Change your mind, change your brain

I’ve found a new TBI survivor blog, The Best Brain Possible.

This post excerpt grabbed my attention from The ultimate do it yourself project

A thought can actually change neurons.  Interactions in the world or relationships with people and things shape the firing in the brain hence the synaptic connections.  Neurons that fire together wire together. There is your power to change your brain and change your life.  It is like having a secret weapon or a super power.  What you actually do in your life and how you think about what happens in your world shapes your brain and your reality.   This power is within us and it has been there the whole time.  It is up to us to put it to good use.  To actually do the do it yourself project and not put it on the shelf for some later date.

What you actually do in your life and how you think about what happens in your world shapes your brain and your reality…

With that in mind, I’m going to do my daily analysis and really think about how I can re-shape my brain, and my reality.

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Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

2 thoughts on “Change your mind, change your brain”

  1. BB –

    These are good things – neurofeedback, meditation and I have heard much positive on HBOT and TCM – and certainly yoga (bikram or otherwise) and many holistic treatments are positives. Unfortunately they take time and are rarely covered by insurance so they become an indulgence – even if that indulgence means gaining cognitive strengths back.

    On the other hand it should be clear that these approaches not necessarily panaceas either. So little is known about the brain and the overlaps of emotion and injury. There is also little known about your own personal brain functioning – many articles talk about neuro-typicals – that is people who do not have brain injuries – acquired or congenital. I think that there is a ‘neuro-blueprint’ for each of us, that is the brain functioning that your DNA was wired to give you – and then environment and injury make an impact and alter the blueprint. Some folks may not ever end up with what their blueprint planned; early injury, ill health, psychological trauma, malnutrition – all these can mean what you get is different than the DNA original plan. And along the way are other changes; high levels of stress produce cortisol and change the neuro-chemical balance in your brain –creating emotional changes and perhaps making your brain more vulnerable to injury. Or if you do have an injury – since life can be pretty stressful, living with brain injury is even more stressful – and so more cortisol, more imbalance. Even aging is a form of brain injury – albeit a natural one – but neurochemicals are preprogrammed to do their thing, plaque may build up, too much television, radioactive wavelengths, mental inertia – all this takes a toll.

    It soon becomes impossible to determine where ‘injury’ and who you simply are separate. We have a society that loves norms, loves to define how one should be and if you step outside the line you are ‘ill’. There is a great deal of money to be made from this approach and so it is perpetuated by doctors, mental health practitioners, and pharmaceutical companies. So what is ‘okay’ and what is ‘not okay’? And what does that mean to someone with mTBI? Especially someone who has an innately high IQ and a mTBI? Who decides, and how do you treat something when you don’t even know what’s wrong?

    There is no cure for brain injury. There isn’t really even much in the way of treatments or rehab. The existing approaches are developed mostly from data on severe and moderate brain injury – these are the models of care and up until recently they were pretty limiting, believing that recovery occurred in the first two years and that was it. The idea that there is this thing called mild TBI is pretty new – and is substantiated and treated based mostly on the data that is collected from veterans – not from people who have grown up with multiple TBI’s or who have experienced a TBI later in life; the data on young children and women and the elderly and populations outside of the military vet profile is even sparser. I am grateful for the fact that the military effort has brought awareness, but also recognize that their model has its own constraints.

    No one knows what’s really the best thing to do; and for those who can they struggle to find the best things – sometimes stumbling in the process because they don’t have the right information or are misguided. It is my personal belief that many TBI folks are over medicated – but that’s my belief and I have no data to back it up. Psychotropic drugs alter your brain; seems to me that that is the last thing you want to do with people who have a brain injury is alter it more but drugs are used because of behavior; based on a mental illness model, based on severe brain injury models. Is this a valid approach for mTBI?

    People with brain injury experience depression more frequently; but they aren’t taught how to address it except through drugs. People with brain injury at told to lower their expectations, but they aren’t pushed hard to see what they can do, alternative therapies take a long time, insurance companies want immediate results; recovery of cognitive/emotional/self from brain injury requires support from family, friends and a community, in today’s world in the US it’s each person for themselves and the weak be damned – and its hard to have tolerance or support someone who seems to be ‘lazy’ or angry or acts with inattention.

    Health care coverage is frequently not available (and now it looks as if it won’t be still), even self-help methods such as writing things down and assessing ‘brain injury moments’ takes time; if you are a parent with children at home, or have a spouse or family that doesn’t get it, if you suffer from fatigue and are working a 40 hour week barely getting by then self-help goes out the window. It’s not clear that health care coverage would matter but at least it might provide something.

    The problem with brain injury is that no one really knows what they are dealing with here and it’s not a simple ‘fix – indeed what does fix mean? Go back to what? For someone with multiple injuries over a lifetime what does that mean? And for someone who has had a major injury that exacerbated weaknesses and created new problems does that simply mean going back to what felt familiar and comfortable? What does better look and feel like? Sometimes even brain injured people are jerks – and it isn’t their brain injury that makes them so – do we ‘fix’ that too?

    Cognitive psychotherapy has proven to be incredible effective; in part because it is believed to ‘rewire’ thinking patterns. Same thing with meditation; meditation sort of allows the brain to relax, stretch and clean up the messes. Same thing with neurofeedback. But how many rehab programs use these? Maybe cognitive behavioral therapy but the other two? And all treatments are hard work, lots of hard work – and they require time, money, health coverage, support. Who defines when you are okay? And Okay for what? To go back to work? To be allowed to live in society? To take a job at Micky D’s? To be the CEO of AIG?

    Maybe ‘recovery’ is really defined by the individual themselves – the point at which they feel they are good with life and how they function?

    What is true IN GENERAL about mTBi is that it’s bits and pieces; it’s subtle and sometimes hard for even the injured person to recognize. MTBI DOES NOT describe the degree of impairment, only the status at the time of injury. Many little damages can be harder to manage than the loss of a singular chunk – or maybe not. But most mTBI folks are aware that they are struggling but don’t see it happening – and they get frustrated, depressed, experience a loss of ‘self’, have social relationship issues, work issues, etc. But little in the way of studies about self and what that means or doesn’t mean, in real world functioning is done. Survivors are told that they are not accepting of their ‘deficits’ but the truth is they don’t see their deficits; even from the ‘inside’. And yes, they still think and are very intelligent and capable and it’s absolutely madness to tell these folks to go on disability, to accept less from themselves. Yet the rehab programs are geared toward self-acceptance (which may be necessary) and towards improving certain skills. But are you the per cent of working memory capacity you have relative to a norm or are you something far more complex? What makes you productive, smart, useful, to society? To others?

    This is a rant and a ramble and contains a few disconnected thoughts because there are so many issues here that are frustrating to the point of anger for me – things that cost people lives. On one hand the data from military efforts is helpful; a first time honest look at mTBI. On the other hand it is limited by its source; the military, for good and bad. The health care establishment doesn’t embrace many changes, and CAM (alternative approaches) is still considered fringe. There is no measure of cognitive damage that means anything – neuropsych tests are important but limited. Ignorance in the world at large – including neurologists, doctors, psychologists etc as well as family and friends, is huge; but it is difficult for people to overcome their ignorance for a problem that is invisible, intermittent and seems to be an excuse for all sorts of self-indulgent behavior. There is little or no way to distinguish psychological issues from brain injury – and frankly maybe they shouldn’t because it all cases it’s neurochemicals that are imbalanced- BUT the answer is not necessarily drugs that no one even knows how they work.

    Yet brain injury is a real thing, and it does create impediments and difficulties and obstacles for a person, it damaged the bodies choreography and so the performance overall is off kilter.

    Unfortunately it is also hard for the person to see and know exactly what is going on and they must rely on experts – many of whom do not have the right skills to address this. Are you getting better? What is broken? It’s a stab in the dark and you pay with your life.

    I guess my point here is that people should try what they can; traditional or CAM or self-help – whatever they feel they can do and may help. They have to understand there is no magic bullet, no secret solution, nothing instant and no drug or pill or method will mean they are ‘healed’. There is no ‘recovery’ like there is with a broken bone, no fix it. But there is happiness, accomplishment, peace of mind, growth, quality of life, and many good things possible. Some things remain, some things will always be difficult or will prevent certain things; and it may be the only way to know what is what is to find those you can trust to give you feedback and as best you can examine the facts, the data. There are some things that no longer be available to you – but in a world that should embrace the richness of human capacity there should be plenty that one can contribute. The future doesn’t have to be according to anything or anyone but you – reality based but with many many possibilities.

    But there is one thing that you can not ever do – and that is ‘ go back’ – that place is gone.

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