Magic? Climb.

9 months since I last blogged. SO much has happened in that time. So much has happened in the last month. If you have had a brain injury, you may have experienced a distorted sense of time. My flow in time and aspects of my memory were affected by my injury, so I haven’t reflected on much of my lived experience over the past two years. It’s a good thing that I haven’t been writing so much, though. I’ve been focused on healing. Although it is sprinkled with mercies, the road to true, lasting healing has no shortcuts.

One of these roads led me to Amen Clinics at the beginning of March, where I had some brain scans done. I’d seen Dr. Daniel Amen on PBS and had a DVD box set of his brain specials in my room. For some reason one day I looked his clinic up online and saw that they treat concussion patients, too. My mom helped me set up the appointment, and my dad drove all the way to Newport Beach with me and accompanied me to their clinic for three days of scans, testing, and results (hooray, Mom and Dad!).

I had 2 SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography, which measures blood flow and metabolic activity) scans done and a qEEG (quantitative electroencephalography, which measures electrical activity) analysis done. I’ve got a post on the burner about that. It’s sort of this sacred cocoon that I don’t know if I can share yet (I need to dive in and figure out why; what nugget of truth is in there?).

The treatment protocol they prescribe is all encompassing, touching as many areas as possible: nutrition, exercise, neurofeedback, therapy, supplements, functional medicine, sleep medicine. All of this is focused on healing and rewiring the brain so that it functions optimally. It was a huge blessing; it provided results with targeted remedies and gave me yet another merciful reset on the recovery road.

PHEW! It’s quite the load. I came home and hit the ground running, doing as much as possible. Not surprisingly, it’s slower going than I had hoped. The pace is as fast as I can manage, but still slow. I haven’t fully been able to make sense of the experience, honestly. It was an important way station on the path, but the climb continues.

I think of children, who take 9 months or a year or more to learn how to walk. Their emotional landscapes and functional skills capabilities develop over decades. Much of our lives are built on the superstructure of grooves, well-worn paths that we don’t have to question or re-evaluate unless something goes terribly wrong. Well, a brain injury is multiple functional areas going terribly wrong at once. Depending on the system’s resilience and the extent of the damage, repair can take a long time.

It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, but it is. We’re used to the pace of modern life, the instant gratification of having so much information at our fingertips. Even a bone healing in 6 weeks is pretty quick as far as the body goes. I’m being given the opportunity to create myself in a new way, in a way that I have never experienced in my brain or life to this point. It’s amazing, grueling.

On our way back from California, we stopped at a piece of public art called Seven Magic Mountains, by Ugo Rondinone. I love desert art. They are places of pilgrimage and respite for me.

The seven neon pillars are perfectly balanced. Balanced rocks are supposed to have a calming effect, the introductory plaque explained. And they did. They might be in the desert south of Las Vegas, they might take a bit of a trek to get there, but these seven ethereal statues created a bit of shade for the dozens of people flocking to them. They pointed us to the sky, grounded us to the earth, urged us to consider our connections with each other. My dad liked the piece so much he even wanted a picture in front of it, something he hardly ever says.

So I climb. For me, there is no single stop where all in my brain is made instantaneously better. But the mountain herself is the magic and the medicine I need. It’s a boot camp like no other, forging new neural pathways. Build those connections! Rewire those neurons! Practice that resilience, and you’ll come out on the other side, stronger and more healed, more the master of your own destiny, my inner drill sergeant barks. Let God’s healing nature nourish and sustain, the inner child soothes. The life you save may be your own, on that recovery road, I whisper.


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