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.

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 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!

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.

Challenges – Motivation

While I’m looking at the walls, waiting for Neurotherapy to roll around, I’ll talk a bit about some of the things that bother me about me, and that I’ll be trying to deal with.

Motivation – this one is a real bitch for me. I’m great on deadline, or in an emergency, or when someone else needs something. I can coordinate the communications for thousands of people, as long as there is some sort of major disaster looming (forest fires are the best – emergency, helping others, and, quite literally, deadlines) (floods good too).

But unless I can convince myself it’s one of those things (and I usually know when I’m lying), NOTHING happens. ON the plus side, I have perfected the thousand yard, thinking about the universe stare. And I now have a lot of deep thoughts that make people think I’m more focused and concentrated than I really am.

I would love, LOVE, to wake up in the morning and be driven from my bed by a hunger to do something just for me. I have never been that person really. Partially, I think, because I don’t really dream about the future. I don’t plan and am very much in the moment. The more I look at this by writing this blog, the more I’m seeing interconnections. Interesting.

Feeling – past few days

Procrastination – 8 – Brutal

Depression – 3 – great chats with friends.

ADHD – 5, and at times 8. Was nicely focused down in work and then got thrown off by some strong emotional junk. This too shall pass.