Prodding the Brain for Closure and Solutions

I have severe brain damage from electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). My latest neuro-testing revealed no short-term memory, and cognitive dysfunction that resembles the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Did I mention I’m only 31?

Learning how the brain works has been a major part of my healing process – it helps me understand what happened to me, and helps me grapple with this horrendous circumstance I’ve found myself in.

brain puzzle Stuart Miles

It also fuels my hope. Brain science may seem like an odd place to look for inspiration,  but trust me-its loaded. An example of this comes from a favorite of quote of mine by John Ratey, author of a Users Guide to the Brain, who states: there are more ways to connect the neurons in the brain, than there are stars in the universe. For me, this statement screams hope by illuminating the endless adaptability and potential of the brain.

neurons by dream designs stars by iporstocks

Learning about the brain validates my experiences and will hopefully guide me to the things I so desperately want– the smoking gun: ECT damaged my brain and here’s how.

smoking gun by Naypong

Learning about the brain may lead to a way out of disability: Abilities and independence restored, and way to help others in the same situation.

ladder stuart miles

My search for answers has made brain research the primary focus of my life–and have a mountain of books to prove it. When I’m not sifting through books or websites, I’m acting as my own guinea pig-testing different rehab approaches or coming up with my own. I also enrolled in college in hopes of earning a degree that would enable me to research and develop therapies for brain damage. Unfortunately, after two years of school, non stop burn-out (brain damage + college = 24/7-10 hour days) and a closer look at my degree’s price tag ($24,000 for a bachelors), it’s become clear that college isn’t going help me realize my goals. Six credits a semester is killing me, and I would need 14 years of this just to get a bachelors. 14 years!! The very thought of spending that amount of time going full tilt makes go fetal–all for a degree increasingly referred to as ” the new high school diploma.” Um, no thanks.

Although I’m saying bon voyage to college, I haven’t given up on my education or my goal of fixing my broken head. Last semester I found the perfect alternative to college; Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that will help me realize both goals.

Who’s knocking? Well hello, opportunity, you sexy thing! Come on in!

MOOCs offer classes from the top universities, made available to anyone with an internet connection, free of charge. I started my first course on neurobiology this week and it’s amaaaaazing! And gross! Cadavers – eww 😉 Anyways, the reason I’m telling you about all this is:

  •  To make ECT survivors aware of affordable, brain-damage friendly educational environments and opportunities
  • Many of these courses offer certifications that may lead to employment opportunities- an ideal option for someone who is unable to get a traditional education
  • Clue in survivors who want to understand what they went through from the scientific perspective
  • Learning new things can be beneficial to recovery
  • having goals to focus on while battling with depression, brain damage, drug withdraw etc., can be a good distraction while you work through (insert your situation here)

The course started on February 23, and there are still open slots if you want to join. You can:

  • audit the course (free). This means doing what you want with the material
  • Take part in all the related course work and receive a grade (free)
  • Do everything and pay 60$ to join the Signature Track (a process that links coursework to identity) and receive an electronic certificate upon successful completion that can be displayed on your LinkedIn profile

There are opportunities for shock survivors out there-and if they don’t exist, we’ll just have to make them 😉

Images from, courtesy of the following artists:

puzzle and ladder: stuart miles,

neurons: dream designs

stars: iporstocks

smoking gun: naypong


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