Neurotherapy – Day 9 – Four out of Five Experts are Flabbergasted.

CandyFirst things first, I felt fantastic today. No treatment the last two days (obviously, since I’m in class) and absolutely no fall off on concentration, motivation or mood. Not over the top, just really really good. Before Neurotherapy, I often had a sense of fear or overwhelming exhaustion when starting a task. It’s just gone…completely. Was discussing this stuff with some of the counselors in the room (can’t throw a rock without hitting one and even if you did they would just ask about my feelings. Except the woman from New York. I’m pretty sure she’d just hit me with the nearest chair.).  Mentioned trying anti-depressants back home, and the fact that, while they helped mood some, I never felt myself, not sharp, not clever. Never stayed on them as a result. This isn’t like that at all. I don’t expect it would last if I stopped now, but I have absolutely no intention of stopping before I finish the 20 or 30 or 40 sessions I need to really make this, well, maybe not permanent but close enough for me.

The Course

Today was the start of practical application of the theory behind the Othmer system. Just in case we were under the impression that it was going to get easy, the morning was more challenging than the day before. It’s tempting to run away, but the lunch is so good you have to stick around.

About the theory (and if you hate stuff like that just jump ahead)

Over the course of the morning I talked with a bunch of the people in the course, asking them what they thought thus far. I talked to a few doctors, a psychologist, and a math professor from a California university. Each one had their own take on it, but the general consensus was (and I’m paraphrasing) “Well, I’ve got an open mind, but this is really different from anything I’ve seen before. I’ll have to wait and see whether it works in practice.” Individually, each could look at pieces in their own area of knowledge (network theory, pain management, trauma counseling, etc.) and see the possibility. It’s a dizzyingly large body of completely new concepts or old concepts reimagined in new way or a blurry combination of the two.

Luckily, the primary work of scientists is relentlessly finding new ways to be wrong without ever admitting they believed something completely different the week before. If the Othmer’s theory proves to be true, there will be a massive and complete about-face so breathtaking that long term use of chemical anti-depressants, anti-convulsants and so on will make the “flat earth” model seem like quite a good idea. Many will declare that they always believed it so, while others will declare those ones big fat liars it was their idea first.

I can follow most of it, understanding-wise, but I don’t even have the beginnings of the knowledge I would need to critique it, so I’m largely along for the ride, hanging on and hoping my intellectual pants don’t fly off. I’m grateful to have at least a few people in the room ready to call bullshit if they hear it. Like a security blanket sewn out of smart people. [Ed. Note – This is a metaphor, and it’s late so it’s the only one I could think of. I generally renounce violence of any sort. Do not phone the police.]

Ok – You can start reading again.

The remainder of the day was teaming off into pairs and having a go with the machines. This, it seems, is pretty much what everyone was waiting for. Even those of us with the little drool marks started working with the sort of focus and attention normally reserved for bomb disposal. Which it kind of looked like. Damn…where does the gray wire go again? Oh…sorry Ed.

This part was, definitely, really really fun. I’ve talked about the process before so I won’t bore you but, in the same way as driving is not the same as being a passenger, working as the clinician monitoring the subject was a radically different experience.

We had all been warned ( and I had already seen it firsthand), how insanely fast the body reacts to the right (or the wrong) reward frequency (the brainwaves you are telling your head to make more of). Even so, everyone in the room was flabbergasted when symptoms like headaches, sweating, anxiety and muscle tension broke out across the room while they searched for the reward frequency that worked for the individual. The Othmer’s new technology allows the machines to be set anywhere from 40 to 0.001 hz (which is crazy low). Interestingly, 0.0001 hz is pretty much where many people seem to like their rewards. Although I had previously found with Sue thathis was my personal frequency, I let my partner (I’ll call him Ed, mostly because that’s his name) hunt around a little, in order to get a feeling for the question-asking process. Even after dialling it back, the muscles in my chest didn’t untighten for two hours.

I remember thinking the day before, “Wow, these are committed and serious individuals (which they are). Look at them all paying such close attention.” After the demonstration, that just totally fell apart. There’s really no other word to describe the class but giddy, with poor Sue having to shush people and shout over the noise like it was free candy day at the Kindergarten. At a guess, I’d say they were all pretty excited at the prospect of finding a tool that could actually make a huge difference in the lives of their clients. The physical reactions had, for the first time, made that a tangible possibility.

Which, after all, IS pretty exciting.

Neurotherapy Day 6 – Upsy-Downsy, Notes and Quotes from the Clinic

office-space-1-1024I felt more unsettled and distracted yesterday and last night than I had the day before. This was both unsettling and reassuring (sorta).

I’m only down here for a limited course of treatment and then back to Victoria (Canada) to complete, with the occasional consult from Sue. Judging from my colourful array of symptoms and the rather criss-crossed map I have of my head now, a full course of treatment is going to run to 30-40 neurofeedback sessions (but that’s just a guess – it’s pretty messy in there).

I’ve had eight so far and it’s clear that there is a really positive effect. As I mentioned on Sunday, I’ve been trying to read a complex neurotherapy text for the last six months, bust couldn’t make the rubber hit the road, brain-wise. Read the vast majority of the thing in a single day. I’m horribly disorganized normally and even starting out, I could see the four types of questions that were forming in my head, so I went out and got a whack of post-its in different colours. This is all very strange – it’s like there was a really really organized person hiding in my head, all ready to go post-it-al. Freaky.

The hyper-organized effect started to drop off Monday morning. I forgot a few things I needed to check (like the timetable of the museum I wanted to see – it was closed as it turned out) and my reading was nowhere near as vigorous. In general,  I just felt more scattered. Now, after two sessions this morning, I feel very clear. In terns of physical sensation, there was a lot of tightening and tingling sensations across my scalp during the sessions. We were working on several electrode (more in a bit about electrodes) placements, including one for focus and organization, one for headaches and auditory processing enhancement, one for the body issues (became hungry halfway through the session) and . The auditory processing is because I have a hard time picking out what people are saying if there is much (or any) background noise. Occasionally it’s so bad I just nod and smile – bars are brutal, I might as well be a bobblehead. Apparently this is just one more in a monster list of clues as to what is happening inside your head. Fixable, apparently.

Questions people ask the clinic staff about Neurotherapy

“Will it Last?”

“Can I do it? I’m not very good at video games you know – my son can do them.” (from adults)

“Will it hurt? They think that we are going to put electricity into their heads.” [editor’s note – they don’t]

And last thing, a quote from a Vet in the waiting room…

“First started doing it – I thought it was a hoax – thought it was a lot of bullshit. Now I really think people should try it…I was in Vietnam and I had terrible nightmares – I don’t get those anymore.” – “Max”

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 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!

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?

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.

Solid Science – Neurotherapy shown to improve ADHD

I was going to save this discussion for another day, but am just so overjoyed that some real research is being done, I had to share.

Journal of CHild Psychology and Psychiatry
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Is neurofeedback an efficacious treatment for
ADHD? A randomised controlled clinical trial

The first proper randomized, controlled study of the effects of Neurotherapy on ADHD are in…they’re good and they’re from a great source…

A few quotes from the study…

“Conclusions: Superiority of the combined NF training indicates clinical efficacy of NF in children with ADHD” (in other words, it works)

“…improvements in inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity of about 25–30% in the NF group were significantly larger compared to about 10% in the AST group”

“Positive effects do not appear to be restricted to core ADHD symptoms, but also affected accompanying problems of social adaptation…” (it works and also improves other behaviours such as Oppositional/ defiance, and peer interaction)

The study also shows positive benefits for participants in family situations and classrooms.

Great News! and fantastic to see the hard science catching up with what we all could see on the ground…

Thanks to @betterbrains for the link – follow her on twitter!