Updated: Nov 21, 2020
Guest Post by Kathleen Iona, Amen Clinics, East Coast Clinical Outreach Manager
The funny part about my story is that I was not looking for the Amen Clinics, the Amen Clinics found me. I was a student in graduate school and met the director of the Amen Clinics in one of my classes. We got put into the same group project together and that was where I really had the chance to learn more about the place he worked for. As a budding clinician, my interest peaked. The idea of looking at the brain to treat mental health concerns was so different and refreshing to me. I really did not know what to expect but decided to take the leap and apply for a job with the company. Here I am three and a half years later with many success stories to share including my own.
My Path to Improving My Brain Health
As a graduate student who was working full-time, going to school full-time, and an internship full time, my brain felt like it was constantly on overdrive. I had difficulties falling asleep at night because I was always thinking about things that I needed to get done. It was exhausting. Not to mention the fact that in between appointments, classes and sessions may diet was suffering which was not helping me keep my brain functioning optimally. I was under an insane amount of stress at the time but was determined to keep pushing through it. I noticed that during this time, not only were my energy levels depleting but so was my happiness. I felt stuck. As I continued to work at the Amen Clinics, I was continuously being exposed to the dangers of what can happen to anyone’s brain health if they are under continual stress.
When my clinical director brought up the idea of getting my own brain scan done, it was an epiphany moment for me. How is it possible that I did not think of experiencing what my clients had been going through this entire time? Probably because I was so caught up in all the other aspects of my life, my own well-being was placed far down on the list of priorities. Acknowledging that I was going to be scanning my brain was exciting. I wanted to see how my brain was holding up to the stressors in my life along with understanding how it could possibly be impacted by my previous head traumas. Growing up, I was the clumsy friend that would trip on her feet or run into poles and I have the scars to prove it. I have also had other people in my life comment about my short-term memory.
The Day of My Brain Scan and Health Assessment
The day arrived for the scanning process to begin. I was placed in the testing room to complete an activity on the computer prior to getting placed onto the scanner. I remember how frustrated I felt during that activity because the perfectionist in me wanted to get all the answers right. It is also the perfectionist side of me that does not allow me to think about slowing down or failing in anything that I deem to be important. It is my driving force. As I went through the activity, I suddenly became curious about where my perfectionism comes from in my brain.
I completed the activity and was placed on the scanner which I thought was going to be much more intimidating than it was. The scan tech wrapped in a nice, cozy blanket after I was laying there and asked me to keep my head as still as possible. I remember hearing a slight buzzing sound as the cameras rotated around me and being thankful that the scanner was completely open unlike an MRI or CT scan. Before I knew it the fifteen minutes were over and the scan tech was coming back. I asked her not to judge my scan once she sees it because I feared it would look terrible.
The Moment I Saw My Brain Scan
I was able to look at my brain through her computer which was amazing! She printed out the images for me to bring to the doctor and have them evaluated. I tried to understand them myself, but I knew I would not have the capability to do that. Honestly, I had pictured it to be much worse than what it turned out to be so I was hopeful, but I learned that I can be my own worse critic.
The doctor was so kind as to find some time to sit with me and break apart my scans. The only way I can describe the experience is that the pictures really were powerful. There was a validation that occurred when I was able to understand where my behaviors came from. Removing that stigma that there is something wrong with me helped me understand that some things are just brain health issues not mental health issues. The doctor was able to help work through the lifestyle changes that I would need to engage in to really optimize my brain health. When we discussed the amount of stress that I tend to be under, he was encouraging. He was realistic about not being able to eliminate my stressors but rather help me build up protective barriers so that my brain does not burn out in the end.
My Journey to Improved Brain Health
After going through my scan and helping me understand where my brain was, we worked on the treatment plan for what the best next steps for me would be. I use the word ‘we’ often because it was a collaboration between myself and the doctor. He was able to meet me where I was in my life and set me up for success with recommendations that were doable for my lifestyle. These recommendations included adding in some much-needed proper nutrition and nutraceutical supplements. We also discussed getting bloodwork completed because I had some minor toxicities appear in my scan which could be seen through scalloping. By getting the bloodwork completed, I was able to eliminate if there were biomedical reasons for the scalloping.
It has been about two years since my scan and I can honestly say, apart from the support of my family and friends, the recommendations I received in that meeting were how I made it through schooling, working and internships. I was able to sleep better at night and found myself with enough energy to wake up earlier in the morning to meal prep for the day. I continue the supplementation recommended and my brain feels healthier than it ever has been, even before starting school. There is a sense of clarity in my thoughts and others have noticed a difference.
How Will You Take Control?
There is no one size fits all treatment for our brains because we are so different, and our experiences are so different. That is why the work at the Amen Clinics was life-changing for me and my family members who have since gotten their brains scanned after my experience. How can anyone know what is going on unless they look?
Would you like to learn more about brain SPECT scanning and how it can improve your health?
Contact Kathleen Iona
Amen Clinics, East Coast Clinical Outreach Manager
C: (347) 651-2854 l E: firstname.lastname@example.org
16 East 40th Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10016
Contact Ashley Allen
Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach, Owner of SustainaBRAIN
C: (740) 279-5137 | E: email@example.com