I began to have severe short-term memory problems. I went to see the doctor concerned that I had some kind of brain disease. Imaging showed a physiologically perfect brain. This was a good news/bad news result. I don’t have brain disease (good news). The cause of the short-term memory problems was unknown (bad news).
I was referred to a neuropsychologist who referred me to a neuro-psychologist counselor who did an evaluation of brain performance. The results, I have excellent memory, but parts of my brain were not communicating to each other. A better analogy – if my brain is a computer, I have lots of memory but inadequate RAM. The diagnosis was a central nervous system processing disorder better known as Adult Onset Attention Deficit Disorder brought on by an untreated traumatic brain injury in 2011, critically low levels of potassium, lack of sleep, and post-uterine cancer induced menopause.
The treatment? There isn’t a lot of treatment for Adult Onset Attention Deficit Disorder (Adult Onset ADD), most people just live with it. This is not an option for me.
The neuropsychologist who led my team of doctors wanted to prescribe Ritalin. I was unwilling to add one more prescription to my list of medications. I did some research and reluctantly agreed to try a low dose of Ritalin. The affect of on my ability to focus was profound. It was easier to agree to try a CPAP machine to improve the quality of my sleep. The quality of my sleep improved so much that I can’t imagine sleeping without it. The critically low potassium level was caused by a prescribed drug interaction – this was corrected by a change in prescription.
The last piece of treatment available to me was counseling, something I was reluctant to do. The last thing I wanted to do was what most people refer to as talk therapy. My experience with talk therapy has been that it is a waste of time. I also did not want to revisit fractured personalities. Finding a psychologist comfortable and knowledgeable with my spirituality would be difficult. I do know someone who was very successful with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and was willing to explore it. I began to interview psychologists for counseling.
The counselors I interviewed were a genuine disappointment. For whatever reason, I wasn’t able to find a psychologist who does EMDR. One of the psychologists asked me if I truly believed that I was cured of Fractured Personalities. I had to stop and think about that one. Cure is a powerful word that implies that I got rid of all my aspects, effectively killing them. I integrated all my aspects that helped me survive verbal and emotional abuse. So no, I didn’t cure fractured personalities. I did the work to heal and end the triggered responses brought on by mental and emotional abuse.
At my last meeting with the neuropsychologist counselor I expressed my disappointment and frustration in finding a psychologist. She had heard about something called neurofeedback from a previous colleague she respected and trusted. The neuropsychologist counselor took the time and made the effort to find a psychologist trained in neurofeedback for me. Neurofeedback therapy is not new, although the technology that is used is generally cutting edge. It is non-invasive and does not require medication.
Neurofeedback involves taking images of the many brainwaves transmitted by different parts of the brain. Once the baseline image is established, treatment involves training the brain to transmit and receive the various brainwaves stimulated by auditory and visual stimulus. Essentially, training is watching a video while hooked up to the neurofeedback equipment for up to 15 minutes per session. The concept is essentially the same as physical therapy for your leg or arm muscles.
In the case of ADD the brainwaves either travel too fast or too slow for the brain to react correctly. ADD is typically seen primarily in the frontal lobe. It was noted a decade or so ago that PTSD in the brains of combat veterans is present in the same place and looks identical to trauma in accident victims and abuse survivors.
My baseline brain images for neurofeedback supported the neuropsychologist’s findings and diagnoses. They showed hot spots in corresponding areas for ADD and sleep deprivation. I also had hot spots in the areas for trauma and dissociation. Eagerly I began neurofeedback therapy with a standard protocol of 15 treatment sessions and then another brain imaging session after the 15 treatment sessions.
The first protocol (15 sessions) focused on ADD. The treatment itself was easy. I could see improved focus, concentration, and problem interaction/solving skills with each treatment. At the fourth treatment I realized that I had stopped taking all my prescription medications, including the Zoloft and Ritalin, without any side effects. A conversation with my doctor, who was not happy that I had stopped taking medicine that generally requires a weaning period, confirmed that I did not need to resume taking most of my prior prescriptions. I re-started the Ritalin, Atorvastatin, and the heartburn prescription. I went from 8 prescriptions to 3.
I chose to do a second protocol targeting the trauma hot spots. Trauma is an ambiguous word in neurofeedback. A catch all for accident (traumatic brain injury), abuse, PTSD. I have a history for all three. After the first session all hell broke loose in my life.
I started losing track of time, not just poor time management, I’d leave to go to the store for 15 minutes and come home hours later. My husband and I began to have these crazy fights. In the past we’d disagree and talk our way through it. Now there was yelling and cursing, my homelife had become a war zone. I’d forget entire conversations. Situations that called for patience drew out intense anger and resentment, foot stomping and slamming doors. I’ve experienced depression before, but not a depression so deep, so intense, and so profound that I had trouble getting out of bed.
I consulted with my neurofeedback psychologist, it became obvious that I was disassociating and had reverted back to fractured personalities. She checked in with her MD reviewing the protocol along with the rest of my file. The choices were stop the treatments all together, change the protocol to include the disassociation hot spots, or continue the current protocol. Stopping the treatment all together meant stranding me in my current state which was unacceptable. The MD advised against adjusting the protocol to treat both the disassociation and the trauma. So, we continued the second protocol unchanged.