There'd been many sessions with Trudy over the 10 years I'd been working with her that focused on fears, real and imagined. We'd come together first in an attempt to help her son who'd struggled with early childhood trauma at the hands of his father. She carried the pain and the guilt of this trauma and worked tirelessly to provide the best help she could find for her son and skipped over the centrality of her own healing as part of how the family-as-a-whole could find peace and a measure of happiness.
She wanted to explore her irrational fear of the dark that arose whenever she slept alone in her lakeside cabin surrounded by family members' homes and the familiar land she'd visited all her life. The fearful imagery was of someone attacking her in her home and not feeling like she could protect herself from the invasion of her space. Nothing of this kind had ever happened there so this was entirely a production of her own psyche that seemed at first glance to be the residual trauma from when her children were abused and she was unaware until they were almost killed and the authorities took the chilren away and arrested the father. She was able to regain custody and raised the boys herself and tenaciously worked to instill in them a sense of independence and self sufficiency which succeeded in some ways but definitely not in others.
While this was the easy explanation it wasn't the truth as these fears predated her marriage. As we talked about the situation, she recounted a story she'd mentioned before about having possibly been molested by one of her relatives who was developmentally disabled in some way and he'd been known to seek out young children and undress them without any indication of molestation beyond undressing. Her story unfolded as before but the critical difference was the noting of how her mother had told her to not say anything of what had transpired to her father for fear that he would seek to harm the boy when apparently no real harm had been done. This collusion to keep a secret about abuse was important to explore and it had a resonance to the traumatic events that transpired to Trina and her children. I began to see the connection that may have formed wherein Trina rendered herself dumb as to what was happening in her own home and focused her attention away from what her husband was doing to the children and more about keeping the family stable with a regular income which was her father's role. She wouldn't allow herself to be aware as this was the bargain she made with her mother who sought to not say anything out of having to admit she had not been watching what the children were doing.
The connection carried a strong emotional charge and we both felt the weight of this moment and the physical experience of relief that arises when the unconscious becomes conscious. The whole arc of the therapy came clear in that moment and there was a palpable sense of resolution.
I got a note from Trina today that she'd spent 9 nights in the cabin after the session with no experience of panic or fear except for one night and she could take care of herself and go back to sleep.
This reminded me of my own resonance to secrets and lies of omission in my own childhood that shaped my relationship with my family. I lost my father to congestive heart failure when I was 3 but was not told what happened to him and helped to deal with my feelings of loss, anger and grief. I was alone in my pain as a child and my family was happy to continue the illusion of normalcy with occasional comments about what a great person he was. No mention of my mother's pain and sadness. It was as if she was seen at fault for his death by both his parents and hers. I was left very much alone with no opportunity to clarify what had really happened to him. I also was never made aware until after her death, that my mother had a child out of wedlock and gave her up for adoption 2 years before I was born
I recall the walk down a darkened road in California in my early 20s fearing that something unknown would strike out at me. The terror I felt remained as a palpable sensory experience for many years although there was no rational basis for that nameless dread. I always felt in touch with my fear of the unknown until working in group therapy training I learned to separate the facts from the feelings I was having in relation to the facts and this became a way to regulate my response to my thoughts and fantasies. I could explore what my feelings were as sensory and emotional arousal and then explore the thoughts that stimulated my responses. It became quite clear that I was conflating the two and using the physiological response to my thoughts as confirmatory evidence for their validity. This fundamental cognitive error was at the crux of my neurosis as it is for many who suffer from anxiety and the depression born of chronic anxiety.
Struggling to learn the truth and thereby quell my anxiety became a primary compensatory focus from an early age, this then encouraged me to use the quasi-linear problem solving model of connecting the dots. I wasn't capable of more complex analytical methods at that point. I feel I resonated with Trudy's experience more directly in terms of wanting to understand what was going on more completely as a way to help me regulate my agitated and regressed state.
Early diagnosis of dementia offers the best options for successful intervention to mitigate disease progression. This article is describing how we might use our own subjective awareness of memory challenges as a vehicle for engaging more directly with early treatment options, e.g., photobiomodulation, neurofeedback training, functional medicine/lifestyle assessment to improve cognitive and behavioral functioning. The article describes a study that included CSF analysis for both amyloid and tau-proteins to help evaluate pathophysiological status. Might not evaluation using Quantitative EEG assessment and OCT analysis of the retina offer both less invasive and more sensitive detection of neurological dysregulation? We might then also afford ourselves the opportunity to obtain safe, reliable, noninvasive, non-drug, low-cost, easily deployed interventions aimed at individualized symptom and root cause remediation.
We must take the message in this report seriously in terms of realizing how wide the potential effects of CV19 can be and how we must keep making sure we are evaluating all of our functions especially that of our central nervous system. I'm taking from the study that's being discussed in this news report that neurological injury can take place within the sphere of someone being infected with COVID 19 and not show many other symptoms or that they will surface after someone has 'recovered'. Quietmind is going to be setting up a testing program for brain health at its offices in Elkins Park for everyone to get an evaluation using Quantitative EEG assessment technology (QEEG) or brainmapping. The QEEG is a completely noninvasive process of measuring the electricity coming from the brain to the scalp surface is done with a headset of small sensors that contain sponges soaked in saline. The sensors read the electrical activity at 19 locations on the skull and compare those readings against norms for age, gender and handedness. This can identify if someone is producing too much or too little activity in certain brain regions that could imply inflammation in that area or a restriction of blood flow and oxygen that is compromising optimal functioning.
Brainmapping is covered by Medicare and some other insurance carriers but this will require being evaluated by our Medical Director Dr. James Halper, MD who is sertified in neuropsychiatry, immunology and internal medicine. These consultations will be done through telehealth video connection. The QEEG will be provided by one of the Quietmind staff who have 20+ years experience and have been certified in EEG biofeedback and Quantitative EEG.
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This paper didn't get as much attention as it deserved back in 2015 and advances have been made in the delivery of light from outside the body to effectively treat different types of cancer. The use of photobiomodulation as a direct form of stimulation to improve immune functions has been attracting considerable attention over the past 7 years for a wide range of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders as well in photodynamic therapy in oncology.
Optogenetics has created a vehicle for infrared light to trigger the release of chemotherapy drugs at the tumor site and thereby reducing medication side effects and improving treatment outcomes. Photobiomodulation will improve circulation and ATP production which can be very helpful in specific treatment protocols. Quietmind's focus has been on neurodegenerative disorders but will soon be considering a study to examine how infrared light therapy can be helpful for certain types of skin cancer.
Read here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4782038/
Prinsloo,S.,et al., Functional brain training alleviates chemotherapy-induced peripheral nerve damage in cancer survivors. Journal of Clinical Pathways. 2017;3(3):10-14.
Alvarez,J., Neurofeedback for treatment of 'brain fog' from chemotherapy. 8th International Conference of the Society for Integrative Oncology. Presented November 12, 2011
Those clinicians working with psychiatrically disabled people have known about the negative effects of antipsychotic medications used to control more serious negative symptoms. This controlled clinical trial report shows how some antipsychotic medications cause a 10% shrinkage of total brain volume and increased risk of death in children.
These findings have consequences across all aspects of our cognitive, motor and emotional functioning and therefore reinforces the value of trying less invasive methods of treatment before resorting to antipsychotic medication. Neurofeedback, neurotherapies (TDCS, TACS, rTMS) and photobiomodulation are some of the options that should be considered ahead of or in combination with medication to augment medication effects while decreasing severity of side effects. This was shown to work with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy brain fog in woman undergoing treatment for breast cancer. (Alvarez,2017)
Our team regularly publishes articles and blog posts on the latest research and news coming out of our group and the field in general.