I have always taken great pride in my teeth. My dad used to “motivate” us when we were kids by paying us every time we came home from the dentist with no cavities. It worked very well. Until about a month ago, I had never had a cavity. I enjoyed going to the dentist because everyone was amazed with my teeth. Then, a month ago, it happened. The dentist told me I had a cavity. He immediately started setting up to drill out the cavity and fill it in. Thank goodness for the dark glasses they give you because I cried the whole time. It didn’t hurt, but I was crushed. In the grand scheme of things, 42 years with no cavities is still an accomplishment. One cavity is no big deal, right?
But what happens when the bad part is in your brain? What happens when it can’t be drilled out and filled back in?
A year ago, I wrote about my concussion for Rowan’s Law Day and I included some information about Irlen® Syndrome. Irlen colour-based therapy uses coloured transparencies (or overlays) and coloured lenses (spectral filters) to filter out “offensive light waves, so the brain can accurately process visual information” (Irlen Institute, n.d.). The “magic” colour is different for everyone. Many populations benefit greatly from The Irlen Method, but especially those with: traumatic brain injury, concussion, post-concussion syndrome, whiplash, reading or learning issues, ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, and behavioural problems, to name a few (Irlen Institute, n.d.). My lenses are a specific shade of blue, and they have helped immensely with my frequent and severe headaches, sensitivity to light, fatigue and strain, capacity to handle screen time, and ability to concentrate for long periods of time. There are other things I do to cope as well. I often have the lights off or dimmed (especially fluorescent lights), I use dark mode on my phone and computer, I dim my computer screen, and I cannot have more than one auditory stimulus on at the same time. For more information, visit my website or www.irlen.com. It’s also Irlen® Syndrome Awareness Week (ISAW) and there is some great information on the Irlen® Canada Facebook page.
My brain has still not “recovered” though, unlike my tooth. And I can’t remove it or replace it, unfortunately. My lenses provide me some relief and help me to cope, but what if I hit my head again? I can’t afford to be complacent. It feels in many ways like I have a “cavity” in my brain that I can’t fill or repair. And that may be why I broke down in the dentist’s office. It brought on a sense of helplessness, of being broken.
So what can I tell you this year? What am I doing now? I can’t keep going like this, constantly fighting with my brain. I need my brain for the work that I do and I have two daughters, family, and friends that depend on me. The most important thing that I can share today, right now, is advocate for yourself. Any amount of progress I’ve had has been from advocating for my own health. Doing my own research and finding the right people. Most of these people have been “alternative” health practitioners. It’s frustrating that it is so hard to find them, but at least they exist. I’m learning more about my body and to listen to my body. I’m learning what works and what doesn’t work. I’m still wearing my Irlen lenses and now I’m seeing a naturopath and osteopath. The ultimate goal is to improve my brain health again so that if I do hit my head, I will be more resilient than I am now.
The second most important thing I can share is something I tell my daughters all the time: “Doctors can fix or replace almost anything in your body, except for your brain.” Wouldn’t it be great if I could follow the yellow brick road, see the Wizard of Oz, and get a new brain?
Take good care of the brain you have, you only get one.
Irlen Institute. (n.d.). The Irlen Method. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://irlen.com/the-irlen-method/.
Irlen Institute. (n.d.). Who We Help. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://irlen.com/who-we-help/.