Mindfulness, Movement, and Making Space with Dr. Mallory Fox

Mallory Fox, a doctor and business owner, received her TBI following a motor vehicle incident in 2018. She walked away from the scene feeling fine, but soon developed a headache that lasted over 10 months. While on vacation in San Diego, she took the time to actively rest, and discovered that her headache went away. Fox started using mindfulness to ease her symptoms, taking the time to get back in touch with herself whenever she felt her symptoms arising. Since then, she created a messaging platform to encourage mindfulness in everyday life. https://www.befoxyfit.com

 

  • Points of Interest 
    • (2:27) Owns Foxy Fit, a business designed to help busy people take care of themselves through mindful movement. Educational background as a doctor of health science. Experienced TBI in 2018.
    • (3:09) Free texting service delivering to help incorporate mindfulness into their days to reduce stress and increase resilience.
    • (4:08) A few undiagnosed concussions from youth sports; hit bottom of the pool as a competitive swimmer, then got the “go-ahead” to keep practicing.
    • (5:04) August 2018: motor vehicle accident. Walked away from the scene, but 6 hours later got a headache that lasted over 10 months.
    • (6:30) Had to take 4 months off from her business, returned to do work part-time, work seems very different now.
    • (8:21) Despite being a movement specialist and helping people figure out how to recover, she couldn’t do the same for herself.
    • (8:49) “I teach yoga, but I can’t do a Down Dog anymore because of the dizziness and tremors and everything that comes on me inverting”.
    • (9:21) Symptoms continued to worsen, reached a breaking point after 4 months from forcing herself to get better. Experienced lots of denial and bargaining
    • (10:08) Doctors said “here’s a usual timeframe” so when she failed to meet those expectations, it was really hard.
    • (10:31) Eye had moved in the accident, so the brain shut off the other eye to try and help (movement survival). Legally blind in the left eye, restricted from driving.
    • (10:56) Went to vision therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychotherapy, and treatment for EMDR.
    • (11:42) “I made a promise to myself… that I would do whatever I had to do to embrace the person that I was becoming”. No longer basing identity off of accomplishments.
    • (13:17) Master’s Program was in human movement, studied TBI, concussion, sports related injuries, and wrote a paper about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
    • (14:44) Was familiar with concussions, so following the accident she gave herself a concussion test and expected to just take it easy for a couple weeks.
    • (16:04) If she was a professional who studied these things and she still didn’t fully understand it, how could she expect others to?
    • (18:06) Tried everything: acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, massage, etc. 
    • (18:43) “What made the difference for me was when I started allowing myself to rest, and it’s not like, lie down in a dark room”.
    • (20:42) While on trip to San Diego, husband got sick, and she got to fully rest up without having to worry about work or anything, and it was the first time she didn’t have a headache in 10 months.
    • (22:31) There’s a difference between sleep and active rest.
    • (25:09) Created a life where everyone depended on her, and everyone expected her to deliver at full performance right away.
    • (26:38) What sucks about brain injury is that you have all these tools, but you’re the one implementing them each day. You’re the one communicating your own needs, and Fox struggled with that.
    • (27:46) Getting rest taught Fox that there were indicators for when something was coming.
    • (30:16) Vision issues were so bad that it hindered her very active lifestyle. Needed to transform how she thought of movement.
    • (30:56) Needed something she could do anytime, anywhere. First turned to meditation, mindfulness work, and breath work.
    • (31:18) Used to hate meditation, always found her mind wandering.
    • (32:01) Brain makes tens of thousands of decisions a day, we can’t just shut it off.
    • (32:45) Encourages doing mindfulness minutes instead of 20-60 minute intervals
    • (34:02) Would start taking the time to get back in touch with the present moment. This has helped with anxiety, PTSD, and depression.
    • (35:04) When she got overwhelmed, brain symptoms would come out (jaw tremor, vision problems, unsteadiness), and the act of coming out of the brain and into the present became a valuable tool.
    • (35:58) Wanted to make mindfulness accessible. Healthcare is EXPENSIVE in the U.S.
    • (36:33) Realized that everyone has a phone, so a text service could help people find peace. It’s very simple messages.
    • (36:51) Examples of different messages (look at five things around you)
    • (37:16) In the U.S. and Canada, sign up by texting “mindful” to 480-531-9810.

Listen to the full episode on iTunes  Or click HERE

Episode brought to you by Integrated Brain Centers … schedule your FREE consultation online at www.integratedbraincenters.com

Warrior Mom: The Power of Persistence with JJ Virgin

Celebrity nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin’s life changed when her 16-year-old son Grant got hit by a car. Suffering a coma and severe injuries, the doctors believed Grant wouldn’t survive, but JJ refused to give up hope. She vowed to help him improve, and against all odds, Grant not only survived, but began to recover. JJ shares her insight on their journey towards improving her son’s health, and what life is like now.

Find her book, Warrior Mom, on Amazon HERE.

  • Points of interest: 
    • (2:32) Celebrity nutrition and fitness expert got a call that her 16 year old son Grant was a victim of a hit-and-run. Severe injuries and low survival rate led the doctors to encourage the family to let Grant die, but JJ refused. Memoir “Warrior Mom” talks about road to recovery.
    • (4:40) Grant was in a deep coma. He had diffused axonal injuries (bleeding on the brain), and a torn aorta. The surgery needed to fix the torn aorta and prevent a rupture required blood thinners, otherwise his brain would bleed out. He wouldn’t survive an airlift, and the hospital was not fit for the operation.
    • (5:20) Despite the doctors basically saying “he’ll die, so let him”, they decided to hold onto the fraction of hope. Survived airlift and surgery.
    • (6:00) Neurosurgeons said they weren’t sure if Grant would ever wake up. Made the decision to do whatever was in her power to help Grant get to 110% (despite the 13 fractures, both legs in casts, and the coma)
    • (8:12) In one hospital for two and a half months, then in a rehab hospital for another two months. Had to start from square one and reteach Grant everything: his name, brushing teeth, etc. They were supposed to be at the rehab hospital for 8 months, but JJ thought the familiarity of home would be beneficial. 
    • (11:40) Brain was unstable, suicidal thoughts weren’t survivor’s guilt, but depression and frustration. Suicidal ideation goes up 10 times after a TBI, 30% are more likely to go through with it. 
    • (16:09) Grant was supposed to be a junior in high school, but he couldn’t fit in anywhere. PE was to physically demanding and he had injuries, and the special education classes were too overstimulating.
    • (16:41) What saved Grant’s life was a speech therapist, Marcy Etre, and a place called Kinetics that worked on improving his physicality and motor skills.
    • (17:21) Reads and memorizes books, taught himself hydroponics, but would not be able to handle school because of time restraints. Had to make their own therapy, since there’s not really a place for Grant’s situation. JJ’s husband is incredibly patient.
    • (18:40) Sent him to Utah to a group that specializes in cases like this. Grant could live on his own, the biggest issue would be loneliness. 
    • (19:09) Has memory back, has awareness back, but missed a lot of key socialization that was key and critical, and didn’t graduate high school.
    • (21:07) You can find everything from ketogenic diets to stem cells to exosomes to peptides to neurofeedback MDR to cryo to hyperbaric.
    • (21:37) “That person that you love is still in there, and you can’t let that go.” You’re surrounded by people who are patient and supportive, but who won’t let you off the hook. It’s not always pleasant, but absolutely necessary.
    • (24:42) Loss of a filter, any thoughts or emotions are coming out raw. One moment could be hysterical laughter, the next could be seething hatred. When in the hospital, they gave him drug cocktails to calm him down. He would be strapped down with a guard outside his door because he could become incredibly violent.
    • (26:01) You need to look for the triggers in order to handle the situation before it arises. Different treatments would get him ramped up again, and JJ took that as a sign that his brain was healing. 
    • (26:25) Part of it is also getting clear on what the new normal is.
    • (27:34) Frustrated with the lack of resources available. Dr. Michael Lewis (When Brains Collide) and Dr. Dan Engel (The Concussion Repair Manual) were cited as helpful resources.
    • (28:13) “If you’re a caretaker, make sure you’re taking care of yourself because this is a challenging thing.” Gotta keep seeing your loved one.

Listen to the full podcast HERE or on iTunes

This podcast is brought to you by Integrated Brain Centers … fill out this google form for a free 15 minute consult with Drs. Steadman or Maynard.

Healthy Yoga Hips | Accessible Yoga

Namaste, my beautiful friends!

 

Today I am sharing with you a short video on keeping your hips (and low back) safe and healthy in yoga. In this video, I specifically cover Tree Pose and Warrior I Pose, as these are the two poses I see a lot of problems with students doing them incorrectly.

 

Over time, doing these poses improperly can lead hip pain and injury … and nobody wants that!

 

Additionally I share with you why it’s important to sit on a blanket or bolster in Easy Cross-Legged Pose … especially for an extended period of time (such as during meditation).

 

Even the most experienced yogis can make these mistakes, and it takes work to relearn how to do them properly, but it’s critical to your hip health!!

 

As a yoga teacher, I am most concerned about keeping my students safe, and ensuring that they are doing poses properly, rather than how bendy they can make themselves.

 

If you’re curious about my accessible yoga classes, I encourage you to watch my “20 Minute Yoga Practice” video HERE. 

 

Please consider supporting my accessible yoga program for just $10 a month on Patreon … to help keep this affordable and financially accessible to the TBI community
www.patreon.com/amyzellmer

 

Even if you personally aren’t interested in yoga, you can help others continue to learn from me at an accessible price-point!

 

Additionally, you can learn more about how yoga helped me in my recovery from a traumatic brain injury HERE.

 

Turning Injury into Advocacy | Podcast

by Ian Hebeisen

Editor-in-chief of the Brain Health Magazine, Amy Zellmer, is no stranger to podcasts she reached recently her 200th episode of her podcast “Faces of TBI”.

Earlier in March, she appeared on an episode of the Making Headway Podcast, hosted by Mariah Morgan and Eryn Martin to talk about her brain injury experience and the path it led her on towards recovery and advocacy.

Amy received her TBI from a fall when she slipped on black ice on her driveway. She immediately knew something was wrong due to her throbbing head and blurry vision. She began suffering from vision problems like nystagmus and focusing issues, as well as other ailments including memory issues and fatigue. She started visiting doctors, neurologists, and chiropractors, each one diagnosing different problems, but none offering long-term solutions.

Chiropractic care helped realign her sternum and alleviated physical pain, and yoga improved her balance. But it wasn’t until two and a half years after her initial incident that she discovered functional neurology and began making steps towards recovery.

During this time, Amy wrote an article describing her struggles with her TBI, specifically the troubles she had getting her friends to understand what she was going through. “Tons of friends drifted away… it really, really hurt. They had been there for me when I had a cold, for these inconsequential sicknesses”. This article, featured on the Huffington Post, acted as a springboard for advocacy for Zellmer.

Advocacy

Since then, Amy got involved with several brain injury organizations and started attending Brain Injury Awareness Day. She also created the Brain Health Magazine, the Faces of TBI Podcast, and the Concussions Discussions video series. “Everybody has a different way of comprehending after brain injuries… so I really tried to target the different ways of inputting information.”

These various platforms are to help raise awareness about the TBI community. Mariah Morgan reflected during the interview that TBIs can come across as invisible. Even functional neurology seems rather unknown compared to normal neurology, which tends to focus on neurological diseases rather than brain injuries. 

While Zellmer does encourage others to serve as an advocate for TBIs, she urges people to stay aware of their own limitations. “You know your body best,” says Zellmer, and advises against comparing recovery times to other people. “Some people might take a lot longer to get there… no two injuries are the same, no two recoveries are the same.”

A good place to start getting involved as an advocate is with nonprofits, or the Brain Injury Association of America. Most nonprofits are run by a handful of people, so be patient when reaching out. Don’t forget to take your time: raising awareness can start with something as simple as explaining your story to a listening ear.

Listen to “Making Headway” on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. To learn more, visit www.makingheadwaypodcast.com. 

Injury to Advocacy — Podcast highlights

  • (1:20) Initial fall, hit head, 
  • (5:08) Torn muscles, shifted skeletal system, almost broke clavicle
  • (6:45) Chiropractor turned her towards neurologist, told them to wait it out
  • (7:30) Vision blurry, not thinking straight
  • (8:25) Told it was depression, concussion, but not brain injury, told eyes were fine, not given any solutions besides Ritalin
  • (9:07) Began doing yoga poses, started feeling better (improving balance and mobility)
  • (10:00) Discovered functional neurology 2.5 years after initial incident
  • (11:23) Cleared eye stuff up (computer tab analogy: too many tabs open, none will work well)
  • (11:45) Body was constantly trying to not fall over, once that was cleared up other issues began improving (memory, etc.)
  • (12:50) Attentiveness to the body dramatically increases
  • (15:00) People are not finding the answers they need; functional neurology isn’t as well-known as it should be
  • (15:25) The functional neurologist found Amy, started getting results
  • (17:05) Now doctors rely on imaging, which only shows brain bleeding and sheering, they’ve stopped doing the more “bedside” techniques that the func-neuros use
  • (17:56) More tech does not equate to time gained, but skill lost. More tech, less intuition
  • (19:29) YOU KNOW YOUR BODY BEST, don’t let people gaslight or negate your intuition
  • (20:55) Group of friends who helped when Amy had a cold wasn’t taking care of her with a brain injury, Amy wrote an “f-you” post, submitted it to the Huffington Post and heard back within 2 hours.
  • (22:20) Article got published during photography conference, got applause when she mentioned it, later found her phone blown up with messages
  • (24:26) Created “Amy’s TBI Tribe” Facebook group where people can ask questions and such
  • (26:10) Every 9 seconds, someone has a brain injury (someone in the U.S.?)
  • (26:30) HuffPost served as sort of a first wave for func-neuro awareness and brain injury awareness
  • (28:26) Published 2 books: first consisted of about 14-15 HuffPost articles, second was about functional neurology and the next 14-15 HuffPost articles
  • (31:00) Started podcasting in 2016, originally one of the first podcasts about brain injuries, now has 200 episodes with people asking to be featured.
  • (32:55) Podcast=reminder you aren’t alone, TBIs can seem invisible and this raises awareness and solidarity
  • (34:20) Did a GoFundMe to get money to fly out for Brain Injury Awareness Day, found out each state has a chapter, Amy got involved with the Minnesota Branch (meet with legislators, meet on Tuesdays, pushed to get emergency contacts on driver’s licenses)
  • (36:06) Went to DC to lobby for Healthcare, protect the ACA
  • (37:03) People keep trying to reinvent the wheel, just try and connect with local advocacy groups (BIAUSA.org, Brain Injury Association of America). 
  • (38:04) KNOW YOUR OWN LIMITATIONS, you’re still recovering. You can start by writing your own story, or guest-starring on a podcast, baby-steps.
  • (41:04) Eryn: “You’re never not going to be able to function without mindfulness”.
  • (41:30) Mariah: has moments where she’s like “I’m beyond this” but then has moments when they realize they’re still going through it. Can have imposter syndrome, where you’re like “at least I’m not like that, did I ever belong?”, says you never really leave the community.
  • (45:20) You only see Amy’s highlight reel, you don’t see her hardships. Builds in recovery days while traveling, doesn’t work full days, etc. Learned how to manage energy and workload. DON’T COMPARE YOUR RECOVERY TO OTHERS.
  • (44:03) Nonprofits are usually run by a couple of people, so be patient.
  • (48:45) March 16th (Amy’s Birthday)=Virtual Brain Injury Awareness Day event, free, 30 speakers (Holly Castresiti), some of the cast from Quiet Explosions (q&a), facesoftbi.com/event
  • (49:36) March 22nd=launch of season 2 of Concussion Discussions video series, free event, concussiondiscussions.com
  • (50:52) Insta/FB=@amyzellmer, facesoftbi
  • (51:31) HuffPost (article) to Podcast (audio) to Concussion Discussions (visual/video)=trying to create different ways for people to digest info since each person processes things differently

Ian Hebeisen graduated from Saint Marys University in May 2020, earning a degree in Literature with a Writing Emphasis. Now living in the Twin Cities, Ian writes comics, graphic novels, and poetry. In his spare time, he enjoys playing board games with his family.

Brain Injury Awareness Day Event {Replay}

Thank you to our amazing presenters as well as the cast and crew from Quiet Explosions.  Shout-out to the hundreds of amazing humans who joined us for our live virtual event!

Below are the replay videos of the event (part 1 and 2) … Also. please help support our sponsors who made this day possible by clicking on their logos below! Be sure to grab your #NOTINVISIBLE care package and show your TBI pride all year long!

 

Thank you to our event sponsors!!
Click on any logo to visit their website

Integrated Brain Centers

Framework Functional Psychiatry

Chiro Pro Performance Center

In Depth Vision

Success Rehabilitation

Billy McLaughlin shares about Focal Dystonia #podcast

Billy McLaughlin, world class guitarist and Emmy award winning composer (among other accomplishments), almost lost his career due to focal dystonia. This neuromuscular disorder created a rift between his brain and his right hand, causing contortions and making it difficult to play the guitar. McLaughlin struggled to find a diagnosis, but upon learning about dystonia, began seeing specialists. He started relearning the guitar with his left hand, and is now an ambassador for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation.

In this podcast we discuss:

  • There are different kinds of dystonia, sometimes misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy. There’s generalized dystonia, cervical dystonia, and other forms that target the neck and vocal cords. Focal dystonia targets a specific part of the body; in McLaughlin’s case, it targets his fingers (4:24).
  • McLaughlin saw lots of hand doctors, who hypothesized that the problem was psychological. In fact, it was neurological: “The trouble is in my fingers, but the problem is actually in my brain, and the inability of my brain to talk to my fingers individually.” (7:34).
  • Similar to a TBI, there might have been an incident earlier in his life that may have triggered the dystonia without him even realizing it (8:50).
  • McLaughlin struggled to get a diagnosis because dystonia is not prevalent in med school curriculum (11:46).
  • Insurance companies can be hard to work with for TBIs and dystonia because of a lack of understanding (18:34).
  • Amy discusses her experience with people getting into car accidents and not being checked for concussions or TBIs (19:24).
  • Athletes can be mistreated because people assume they know what they’re getting into (21:25).
  • McLaughlin received Botox and started relearning the guitar with his left hand; these are examples of adapting to the dystonia (25:05).
  • Don’t be afraid to find a specialist and to seek out help. You don’t have to battle a TBI or dystonia alone (31:14).

Listen to the full podcast here or on iTunes.

This podcast is brought to you by Integrated Brain Centers … fill out this google form for a free 15 minute consult with Drs. Steadman or Maynard.

WCCO News Radio Interview

I was recently interviewed by Roshini Rajkumar on Minneapolis WCCO radio to kick off Brain Injury Awareness Month (March).

We briefly discussed my brain injury that occurred in February 2014, celebrating my 7-year brain-iversary.

We also discussed some of the common concussion myths such as:

  • you must hit your head to sustain a concussion
  • you must lose consciousness to sustain a concussion
  • concussion symptoms will resolve themselves in 4-6 weeks
  • concussion symptoms will appear right away
  • an MRI will tell you whether or not you have a TBI
  • you must have all the symptoms to have a concussion

You can listen to the interview here:

Concussion Discussions Book Launch Replay

This anthology brings together 20 experts from around the country who share with you their advice and experience working with patients with brain injury.

As you explore the chapters, you’ll read about the numerous ways brain injury survivors can THRIVE in their recovery, often after traditional medicine left them struggling for answers. Additionally, you’ll learn about different symptoms associated with brain injury (headaches, dysautonomia, eye tracking, brain fog, dizziness, thyroid disorders, and more), as well as the importance of understanding your legal rights.

If you or your loved one has suffered a brain injury, this book offers you a wealth of information, but, more importantly, also offers you HOPE!

Never lose hope — no matter how many years since your injury occurred, or how many doctors have told you they can’t do anything for you. There truly are providers and professionals who understand exactly what you’re going through, and how to help you achieve the quality of life you’ve been seeking. Twenty of those caring professionals share their knowledge and experience in this book.

Pre-order your copy of the book on Kickstarter

Now through March 2nd
$18 plus free US shipping
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brainhealthmag/book-concussion-discussions

Healing From Traumatic Brain Injury With Yoga

Yoga is something that I have done since college (if you promise not to do math, I’ll simply say I’ve been doing yoga for 20+ years).

There was a period of time when I considered going through the teacher training program and becoming a yoga instructor but never had the time to get it done. Then the pandemic of 2020 hit, and was the perfect time to get my 200 hour YTT, as well as a trauma-informed yoga teacher certification, and yoga therapy certification.

Why, you ask?!

You don’t understand yoga’s true, full potential until you’ve gone through a life-changing physical trauma. Knowing what I know now, I have a deeper love and appreciate for yoga; a greater understanding of it’s powerful healing benefits.

In February of 2014 I slipped on a patch of black ice on an inclined driveway. I had zero warning as my feet went up into the air and my skull made full impact with the frozen asphalt. Amazingly, I walked away with my life — I am still in awe at the incredible resilience of one’s skull and how much of an impact it can actually take.

What I did sustain in the fall included: a severe concussion (later referred to as a traumatic brain injury, or TBI for short), major whiplash, c4/c5 damage in my neck, torn muscles in my neck, throat, abdomen, and chest, and a dislocated sternum.

Sounds like a load of fun, huh?

As we began addressing the physical injuries, I was unaware of the journey I was starting inside my head. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a very complicated and invisible injury, and one that many professionals (as well as friends and family) just don’t quite understand. I was frustrated when doctors wouldn’t listen to me, or would simply tell me that I will feel better in a few weeks. Every few weeks would start a new cycle of pain, grief, and anxiety.

After about 15 months of feeling pained, isolated, depressed, and anxious I reached out to a yoga instructor friend of mine.

Because of the dislocated sternum, I wasn’t able to lift my hands much higher than my shoulder and couldn’t take a full, deep breath. Because of the TBI I suffered from dizzy, balance, and neck mobility issues. I also noticed I would drag my right foot and my right arm did not move in motion with my walk — both of which are a neurological problem.

My dear friend helped me come up with FIVE yoga poses that I could do without feeling like I would fall over or causing me pain and discomfort.

Five poses. That was it.

They included: cat-cow pose, puppy dog (child’s) pose, tree pose (with the help of a chair for balance), eagle arm pose, and side twists while lying down.

After a few days of doing these five poses for about 10-15 minutes, I started noticing a difference. I was able to breathe deeper than I had since the accident, my flexibility was coming back (slowly), and my dizzy and balance issues were starting to bother me less. My range of motion was growing every single time I did yoga.

I gradually added in some of my favorite poses as I felt ready, for a single breath. I would go into down-dog pose and warrior pose just to see if I could. I would hold it for one breath, and then two. I eventually got brave enough to try side angel, which is my ultimate favorite post (and the one pictured above). I was thrilled that I was able to do it, at least with a block to assist me.

Now that I am just over seven years out from my accident, I am an advocate for TBI awareness, I am teaching yoga to a greater audience. I not only want to raise awareness, I want to help other survivors. Which brings me back to my point about teacher training. While you do not need an actual license/certificate to teach yoga, I wanted to go through proper training so that I know how to keep my students safe, while helping survivors find some comfort and peace in yoga, the way that I did.

Yoga for every BODY.

EVERYONE can do yoga, even those who think you have to be “flexible” to do it. Yoga is an individual activity, one in which you only do what you can. It can be modified to fit your injury, and some poses can even be done from a hospital bed. There are amazing benefits to doing yoga, and I hope that my experience can help another survivor decide to give it a try!

Join me for my weekly accessible yoga practice for only $10 a month through my Patreon membership site.  To get a taste of my yoga style, CLICK HERE for a 20-minute Brain Yoga practice.

Namaste,
Amy