Books

Voice of America Interview for Concussion Is Brain Injury

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Voice of America American Cafe David Byrd Interview 15 May 2018

I’m so excited to announce that my interview with David Byrd for American Café, Voice of America, is now up and live!

After he interviewed me about my experience and my book Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me, he spoke to Dr. Lynda Thompson of the ADD Centre about me, the treatments, and the hope that my experience gives to people with brain injury — that there are real treatments out there that make it possible to recover! I’d forgotten how difficult it was for me to write until I heard her tell Byrd where my writing skill was at when I first arrived at her clinic. Although I want to forget how bad things were, sometimes it’s good to be reminded so as to realize how tremendously far I’ve come. Take a listen, it’s only 7.5 minutes!

Books

Spreading My Wings, Spreading the Word about Concussion

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I made the 2018 Word Guild Awards ShortlistSo much has happened in the last little while!

It felt like I published Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me and then . . .

Nothing.

For months.

When suddenly . . .

I have been invited to be a Psychology Today blogger . . .

. . . I was asked by online magazines to write articles for them (in progress); conducted a radio interview (yet to air); and . . .

https://twitter.com/ShireenJ/status/994184896519303169

. . . I have been shortlisted for the 2018 Word Awards. I was a finalist with my novel She for the 2012 awards, so this is pretty cool to be a finalist for two different books!

I introduced myself in my first post for Psychology Today, and then got down to business, reading business, for my second two posts:

Reading Loss: The Genesis of Grief, the Seed of PTSD

Cognitive Empathy for Reading Loss After Brain Injury

I hope you will check them out, bookmark my page, and return to read my latest posts. And if you like my writing and brain injury advocacy, please consider supporting me through Patreon, the place for patrons like you!

Books

Moving On From Reading

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People walking away down PATH system.There’s a huge irony in my reading rehab journey: I thought long and hard about what it would take to restore reading after brain injury; I wrote about my theoretical program; I’ve done bits and pieces of that program; I am now receiving the bare minimum of help for reading.

My second and third posts on Psychology Today are about reading loss and restoration after brain injury because it’s the single biggest loss I’ve had of my core identity, because it’s been so very hard to get anyone seriously interested in helping me, and because both experiences are common in others, no matter their gender or race or cause of brain injury.

I wrote in my third post about lack of cognitive empathy for my reading loss. It’s not that people aren’t sympathetic or health care professionals haven’t tried some of this, some of that, it’s that they haven’t been able to put themselves in my shoes and gone, “ohhhh, this is bad, real bad, we really must make reading restoration central to your health care.”

My neurodoc verrryyy gradually over the last three years made a concerted effort to read with me most days out of the week, following a formula that worked — after six years of me begging him — yet still only when he recalled bits of the evolving formula, when he didn’t shunt it aside for “real therapy,” when he wasn’t welded to staying in his box of 20th century psychiatric medicine and trying to shove me again and again into a gendered 20th century DSM model of brain injury. He never really had cognitive empathy for my reading loss even though he’d agreed that, no matter what, he would find at least five minutes to get reading in and, when he’d followed that, he noticed himself that I did substantially better, emotionally and cognitively. Yet because he didn’t have cognitive empathy for my reading loss, he stopped doing that by 2018. He also never discussed with the rest of my health care team how to work together to recover my reading. And he was pretty blunt in early April that he wasn’t interested in helping me with my brain injury grief, which would include dealing with reading loss. I finally decided the emotional toll of having to continually remind and beg to stick to the reading rehab routine that worked and of his 20th century psychiatric thinking wasn’t worth it anymore. Unfortunately, this kind of approach to brain injury rooted in the last century is still the norm today within medical circles.

So I’m moving on. I put him on hiatus and am putting reading in the past where others have decreed through their actions it belongs. It’s really difficult for me to enforce my own reading rehab on myself; it’s one of the few cognitions that can’t be restored on one’s own. My mother reads with me every so often. That’ll have to be enough to maintain my current level unless God decides to answer prayer and bring me a miracle.

Books

I am a Psychology Today Blogger!

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I'm a Psychology Today Blogger -- my First Post!

My New York publicist for Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me has been working hard to acquaint various media outlets with my book and persuade them to review it. Psychology Today was one of those media. But they decided against reviewing my book — sigh. Instead, on April 17th, they wrote my publicist to invite me to become a Psychology Today blogger! They ended their request with, “Thanks again for reaching out and we hope we can launch this blog here quickly.” Whoa! They want me right away?! What a total self-confidence boost!! The best part: PT pays a stipend per 1000 views. So many blogs and media want people to write for free. PT’s stipend — if I blog at least monthly and achieve more than 1000 views — not only helps my incredibly stressful and awful financial situation, but makes me feel valued, my ideas validated. I could never have become a PT blogger on my own. All kudos to my publicist!

First things first. I had to gather up all the material for a profile, including a new profile picture, and send it directly to my assigned PT editor who then passed it on to the web team. Waiting for it to be set up was so hard! I feel like my brain injury recovery is just one waiting period after another. But unlike waiting to see or hear back from health care professionals, this wait was only a few days. While I waited, my publicist advised me on my first two posts. I whined then acquiesced at the idea of making my first post an intro: how I came to write my book and become a PT blogger. I chose an excerpt for my second post, following his guide on how to choose one, and drafted the two posts up so that once I received my login information, I could charge on and publish my first post.

Uh, not so fast. PT is very particular about posting. I not only had to select a title but also a subtitle for my profile. That was brain-wracking enough. But I have to do that for every single post I publish, too. Gulp. Writing a title is hard enough! I also have to choose an image. Luckily, I have thousands to choose from on my Flickr site. Unluckily, I have thousands! Next, I have to draft teaser text that will appear on the home page. This is seriously challenging my writing skills, I thought.

I discovered that my synopsis — teaser text — title and subtitle writing skills, have improved tremendously since the last time I had to write a synopsis, years and years ago. All this brain biofeedback seems to be improving my working-writing, things like summaries as opposed to books or essays, in addition to my cognition. Nice surprise!

And lastly, for every post, I have to choose topic(s). Not so simple since PT doesn’t have anything related to brain injury. No concussion. No traumatic brain injury. No stroke. No brain hemorrhage. I decided on Resilience and PTSD for my first post and ran them by my editor. He suggested trauma for future posts. That made sense since my brain injury was from trauma. PT has discussed adding concussion to their list of topics. I hope they add it soon! In the meantime, please check out my profile where you’ll find a list of my posts, books linked to Amazon, and online presences. And you can click here to read my first post.

Books

BIST Community Fair and Expressive Art Show — A Buzzing Blast!

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The BIST Community Fair and Expressive Art Show was in a new venue. Off of Yonge near Brain Injury Society of Toronto’s offices. People found it easier than last year so the place was buzzing as they checked out all the resources like Sunnybrook Family Navigation, 211, Cota, Free Geeks, and of course BIST. Quite a few of us BIST members had our artwork displayed, and I had a table where I sold and autographed copies of my Concussion Is Brain Injury books. It was a blast!

But I was sadly reminded how much the medical system fails people with brain injury.

I could tell when the person approaching me had had a brain injury. Look into their eyes and you’ll see it.

I sometimes feel — or more accurately, have been made to feel by some physician ABI experts and kith and kin — that it’s just me who struggles. Others do fine. My neurodoc insists how well his other patients do socially after following his advice. I find it difficult to believe, assuming they had social skills before their brain injury, because treating those parts of the neural networks involved in social interaction actually makes it easier cognitively and emotionally. You can have learnt all the skills in the world but you can’t use them well or at all when the involved networks are off and unhealed. It’s rather frustrating to know what to do but unable to do it.

Meeting fellow persons with brain injury reminded me: I am not alone. I hope I conveyed to them that they’re not crazy, either.

One said her doctors opined that they didn’t have a brain injury, only brain surgeries. Well, when you see them clutching every flyer in an effort to find answers, and they talk about short-term memory loss, then they have a brain injury. Just because a scalpel created the injury doesn’t make it a non-injury.

Another told me that they had concussion only in some situations. Huh? Apparently, their health care people didn’t believe they had a brain injury — for some reason the docs couldn’t see it — yet they are filled with fear — the kind of fear we get when the world comes at you like a barrelling train, friends aren’t willing to slow down and accommodate, and you keep missing chunks of conversation or what’s happening around you. Their health care professionals must be stupid. Or willfully blind. Lazy definitely. If you don’t acknowledge such obvious difficulties and blame the person — like saying I have low EQ as one did me while not acknowledging people refusing to accommodate my fatigue and slow processing etc created a situation that lead to everyone being upset. Refusing to see the obvious cognitive struggle in a person’s eyes means the health care professional doesn’t have to up their game, learn about the brain and brain injury, and treat it properly.

Another visitor to my table was stuck inside their head, unable to cope with the sensory informational overload. They had family around them, a mother, a sister, willing to take them around to every table and every artist, willing to learn about what’s available to make their life and brain better. This is rare. A family being there in person, helping on a practical level and supporting emotionally by ensuring their injured loved one wasn’t hunting for answers alone. The others all were alone, even when it was obvious they shouldn’t be, that they wouldn’t remember anything from the fair or be able to learn from all the flyers. The flyers, the brochures, my bookmarks would become a cacophony of paper lying unfound where they would be dumped in the relief of being back home, too fatigued to put the papers in a visible place.

The other amazing thing about this small family: they wanted two copies of my book — one for the injured member, one for the sister to read. Respect! Unfortunately, I had only one left by then. All people with brain injury should have family like that.

Concussion is Brain Injury

Archived Storify on #HealingTheBrain Conference 24 May 2017

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Storify, bought out by Adobe, shut down operations, flinging my Storify and everyone else’s into the virtual trash bin. Fortunately, the internet has helpful coders who supplement the pathetic FAQ Adobe created, and I’ve recreated the Storify here below as an archive.

Storify Screenshot Healing the Brain Conference 24 May 2017

I attended the Healing The Brain conference on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 as a brain injury survivor and live tweeted it, both to share with the world and my way of taking notes. I came away pumped with a clearer way of seeing the brain and a renewed purpose for revising my book Concussion Is Brain Injury. Doidge spoke eloquently on why neuroplasticity can be harnessed to permanently treat brain injuries and Thompson on one effective way to do so. Brain maps prove people with brain injury/concussion have real problems and are not malingering! Read the tweets for all the deets!

https://twitter.com/ShireenJ/status/867482745102110720

https://twitter.com/ShireenJ/status/867450250092568576

https://twitter.com/ShireenJ/status/867441316992569345

https://twitter.com/ShireenJ/status/867414767882862592

https://twitter.com/ShireenJ/status/867414215727906816

Brain Power

Don’t Read, Watch to Learn!

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Although I did well in the Oxford online short courses on philosophy of mind and metaphysics, the reading just about broke me because my neurons in the reading-related networks were injured, and so little is known about how the brain reads that treatment had been a series of guesses and so not hugely effective. Plus no one in the health professions grasped that a writer needs to be able to read for hours, not a few minutes.

In my book Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me, I write about my ongoing reading rehab adventures and draw up a theoretical program to recover reading.

Since I took the Oxford courses, I no longer need a two-hour nap after reading a newspaper article or couple pages of a book; my abstract processing has improved; my cognitive skills have improved; and my emotions are beginning to connect. But I still cannot read philosophy.

Thank God for the YouTube revolution and NaNoWriMo winner goodie of a discount to The Great Courses Plus. The GCP site has a course on mind-body or philosophy of mind. After getting help to sign up, I’ve happily begun watching Prof. Patrick Grim’s series of half hour video lectures with graphics. OK, I needed a nap after the first one, and I can feel my brain straining to grasp the concepts in the second one even though I’ve studied the Greeks back in high school and studied much of the first two videos in the Oxford Short Course. But it’s still a lot easier than reading!

Books

Kirkus Reviews Reviewed Concussion Is Brain Injury

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As I entered the creative halls of NaNoWriMo, Kirkus Reviews shot me an email saying the review on Concussion Is Brain Injury is done. Nervously, I clicked the link and read:

“A brush with a life-threatening accident spurs a writer to investigate the “hidden epidemic” of debilitating brain trauma.”

Nice first line! I like that they identify me as a writer. When I wrote my first book Lifeliner, people enthusiastically received it — as a one off. The idea that I would write more books seemed . . . well, foreign. But I now have several under my belt, and a mainstay of the publishing industry recognizes me as a writer. Cool!

“In this revised version of her original 2012 publication, Canadian novelist and biographer Jeejeebhoy (Aban’s Accension, 2013, etc.) enhances the text with expanded personal detail, creating an immersive, multifaceted memoir.”

I noticed they chose the second novel I wrote as the one to name. I wondered why, then remembered that was the last one I published in paperback. Makes sense. The etc. is weird but OK. I mean, the number of words is limited; better to have the words go into the review then listing all my books!

I read on and came to —

“The author painfully describes the toll that her injuries took on her relationship with her husband, Mistral; her panic at losing the ability to read; and other cognitive impairments.”

I was temporarily confused over the name. Memory kicked in. Oh yeah, I gave everyone pseudonyms and, as usual, had fun with names when I did.

“Desperate to return to her normal life, she became intensely motivated to find a reason and resolution for her injury through determined research and treatment alternatives.”

Yup, they got that right. I was desperate. Very desperate.

“She’s uniformly candid when writing about a year of devastating setbacks, which she says felt like “a massive plough that trenches through your established networks.””

It’s been seventeen years, almost eighteen (gulp), since I was the person who would never have been this candid. Even this year, as I wrote these scenes, I wondered about it. It’s one thing to write it; another to put it out there. But it’s done, and I just hope that it makes a good difference in other people’s lives.

“Toward the end of the book, she delves even deeper into the scientific neuropathological data of her treatment plan and further developments of her “labyrinthine recovery.””

Another memory hiccup and then, oh yeah, based on everything I learnt, I put forth a theoretical treatment program for brain injury, since rest and strategies aren’t treatment, and a reading rehab program that would do more than make people settle for the new-normal of crappy, effort-full reading; it would hopefully restore a significant amount of reading skill.

I got to the final summing up and read it, holding my breath.

“Perhaps overly expository for casual readers, but the intricate details of the author’s experience are riveting and enlightening.”

OK, OK, first part maybe a little bit of a downer, but the main point — wow! Reading that was an upper. My mother was very very pleased!!

Read the entire review of Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me on the Kirkus Reviews website here. Or just go straight to Amazon and purchase it!

And if you would like to support my writing, please consider becoming a patron. I’m on Patreon, the website that lets ordinary people do the extraordinary action of supporting the artists that they love.

Books

Back in the NaNoWriMo Noveling Saddle

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Last night at midnight, I joined my fellow Wrimos in the insane endeavour of starting writing a novel when one should be asleep!

It’s been too many years since I was ready to write, excited to write, able to join my fellow Wrimos at midnight on my computer. Since 2013, it’s been an exercise in desperation to be ready, to be able to overcome the chaos in my brain and the emotional shock of life events to throw myself into starting, never mind writing every day during NaNoWriMo. Some Novembers, I seriously wondered if I’d make it to the end of the month or get anywhere near the 50,000-word goal. Last year, the eye surgery added an additional complication because the general anesthetic temporarily screwed up my writing and the surgery improved my vision so dramatically, I was still adapting to seeing text on screens. I think I had to write on my iPad because the computer display with the way it required my eyes to track greater distances side to side than the iPad made me dizzy as heck. I have no problem now!

This year I want to get back to where I was in 2012: 30 chapters; writing every day; maybe blogging on it too. We’ll see about the latter because I need to regularly type some C++ code (from my lessons to make it easier on me) so that I can keep in the head space of my main character. I’ve set a goal of only 10 minutes per night of working in Visual Studio 2017 so that I won’t tire myself out toooo much. We’ll see.

But however this month goes, it feels good to be back to where I was in 2012 before events threw me off the track of my life. (To read the details of that, see my book Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me.)