Salvation: Emotions Rocket Out and Cognition Grows
When neurons or neural networks regenerate, the effects are dramatic.
Posted Aug 20, 2018
This is part nine of a weekly serialization of chapters from Salvation, a section of my book describing the hope that effective treatment brings. Part one is here. For the first time in over five and a half years and after standard rehab had made little change to my injury, I received a "yes" to my goal of healing my brain. Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me begins at the start of my brain injury journey; the Salvation section begins the journey of restoring my neurons. This week, what had once been impossible to understand and complete, I complete in minutes.
Chapter 10: Biofeedback Begins and Lifeliner Ends
Tick. Tick. Tick.
AVE became a regular companion to me to wake me up, to calm me down, to keep me going to my rehab job of acupuncture, massage therapy, monitoring psychiatrist, and brain biofeedback. I stacked appointments one after the other so that when I shoved and cajoled and pushed myself out my front door, I didn’t go out for just one thing but for many treatments. I was efficient, and my body began to pay the price while my words ranged all over the place like Waldo rambling through a tortuous maze.
But my spiritual mentor was used to it during our monthly meetings. Near the end of October, she instructed me to write on a sticky note and put on my computer, “I will not be diminished.” I nodded, dragged myself home, and obeyed. I always obeyed, yet somehow, I managed to rebel against those who told me I was simply depressed, must stop this treatment, and get on with my life.
I shivered with cold, yet my skin pocked lava bubbles of heat that moved and grew and disappeared under a strong stream of cold, cold water and a slathering of melaleuca cream. My inner core cried out for a hot shower; my skin demanded cold as it swelled from water flowing into my flesh and not flowing out. Fat expanded, and the weight scale numbers began to climb again.
Four days after Halloween, a miracle. My stomach shut up.
Every day since the crash, my appetite had relentlessly signaled imminent starvation no matter how uncomfortably full my stomach was. But on November 4, after once again getting lost in the grocery store as Mum followed my wanderings through the aisles, I didn’t order dessert at lunch. My brain had registered being stuffed and shut off my appetite!
On Sunday, November 6, 2005, emotions rocketed out of me like fireworks set ablaze by an arsonist. Every emotion from every event since my injury blasted into my mind. Happiness, humiliation, feeling stupid, blind, taken advantage of, laughter like gunshots, losing things and not knowing how, losing my tribe, forgetting possessions and parts of my life, they hit me all at once. Grief pined to vomit out! My hands startled me. Wild hands gesticulating, catching my eyes, after years of lying in my lap or silent by my side.
I broke through my barricade of not questioning the experts and phoned Michael on Monday about the emotion tsunami and how I really wanted to stop falling asleep during SMR. Michael explained that I’m one of the few who training SMR sends to sleep. He transferred me to Andrea, the Clinical Co-ordinator, to work out the details of switching to enhancing problem-solving beta brainwaves at 15-18 Hz at PZ. No more fighting sleep at the end of each appointment. And surely training the problem-solving brainwaves would give me back my problem solving. Not only that, we would change up the work on my reading. Tears pricked at the edges of my eyes as I hung up.
A fellow Canadian blogger, a man living in the Northwest Territories, inspired me to join Flickr. As usual, action took months to follow thought. I joined on the first day of my new brain biofeedback protocols: enhance beta 15-18 Hz at PZ and inhibit theta/alpha 6-9 Hz. After that, my trainer could move the electrode to F3, C3, or Wernicke’s area, to aid reading. This part was going to be trial and error. I suggested F3 to my brain trainer because the next day’s trainer was going to go for C3. I went home, marveling at my boldness at directing people who knew far more about brain biofeedback than I did and glad that for once I didn’t have to fight sleep.
Another day, another lawsuit-related phone call. My lawyer needed affidavits from people who’d known me prior to my brain injury. A former boss had been publishing audiotapes on voice disorder from the Mayo Clinic when I called him with my lawyer’s request, and he recognized something in my voice. He heard spastic dysphonia, fading away but there. What? He explained it to me. It made sense. I wrote it down as “dystonia,” my injured brain mishearing the phoneme as it did at times. And then promptly forgot the term and couldn’t find my notes in my journal, but it didn’t matter. My speech wasn’t some nervous tic, I knew now. It was another manifestation of my brain injury.
The next day on Remembrance Day, I greeted my mother warily as she walked in the door. I needed her for shopping, but kin and kith were regularly using her as a messenger. What was today’s? Ditch your pride. Relationships were more important. Her words lit the pain of humiliation my brain injury had brought down upon my head: the memory lapses, the confabulation of writing phantom cheques, my inability to decide on how many apples to buy week after week, the walking down the sidewalk like I was drunk for reasons I didn’t understand, the stuttering as I struggled to produce a word, the weirdness of feeling nothing at funerals as people cried all around me, my alienation from laughter for year after year, my recognizing a joke only by others’ laughter and prompting myself to smile so that I didn’t look like a complete freak. How could I possibly have any pride left? When they could admit to me that I had a brain injury, then we could have a relationship based on truth. But without that, I was OK with things as they were. My mother said my brother now knew I had a traumatic brain injury.
“He has to tell me himself,” I replied. Mum hugged me.
Two days later, I was showing off my Flickr page to Freny and told her that I’d received an invitation to join Gmail. She practically bounced in her chair.
“Join!” she insisted. “So you can send me an invitation to add to my email collection!”
“Well,” I said, “When I hear it directly from your father’s lips that it’s OK, I will.”
“Yeah, but you have to join now.”
I wasn’t sure. My injured brain toiled to think about it. A friend had been bugging me for two years to get a Gmail email. I had tried to sign up when he’d first asked me, but the fields I had to fill in flummoxed me. Now I looked again at those fields.
Oh, they’re not difficult to fill, I realized to my puzzlement. Why were they before? My neurons were healing, and Freny’s enthusiasm was pushing me to click on the invitation and to acquire a Gmail address.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
–To be continued next week.
Copyright ©2017-2018 Shireen Anne Jeejeebhoy. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission.