Please do not Fuck the Man

fuckthemanNote capital M, please.

Sorry – been a while. Breaking the cardinal blogging rule – never leave em hangin…

In my non-existent defense, I’ve been busy.

It’s been a challenging few weeks to say the least. Apparently what you do when you feel better is not just get more done but also start to whittle away at the gigantic mountain of things you had left undone over months/years.

I think now I’ve handled the stuff that needed to get done months ago. and am working on the things I needed to get done years ago. It’s a little exhausting at times – but in a good way. Not the old “aahhhhh dont even look at me I cant see you alalalalalalalala” sort of way.

Anyway, now that Mohammad is coming to the mountain, we’ll see how it goes. Apparently standing in the road shouting “heeeeeerre mountain mountain mountain” doesn’t get you far. Good to know, mental note.

I’m getting stuff done now that I wouldn’t have thought possible even two months ago. Having difficult conversations with people that I wouldn’t have attempted. Planning ahead. You know…stuff.

And incredibly it’s so not enough. I have wasted too much time in my life to waste any now. Now. I. Want. To. Burn.

And I’m still not there mentally. The pace of my training has slowed now that I actually have to contend with life and its evil henchmen “Work”, “Dinner” and “Dishes”. I get in a session or two a week but there are obstacles:

  • No time. I know I know – no excuses. But there’s a strange math to the hunger at getting some old stuff off your plate while continuing to do the training that will allow you to continue getting old stuff done.
  • Other people keep using my machine. This is very exciting really. I’m breaking in my skills on a bunch of willing volunteers, doing peak performance training to help them function at top efficiency. This has many of the hallmarks of the work I’m doing but obviously different end goals. Some are coming to help their performance anxiety, some to reduce stress, some to deal with the irritation that gets in the way of just enjoying their lives. Anyway, it’s damn fun.
  • Sometimes (hangs head) I just don’t want to. I actually find this really strange. I KNOW it’s great. I KNOW it works. And sometimes (not often but enough to slow things up) I resent and avoid treatment. Interestingly, one of the hallmarks of some frontal lobe area challenges is something called oppositional defiance. Basically not wanting to submit to any authority just…cuz. I, um, recognize some of this in myself. And, having recognized it, I had to run out and talk to a bunch of people about it. Apparently a LOT of people do this, including those if us who may have tried medication for our challenges. Add it to the list and I’ll do some work on that area to see if it speeds things up. Or maybe I’ll finally be able to take that army commission I’ve always wanted. Whatever.

I always loved the part of High Fidelity (Nick Hornby novel) where the “hero” makes a number of completely unforgivable statements about himself and takes full responsibility for his actions without any excuses whatsoever. Then spends the rest of the novel explaining exactly why there were really good reasons for doing exactly what he did. Super clever way of drawing the audience into a sympathetic alliance with said protagonist. Also I just like people taking responsibility for things. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy like a Disney film and hot stew all at once.

But I’m not that good at it myself so I’ll make the excuses (see above) and THEN take responsibility. Sorry again.

I’ll talk next time about what it’s like to work with other people’s brains. (Hint – it’s neat.)

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Head Injury: it feels so good when you stop.

green-lantern1In many ways, looking around at my fellow bloggers, the lovely people who write in, hell some of the people I meet on the street, I feel a bit like a fraud.

Really.

I’ve been depressed, sure. Cried at work, check. Stayed in house for extended periods of time, check. Almost lost job, check. Generally listless and lacking joy or motivation in almost any area, check. Totally emotionally vulnerable and reactive, check.

But really all that pales in comparison to what some of the people out there live through, are living through, would sometimes rather die than live another day of…seriously. What they “live” with is staggering.

Some of the worst sufferers? People with traumatic brain injury. TBI can cause everything I experience with ADD or depression times ten, with a touch of blinding headache, personality change, and memory loss, just to sweeten the deal. Or worse.

But here’s the thing.

I don’t care.

[Stay with me here…I’m pausing for dramatic effect]

I can empathise, sympathise, and many other ises, I’m human.

But we humans are all about the me, the I, and possibly the us, but mostly the first two. Because when it comes down to it, we’re trapped in here.

We have these marvelous machines that do all our seeing, smelling, thinking, feeling, and a million other jobs for us. They’re so important in fact, that we have to protect them by locking them away in a pitch black, bone-encased, fluid-cushioned cave. And that’s where they stay. Every so often one of our sense organs, or a nerve bundle, will send our big ol’ brain a message, just to let it know how things are going on the outside. But for all intents and purposes, that sucker’s doing the equivalent of a life sentence in solitary, without so much as the occasional conjugal visit from one of the other inmates (it does get the imaginary porn channel though so it’s not all bad).

And it doesn’t like it one bit.

Want to know how much your brain hates being trapped in there? Try what’s called a sensory deprivation tank. Like a seven-foot coffin filled with body-temperature water. You lie in it with a face mask or ear plugs, they shut the sound-proof door and voila…nothing…nothing…still nothing…um a little more nothing…no sound, no light, not much feel…nada. After a little while, your brain gets sick of not getting any input and starts making shit up. I kid you not. It is SO desperate to not be trapped in there without reading material that it just starts to make up visions, images, smells, whatever it has to to stop from going insane.

That’s crazy! who would design such an insane system? Of course we should have our brains on the outside. In neat transparent bubbles with little holes and stuff so it could see and hear everything without this complex eye and ear junk.

Unfortunately the world is a cruel place and the whole brain on the outside thing would pretty much guarantee that you wouldn’t survive falling off the couch, never mind a grade three classroom or a New York sidewalk.

So, despite a solid potential career as a Star Trek (call me geeky, I am so seeing this) extra, this isn’t going to work out. Stuck with the skull prison cell thing.

How do we know about things, trapped in there? Is the tree green? I dunno. I know a bunch of vision nerves told me about this light they saw a little while ago, and some sound nerves told me that some waves in the air were a lot like those other sound waves that happened a long time ago when the vision nerves were seeing those lights that mean “people” making those “talking” noises and one of them made the green noise while it was pointing to something that had the same sort of light coming off it. Was I seeing the same light as the other people shape? Um sure, if that people shape and I have exactly the same brain, with exactly the same eyeball and the same nerves connecting them. So…no, we weren’t. No two people have the same experience of the universe at the same time. We ain’t made that way. In fact it’s a freaking testament to the human social structure that we can talk to each other, never mind build cities, or make rockets, or breed and make more tiny little soon-to-be-messed up humans.

So…it’s a pretty tenuous system, no? There’s an awful lot riding on our skull’s ability to keep the brain intact and functioning. It’s an unbelievable complex system that can be severly damaged by just screaming at it enough (aka emotional abuse). What does actually hitting it do?

Well, when it gets whacked…things get sloppy – fast. We (me and all them doctor-y types) are coming to the realization that many of our most treasured moments on the sport field were the times when we were pounding our brain into a permanent stupor. Really. I don’t think those jocks started out that thick.

More and more, doctors and neuroscientists are seeing that even minor head injury leaves permanent brain damage. Got your bell rung? Had a concussion? Fallen off a horse? Done boxing? Crashed your bicycle without a helmet? Chances are you are now stupider than when you started. You might not notice. It might be subtle. You might be just a bit worse at math. Maybe you just don’t have the memory you had. Or maybe you get irritable easier now.

And maybe you were always like that.

The fact is that this skull of ours is real good at protecting our heads, but not so good at some other things, like being born.

Our heads are now so large in comparison to our hips (I blame the thighmaster) that we may be damaging the brains of our children in the birth process. Lack of oxygen during difficult labour, forceps, the drugs we take to ease the process may all be contributors. Pre and post labour scans show that up to 10 % of infants have significantly changed brainwave patterns immediately before and after birth. So either they are just really impressed with their new view, or one in ten of us got a raw deal at the outset.

Just so we are clear, I’m not talking about you. You’ve never been hit in the head, never played sports, never been in a car crash, and obviously, you work just fine…no way you could be one in ten…

My record is clearly less stellar. Seven years of rugby, playground “accidents” (yes I’m talking to you Patrick), skiing, a minor concussion running around a gym with my head down, getting mugged by a guy with a bat. Any one of these might have seriously affected my ability to function. And brain injury tends to be cumulative. So maybe all of them.

And really, even if you had some minor brain injury, it’s not like you really notice the difference. Why would you actually do anything about it?

Because you can, first off. Neurotherapy has a great success rate helping even major head injuries. One small study noted improvements from 61% to 181% in the functioning of participants with brain injury. It doesn’t repair damage, but it can help your brain train surrounding areas to be the best they can be, taking up some of the slack.

Second, IMHO, it is your god-given right to be the best you can be. If you broke your arm, you’d go to the doctor and get a cast. This is the same thing.

So what I guess I’m saying is…life is hard. Our brains get broken. You don’t have to take that shit lying down.

Wordsworth said “We come into this world trailing clouds of glory, Getting and spending [and getting the smackdown – ed.] we lay waste our powers.”

When I was young, I always wanted to be a super hero with powers and stuff. Now that I have the prospect of fixing some of those brain bumps and bruises we all seem to acquire, I do believe I’m gonna go out and reclaim a bit of that glory. And maybe a cape.

Getting the hang of this…maybe.

butlerNeurotherapy, as it turns out, has the capacity to be as much a roller coaster as anything else in life. For me, what pulls the brake off the beast is the sense of stepping out into a different skin. Then wondering if you get to keep that skin, then feeling like you might, then knowing you can’t possibly, then…God dammit, I tire my self out in a single sentence. How the fuck would anyone else stand being around me for any length of time? It’s good kids have to legally hang around for a while. Just sayin.

*re-reads last* And I may have to reconsider cutting the anti-anger/anxiety placement out of my brainwave cocktail tomorrow…

Part of it is that the process of NT makes you WAY more introspective and self-noticey than certainly I had been. Which as anyone will tell you is pushing the boundaries of human possibility. I figured any more introspection and I would simply implode in an all-about-me singularity. A dark hole from which no compliment escapes.

But no…as so terribly often happens, I seem to have been wrong. I CAN get more introspective.

Way more.

Neuro (at least othmer-style) seems to focus one very strongly on things that had always been taken for granted. You spend a lot of time looking at things you never thought of before, looking for clues to things you never thought could change.

I’m pissed off! (wait. is that really the asshole in the other car, or is it just my brain being generally angry?)

Oh god, do I have to? (hey, what’s up with my frontal cortex today? It was FINE yesterday!)

My leg hurts…(damn, I KNEW I shouldn’t have tried that stupid .003 setting…what the hell was I thinking?)

Emotions, sensations, pain, thoughts – everything – are all now subjects for examination and inclusion in a sort of vast game of chess, combined with hide and go seek, combined with blind man’s bluff, combined with Clue(tm). And possibly one of the more obscure drinking games involving pennies and an athletic supporter. Or not…Hard to tell as I lost consistently and thus have very poor recollection of the rules.

One thing’s for sure though. I do love a mystery. And this is the best one going…

But I’m pretty sure the butler did it.

Dear Timmy, Depression is Trendy!

Humour courtesy of Savage Chickens

Humour courtesy of Savage Chickens

So it turns out that the upbeat thing I’m writing about today is the fact that depression blogging is just, like totally hot right now. I suppose that’s a good thing, right?

Apparently, however, the other depression bloggers are edgier than I am and have fans and people who ask for advice and stuff. Which is a little bit depressing…not depressed enough for the high-flying world of depression blogging. How long oh lord…

So…if I want more readers do I spill my guts more? Be randomly cranky? Abuse the people who write in? [couldn’t do that, way too nice] Offer more links to things I think are a bit wonky? Create an agony aunt section for people who write in?

So many options…

I really like that last one though. I hereby promise to feature (anonymously) anyone who writes in and wants their questions answered by a completely random stranger. Honestly. Happy to. Bring it on.

Send your questions to tim@neurowave.ca and prepare to be astounded!

Passion

gogh-bandaged-ear1Here’s a question for the depressed, the trapped, or the merely unmotivated.

What drives us?

Hunger? Fear? Passion?

For now, let’s forget hunger and fear. They’re pretty basic. Solid. They can be shifted, a little, but mostly you have them or you don’t; as solid and ancient and immobile as time and tide.

But passion…ephemeral, exquisite, entrancing passion. It drives us and tears us down. An inside force that pulls like an outside force, a force that can build, or destroy us. Humanity speaks of the drive that comes from passion as an outside influence. We speak of the muses as gods that bestow passion to the lucky few. We speak of those with passion as being blessed.

Perhaps they are, or perhaps they aren’t. They used to kill men, letting them be dragged to death by wild horses. Pure need seems to have pretty much the same effect. Look at van Gogh.

But is that worse than a life lived without passion?

There are some things all humans just know. When a baby is upset, or really hurt. When someone is angry. And being different. Even the challenged kids know when every one else has something that they just don’t seem to possess. They don’t like it either.

I think I lived my whole life wondering what drive looked like from the inside. Pressed up against the storefront glass, watching the way the driven people moved, how they ate, how they spoke. And mostly I played a pretty good game, pretending; I’m not untalented, just uninvolved. But what I saw as I watched, was enticing. You can see what it is…you just can’t touch it. That’s maddening.

[Side note: Is this what television does to us? Does it show us the things we are not, creating an ever-spiralling circle of unfulfilled hunger? Some may disagree, but I don’t think we are bright enough or sufficiently in control of our base selves to truly know, on every level, that it ain’t real.]

Yet none of us are completely devoid of passion, they ebb and flow – and the one thing that always made it possible for me to continue was people. They’re lovely, endlessly fascinating, and when someone around you has passion and drive, it’s almost like you have some yourself. But, in the end, it’s just an act. It burns away and on to the next…you end up skipping across the surface of your life, never really digging in. You never succeed the way you should, and lets’s face it – you never really live.

Perhaps humans are built this way; some leaders, some followers. Perhaps without a sensible ratio, the human race bobs around in billions of tiny boats, bumping hulls, stealing fish and singing “My Way” at the top of our collective lungs.

Whatever the genetic necessity however, it REALLY wasn’t working for me. Clearly a leader, trapped in a follower’s body, like some sort of motivational transvestite. [Yup, I already regret that simile. Too late now, though.]

My cure? Sit on my ass and wait for passion to come. Occasionally do something fun or scary. Against all odds, this worked. Naturally it backfired immediately, but hey, it’s not all pool parties in the Hamptons, is it.

Gods willing, the neuro will help with the rest of it or reduce the level of distraction that forces me to keep finding new sources of passion.

So, if neuro does help…

Is passion the natural human state, absenting sadness and distraction? Can we just reawaken it with technical wizardry? Must we wait for outside forces to provide inspiration or can we, without an ember or a spark to warm, ignite the fire by rubbing sticks?

Does anyone have a match?

PS. Next time I promise to write about something more upbeat. Like brain injury.

Depression – A ten-letter word

bandaidclownWhoops.

This was an inadvertent test of the system. Had this been a real emergency you probably wouldn’t have really noticed but vaguely wondered much later, “gee, I wonder what happened to that guy who was doing that thing with the eeg therapy deal…”

Anyway, in the rush of getting home, getting unpacked, catching up on doing stuff with my children, trying to re-organize the rest of my life, and various other challenges, I just didn’t get my new machine working till last night. [tech geeks – My neurotherapy system is designed for PC – I have a MacBook and needed to get Windows, install Bootcamp, system drivers, etc. Naturally everything was more difficult than it needed to be. Welcome to Windows…]

And it showed. Stopped doing neurotherapy with Sue about a week and a half ago.

Days 1-5 – Course, travel. All running too fast to feel much of anything except the rush of wind past my face.

Day 6 after neurotherapy stopped – still on fire – great list, hyper-organized, everything got done, super motivated, no time for blog but that’s ok.

Day 7 – little bit worse. List not as complete, things slipped off it to the next day – just didn’t get to blog

Day 8 – no list. totally scattered, got one or two things to get machine set up, hit a minor bump, got discouraged – felt like I didn’t have anything to contribute on the blog

Day 9 – tried to make list but couldn’t find pen. Felt really discouraged, questioned reason for doing all this in the first place, got totally down about something pretty minor, got really scared by that which was useful motivation to get the machine going…Got eeg going (yay)…finally did another neurotherapy session at 11 that night, which is really not optimum. Too scared by getting close to the cliff to blog.

Day 10 – Feel great today, writing this blog entry with no problem (notice how it didn’t happen before?), despite having the girls here. Fitting it in between activities and no problem keeping train of thought despite having to activity hop.

Are we noticing a trend?

Anyway, back on track now. This slippage makes me:

A. really convinced neurotherapy’s effects are real and tangible,

B. a bit worried about how long it lasts.

Neither of these is really new though, so…

Let’s talk about the big one.

Depression – Big awful awful word. For many, “you’ve got depression” is just slightly this side of “you have a social disease”. It can mean that you are a total failure and just too damn lazy to pull up your bootstraps and get on with the work of living.

But what if you just weren’t born with boots on? I speak from bitter personal experience when I say that many people have strappy, high-priced six inch stiletto brains. They sure look nice but see how far you get when the terrain gets a bit rocky. [and that’s MISTER Blahnik to you…]

So me, and a whole bunch of others, aren’t particularly lazy, or weak…just a bit tippy. Our brains don’t have a solid base from which to work. And let’s face it: life hits you sideways. Every single time. It would be easier if it were random, or even predictably mean. No…it waits until your mouth is full and your head thrown back before it hits you in the gut. Checking behind you? Wrecking ball…Stage left. Devised a carefully constructed fence with kevlar protection and proximity warning devices? Piano from the fifth floor window above you.

Monty Python once said “No one expects the spanish inquisition!” There’s truth to the fact that some things are so awful we cannot predict them because we cannot bear to look and see them coming. It’s fairly predictable that bad things happen. Life’s…kinda like that. The difference between the depressed and the non-depressed lies in the response to that smackdown. The depressed person feels crushed, unable to get back up, by the strength of the blow. The non-depressed takes the same hit in the same spot, shrugs it off and says “that all you got?” That’s not about bravery, or gumption or hutzpah. It’s about the flexibility of your brain in a stressful situation.

A motivated, flexible and un-depressed person can’t see any of that. So they tend to tell us to just pick ourselves up and keep at it. I know you mean well…it’s not helpful however. Almost nothing is, really. Sometimes you can coax out of depression. Sometimes life gets better while you have your head down. But you’ll drop right down the next time it gets bad.

What to do?

Find friends to help – As mentioned, sometimes this isn’t so helpful, because being fixed doesn’t really make you feel anything except more broken. What we are all looking for in the end is a bit of control in our lives. Being rescued from yourself doesn’t provide this. Sometimes this makes the bad things go away enough that you can get your head up tho – pluses and minuses. It’s just a band aid. Not a fix.

Drugs – SSRIs (prozac et al) will take the edge off, largely by making you not feel the bad things quite so much. I don’t really like this. At some level I think sadness is as fundamental a human right as joy. It would just be nice to be in control of it a little though, to have it not wreck you and leave you all messy for so long. To maybe just be sad, then pick yourself up and walk on when you feel like it. Man that would be great. Also they make me feel sluggish and not quick thinking. Some days that’s all I have, and giving it up is like trading your house for a new car.

Suicide – Although an effective way to prevent yourself from feeling anything at all, forever, this is a sucky option. Please don’t. It is possible to feel joy again. We just need to get your body and brain to cooperate.

Neurotherapy – Neurotherapy stretches the flexibility of your system so that you still feel everything (um…yay?) but it doesn’t wreck you. Leaves you able to take the punches, rock back a bit, regroup and move on…

And moving on, it’s time to take this energy and go play with my girls.

Neurotherapy – Day 11 – Wave Goodbye, Say Hello…

photo-19It could just be the neurotherapy talking but, man what a great bunch of people. I’ve been in classes and conferences where you were wondering why the exit door seemed to be moving in slow motion, dreading that someone would catch up with you. I can honestly say that there was not a single person that I met with whom I wouldn’t cheerfully spend a day. Interesting, dedicated, open and open-minded. A good few will be friends, collaborative partners and potentially colleagues for years, I’m quite sure.

So I say goodbye cheerfully, warm in the knowledge that goodbyes and beginnings are two sides of the same coin. Bye, all. LA…well, I’ll see you soon. And San Diego. And Portland…

Clinicians Course – Last Day

Today was the last day of what has to be one of the hardest short courses I have ever encountered.  Honestly, I was boggled by the level, depth and sheer volume of information. Under the general rule of you get as good as you give, this was also one of the most rewarding courses I have ever taken.

Normally there are little spots where you can take a bit of a breather. You know. A quick glaze over and no one will really notice if your head starts to roll a bit. Not such a good plan here. I think I did that once, thinking about something or other, only to snap back into focus hearing a bunch of words that made absolutely no sense whatsoever. None. Like the babel fish just fell out of my ear and breathed its last, leaving me merciless at the hands of a completely incomprehensible Vogon. No one expects their aliens on the smallish side with glasses and a little vest. That’s how they infiltrate.

Anyway, the other 31 hours, 58 minutes were spent in rapt attention. I think I was down to alternating eyes for blinking, just in case. The one exercise where we actually closed them was nearly sinfully lovely.

And let’s use that as a segue into the real heart of the matter:

Did Neurotherapy Work?

Well, let’s look at it from a few angles. Random bursts of excitement and Deus Ex Machining aside, I’ve seen a lot of evidence from a number of sources over the last two weeks:

ME

  1. There is no way in hell that I would have been able to devote that kind of focus and attention to anything two weeks ago. No way. In hell. Period. (note – admit to this potentially being in LA doing cool stuff, learning cool things, meeting cool people – see in the long run)
  2. I was both focused and engaged. I felt upbeat, excited and happy to be there pretty much every minute. (as per note above)
  3. I am actively seeking plans for the future, with some solid, or at least excitingly ephemeral results.
  4. I am now hungry three times a day. I increasingly bow to the common understanding that this may be a good thing, although it’s largely a moot point.
  5. Although I am hungry, I seem to know when I am full. I worry that the unfinished food may suffer self esteem issues.
  6. I just don’t seem to want sugar much anymore. This is ok, but confusing.
  7. I am now drunk on one beer. This causes me shame.
  8. I have a more general thirst for life that I haven’t seen in far longer than I really want to think about.
  9. I haven’t had a migraine in 2 weeks. This is a while, but by no means a record. Bears watching but not conclusive.
  10. I seem to be surprisingly sensitive to blood glucose level changes. Minor (minor! – still strange) headache today after big carb lunch, same a s I used to get from beer in the afternoon. This is not a good thing but is clearly a change from my previous last one to the box ‘o cookies is a rotten egg system. Significant negative effect still equals effect. And it’s probably fixable.

OTHERS

  1. The other members of the class were not dummies or rubes. There were clear effects using the machines for even the few hours of demonstration time we had.
  2. The effects are sufficiently powerful that when people made mistakes during class, the person doing the training clearly felt the effects. Headaches, tight chest, rapid mood swings, clenched jaws, instant grogginess and many other symptoms showed up in the light of our inexperience. Needless to say people learned fast.
  3. Also clearly, when the settings were right, the person felt a sense of immense well-being. This would sometimes happen when they didn’t know the settings had been changed.
  4. Occasionally settings were changed with a stray elbow or arm. Neither the tester nor the subject knew this. The effects were still extremely obvious and had to be corrected quickly.

FACTS AND FIGURES

  1. There is solid, published research behind it, on lots of test subjects but no where near the numbers that exist in pharmacuetical studies – the cash just ain’t there.
  2. The Othmers have compiled data on several thousand cases the clinic has dealt with. These numbers seem solid and in several cases really, really impressive.

Looking at it skeptically, there are still many areas where I want more knowledge, more facts, more understanding of what’s happening and why. Then again, I also don’t know how an MRI works, or even that Blizzard machine at Dairy Queen. They still do the job.

I never take statistics as proof of anything. Spent too many years making them dance to believe them in isolation. Once they start to get confirmed by real world test subjects (or as I like to think of the class, my fellow guinea pigs), I start to think hmmmm…maybe.

And once I feel them myself, I hope.

I truly believe that this has had a significant effect on me. I feel like a new man, utterly and completely. As I continue to work with Sue from Victoria, we will see how these effects settle, build, change and last. Once I know all that, well… I will find a good avenue to do this for other people. No question about that. It’s a gift.

Stay Tuned,

Same Bat-channel, Same Bat-place (that one’s for you, Darla)