Understanding my post traumatic brain injury nightmares

BY: ALYSON ROGERS

I have two recurring nightmares. In the first one, I’m on a basketball court and I am 16-years-old again. I’m playing my old point guard position. I am scared and dribbling the ball cautiously because I am not supposed to be here but my coach put me in the game. I’ve never dreamed long enough to find out if I make it through.

My [nightmares] are the manifestations of the trauma in traumatic brain injury - Alyson Rogers

In my second dream, I’m on a rollercoaster at a theme park I visited often as a kid except I’m my 26-year-old self. I know it’s not safe for me to be there and I’m scared of how I will come out at the end of the ride. In this dream as well, I never dream long enough to find out.

It’s taken me years to realize my dreams are reoccurring. I understand now they are related to the part of brain injury I don’t like to talk about: how my brain injury impacts my mental and emotional health, how the act of being injured in itself is traumatic.

After a traumatic event, it’s common to have nightmares about the specific event or the circumstances surrounding the event. My dreams make sense, they are the manifestations of the trauma in traumatic brain injury.

My initial brain injury occurred during a basketball game. In the basketball dream, I’m the same age, playing the same position and in the same gym where I acquired my injury. I have the same coach who encouraged me to play despite having a brain injury.  I know I shouldn’t be on the court and I’m afraid someone is going to hit me with their body or the ball, but part of me is happy to be there.

Despite my brain injury, I sometimes test the waters with new and old activities such as riding a bike, zip-lining and jumping rock to rock while hiking. Sometimes I do things I know I shouldn’t, such as not wearing a helmet while biking or rollerblading. Despite my willingness to test the waters and tempt fate, I would never try to go on a rollercoaster again. This is a former love that would likely cause significant damage to my brain and potentially kill me. It makes sense I have nightmares about being on rollercoasters.

After living with brain injury for ten years, I am still learning new things. This week, I learned I have recurring nightmares from the traumatic event that was my TBI.


Alyson is 26-years-old and acquired her first brain injury ten years ago. She graduated from Ryerson University and is a youth worker at a homeless shelter. In her spare time, Alyson enjoys writing, rollerblading and reading. Follow her on Twitter @arnr33 or on The Mighty.

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A new way to enjoy green beans

BY: CHEF JANET CRAIG

Are you looking for a new way to enjoy your greens?

french green beans, freshly blanched

This lovely recipe can be prepared in advance and served as a cold side salad in the vinaigrette or warm in same sauce!

Blanche Beans

Any green vegetable such as asparagus, broccoli, and rapini can be blanched, here’s how:

  • Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water with ice cubes.
  • Depending on the size of the vegetable place, in boiling water one to four minutes. Drain and place immediately in ice water.

French beans covered in sauce, with vinaiger and lemon on the side

Herb Vinaigrette

This lovely dressing can be used as a dunking sauce for fresh bread too. I often double or triple it and leave in the fridge for any salad.

  • 1 tbsp grainy dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 tsp each of any fresh herbs – I use basil, dill, tarragon, parsley, mint, chives and cilantro
  • Zest and juice of one large lemon
  • 1 tbsp sherry or tarragon vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3-cup good olive oil

Whisk together shallot, grainy mustard, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, thyme, tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Gradually whisk in oil, I use a hand blender or small food processor to get it creamy.

Pour on top of vegetables and enjoy!


Chef Janet Craig recipes are simple, healthy, delicious and ABI friendly.  You can find out more about her HERE.

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Cook Up Some Happiness

BY: ALISON

Working with our hands to makes things reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, symptoms common to people living with brain injury.

Examples of rewarding and therapeutic activities include, but are not limited to: gardening, crafting, and my favourite, cooking. The entire process of preparing a meal – from the planning and anticipation to the execution, eating and sharing – promotes mindfulness, creativity, and happiness.

Cook up some happinrdd

I love that cooking can be as simple or as complex as you’d like and that there is always something new to learn.  There are many benefits to making your own meals, such as:

  • saving money and time
  • improving mental and physical health
  • avoiding unhealthy ingredients found in processed foods
  • challenging yourself to try new things, acquiring new skills and knowledge
  • raising confidence and sense of independence
  • spending quality time with family and friends when you cook and eat together

Food is a conversational topic that many people are passionate about. You might even consider starting your own blog to journal your culinary experiences, post favourite recipes, and share helpful tips and tricks.

Look for some inspiration!

CookingwithAlison.com is a food blog, written by an ABI survivor, that shares recipes from different cultures that vary in difficulty. You will also find information about different ways to save money on groceries.

Don’t forget this blog’s own recipe column by Chef Janet Craig, Blow Your Mind Recipes, which features easy and nutritious recipes for the ABI Community, featuring delicious recipes such as:

Gluten-free Almond Rice Bars

Egg Foo Yung

Fruit Breakfast Bars

Homemade Ketchup

Cream of Roasted Garlic & Onion Soup

Baked Cocoa Wings

Not convinced?

Psychologists explain that baking feels really good, especially when you share your baked goods with other people, because it is an outlet for creativity, self-expression and communication.

There is evidence that connects creative expression with overall well-being. Whether that expression is through painting, creating music or baking, it can be very effective at helping you cope with stress, because it requires all of your attention, involves all of your senses, and results in being present and mindful.

Psychologists liken the act of baking to art therapy in that it can be used on a type of therapy called behavioural activation. And simply put, we feel good about ourselves when we share our baked goods with others. 

Personally, I love the feeling when I find a new favourite recipe or when I’ve finally perfected a technique. It takes a few batches to get there. Happy cooking and baking!


‘Mind Yourself with Alison’ is a collection of self-help tips, research, and personal experiences dedicated to helping people thrive after brain injury (or other trauma). Check out Alison’s other BIST Blog articles Women and Brain Injury: What you need to know and How to be a Good Friend to a Survivor.

Warm up with delicious, gluten free almond rice bars

BY: CHEF JANET CRAIG

To say the least, it’s been a wet fall in Toronto. Here’s something to warm up to: a delicious, vegan, rice bar that’s low in sugar, gluten and dairy free – enjoy with a warm cup of tea or your favourite hot beverage!
almond rice bars

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup liquid coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1/2 cup cocoa nibs or dairy-free chocolate chips
  • 4 cups rice cereal
  • Slivered almonds as garnish

Directions:

  1. Line an 9 x 9 inch pan with parchment or wax paper
  2. Place rice cereal and dried fruit in large bowl
  3. Mix together almond butter, coconut oil, rice syrup and vanilla in another glass bowl and heat in a pot until you can stir everything easily together. Let cool for two to three minutes.
  4. Add mixture to cereal and stir well with spatula.
  5. Mix in the chocolate and pat into the pan. Garnish with almonds.
  6. Chill then cut into small bars and enjoy!

Chef Janet Craig’s recipes are simple, healthy, delicious and ABI friendly.

You can find out more about her HERE.

August 2018 Community Meeting Recap: Brain Health with Paul Hyman

BY: JULIA RENAUD

Brain Health

As a brain injury survivor, these two enchanting words instantly grab my attention and get me craving to learn more. Lucky for me, this was the topic of BIST’s August Community Meeting, and guest speaker, Paul Hyman, had my full attention. Paul is a wonderfully accomplished champion for the brain injury community and he comes with a very impressive resume (check out his website if you don’t believe me). Among all of his accomplishments, he is most well known for being the president and founder of Brain Fitness International, an organization that helps those living with a brain injury to maximize their potential and live better lives.

Picture of Paul Hyman
Paul Hyman, Creator and CEO of Brain Fitness International

Paul began the evening with a quick one liner to explain what ‘brain health’ means to him: movement-based, multi-sensory brain stimulation. Put simply, this means that through movement and engaging your senses you are actually helping your brain. To elaborate upon this concept, Paul used the example of a student who was taking a class and, to the professor’s dismay, knitted throughout every lecture rather than taking notes. To the professor’s astonishment, this student ended up far exceeding the professor’s expectations come the completion of the course. Because knitting utilizes both sides of the body, and therefore, both hemispheres of the brain, the student was able to better absorb the information. For this reason, a pipe cleaner (the craft supply) was handed out to each community meeting attendee to fiddle with, using both hands, throughout the presentation. I have been using this pipe cleaner trick for about a week now and, when I do, I feel like I’m better at absorbing and recalling information; so, if it tickles your fancy give it a try!

PipeCleaners
PHOTO VIA RAINBOW CREATIONS

The point that Paul chose to emphasize was that movement stimulates the brain. If you don’t believe me, lift your arms high in the air and shake your hands around. Just by moving, you are improving your capacity to learn, memorize, and recall information. If you’re currently struggling with brain injury and some sticky symptoms, this may be exhausting; but, as Paul says, movement is great for the brain – try it out and see how you feel.

Further to movement being a brain stimulant, a principle that has been known for many years now was also highlighted, ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together.’ This speaks to the neuroplasticity of the brain,  how the brain is capable of forming new connections.

Using both body and breath to stimulate the brain is a fantastic way to facilitate recovery and also leaves you feeling great. We went through several activities over the course of the evening, and below I will share some of my favourites. I’ve included some fun names for each exercise to hopefully make them easier to recall.

Activities

Paul used to be a professional trombone player, to which he credits learning the importance of the breath. This first exercise is intended to help you become accustomed to taking slower and deeper breaths. All you need is a tissue! I call this one, the tissue trap:

The Tissue Trap:

  • Take a tissue and hold it up against a wall.
  • Exhale slowly and deeply onto the tissue so that it stays stuck to the wall without you needing to hold it in place. Do this as slowly as possible.
  • For added fun, you can time yourself or challenge others to see who can hold it the longest. (New party trick, maybe?)
  • Vary this exercise by blowing puffs of air instead of a steady stream. If you don’t have a wall handy, use another surface like a book, or hold the tissue between your fingers and watch the tissue fly as you control it using your breath.

This next exercise utilizes both hemispheres of the brain and helps them to work together. It is commonly referred to as eye tracking or lazy 8’s. For a more detailed explanation, click here, otherwise follow the steps below:

Eye Tracking Lazy 8

Eye Tracking/Lazy 8’s:

  • Outstretch your arm in front of you so it’s perpendicular to the floor.
  • Make the thumbs up sign with the hand of your outstretched arm.
  • Move your arm to draw a big, imaginary infinity sign (an 8 on its side, see above). Continue to do this motion.
  • While keeping your head still and facing forward, move your eyes to keep your gaze on your thumb as it moves around.
  • Try this out with your other arm and/or with your fingers interlaced.
  • Vary the direction of your figure 8. For example, instead of going up the middle every time, try going down the middle.

If you prefer, you may like to draw your lazy 8 on a piece of paper or white board. This can be particularly handy if you get dizzy from drawing them in the air.

Brain Gym PACE

PACE is a Brain Gym mnemonic for Positive, Active, Clear, and Energetic, which together, form a technique for warming up both your brain and your body to maximize your capacity to learn. Now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe this practice using only words for a while, but lucky for me, and let’s be honest, you too, I stumbled on this handy video that captures PACE in a straightforward way.

pace brain Gympace brain Gym

The BIST community meeting attendees really enjoyed Paul’s presentation as he was an excellent speaker with a very engaging presentation. I’ve been told that he will likely return for more presentations in the future so stay tuned!

In the mean time, don’t forget to check out the BIST calendar or all types of events.

October Community Meeting: Join us for our Halloween Party on October 31st!

November Community Meeting: Essential Oils & & ABI with Rose-Ann Partridge – November 28th, 6 – 8 pm 

 

 

This World Egg Day: Cook up Egg Foo Yung

BY: CHEF JANET CRAIG

Egg Foo Yung is a basic omelet, high in protein and gluten free. You can add leftover chicken, shrimp or ham to it for an extra protein boost!

This recipe is great and the sauce works for any stir fry. For Egg Foo Yung, make the whole recipe and serve over the omelet as a sauce or gravy.

  • Four egg whites beaten, or whole eggs
  • Four tbsp water
  • One tsp sesame seed oil
  • One bunch green onions
  • Two cups bean sprouts
  • Two tsp fresh grated ginger
  • One chopped garlic clove
  • One large stalk of celery chopped
  • Sauce ingredients which you can just shake in a bottle & add 1/2 cup to the recipe.
Left: egg foo yung in pan on stove top next to pot of sauce, right top image: eggs in shell, middle right chop sticks on top of a wooden table, bottom right bean sprouts
EGG FOO YUNG PHOTO: JANET CRAIG

Omelet

1. Beat eggs with water, oil.
2 Spray a stir fry pan  with vegetable spray.
3. Sauté onions, celery, garlic & ginger together until translucent.
4. Add omelet with the beans sprouts and cook like a pancake until firm.

Sauce

  • One cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • One tbsp grated ginger
  • Two cloves of garlic, minced
  • Two tbsp Sherry, or white wine ( vermouth)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • One tbsp honey or Hoisin Sauce
  • Two tbsp cornstarch
  1. Make a ” slurry” of cornstarch and broth by slowly stirring in adding more fluid.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients in a jar which you can shake to keep cornstarch mixed.

 


Chef Janet Craig’s recipes are simple, healthy, delicious and ABI friendly. You can find out more about her HERE.

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2018 BIST Summer Picnic!

BY: JULIA RENAUD

On the evening of July 25th I had the pleasure of attending a BIST Community Meeting unlike any I’ve been to before, the BIST Summer Picnic! This meeting was very special for many reasons: it only comes around once a year, it’s held in a park (this year, Dufferin Grove Park), and it brings together many BIST staff, volunteers, members, and sponsors for a celebration of our strength as a community.

PHOTOS: ABBY SCHNURR MONGKONROB

The evening began with a fun team quiz with facts about Dufferin Grove Park. It seemed like many BIST members knew a lot about the park and its history, and it’s safe to say that I learned a lot! After the quiz, dinner was served: pizza, veggies, fruit, pop, and cake – you can’t go wrong with that!

After dinner, awards were handed out and sponsors recognized. Everyone deserves recognition for their hard work and kindness so below I will list the award recipients and sponsors who contribute so much to BIST and its programs.

I definitely cannot forget to mention that Spiderman was in attendance too! He spent a lot of the night swooping people off their feet; I suspect he was training for the BIST 5km Run, Walk and Roll! Don’t forget, it’s coming up on Sunday, September 30th and you can register by clicking, HERE.


Volunteer of the Year Winners:

Survivor/Thriver Category: Abby Schnurr Mongkonrob

Caregiver Category: Kevin Redmond O’Keefe

Ambassador Category: Tonya Flaming

Sponsors:

Platinum:  PIA Law 

Silver:  Singer Kwinter & Shekter Dychtenberg 


I also want to acknowledge all of the wonderful staff at BIST who bring all of these fantastic programs to fruition!

Once all of the awards had been handed out, we split into groups to do various activities: bocce, ping pong, basketball, and a reflexology walk. There was also a nice blanketed rest area under a tree for those who wanted to have some quiet time in the beautiful park.

I opted for the reflexology walk which was very relaxing and quite honestly a fantastic foot massage! Before taking part in this activity, I didn’t really know what a reflexology walk was, which is why I wanted to try it. The basis of reflexology is that there are areas on the bottoms of the feet that correspond to different parts of the body. Applying gentle pressure or manipulating these various points can help to relieve stress and pain. I must say, I did feel more relaxed after walking the footpath a few times.

Julia enjoying the reflexology path at Dufferin Grove
Julia enjoying the reflexology footpath in Dufferin Grove Park.             PHOTO via JULIA RENAUD

My favourite part of the evening was getting to meet all of the inspiring BIST members as well as the wonderful staff who keep the BIST programs running. I was so happy to see that there were even some people who had never attended a BIST event before, but they came out to see what it was all about.

I love community meetings for this very reason, they provide an excellent opportunity to connect with others within the brain injury community, and everyone is always welcome. Not only does BIST have programs for those who have sustained an injury, but they also have programs to support caregivers. If you would like to learn more about the many programs offered, check out BIST at www.bist.ca or, if you don’t live in the Toronto area, visit the Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA): http://obia.ca.

This year’s Summer Picnic was a huge success and a wonderful celebration of the strength of the BIST community. I’m excited to see the programs to come and to meet the members who are part of our community as well as those who will be joining in the future!


Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!   

Next Community Meeting: Wednesday, September 29th, 6-8p.m.

Deer Park Library, RM 204, 40 St. Clair Ave East

TOPIC: BIST’s Annual General Meeting – Everyone is welcome!