeting. So now instead of, “what up man” you would say “what up Jon” by doing this you every time you see that person you remember this is Jon. Now, your brain will associate this man’s face with the name Jon.

It works for me, I was even getting brothers names correct and other people who looked similar. This is a great trick and if you have problems remembering someone’s name, try this!

The Wonders of Speech-Language Pathologists

I had to learn how to swallow and chew all over again and still have trouble drinking water. My brain injury caused me to have weakness to the left side of my tongue and the left side of my throat. The accident had left me with a broken jaw. I had to first strength these muscles then I could worry about swallowing and chewing correctly correctly.

The speech- language pathologist had me singing or told me to let out a loud humming sound that came from deep within my throat. She also had me practice movements with my tongue at an attempt to strengthen it as well.

She also would have me practice opening my mouth as wide as I could. This was to strengthen my jaw which I had broken during the accident. She told me to open as wide as I could while my mouth was wired shut to strengthen it so that I could chew food once I got my jaw unwired.

The trick to swallowing is you must angle your head down in order not to choke (especially with clear liquids), but this problem with liquid is probably due to my tracheotomy rather than my brain injury.

But, the speech-language pathologist taught to make sure I chewed my food very good before I swallowed it, taught me to take small sips of water to wash down the food and made sure I wasn’t trying to guzzle my beverage.

I still have problems drinking but I am getting better at it. When I was in rehab they only let me drink out of a straw, in order to keep my head angled down. Now, every time I drink out of a can or bottle I practically French kiss the bottle. I do this, subconsciously, to slow the flow of liquids. My friends make fun of me all the time.

I, now, make a conscious effort to curl my tongue before I put the beverage to my lips. I make sure my heads angled down and I take a sip. If my head is angled up, I choke but I give a mild cough. Unlike before where I would cough repeatedly.

Sometimes as I am eating my food the left side of my jaw pops or gives a loud crack. It is one hundred times better than it was when I was in rehab. It’s all good, I’ll take it!

When You Feel Lazy or Tired Remember One Thing!!!


If you want to get your life back together, want things to be like they were as quick as possible. You must do your rehab. No matter how much you do not want to, you just have to do it.

Sitting back and wishing that things would go back to they way it used to be aren’t going to get them there. You have to do the hard work to get them there. You must relearn how to do things and do them over and over again so that your brain can establish new connections.

I know its tedious, but think of it as a second chance. You are alive and thats something you should be happy about. Ya, you need to do somethings to get your life back on track but would you rather be dead?

You may think that it would be better to be dead than to go through what you are going through ( God, I know I did) but its just not true. God or whoever put you through this because you are strong enough to handle it!

So, suck it up and do the rehab, because in the end…IT WILL BE WORTH IT!!!