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!

Neurotherapy Day 10 – Deus ex machina!

Ok – that’s over the top, even for me, but very excited about the neurotherapy system I bought today to take home and work with (in consultation with Sue).

So excited that I’m going to ignore the blog and play…

I leave you with the gift of loud, crunchy guitars and the roaring sound of melting brain cells.

Research, research, research

My nearest and dearest know me to be a serious sceptic (what do you mean my feet are on the ground…prove it) and an even more serious research junkie.

Tonight hit both buttons nicely.

Sigfreid Othmer, chief scientist at the EEG Institute ran down the list of data that backs up the science behind EEG Neurotherapy. As Sue is the clinical director, Sig runs the science/research arm. The data he had tonight was fantastic. Great studies, including a Canadian one with 2776 prison inmates, that reduced recidivism (leaving jail, then doing bad things and heading right back in) from 65% of the criminals to 20%. So, over the three year study, they expected over 1,800 to return after they got out. But, after neurofeedback, only 554 did.

What would happen to our jails, hell to our society, if 2/3 of the people who habitually fill them just decided to stop coming and be all law abiding. Better place to live anyone? Less expensive jail system? Any takers?

On the opposite end of the scale, they did a study on improving performance for musicians at the Conservatoire at Imperial College, London. This is Britan’s answer to Julliard. The students are already some of the best around. The judges did not know who was performing. They tested exercise, Alexander technique, mental skills training and a number of neurofeedback protocols (different brain placements and reward frequencies).

The only thing that had any real effect was Neurofeedback, using Alpha-Theta training protocol. Using that method, students’ performance improved in every measure, between 13.3 and 17 percent. Note that some of the neurofeedback techniques, that work well in other areas, didn’t work any better than exercise or Alexander method. Ya got to have the right tool for the job at hand.

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As a musician and a prisoner (oh wait..), I’m just so excited by these studies. The individual case studies, especially the recent ones, even cooler.

A Vietnam vet with huge improvement in symptoms in just 18 sessions. Nightmares, suicidal thoughts and flashbacks were gone in just three sessions. This from a man who thought the whole process was bullshit when he started (sorry about the fuzz):

Vet

And recent technique improvements have made even more stark gains. This is a graph of improvements for a 36 year old woman who completed 20 sessions, removing problems with PMS, sleep difficulties, compulsive behaviours, even nose bleeds:

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That’s the thing. It’s not like drugs. It fixes so many things, because it’s helping the brain to repair root causes. No, it doesn’t work for absolutely everyone or everything. But it’s pretty damn good.

Last Day at the Clinic! Zzzzap. Zzzap. Zzzzzap.

Last day at the clinic before I do the clinical providers course (the one that doctors, psychiatrists and Psychologists take if they want to do neurofeedback work with their clients. I only have a few minutes before I have to get to the clinic so this is likely to be quick…and messy. I’ll pretty it up later.

Let’s be clear. I’m nowhere near where I want to be in terms of motivation, permanence and other things. That said, I’ve only been here a week/ 8 sessions. It’s understandable. I’m pretty motivated to continue back in Canada.

Discussed some experimental stuff Sue is working on with her (ok begged) so we are going to try a much higher reward frequency (as high as the machine will go) right on the forehead (the pre-frontal lobe is responsible for most executive functions (like the non-executives don’t – ha) such as planning and organization.I’ll be very interested to see what happens.

Before you all start emailing me worrying about me blasting out my brain (thank you for your kind concern in advance), I’ll describe the process so it’s not so scary.

It’s basically like raising a child. You give them rewards, like attention and laughter and jelly beans (yes I do, sometimes, sue me), when you are pleased with them for doing something you like. The machine is listening to your brain in the places that you want to change something (say left prefrontal cortex just inside the left side of the forehead). When you make the right sort of brainwaves there, in this case very high frequency ones, the machine makes the little spaceship move. Your brain is a sucker for that sort of thing so does it over. and over. and over. and it learns to like doing that so it does it more and more. and then kind of keeps doing it after enough training.

Today is one session at that frequency. It doesn’t do anything permanent. just a little look see at what hppens to my head (everyone is different) when you reward that high frequency right there. I’m v. excited.

Late, got to run, more later….

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.

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?