Many people are asking for more information, to better understand what I'm doing here, and today I got a much better grasp of it.
Today was piece after piece falling into its right position. Cascades of clarity, of things coming into focus. Memory, attention, vision.
Our brains have an easiest way to function, a path of least resistance. When there's injury, the hurt parts stop working well, and other parts rush in to pick up the slack. They compensate. They get the job or part of the job done. But it's very awkward and tiring. This is why it's possible for me to have a LOT of language functions that are barely working at all, and still be the writer and speaker I am. Other parts of my brain have been compensating. And this is also one of the main reasons I am so exhausted so much of the time. Compensating takes a lot of effort.
The activities we're doing in my sessions work the injured places so hard that the other parts can't compensate and give up, and the injured parts get reactivated. Once that happens, it doesn't need to be sustained. How these parts work when they're activated is what the brain wants to do, so it flows toward that. The brain scans that change after a week here, stay changed. They've had people come back a year later and the shifts have not reverted. Why would the brain do that, once it's back in sync? It's compensation that strains against the current, trying its best to keep things going because the wounded places can't. Reactivation IS the current.
This morning I had to memorize four numbers and then do a math operation on each one. Add or subtract the same amount to or from each one. I had to repeat the four numbers five or six times before I could remember them all and do the math. This afternoon I was asked to do it again, and I didn't need to repeat the numbers at all. I just did the calculations. The capacity was just there.
My vision is also clearer. It's neurological. When I'm asked to follow a pen side to side, my eyes skip and jump a lot. They have a hard time moving back and forth to different depths of focus.
When I read, I often find myself a few lines down from where I meant to be reading, and notice because it doesn't make any sense. So I spend a lot of time working my focus back and forth along a string, stopping at three different beads, looking at them so that it seems that two strings cross through their centers, then walking that X up and down the string. And something changes inside my head. I feel something shift. My eyes change. The world looks different.
Today's word is accumulation, these shifts adding up, one on top of the other, or cascading from level to level. One of the therapists explained to me that it's the striving that activates. That while I do the best I can and am trying to get it right, that's really not the ultimate point. What matters is working the injured parts to the tipping point of switching back on. The effects seem to ripple out through my head. Seemingly unrelated things that were hard become easy.
Many of the games and exercises out there do improve certain functions, but mostly by increasing compensation, which has a cost in other symptoms. What we're doing isn't training the brain. We're reigniting it.
When I was a child in the mountains of Western Puerto Rico, we celebrated the ancient pagan festival of Imbolc, Christianized as Candlemas, by building huge bonfires. This is what I'm thinking of now. As night deepened across the wild country of the mountainous west, flames would spring up, one after another, great flaring fires around which children danced and shouted CandeLAAAAria! proclaiming our glee that the tinder and matches and dry branches we'd gather with strenuous labor had all come together to catch fire and send leaping sparks up into the starry dark.
This is me on a dark hill, watching the sparks rising, and shouting.
Aurora Levins Morales is a disabled and chronically ill, community supported writer, historian, artist and activist. It takes a village to keep her blogs coming. To become part of the village it takes, donate here.
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