Family Illnesses that Changed Me

Alzheimer’s Disease

My mother had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. By the time that I was a junior in college, she no longer knew who I was. The Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis explained a lot. It helped me to understand why my mother showed no affect (no facial expressions) when I told her about my day.

This blank look began when I was in late junior high school. She went from a fully engaged parent to one who showed no interest whatsoever. And, at times, she’d fly off into rages that seemed to be connected to nothing. Her changed personality was confusing to a young teenager.

Migraine Headaches

I inherited the propensity to suffer from Migraines from my mother. I got my first migraine after having my wisdom teeth pulled (age 16). Apparently, I was allergic to the painkiller that I was given. Then almost 2 years later during my first year of college, I began having migraines regularly.

They were getting in the way of my life. They were debilitating.

I saw a doctor in the student health center. At that time, the primary treatment for migraines was to administer narcotics. Hum. Giving a prescription for narcotics on a “take as you need them” basis for a college student? That didn’t seem like a good idea.

Instead, my doctor sent me to Biofeedback. I learned to treat my migraines with my mind. Of course, for this to work, it’s best to “meditate” at the earliest signs of the migraine coming on. So I learned the early signs for me and took action as soon as possible to treat the migraine before it took hold.

I continue to use those techniques to treat my migraines.

Brain Health

I was fascinated that I could use my mind to stave off a debilitating migraine. I thought, “What else can I do with my mind?” That started me on a lifetime journey of studying the mind, the brain, meditation, and health.

Obviously, we can’t change all things having to do with brain health. I have a propensity to have migraine headaches. I can avoid some things that trigger migraines, such as foods that my brain doesn’t like. I can’t always avoid getting the light show that indicates that I’m about to get a migraine. But I can immediately use the techniques I learned in Biofeedback to avoid the headache itself.

I might not be able to avoid getting Alzheimer’s disease. I may or may not have a propensity to develop the disease. But I can protect my brain by eating right and exercising.

Mental Health Hygiene

I can daily work on neuroplasticity to better my chances of not having the effects of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Studies have shown that people can have Alzheimer’s disease (proved via autopsies) without having cognitive impairment. These people who avoided to effects of the disease remained productive. They served their community. They continually strived to learn and be better human beings. They practiced good mental health hygiene (brain health). They did activities that produced neuroplasticity.

Brain Health Activities

I choose to hedge my bets against dementia.

  • I study and research new things.
  • I’m constantly learning.
  • I play duplicate, bridge.
  • I solve puzzles.
  • I create puzzles for others.
I'm a professionally trained college-level English teacher. I love the outdoors: biking, hiking. I read a great deal.