Part 1 – Searching for Hope

Part 1 – Searching for Hope

January 6, 2021

I am embarking on a journey to a place I have never been — inside my brain.

Over the years I have struggled with crippling depression and sometimes debilitating PTSD. Meds, therapy, healthy lifestyle choices and spiritual practices, and I am still struggling. I thought this would be my life. This is as good as it’s ever going to get. Until I talked to my sis-in-law.

She and I share many struggles for many of the same reasons. She experienced significant improvement through neurofeedback. I checked into it and discovered it exists right here in Calgary. I called, completed an intake interview over the phone, and made my appointment.

This is a very simplistic explanation of why brain mapping and neurofeedback are helpful for people with depression, ptsd, and other types of traumatic brain injuries. (My depression and ptsd are a result of early childhood abuses and trauma, which is why I fall into this treatment protocol.)

Brain mapping offers a detailed view of the brain and how it is or is not functioning. If the brain were a complex highway system, mapping shows where traffic is stopped instead of moving freely. Neurofeedback identifies these broken places and re-routes neural pathways around them to restore normal brain function.

Even as I am writing this, I feel like I am writing about a fantastical yellow brick road that will make my dreams come true if I follow it to the end. Certainly, there are individuals who would agree with that and tell me I’m wasting my time and money.

Except, Hope.

plant growing through concrete

Hope that I can be free of brain fog and memory loss and days I can’t get out of bed. Imagining that outcome, or indeed anything even close to that outcome, feeds my Hope. So here I go.

There were several online forms to complete before my appointment. I found it helpful that they are online, and I could work on them as I was able, save my progress, and return to finish later.

I also appreciated the depth and thoroughness of the information requested. It was incredibly detailed, reassuring me that this process would be carefully administered and taken seriously by my doctor and technicians.

Today was my first appointment at Neurvana Health.

I was impressed by the calm welcoming atmosphere. The individual who took me through the stages of testing was kind and professional. There are several steps to comprehensive brain mapping. Let me break it all down for you.

I was ushered into a dimly lit office which contained a desk with a computer and testing equipment, and a comfortable chair facing a flat screen. I sat in the chair and she measured my head in order to select the right size cap.

The cap is made of a flexible type of vinyl, wired inside, with ports, or holes, at specific intervals. Once the cap was sitting snugly on my head, she used a blunt end syringe to apply connectivity gel through the ports onto my scalp. Then a small wood dowel was inserted onto the port. She connected the wires, coming out of the back of the cap, to her computer, and we were ready to begin.

Because this takes a bit of time to do correctly, she played a YouTube channel called Visual Escape. This particular video was a drone tour of the Shire, with music from The Fellowship Of The Ring. Very enjoyable. Although the guy in the sneakers and baseball cap booking it down the hobbit hill was a bit of a head-scratcher. We had fun concocting possible scenarios to explain his cameo appearance nonetheless.

For the brain mapping, I sat quietly with eyes open for five minutes, then with eyes closed for five minutes, then following a breathing pattern for one minute.

She unhooked me and took me across the hall to another office where she set me up at a computer. I was to complete twelve tasks in a maximum of forty minutes. These were brain games specifically designed to measure things like memory, spatial awareness, patterns, etc.

To be honest, I thought I’d rock this. I play brain games on my phone. I’m good at puzzles and patterns. I did ok, but I certainly didn’t rock it. The better I did the harder they got. I reached my cognitive ceiling sooner than I liked.

The entire experience took a total of two hours. It was easy and comfortable.

I go back in two days to meet with my doctor and review the results of the mapping and testing. I will get a good look at the twisty turny abyss that is my brain.

I expect a plan to be made for neurofeedback, the treatment portion of this particular practice. I have been told that treatment can take anywhere from 3–6 months, and full results will appear over time even up to a year.

My best case scenario? To eventually be able to get off my anti-depressants. My family doc doesn’t think this will be possible. Time will tell, I suppose.

It’s going to be an interesting ride! I will document all my appointments and details of my treatment as it progresses. You are invited to follow along and leave comments or questions.

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