Neurotherapy and Narcolepsy
As a narcoleptic, deciding to stay med-free, meant I would have to get creative about coming up with ways to reduce my symptoms. Choosing to listen to anyone’s recommendations, regardless of how much or little they knew about narcolepsy paid off epically.
A friend, who had no idea what my diagnosis was, told me about her successful experience with neurotherapy for another condition. I found out the neurotherapist my friend worked with was highly successful in helping narcoleptics. I decided to pursue working with her, instead of taking my chances with someone who didn’t have a proven track record.
Making the big trip
But this would require leaving my family for 4-6 weeks, and traveling 3000 miles away. My hubby was desperate to have me better. We spent almost a decade married, without me having narcolepsy, and he missed the energized me. So we started making plans.
In October of 2017, I tearfully hugged my family goodbye, hopped on a plane, and flew to Texas. Amazingly, the town I was going to, I had lived in for 2 years, so I was able to stay with dear friends. I didn’t know what to expect, but being in my old stomping grounds made it easier.
I had neurotherapy every day for the next 4 weeks. I got up every morning and headed to the neurotherapist’s house, where she had an office set up.
What is neurotherapy?
Neurotherapy is a fascinating process where the therapist is actually retraining your brain waves. I would sit down, and the therapist would apply EEG sensors to my scalp using EEG paste. The brain’s electrical patterns are channeled through a specialized amplifier, then through a computer program, and finally to a tv monitor. This allowed both of us to watch my brain waves in real-time. I got good at reading the monitor. I could see when I moved, or talked, and my stress levels.
Neuroptherapy and narcolepsy
Brain waves are obviously very complicated, but understanding the process for helping with narcolepsy can be explained pretty simply.
Here is an explanation, in my words, based on my experience:
Brain waves are slow when you are sleeping or near sleep and medium when you are talking or engaged in conversation. Faster brain waves occur while multitasking and critical thinking. Our brain waves can get to a place where they are so fast, we start to have problems. Headaches, stress, some symptoms of ADD and autism, all correlate with fast brain waves. Cataplexy also occurs when our brain waves are fast. Lack of sleep is one thing that causes our brain waves to spike. A narcoleptic spends their days bouncing back and forth between really slow brain waves, sleeping or near sleep, and really fast brain waves, cataplexy, and lack of sleep. Neurotherapy trains our brains to stop going so extreme.
How does neurotherapy work?
Neurotherapy works by reinforcing a reflex that kept us alive in our mother’s womb. When we are in our mother’s womb, if we were to roll onto our own umbilical cord, we would kill ourselves. From conception, we are hardwired to respond to the sound of blood pumping through our umbilical cord. Gush, gush, gush.
Or more importantly, we are hardwired to respond when we stop hearing that rhythmic sound. As soon as a baby rolls onto the cord and stops the flow of blood enough to stop the sound, that part of us that is hardwired kicks into gear. This causes the brain to scramble looking for a solution. We react by moving until we roll off the cord, and hear the gush, gush, gush again. Like this, neurotherapy helps to retrain our brain to seek change when a sound stops.
Retraining my brain
So there I would sit, with my brain hooked up, to allow us to read my brain waves. On a screen in front of me was a video game looking program, that I absently would watch or even ignore. But what I heard was a slow, melodic, beep, beep, beep. The therapist would set her program up to tell my brain waves where they “needed to be,” for optimal brain function.
As long as my brain was within that range, the beep would continue. As soon as my brain dipped too slow or too fast, the beeping would stop, and my brain would scramble until the beeping started again. The beep was its reward.
Slowly, as weeks passed, my brain was rewarded enough, that it retrained itself to act less narcoleptic. It stopped having drastic lows and highs. As my brain responded to the training, I began making plans to return home to my family. I wasn’t 100% symptom-free but I was noticeably better. I couldn’t wait to get home to my family, a lot more like the girl I had been before I got narcolepsy. The girl my family remembered.
What is the hardest part of coping with narcolepsy?