Friday, December 18, 2009

The ultimate do it yourself project

I had an appointment this past week for an assessment with a speech therapist.  I did speech therapy initially after my brain injury for three months. As you may have figured, I have not been a real big fan of traditional, western medicine.  I have not utilized it at all in my recovery.  I am just now starting to blend it back into my regime because I have been forced to basically.  I have incorporated it into my practices in an attempt to "look good" in the eyes of the court system which is making painstakingly slow decisions regarding the visitation issues with my children or they are supposed to be anyway. Hope it works.

So I have gone back to the neurologist, to a rehabilitation specialist and now to a speech therapist.  I am finding that I am developing a new found respect for these people.  Cynical me?  Who knew?   While I am finding they do not have all the answers, they do have valuable information that can lead me to find my own answers.

I have found my recovery to be like a jigsaw puzzle.  Pieces I need to complete the puzzle can and do come from all different places.  It is up to me to be open, take the information and research and assimilate it and act upon it in a way that works for me. 

While the speech therapist did not want me to come back for regular therapy as he did not think that would benefit me.  He did tell me things I can do on my own and gave me valuable pieces of the puzzle for me to turn all around and look at from every angle and then fit into place for myself.

Your brain's health, your overall health and life are very similar and very much a do it yourself project.  I watched a webcast by Daniel J. Segal in which he defined the mind as the process that regulates the flow of energy and information.  He described the physical brain, the mind, and our relationship or interaction with our world as forming a triangle that basically makes us us.  He said the mind uses the brain to create itself.  Hmmm. Think about that one for a minute.

A thought can actually change neurons.  Interactions in the world or relationships with people and things shape the firing in the brain hence the synaptic connections.  Neurons that fire together wire together. There is your power to change your brain and change your life.  It is like having a secret weapon or a super power.  What you actually do in your life and how you think about what happens in your world shapes your brain and your reality.   This power is within us and it has been there the whole time.  It is up to us to put it to good use.  To actually do the do it yourself project and not put it on the shelf for some later date.

He calls the most basic process of changing your brain mindfulness training. It has been around for thousands of years in the form of yoga, tai chi, qi gong, meditation and the many other similar activities.  Being mindful is a way of focusing and integrating energy flow to actually strengthen the prefrontal area of the brain.  This, in turn, creates what he calls an approach state where a person is adaptable, open, and motivated.  It also has been proven to strengthen the immune system, improve blood pressure, and to increase empathy.

Even doing simple mindfulness techniques such as focusing on the breath for 10 minutes a day can make physical changes in your brain.  This creates an awareness state. Done repeatedly, this state becomes a trait.  They have shown these practices to reduce playground bullying in children.  Because you can't tell an 8 year old to mediate  - well you can, but it probably is not gonna do any good, - they teach the techniques by putting a stuffed animal on their belly and telling them "to rock" the animal.  They have even found it increases their grades.

So back to speech therapy. What does all this have to do with my speech therapy?  We are our own ultimate do it yourself projects. All too often we look to the doctors or other "experts" in any area to give us the answers or a super pill or quick fix when we have the power to change ourselves, our health, and our lives.  We just have to start using it.

I have decided to read out loud everyday as my own speech therapy.  I started last night and made myself laugh at some of my horribly twisted pronunciations, but I know I will see improvement, and the important thing to me is that I am actually doing something about it myself.  How empowering.  Dr. Zeuss is calling.  One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.....

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