Retrain My Brain – Gupta Amygdala Retraining Programme Review

People often ask me just what it is that I do with all of my time now that I’m stuck in bed. I love writing and I count myself lucky to have been included in the Chronic Illness Bloggers network, and given many opportunities to try products I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

This particular series, The Gupta Amygdala Retraining Programme, is being offered by a doctor who was laid low by chronic fatigue syndrome (which I will shorten to the commonly known acronym CFS), which is also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (the acronym ME for short). The Centers for Disease Control states: “CFS is a debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. Symptoms affect several body systems and may include weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration, and insomnia, which can result in reduced participation in daily activities.” (https://www.cdc.gov/cfs/) The CDC also indicates on their site that despite trying their best to figure out what triggers CFS, they haven’t pinpointed the cause. It could be a number of infections, it could be autoimmune related, it could be something in the central nervous system; they’re just not certain.

I was given this program because I have fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia shares some of the CFS/ME qualities – mainly crushing fatigue and pain that does not go away with a good night’s sleep. Dealing with constant pain and fatigue also changes your brain and your outlook, affecting the way that you interact with the people around you, as well as your ability to handle your own sickness, or wellness, as it were.

The very first thing I noticed when I opened up my packet was this map from Dr. Gupta.
20170522_092902If you can’t tell, this piece is quite large and almost covers my entire area rug. As we found out, it is an interactive practice piece that you actually stand on and use to help retrain your brain to stop negative thinking.

The other items included in the package were a workbook and a set of audio and video DVDs.
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I was signed up for weekly interactive web meetings as well. In our first meeting, we were introduced to Dr. Gupta, and informed that the web meetings were actually the most important part of the program, and that the DVDs, workbook and practice poster were supporting materials.

The web meetings were 12 weeks long total, so it is quite a commitment if you decide to join the program. And there is a lot of material to cover. However, if you think about it, some of us have been sick for years. I’ve been sick for two decades. 12 weeks is really a drop in the bucket. It’s just a matter of adjusting your schedule and making room, just as you would for a physical workout program. You want to lose the weight? You do an hour at the gym. You want to lose the disease? You do a few hours a week at the Gupta program. 

So what is amygdala retraining? Basically, it’s to stop the negative feedback loop so you can start healing. Your body feels bad, so your mind gets stuck thinking, “I’m not good enough, I don’t don’t deserve friends if I’m going to bring them down, I don’t deserve love, I’m a terrible person, I’m a loser, I can’t do anything right, I hate my body, I’m going to stay sick forever,” etc. If you can get rid of that negative feedback, you can also retrain your brain to start a positive flow of thoughts, including, “I will allow my body to relax, I will feel comfort, I will smile, I’m choosing health and happiness, I trust myself.”

And back to that interactive poster that’s on the ground: That’s the “Stop! Stop! Stop!” technique that Dr. Gupta often refers to as part of the retraining. He encouraged us through the course of the initial training to actually follow the steps on the poster: think the negative thoughts, then hold out our hands and think or say, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” Then we would breathe and smile, return to our loving self, then choose to take the loving path and be kinder to ourselves in our thinking, then visualize health and happiness. We would repeat these steps over and over again – at first slowly, then faster, as if picking up anything that feels clunky at first but then suddenly becomes second nature.

Throughout his sessions he often took breaks for us to breathe, or meditate. We also had time to ask questions or interact. Dr. Gupta warned us that there would be times when emotions would bubble up and sometimes get the best of us. I tend to be pretty stoic except when it comes to dealing with my neurologist and neurosurgeons, so I was surprised when even I had a web session that affected me emotionally. The point is to not hold everything back so that our ego doesn’t get in the way of getting better.

The DVDs and audio CDs are helpful because there are some meditations included, and meditation is one area where I always need improvement and assistance.

Dr. Gupta does advise for anyone going through this program that the changes will be gradual, and to not expect anything earth-shattering immediately; after all, anything shocking would set us back, not make us better. Six months would be a good goal for feeling a significant improvement if you do the work with sincerity. 

I’m grateful to have these materials at hand for the long haul so I can refer back to them as often as I need to – because there’s so much to learn, and I’ll definitely need a refresher from time to time. And Dr. Gupta records all of his sessions so that we may go back and rewatch (or if you couldn’t make it to the session in real time, you can watch at your convenience). I did personally notice a certain calmness and lightness after each session, and I do feel like my attitude has shifted towards all of my diseases; I’m choosing right now to be loved and to be worthy of love, and maybe that will shift again in the near future to another positive focus as I journey on.

Dr. Gupta’s Website:  http://www.guptaprogramme.com/

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All You Need Is Your (Whole) Health Back (Movie and Book Review)

Half of the adult population around the globe has some sort of chronic condition, varying in severity. Some are lucky enough to barely be bothered by it except as a reminder on their calendars once every few years to get checked by a doctor for any notable changes. Others can’t move an eyelash without being reminded that their body has taken on a long-term burden and there’s no relief in sight. A huge majority fall somewhere in between. Because of this, and social stigmas falling away regarding the discussion of chronic conditions, the market is being flooded with all kinds of materials and “how to” manuals for coping.

Through the Chronic Illness Bloggers group, I was lucky enough to be given these two products as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although these products were a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

The two items that I was given in tandem were a documentary called “The Connection,” and a book called “The Whole Health Life.” I didn’t approach either medium with any expectations, which turned out to be a good thing, because I tend to be very particular and picky – I don’t want my movies or reading materials to be too “preachy,” nor do I want them to assume that I know nothing about my diseases. Most of the time I see manuals out on the market that are written with new patients in mind, not with 20-year war veterans like me.

First, I’d like to cover “The Connection.” I’ll admit, I reached for this first because I didn’t feel like I had the attention span to get me through a book right out of the gate. I was quite pleasantly surprised. It was a good pace, but not overwhelming, while still giving the audience constant reliable information to process. For instance, I learned about “medical hexing” – many patients are told by doctors that we’re not going to get better. Would you believe it if I told you that two weeks ago, my primary care doctor told me that I should just give up and accept that I will never find a neurosurgeon who will be willing to help me with another shunt surgery and who will take my tumor out? Boy, is that ever a hex! But a hex doesn’t have to be that obvious. It can be about giving you a pill rather than looking at your whole lifestyle and looking at what can be improved upon. 

More points from the movie hit home for me, especially since I’m having such a hard time finding doctors who will help me. For instance, if I have zero support – friends, family, doctors – I’m three times more likely to die early. Luckily I have some really great family and friends. Also, belief is part of why we get better, but it takes both the doctor and the patient believing. So far, I don’t have the doctors backing me up. And I also learned from the film that our genes do play a major role in what we do develop as far as diseases go, but our life experiences and our environment also trigger the genes. In other words, you could be perfectly fine but if you go wading knee deep through an oil spill, chances are that MS is going to come leaping out that has been lurking all these years.

So if you haven’t picked up on it, the documentary “The Connection” got my attention. Because of that, I was confident that the book “The Whole Health Life” would be engaging – and it was. And that says a lot, especially coming from someone who has the attention span of a gnat at the moment.

As readers, we can spend more time on the book, relating to what the writer is saying about wading through the soup of pain and foggy brain, trying to get through an able-bodied world and looking normal on the outside. Immediately the author, Shannon Harvey, introduces the core concept: we cannot deal with health by separating “body” health and “mental” health. They are intertwined and inseparable. A pill may address one portion and meditation may address another portion and talk therapy may address yet another potion and engaging in positive social activities may be uplifting, but when consumed in isolation, they hardly make a difference. When combined, they improve a person’s well-being by leaps and bounds. Ms. Harvey breaks it down into 10 topics to easier process and incorporate the practices into daily living.

For me, meditation is difficult. As I mentioned before, my mind is more that of a squirrel than it is a turtle, but she talks about the benefits of calming the mind and recommends a few easy steps that anyone can pick up. Emotions logically follow right after that. What are we doing to process our emotions? What do we allow to play on our inner recording? And then there is the “placebo effect.” Let’s try changing the name of this, the taking of sugar pills and still seeing positive results, as if a patient has taken “real” medicine; what is really at work is the power of belief. The belief that a patient can heal and become well again (or at least have an improved life) that comes with the motion of the taking of the medicine is just as powerful as the drug itself and has been documented for hundreds of years; it’s why people “pray” when it seems all hope for recovery is lost.

Of course, on the physical side, what we put into our bodies and how we move our bodies makes a huge difference. Eating the foods that are the best for us, sleeping the right amount and exercising to the best of our abilities are all important in our recovery and maintenance.

As a “spoonie,” as those of us are known who have chronic conditions that cause fatigue and pain, many of us keep blogs, as I do, as well as participate on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We seek out others who are like us. We appreciate having others who understand our daily (and sometimes hourly, minute-by-minute and second-by-second) struggles. I think that “The Whole Health Life” would be a good book to read and re-read because we tend to get stuck in patterns that reinforce the negative feedback loop – myself included. If someone isn’t feeling up to concentrating on words, then they can sit back and watch “The Connection” for some reinforcement.

Please visit the documentary movie “The Connection” here.

You may purchase the book “The Whole Health Life” by Shannon Harvey through Amazon here.

Oooooo, That Smell!

For those of you who don’t know me in real life, I am a Taurus (for what it’s worth – not that I base my life on astrology), and we’re known for liking the finer things in life, including the best tastes, the softest fabrics, and the most enticing smells. I couldn’t wait to try this product out because it is both aesthetically appealing and I knew it would throw wonderful flavors into the air, making my Taurus heart sing. (Please note that I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.)

I was provided the “Raindrop” version of the essential oil diffuser by Organic Aromas; the base is available in a light wood color (pictured) or black.

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At first when I opened the box and glanced through the directions, I wondered if this might be something complicated. After all, there’s a lot of parts – the base, the receptacle, the top, the power cord…and here are the instructions including how to put everything together, and how to care for the piece:

But I think what it comes down to is that the company put a lot of thought into how to make a product that is both beautiful and durable. This isn’t something that you want to have break on you within six months or get so full of gunk that you have to invest in another one. Part of our responsibility in our commitment in striving to use items that are recycled and/or organic and/or generally good for us and our world is that the goal is to not add to the waste exponentially in our landfills and our oceans by not caring for what we build and use. So if you decide to purchase this Aromatherapy Diffuser – and I can smell so much yummy-ness as I write this because I’m running it right now – please take care of your unit so you can enjoy it for a long time to come.

My space in my efficiency apartment/flat (read: my living room is my bedroom) is at a premium, so generally speaking, I don’t have much room to spare for knick knacks. I decided the place that would best serve my needs would be the “window” between my kitchen area and living room/bedroom – mostly because it’s also where one of my two electrical outlets in the entire apartment is located. No joke. I’m almost afraid to run my microwave and my TV at the same time.

I plugged this in and turned the knob on, and immediately it started glowing. What happens is the scented oil circulates within the glass globe, and there is a small opening at the top of the second piece that is seated on the larger piece that you remove when you are adding your oil, so the scent travels out of that small opening but is not overwhelming. Because the oil churns in the larger glass portion it sometimes looks like a fountain inside and is quite calming to watch, like looking out a window on a rainy day. The super, duper cool part of this diffuser is that there is a part that lights up in the center and changes color from green to orange to red to blue and then back to green again. You can see in these pictures what I’m talking about. (Excuse the pose-able figurines, they’re just waiting for their next assignment.)


Something else that’s great is that there is zero noise with these units. The changing colors and no noise factors could make them great for a meditation room or a baby’s nursery or child’s room – just make sure they are kept far enough away from little hands so they can’t be pulled down.

Organic Aromas thoughtfully provided a bottle of their own blend of essential oils so that out of the box, the diffuser could be used right away. However, I always run into this problem: I am deathly allergic to lavender. Even typing that word made me itch. I opened the bottle and took a whiff and it smelled nice enough, but I knew I couldn’t take 2 hours daily of an induced asthma attack. I keep my own organic essential oils on hand to make room and fabric sprays, so I placed peppermint and tangerine oils in my diffuser. Man, my place smells so good! Gone are the stink of my one neighbor’s day-old Dinty Moore stew in the garbage, or my other neighbor’s 20-year-old cat who hasn’t made it to the litter box in at least 5 years.

There is an automatic safety feature on this unit in that it will turn itself off after two hours of continuous running.

I think I found my new little happy place, and it is about 5″ wide by 9″ high and smells like heaven.
Raindrop Diffuser Organic Aromas

Just The Tip

For the life of me, I cannot remember who worked this joke into their standup (though I could have sworn it was Eddie Murphy or someone else who was quite popular in the mid-80’s). The premise is something along the lines about said comic complaining about how when it came time for him to get a blow job, his dates were less than enthusiastic. They grabbed his penis like a microphone, gave the tip a lick or two like a lollipop, and then looked at him with expectation and asked, “You good now? That okay?” That counted as oral sex in their minds. Their mouths came in close contact with the comic’s junk, so good enough. I mean, there’s nothing more intimate than having your face in someone else’s parts and getting a close-up inspection, is there? He should have just been thankful that he got a couple of licks because that’s all he was gonna get.

I bring this up because this routine is always what goes through my mind whenever I interact with a friend or family member who checks on my status:

Friend: How are you?
Me: I’m still having health problems.
Friend: So you’re better now?
Me: No, I’m actually worse now.
Friend: Oh, but you’re better now, right?
Me: Not at all.
Friend: Okay, we good now? Stay positive!

So, are we good? Well, no, actually. Especially since I have this conversation multiple times a day with people who don’t have any connection to each other, and I am at a loss as to why this keeps repeating. When I try to get to the bottom of how they could have possibly come to that conclusion that I’m okay, I realize that it has to do with lip service every time. They want to brag that they went down on me without actually having done it.

Since I’ve vowed to live an authentic life and not fake my orgasms, I am being truthful when people are asking me about my current status. It’s making them uncomfortable but I’ve decided not to apologize for it. As we enter the summer months and the air pressure, humidity and temperature jump around hourly and the pressure in my head goes haywire, I will struggle more. No amount of wishing for rainbows and puppy dogs will change it.

But I’m A Nice Guy

I have grown to dread this self-proclamation: “But I’m a nice guy.” In fact, I have grown to develop a specific distaste for OKCupid profiles that are like “Niceguy4U” and “niceguy69” and “goodguy98787.”

Why? Well, if someone has to keep telling others that he is “nice” or “good,” it’s likely he’s not. The key is to get past the words and watch the actions. 

For about a week I was chatting back and forth with a guy who claimed he wanted a real relationship. His screen name was something like “Love4You” – red flag right there. We messaged for a few days and then he asked if we could text, so I agreed and gave him my phone number. Then he asked if we could get on the phone, so we chatted that way. He told me it was really great to talk to me, and that he felt at ease with me, and that thinking about me and our conversation made him smile. I thought he was really friendly and enjoyed our conversation too.

We made a date for last Saturday, but it fell through because he had to have work done on his truck. He suggested we make a date for the next Saturday. Between that afternoon and this evening, we spoke on the phone a few times, and we texted multiple times each day. Mr. Nice Guy said that he wasn’t interested in sexting at all. I told him that I thought that was refreshing. I also told him – multiple times – that I don’t want to talk about anything like that until after we met, because it puts unrealistic expectations on us when we do meet for the first time. He agreed and told me he was much more interested in sharing his life with someone – specifically, me – and he was already talking future plans, like what he was going to cook for me and where we could go, even with my physical challenges.

Again, through all of this, Mr. Nice Guy repeatedly told me that he liked my sense of humor and that he smiled when he thought of me. He told me that I had a very positive attitude. I told him that I was looking forward to our date on Saturday. He said he was too, that he thought we’d have a great time.

Another red flag: On Tuesday (Super Tuesday for voting!), I got a message from Mr. Nice Guy saying, “Can we meet Sunday instead of Saturday? Busy day.” I told him that would work for me, and he thanked me. This was the second time in less than a week that he changed the date.

We had gotten into the habit of saying good night every night. On this particular night, I told him sweet dreams, and asked him what he would like to dream about that night. Mr. Nice Guy answered, “You.” I said, “Thank you. Where would you like to go in your dream?” He said, “In my dream with you?” I said, “Yes. Pick a place and we’ll go there. I’ll see you in your dreams.” He said, “In bed.”

I didn’t see this right away because I was still trying to change for bed as well as wash my face and brush and floss, so he noticed the big pause and said, “Too direct?” When I saw his messages, I said, “Didn’t we say we weren’t going to go there at this point?” He said, “Yes very sorry.” I said, “I just don’t want to jump the gun.” Mr. Nice Guy said, “That sounds good to me. Falling asleep” and he ended his text with a very enthusiastic smiley face. The trouble is, he didn’t go to bed. OKCupid showed him logged into the system until 9:40 pm, later than our interaction. That reeks of looking for a piece of ass, in my book.

The next evening I sent Mr. Nice Guy a text greeting him by name and asked him how his day was. He answered, “Very busy. Had a 5 minute lunch. Stayed 45 minutes on overtime. Gonna get much more busy.” And then he said, “Good night” – at 7:45 pm. You bet your sweet ass he was logged on for a few more hours on OKCupid.

Then at 6:05 pm tonight, I got a message that said, “I met someone. Good luck in your seach” (bad spelling included).  How did I respond? “Nice.” How did I want to respond? “You’re a dick” would have been appropo; so would have “You’re a fraud.” I mean, for someone turning 50 in a month, you would think he would have the manners and integrity to be truthful with me and call me instead of texting this ridiculous made-up story. I am pretty sure that’s why he’s still single.

I have his number and messages blocked on my phone and I blocked him from seeing my profile or messaging me on OKC. However, I can still see his, and he was logged on for three and a half hours this evening. With as quickly as he wanted to move to chatting on the phone, Mr. Nice Guy’s claim that he met someone is obviously false because he’s still trying to hook up with someone.

A couple things could be happening here:

1) Mr. Nice Guy really does just want sex and is not interested in a relationship;
2) Mr. Nice Guy is still married;
3) Mr. Nice Guy is embarrassed that I turned him down;
4) Mr. Nice Guy is pissed that I turned him down.

Whatever the reason, that’s one less man-child for me to raise. Mr. Nice Guy isn’t so nice after all.

 

Change Your Password, Change Your Life

For about 20 years, I have not used easy-to-guess passwords, and I think it’s probably because I lived with a nerdy guy who introduced me to the world of computers and the world of corruption. I can still hear his voice in my head telling me to make sure my password isn’t easily guessed, and how he demonstrated the swiftness with which passwords were cracked.

I did the same thing as this guy in the article: I saved money for my European trip when I changed my password to one that reminded me to save money for my trip. I bought new shoes. I got rid of a bad friend. I got brain surgery – 10, in fact. I remembered my first loves and continue to date, because if I found love before, I can find it again.
So decide what you want, and then make a password to match it. My guess is that you will have to use it at least one to two times a day, and what better way to remind yourself of what you should put energy into than to punch in a password?

http://www.today.com/health/how-password-changed-one-mans-life-better-1D79878606