A Story of Rosi
Rosi’s good start. Then, “a vegetable the rest of her life”?
I grew up in a family of physicians, researchers and academics. My career detoured in college with massive brain damage: amnesia, going blind, numb hands and feet, no memory of childhood, no math skills and meager language abilities. Mine was caused by exceptionally severe mercury poisoning (275 times what was then considered toxic, 1375 times the current toxic level), from prescription medicine for my skin. One doctor said I had come within two weeks of death. In 1970, doctors told my father I would be a vegetable the rest of my life. (Little did they know. It just goes to show that our current state of scientific knowledge is not infallible. Perhaps 50% of what we thought we knew, from the best research available, has been overturned in the last 10 years (Jon Lieff, M.D.) That’s not to give up on science, just recognize that it is difficult to know what we don’t know: “Science is not a magic wand that turns everything it touches to truth. …This concept is fundamental — whatever we know now is only our best approximation of the truth. We can never presume to have everything right.”.
In 1970, there were no CT scans, MRI’s, or brain injury rehab clinics, no one to direct my healing. As I experimented with alternatives and slowly recovered, I discovered neuroplasticity before doctors realized it was possible for adults to change their brains. Over the last 20 years, this subject has become popular, and well researched. To mention a few of my favorites:
1. The Brain That Changes Itself, Dr. Norman Doidge
2. Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change your Life, Dr. Michael Merzenich, PhD
3. Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, Rick Hansen, PhD
4. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD
18 years after the diagnosis, I obtained a B.A. in Speech Communication with a minor in Physics. Then I worked for over 20 years with people with disabilities, cognitive challenges, dementia, Alzheimer’s and neurological conditions, and people at the end of life.
A brilliant teacher said, “Rosi, you’re not brain-damaged!” He taught me to listen to my body, the importance of integrating movement and posture awareness with emotional authenticity. This was the explosive advance in my brain recovery I had been looking for. I started teaching kinesthetic body awareness and movement re-education in 2005, and obtained my massage license in 2009.
Rosi, the Research Nerd
I took a year-long, rigorous course of study in 2012, Functional Neurology for Bodyworkers. To learn how the brain and nervous system functioned, and how bodywork could improve that, opened another window for me into our capacity to heal. Then the research bug bit me hard, first with Parkinson’s in Feb. 2012. I was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2013 Massage Therapy Foundation Practitioner Case Report Contest for part of this research (2013 MTF Rosi’s abstract, scroll 2/3 down the page). I was again awarded Honorable Mention in the 2014 MTF contest–this time for a case report on severe chronic shoulder pain.
I became fascinated by the possibility that principles of neuroplasticity and mind-body integration could apply to other long-term conditions that need healing: ligament tears (severe sprains); chronic ankle, knee, leg, hip, back and shoulder pain; and central sensitization of pain. CS pain is as if the volume control for pain is stuck on high: old injury, post-surgical complications, fibromyalgia, Lyme’s and osteoarthritis. There is much new research on the brain and pain, and body-mind approaches (see Lorimer Moseley’s blog, Body in Mind).
Body, Brain, Compassion
I recognize that compassion and emotional intelligence–as well as the brain, body and mind working together–have been necessary for the neuroplastic benefits I have found. Rick Hansen’s Buddha’s Brain and neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg’s How God Changes Your Brain also echo that–what we do out of love and compassion for others changes our own brain circuits in a positive way. As Louise Hay taught me, I encourage self-love and self-compassion with breathwork for people to self-heal.
I’m here for you
During those years of recovery, I prayed that my suffering not be wasted. I was determined to reframe my experiences as a gift, and to transform them into service to others. I offer Integration Massage as part of that service. My own healing has encouraged me to research what might help your condition. I’m here for you.