Integration, Vision and Neuroplasticity

A dear friend from Washington DC who knew about my setback this summer called last weekend to see how I was doing and offer her support.  She left a kind and supportive message on my voicemail.

While walking that next day, I wondered how to describe concisely how I was doing when I got back to her.  In many ways I am better, my functionality is very improved and I feel well enough that I have begun the daunting task of seeing the doctors that I was not well enough to see this summer for followups.

In other ways, I am still struggling after the setback.

I eventually got back to my friend by email  to say, thanks for calling and I am a lot better, but I am not used to my new brain yet.   That was the way I chose to say it concisely.

Once I wrote it, I realized that was it.  I just wasn’t used to the way my brain was functioning now.

Once I wrote it, and took it in, I realized that it just may take awhile  to get used to my “new” brain.

And that I just needed to be patient with that process.  I could make time for that.

Later in the week when I was walking, I realized that the struggle (that I needed to acknowledge and make time for) was that I felt overwhelmed by a number of things outside my control changing.  I felt they were “coming at me too fast”.

And then I reflected upon a strength that one of my non-brain injury doctors had told me that I had.   She had said that because of my rehab that I had gotten after my brain injury, I knew that I needed to adjust as quickly as possible to changing circumstances.   And that I was a teacher to others on that.

Wow, it was nice to have a strength pointed out to me, and wow, I hadn’t thought of it that way.  I needed to do what I could do to adjust to the added stress of helping to new circumstances about having to take care of  our parents.  And I needed to continue to let go of things outside my control, which I am pretty good at.   I also needed to find more types of exercise to help me deal with the increased stress of things coming at me that were outside my control.

After my brain injury, I couldn’t adjust my thinking very well at all.  I rarely was able to demonstrate new learning, and thus I often repeated the same mistake over and over leading to much frustration and many problems.

I still remember a colleague asking me if it was cold outside when I was still in Washington DC after my injury.  I said, I don’t know.  She said, I see you are carrying a coat, so I thought you might now that it was cold.   I told her since it was late fall, I just carried a coat every day because I needed to have a coat on the days it was cold.   That was my compensatory strategy since I was not able to figure out whether I would need a coat on a daily basis given the variability of the temperature.

So after being complimented by my Doctor for my strength, I took it in and celebrated, that I could adjust more readily now to changing circumstances.

Now I can adjust more.  Yahoo!

Then later this past week, my vision therapy doctor, Dr Franke called.   Always polite and caring, he began the conversation by asking how I was doing.

I said, “well I am glad you called, as it was on my list to call you, but I haven’t called yet”.

I said, I am overwhelmed and I am having a tough time integrating all that is coming at me.

I said, I realized on my walk that this is a visual issue as well as an issue in my everyday world.   On my walk, I realized that my brain is changing and I am not used to how it is yet, and I am struggling with it rather than working with it.

Dr Franke’s response was “bingo”.   He said, you wanted your brain to change, didn’t you?

And I said yes, I did.

And yes, it has changed.

And he said, you can help your brain change by walking more [and swinging my arms as I walked and keeping my torso up as if strings were attached].

He said, “Short walks though.  5 minutes, 3 times a day.   That is all you will be able to tolerate”.

He also said to do basic vision exercises for short periods.

He said, ” You will get where you want to go (meaning that he thought my brain would continue to get better).  You just have to help your brain learn to tolerate the fact that your brain can now take in more of the peripheral space around you.”

And once I wrote down his suggestions, we went on to talk about the reason he had called.

Dr Franke had called at just the right time.   I was beginning to understand what I needed on my own, but I needed his suggestions about how to change my eye exercises to help me during this transition.

By using my eye exercises and walking I could help my new brain to work in an improved way and I could facilitate the neuroplasticity  that I hoped to create.

Yahoo!

I needed to practice visual integration of space by walking and through exercises!  I could do that.   Yahoo!

I am on it.  It helps so much to understand what’s going on and work to facilitate it!

On a different note, The Huffington Post published a great article on Neuroplasticity this week.   I hope to post it next week and continue the conversation about neuroplasticity and what I have been learning about it from colleagues soon.

 

 

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