Hope for Dystonia
BEFRIEND YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM
I went through hell and back, and I get it. Here's how I recovered and started helping others change their own lives.
A few years ago, I felt like my body had given up on me. I was bedridden for months, suffering from the excruciating pain of trigeminal neuralgia, and unable to walk, speak or chew because of intense dystonic spasms. My autonomic nervous system was severely imbalanced.
I did not give up. I dedicated myself to figuring out why my brain wasn't communicating properly with the rest of my body - by reading, speaking with countless fellow patients and experiencing all the dystonia recovery approaches I could find. I refused to be relegated to a life of pain, immobility and botox injections. I wanted my life back, and could not care less about masking symptoms.
The more I learned, the more I saw the same patterns in myself and others: because of physical or psychological trauma, anatomical anomalies, or habit, our brains learn to avoid certain parts of our nervous system, and overuse others. This is what causes dystonic spasms, many types neuralgia, unnatural postures, many cases of temporomandibular joint etc.
Recovering function involves unlearning these dysfunctional patterns and learning new, functional ones. There are, however, four prerequisites for this learning process to be effective: (1) the 'forgotten' nerves in hypotonic muscles must be stimulated directly, not just through movement; (2) the emotions and traumas linked to the nervous system dysfunction must be brought to the surface and addressed with love and self-compassion; (3) neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to learn and forge new connections, must be proactively encouraged; and (4) the habits or anatomical inputs (e.g. asymmetrical occlusion) that caused the brain to learn a dysfunctional pattern must be changed, or the new, functional patterns won't stick.
Every dystonia recovery program or treatment out there fails on one or more of these points. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) balancing therapy like the one I experienced at Dr. Youngjun Lee FCST Clinic in Korea will certainly help balance certain cranial nerves, but will do little to encourage neuroplasticity or address the emotional correlates of dystonia. Dancing is a great way to use new movements and encourage neuroplasticity, as Dr. Joaquin Farias teaches, but it does little to awaken directly, through sensory stimulation, the nerves that the brain is avoiding; nor does it address the anatomical anomalies that cause dystonia to arise in the first place (e.g. malocclusion).
This is why I decided to develop my own dystonia recovery method, combining what I had learned with insights from cutting-edge neurophysiology and the centuries-old meditative traditions of mindfulness and lovingkindness, and working with forward-thinking medical professionals when appropriate. Using this approach, I managed to systematically unlearn more and more of the patterns that were causing me pain and preventing me from living life to the fullest, and replacing them with new, functional ones that allow me to do what I do now: speaking for hours on end helping others re-organize their nervous systems, chewing anything from salads to nuts, and hiking for entire days - all of which would have been previously unthinkable.
Nothing brings me more joy than sharing what I have learned with others and seeing the immediate results they are able to achieve, and I consider myself blessed to be able to do this every day.