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brainfog

The monkey mind and the mandala

Lets talk about the body/mind connection.

How does it work, exactly? For starters, let's consider the monkey mind.

At any given moment, we all have a load of chit-chat streaming through our thoughts.

You recognize this phenomena: the familiar little monkey mind skittering up, down and all around your inner landscape, ceaselessly chattering, never at rest.

What's your monkey mind saying?

Do you ever get quiet and listen?

It may be repeating worries, fears, or other negative memes. I know mine does. Sometimes it gets the upper hand, like in the middle of the night when I'm lying awake, and it seems like everybody else on earth and their dog is snoozing peacefully.

Can this inner voice and its repetition of fears create underlying physical stress?

Some healers believe that negative thoughts, repeated ad nauseum by our monkey minds, can actually soften the way for infection in our bodies. I don’t know for sure.

One thing that's for sure is the amazing connection between the body and mind. One way to access and strengthen this body/mind connection is to draw. This is where art – the act of making art, that is – can actually help open the doors to healing.

Yep. Just pick up a colored pencil or marker, nudge your inner kid awake, and just draw.

Or you might want to try coloring in a delicious looking coloring book of mandalas. Coloring book for adults! What a country.

The claim is that many people who are ill or in the throws of a healing crisis find the act of coloring is quite helpful.

Hold on. Coloring is good for you?

Now we’re talking.

Mandala studies shows that when you are coloring, your conscious mind is turned off. The chatter is turned down at least. Similar to being in a dream state.

As the standard chatter recedes, your unconscious mind, which is vastly larger than the conscious tip of the iceberg, is able to get a word in edgewise. Answers to conundrums may suddenly pop into your mind. You may receive key information about the next step on your healing journey, because healing mechanisms can be triggered by the simple act of coloring.

When I heard about this, my inner coloring-book lover did a happy dance.

If there are inherent lessons in illness, I suspect it has to do with realizing that we must give 100% participation in our own cure. It's learning to accept that we've embarked on the hero’s journey.

A hero who has stepped onto a landmine and can't move off.

So let's face it. The hero needs tools. And maybe a fistful of colored markers.

Any kind of coloring will work. However, mandalas are special for many reasons, and probably the best kind of design to bring harmony to your senses because of their circular symmetry.

Try it.

You might think it's pure synchronicity, but while you are fully concentrating on coloring, you may be given a reprieve from your pain. If it works and you feel better, who cares if it's synchronicity or if it's some sort of mandala magic?

Art saves lives.

At the very least, it can calm the monkey mind for a few minutes and give us a break from its tiresome chatter.

With practice, it may strengthen the bridge between that vast part of us that is perfectly well, not affected by disease, and give our body the rest it needs to heal deeply.

No matter what the doctors say, no matter what anybody else says, no one lives inside our bodies but us.

Only we can really know how we feel, what we need, and in any given moment, what can make us healthier. Our bodies are magnificent, and capable of self-repair and self-healing beyond our wildest imaginings. I believe this.


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Video games and art as therapy


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Letting go of the fear of Lyme symptoms

A friend popped in while on a road trip last week. She and I have never met in person before, just over Skype, for business. During dinner we discovered that we’d both had Lyme. And we’re both recovered.

Has that ever happened to you? Someone you’d never suspect turns out to be a recovered Lymie? I was really taken by surprise, because Stephanie is someone I’ve always known was brilliant. She’s loquacious, funny, sensitive and inquisitive. She’s verbal. We’re both English teachers, and that tells you something about our common love of language. (And our common fear of and frustration with brain-fog!) But she’s also a Fulbright Scholar (which I’m not), she worked for a megalithic TV corporation for many years, and she is a bona fide cinematographer. And she’s been honored by government officials for her humanitarian efforts that led to actual laws being changed. And...she’s had Lyme disease.

Okay, enough of my brag about her. Suffice it to say, we’ve all known people who seem to have a lighted star over their heads wherever they wander in this world. She’s just one of those. But at dinner, as she lowered herself into our Japanese-style seating (yes, we eat sitting on the floor), I heard her say that she’s been having some stiffness ever since Lyme disease.

My ears perked up. I couldn’t believe it. She’s just returned from a year in China, and is on her way to Micronesia for two years. I leave my house to go to the grocery store every few days. I have what’s called a low threshold of adventure, which is I believe, the medical term for it. Stephanie’s got just the opposite. Little wonder she can tell a story and make you laugh, get hired on a dime and make a friend in the time it takes to wash your hands. She’s got no fear of the world. Did I mention she lives on a houseboat when she’s Stateside?

Her neck, however, was stiff the night she had dinner with us. She and I had a lot to say to each other about Lyme, but we talked about everything else under the sun that night too, and that’s another sign that we both live post-Lyme lives, isn’t it? But she was very interested in hearing about sugar’s effects on Lyme, and we traded notes on our workout routines. Turns out she’d been putting her sore back and neck down to age. But she found out that my yoga routine is keeping me limber and strong, and I have no soreness to speak of (not Lyme-related anymore, that is). She vowed to get better about regular exercise. I hope she keeps her promise to herself, because I know how much it helps me. We talked about our love for learning new skills and languages, and how that helps our mental muscles stay toned and flexible. And she has set the bar high for me. I am seriously going to consider traveling abroad soon. Letting go of the fear, and the image of myself as a recovering sick person is the one last stand to truly embracing wellness.

Do you have a remarkable friend who has walked a path you’d like to walk? Would you do it if you didn’t fear Lyme disease, or its effect on you? Please tell me about it. I’d love to hear your perspective.

For further reading about the four fundamental dimensions of healing from Lyme, click here.
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Lithium as treatment for Lyme-related depression

Tracy writes:

I would like to find research on lithium as a supplement for Lyme disease. I noticed in one of your posts that you took this your first year.

Both my LLMD and naturopath are in support of supplementing with it. It's helped me personally.  I wonder if you have any research to suggest?  I would like to share it with others to consider as an alternative to discuss with their medical professionals, but it seems without the research proof people are questioning it. (Perhaps as an alternative say, to Xanathx and Klonopin which cause detox stress on the body while we need instead to focus on clearing the Lyme bugs and neurotoxins.)

I hope you can provide info or suggestion where to further my research.

Dear Tracy, Thank you for your question.

I remember sitting in my naturopath’s office in agonizing pain, trying to follow his advice through my brain-fog. When he suggested lithium, my naturally cautious nature kicked in. “What is it?” I asked. He said, “it’s a mineral.”

In my miserable state though, lithium sounded to me vaguely sinister, like something out of an old Dracula flick, the mug of steaming potion given to the victims to keep them docile. Even worse, I knew that lithium was somehow associated with psychotic episodes and depression. Did this nice doctor simply think I was just losing it?

I’d told him about the phone that wouldn’t stop ringing, about hearing my dead father saying my name. I had told him that I couldn’t make heads or tails of any paragraph I tried to read, and that recently, I had remained in the same position in the same chair from sun up to sundown, because I could not decide what to do. (I confided that I thought maybe I’d died, and just hadn’t figured that out yet.)  Depressed? I think any formerly healthy person who wakes up to find they can’t walk, talk, or think is entitled to a little depression. But I wasn’t sure whether taking lithium would firmly secure my insanity, or help me get through it.

With considerable relief, I can report that it helped me through the toughest time in my life. It is also inexpensive as I recall, and I didn’t find it at all addicting. I’m glad it’s also helped you.

Your point is well-taken that without the supporting research, there is reason to doubt claims. Fortunately for those who want more information about the use of lithium, there is plenty of science behind it. In my opinion it is not without risks and benefits, like other drugs, and should only be prescribed by a doctor. In future posts please watch for an interview with my naturopath, whom I have asked to share what he knows and point to further research. Here, for starters:

From an article in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 2002:

The special usefulness of lithium lies in long-term prevention of recurrences of mania and bipolar depression and in reducing risk of suicidal behavior. Lithium also may be beneficial in recurrent unipolar depression and is an effective adjunct for treatment-resistant depression.

Reference:
Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 2002, Vol. 10, No. 2 : Pages 59-75

Is Lithium Still Worth Using? An Update of Selected Recent Research
Ross J. Baldessarini, Leonardo Tondo, John Hennen and ,Adele C. Viguera
(doi: 10.1080/hrp.10.2.59.75)

And here are three articles from the British Journal of Psychiatry:

Lithium in Bipolar Mood Disorder

Monitoring Patients on Lithium

Use of antipsychotic drugs and lithium in mania


Learn more about Lyme disease treatments.
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More good reasons to go wheat-free

More good reasons to go wheat-free

Not only our physical health, but our mental health originates in our guts. People dealing with
chronic Lyme disease symptoms have good reason to guard both of these states. I’ve been exploring why it’s so important to eat a healthy diet, and that means paying as much attention to what we don’t eat as to what we do. I’ve flirted with a gluten-free diet for months now, but something tells me that it’s time to give it up for good. At least for a month, and see how it goes from there. Want to plunge in and go gluten free for a month with me? Read on and think it over.

First of all, have you ever have a ‘gut feeling’ about something? Most people have. In fact we rely on those feelings to inform us in crucial ways. Our guts can warn us to get out of harm’s way, keep us from getting involved with business deals of a questionable nature, and alert us when a distant loved one needs our help.

When I ignore those feelings, I always wind up thinking I “should have listened to my gut.” You too?

Lately, my gut has been saying to cut out wheat. I’ve cut back on it, but haven’t ever gone without it for long. So I’m going to start tomorrow, as I’ve already blown it this morning with lox and bagels. I feel bloated. This is a disappointment, because I’ve been telling myself that I love lox on an everything bagel with vegan cream cheese, red onion, tomato and capers. However, this morning’s breakfast is still sitting in my gut, calling attention to the fact that it just isn’t getting digested right.

What can we expect to happen when we cut out wheat and gluten from our daily diet? Well, for one thing I expect my mood to lift. It’s fall, and I am in the school business. Every fall I get excited about new schedules, new people, new notebooks, you name it. I love school. But with the newness comes anxiety. And with the anxiety comes a sort of spirit-clenching mental habit of worry. Did this get done? Did that get done? You know what I’m talking about. Some things are under our control, some aren’t. So anxiety is usually generated out of what I cannot control. This stuff makes me moody. So perhaps a gluten-free diet will help me accept the things (and people) that I cannot change.

Another change I can expect from eating no wheat is a loss of puffiness. I have to say, that is something to look forward to. Chronic Lyme symptoms have kept me aware of the importance of taking anti-inflammatory supplements, such as liquid cod liver oil, and turmeric capsules. But still I often feel a little puffy around the waist and in my arms and face. Exercise helps, but the puffiness returns when I eat bread.

The biggest benefit that I can expect is an improvement in my mental clarity. Now that’s really exciting, considering that I deal with college students. When it comes to the information age, you can never quite keep up with the generation below you! They’re intensely savvy with computers and everything that I need to be. So, maybe I’ll be better equipped to keep up. I’m definitely looking forward to that.

If this works as well as I think it may, I might just go another month. Anybody game to try it with me?


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Memory games

One Lyme symptom I really hate is the word-finding problem. You know how it is. You're talking to a friend and suddenly the word you're looking for seems to have been sucked into a black hole. It's not merely gone -- it's non-existent. Frustrating, huh? The good news is, you can improve your word recall by playing memory games. It doesn't take long, maybe 10 or 20 minutes a day. As with physical exercise, when you're consistent you see improvement.

Wordjuxtapoz.com, lumosity.com and mybraintrainer.com offer different types of memory games, ranging from easy to very difficult. With practice, you can improve your brain processing speed and other cognitive functions. Games are addictive!

You don't have to go online, of course. Take that puzzle-in-a-box down from the shelf, dump out the zillion little pieces on a card table and pull up a chair. Our family always has at least one puzzle going around the holidays. It's a comfortable way to pass a rainy day together. Improving your concentration and recall by focusing on detail is an active, healthy way to participate in your healing journey. And you won't be thinking about Lyme bugs.
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