Please do not Fuck the Man

fuckthemanNote capital M, please.

Sorry – been a while. Breaking the cardinal blogging rule – never leave em hangin…

In my non-existent defense, I’ve been busy.

It’s been a challenging few weeks to say the least. Apparently what you do when you feel better is not just get more done but also start to whittle away at the gigantic mountain of things you had left undone over months/years.

I think now I’ve handled the stuff that needed to get done months ago. and am working on the things I needed to get done years ago. It’s a little exhausting at times – but in a good way. Not the old “aahhhhh dont even look at me I cant see you alalalalalalalala” sort of way.

Anyway, now that Mohammad is coming to the mountain, we’ll see how it goes. Apparently standing in the road shouting “heeeeeerre mountain mountain mountain” doesn’t get you far. Good to know, mental note.

I’m getting stuff done now that I wouldn’t have thought possible even two months ago. Having difficult conversations with people that I wouldn’t have attempted. Planning ahead. You know…stuff.

And incredibly it’s so not enough. I have wasted too much time in my life to waste any now. Now. I. Want. To. Burn.

And I’m still not there mentally. The pace of my training has slowed now that I actually have to contend with life and its evil henchmen “Work”, “Dinner” and “Dishes”. I get in a session or two a week but there are obstacles:

  • No time. I know I know – no excuses. But there’s a strange math to the hunger at getting some old stuff off your plate while continuing to do the training that will allow you to continue getting old stuff done.
  • Other people keep using my machine. This is very exciting really. I’m breaking in my skills on a bunch of willing volunteers, doing peak performance training to help them function at top efficiency. This has many of the hallmarks of the work I’m doing but obviously different end goals. Some are coming to help their performance anxiety, some to reduce stress, some to deal with the irritation that gets in the way of just enjoying their lives. Anyway, it’s damn fun.
  • Sometimes (hangs head) I just don’t want to. I actually find this really strange. I KNOW it’s great. I KNOW it works. And sometimes (not often but enough to slow things up) I resent and avoid treatment. Interestingly, one of the hallmarks of some frontal lobe area challenges is something called oppositional defiance. Basically not wanting to submit to any authority just…cuz. I, um, recognize some of this in myself. And, having recognized it, I had to run out and talk to a bunch of people about it. Apparently a LOT of people do this, including those if us who may have tried medication for our challenges. Add it to the list and I’ll do some work on that area to see if it speeds things up. Or maybe I’ll finally be able to take that army commission I’ve always wanted. Whatever.

I always loved the part of High Fidelity (Nick Hornby novel) where the “hero” makes a number of completely unforgivable statements about himself and takes full responsibility for his actions without any excuses whatsoever. Then spends the rest of the novel explaining exactly why there were really good reasons for doing exactly what he did. Super clever way of drawing the audience into a sympathetic alliance with said protagonist. Also I just like people taking responsibility for things. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy like a Disney film and hot stew all at once.

But I’m not that good at it myself so I’ll make the excuses (see above) and THEN take responsibility. Sorry again.

I’ll talk next time about what it’s like to work with other people’s brains. (Hint – it’s neat.)

Head Injury: it feels so good when you stop.

green-lantern1In many ways, looking around at my fellow bloggers, the lovely people who write in, hell some of the people I meet on the street, I feel a bit like a fraud.

Really.

I’ve been depressed, sure. Cried at work, check. Stayed in house for extended periods of time, check. Almost lost job, check. Generally listless and lacking joy or motivation in almost any area, check. Totally emotionally vulnerable and reactive, check.

But really all that pales in comparison to what some of the people out there live through, are living through, would sometimes rather die than live another day of…seriously. What they “live” with is staggering.

Some of the worst sufferers? People with traumatic brain injury. TBI can cause everything I experience with ADD or depression times ten, with a touch of blinding headache, personality change, and memory loss, just to sweeten the deal. Or worse.

But here’s the thing.

I don’t care.

[Stay with me here…I’m pausing for dramatic effect]

I can empathise, sympathise, and many other ises, I’m human.

But we humans are all about the me, the I, and possibly the us, but mostly the first two. Because when it comes down to it, we’re trapped in here.

We have these marvelous machines that do all our seeing, smelling, thinking, feeling, and a million other jobs for us. They’re so important in fact, that we have to protect them by locking them away in a pitch black, bone-encased, fluid-cushioned cave. And that’s where they stay. Every so often one of our sense organs, or a nerve bundle, will send our big ol’ brain a message, just to let it know how things are going on the outside. But for all intents and purposes, that sucker’s doing the equivalent of a life sentence in solitary, without so much as the occasional conjugal visit from one of the other inmates (it does get the imaginary porn channel though so it’s not all bad).

And it doesn’t like it one bit.

Want to know how much your brain hates being trapped in there? Try what’s called a sensory deprivation tank. Like a seven-foot coffin filled with body-temperature water. You lie in it with a face mask or ear plugs, they shut the sound-proof door and voila…nothing…nothing…still nothing…um a little more nothing…no sound, no light, not much feel…nada. After a little while, your brain gets sick of not getting any input and starts making shit up. I kid you not. It is SO desperate to not be trapped in there without reading material that it just starts to make up visions, images, smells, whatever it has to to stop from going insane.

That’s crazy! who would design such an insane system? Of course we should have our brains on the outside. In neat transparent bubbles with little holes and stuff so it could see and hear everything without this complex eye and ear junk.

Unfortunately the world is a cruel place and the whole brain on the outside thing would pretty much guarantee that you wouldn’t survive falling off the couch, never mind a grade three classroom or a New York sidewalk.

So, despite a solid potential career as a Star Trek (call me geeky, I am so seeing this) extra, this isn’t going to work out. Stuck with the skull prison cell thing.

How do we know about things, trapped in there? Is the tree green? I dunno. I know a bunch of vision nerves told me about this light they saw a little while ago, and some sound nerves told me that some waves in the air were a lot like those other sound waves that happened a long time ago when the vision nerves were seeing those lights that mean “people” making those “talking” noises and one of them made the green noise while it was pointing to something that had the same sort of light coming off it. Was I seeing the same light as the other people shape? Um sure, if that people shape and I have exactly the same brain, with exactly the same eyeball and the same nerves connecting them. So…no, we weren’t. No two people have the same experience of the universe at the same time. We ain’t made that way. In fact it’s a freaking testament to the human social structure that we can talk to each other, never mind build cities, or make rockets, or breed and make more tiny little soon-to-be-messed up humans.

So…it’s a pretty tenuous system, no? There’s an awful lot riding on our skull’s ability to keep the brain intact and functioning. It’s an unbelievable complex system that can be severly damaged by just screaming at it enough (aka emotional abuse). What does actually hitting it do?

Well, when it gets whacked…things get sloppy – fast. We (me and all them doctor-y types) are coming to the realization that many of our most treasured moments on the sport field were the times when we were pounding our brain into a permanent stupor. Really. I don’t think those jocks started out that thick.

More and more, doctors and neuroscientists are seeing that even minor head injury leaves permanent brain damage. Got your bell rung? Had a concussion? Fallen off a horse? Done boxing? Crashed your bicycle without a helmet? Chances are you are now stupider than when you started. You might not notice. It might be subtle. You might be just a bit worse at math. Maybe you just don’t have the memory you had. Or maybe you get irritable easier now.

And maybe you were always like that.

The fact is that this skull of ours is real good at protecting our heads, but not so good at some other things, like being born.

Our heads are now so large in comparison to our hips (I blame the thighmaster) that we may be damaging the brains of our children in the birth process. Lack of oxygen during difficult labour, forceps, the drugs we take to ease the process may all be contributors. Pre and post labour scans show that up to 10 % of infants have significantly changed brainwave patterns immediately before and after birth. So either they are just really impressed with their new view, or one in ten of us got a raw deal at the outset.

Just so we are clear, I’m not talking about you. You’ve never been hit in the head, never played sports, never been in a car crash, and obviously, you work just fine…no way you could be one in ten…

My record is clearly less stellar. Seven years of rugby, playground “accidents” (yes I’m talking to you Patrick), skiing, a minor concussion running around a gym with my head down, getting mugged by a guy with a bat. Any one of these might have seriously affected my ability to function. And brain injury tends to be cumulative. So maybe all of them.

And really, even if you had some minor brain injury, it’s not like you really notice the difference. Why would you actually do anything about it?

Because you can, first off. Neurotherapy has a great success rate helping even major head injuries. One small study noted improvements from 61% to 181% in the functioning of participants with brain injury. It doesn’t repair damage, but it can help your brain train surrounding areas to be the best they can be, taking up some of the slack.

Second, IMHO, it is your god-given right to be the best you can be. If you broke your arm, you’d go to the doctor and get a cast. This is the same thing.

So what I guess I’m saying is…life is hard. Our brains get broken. You don’t have to take that shit lying down.

Wordsworth said “We come into this world trailing clouds of glory, Getting and spending [and getting the smackdown – ed.] we lay waste our powers.”

When I was young, I always wanted to be a super hero with powers and stuff. Now that I have the prospect of fixing some of those brain bumps and bruises we all seem to acquire, I do believe I’m gonna go out and reclaim a bit of that glory. And maybe a cape.

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.

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 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.

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?