While it’s 7 years since finding out I have cerebral palsy, I haven’t stopped looking for answers on all of my neurological issues, in those 7 years.
With a little help from Claudia, who is in her final year studying Psychology at St Andrew’s University, we have now pieced together more of my symptoms, through her understanding of the brain, my brain damage and symptoms.
It has always been enormously important for me to try and relate my symptoms to my daily life, because my symptoms make me who I am and it’s important I understand my symptoms and how they present, but there’s another side to this and I still can’t believe that I’m still having to piece everything together myself.
I know the parietal and frontal lobe are both affected. This part of my blog may sound a little familiar as I have touched on this in one of my previous blogs, but this blog details and helps me complete the picture more.
The parietal lobe, which is involved with spatial representation in the brain, is why I struggle with temporal and spatial issues such as worrying about time and being late. The parietal lobe is also responsible for how our brain processes sensitivity to touch and I struggle with that.
The frontal lobe is primarily associated with emotion regulation in an area called the limbic system, but the frontal lobe also deals with other things such as motor control. It’s the limbic system that holds the answers to what makes me who I am, my struggles and the impact is has on daily life.
Specific limbic system functions may include:
“Controlling emotions like anger and fear, regulating eating hunger and thirst, responding to pain and pleasure, controlling functioning of the autonomic nervous system, including things like pulse, blood pressure, breathing and arousal, sensing sexual satisfaction, controlling aggressive or violent behavior, responding to sensory information, including sense of touch, noise and smell.”
Thankfully I don’t deal with all of them but I relate and deal with most of them. Since the limbic system regulates important aspects of our conscious and unconscious patterns, including emotions, perceptions, relationships, behaviours and motor control, it’s not surprising to me to see why damage to this region can cause serious problems and why I struggle.
Disorders or behaviours that are related to limbic system damage, due to things like traumatic injuries like a stroke, ageing and forming memories. Damage can also include short-term or long-term memory loss. Learning is greatly impacted by this brain damage, since it depends so much on memory and which is why I struggled in school.
I can relate to memory and difficulties in learning. At school, I struggled to learn in a traditional classroom environment, as I couldn’t retain information and had problems concentrating. A specialist I saw as a child described the possibility of me being ‘mentally retarded,’ which was a phrase thrown around in the 60’s, but one that would never be used in the present day.
Having found a different way to learn that works for me, I have gone on to successfully complete 3 Diplomas with Distinction through distant learning. Interestingly, while I find it easy to hold on to older or long-term memories, I find it difficult to hold on to new short-term memories.
I usually struggle to recount experiences through short term memory, but my memory for conversations or events from many years ago is excellent. I am pleased that my research has provided me with yet more answers, as it enables me to add another few more pieces to the jigsaw, since I found about my Cerebral Palsy at the age of 46.
My damage is centred around my emotions, feelings, fears, personality, learning, body movement and those things make what I deal with worse. I am one way, not because I choose to be, but because I have no choice. No one really gets that.
I have had to compensate and continue to compensate, whilst those close to me must try to fit in.