In June of 2007, I swallowed a colorful assortment of over 90 pills and tried to kill myself. Needless to say, it wasn’t a successful attempt, but it did put me in the hospital for two weeks and leave me with a serious brain injury changing my entire life. It is not clear whether the cause of my global brain injury, technically termed encephalopathy, was the result of all the drugs going completely through my body or my heart stopping multiple times or the 107 degree fever or the hours of seizures. Right afterwards, I would say that by my own honest definition I was mentally handicapped.
I had tremendous trouble remembering anything short term or long term. I asked my Dad on the way home from the rehab center I went to after the hospital in all seriouness "I have a house?" I am sure he thought, "This is bad."
My speech was very slurred and hard to understand. My thinking processes were impaired and very slow. I couldn’t sleep for any length of time at all. I even had trouble controlling my bladder and eating without biting my cheek or tongue. My hands had a constant tremor, and I did not know what to do with them when I walked. The best I can liken it to is being drunk. I literally had to struggle to maintain some level of coherent consciousness for any period of time.
Over the next year, I was driving and living on my own, but I had lost custody of my kids and they rightfully went to live out of state with their Dad. It was all I could do just to take care of me. I slept fitfully for as much as 16 hours a day, but never felt really rested as it was not deep, contiguous sleep.
I would go to put up laundry and get lost in my drawers or closet for hours. "Where did all these clothes come from?" I would wonder to myself.
A good day for me was one in which I had emptied the dishwasher and that took a ridiculously long time. The world terrified me. Going to the grocery store required me to muster my bravery. Every interaction with people would send my heart racing and leave me mentally exhausted. My speech had improved somewhat, but I still got the sideways glances and people whispering “How much has she had to drink today?”
Western medicine had nothing to offer me, and after three months of occupational and speech therapy, they basically told me to go home and cross my fingers. As I became more aware, I did my own research and assembled my own therapy regime. I have incorporated neurofeedback, acupuncture, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, cranio sacral massage, hyercapnia or “bag breathing,” my own respiratory therapy with a device called a power lung, energetic healing, meditation, visualization, cardiovascular exercise,cross lateral movement, supplements and more.
It has been an incredible and painstakingly slow recovery process and journey. In addition to the things above, I spent hours every day doing computer programs and exercises on online websites to increase my processing speed, brain function, and memory. I carried a Nintendo DS with me everywhere and played a game called Brain Age. I breathed into a plastic bag every 15 minutes when awake and not in public. I also did daily cardiovascular exercise to oxgynate my brain. I still do and am in the best shape of my life.
I crawled daily. Yes. On my hands and knees like a baby. Still do, but not every day. It is great for making familiar pathways for signals to travel across the hippocamus as is any cross lateral movement.
The point is that I found out there is a great deal I could do on my own, and did it. There was no easy or standard rehabilitation for my injury. It was unique, and I had to educate myself and draw from many other areas. No doctor told me all this stuff. I had to find it on my own and have the discipline to do it. You can too. Whether it is a brain injury, a stroke, alzheimers, autism, age related decline, cerebal palsy, obssesive compulsivity, ADD/ADHD, depresssion...whatever....you can do something about it. You can improve your brain.
The estaslidshed medical community will most likely not tell you about any of this as is considered "aternative." I will here. Stay tuned.