Mind Your Head Co-op

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If you want to protect long term player safety and brain health in the NFL the price both players pay for any hit in immediate pain must increase. How? Remove the helmet and pads. No one will lead with their head when tackling anymore because everyone will feel the pain immediately. They will realize that smashing into each other at nearly 20 miles an hour is insane, and they will seek ways to do it that avoid that pain by learning to impact at angles rather than head on.

It sounds insane, I know, but only as long as it takes to think it through.

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you different is selling something.” – Wesley (aka the Great Pirate Roberts) in the film “The Princess Bride”

Life with brain injury is often compared to a “long hard road.” It is. It’s got extreme ups and downs plus all kinds of rocks and other challenges. The question is, what do we do about it?

Ketogenic simply means getting your primary energy by burning fat, as opposed to most people in the US today who get most of their energy by burning glucose. Science is showing us that when fat is our primary fuel we function much smoother and healthier — including multiple studies showing brain benefits of burning fat os our primary fuel. In essence we access God’s engineering by shifting to burning fat rather than glucose.

Many people think our brain needs glucose as it’s primary energy. Wrong. Ketones are a by-product of burning fat and they duel our brain just fine. But if our body and brain are used to only having glucose as fuel (which likely means battling weight gain no matter how little you eat and often feeling hungry and having quick and sudden loss of brain and body energy, among other things (like high risk for diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and more, which are the result of the Standard American Diet (SAD)), it can be a challenging process to switch, a process some experience as the low-carb flu.

If you have an acute medical issue, bones sticking out for example, our medical system is brilliant and providing the care you need. However, if you have a chronic, long term medical issue, such as brain injury, our medical system is no only inept but often harmful and incapable of recognizing either, blaming you instead. Let me explain…

When I first found my current main doctor (a rehab doctor familiar with brain injury), I was excited. First, he believed me (so many doctors despite brain scans clearly showing the damage to my brain, did not). I eagerly tried his recommended drugs. They wholloped me and I learned that at least my brain is too sensitive to the effects of drugs to find them helpful rather than harmful.

Learning. Och! How personal that process is. How wondrous we all are, each absorbing and processing information so differently. Yet another example of every brain is different, and thus every brain injury is different also. Here’s what I’ve learned about what I need to absorb, think, write, and draw.

  • Give yourself permission to go “as fast as I can, as slow as I must!” The only way to learn how to do this is to do too much, take time to recover, assess what could be done differently to improve the engagement, and keep moving … as fast as you can, as slow as you must! Grin. This may mean pulling back to just one class, or even auditing just one class.
  • I think in concepts and don’t pay much attention to details, except to confirm that I understand the concepts. I unknowingly made it through college with 5 of my eight concussions with this general strategy: Listen to lectures without writing anything except the key concept for that day. Make sure I could see in my mind the connection between the concept and the details given in the lecture and move from one to the other and confirm new details or even infer the existence of new details. Drove my wife nuts (we married after our freshman year) seeing a whole course of notes fit on one or two pages. I would then take these conceptual notes and review them with the book to be sure I had them correct.
  • The point of the above point is learn how you think. Are you detailed? Or do concepts instantly makes sense, and you struggle with details until you have a concept to plug them into? Once you know your strength, play to it. Use it as your base of operations and build your knowledge from there.
  • Write. Pen or pencil to paper. Learn cursive (seriously, studies show cursive writing improves brain function!). Write your thinking. Draw your thinking. There is a book “Thinking with a pencil” by Henning Nelms that is fantastic for helping with this. Play: write and draw. Paper is not precious, make mistakes, cross them out, leave them, but don’t erase them. Erasing disrupts t he flow of thought. Play with whether you prefer pen or pencil (pens drive me nuts, always doing something to disrupt my flow of thought, I despise mechanical pencils, but I found I love pencils. The quality of the pencil matters greatly. Get ahold of Golden Bear pencils — they write beautifully smooth and are a great value at .20 a pop. Far better than Ticonderoga and its ilk. Grin. If you find you love pencil thinking, try the Blackwing 602. Delicious. Smooth. Velvety to write with. (note, we think of pencil as temporary because it is erasable (except don’t erase!), but pen fades or smudges or bleeds when wet. Pencil is permanent unless you erase it.
  • Mark in your books. Underline the key points, write your thoughts and questions in the margins. Your learning is precious, the printed page is there to serve your learning.
  • Environment matters greatly. Pay attention to if the HVAC or fluorescent lighting, or laundry/perfume scents overload your brain in the classroom. At home, create your “sanctuary” to be as stimulation free as possible.
  • One asset to both writing and reading is a sloping desk. They are hard to find now, but this is the one I use and I love it (I have the large Designer). Hearty, well crafted.

Ah! What wonder, the pencil! Muttled tangle of jumbled through flows through tis elegant wand and out flows delicate, intricacy and lo! the tangle is tamed! There! Here! Behold!

Put pencil to paper daily and untangle the thoughts in your mind. May God startle you with joy!

Can TBI be better understand as a plethora of holes? Hales dramatically effect life with TBI. It is stunning how many types of holes there are and how various and deep their effect can be.

First there are holes if ignorance, starting with our own. Learning what is happening to us that makes the world so much harder and harsher a place than it used to be. What effects us, how, why, where, for how long? What are the best ways to recover? Will my head always feel this way? Even talking with other survivors, while a great comfort, offers less answer than it ought because … Every. Brain. Is. Different. So while we survivors can share generalities and concepts, we’re on our own discovering the details.

Things I've discovered (some of which may be universally true for all of us, but that's beyond my scope): That's a lot of lead in to discuss a desk, two notebooks, and a pencil as tools of thought - but context is required to fully appreciate the gift of their simplicity.

People with brain injury who are highly sensitive to sensory stimulation (light, sound, touch, scent, etc.) face a horrible dilemma: be seen/tested by a doctor in an office/hospital that may very well harm them, or ask for accommodation to be seen, be scoffed at, refused, and turned away from medical care.

I know this from personal experience as well as from the experiences of the hundreds of brain injured people I have supported through email support ministry and this website. I will share my personal story here, but suffice to say the far too common response from doctors is both ignorance of brain injury and it’s realities and arrogance in denying service.

TBI anger is unlike any other kind of anger. It taps into our primal instinct to protect ourselves, like any wounded, cornered animal, with a burst of adrenaline. This is the source of the raw, primal strength, energy, focus, and coordination. Once it hits, it can not be stopped, only redirected in a safe direction.

It’s a primal response we have to protect us from sabertooth tigers and other immediate physical threats. For most of us, those do not regularly exist in our world, but our biology interprets the onslaught of overwhelming input on our brain as an imminent threat. Our biological reaction kicks in, releasing adrenaline. But there is no immediate physical threat. So we often (and very wrongly) assume those around us must be the imminent threat. This is why some TBIers are verbally or even physically violent to those who love them. The truth is there is no threat. The “threat” is damaged neural connections inside our brain that make it so we can’t handle input from our own senses.

Barbara, my wife, tells it this way: “One year ago today (11–25–2012, this was first published, 2013) we got back from Mass on Christ the King and you asked me to watch you. You leaned your sticks against the garage and took off. My instincts from years of having to catch you when you fall had me diving. But you kept going. Down the road. Past the bridge. Out of sight. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched you go.”

While praying Liturgy of the Hours’ Morning Prayer, I felt called to go for a run without my sticks. Prudence dictated I wait for Barbara to return from Mass in case I misunderstood and was stuck without sticks crawling back home. I ended up running 5k. Without sticks.

Though there are a rare few doctors whom I respect, I now know why the medical profession not longer deserves respect or high esteem. In 1964, the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath was written. It eliminates many of the safeguards for the patient and adds in responsibilities that are God’s alone. Let’s take a look at the differences and explore some of the subsequent and yet to come ramifications.

Nope. “First, do no harm” does not exist in either the original or the modern oath. The idea, though not the precise wording, of “First, do no harm” exists in the text of Hippocrates. This concept is alluded to in the original oath when it says: “With regard to healing the sick, I will devise and order for them the best diet, according to my judgment and means; and I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.” The concept of “First, do not harm does not appear in the modern oath.