“Hey, Doc, you don’t look so good. Like a walking zombie,” Neo says with genuine concern. (Neo is my brain’s neocortex. I’ve mentioned him in previous columns.)
I let out a bigger sigh than usual. “This move to St. Louis, Missouri, halfway across the country is unusually difficult. The surges of exaggerated mood (SEM) attacks are worse with stress. While preparing to move, I am practicing mindful movement as often as possible and supporting my partner through the process. I am also practicing brain therapy to moderate these SEM attacks. I feel like ‘The Walking Dead‘ because I’m still not fully recovered from the ruin of stagnation.”
Neo snorts, “You have always been your worst enemy, pushing yourself to exhaustion. Maybe the old ways aren’t working for you anymore. You need to take a good dose of your own advice!”
Neo always surprises me by how he cuts to the heart of the matter. “Absolutely!” I respond. “I have to find a new way. That’s what this brain therapy is about. It’s a new way of monitoring and changing how I live with the symptoms of chronic illness, especially the SEM attacks.”
“Never heard of such a thing. How can you prove this brain therapy works for anybody but yourself?” Neo doesn’t completely discount my idea, but he’s not buying it 100 percent.
“I am in the hypothesis clarification stage right now,” I respond with confidence. “Not ready yet to explore the therapeutic efficacy of brain therapy. We are still exploring the idea that the brain has a built-in conductor, which can be trained to moderate the SEM attacks.”
Neo ponders this idea. “Have you found any clues that might indicate what this might look like?”
My thoughts start flowing. “It’s preliminary, but perhaps brain therapy will include wellness mapmaking using the CHRONDI Creed, threshold management, mindful movement, a psychological awareness method called self-monitoring, and regular involvement in novel problem-solving.”
Neo’s concentration is glazing over. “That’s a lot for a person to try to do when they have to battle a chronic disease, support a partner with a chronic disease, and deal with the stress of moving.”
“Getting overwhelmed happens to me every day,” I tell him. “If I can practice high self-monitoring, it helps to keep things in check. It’s not about perfection, but rather calm reflection. No matter what’s in front of me, I try to calmly reflect on my perceptions prior to acting. On the good days, I don’t revert to the old ways of thinking. But on the bad days, the old ways still get me in trouble.”
Neo responds with a sense of authority. “And what is your partner doing through all your efforts?”
I am quick with an answer. “I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of what I do without her. She has her own medical issues. Her demons, she calls them. She has had to make a lot of adjustments to her life at the same time I’ve been adjusting to mine. Most of the time, she says she can monitor my actions and knows when I’m not doing well. The times when the SEM attacks occur seemingly out of nowhere and with no provocation are the hardest.
“But one of our strengths as a couple is we’ve always been able to talk through most anything. We work together on not harboring hurt feelings when the medical issues create problems — unexpected or expected. We talk, we adjust, we share, and we keep walking together through all of what we are both experiencing.”
I pause, take a bite of the scrumptious, peppermint chocolate pie provided by friends. “It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but I remind myself it’s just chemistry while I put the brain therapy to work. I have to do this multiple times a day. The good news is the brain therapy program is helping. I deeply believe that the brain is designed to do this, and I can strengthen its natural ability as a conductor. I’m still in the early stages of discerning the details, and a long way from teaching others how to do it.”
Neo nods. “I think you’re onto something here. I look forward to hearing more. Hopefully, your readers will provide informative comments and compassionate support for your continued journey into the frontiers of chronic disease rehabilitation. Oh, and by the way, you might just give your partner an extra hug today.”
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