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.

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What the hell is Neurotherapy anyway, Tim?

Well, let me tell you… What we are, how we function, is largely a product of our brains. Yes? Yes. And our brains are largely big collections of electrical roadways. Thoughts move, emotions are created, body parts commanded, all by little electrical signals traveling down roads. We are born without the ability to process many things well, from vision to sound to making our hands move the way we want them to. And we learn to do those things by building, with a sort of trial and error process, roadways that get the little electric cars (no gas guzzlers please) down the roads in ways that help us make sense of and function in our universe.

But these roadways can get damaged. Sections can be broken with a head injury. Maybe the electricity gets disrupted, as in epilepsy. Or perhaps a certain set of brainwaves aren’t operating well where they need to and we can’t control our impulses well, as with addictions. Well, neurotherapy helps retrain the brain so it can function effectively again.

It’s not painful, and there are no side effects.

In fact, all you do is sit and look at a computer screen with a bunch of EEG (ElectroEncephaloGram) brainwave sensors on your head. And they don’t even give you little shocks or anything cool like that. What kind of witch doctor thing are you into, Tim?

It turns out that the best system to use if you want to fix broken roadways in the brain is…the brain itself. It’s what it was designed for. All neurotherapy really does is sense the brainwaves and show them to you in a nice simple way you can understand. The sensors are hooked up to a computer. The computer processes all the brainwave information and a clinician (usually a specially trained psychologist) sets the machine to tell you when you are making more of the right sort of brainwaves in the right parts of your head. That usually looks like…wait for it…a computer game. Perhaps a ball rolling across the screen revealing a beautiful picture, perhaps a spaceship flying down a tunnel. The more you make the “right” sort of brainwave, the farther it goes. Your brain fairly quickly learns to make the ship move by creating the brainwave patterns you and your psychologist want.

For many, the gains seen are very quick (significant improvement within 10 sessions, complete treatment between 20 and 40) and often permanent.

PTSD SPECT SCAN

Here is an interesting video of what a brain looks like (SPECT scan) before and after several sessions of brainwave therapy. This patient was a veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. You can see that the areas of his brain which were lit up like a Christmas tree, have calmed significantly (PTSD is an anxiety-based disorder, and has the brain in high alert when it doesn’t need to be). The patient was much calmer and better able to function in his life.

See the Video