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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Magnificent Mind at Any Age ~ thoughts part 3

I'm learning so much from this book!

So the back bottom part of the brain is called the CEREBELLUM. I'd have to look at my medical records to see if my cerebellum was injured in addition to my frontal lobe, but I'm assuming it must have been because the The smile on my forehead extends around the back of my head.
The cerebellum is involved with motor coordination and also with thought coordination; meaning how quickly you can make cognitive and emotional adjustments, especially playing a sport (which is hard for me!)
Low cerebellar activity is also associated with poor handwriting (mine became so sloppy after my accident), problems maintaining an organized work area (ugh, it takes extra effort for me to keep work area cleaned, or my bedroom), being sensitive to light or noise (I sleep with an eye mask and also need to keep the TV volume down low because I hate loud noises).

GOOD NEWS: given that the cerebellum is the major coordination center in the brain, coordination exercises (sports, Yoga, music) keep this part of the brain tuned!
This is why exercise helps me so much, which is why I love it!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fish Oil is Brain Food

After my recent brain research, I've come to the conclusion that a healthy brain is fed two things:

1. Exercise
2. Fish Oil

John Medina, author of "Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School," calls exercise COGNITIVE CANDY. It is like an energy boost for the brain (that's how I think of it).

According to a study from Louisiana State University in September 2005, fish oil may help protect the brain from cognitive problems. Dr. Daniel Amen says that taking a fish oil supplement can increase healthy blood flow to your body and to your brain.

I'd write more, but I have to go now and take my daily fish oil supplement.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are

The above quote is by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

I fully believe that healthy eating makes my TBI less severe. Let me rephrase that: healthy eating makes the effects of my TBI less severe, simply because I have much more energy and my head rarely feels like a metal bar has shot through it (which it does, when I am not eating and sleeping well).

Take last night, for example. I attended a potluck dinner, full of about 100+ unfamiliar people, who brought lots of food. Bottom-line, I ate too much. I ate too many salty tortilla chips (salty is operative word since sodium is a no-no for me, especially at night), and too many cookies. More specifically, the very last thing I ate for the evening – I say “last thing” because I ate it after I was already painfully full of not-good-for-me-stuff – was one of those store-bought, thick sugar cookies covered with a thick coat of icing and candy sprinkles. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well last night, and to add to my misery, some guy decided to snow-blow the sidewalks directly outside my window at 4:30 this morning.

Three nights ago, on the other hand, I slept almost like sleeping beauty. I didn’t even wake up to use the bathroom once, and I felt great all day. The difference is that night I didn’t eat sugar or salt in the evening. In fact, I don’t think I ate anything bad at any point during the day. I felt healthy, energized, and for lack of a better word, I felt normal.

What did I eat? Well, for one, I found a recipe in a Martha Stewart magazine called Protein Packed Breakfast.

Check out the recipe and please try it:

1 large egg, plus 3 large egg whites
4 ounces soft silken tofu, drained
course salt and ground pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), chopped
1 scallion, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced

1. In a bowl, whisk together egg, egg whites, and tofu; season with salt and pepper
2. In a small nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high; add bell pepper and scallion whites. Cook until scallion has browned, 3 to 5 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add egg mixture to skillet; cook, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, just until set. 2 to 3 minutes. Top with bell-pepper mixture and scallion greens. Serves 2

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Magnificent Mind at Any Age ~ thoughts part 2

Have you ever wondered why the same stress factors affect people differently?

"Some people after a head injury, seem to really be affected, while others don’t” (this is a direct quote from "Magnificent Mind at Any Age" by Daniel Amen, M.D.)

The above statement got me thinking about my own battle with TBI. My injury was very severe, but the repercussions of my brain injury appear mild (most people, I’m told, don’t even know the severity of my injury by just looking at me).

Why do I handle my life with TBI so well?

According to Daniel Amen, M.D., a brain healthy life will increase your reserve or hardiness to deal with pending stresses or trouble. In his book, he lists ways to increase your brain reserve. As I read through this list, I quickly recognized that I did have a brain reserve before my accident which has helped me to recover.

Here is part of Dr. Amen’s list and how it has improved my own brain reserve:

1. Maintain positive social connections
I enjoy maintaining social connections. People generally like me, and I generally like people.
My home was and is full of positive energy. Some people hate their family. I love mine! When I was a child, my cousins were my best friends. Even now, I talk to my mom nearly every day. Love is in the Mosher household – enough said.

2. Engage in new learning
Formal education was very important to me pre-accident. Admittedly, I spent too much time studying in high school and college, this combined with a strong work ethic, always seemed to keep me engaged in something having to do with learning.

3. Take a daily vitamin
Isn’t every mom like mine, and make their kids eat a multi-vitamin before eating non-sugar cereal in the morning? (I’m not talking about the cartoon-character, colored, sugary flavored ones either! Ours were not flavored, not chewable, and straight from the health food store).

4. Avoid too much television (our TV broke when I was a child and my parents refused to fix it. I spent most of my youth without TV).

5. Express gratitude
All members of the LDS church are taught about gratitude from a very early age.
“It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.”~ Naomi Williams

6. Exercise regularly
I can’t remember a time when members of my family were not “gym addicts” (especially my dad).

7. Maintain a healthy diet
I like vegetables, quinoa, and olive oil

Monday, January 19, 2009

Magnificent Mind at Any Age

I just started reading the most informative book! Magnificent Mind at Any Age by Daniel G. Amen, M.D.

It teaches the secrets of a balanced brain from a physician who has studied BRAIN INJURIES, ADHD, Depression etc. He claims that it's impossible to live a healthy life without a healthy brain.

I decided I'm going to blog about the fascinating facts that I learn.

The human brain is NOT firm, fixed, and rubbery, or how it looks once it is fixed in formaldehyde on the pathologist's table.
Your brain is really comprised of 80% water, and is the consistency of soft butter or custard. Neurosurgeon Katrina Firlik describes the brain "like tofu, the soft kind, which when caught in suction during surgery slurps into the tube."

The soft, tofulike brain is housed in a really hard skull that has many ridges. These ridges damage the brain during trauma.

Now I have a mental picture of my poor, injured brain after my car accident. My parents once told me that my brain was so swollen from the damage that there were no more ridges for a while . . . ugh.

Stay tuned for more . . .

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

My sleep study is not for two more weeks, but I'm researching everything I can to better understand possible outcomes for my sleep issue. Today I Googled "Sleep Disorders and Brain Injury." I learned some interesting facts.
A recent study, found that a brain injury may increase your likelihood of developing circadian rhythm sleep disorder (CRSD), which is something I'd never heard of--but then again I'd never heard of a brain injury until I had one myself.
CRSD is more than insomnia, it's a disorder of the sleep cycle, affecting the timing of your sleep. The timing of your sleep is governed by certain hormones which make you sleepy or alert. Maybe my body no longer releases these hormones? I'm not trying to self-diagnose, since this is what the sleep study is for (I'm so thankful that my doctor is smart enough to send me for a study, rather than just saying, "here's some Ambien, sweet dreams"). I have no problem feeling tired at night, just a problem getting and staying asleep. The human brain is extremely complex, and it affects everything. As a result, my brain injury is somehow related to every part of my lifestyle--even my sleep.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Q: What's worse than Chronic Insomnia?

A: Nothing

Experts and other survivors say that a sleep disorder (Chronic Insomnia) comes with the TBI territory. For me, this is the most miserable part of the injury. It's like human torture. I've made all recommended lifestyle changes to improve my sleep:
  1. Try to go to bed at the same time every night
  2. No liquids before bed to decrease the urge to use the toilet in the middle of th night (but I live in Utah, which is practically the dessert. I'm so thirsty at night so I have to drink water)
  3. Sleep with an eye mask and earplugs
This has made a huge difference. But it's not enough. Before the accident, I could sleep through my alarm. After the accident, I wake up if a cat walks outside my bedroom window. Before I began to implement the suggested lifestyle changes, I would sleep only 4-5 hours during the night. No joke! Now I sleep 6-7 hours at one time. At the Brain Injury Association of Utah Conference in 2006, Mark Ashley (see told me I should be sleeping 7-9 hours per night.

I can't remember the last time I've slept even 8 hours straight during the night.

Bottom line, I'm not going to stand for this sleep disorder any longer! I just made an appointment for a Split Night Sleep Study, two weeks from now, at Intermountain Medical Sleep Center in Salt Lake City. Hopefully February 2, 2009 will be the day that I can get my sleep fix! Give me 8 hours straight of rest, it's all I want (Imagine me shouting these words because I didn't sleep well last night--even though I had over 9 hours in bed--I still went to the gym this morning, and now I have to take a nap to recover).

I hate feeling like I must plan my life around a sleep schedule.

On another note, studies of people with TBI found that between 37% and 98% of them said they had some kind of fatigue. As many as 70% complained of mental fatigue. It doesn't matter how severe the TBI is. Fatigue is a very common problem among all people with TBI.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My thoughts on balance

Today I went skiing in Park City, Utah and it felt great! The slopes seemed empty (maybe people are cutting back on ski trips due to the economy?). I gracefully wiped out only three times, which I don't think is too bad considering this was my first time skiing this season.

Skiing is great exercise for my body and for my mind because it requires me to multitask. I'm balancing on skis, paying attention to where I'm going, making sure no other skier is running into me or vice versa, on top of remembering to pole plant and lean forward in my skis. Sounds like common sense, and it should be considering that this is my third season (in addition to the ski lessons I took at BYU, which almost doesn't count because it was so long ago and it was pre-injury), but multitasking is challenging for a brain injury survivor.

Anyway, while skiing, I started thinking about balance, and how important it is for me, as a TBI Survivor, to keep everything in balance. I can't do too much of one thing because I become overwhelmed (aka cognitively exhausted). For the first ten years after my accident I would NEVER have been able to ski comfortably. Okay, admittedly once I went skiing in MN but it was not comfortable nor was it fun, and that was also when I was still learning how to adjust my lifestyle to my injury so I was out of balance: I worked full-time, went to graduate school at night, exercised at the gym, and constantly took little short cat naps in ridiculous places because I was utterly exhausted (the toilet, the staircase, the library, on the floor of an empty office at work to name a few).

But now that I've reduced my work load, quit graduate school, and I go to bed early, my entire life runs smoothly. My head doesn't hurt nearly as much, I almost never have vestibular problems and I love skiing! I credit 75% of this to my own efforts to keep myself balanced. Time and luck share the other 25% as my body and my brain have healed over the last 14 years. That statistic may be inaccurate but it sounded good to say 75% my own efforts. :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I just re-designed my website!!!!

Check it out at and let me know what you think (please)!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Friday at the gym . . .

I saw a poster hanging on the wall at 24 Hour Fitness, with a photo of a woman swimming, that said:
joan used exercise to recover from brain surgery

I imagined another poster, with my photo, that said:

jennifer used exercise to recover from a brain injury

So I went to and published my OWN story.

PLEASE read it (and you can comment on my story at the same website):
(see the first story under "recovery" in the middle of page)

Friday, January 2, 2009

My memoir is practically complete!

New Year's Day I stayed in my pajamas all day, and did not leave the house (yeah, that's right, and I'm not at all ashamed to admit it)!

BUT I FINISHED MY BOOK! Of course I do have a few more things to do:
  1. Dr. Russo will review it for clarity
  2. Deirdre will do the same
  3. I approve the front and back cover design
  4. Lulu calculates cost
  5. Send it to the press and voila YOU CAN BUY IT ONLINE OR FROM ME IN PERSON
Please note: if you'd like to be contacted when my book becomes available for purchase, please email and ask to be added to my distribution list