(Image from http://www.diytdcs.com/tag/open-tdcs/)
I walk to my desk, take my coat off and sit down, then log in to the phone queue. The phone rings almost before I’ve logged in to my computer. “Hello, this is Laura.”
The caller’s line is breaking up, it’s very hard to understand her.
Her: “I have.. appointment tom… reschedule …” I barely make out a few words.
“You have an appointment in the suite? I can transfer you to the suite. Or is this at home?”
Her: “No….. appoint…. for insurance….”
She names the street my office is on. This completely flummoxes me. I had no idea that any of our departments at this location sign people up for insurance. It certainly isn’t MY department. Could she mean the therapy suite? No, she said that isn’t it. “Can I get your name?” She has to repeat several times, it’s breaking up so bad, she ends up spelling a name, and I start typing it in to the last name field, then ask for her first name. She says that WAS her first name. I get her last name, and I find that she’s not in our system. That means she’s not one of our patients, so it’s not us. “Do you know which department you need?”
Her: “I need the department where I sign up for insurance.”
I have no idea what to do with this caller, and this is CRAZY hard to figure out; my brain has done its thing where, when I’m trying to process verbal communication, it slows down to the speed of a serial dial-up modem. After several more back and forths, where it becomes clear it wasn’t in my department, she asks for a different information desk. Well, this isn’t an information desk anyway. I don’t know where these callers get our phone number, nor why they think this is a receptionist that they reached. This is my desk in a very specific department. I suspect that they google the address and call the first number that comes up without looking at what the website says, or else they’re transferred here by other people in error, but it’s really hard for me to assess these details in real time while communicating well over the phone, and that stresses me out, which makes it harder. I finally decide I can best help her by transferring her to the receptionist, who has a better chance of figuring out which department she needs. Of course, since I’m not a receptionist, my list of numbers I might need is extensive, and not well organized for quick lookups. I tell her I’ll transfer her to the receptionist who should be able to help her, but I’ve never transferred anyone to a receptionist so it will take a moment to find the number. I know it’s on the list here somewhere. I finally find the number and transfer her. And my phone rings again immediately.
Her: “I need to talk to someone about records.” It sounds like a patient.
Me: “Which department?”
Her: “The records department.”
Me: “Do you have a name of a person you want to talk to?”
Her: “No. You have a records department, don’t you? I need to talk to them.”
Me: “We have many departments, and each one keeps records. Can I get your name, please?”
I put her name into our system, she’s not there, it’s definitely not OUR department. At some point she mentions she came in to the emergency department last week. OK, so she needs our main hospital, I don’t think transferring her to the emergency department would be a good idea. I know I have the number for outpatient therapy at the main hospital, because for people who don’t have home therapy benefits, we recommend outpatient therapy because it’s covered by insurance as a hospital benefit that way, and health insurance is designed to cover hospital benefits, when needed. But do I have the main hospital number? I should. Where is it?
Two of my coworkers are hanging over me. One texts me to put the caller on hold. I was just about to do that, and I do so.
Her: “If she needs the suite you can transfer her.”
Me: “No, it’s not the suite. She wants records, she was in the emergency room last week.”
Her: “Main hospital.” The other coworker says.
Me: “What’s the number?”
They talk over each other, it’s hard to understand, I have to have them repeat it, and they still aren’t clear enough, I almost transfer the caller to the wrong number, but it turns out the caller has dropped off the line. The first coworker points to a paper on her cubicle wall, “All the facilities are on this list.” I remember she told me that last week.
Frustrated, I say, “Yeah, that’s in the binder somewhere. I swear I printed it out last week.” I don’t see it anywhere on my cubicle walls or on my desk. “I need to pull it out, make a copy, and hang it on my wall.”
She says, “Or just pull it out and put it on your wall.”
I think about that for a moment and reject the idea. The purpose of having this four-inch thick binder packed with reference materials is so we can find things in it, and if we go pulling things out of it and putting them in other places, then they aren’t in the binder to be found at a later date. To exacerbate this, I won’t be here much longer, someone else will be inheriting this binder, and I’d hate to leave them with a binder that has had things pulled out of it. It’s hard enough to leaf through the thing trying to find the one piece of paper in there with the information I need, it would be intensely frustrating to leaf through, not find it, and later realize someone pulled it out.
Me: “I’ll pull it out and copy it.”
My coworkers are still staring at me. Yeah, I know, this was ridiculous, I did a poor job of communicating with the customer, and a poor job of figuring out what the issue was, where to transfer the call, and find the number for the place to transfer the call to. And this is one of the reasons why I can’t accept the job offer, and will be leaving when my temporary contract is up. Because, when I’m talking to someone on the phone, as well as processing other verbal communications, it’s as if my brain’s transmission won’t engage. As an intelligent person, I find it really frustrating how STUPID I seem at times like this. I pull the sheet out of the binder, make a copy, and hang it on my wall.
And this is why I’m REALLY tempted to get a tDCS (transdermal Direct Current Stimulation) device and hack my brain with it. It’s not just the Depression, which I clearly have a problem with. I almost didn’t go to work at all Tuesday. It was so hard to make myself get out of bed, after several days of feeling like a complete failure, with no desire to do anything. Miserable, dejected, very little desire to even be alive. Hard to come up with a reason to do anything. The number one treatment for depression is medication. There are a large number of different medications for depression, some designed to be used in combination with others. Each one has a fifty percent chance of making any difference at all, and success is considered to be any noticeable positive change; it doesn’t mean the depression is GONE, just at least a LITTLE less intense. But tDCS has been proven 80% successful. And tDCS has been proven to be able to ELIMINATE depression, not just TREAT it, something NONE of the medications can do. The effects of the medication only last as long as the patient is taking the medication, but tDCS can actually cause depression to go into remission completely. I look into it once in a while, especially now that I have an insurance that covers this kind of therapy. Just recently I learned that tDCS hasn’t just proven effective for depression, but can also be used to treat ADHD, and even Autism, and Autism has few, if any, actual treatments that are effective in any way. The best you can hope for, aside from one of these therapies, is behavioral training, and I’ve been doing that all my life. I’ve never been able to tell when someone is blushing, though, because I can’t SEE it. Faces are beige. All faces are beige, always. I can’t see the subtle hints that suggest what a person is feeling.
There are people with Autism Spectrum Disorder that have used this type of therapy, and after doing so looked at someone and could suddenly, for the first time in their life, read the expression on their face. I first heard about it when John Elder Robison was talking to Terry Gross on Fresh Air, an NPR show I love to listen to: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/04/21/475112703/electric-currents-and-an-emotional-awakening-for-one-man-with-autism.
As for focus, the military uses tDCS devices when training snipers to focus on the target. They use the same type of device and settings that are now being sold to video gamers to “hack their brains”
Please note that when I say “this type of therapy”, there are several different methods for applying electromagnetic stimulation to the scalp to increase electrical activity in specific areas of the brain; they include tDCS, TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) and CES (Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation.) Some manufacturers claim their technology works by quoting studies done with a different technology, so it’s easy to be misled. It takes a scientist, not even a doctor but a scientist, to read the original studies and tease out what’s actually true about a device, and what’s just a bunch of marketing hash.
The thing is, these devices actually interfere with the electrical transmissions in the brain, and treatment uses very specific mapping of the different areas of the brain to stimulate the correct area. If the contacts are placed incorrectly, you can have a very DIFFERENT effect than you intended. This type of therapy should be applied by a professional. If you don’t believe me on this, you should see the images of proper placement for specific treatments put out by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.) Here’s an example, from the website http://totaltdcs.com/; the information is basically identical to that from DARPA, who did the studies, but it’s just a bit easier to read, I think:
I was reading an article by Lecia Bushak on www.medicaldaily.com that made the dangers of DIY brain hacking more clear: Dr. Roi Cohen Kadosh, a neuropsychologist, told the New York Times “What we’ve found is brain power is like a blanket. You pull it over to one side and something else is not covered.” You can read the whole article, which also talks about other hazards such as serious burns, here: http://www.medicaldaily.com/put-headset-sharpen-your-focus-transcranial-direct-current-stimulation-may-boost-cognitive-function.
So clearly the do-it-yourself model is not recommended. Unfortunately, the nearest place that has treatment is two hours away; I’d have to take a day off work to get a treatment, and it takes a series of treatments.
There are portable, at-home tDCS devices. There’s one used by people who do a lot of video gaming, which helps them be better gamers. It has a headset of sorts that puts the anodes and cathodes in EXACTLY the right place, but that’s only one placement, and it’s not the placement I want. That placement is for the zen, in-the-moment focus that makes time expand, so that what needs to be done quickly seems to go slower, while at the same time the person doing it doesn’t notice time passing hardly at all. It’s amazing, but that same setting also makes it very hard to remember anything that happens when having this experience. And memory is one of my greatest challenges with ADHD; I need BETTER memory, not worse.
And this is what was on my mind when I listened to a TED talk by Andrew Pelling, a scientist that says he makes technology out of stuff dug from trash cans. He made a human ear out of an apple. He says people should be able to do this in their own kitchen, and he has a laboratory where he wants to teach people how to do it. https://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_pelling_this_scientist_makes_ears_out_of_apples?language=en
I’ve determined that the medical community, the health community, is going to take FOREVER to get the use of these devices studied and approved for treatment of depression, ADHD and Autism, among other things. There are a very few health plans that WILL cover such therapy for depression, and few clinics where they do it, and the vast majority of people aren’t even aware it’s an option. I’m talking about both patients and their doctors. So there’s a good chance it won’t happen in my lifetime. But what if I call Andrew Pelling and ask him if it’s possible to take used TENS units (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) which are AC (Alternating Current), which won’t work, and with a small kit and some very clear instructions, have people convert them to a tDCS, which is DC (Direct Current) and make sure it’s the right power level and all that, then create a swim cap style of brain mapper which could be placed on the head using specific reference points, such as the ears, the nose, the jaw, the base of the occipital (that bump on the lower back of your skull where neck muscles end) to locate the correct placements regardless of the size and shape of the head? I wonder if it can be done. It seems like we might have to take therapy into our own hands if we’re going to get the treatment we need. That’s a scary thought.