Saturday, May 31, 2014

Episode Whatever: A New Hope

I forgot to tell you last week, but I think I have mentioned it at some point here before (although I can't remember when), that I was planning to try neurofeedback.

Dr. Oz recommended it to me quite a while ago as a non-chemical treatment for anxiety. She said that her own anxiety was virtually cured by neurofeedback and she couldn't recommend it highly enough.

Since then, I've heard rave reviews about it from others, including my biofeedback doc and my GP.

As it has been a 2-night-per-week time commitment, and something I had to wait to begin once I'd reached a stable point with my antidepressants-- meaning, not during a ramp-up or ramp-down or any of the other nonsense I've been constantly involved in for the past who-knows-how-many-months-- and since it is, not to put too fine a point on it, quite expensive and it remains to be seen whether our insurance will pick up a dime of it....

Well. It's taken a while to get it all together.

And if you bought all of that, it's so cute how you think I'm, like, a real grown-up. 

It also took, you know, A PHONE CALL.

By FAR the hardest part, for me.

But anyway, it all finally got arranged, and I started this week, thinking that I was going in there to find a way to get at this anxiety, because the antidepressant isn't doing it, and I really can't face another med-switch, and I also don't think I should be planning to take benzos for the rest of my life (the heavy, long-term use of which now having been positively linked with Alzheimer's, thanks so much).

It turns out, there is A LOT that neurofeedback might be able to help me with.

Migraine. Information processing. PTSD. Attention and focus. Depression. Anxiety. And maybe most of all: sleep.

I need to say right now that I am not at all ready to speak articulately about neurofeedback yet. 

To be honest, I am not even ready to speak inarticulately about it. It's very difficult to understand and explain and I have to do some reading before I can tell you about what I'm doing and what I'm learning and what is going on and what I think I might be able to do with this.


I will tell you this: some fairly intensive preliminary scans have been done of my brain waves, and I'm going to have a very detailed one done in the next month or so, and I've already learned some things that are at once extremely validating and extremely disturbing.

  • I've learned that the doctor could see, in my brain function, activity that backs up everything I've thought and written about here about my inability to focus, about my depression and migraine and my anxiety and how extreme they are (verdict: very), and also the buzzing hyper-vigilance of my triggered PTSD state and how extreme that is (quote: "at a level we usually see in combat veterans").

  • I've learned more about my hyper-vigilance stuff that is frightening and also (oh, Sherlock) pretty fascinating that I will tell you about when I can explain it better. It probably deserves its own blog post anyway. Let's just say I've got lots of new topics to discuss
  • I've also learned that I have clear markers for ADD. Who knew?

The other thing I learned was... well, I can't say it was a surprise, because it wasn't. I diagnosed it myself when I started writing this blog. But it was a whole other thing to hear it like this and to hear that not only was I right, but it's still there, still affecting the way my brain works:

  • I learned that there is clear evidence in my brain function of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from my car accident.

I'm not really sure what to do with that one. 

I can feel myself moving up to the idea, touching it briefly, and then backing away. Nope.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

Too much, too big, too... nope.

Before I go any further, I'll remind you that back in 1991, they didn't diagnose TBIs the way they do now. They simply didn't know what to look for. The '90s are now known as "The Decade of The Brain," because that was when neuroscience took a huge leap and they developed, among many other amazing things, the standards and guidelines for identifying, classifying, and treating TBIs.

But in '91, that hadn't happened yet.

Mine was also most likely a mild TBI, from what I've seen in my research, although my head trauma falls into the severe category and my periods of unconsciousness could indicate a moderate TBI classification. 

What all of that adds up to, to me is 1) it had a high likelihood of being misdiagnosed anyway, as mild TBIs often are, even now, and 2) under the conditions of my accident, man, did I get lucky.

Yeah, this is bringing up the accident a bit, in a way I haven't thought about it in a while.

Juicy posts coming this summer, people!

Anyway. To pick up the dangling thread.

I was my usual emotionally neutral self in the doctor's office. 

(Actually, I was pretty freaking Sherlocky, because this stuff is pretty freaking cool, and there are sensors attached all over my head, and I'm watching my brain waves on a computer screen, and a really cool doctor is talking total geek-speak to me, and I'm taking notes because in my triggered state my brain sure as hell isn't recording any decent memories for me so I can tell my husband about any of this awesome stuff when I get home, so it was all sciencey and interesting and confusing and cool.)

She... "Dr. Q," we'll call her... Dr. Q told me about the TBI thing, and that my brain is operating inefficiently. It's processing information slowly. 

One of the things neurofeedback will attempt to do is fix that.

That's good. That's a good thing.

I just nodded. Because that's cool and good and interesting. 

And in the back of my mind, I thought, At some point, if there's an emotional hit from this, it might be a big one. Because that... was kind of big and devastating news, actually.

Okay, I'm talking about this. I'm talking about this a little now, I guess.

The fact that the TBI is still there, or evidence of it, or whatever it is-- I am not going to say for sure because I don't know the parameters of it yet-- is... mmmmmm.... nope, nope, nope.

Palms sweating, jaw clenching, brain trying to get me to stop writing blog and go look at Facebook for a while. Okay. Not going to talk about that part.


I know that a lot of the inefficiency is caused by everything that's going on with the PTSD, and that it is cumulative-- it hasn't always been this way. In fact, it hasn't even been the way it is now for all that long.

I don't think. It couldn't have been. 

Because, as I remind myself, I have lived a life that is at odds with my fears of imagined impairment (omg omg omg), even if there has been some (has there been?). There may have been a little. I lived that life anyway: 

I graduated magna cum laude from a prestigious university with a TBI. 

I maintained a 4.0 GPA through grad school with a TBI. 

I earned an MA and an MFA with a TBI. 

I was a college professor with a TBI.

I travelled to Europe several times with a TBI. 

I had a successful career coaching college students to success with a TBI. 

I was an excellent manager with a TBI. 

I met and married my miraculous husband with a TBI. 

I had two glorious children with a TBI.

I became a writer with a TBI.

Right. I've ended up talking about this WAY more than I expected. As you can see, I've got a lot on my mind. 

That "big emotional hit" I was anticipating? Yeah... it's appears to be arriving. 

I'm reeling over a lot of things having to do with this neurofeedback.

First: it feels a whole lot like the final piece to the puzzle.

Second: all these years, I've had so much shame over the fact that so many things have felt so much harder than it seems like they should have, and to my utter shock, I may have just been given the reason why that might actually have been true, and it is both validating and horrifying.

Third: all these years, even though I've had so much shame over the fact that so many things felt so much harder than they should have, I've pretty much done most of them anyway, and to the standard I expect of myself, and to my utter shock, I've just been given the reason why I might have thrown in the towel instead, and I can't quite get my mind around how or why I didn't.

And that's just plain validating, full stop, is what that is. And I don't really know what to do with that, either.

Or this:

Maybe I have a touch of Tenacity Disorder, after all. 

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