I arrived at my brain biofeedback appointment cold anger fusing into brittle ice over something I’d learnt about my treatment from another health care professional. It had taken a few hours to percolate into comprehension and explode sharp-eyed moral anger through my being. Looking at brain injury through the lens of the DSM, through the distortion of behavioural and personality defects and simplistic anger management issues, inflames trauma. Withholding knowledge of treatment that will restore a healthy alpha rhythm and dramatically reduce the agitation and anxiety associated with brain injury, because it’s not the “usual way,” because it’s not within familiar therapy modalities and would require learning and working with me, prolongs suffering. It is egregious. It counters the essence of being a health care professional who also teaches. That I had to read a paper with my mother and then work out on my own how to incorporate the treatment within my regimen months after this health care professional knew of it, robs me of words, of trust in the healing professions. Does anyone in the medical system know anything about brain injury, want to learn about and actually heal the injury and the injured person? Or do they prefer to be like George Orwell’s comfortable professor, sitting in his comfortable armchair, opining comfortably in their ignorance?
After a few clipped words, f-bombs jumbled almost incoherently with spitting words as my anger and betrayal and wounds flew out at the start of my brain biofeedback session. My brain trainer listened. Then she ensured we did all six neurofeedback screens. And I felt better after.
She told me that for the first time, my tone and emotion matched when I vented to her. My anger at the profound betrayal was controlled in the sense I chose not to control it. My face was grave when I walked in, she said. But once I expressed my emotions over 15 minutes, it was gone. Normally, my tone and words were less intense than my emotion and didn’t match the emotions I was trying to express, she explained. She could sense what I was feeling and was able to figure it out, but not from my tone and words. Because I could not express my emotions at the same level they were at, the anger, the upset, the trauma stayed within me. Venting didn’t really make me feel better. I guess because she understood my broken physiology impaired my emotions, my ability to feel and recognize them, and my ability to express them and that only healing the injured neurons and neural networks would allow me to first feel them, then recognize them, then express them at a level matching their intensity, she didn’t assume the superficial was what was going on internally, unlike others. She worked to figure it out. Whereas old-school ones mired in the DSM nodded but didn’t fundamentally understand and accept that my broken physiology affected how I expressed my emotions and so slapped false labels on me. I’m not the only one. Those of us with brain injury get labels like depression, anger management issues, inappropriate behaviour, etc. I learnt just over a week ago that the standard way to handle some of those is apparently to withhold validation of one’s emotional experiences and knowledge of brain-based treatments. It is to validate and empathize only when one is behaving “appropriately” and not demanding treatment to heal broken neurons and to not be put in a perpetually traumatic situation to make others happy. I had no idea. I found this out because my emotion and communication networks had begun healing enough to markedly improve and suddenly the way I was treated changed. It will be awhile before I fully process this. But thank God for my brain training, for being able to express myself in a safe environment to someone who understands how brain injury affects emotions and communications.
The first gamma enhancement neurofeedback screen made me nauseated. No surprise, my brain trainer said. I was working hard, and it was hot. My heart rate was right up there too: 114. (Even more worrying, it was 102 when I woke up. By the end of the session, it finally stopped pounding too. The feeling of pounding doesn’t correlate with rate. It’s been at 130, and I haven’t felt it pound.)
She gave me mint tea to sip between screens and after to settle my stomach. The nausea eased off though rose up again on and off after my session. I got tea instead of coffee to ensure it didn’t get worse at my after-session treat time.
Anyway, for a few days before week three training, things had been out of focus. Gamma training didn’t do much to improve my vision though it did open my awareness. The amazing thing was though EMG began at 4-5 uV, which I rarely see in me, and dropped to 2+ by end of 30 seconds of the assessment, I brought it down to 1.3-1.4 uV. It was the venting I did, my brain trainer said. Even better, several screens in a row my gamma/EMG was above 1.0. Yes! At last!!
PZ training of inhibiting 16-20 Hz almost immediately began to clear up my vision and bring middle distance into sharp focus. By the third neurofeedback screen, colours had gradually intensified, and I could see clearly. Also my head turned to the right easily. Even at the beginning of the session, she noticed I was turning my head to look at her, not my entire body as usual.
Five and a half hours after training, my head straightened. My bad eye had been trying to close then suddenly began to work with my other eye. Fucking brain. Stop trying to shut down the new vision! Distance still out of focus. Sigh.
The next morning, my heart rate was back down (69! phew) and head straightening was present and stronger than week two but not as strong as week one. For the third week in a row, my mood was markedly different right after training as if trauma had been healed somewhat or a lot. This was different than happy gamma. It wasn’t as strong in week two, but quite marked in weeks one and three. Also, although I woke up too early in week three, after I fell asleep for another hour, I woke up with happy gamma having taken effect. Nice.
I recall research showing treating the back of the brain with brain biofeedback having a healing effect on PTSD. It helped with me somewhat a few years ago, but I’m now wondering if combining gamma with PZ inhibition of 16-20 Hz would heal or at least alleviate PTSD more effectively than enhancing gamma or SMR alone? In me, anyway. Way cool if it did. Better than enduring therapy with someone who’s welded to the DSM and blinded to the physiological effects of injury or trauma.
Forty-eight hours after training, head straightening effect mostly gone, but my neck could still turn all the way to the right (to the left didn’t change much, maybe because the seatbelt injured my right shoulder so scarring??). And if anything, happy gamma grew stronger. I was more talkative and sharper and more flexible in thinking. I had to rebut some man trying to derail my focus and rationalize BS. For once, I was able to dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee.
All but the head turning effects were gone by three days after. Can’t wait for my next session!