Notes from the Blast Factory: A Special Forces Operator Connects the Dots Between Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress
As a Special Forces Green Beret with multiple combat deployments, the war I survived began off the battlefield. It has greatly impacted me and my family. Our triumph over the progressive fallout from countless traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, that almost caused me to take my life was hard-fought and equally hard-won. The battle persists as we now serve others in the same position that are on precipitous journeys themselves (check out our mini-documentary on Warrior Angels Foundation). I couldn’t comprehend why I found myself malfunctioning. I sat on it until I couldn’t sit on it anymore. I turned to the military health care system for help and received none. The following lessons learned outlines the mechanism and fallout from a TBI. The system did not provide me with this understanding, I earned it. My intent with this information is three-fold;
- To provide you with a non-medical understanding of a TBI as learned through my personal experience.
- To help you connect the dots of how you or someone you know can go from a high performer to a shell of their former self.
- To empower you.
The information below is discussed in greater detail in my upcoming book Tales From the Blast Factory: A Brain-Injured Special Forces Green Beret’s Journey Back from the Brink. If you would to receive a free PDF version when it’s published or you would like to receive our Warrior Soul Agoge newsletter click here for more details (What is the Agoge?). These lessons we’re paid for in blood, it is my honor to give them to you. What I once thought was the worst thing in my life is now the best thing in my life, it can be the same for you.
LESSONS LEARNED: Neuro-permissive Environment
A neuro-permissive environment is one that can foster repair and regrowth. It is free of toxins, inflammation, and oxidative stress. A non-neuro-permissive environment does not support repair and regrowth.
LESSONS LEARNED: Traumatic Brain Injury
A TBI is a two-phase injury. Phase I is the initial trauma, referred to as diffuse axonal injury or (DAI). Phase II is the post-traumatic neuro-inflammation (swelling) caused from the trauma in phase I. Post traumatic neuro-inflammation also leads to the dysregulation of hormones produced in the central gland (neurosteroids) and the peripheral gland (neuroactive steroids). This silent and invisible injury can lead to a non-neuro-permissive environment, go unnoticed for years, making it difficult for physicians to properly diagnose.
LESSONS LEARNED: Neurosteroids
Neurosteroids are produced by the glial cells in the brain, while neuroactive steroids are produced by the peripheral glands. Neurosteroids play important functions in neurodevelopment and neuronal remodeling, including neurogenesis, axonal and dendritic growth, and synaptic connectivity (the ability to heal and function properly). Head trauma can cause a failure of this system, leading to erratic transmissions, which can be perceived as depression and suicide, anxiety and panic attacks, and phobias and psychoses. These are all representative effects of neurosteroid dysfunction.
LESSON LEARNED: Neurons and Glial Cells
Neurons process and transmit information by way of electrical and chemical signals. Glial cells are non-neuronal cells that can inhibit or activate neurons, connect to neurons, or control the activity of neurons, in addition to providing support and protection to both the peripheral and central nervous system’s neurons. The latest in neuroscience suggests that 10 percent of our brain cells are comprised of neuronal cells, with glial cells making up the other 90 percent. Glial cells, which were previously thought to only play a supporting role to neurons, are instrumental in the functional integration of how the brain works. Head trauma from blast-wave exposure can lead to micro-tears of glial cell and neurons. The micro-tearing can result in a non-neuro-permissive environment, leading to neuro-inflammation and neurosteroid dysfunction.
LESSONS LEARNED: Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis
The hypothalamus is the portion of the brain that interprets perceptions of the outside world and then sends that information to the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland sends a message to the rest of our body to elicit a physical response. Head trauma affects this HPA Axis. Science has revealed that our beliefs directly influence our biology, but damage to these areas of the brain can cause a shearing of the circuitry, leading to deficits of our cognition, behavior, and physiology.
LESSON LEARNED: Fight or Flight
The stress response from the adrenal glands equips the body with a physiological response called “fight or flight.” This response is a restrictive response in which less intelligent reflexive (reactive) behavior dominates how we interact with our environment. Humans have outpaced our evolutionary biology, but we’re still running on the old operating system. Our perceptions of the world create stress responses in our bodies to fight or run from things that do not exist in the physical world. The resulting chronic stress is debilitating to our health. The result of a non-neuro-permissive environment from head trauma can stimulate a less intelligent reflexive response.
Today, for the great majority of us, the fight-or-flight response is rarely, if ever, needed in our daily lives. The current pace of technological innovation has created a population that appears to be stressed out on a routine basis. Our perceptions of the world create stress responses in our bodies to fight or flee from things that do not exist in the physical world, because that’s the story and the pattern being played on auto-loop in our minds. Our ancient operating system can’t understand whether or not the threat caused by a stressor we’ve imagined (e.g., an overdue bill) is gone or still present. The constant bombardment of e-mails, texts, twenty-four-hour negative-news networks, social media, and worry over things over which we have no control are deleterious to our health.
LESSON LEARNED: The Gordon Protocol: The A=C Scenario
The Gordon Protocol is as simple as it is brilliant. Dr. Mark L. Gordon’s groundbreaking presentation at the RAAD Festival (Revolution Against Aging and Death) revealed the A=C Scenario (video overview). In the A=B Scenario, Head Trauma (A) = Hormonal Deficiency (B). In the B=C Scenario, Hormonal Deficiency (B) = Psychiatric Disorder (C). If A=B and B=C, then A=C.
Dr. Gordon states that we have ignored the hormonal influence over neuro-behavior and cognition, or B=C. The question is, if you fix (B) with replacement hormones in conjunction with reducing neuro-inflammation (a.k.a. “The Gordon Protocol”), will (C) improve? The overwhelming empirical evidence—based on over thirteen hundred documented Millennium Health Center TBI cases, of which more than 160 have been supported through the Warrior Angels Foundation—is an overwhelmingly consistent yes!
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