VNS and Me

August 5, 2008

Turned Up and Some Answers

Filed under: how it works,scars,stimulation,surgery — vnsandme @ 12:41 am
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Getting the unit turned up wasn’t bad at all; in fact, it was a lot less uncomfortable than getting it turned on and going up a notch right away (to .50). I’m at .75 now, and I go back next week to go up to 1. Then we’re going to stay there for a little bit and see if I’m eventually able to go down a bit on my meds.

My scars look really good. Surgical superglue rocks! The one on my neck is less noticeable than the one on my chest, and I can make it disappear with makeup. Usually I don’t bother, and eventually I think it will disappear.

I know some answers to the questions I asked earlier in the blog. The way they get the wires up into your neck is they use a t-shaped instrument that creates a tunnel for them to run the wires through. Then they can pick them up again at your neck and wrap them around the vagus nerve.

Also, the stimulator unit doesn’t shift under my skin — at least not back and forth. If I lie on my side with my shoulder under me, it does push the side up and out. Not uncomfortable, though.

It also doesn’t feel heavy anymore, I guess I’ve gotten used to it.

I’m also getting better at wearing the magnet to turn the VNS off when I need to. I can tuck it under a black tank top and not have it be too obvious, though it’s just touching the side of the stimulator, so I can still feel it go off, just not as strong. If I really want to hide it, the trick is to wear a button-down shirt. And if I wear one with a pattern on it, you don’t notice any bump at all. I’m sure if you hug me, you can still feel it, because the magnet is like half an inch thick, but I guess if someone’s hugging me, they think I’m ok.

The best ways I’ve found to use my magnets: One is to wear it on a strap on my right wrist. I put the magnet on the inside of my wrist so I just look like I’m scratching my shoulder when I turn it off. I do this when I won’t have to talk a lot but I know I want to be able to turn it off. Better than keeping it turned off. I want it working!

The second thing is just a little velcro strap that goes around my bra strap, much shorter than the one for my wrist. I found this great all-in-one velcro that has the hook and loop all in one side. I’ll have to look up what it was so I can post here. It’s great stuff.

The best part is that I seem to be feeling a little better. I don’t notice that my mood has changed so much as my ability to do things without feeling quite so overwhelmed. Normally the vacation I went on would have been really hard to do, and I would have ended up feeling like I was enduring it rather than enjoying it, but I had SO much fun. And then this last weekend I saw an old friend, and I was able to spend time with him without feeling overwhelmed, too. Especially so soon after my vacation, that’s a big deal for me.

I’m trying to understand exactly how this thing works, and I found some research that says, “evidence from neuroimaging and other studies suggests that VNS therapy acts via innervation of the nucleus tractus solitarius, with secondary projections to limbic and cortical structures that are involved in mood regulation, including brainstem regions that contain serotonergic (raphe nucleus) and noradrenergic (locus ceruleus) perikarya that project to the forebrain. Mechanisms that mediate the beneficial effects of VNS therapy for treatment-resistant depression remain obscure.”

I have a vague understanding of what they’re saying, but I want to understand it well enough to explain it to you, so I’m going to need to read some more!

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