A week of possibilities

I have had an amazingly clear and instructive and stimulating and exciting week!

Like I described in my blog post last week, I brain feels “clear as a bell.”

Given all that I have gone through this summer with my setback where my thinking was so confused and so disorganized and had to work so much harder than normal to try to function, having my brain feel “clear as a bell: feels great.

The vignette that I will always remember about this summer was when I unawarely blended a metal spoon in my blender.

I think I wrote about this blender incident in an earlier blog post.  And, I am going to write it again, for the emphasis.  I had noticed that I had put the spoon with peanut butter on it in the blender and told myself to remember to take it out before I turned the blender on.

And then I did not remember the caution to myself because my attention was so terrible this summer.

Instead of remembering to take the spoon out, I put the top on the blender which meant I could no longer see the spoon in the blender.

And then I turned the blender on.

And when I couldn’t process the information that I was getting from the sound of the metal blender trying to blend with the metal spoon, I turned up the blender speed thinking it was ice that needed a higher speed to blend.

Ah, me!

And now, my brain is processing quite well again and my thinking feels “clear as a bell”.

You may imagine that I feel like I can do anything!

My week has also been instructive because the clearness of my thinking is reminding me of my brain’s ability to change (in response to my eye exercises and my hard work to help it get better) means to me at an experiential level.   I feel clear.

And I can even feel connections being made inside my head that I was not able to make previously.   And that feels great!

Its been an instructive week because I got knowledgeable feedback from Maria Romanas MD, Larry Shutz PhD and Sue Barry PhD about my last blog post and the conversation that Maria and I have about my brain before I wrote the post.  Their feedback about the mechanics of what is actually happening in my brain right now was tremendously helpful.  It made me realize that I am describing the changes in my brain but that I don’t really understand the mechanics of the neuro plasticity very well other than I know its happening to me.

It was exciting to get the feedback from an MD and two PhDs–people who have studied this issue and are very knowledgeable about it –on what’s physically happening for me.   Sue Barry, a neurobiolgist helped me understand that the vision therapy (and potentially other things I am doing) are strengthening the connections in my neural pathways.

I hope to re-post the input that I have received from these three because the discussion with them on neuroplasticity this week has been  a fascinating to me.   I need to ask for permission from them first or to ask them to post their comments directly on my blog.

You see, as an economist, I have been trained to think about how an economy changes and post-injury, I have begun trying to apply my training to try to characterize who my brain changes.  Linking the changes that I can describe to the actual physical part of the brain is another step.   With the feedback this week, I have learned that I have a lot to learn about neuroplasticity, what it is and what it is not, before I can begin to make that step for myself.  The feedback sharpens for me some increased awareness of what I don’t understand about neuroplasticity.   Improving my understanding of neuroplasticity will help me refine my thinking and help me match my experiences to the science better.  Yahoo!

So I read the medical definition of neuroplasticity this week for what seemed like the first time and I looked for the research that the Mayo Clinic has done on studying neuroplasticity after brain injury to find the definitions that they used in their study.  (I will post these definitions on a latter post and I must work harder to find the Mayo work.)  Exciting stuff!

There was another opportunity this week, that I want to describe because it was so meaningful and poignant for me.

I volunteered to read to my 5 year old son’s kindergarten class this week.

As I prepared to go to his school to read, I realized how far I had come that I could read to his class.

One of the symptoms of my brain injury was that I had difficulty processing what I read.   My eyes looked at the words, but I did not know what I had read–I couldn’t take it in and trying to do this was exhausting for me.

I first became aware that I couldn’t read when trying to read Time Magazine at the Neurologist’s office.  However, this symptom was not understood, or treated, or even recognized as a problem by my medical doctors.  I was lucky in that it was diagnosed (and hence validated) by a vision therapy doctor, Dr Franke.  He treated me by giving me eye exercises, diagnosing prism glasses for me temporarily, and helping me develop compensatory strategies.

In preparing to read to 5 year olds this week, I recalled a difficult moment for me early on when a friend’s friend had asked me to read to her 2 year old while she got dinner started.  Books written for two year olds are about as simple reading as you can get.  So I thought I could read to my friend’s two year old.

However, it was the end of the day, and I was tired, and after reading two or three pages, I realized that I just couldn’t read the book to my friend’s 2 year old.

It was difficult to come to terms with that for myself.   But I had no choice.  I couldn’t do it.   I had to tell my friend, I couldn’t do it.   It brought me to tears.

And years later, look at me now!   I am the mom that is reading to my son’s class.   What a joy!


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