My goal with devising my hypothalamus fix was to reduce body temperature and water retention; improve sleep and skin health; and get rid of the atenolol. Initial unexpected results included eliminating brain injury anger, reducing irritation significantly, stabilizing mood, and improving exercise tolerance. I began using my therapy consistently mid-September. The initial effects were promising. All my goals began to be realised until I had a setback at the end of October/beginning of November, and then as I was recovering from that, the winter weather set in. Winter is key because normally my atenolol dose will double during the cold season. By January, I am usually taking 50 mg in two 25-mg doses, about 12 hours apart. (Atenolol not only drops blood pressure and heart rate, but also stress symptoms, like shaking hands and feelings of being stressed.)
Although body temperature dropped a lot initially, since November it’s been back up. But at least it’s not back up to old levels. I can still take hot showers; I still do not need to use cold water to cool my skin. Water retention varies, in direct relation to stress, as in too much exercise, difficult cognitive tasks, or emotional stuff. But my neck is still thinner. Awesome. Skin health remains good.
All the brain injury anger, irritability, mood instability improvements remain. There have been no setbacks in those areas. Even better, my mind is becoming sharper. On New Year’s Day 2011, I remembered who dunnit and some details of how in Agatha Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia, a book I’ve read several times before, and each time had no memory of the plot, who did the murder, and how. I had given up on seeing any improvements in reading and memory. So this sudden change was a delightful shock. Then yesterday, I went to the first theatre event in which I followed the story, stayed focused on, remained engaged with, remembered, and most of all enjoyed for its entire length. It was an operetta too: Die Fledermaus.
Exercise tolerance continues to improve regularly. Usually for me to increase reps or total time exercising takes effort and convincing myself I can do it. But since I started this therapy, every improvement comes spontaneously. One moment, I think I’m going to do my usual 10 reps, the next I’ve done 12. One moment, I think I’m heading for my usual 16 or 17 or 18 or 19 minutes, the next I’ve done 20 (as of January 3rd) with all the little incremental increases. It’s mind-boggling.
The exercise tolerance thing is big. It’s difficult to keep a good weight and to remain fit when one’s brain injury has made it so that exercise brings on unpleasant or even dangerous physical effects like high body temperature, water retention, a fast heart rate that increases as soon as one begins to move, and so on. When even walking to the TTC stop one over from your local one can bring on unpleasant consequences, that affects your quality of life too. Unfortunately, only some trainers seem to know about this effect. Doctors do not. Or not any I’ve met anyway.
I had been concerned this therapy may be increasing pain. But over the long term, by mid-December, pain was dropping. I realised this mid-December when I didn’t have pain when I should have. Certain situations or weather conditions or activities will increase my neck pain, guaranteed. Neck pain inevitably leads to migraines. I have learnt how to use the long alpha session on the audiovisual entrainment unit (AVE), arnica cream, heat, and rest to stop the pain at the point where I catch it. But these measures don’t usually eliminate the pain; that comes with time, three days at most, overnight at best. But in mid-December, I realised I had done something that should bring on a migraine, but it had not. Then a few days ago, I developed one of those burrowing, sharp focal pains in my neck. It had been so long since I had had that happen, I completely forgot about my pain-relief strategies, and I didn’t remember to do them until the next day. That would normally guarantee three days of migraine and neck pain moving from side to side from one day to the next. Not this time. I threw all my strategies at it; instead of progressing, it was gone by the next day. Unfortunately, it continued on the other side a few days later. Again though, strategies reduced it. And right now, it’s gone but in that space where I gotta be careful not to bring it back. My overall body pain is the same, and I continue to have to use arnica cream daily. I’m not sure I will get rid of the body pain as long as I’m increasing exercise regularly and my sharper mind is leading to doing more on the computer. But perhaps I’m not paying as much as I would have without this hypothalamus therapy.
Except for exactly two days, I have reduced my evening atenolol dose to 1/4 of a tablet, that’s 12.5 mg, and I still am not taking a morning dose.
Since December 27th, I’ve moved my 1-hour evening CES session to doing it half-an-hour after I take the evening atenolol, about the time the medication’s fatigue side effects usually kick in. It doesn’t seem to entirely get rid of the fatigue side effects, but sometimes it may reduce the length of time it lasts. However, it’s much easier to do it. It was getting a bit much at bedtime to get the CES session done before having to start the sub-delta AVE session. I was feeling time stressed. Plus having to do both, almost back-to-back, interfered with my evening reading. I like doing my more-difficult reading just before bed since it helps to tire out my brain, and it means I get some reading done regularly. I haven’t returned to that reading habit yet. But overall I’m feeling better.
I have recently adjusted my weight loss regimen. Water retention is a serious impediment to losing weight: water increases one’s weight and masks fat gain as well as fat loss. How can you feel good about losing weight when you don’t know you’ve done it because it happens at the same time as your body suddenly retains a kilo or two of water? On the positive side, I’m finding my runaway appetite is losing it’s steam, enough that eating fewer calories doesn’t leave me feeling very, very hungry. Emotional eating was part of that; but also, people with a brain injury will eat whatever’s in front of them, and you never feel satiated. It’s an odd combination of perception that doesn’t see what’s actually there and this beast taking over so that you can’t stop. I guess that’s a lack of impulse control, which infects every aspect of life and is pretty typical for a person with a brain injury. Nobody told me about this danger. I had to learn it for myself and start using smaller plates. But restaurants with their abnormally large portions remained a pitfall. No longer. I think. I hope.
Note: I write this to share this information with others and to get the conversation going, but I do not write it to suggest that it will work for anyone else.
Part 4: A Hypothalamus Fix Followup