Neuroplasticity in action – You Can Self Heal
In one sense this is not really a writing journey at all; mine is a journey of recovery of which writing is one important part. Perhaps I should explain.
In 2005 I had a near miss with permanent blindness; the full story is outlined in the piece titled overture, my competition entry for 2014. The plot – After a series of medical misdiagnosis, I was left within four weeks of being permanently blinded. It was only a combination of faking symptoms and fortunate Internet research that led to the discovery of the condition. The Medical Services then intervened and my eyesight was saved. Amazingly this was just the beginning.
The main surgery to deal with the tumour took place in 2006, it did not go well. Within 12 hours my health deteriorated, indicating a second operation required. During this operation I actually expired for a short period, but seemed to recover. Unfortunately 12 hours later it was clear that the third operation would be required. These are major operations lasting 12 to 18 hours, it was clear that I might not survive many more. It was necessary to proceed with the third operation removing key vital nerves to save my life.
The third operation went ahead; I was now in a coma. I had lost my facial nerve one side, a hearing nerve and balance nerve same side. The net effect was that I could no longer walk; deaf one side and my face collapsed making speech quite difficult. I lost 25 Kgs in just 8 weeks and was very weak. My balance at this time was quite appalling; I even fell out of a hospital bed.
I was transferred to a rehabilitation unit and it was here that the recovery began in earnest. It was like a modern hotel with its own pool but with professionally trained rehabilitation staff. The whole episode was just completely outrageous. It was a cross between “Carry on Nurse” and “The Great Escape”
Owing to poor balance a nurse would be required for my morning shower, so inevitably there were shower fights most mornings. Many people are surprised to learn that I did not start this practice (and usually lost) Nurses, it seems, are quite exceptional shower fighters. During the afternoons I used to teach the nurses indoor golf. Escapes were quite frequent; then one evening I was discovered after curfew in a restaurant a mile outside of the hospital, by a (rather surprised?) off duty nurse.
I was sad to leave the rehabilitation unit but it was necessary to rebuild my life. Upon returning home I discovered I could only walk 600 yards and then was completely smashed for the day. If I wanted any kind of life it would be necessary to rebuild my shattered health. The local Health Service supported about 2 hours balance training, I never heard from them again.
My mantra became I want my life back and I set out on a self healing journey. I started playing golf, increasing the workload day after day; it took over 1,000 hours of physical training. After the year I graduated to the gym and weight training. By two years I could run 100 yards. I now run 2 miles or walk ten, while in the gym I can now lift or push the heaviest possible weight in seven machines.
Meanwhile the surgeries were on-going. My face was surgically rebuilt, needing seven operations overall. While another tumour was removed from my spine and others irradiated. I always say recovery is a journey of 1000 steps. My next operation is about eight weeks from now, I do hope it’s the last….
Amazingly the physical part of recovery was the easy bit. In one sense if you are not physically fit it’s quite clear what you need to do. After this point it really is just a matter of time and application. Mental recovery is altogether a different prospect. In 2009 I discovered I had minor brain damage. The diagnosis; confusion, short term memory loss, dyslexia and slowed speech with English skills reduced to that of a 15 year old. Oh Dear.
How on earth do you fix a broken brain? Fortunately there were clues and Neuroplasticity can be encouraged if you know what to do. Since 2009 I have been involved in brain exercises every day of my life. I have been gradually increasing the cognitive workload that I put on my mind. Amazingly it has worked and worked well (This was almost entirely self-managed, self-healing)
My speed of speech is about a third faster than five years ago, my dyslexia is virtually gone – check out my radio interviews? Creativity, problem solving even mood have improved. I now run my own company have written a book and present training courses on both recovery and neuroplasticity. The book, the media interviews, the public speaking are part of an ongoing development program they help me and they help others. In one sense all these activities are a part of a journey that started in 2005.
Somehow it all seems brighter now.
Overview by Howard Hughes
You Can Self Heal
The key theme of my book is based on my own recovery journey.
The message is: Take responsibility for your own health, for your own life, you will be amazed at the results. Recovery really is a journey of a 1000 steps, anything is possible if you will put the time and application to it.
The book is fundamentally a map or guide through the recovery process. It will only make sense to those who are not well. It is intended to inspire recovery through a process of self-healing. The mind and body approach seems to work very well, it certainly did for me.
Overture is chapter one from the book, as yet not written (5 years in planning?)
The book “You Can Self Heal” is for others and is really about “What to do to get your life back”
The Overture story is what happened to me and why I became a writer