Sunday, March 13, 2016

Post Treatment Clearness

I have successfully completed my concussion treatment with Cognitive FX, and to be honest, I already miss those guys.  The staff and the other "patients"? quickly became friends of mine, and I miss seeing them every day.  It's strange how quickly you can get used to something, event if it's hard.  I kinda want to go back tomorrow...

This is my group of peeps that went through the same week, with the exception of T-bone, the sweet 10 year old boy who finished and left before we snapped the pic.  They are all amazing.  They were so nice and thought I was still in my 20's.  Haha!

As the week went on, all the therapies grew in intensity and still somehow seemed easier.  It was fascinating!  By the end of the week, I was able to complete tasks I laughed at the first day.  Here are some examples:

Brain Games:  These games started out very difficult to even keep my eyes focussed on the screen with some of the games, but by the end of the week I was able to force my brain to focus.  The games themselves are still challenging, they are meant to be, but I am now able to focus on them so much easier than I was before.  I am supposed to keep working on these daily to continue improvement.

Cognitive Therapy:  The tasks given to me the first day seemed so daunting and near impossible, but by the end of the week I was killing it!  The second day I was able to recall all 15 pictures in the correct order shown to me the day before.  I did it.  Every single one.  Boom!  Then I had to do the same thing with 20 pictures, and nailed that too.  The games got more challenging and at one point near the end of the week the therapist said, "Are you sure you have memory problems?"  YES!  So much improvement!

Neuromuscular Therapy:  The second day, the therapist checked my eyes again and the jumpiness that was there the first day had completely gone away.  "Your eyes are so smooth" he said.  Another big step!  We worked on my peripheral vision and balance with a Bosu Ball and a football.  I had to look straight at him and catch the football without looking at it when he threw it to me, usually from an angle.  He tried to mess me up and trick me, but I was onto him and caught all but one.  That's right. :)  The rest of the week we worked on lots more balancing and strengthening exercises, and lots of focus on posture exercises.  It was very good.  Oh, and the massage was my favorite.  Of course.

Occupational Therapy:  The shape sorting thing got easier, I shaved off about 1/3 of the time it took to complete it at the end of the week.  I got better at the crazy games she had me play that really made me think.  The craziest game was when she would flip 2 cards over and I had to touch the red cards with my right hand, black cards with my left hand, and if there were 2 black cards I had to subtract them, if there were 2 even numbered cards I had to add them together.  Every time there was a heart I had to remove it from the pile, and every time I heard a certain word from the song that was playing I had to turn over the top two cards...after all the other tasks were completed.  Got that?

Dynavision:  On man, this thing is awesome.  It tests so much at the same time.  I loved it!  It's the one thing that really scared me about this whole training, and I loved it almost as much as the massages from Neuromuscular.  Haha!  It tests your peripheral vision and cognitive function at the same time.  It requires you to think fast while focusing on many things.  I got to the point where I was balancing on one foot on a pad, pushing red lights with my palms, green lights with the backs of my hands, and continuously adding numbers as they appeared on the screen.  It was tricky, but my time improved so much!  Here's what it looks like.

So there you have it, my week in a nutshell.  I feel more clear, more quick, and less overwhelmed.  I came home to a house that had been in survival mode for the week (apparently I am more productive around here than I realized) and it's didn't even make me shut down like it would have before.  Woohoo!  Progress!  I just tackled what needed to be done.  It felt good.

Results.  I went from a 2.4 down to a .7...remember that optimal range is between 0 and .8.  This puts me technically within "normal" cognitive functioning.  Although, like my new friend Rett said, "Don't worry, you'll never be normal.  You are a super rocker chick!"  Haha!  No worries people, I'm still crazy old me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Day 1 - Brain Camp!

Day one went much better than expected.  I walked into Cognitive FX feeling very nervous.  I was on the verge of tears with anticipation of what the day held.  I had no idea what to expect.  I thought I was going to be so frustrated I would want to cry all day long, but I was pleasantly surprised.

First of all, the staff at CognitiveFX is incredible.  They are all kind and gentle as they deal with us fragile little concussed humans.  They have the perfect balance of being patient and kind without being demeaning or making us feel like idiots.  That was a good way to start the day.

First stop for me was going over my results with Dr. Fong.  She explained to me all the results from my brain scan and explained the areas that I lack "normal" abilities.  On a scale of 0-6, where 0-.8 is within normal range, I am at a 2.4, which means moderately impaired.  Could be much worse, could also be much better.  The areas I struggle with most are focus, visual search, visual tracking, memory recall (both short term and long term) and lots more focus.  There are probably other areas too, but I can't remember.  Ha!

Second stop was "Brain Games" where I played on the computer.  These games immediately gave me a headache as I had to focus very intently and tap into my visual skills (which suck) to get the right answers.  That. Was. Hard.

Third stop was Neuromuscular therapy.  The therapist tested my visual tracking, balance, and checked out my neck issues (I have multiple herniated discs, fragmentation that is impinging my C6 and C7 nerves, straightening of the cervical spine, ((which is ironic since that's the only part of my spine that's NOT supposed to be straight and it's the only part of my spine that IS straight)) and most of the discs are degenerative) and he helped work on some of those issues.

Fourth stop.  Hmmm, I can't remember what that was.  Oh yeah, Cognitive Therapy.  This was intense.  I had to play these games that really tested my memory, some card games that I had to also answer unrelated questions while I was playing.  I had to remember details from a paragraph I was to read out loud that was about historical events.  That means I had to remember dates.  Torturous.
I also had to put a bunch of (15) random photos into whatever order I wanted to and then remember the order later on in the session.  I did that successfully!  Although, I have to remember the same order today...not sure sure I'll pass that one.

Then, lunch!  I took the time to check into my hotel and realized just how fried my brain was.  I had a hard time driving there, ended up walking out of the room without my key, and then couldn't figure out where to go to find food.  Once I finally did eat and get back, I was relieved I didn't get in an accident or something.  I'll be walking to lunch today.

Fifth stop was DynaVision.  This is what I was most nervous for.  It's a large board with lights all over it and a blue screen in the middle.  I have to look at the screen and use my peripheral vision to push the buttons that light up as they appear.  This made me dizzy.  The first round was ok.  Then they kept getting harder as I had to do more things simultaneously.  Some of which included reading text while pushing the buttons, pushing the red lights with my right hand and the green with my left, then switching that to the opposite.  Another one had me pushing the buttons while reading words that were missing a letter, I had to decide what the word was and say it out loud while pushing the lights that were flashing all around me.  That was hard.  I'm getting a headache just thinking about it.

Sixth's stop was Brain Entrainment.  This is me sitting in a nice comfy chair with headphones on.  Sounded awesome at first.  Until I realized the headphones would be playing a weird sound that mimics brain waves, mixed with thunder and rain, and my brain was naturally supposed to match the waves of the sound I was hearing.  Not sure I understand that correctly, but it did something crazy to my nerves!  I would get jolts of nerve twinges throughout my whole body every once in a while.  It was nuts.  Only 10 minutes though, then off to.....

Seventh stop was more Brain Games!  They have put together a list of the games I am supposed to work on according to the findings in my MRI.  I played those again for another 30 minutes, and walked away with another headache.

Eighth (last) stop of the day was Occupational Therapy.  This was hard.  First thing was shape sorting.  Like what you have your toddlers do, but on steroids.  That one wasn't bad.  The second "game" was much more difficult.  There were sticky notes on the wall with numbers counting from 1-20.  Half on the right, half on the left, but randomly placed.  My task was to start with one, touch it, if it was on the right side I had to touch it with my left hand while stepping toward it with my right foot, and say a word that starts with the same letter that the number starts with.  (brain explosion) This was SO hard for me.  I couldn't think of more than 2 words that start with T, and there were lots of numbers that start with T, and S and F.  It took me forever, and I'm sure I still repeated some words.  Then I did some things like Scattergories (so hard) and word searches, and short term memory recall games.  It was exhausting!

And now I'm off to start Day 2.  Wish me luck!!

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Worms Ate Into My Brain

So there was this one time (last March, to be exact) when I was ice skating and fell flat on my head.  Hard.  It did this:
Baseball sized goose egg...that did NOT feel good.

And then I couldn't function very well.  My brain kinda stopped working the way it's supposed to and I started making decision that weren't typical for me, and I wouldn't even think twice about it.  There were some clear issues I was facing that became very evident, especially with work.  My ability to focus, follow through tasks, or even remember the tasks at hand was severely decreased.  I noticed that I became very overwhelmed quickly and easily over things that didn't used to be overwhelming.  My brain was on overload all the time and things started to fall apart for me.  Badly.

I could write a book about all the events that transpired since the fall until now (well, if my brain was functional enough to think chronologically and detailed enough to recall all the experiences I went through and I had the ability to focus, then I could) but this is a mere blog post about what is about to happen...

After much research and encouragement, I will be attending a program all next week that is geared toward concussion recovery.  I had a functionMRI done on my brain to determine what parts were performing correctly, and what parts are not.  The results show severe cognitive processing problems in some areas, and these people at Cognitive FX have helped many heal from this same problem.  Here is the schedule of my treatment plan:

The schedule is full of different kinds of therapy, including Neuromuscular, Cognitive, Dynavision, Brain games, and Brainwave Entertainment.  Each of these things intimidate me and make me nervous. 

Now I'm anxious that I'll fail at every one of these, that I will perform horribly and embarrass myself and come back from treatment just as slow and unfocussed.  I'm overwhelmed at the thought of all these back to back treatments that are going to be demanding and difficult.  I'm afraid I'll still be the same, yet I am unsure of what I want to change.  I don't know what to expect, or how to react, or what outcome to hope for.

I wanted to document how I am feeling now so I know what to compare it to when I finish this treatment.  
Right now my daily struggles are with focus, being very overwhelmed very easily, being able to perform “normal” tasks and get things done that I feel like should come easily.  I’m also very obsessive in my thinking.  I get hooked on something very easily and have a hard time letting it go.  If I'm focusing of something and get interrupted, I'm immediately on edge and it takes me a long time to get back on track.  The thought of doing the daily tasks that should come easy to me are debilitating at times.  I just sit and think about it instead, or distract myself with music or social media instead.  Or write a blog about it...
I realize that doing the laundry, or making dinner, or any other daily task that takes little effort (especially mental effort) should be automatic.  But there are days I can't bear the thought of starting the task.  It's too much.  My house is a wreck.  I take care of the emergencies, but can't get through the piles that surround me.  I know that if I got through the piles and eliminated clutter in my visual sight, my brain might feel less cluttered as well, but I simply can't do it.  I've tried, and I become overwhelmed and confused and can't fathom where these things that pile up should belong.

Here is a mild example of how my line of thinking goes most of the time:
"I'm sitting at my computer at the kitchen table.  It's 4:00 and I haven't even thought about what to make for dinner.  
I should clean off the table to it's cleared off so we can eat here.  I start making piles and can't figure out where to put any of them.
I better go check what we have on hand so I can decide what to make.  I get up and go look in the pantry. I notice that we are very low on bread, so I write bread on the grocery list.  
While I'm here, I may as well figure out what else we are low on, so I start looking through the pantry to see what may need to be replaced soon.  
While I'm making a list, I might as well make a meal plan for the week and put everything we will need on the list.  Hmmm, what should I plan for this week for dinners?  
I better get online and see what some ideas are.  
I go back to the kitchen table to get on my computer and search for dinner ideas and realize that the table is still a mess, I haven't decided what to make for dinner tonight, I haven't made a list or a meal plan, and I am back where I started with nothing accomplished...15 minutes later.  The thought of deciding what to make for dinner is still looming above my head, but now it feels like a very large burden that's attached with so many other tasks that I just can't imagine completing. Luckily I have wonderful children, and my daughter came in right then and asked if she could make teriyaki chicken for dinner...just as I was about to become incredibly overwhelmed."

This example is a mild one, but gives the idea of my thought process throughout most of the days.  I'm hoping this treatment will help clear out the muck a bit.  I'm constantly hearing the line from the Pink Floyd song "Hey You"  that says, "And the worms ate into his brain" and I can almost feel it.

Enjoy a good tune here!

This is a very vulnerable place to be, me telling you all this.  But through this journey I have found that to be vulnerable is one of the things that makes me feel alive.  Really alive.  The times when I have hid who I really am are the times I feel like I'm dying inside.  The depression kicks in full force, the anxiety pushes me to the medicine cabinet, and that's not where I want to be.  I want to be vulnerable and rid myself of shame.  Mostly though, I want to fix my brain.