Unpicking the Brain

Now how on earth do we do that?

In summary: it appears that I have scrambled my brain through no fault of my own. That is a very clever thing to do. I have enabled  my brain to somehow misfire and consequently affect my speech. Pretty impressive considering I’m not a scientist or a neurologist.

We are constantly told that we are in control of ourselves and can change anything we wish to. So how do I get out of this mess and unpick my brain? That sounds awful hard. It has been fifteen years, so I think undoing the damage may be quite a challenge. 

As I don’t enjoy being defeated I decided to attempt this through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The practice is based on a concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and negative thoughts and feelings may trap you in a vicious cycle. The aim is to help deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. Well that could take years! However, CBT deals with current problems rather than focusing on issues from your past. Confused? I was.

I attended a few sessions and tried very hard to imagine what I said was meaningful, and those who listened did not see a nervous wreck standing before them. I practiced what I would say in meetings, but mostly I practised how I would change my thinking. I watched other people presented and instead of assuming they were confident or superior, I started to feel like their equal. That is until I had to speak myself; then it all went out of the window. So maybe you can’t unpick your brain with CBT after all. It takes a lot of practice to feel confident, but unpicking and rebooting the brain? Not a chance.

I then decided to go back to meditation. I remembered my meditation days with fondness however, things have moved on since then. I don’t say hello to my food anymore, nor do I try to achieve the the impossible of being perfect and convincing myself of eternal happiness and peace.

The  new and latest fad is mindfulness. For so long the word has been banded about, everyone was saying it, dropping it into conversations ‘you have to be mindful’ I ran a mile; it felt too new age and not for me. Then one day I was talking to someone who swore by it-Okay, so I will give it a go. I downloaded the app onto my phone for the free trial. I wasn’t convinced. Did I really want some guy yapping in my ear telling me to find myself or my inner self? When you’re desperate you will do anything once……

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, suggested mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. “It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,”

Now this made much more sense to me. Losing touch with our bodies and living in our head. Isn’t that what I had been doing for years?  I really believe I had lost touch with my voice and lived in fear for so long I had forgotten what ‘the now’ felt like.

Enter Minfulness- This is a very different kind of meditation; it is not one that asks the impossible, it does not ask you to leave your body and become a Buddhist monk, or chant, or let go of your thoughts. It teaches you to hold on to your thoughts and acknowledge them. Yes, you have to let them come and go as you meditate, but the key is to recognise they are part of you. Live in the moment.

After a few sessions I began to look forward to the mindfulness meditation. I enjoyed the soothing voice of Andy who guided me through the sessions….ahh yes, that voice. How can anyone have such a soft, soothing and uninterrupted voice? He must be very brave to narrate a meditation. So did mindfulness unpick my brain? No it did not, but it did help me reach some level of acceptance. Now there’s a powerful word ‘acceptance’ have I accepted my SD? Not quite, but I am learning to live with it.

So, what else is out there?

Neuroplasticity- The brain’s ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. It allows nerve cells in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes. That sounds very complex to me. Apparently the brain is not entirely hard wired and evidence suggests that we can reorganise the  network of our brain. How do I do this? Well by giving my brain the food, exercise, and mental stimulation it needs to promote the growth of new brain cells. In simple terms-everything we learn is stored in our brain; habits do not have to be fixed. Brain plasticity – is the ability of the brain to modify its connections or re-wire itself. 

This is not a practice I have explored yet, so I cannot advocate for it, but I never say no to new experiences.

It seems there is a lot of practices and techniques out there to try. However, as SD is unique to every individual so are treatments and the way you chose to live with it. I am not willing to say ‘this or that works ‘ or you must do as I do. The truth is, I have no idea what helps apart from my Botox.

I have beed asked on a few occasions why I do not write about other treatment options. I am not willing to write about anything I have not experienced. I will however  acknowledge that there is other approaches in managing  SD;  SLAD-r surgery being one of them. This is a procedure where the recurrent larngeal nerve is severed to eliminate spasms and enable normal, uniterrupted speech. Post surgery a person may be left with a very weak and breathy voice for a prolonged period of time. I know of several people in America who have had this procedure and swear by it. For me personally; I do not think I would put my vocal cords through this, as there is no evidence to support it is a long term solution. If it works for some people then great, I’m pleased. I remain a little sceptical and reserve that right. 

It appears that surgical procedures and neuroplacisity are as complex as the brain itself. I am still cross that I cannot simply chose another brain for myself. I mean in this day and age you would think this would be possible. Instead I am left with the arduous task of unpicking my brain. In a world of advancing technology that includes: music streaming, FaceTime, phone apps, click and collect, eBay, Amazon, movies on your phone…….where is the reboot button for a sick brain? 

I recently read an article that suggested typing a message or searching the internet could be as simple as a thought. This is all thanks to a mind control system currently in development. Apparently this will come in the form of a watch strap device that can control your smartphone with a thought, and irritatingly the launch is 2018.

This has been developed in some of the world’s top class institutions and was founded by three PhD graduates. Their vision is to promote more enriched lives and have more control over things around us. Well I don’t want to rain on your parade PhD graduates, but I can’t even control my voice so controlling my smartphone is the least of my worries. Please could you consider  researching brains instead of phones and find me a solution?

Somehow I don’t think this will happen. So what next.

Well, I will continue to work on unpicking my brain and see where that takes me.

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