Sensory Sensitivities

I had my first EEG session yesterday. This was the baseline evaluation, so nothing terribly interesting happened. 6 electrodes are attached to my head, plus three clamps on my earlobes — two to monitor background electrical signals (which will be subtracted from the signal sent by the electrodes), plus one ground. Close your eyes for a minute. Look over here for a minute. Read this page for a minute. Move electrodes. Look this way. Listen to these words. Move electrodes. Repeat these numbers. Repeat these numbers backwards.

We talked briefly about the results of the tests from my last visit, and while the results are more nuanced than I’m describing here, there were two things that stood out very strongly in the results: Hypervigilance, and traumatic stress.

‘Traumatic stress’ is similar to its big brother, post-traumatic stress disorder, but isn’t nearly of the same magnitude and effect. As an emotional condition, however, the fundamentals are the same, and neither of us were very surprised to see this in the results.

I wasn’t familiar with hypervigilance, but it’s a fairly straightforward condition to understand; imagine you get robbed and beaten in an alley downtown at night. Now imagine how you feel the next time you’re in that alley at night. That state, where you’re overly conscious of where you are and what you’re doing (and likely to have an exaggerated reaction if a stranger started walking down the alley toward you) is hypervigilance. It’s an extended form of fight-or-flight — and is what I’ve likely been living for the last 2-3 years.

These two conditions are usually caused by extended and acute physical pain, or periods of extreme stress. In my situation, I had both. (The level of stress was so high that I actually developed a facial twitch which lasted for the greater part of a year.)

I’m in Vancouver all next week on business, so the neurofeedback proper will start Monday after next. If yesterday’s EEG results confirm the hypervigilance, we’ll likely start working on that first, as a precursor to working on the more generalized stress.

6 thoughts on “Sensory Sensitivities

  1. Not to further blur the line between you and me, but it looks like we have the same diagnosis. I went off meds about 2-3 years ago to see if I could live without, and wound up with a ton of physical symptoms. Engine running in my chest all the time, tunnel vision and halos when out in public, dizziness from the adrenaline, full scale panic attacks when something situational poked the beast. Lots of generalized body pains and clenching from the amount of fight or flight chemicals coursing through my body, lots of exhaustion.

    I think you are only a little younger than I am? But I remember the Officials(tm) saying that the post trauma links to the past will surface at right around our age. It was crippling to say the least, and it was more the reason I was pretty MIA while you were in town, although since I’d never met you face to face I didn’t think I could say that real reason.

    I wound up going back on meds, Buspar, Cymbalta, and Invega, and it’s pretty well calmed down most of the physical shit but obviously not solved it. Biofeedback was suggested after I was hospitalized last June, but I’ve wound up doing something called EMDR.

    I’m extra curious to see how all this plays out in you, and whether the secret ingredient of peanut butter will prove to be my downfall.

  2. The psychologist talked to me about EMDR, and if it could be used to any effect in my case. We’re going to see what happens with the neurofeedback, which she thinks will give a good indication as to if EMDR would be effective.

    I’m a little concerned about what the emotional side effects will be when actually dealing with some of the older issues that are (or will be) surfacing. We’ll see how it goes.

  3. Ahh nice. I haven’t been doing EMDR long enough to judge it’s benefits, we shall see I suppose.

    Your concern about the emotional side effects is valid. I’ve gone through a lot of shit to put this stuff to rest. The only thing I can say is that if you’ve hit the point where the detriments to your life from holding onto dysfunctions and coping mechanisms have begun to outweigh the benefits that staying protected behind a brick wall can give, you’re probably in good shape. I finally hit stages where I was just willing to work hard to get past things, no matter what the consequences.

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