Center helps with psychological health, traumatic brain injury

A new 24-hour outreach center now provides information and referrals to military service members, veterans, their families and others with questions about psychological health and traumatic brain injury.

Operated by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, which falls under Tricare Management Activity, staff at the center are available around the clock, 365 days a year, by phone at 866-966-1020 and by e-mail at resources@dcoeoutreach.org.

“We’re providing 24/7 support to assist callers with questions regarding psychological health and traumatic brain injury,” said Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, M.D., director of DCoE. “Getting the best possible information and tools, hassle-free, will empower and strengthen warriors and their families to successfully manage what can be confusing and disturbing circumstances.”

The center can deal with everything from routine requests for information about psychological health and traumatic brain injury, to questions about symptoms a caller is having, to helping a caller find appropriate health care resources.

Read more here…

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Prepping for my neuro visit tomorrow

I’ve got another neuro visit tomorrow — this one is finally a substantial one, when I’ll actually be reviewing the results of my MRI and my EEG. It’s been about a month since I got my MRI, and it’s been nearly 3 weeks since my EEG, and the suspense has been really intense at times.

In my more dramatic moments, part of me thinks, “Today is the last ‘normal’ day/week of my life.” And I get all worked up, thinking that these test results might come back with terrible news or some sign of a horrible condition/disease/tumor/whatever that will sideline me permanently — or at least turn my life into one big detour.

I worry that I won’t be fully functional anymore. That I’ll have to invest all this extra time and energy in overcoming a real issue that I’ve blissfully ignored for a long time. That I’ll be officially disabled. That I’ll be “less than human” and have to live a second-rate life as a result of what the pictures of my brain show.

I also worry that they won’t find anything at all… that I’ll turn out to be crazy and people will look at me like I’m just looking for attention… making things up… malingering… defrauding professional service providers.

Worst of all, I think, would be getting inconclusive results that will waylay my energy and keep me pre-occupied trying to track down the root cause of stuff that’s been getting in my way for a long time, but I’ve been able to brush off and minimize until the past year or so.

I’d almost rather get no results than inconclusive ones. But whatever happens, happens. And I’ll just deal with whatever comes up. I always do.

This waiting around for test results is really exhausting. Especially since I never got any medical attention for any of my multiple TBI’s, and I don’t have a lot of reliable medical records describing my symptoms and issues in medical jargon-y detail. I’ve never been able to articulate my issues to doctors with any level of accuracy, and most of the time, I’ve just given up and said, “Oh, forget it — it’s not that bad, really…” and went off to lick my wounds where I was safe and warm and able to tend to myself and my problems on my own terms.

I swear, this cognitive-challenge/communication-difficulty stuff just makes me nuts. I have a hell of a time articulating my issues out loud to doctors, who are all too often looking for medical data and/or some Latin-based vocabulary in order to properly assess my situation. I don’t know Latin, and I don’t have medical records that show evidence of my injuries. All I have is my life experience and a muddled, garbled mish-mash of out-loud observations that don’t come across right, when I’m talking to someone who doesn’t know me personally (and even if they do, can’t for the life of them imagine that I’ve actually been injured). Absent concrete data, I’m out of luck… so, I’ve been largely resigned over the years to just being out of luck.

Oh, well… what’s next? Life is waiting…

But tomorrow, I will actually be having a discussion with a doctor about real, honest-to-goodness medical test results. Imagine that. I am really looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to it so much that I’ve been studying up on MRI’s and EEG’s and learning to recognize what they show.

I found a couple of great sites for learning about them — with plenty of pictures, which I desperately need.

There’s the section on Electroencephalography and Evoked Potentials followed by their Electroencephalography Atlas over at Medline. I have been studying the page on Normal Awake EEG
so I know what I’m looking at, when the doctor shows me what’s going on with me. I’m studying the normal EEG, as well as other types, so I can tell the difference — if there is any — between what my EEG looks like and what a normal one would look like.

Normal Awake EEG - A 10-second segment showing a well-formed and well-regulated alpha rhythm at 9 Hz.

Normal Awake EEG : A 10-second segment showing a well-formed and well-regulated alpha rhythm at 9 Hz.

I’ve also been studying MRI’s over at Harvard’s Whole Brain Atlas, which shows what a normal MRI looks like — with the different slices — so that when I look at my own MRI, I can see if/how it differs from how it “should” look.

The Whole Brain Atlas

They have MRI slices from different scenarios —

  • Normal Brain
  • Cerebrovascular Disease (stroke or “brain attack”)
  • Neoplastic Disease (brain tumor)
  • Degenerative Disease
  • Inflammatory or Infectious Disease

And you can look at the slices from different angles, which is way cool!

I’ve been studying the normal brain MRI slices, so I am better able to understand what — if anything — is wrong with my gourd.

Now, on a wireless or dialup connection, the images load a little slowly, but on broadband/cable modem, they’re speedy.

Okay, so I know I’m a bit of a nerd/geek, but this just fascinates me. I’m also studying EEG electrode placement patterns, so when I look at my own EEG, if there is any abnormal activity, I can see what area of my brain it takes place in.

Electrodes are placed on 10-20 different areas of the scalp, and they’re lettered/numbered by position. F means Frontal Lobe, T means Temporal Lobe, O means Occipital Lobe, P means Parietal Lobe, and combinations of them mean the electrodes are getting data from more than one lobe. The numbers are odd on the left side of the head and are even on the right side. Here’s an image I’ve been studying:

eeg electrode placement - click to enlarge

I think it’s fascinating. And I have a lot to learn. I think I’ll get myself a balloon and blow it up, then write all the electrode numbers on the balloon with a permanent marker, so I have a 3D version of the placement to take with me to the doctor. I’ll let the air out of the balloon, so I can take it with me easily and then blow it up at the doctor’s office so I can see what’s up, when they start talking about the different readings of my brain.

Of course, this may be moot, if my EEG comes back perfectly normal, but in case it doesn’t, I would like to understand where/how/why things are ‘off’ with me… what it means… and if/how any of my prior TBIs have specifically impacted certain parts of my brain.

This stuff just fascinates me. It’s a lot to take in, and it can actually be pretty serious, but for now I’m going to entertain myself… not to mention distract myself from all the different scenarios my broken brain is coming up with.

Sometimes the inside of my head is a scary place to be.

Updated site map now posted

I updated my Site Map today, so folks can see what all I write about.

I really like WordPress for lots of reasons — but some of the things I like about it, such as the number of features I can include and the number of tags and categories I can use, also make it a little cumbersome. So, I spent a few hours the other day putting together a simpler site map, and hopefully that will help folks find meaningful content.

A Perilous Relief : Because Extreme Duress Makes Me Feel Better

Thinking back over the course of my life, to all those times when I pushed myself, stretched myself, and in some cases really punished myself to get to a goal, I can see discernable patterns in my behavior:

  • I am presented with a variety of choices about people and activities and jobs.
  • Some of the choices are positive, pleasant, benign.
  • Other choices are more challenging, distasteful, and carry the threat of some ultimate negative consequence.
  • I know I have positive, pro-active options available to me, but time and again — against my better judgment and experience — I choose the lesser of the options and plunge myself into yet more chaos.
  • Sometimes things go well, and I reap the rewards for overcoming the challenge.
  • But other times, I burn out, flame out, crash and burst into a veritable brilliant fireball that can be seen for miles.
  • Friends, family, coworkers all scratch their heads and puzzle at my poor decision-making, my risk-taking and danger-seeking behavior that endangers my professional reputation and my social and financial viability.

I’ve been puzzling and puzzling over these patterns of mine for the longest time, trying to figure out why I’ve apparently been unable to learn from my past mistakes… always thinking, this time will be different… but it never is — it actually gets worse. Given my life experience, my intimate knowledge of my limits, and my determined commitment to self-care and peak performance, there is no way I should be doing these kinds of things and making these kinds of “mistakes” over and over. I’m not an idiot. I know better. I’m not mentally ill (from all indications 😉 and I always start out with the best of intentions.

What’s the attraction of danger? What’s the allure of risk? I’m not the kind of person who seeks out thrills and chills — I hate suspense movies and I shudder at the thought of skydiving or rock climbing — even with ropes. What’s wrong with me, that I continuously put my own professional and social well-being on the line, time after time? Am I addicted to adrenaline? Am I hopelessly brain-damaged, thanks to my multiple tbi’s? Is there some fundamental flaw in me that seeks out its own destruction, time after time, and wants to secretly destroy all the progress I’ve made over the years?

What about emotional issues? You might ask… I ask myself the same thing, at times. I have been known to keep busy-busy-busy to keep my mind off painful or uncomfortable thoughts. But I have dealt with a lot of my personal issues that used to get in the way, and it’s been years since I genuinely wanted to run from myself. I’m healthy. I’m happy. I don’t do drugs or drink alcohol. I am not running willy-nilly from old ghosts like I used to, and I’ve dealt with many emotional and psychological aspects of my past in a productive and definitive way.

Well, then, what about being addicted to an adrenaline high?1 I’m not sure how that’s possible. I don’t crave thrills like skydiving and freestyle skiing. I’m not fond of courting danger – like some of my siblings do. The very idea of taking extreme chances makes my blood cool. I’m a homebody who likes a quiet life. I’d rather curl up with a good white paper on cutting-edge neurological research than go mountain biking in the Grand Canyon around sunset.

So, why the hell do I do these stupid-ass things, time and again? What is it — really — that makes me make such risky social and professional choices and screw up so dramatically on such a regular basis?

In stepping back from my personal perspective, looking at all the objective data about my life, and then thinking about not only the things that went wrong, but the things that went right while things were going wrong, I’ve realized I actually feel better when I’m under a lot of stress and strain. And the higher the intensity of my stress experience, the better I feel.

I believe, based on my own observations about my life, that beyond the most obvious components in in my decision-making process, there’s something else at work. Something not cognitive, not emotional, not psychological, but something physical. Could it be that risk-taking / danger-seeking behavior meets a basic, fundamental physiological need in me which persists in spite of better judgment and deliberately broken bad habits? Could there be something about the experience of dangerous risk that – rather than boosting me into a super-human experience – supports me in having a normal human experience?

I’ve gradually come to realize (after untold hours of reflection and consideration and painstaking — and sometimes maddening — rehashing of patterns and details) that I need stress in order to function properly. I don’t seek it out in order to pump up an already fully functional system. I seek it out in order to bring a struggling system up to par, so I can participate normally in the world and have the kind of regular life that other people take for granted.

Not being in the same room with you, I can only guess at your reaction. But I suspect it’s one of skepticism and incredulity. Why on earth would someone need stress, in order to function? Why would they need to take risks and seek out danger, in order to live a normal life? Isn’t this a little… hyperbolic?

Since you’re not in the same room as me, and you aren’t privy to my personal experience, I’m not sure I can explain this exactly. But I’ll try…

1 Note: From where I’m sitting, using the common “addicted to thrills” metaphor implies that the high you’re getting is not necessarily something you need. It’s superfluous, it starts out as recreational, then you develop an irrational need for it, a destructive need for it. The terms “adrenaline junkie” and “addicted to thrills” carry pejorative connotations, as well, which I feel are not very helpful in understanding this phenomenon.

A Perilous Relief – Table of Contents


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ptsd & mild tbi

I haven’t posted for a few days, and I’m feeling remiss. Very, very tired… but also remiss.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the connections between ptsd and mild tbi, and sure enough, someone found this blog using this combo of words.

I’m probably too tired to come up with anything useful at this point, but I do want to say this: having a mild tbi can be extremely traumatic. And in my experience, it induces post-traumatic stress by heightening your perceptions of danger… and at times causing the body to over-respond to perceived threats… thereby flooding your system with fight-or-fight red-bull-type biochemicals which do a number on your nervous system.

And if your nervous system — which has two parts, the sympathetic, which gets you going, and the parasympathetic, which gets you chilled out — keeps pumped up all the the time, the part of it that’s supposed to chill you out, so you can recover from your shock/stress/trauma, just never gets a chance to do its job.

So, you end up with this ever-increasing burden of stress and this ever-decreasing ability to deal with it.

And all the while your brain is mis-firing and sending you signals that may or may not be accurate, but sure as hell feel like they’re for real.

I know I’m tired, and I know that is a total over-simplification of a complex and (when I have more energy) highly fascinating neuro-physiological phenomenon, but I have to post at least something today. And somebody was looking for ptsd and mild tbi info, so there ya go…

Finally got eight hours of sleep…

Okay, so I succumbed. I took something last night to let me sleep through the night. I am not a big fan of sleeping pills, but Benadryl allergy and sinus does it for me. I did wake up once overnight, but I was able to get back to sleep, which is huge for me.

I also got a three-hour nap in, yesterday, which is no small matter.

I get to the point, sometimes, where I’m so tired I literally cannot rest. My nerves are all a-jangle, and I wake up with my heart pounding so hard I feel like it’s going to jump out of my chest.

It helps, if I listen to Belleruth Naparstek’s “Stress Hardiness Optimization” CD — the last two cuts on the CD for relaxation and restful sleep. I put on my headphones, set the volume fairly low, and let myself just listen and relax… and I usually can get to sleep.

Unless I’m over-tired, which I’ve been for a few weeks, now.

This morning, my mouth tastes funky with that after-Benadryl chemical taste. And I’m still a little out of it. But I slept till 7:00 this morning, which is a real change form the past couple of weeks of waking up at 3:30… 4:30… 5:00 and not being able to get back to sleep.

I’ll try again tonight to sleep without some help, but if it comes down to it, I may take something again.

All I know is, I need to sleep.

A Perilous Relief – I Would Like to Think I Know How to Learn

I have a lot of reasons to avoid risk-taking behavior and danger-seeking activities. I have a very full adult life, and I have a lot of responsibility. That, alone, should be reason enough for me to stay out of trouble.

As I’ve said, I believe that risk-taking behavior should be a learned skill. I don’t necessarily think we need to banish it wholesale from the human experience, but we should be familiar enough with it that we can satisfy our own innate (and very human) need for thrills and chills without wrecking our lives. I like to think that I’m a living example of someone who’s managed to do a decent job of that. The above examples are all in my past, and I have learned a great many lessons from the ones that “went south” or almost did. One would expect that, after 43 adventurous years and plenty of opportunity to reflect on my mistakes, I’d learn a thing or two. And, for the most part, I have.

I’d better. I have a great many adult responsibilities, including providing for a household, paying a monthly mortgage, keeping current on bills, managing a full-time career, and acting as part-time executive producer of a nationally syndicated weekly broadcast. I also have a number of health issues I need to actively manage, and I have hobbies and interests which engage me deeply on a regular basis. To say that my life is full-filling would be an understatement.

My life is so full, and so filling, in fact, that I need to go to extraordinary lengths to maintain ordinary functionality. I have persistent issues with chronic pain. I have cognitive-behavioral issues that stem from multiple head injuries over the course of my life, which – if not actively managed – threaten the most basic aspects of my life, including my employability and my interpersonal viability. I am keenly aware of how easy it would be to screw things up with a careless word or a stupid action – and lose everything I’ve worked so hard to accomplish. I have a packed schedule, most days, and if I don’t keep myself well-fed, well-rested, well-cared-for, I can quickly (and seemingly without warning) slide into old patterns that alienate people around me, compromise my ability to do my daily job(s), even threaten my well-being and safety.

I know all too well I can’t take chances with my health, my mental hygiene, my emotional state. I can’t take risks with my body or mind or spirit. I stand to lose too much. I stand to lose everything. And I’ve worked too hard getting where I am, to just throw it all away. So, I pay attention to the world around me. I take notice of the clues life is sending me. I pick up on signals that most people can afford to ignore, but I cannot. I have no choice but to remain ultra-mindful… of just about everything. (It might sound exhausting, but it’s the price I pay for a highly sensitive system. And frankly, after a lifetime of working at it, the habit of intense attendance to a wide range of details has simply become a way of life.)

But despite lessons learned from my rough-and-tumble past, despite my present awareness of responsibilities, and despite my normally level-headed, even-keel nature that eschews overt risk like the plague, I am still prone, now and then, to a sort of danger-seeking behavior that frankly makes no sense. I know better than to make decisions and follow courses of action that jeopardize my physical safety and my ability to make a living. I know better than to push myself physically to the point of exhaustion. I know better than to go off my usual schedule, which is so vital for my everyday normal functioning.

But Why?

A Perilous Relief – Table of Contents


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TBI Zeitgeist – search engine terms for the past week

One of my favorite pastimes is checking the search terms that people use to find this blog.

Here are the ways people have found their way here over the past week, in order of popularity:

  1. traumatic brain injury and thoughts of s(elf injury ?)
  2. explaination of tbi and ptsd
  3. education and traumatic brain injury vid (eo?)
  4. rage and tbi
  5. coping with fatigue and brain injury as
  6. smart brain drink minimize the threats f
  7. why am i so tired ptsd
  8. love for therapist
  9. could the visual arts be of significant
  10. effects of chronic headbanging
  11. “tina augustine”
  12. how to get evaluated for mild tbi when y
  13. brain injury and mental illness
  14. mental injury blood sugar
  15. mtbi employment self assessment
  16. pepsi i’m good hits head car
  17. my internet connection is crap today
  18. tbi and anger management
  19. i been sleeping a lot lately
  20. tbi diving attension stress depression
  21. leadership strategies emotional fallout
  22. ptsd and risk-taking behaviour
  23. waking up early saturday can’t go back t
  24. evaluation of pepsi max commercial for s
  25. fibromyalgia
  26. is it possible for the brain to get tire
  27. tbi psychology
  28. interview did not fit in
  29. too smart i get confused
  30. after hitting my head my pupils keep con
  31. it job interview seemed to go well
  32. pepsi ads guy getting hit by bowling bal
  33. “repeated head trauma”,frontal lobe
  34. mental disorders tbi
  35. how can i get time off from work to go t
  36. rage seizures after tbi
  37. i’m okey pepsi
  38. headaches from waking up early
  39. prigatano
  40. tbi + overpressurization
  41. invisible direct mail
  42. commercial with guy getting hit on head
  43. waking up early and the brain
  44. broken brain
  45. stress waking early 3 am
  46. george prigatano
  47. quality psychotherapy
  48. “in love with my therapist”
  49. invisible disabilities and employment
  50. anger management for tbi

I haven’t the faintest idea who Tina Augustine is, but I probably should find out.

Sleep problems seem to be dogging a lot of us, not to mention rage and temper and good old-fashioned anger.

PTSD is continuously interesting to folks, as are therapy topics. And plenty of people are hunting for job/interview information.

And apparently, George Prigatano is a rock star of sorts. As he should be 😉

TBI and Fibromyalgia

I just found this blog talking about Fibromyalgia and TBI — Fibromyalgia Haven. This is of real interest to me, as this may be an issue for me, as well. I’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff over the years, including debilitating, chronic pain, but I never seriously dug into the fibromyalgia piece of it. I was provisionally diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, back in 1987, after I started having a skin rash and intense joint pain, confusion, and various problems. It was also after a car accident that scrambled my thinking (I couldn’t understand what people were saying to me — I was intensely confused), and I ended up quitting my job so I could devote myself to drinking full-time.

Over the years, I have coped with the pain in various ways, primarily through what I call “analgesic stress,” and it’s been more or less effective. I just tend to block out the pain, now, after never getting any substantive help from doctors for my problems. I know folks with “fibro” but I never really considered it might be a factor with me — until I recently came across info about skin rashes coming with fibro. That rash that wouldn’t respond to ointments was what led doctors to diagnose me with that other condition — which was never substantiated by any of the many (and I mean many) blood tests I took over the years.

I don’t have time to go into this now, but I did want to link to the blog, for your reading enjoyment.

Hitting the 10,000 mark today

I just checked my blog stats, and lo and behold, I’ve reached the 10,000 hits mark.  Actually 10,092, but what’s a few more? More is good! 🙂

I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for stopping by. This journey is a solitary one for me, as it is for so many tbi survivors, in part because brain injury is so baffling to the person who’s been hurt, and in part because our society is still woefully ignorant about the true effects of brain injury and doesn’t have a lot of tolerance for people who got hit on the head and aren’t able to just jump up and say, “I’m okay — I’m good.

Given the kinds of comments that people leave, TBI really is a big concern with a lot of folks — especially those affected by injuries in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… returning soldiers and their families and friends and coworkers… and more. And given the amount of traffic over time, it seems to me that interest is really picking up and people are getting pro-active about dealing with TBI — either their own, or a loved one’s.

This really makes me happy. (Not that TBI happens, but that there’s more interest and information.) Over the years, as I’ve experienced injuries, I was unable to get the help I needed, first because 35 years ago, people didn’t know much about this brain injury stuff. And later because I wasn’t able to accurately self-assess my own situation and see that I needed help.

Now, with more and more info getting out there, more blogs, more websites, more YouTube videos, people are better able to find the help they need — either online, or through live resources they locate by online means.

Hitting the 10,000 mark is so invigorating for me! And it’s helping me focus more — on life outside my broken brain. It’s all too easy for me to slide into my “pity pot” and bemoan my fate… when (relatively speaking) I’m doing way better than a lot of folks out there. I’m not making light of my own difficulties, but I have to get some perspective at times and realize that A) I’m not the center of the universe whose pain matters more than anyone else’s, B) I am extremely fortunate in many respects, and C) that because of both my injuries and my recoveries and my unique abilities, I’m in a position to reach out to others who are in need and offer them some of what I have.

10,000 hits is a great sign that “feeds me” and lets me know that I’m doing something constructive with my time and energy. And it also reminds me of my responsibility (a “calling” if you will) to those who are reaching out for help, with all those search engine terms and queries and all those clicks on tags… looking… searching… seeking clues that will explain the mysteries of the mind and strategies for living life to the best of one’s ability.

And now it’s time for a contributory post. Enough about me… What about you?