Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Brain and Relationships

What Has This Got to Do With Human Rights?

All my life I have had difficulty forming and maintaining meaningful relationships. It might have been influenced by the facts that I was always small for my age, and because of a quirk of birth date and intelligence was almost 2 years younger than my class mates throughout school. I have blogged a bit about the emotional challenges of being raised in my family of origin and that played a part in it as well.

But, it was not until about 18 months ago that I found out some things that had been making it almost impossible for me to succeed in relationship no matter how hard I tried. It falls into the category for me of: "All things turn to good for those who trust in the Lord."

When I had my motor vehicle accident 5 1/2 years ago, my life changed drastically. I have never been able to return to work. My brain functions for a few hours, and then it shuts down. I have never been able to remember even what it was I used to do at work, or the names of the people I worked for, or most of the names of people I worked with even.

When I finally realised that I would never get back to work again, work I really loved doing (I think or I would think if I could think - you know what I mean ... I think) I became depressed. I became depressed because nobody had any answers for me. No scientist to this day knows why the brain really does what it does, and how to make it do what you want it to do. So when it malfunctions as mine was doing, they just say rest and it will get better. It didn't.

I ended up seeing a psychotherapist and doing EMDR as a therapy modality with a wonderful therapist named Kathy Karn, whose web site is here. Along the way, she had faith in me that there was something physically wrong that could be diagnosed and that she knew a place I could go to for some answers.

She recommended that I go to the Amen Clinics, whose web site is here. The Amen Clinics were started by Dr. Daniel Amen, an American psychiatrist who believed that by using SPECT scanning he could diagnose problems in the brain and find treatments for people to improve their lives. As he himself says, psychiatry is the only field of medicine where the doctor does not actually examine the part of the body for which he/she is providing diagnosis. Interesting point. Over the years they have done tens of thousands of scans of brains.

So, in January 2008, while my wife and I were staying in our motorhome in Tucson Arizona, we made a trek to Dr. Amen's clinic in Newport Beach, CA. I underwent a series of brain scans on their pretty sophisticated imaging equipment, provided them with all the documentation that I had from testing done on me over the last few years, plus as much of my personal history as my wife and I could provide. In the end, we met with one of the highly qualified clinic psychiatrists, a doctor with more initials after his name than letters in his name.

They were able to diagnose that I had incurred a brain injury, though SPECT imaging is not tissue sampling so cannot date stamp the damage. But, more important for my ability to have meaningful relationships, particularly with my wife, they showed us both that I have had ADD since my childhood, and explained to me what that meant to me in my behaviours, and gave me ways to deal with it.

Dr. Amen is very strong on healthy brains. Those of you who followed the NBA playoffs might have read of him calling out Lamar Odom, who though a talented basketball player is mercurial to say the least in his play. Sometimes on, sometimes AWOL, mentally. Dr. Amen, a Lakers seasons ticket holder wrote a letter to Laker's managment and the LA Times because Odom is a notorious candy eater, including during the middle of the night. Dr. Amen knows about sugar and the brain,.

The clinic recommended that I take GABA to calm my brain, because the brains of people with ADD are in need of constant stimulation. So in my case, I tend to speak sometimes without apparently thinking, as a form of self stimulation to try and keep myself alert. Who knew? Not me that's for sure. My wife said I was often edgy. I did not recognise that because it was nothing new for me. If you only know edgy, what's edgy and what's calm? Now, after over a year of using GABA, I know calm, and I like calm.

They also recommended Omega 3,6,9 fish oils for brain health, so I take capsules of that every day, and we eat fish regularly, since fish contain those fish oils, of course.

They recommended that I continue therapy, which I did.

The end result is that I really fell in love with my wife and she with me, because I became real, and dependable to be real, not just whatever hit the sirface of my being. ADD people are very much driven by whatever hits the surface, by the instant stimulation.

What's this got to do with Human Rights? Actually, nothing and everything. I qualify as a disabled person, as does my wife. We have disability incomes for which we are grateful. We have made accommodations for ourselves in our lifestyle, and accommodate each other daily as we need to. If you meet us on the street, you will not know to look at us that we are disabled, and as a rule that is the way that we want it to be.

We have done the best we can to make our lives better recognising our disabilities, but also our strengths. The above is one example where from the disability came strength, which will stand us in good stead for the rest of our lives together.

I appreciate when people do recognise that we have reached the end of our abilities, and they lend us a hand, as many have done and continue to do, some very particularly. I have no intention of demanding my rights. I am more interested in taking responsibility for my own actions, and making the best of my situation.

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