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.

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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.

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)

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!