no news is news

I’ve been posting a lot lately, but I haven’t been saying anything. Anything I have been saying has been behind so many layers of filters and screens that it might as well not have been said at all.

I don’t have anything else to share about my music, or any new photos to post. I haven’t made any posts about neurofeedback because I haven’t been there lately. I don’t remember how to write about me, and I’m not going to write about work, because really, who would want to read that?

My head is heavy, and so many things feel like they’re going to be forever what they are today, and what they are today isn’t what I want.

98% of the people who were in my life five years ago aren’t anymore; and while that was my decision (or at least 98% of the time, it was), it’s painfully obvious that the people I’d like to spend my time with are so few in number that it’s very nearly impossible to get a handful of them in the same room at once, much less build a circle of friends or community with. I don’t have symbol or metaphor to express how completely, shockingly isolating that is.

I used to believe — used to know — that there was always an exit, a process to bring the things I needed close — even if it wasn’t obvious or easy. I don’t know how to feel that way anymore, and I don’t even know if there’s anything to do about it.

This isn’t what I want.

My pyrokinesis training at The Shop goes well

After 3 or 4 sessions, I’m starting to get into the groove with neurofeedback. We’ve been mostly working on one or two areas of focus so far, and the “reward” headspace is starting to become familiar, when I manage to get there. I can’t really describe that state of being very easily. It’s much more nebulous and indistinct than the headspace from, say, threshold-dose MDMA or a light D/S scene. At least for now, it is. The ultimate goal is to become so familiar with that state that I can very nearly wear it as a second skin, or better yet, that it’s indistinguishable from my own.

This is a results screenshot from the end of the last session I did. I don’t have the ‘before’ screenshot to compare, but there were a lot more mountains and a lot less gently rolling slopes. The bottom view is probably the clearest of how things progressed over the 8-9 minute session. I was in a foul, foul mood when I arrived (so much so that I very nearly cancelled), but despite my own anger and scepticism I found myself thinking much more clearly as the hour went on.

I’m still looking for appropriate music to make a DVD with, knowing that whatever music I choose will be forever associated with the training. Current thinking is Synaesthesia or Rapoon.

mania, anxiety and paranoia

Today was my first real neurofeedback session, now that all of the personality tests and 18-point EEG readings are out of the way. We’ve identified a few brain patterns that aren’t what they should be, and we’re going to be focusing on the more emotional areas first. I think it was the ratio of gamma-to-theta waves, but I could be mistaken.

The process itself is deceptively simple: You’re hooked to an EEG, you sit at a computer, and you play with a program. In today’s session, the software we used had science-y looking realtime readouts around the sides of the screen, and in the centre a video was playing. It was a generic meditation/relaxation DVD, with babbling brooks and new age music and whatever else. On the readouts beside it, you could see each of the brainwaves that were being monitored, and how far away from the target range they are. If you’re not hitting the target, the video window gets smaller and smaller, and the sound starts cutting out. The closer you get to the target, the larger the video is, and the better you can hear everything. If you’re hitting the target perfectly, the video plays perfectly.

You have to figure out how to put your brain in the space it’s supposed to be, and then try to keep it there. If you overanalyze what you’re doing, you’ll lose it. If you trance out, you’ll lose it. There’s a very fine balance that you have to find, and it wasn’t easy at all.

It’s also a total mindfuck to participate in an exercise where you’re concentrating on thinking, and you witness an immediate reaction in the physical world; it feels a lot like you imagine telekinesis might.

The session was fairly short today, I was only able to get in 20 minutes or so before I started to become mentally exhausted, and my performance started to bomb. It’s a very odd kind of fatigue, and not one that I really have words for. I’ve been warned that when a lot of work is done on these specific brain pattens, I might become unusually emotional, or start mentally stepping through old and unpleasant memories. What fun that sounds like!

Anyway.

Wednesday is the next one, and I’m thinking about burning my own DVDs to use. Maybe Brian Eno or some Coil, with vidcaps from milkdrop or something similar.

This is a pretty spooky process, in truth. I’m not saying that so I can collect internet reassurances or show the world how spookproof Jairus is (or isn’t), but rather so I can understand it myself. I don’t scare easy; I might freak out, panic, worry, or lose my shit, but those are familiar emotions, and this one isn’t.

Let the night be too dark for me to see
into the future. Let what will be, be.

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.

Is your favourite TV sport the High Jump?

Went in for my first session with the psychologist today, spending the whole time running through those behavioural psychology tests everyone’s done a hundred times. (Are you easily distracted from tasks? Do you have more trouble sleeping lately? Do you feel like someone is putting thoughts in your head?)

A lot of these were more interesting than I expected, and they ended up in a nice chart mapping out which parts of my brain are presumed to have more activity, based on some magic set of rules I didn’t see. The results seemed to make sense, which is encouraging.

With that said, it was troubling to answer some of the questions, because the honest answer (and the answer I’ve been living for two years or so) is so far removed from what I’ve answered every other time I’ve done these tests over the years, and equally removed from my own perception of who Jairus is. Jairus isn’t someone who prefers avoiding crowds, or gets upset easily. Jairus doesn’t stay up at night worrying about things he can’t control.

…or at least, Jairus didn’t, for most of his life. This just brings into focus how far away I am from who I used to be, and who I want to be.

peace through superior somatosensory cortices

I’m not happy. I haven’t been happy for quite some time. This should not come as any surprise to long-term readers of this space.

In my ongoing quest for emotional peace, I will be starting a type of therapy known as neurotherapy (or alternatively, neuro-biofeedback). The basic idea is simple: To allow for conscious control of brainwave activity, to maximize, minimize, or normalize alpha/theta/beta waves as is appropriate.

This is done by monitoring EEG patterns in realtime with a computer (and a clinical psychologist), and interacting with the computer through a game (or a puzzle, or a task) so that when the desired brainwave changes happen, you get closer to winning the game (or solving the puzzle). Through operant conditioning, the more I play, the more time I spend at these states, and the easier it is to maintain these states when I’m not playing.

In short, the goal is to hack my brain so that I’m able to think and feel the way I want to think and feel.

I’m going to be keeping a log of the sessions, cognitive changes I notice, and my emotional state in general. This will also include a not-insignificant amount of personal information, memories of teenaged depression, why Effexor is the devil, and so on.

I don’t want to dump this on people who’re expecting old cartoons, dorky humor, and pictures of my cat. So, if you’d like to be on the filter for this, let me know. All comments are screened.

Otherwise, we will soon return to our regularly scheduled programming.