Thank you, I’m sorry and a big list

shoulderandneck13I started this blog as a way to see if my process couldn’t perhaps help more people than just myself. I’ve have quite a few people say, “hey I see parts of myself there”, and I have to say I’m really gratified and pleased. But there’s no doubt it’s a two way street. The process of writing for all of you is a serious gut check every single time I put fingers to keyboard. What should I put in, what is too personal? Well, turns out that the best way to help people connect with the process is to just be me, not too edit-y and pretty honest about what going on. I normally hide a lot about myself, and that’s a strange and scary feeling. I feel like I’m up on the edge of a cliff (I hate heights too)…but the audience, the confessional I suppose, is making me feel better about myself, stronger and clearer.

So thank you.

In that vein….They say that the first thing a person who is choking will try to do is leave the room, as if dying in front of people were a terrible, shameful inconvenience for the other diners. In the same way I suppose, whether it’s ADD or the tendency to depression, the stuff I’m looking at now in neurotherapy…well, I’m ashamed of it. I’ve kept it all well hidden from the world, or even myself, for my entire life. I haven’t known I was ADD until I started looking at neurotherapy for depression (which is harder to miss – dark curtains and a fetal position are a dead giveaway).  In the course of looking at what neurotherapy does, I came across some clear descriptions of what ADD looks like. It looks like me apparently.

I also don’t have a lot of ability to complete complex tasks that require a lot of forward planning. I’m a bright guy, I can bumble along getting day to day stuff done, and I have lucid times when I can look ahead and see past my toes for a bit. I can even be a total star. But all people really see is a guy who can think pretty quickly in conversation. So they are really really disappointed in me when stuff gets dropped or just don’t git done. “Jeez Tim, if you can do it then, you can do it now. You must just be lazy.” And I’m disappointed in me too.

I’ve spent me whole life not understanding that there are good reasons for that; that being broken isn’t really a badge of shame so much as a sign of being human.

The thing that really brings that home (strangely) is some of the technical manuals on how to do neurotherapy. One of them is a very matter-of-fact list of what to do with certain symptoms and syndromes. Quite frankly I’m staggered by the list of things that can be changed, or improved. I get that it’s a really powerful technique. The brain has an amazing ability to be flexible, to find a way to change itself and adapt to it’s environment. Neurotherapy takes the adaptation systems the brain has developed to keep us alive, and channels them toward repairing the things that are holding us back. That’s an amazing tool, but even knowing that, I look at the list and see a whole bunch of people, myself included, that I had kind of written off as never going to get better or be more. For all of you, myself included, I’m sorry.

Here’s an partial version of the list, in no particular order:

  • Migraines
  • Seizures
  • Asthma
  • Mood swings
  • Depression and motivation challenges
  • ADD/ADHD and difficulties focusing or ability to plan ahead
  • Emotional and impulse control and anger/fear management, dangerous thrill seeking and self-injuring
  • Attachment disorder
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asbergers
  • Anxiety challenges, including OCD, Tourettes, panic attacks, paranoia
  • Flashbacks and fears stemming from past incidents, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and childhood abuse
  • Body issues, including Anorexia, Bulimia, over or under eating and sugar cravings
  • Inability to plan
  • Control over ones body/clumsiness.
  • Addictions
  • Nightmares
  • Physical tension, including Bruxism (tight jaw and teeth grinding)
  • Sleep challenges
  • Pain and pain management, including Fibromyalgia, low pain threshold, Sciatica and chronic nerve pain
  • Poor math or language ability

This list seems ridiculous, even to me. Like a travelling salesman with his fancy wagon, selling snakeoil to the local hicks. Hence the “I’ll try it first and you can see what you think” approach. We tend to single out the diseases, illneses and broken bits, putting them up against a wall and shining a narrow spotlight on them. We don’t tend to think in terms of larger, interacting systems, and we certainly don’t think about what a healthy human looks like, or how to create that. It’s how our medical system operates, and it’s how we’ve come to think of ourselves and our bodies. It’s clear, however, that the brain can command an amazing number of resources, can touch an incredible number of things within us. By harnessing that, we have a hell of a tool.

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Neurotherapy Day 4 – Dreams and so on

Note: This real picture of me dreaming may have had some minor Photoshop.

Note: This real picture of me dreaming may have had some minor Photoshop.

Wild dreams last night, filled with all sorts of strangeness, but none of it really scary. I often have really really scary dreams, the kind you wake up from gasping. These weren’t that. They were more the “what the hell am I supposed to think about that?” sort of dream. Wild, out-there imagery, lots of colour and strong emotions. Anger, love, fear, joy – just not unmanageably strong. I remember waking several times from them, but still felt rested in the morning. Did wake early though
(very – 4 am). Felt fine, just awake, so I did some work fixing the computer until about 5:30, then went back to bed till 8.

Technically today (and tomorrow) are days of rest, but I just love you all so much I just can’t stand to be away that long. I’ll take a break tomorrow, promise.

I’m also feeling more motivated today than I have in a long long time. This is fantastic, but of course me being me, I have to caveat with the old “that’s kinda cool but it don’t mean a thing until you’re kept it up longer than you normally would”. In my terms that means, I’ll have to have felt motivated and focused over at least month, at home (ie not in this exciting and stimulating new environment) and in the face of resistance from outside forces.

Get me to THAT point and I’ll do a little dance. Possibly with bells. We’ll see. Definitely call for a party I think.

In the mean time, I’m pretty happy about a day when I read a complex neurotherapy text I’ve been trying to get to for six months, cross-referenced and indexed with notes and further questions. In different coloured stickies. Lindsay, you can stop laughing any old time.

I also added the first positive category to the blog today, as all the negative ones felt wrong. I LIKE that!

Neurotherapy – Day 3 – Eyes Wide Open

eyes openLots and lots of change…a bit dizzying really. I’m basically in wait and see mode…everything seems unsettled – like things way deep down are shifting and rolling around. I remember a similar sense, standing on the edge of a huge glacier near Everest in Nepal, looking out at a river of motionless rock and ice and hearing deep, groaning cracks as constant, subtle pressure tore and shifted the ice below.

I left sessions yesterday with a mild headache, not helped by a visit to the largest mall in southern California. Mother of god, what a beast. Headache had increased by the time I left, probably due to sensory overload and scent sensitivity issues. Had dissipated by the time I walked back to the hotel. It’s strange in part that I would even have a mild headache. I had woken that day with that “potential for a migraine” feeling, which I mentioned to Sue. I never have “little” headaches. They are crushing, terrible things that completely overwhelm my ability to function, think straight, even put words together. They are vicious, attack-dog headaches that throw you down and tear chunks from your scalp. In comparison, this was a yappy little lap dog; annoying but largely ignorable and not quite worth kicking. New experience.

We were transitioning yesterday from working on overall brain stability issues (like headaches) to motivation and body awareness issues (as evidenced, apparently, by my previous total lack of concern over hunger). As I mentioned yesterday, half way through the second session, I became hungry. I haven’t been hungry for years. It was, to say the least, unsettling. I went to the mall nearby to get food. Had stopped being hungry by the time I got there, but all the same got the sort of meal I would normally eat. The US-sized portions were larger, but I hadn’t had breakfast and was not really concerned. As it turned out, however, I also seem to get full faster. Had to force myself to finish the meal and didn’t enjoy the last third. May have to learn to eat differently in restaurants if this keeps up.

Overall, this morning, I feel great. I have much less of the sense of exhaustion that has plagued me for the last few years. Empirical evidence (which I’m really into and am trying to track as much as possible through this)…hmmm…I was happy to do the blog, even unto several updates. Over the past month I had had great plans to track how I felt daily, in order to provide a solid baseline for this process. Unfortunately, that means having the energy and drive to do that. Depression kinda gets in the way though…needless to say, didn’t happen. Today, yesterday, I want to write. Hungry for it. There’s no sense of “god I don’t have the energy for this” which I’m used to.

Other evidence…as I’ve also mentioned, I don’t plan ahead. Anything, ever. Life is moment to moment. But last night I was looking at two upcoming free days and wondering what I would do. Only made half plans, but still – a big shift for me. More body stuff – I normally get a double espresso to start the day. Wakes me up, and it’s the only coffee I have in the day. If I don’t have it, I get a caffeine withdrawal migraine (yes I’m a delicate flower – what’s your point?). Today, as the caffeine kicked in during my session, I actually felt my throat tighten in the way that it does if I have a quad shot. Mentioned it. Apparently shifts in sensitivity are common. People taking medication can suddenly find that their regular dose is way too much and have to cut back (avec doctor’s consultation of course). Same with lots of stuff, from coffee to alcohol.

This is getting long and I’m getting hungry (AGAIN!) but one more strangeness before I sign off. In the evaluation, I mentioned I’ve had slightly elevated blood pressure over the last few years. Hadn’t had it checked in the last six months and Sue took a reading as a matter of course and one possible metric. Ther result was a dead-normal 120 over 80 with a resting heart rate of 71. I was pretty happy with that, as it was well down from the last reading I got. This morning we rechecked that, to find that it was up slightly, 125/85-ish. A little bit disappointing but really no big deal and attributable to any number of things. The really strange thing was that we then noticed that the heart rate was down to 55. That’s really freaking low unless you are an athlete, which I’m sooo not. I have been very fit in the past, and had a pulse of 60 when I was doing triathlons 10 years ago. Today I do a few push-ups to maintain core and upper body strength and that’s pretty much it. The occasional run when I can get up for it. Absolutely nothing that would account for a sixteen point drop in my pulse in 2 days (unless you count my tryouts for the blogging Olympics). Even Sue was surprised. It’s a tad freaky. It’s a high quality digital machine but there is a remote chance it was a bad reading – I’ll keep you notified when we check again.

EEG Info – Workplace of the future?

EEG Info – What an interesting place to work

The staff at the EEG Info clinic is, no holds barred, delightful. Part of this is probably due to the fact that they hire good people. Part is also due to the fact that they all routinely do EEG treatments to regulate how they feel or even just start the day out right. One of them put it well, saying “It’s great to work here and if you have a headache, they really encourage you to have a clinical session and sort it out.”

Another, Annalisa, compared the availability of free EEG to the gym memberships that long-term employees get. Healthy mind in healthy body, indeed.

Tami, the very sweet coordinator-of-all-things at the clinic, suffered from constant migraines before she came to work there. Every month or two she would get a cluster over the space of a couple of weeks, each of them wasting a day or two. For anyone who gets them, myself included, this is a recipe for not getting anything done in your life, or certainly not getting as much done as you could.

Now, Tami (who has worked here a year and a half) says that even with irregular training (got married) she hasn’t had a headache since November, five whole months ago!

So…what would it be like to work in a place where feeling great was, more or less, an assumption?

Aaaarrrrrggggh! I’m Hungry.

food-fruit-01-copyFML – I can’t believe that one of the first effects I am feeling with neurotherapy (after the strange headache chasing yesterday) is Hunger! I’m hungry! It sucks! I don’t like it! How do you people live like this!?

Ok. Technically there is something you can do about it. Yes, I’ll go and eat. At least then my mouth will be full and I might stop whining.

So, hunger turns out to be an adjunct of increased body awareness which is, agreed, not a bad thing. I suppose that knowing when your body is out of fuel is good. I suppose.

Neurotherapy – Day 2 – Random thoughts

I don’t usually bother the world with the random thoughts (I have so very many) but this is a very very compact process I’m doing and it’s hard to say what is going to be valuable to someone else.

Most people do one or two neurotherapy sessions a week, but essentially, there is no reason for that – there’s no possibility of overdose or over-pushing. So, rather than live in LA (which is very pretty, at least the North Hollywood Hills area), I’m doing 10 sessions here over the course of 7 days. Then I’m doing the rest of the therapy back in Victoria once Sue has figured out which protocols work for me. That means I’ll also be taking some intensive training in the second half of my stay and buying a EEG machine to work with once I get back).

So the random thing for today is…Doing boring things.

I can’t. Ever. This may not seem like a big deal to those of you who just unconsciously get on with the little bits and pieces of your day that are dull, but whatever. It really is for me. If something is boring, it has to have a deadline with the hammer of God hanging over it to give me enough adrenaline to get the damn thing done. If I love something, it’s done fast and well. This fairly minor feature extends for me to pretty much everything. I quite literally have no routines at all. I have to consciously decide to do every single thing I do, from cooking a meal to brushing my teeth.

I mentioned this to Sue, who said “Well, that sounds exhausting [which it is]”. Then she tells me they can fix it. Which kind of blows me away.

Later…

Drumroll…Neurotherapy Day One!

Ok. let’s start with the weird stuff first.

I have often bored my close friends with a strange Tim fact…I never, ever get hungry. Well, not perfectly accurate. I get hungry every 5 – 10 years when, until I remember what it is, I get all freaked out and think I’m dying. Possibly of stomach cancer or alien worms. I’m not complaining mind. This trait has served me well in the past. In an emergency, I can go literally days before I go all faint and have to put some calories in me. I usually know how much my body needed them by how fast I eat them at that point. Yes I know this is stupid but that’s how I’ve always been.

Unfortunately, it turns out that neurotherapy, as an adjunct to some other stuff (stay tuned) will actually change this. I will now be hungry just like normal people. Which sucks. I liked being all special and strange, even though it meant a raised possibility of hypoglycemic shock. I suppose it’s a small consolation that it will leave in place a bunch of other things that people were asking about (you know who you are). We never really know when we start out what the road will look like, do we?

The awful, terrible, crushing thing? I WASN’T different! When we made up the list of things that weren’t working, my clinician, Sue, was merrily checking things off on a list. I had a look and there it was! – “Lack of Appetite Awareness”. How humility inducing. Stop laughing, you.

The early part of today was very unexpected. It was less focussedly about brainwaves and more about self-reported behaviours (at least at first) than I said here, um, yesterday. Sorry about that. Turns out there’s an interesting discussion around different neurotherapy styles and schools of thought, which I will go into another time.

At any rate, through either my own burbling and gentle questioning by Sue, we came up with a pretty extensive laundry list of (as Winnie the Pooh would say) Things That Aren’t Quite Right With Tim. Caveat – None of these things, with the possible exception of depression, are the kinds of things that I would talk to a doctor about, but cumulatively they’re a problem for me. I just didn’t know that you could deal with them cumulatively or at all. And no, this doesn’t make me wierd, or broken, or at least not more broken than anyone else. It’s ok – you can still talk to me on the street, and you probably don’t even need to use that loud voice we reserve for the deaf and non-english speakers.

This isn’t the full list, but rather a list of ones we agreed would be indicative and easy to track, along with a score (subjective 1-10) of how the things on these scales were/felt in the past week.

chartday1 So, we started work on what’s called brain instabilities. (No, that’s not the same thing as being unstable, thank you for asking). These include things like headaches, seisures, oversensitivity, and other “brain can’t really control itself” things.

This was, frankly, strange. I had an impression that Neurotherapy was a slow, you’ll feel it over time process. It was anything but, at least in this area.

During the evaluation and two treatment sessions I did today, there were often times when Sue would change a setting on the machine, looking for the most effective combination of “reward fequencies” (the brainwave pattern that you respond best to in training) and symmetry (the way your two halves of your brain work together). Within a minute, or less, of a setting being changed, I would notice with a sensation change, which ranged from tingling on my skull (possibly increased bloodflow) to a small headache (that I hadn’t had before) that we chased across my head like a recalcitrant child at bedtime.

The last word on the first day? I feel good. Energetic, relaxed, able to concentrate (shocking in itself). Some of it is no doubt the excitement of a new game /placebo effect. We’ll see over time.