Going Back Into Treatment

Tomorrow I begin treatment again at my local Community Eating Disorder services after over a year fending for myself. It’s safe to say ‘apprehensive’ doesn’t even come close to covering how I feel about this.

This is not my first rodeo. In fact this will be my sixth attempt with services and I dare not count how many types of treatment.

As many of you know things did not end well last time I left this particular service which has definitely tainted my view of it and made it infinitely harder to re-seek help when I desperately needed it.

The treatment I received was actually very good. I was allowed to do two full rounds of RODBT which I found incredibly useful (and has led to lasting friendships), was offered psychiatric and dietetic input and had the NICE recommend minimum 40 sessions of a front line treatment.

Bad treatment endings

However the end is where things went downhill. Initially, during my assessment, I had been told that I would not be discharged from the service until I had reached a healthy BMI (a terrifying but reassuring prospect that they wouldn’t give up on me) and I was told that my sessions could be extended ‘if necessary’.

Like I said the treatment was good, I found it helped me a lot with perspective, interpersonal relationships and a lot of the deeper roots of my disorder. I bonded well with my therapist and felt that we were doing some good work together.

Unfortunately this did not translate into the desired increase on my weight chart and that was a big deal for the service. There are many reasons for this that are much more complex than “it didn’t work”. As I will continue saying until I’m blue in the face EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT ABOUT WEIGHT.

My weight is just a symptom of my Anorexia which, while admittedly crap, has been my crutch and coping mechanism for longer than I care to remember. It’s what I run to for comfort when things get rough and bloody hell they got rough.

I didn’t just lose weight

Previously to entering treatment I’d had to move back into my family home after 7 years away – losing my beautiful little home, my independence and a lot of self esteem in the process.

During the course of my treatment I also lost my job as the company I adored went under. I went from doing full time work, commuting, extra media and freelance work to nothing. No redundancy money and no savings to fall back on either. I essentially lost my purpose as well as an income.

I eventually went through the grueling process of applying for benefits which stripped me of what little I had of my sanity. Months upon months spent filling out forms and waiting in terror. The assessment itself put me back in terms of weight restoration by literally six months.

We also lost my partner’s grandfather after a particularly brutal and drawn out battle with Dementia, Pneumonia and Sepsis. Grief and Depression crashed into our lives. We saw him the day before he died and the next day I saw a dead body for the first time.

I was discharged three days before the funeral. My weight was almost the lowest it had ever been. It was much lower than when I entered services and certainly wasn’t the healthy target they promised to help me get to.

So it was no wonder really, given all the set backs and shocks that I couldn’t manage to keep or put on weight during this time. My weight fluctuated and often dropped. Not surprising in grief but because I was in an Eating Disorder service this was apparently proof that the “treatment wasn’t working” and they should stop my sessions because they “clearly weren’t helping”.

For the record: unhelpful is being told by a clinician that you’re pretty damn normal ambivalence about weight restoration and recovery means it would be a “waste of money and resources if you don’t want to get better”. 

Unhelpful is also being told that weight gain is your choice and yet also being told your brain is too malnourished for you to make competent choices.

I begged to stay

I begged not to be discharged. I begged my therapist, I begged my GP. My parents and partner begged. The GP herself wrote an strongly worded letter against my discharge.

When I was discharged I was told, in some attempt to quell my fears, “It’s OK, we expect you to get worse but you can always be re-referred”.

The words stuck in my throat. Always come back? I needed help then, I never stopped needing it this past year. And I was angry because we all know it’s not that simple. You don’t just wander or drop into mental health services. You need to be re-referred, you need to sit on a waiting list for assessment, be assessed, a decision must be made and then, should you even qualify for treatment you must sit on another waiting list for treatment to begin.

Essentially..

I was discharged September 9th 2016

I eventually gave in and was re-referred April 10th 2017

I was assessed on May 24th 2017

I start treatment September 22nd 2017

In that time I have mostly relied on the people around me – my outrageously patient partner and family, my friends. I have seen a GP face to face 7 times since I was discharged, had two review clinic sessions (where they essentially just check your weight and overall health for 20 minutes) and found a free support group that I attend when I can.

Of course this and everything that has happened in the past year since I was discharged has had a huge impact on me and I could have really done with that continued support. I have self harmed (something that had only happened once before in the last 6 years), my blood tests results have been coming back bad, I’ve been back on regular ECGs, I’ve started developing a bald spot from pulling my hair out of anxiety and I’m currently waiting to find out if I have in fact done permanent damage to my bone density.

My last chance

So here I am, a year on, about to step through that door again and I’m scared. Because this is my last chance. I’ve been told this is the last treatment they are offering me. These 16 sessions are the only chance I have left on the NHS and I can’t afford to go private.

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rTMS for Anorexia Nervosa: The Results Are In

So here we are, a year on from my initial inquiries into the trial and it’s time to tell you the results. It’s been a long time coming.

If you’ve read the previous blogs you’ll know I’ve been very apprehensive about the results and this reveal. In the last blog I stated I thought and hoped I had been in the placebo group because (so far at least) I hadn’t seen or felt any noticeable improvement. I said I felt bruised from all the treatment doors and didn’t want to feel another thud against my face.

I’ve waited awhile to tell you all because I’ve needed time to process it myself. Regardless of result an answer meant finally getting some closure on the previous months but also held sway over what happened next. If it was placebo then I would now be allowed to go through the procedure again, this time for real which would mean making arrangements to fit another month of travel into my life. If it was real then I would have to decide if I wanted to look for treatment elsewhere, whether that meant grudgingly going back to my previous NHS Community Eating Disorder Team,  looking into third sector support or even going to my parents for help with a paid, private therapist.

Drum Roll Please….

So enough already, the results.

I opened the envelope, unfolded the paper and the results were there:

“Real Treatment”

So there we go, it was not, as I’d hoped, the placebo. I had received 17 sessions of actual Repetitive Trans-Cranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy.

How Do I Feel Now I Know?

I’m feeling Okay about things now to be honest. Initially, yes, I was disappointed. I hadn’t been looking forward to going through the whole thing again but I didn’t and still don’t feel any different.

I’ve been told that you can still sometimes see signs of improvement in the six months after the treatment has ended so I guess there is a chance that something might shift. So far results seem to show that in people that do notice improvement it isn’t a massive thing, you never (and I never expected to) wake up “cured” or a thousand times better. But for some people it seems it does help to slightly shift, adjust, “rewire” almost, parts of the brain and can help pave a clearer path to recovery.

I’ll never know for sure why this seemingly hasn’t worked for me. It could be that I didn’t have enough sessions or a high enough dose, perhaps it only works for specific people, a sub-cohort of people with Anorexia we haven’t identified.

It might well be that my head, my life and my illness are too complex right now. Finding out a family member has Cancer is enough to throw anyone completely and I know my head has been in a very bad place for a very long time now.

Maybe it never stood a chance against my environment.

On taking part in a clinical trial

I will never regret my decision to take part in the trial. That it hasn’t worked is a shame for me personally but when you are part of a trial you are just one piece of a much bigger puzzle. The TIARA study I have been participating in sets out to be the biggest ever RCT of rTMS for Anorexia Nervosa and it feels good to have been part of something so big and groundbreaking.

My data and the data from other participants will be gathered and painstakingly picked over by some of the brightest minds in the country. The results will then be scrutinized by their peers across the world and released to the scientific community and wider world for further examination, discussion and replication.

Given that my condition, Anorexia, has the highest mortality rate of ANY mental illness I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to be part of the race to find better treatment and save lives. We know that 20% of people with Anorexia die prematurely. And even if it doesn’t kill us less than half of us will make a “full recovery”. The odds for Anorexia are worse than some forms of Cancer.

Despite this mental health still receives very little funding in terms of research which is vital if we want to develop new treatments and save lives. To not do so is (to put it bluntly) a seriously false economy when you take into account lost lives, earnings etc. In fact the whole of mental health research spend in the UK per year is just £115 million an average, 22x less than Cancer.

Part of my hope with this series of blogs has been to shine some light on mental health research and show you what it looks like to be a participant in a clinical trial and I hope it has at least been mildly interesting.

From here I’m not sure what I will do.

I am looking into a local charity which provides an Eating Disorder Support Group and I have been re-referred back to the NHS Community Eating Disorder Service (grudgingly but that is a story for another day).

Until then I battle on.

Thank you for reading my story.

Mental Health Research: More Information

If you’re interested in finding out more about mental health research or get involved check out organisations like MQ: Transforming Mental Health, The McPin Foundation and the brilliant blog Mental Elf.

rTMS for Anorexia Nervosa: My Experience (Part 3: The Trial Itself)

Part One: What on Earth am I doing to myself?

Part Two: Making Tough Decisions

A lot of you have been chasing me for Part 3 of this series of blogs. Unfortunately this has been, by far, the hardest piece for me to write – not just because it covers what the trial involved but also because of what happened in my personal life during the course of the trial. So it’s safe to say this isn’t my first attempt to get these thoughts out, the second or even the tenth.

I endeavour to do my best to separate the treatment and my personal life but, as you can imagine, the two bleed heavily into each other so please forgive me in advance.

Clinical Trial: Day One

The first day of the trial was pretty intense and I ended up taking my Dad with me to support me as the first day involved not only an MRI but several assessments as well as my first rTMS session. I probably could have done it myself but physical weakness and anxiety meant it felt safer to have support at hand. I would recommend others take someone with them as it is quite long and can be quite an exhausting experience. Dad was quite chuffed about coming along, especially as he has a background in scientific imaging and is a Kings College London Alumni. As a student he lived just across the road from where I was being treated (which meant he could revisit old haunts including his houses of residence and places him and my Mum used to go when they first met).

We arrived at the IoPP Neuroimaging department after catching a very early train – the staff I must say were absolutely lovely, all of them. After filling out more paperwork I was ushered through to an area where I could remove any and all metal items and store them and my bag in a locker.

Thankfully, to my surprise, there was no voyeuristic hospital dressing gown and I was allowed to wear my own clothes.

The people who operate the MRI were absolutely lovely, I couldn’t fault them. I wasn’t nervous but I was bloody freezing and they put pillows under me and a blanket over me to keep me warm and talked to me throughout the procedure to keep me at ease and make sure I was OK (and warm enough).

Having an MRI scan

The MRI itself was quite an experience – I had previously only witnessed them on TV and as it turns out, watching all eight series of House does not give you a realistic idea of what to expect.. who knew?

I was under the impression that they were a tad scary and made one particular noise over and over again. As it turns out MRIs make such a wide array of noises it’s almost as though they have their own language – whirring, beeping, buzzing and banging depending on where they are looking in your brain and what they are doing.

For the first part I had a couple of calibration tests followed later on by a fuller set of basic tests. I was surprised at how close I came to falling asleep during the more restful period where I didn’t have to do any tasks (admittedly throughout the whole process but especially this bit) – I had assumed sleep would be impossible in such an environment but apparently it’s quite common. Unfortunately the end was the more active part otherwise I would definitely have had a cheeky nap!

After an hour in the machine I did several basic assessments that looked at my perception of the healthiness and tastiness of various foods and then we were ready for session one.

 

The First rTMS Session – What to expect

The first session was a bit daunting but I was put at ease at every stage of the trial in fact with the absolutely lovely researchers I worked with.

Sessions started with a quick computer task which was essentially watching food videos – for me this actually the worst part of the entire trial! I realise a lot of people with Anorexia LOVE food (believe me you should see my social media feeds during Great British Bake Off). I am indifferent to food at best, repulsed at worst and so even 90 seconds of these videos a day were enough to cause my anxiety to leap and appetite to drop. This was preceded and then followed by some quick measures on how full I felt, how anxious etc.

A calibration test was done for the machines to try and work out where a specific itsy-bitsy part of my brain was (the motor cortex). This is not always an easy task and the researchers explained that it can take many attempts to find it and even then sometimes you just don’t.

This calibration happened on a weekly basis and it was interesting that some weeks it was easy to find and others were like looking for a needle in a neurological haystack!

Check out my beautiful brain!

15171189_10157824263005424_620595092440185995_n

This is what I have started referring to as my “brain selfie”!

This test is done to make sure that the “coil” they use to deliver the TMS is positioned correctly – what they are actually looking to stimulate is part of your pre-frontal cortex which is part of the brain that controls mood regulation among other things.

This is what the coil looks like when it is on your head – it’s quite something! Personally I’m not sure this particular fashion trend will take off..

15235924_10157854024835424_363455829212554470_o

What does rTMS feel like?

As much as the researchers had tried to explain what it felt like (they had all undergone sessions so had personal experience) it is still a bit different for each person. It also can take a higher “dose” to get the required effect in some patients or even session to session which then further affects variation of experience.

For me I didn’t find the sensation painful, it was probably best described as uncomfortable. With each set of “pulses” sent out there were quite loud clicking noises. As it was on my head I felt something akin to a strong set of vibrations (again not painful). It also made my jaw shake uncontrollably because of these vibrations so I tended to keep my mouth shut (shocking I know!) while the pulses were delivered otherwise I ended up with chattering teeth and I sounded pretty ridiculous!

Side effects of rTMS

Sessions varied in how they left me feeling and the side effects I encountered. The main side effects I experienced were:

  • Headaches
  • Eye strain
  • Nausea

Other people have been known to experience other side effects including:

  • Light headedness – admittedly I did get this but as someone with low blood pressure and other co-morbid conditions this is fairly normal for me so I wasn’t able to work out if this was made worse by the treatment
  • Discomfort on the scalp

There are some more serious side effects but these seem to be very uncommon.

During the earlier sessions I definitely experienced more headaches and eye strain but this lessened over the following sessions, perhaps because my body was becoming more acclimatised? The eye strain also lessened if I wore my glasses straight after the session for a few hours (usually I just wear them for reading).

I also experienced quite high levels of nausea (although no vomiting thankfully). I am very aware that nausea is my body’s go-to reaction to a lot of treatments (mostly previous experiences with medication) so it’s likely I was always going to have a slightly more extreme experience in this regard. I found if I ate something small and very bland (say crackers) a few hours before the nausea would be pretty bad but not unbearable but if I did eat something richer it made me worse. But that’s just me and I would never endorse restriction obviously.

 

Devious Anorexia and Self Sabotage

As I mentioned in part two of this series of blogs, one of my main concerns would be how my Anorexia might try and sabotage me during the trial. I was very aware that this was the most freedom I had been given in over a year and freedom is a dangerous thing when you can’t trust your mind. I wanted so badly to prove that I could handle this level of freedom and this change and be trusted but the voice was so, so strong every hour of every day.

Unfortunately some of my fears were realised although things never got to the point where they jeopardised my place on the trial (e.g. dropping under the minimum weight requirement) and I managed to stay just above water long enough to undergo the whole course of treatment.

On reflection my Anorexia did use the trial as a means to restrict my diet to some extent and vastly increased the amount of exercise I was doing (mostly because of the walk to and from the station and when trains arrived early and I had time to kill). It was also very easy to slip back into the deceit: “have you eaten?” (yes but really no), “did you relax at the coffee shop when you arrived?” (yes but really no I walked for miles), “do you want a lift home from the station?” (yes because I’m exhausted but no because I can’t fight the urge to exercise).

Going through the trial without any external professional support was not good for me. I wish the team I was under had the foresight to realise that and to actually give me what I had been promised – sessions during the treatment to support me. However due to various issues and miscommunication I didn’t get a session until after the treatment was long done which ended up feeling utterly pointless.

Do I feel any better after rTMS?

Unfortunately the simple answer is: no.

I find out in a matter of days whether I was in the real or placebo group and I am desperately hoping it was the latter. Not because I want to spend another month of my life commuting and having my brain zapped (it’s exhausting, expensive and time consuming) but because if it was real it didn’t work (at least it feels that way right now)..and that’s another option crossed off, leaving me with very little, if any, options left for treatment.

HOWEVER this answer comes with an absolutely huge caveat – and that is what happened during the trial in my personal life which undoubtedly had a profound and disastrous impact on my mental health. If it was the real treatment it could well have not worked to it’s full extent because of everything else that was going on. I don’t know.

The personal stuff

Friends, family and readers of this blog will know that life for me and my partner has been very difficult for a long time now. To sum things up far too briefly in the last few years we lost our home and ended up moving back in with my family after 7 years away, we both got made redundant and we lost my partner’s grandfather in September 2016 after a long and bitter battle with Dementia. On top of our existing mental and physical health issues of course.

So as you can imagine things weren’t great. We struggled along on my benefits and the incredible and unconditional love and support of our parents but it was hard.

And then our world came crashing down.

Not long into the trial we discovered that my partner’s father had Cancer. Less than a week later we were told the worst news I have ever heard; it was Stage 4, it had spread, there were no treatment options, it was terminal.

Obviously this was absolutely devastating for absolutely all of us. And a complete shock. We walked around in a daze, we tried to comprehend, we still can’t. I won’t go into too much detail, it’s not my story to tel but I can talk about how it affected me in the immediate aftermath to give you an idea of how much my world was rocked during treatment and how this may have impacted on it’s efficacy.

I cried every day for weeks. Multiple times a day. Even in public (if you know me you know this DOES NOT HAPPEN). I cried five times just on the way to treatment one day when train delays pushed emotions over the edge and ended up literally collapsed, on my knees, hiding behind a pillar outside Blackfriars Station bawling my eyes out. I gave up on trying to hide it. I cried in public toilets, on the train, walking down the street.

Months on, now we find ourselves in the new year and the weeks are flying past I try desperately to work out what’s what – how am I feeling? What is causing it? Do I think the treatment worked? Was I even in the treatment group or did I get the placebo? It feels impossible to untangle.

So I’m sorry because I know this is not a neat story.

I wish I could say “I have struggled for years but after a few sessions I felt great!”. I wish I could be one of those inspirational “sick to picture perfect recovery”, “before and after” features but my life is not and has never been like that.

I will find out imminently whether I had the real or placebo sessions during the trial. I am completely unsure how to feel about this and I must admit a large dose of apprehension. If it was real and I’m no better that feels like yet another door closing on my already badly bruised face and if it was the placebo I have to muster up the motivation and energy to go through the process again, this time for real.

 

So watch this space for the results, honestly it’s going to be as much a surprise to me as it will be to you.

rTMS for Anorexia Nervosa: My Experience (Part 2 – Making tough decisions)

If you need to catch up or refresh your memory you can read Part One here.

In part two of this series of blogs I will be talking about actually getting into the trial and what was going through my mind during what turned out to be quite a long process. I do this partly for selfish reasons – I find writing cathartic, it helps me to make sense of my experiences and quiet my racing mind.

I hope that it might give researchers or anyone working or living with someone with Anorexia or any Eating Disorder, an insight into some of the thoughts that might be going through our minds when we start, or even just consider entering ANY treatment.

Finally I want people weighing up treatment options to know it is OK, in fact it’s normal to have mixed opinions, to feel pulled in different directions and to not only have doubts but to talk about them.

Enrolling in a Clinical Trial

Enrolling in the clinical trial first started with working out if I was eligible to take part in the first place. Research trials often have to have strict criteria otherwise results can be easily skewed. For the TIARA study I had to fill out a number of assessment forms, not unlike the ones you are given entering any mental health service.

There were a lot of questionnaires about my Anorexia, other health conditions and my history of service use as well as the usual demographic questions. On top of this, because part of the study included a number of MRI scans, I had to do a questionnaire to make sure it was safe for me to have the scans (after all it’s a bloody massive magnet so you really want to make sure there isn’t even the smallest fragment of metal in your body).

affinity-mri-closed-mri-scan

MRIs – big scary magnet machines that are surprisingly easy to fall asleep in

My God it’s like dealing with Vogons sometimes and I ended up having to go through the whole process twice in the end to find the absolute exact piece of information needed which ended up being exactly what we’d expected all along anyway. Oh and I paid for the privilege of finding this one piece of information about my own body, fabulous.

Sorry for the (admittedly ever present sarcasm) but when you’re a health tech geek and you know personal Electronic Health Records could be amazing and save so much stress and time it can be a tad frustrating.

vogon

Ok maybe the Vogon reference is a bit much but it’s certainly not a process I wish to repeat any time soon

Thankfully I was eventually given full medical clearance and we were off.

Pre-Treatment Concerns and Musings

Having spent six months attempting to get into the trial and banging my head against various bureaucratic walls along the way I hadn’t really let myself get excited or believe that it would actually happen. At several points I seriously contemplated giving up trying but was spurred on by the knowledge that it was the only way to try this treatment. Or any treatment for that matter as, bizarrely, after being discharged from services I’d been promised that, should I get into the trial, I would be given several outpatient sessions to support me – which didn’t actually materialise until after the trial had ended.

All of a sudden I had less than two weeks until my start date which would be a full on day of assessments, an MRI and my first session of rTMS. The new regime, going from being mostly sedentary for almost a year and hiding from the world – to commuting again every day and the energy it would use up was daunting.

I will hold my hands up to being a pretty damn anxious, highly strung and controlled person. I like to take my time to think about things before rushing in and this was something that it felt like I needed way more time to properly process before I could start. But I pushed myself out of my comfort zone because it felt “now or never” (it actually wasn’t, I could have pushed the start date back to January but after waiting so long I didn’t feel I could any longer) but that’s how much brain works, and I use the term “works” loosely.

I also figured I couldn’t possibly comprehend what I was about to undergo as it was completely unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I had watched as many videos as possible, read information pages, first person accounts.

As Ready As I Could Be

I had a LOT of conflicting thoughts, especially in the last few days before treatment started as is shown by several lengthy journal entries which allowed me to get down some of my fears and hopes.

My biggest fears were as paradoxical as my illness. I was terrified the treatment (and therefore another course of action, some hope, getting some form of routine back, being back “out in the world”) wouldn’t work.

I was equally terrified it would work and my Anorexia would be cured.

Because as horrendous and destructive as this disease is it feels safe, especially when my world hasn’t stopped shaking in some time and I feel like I am continually losing my footing. It is an insidious and disturbing constant in my life and I find it very hard to discern where I end and it begins. Truth be told I’m not exactly sure who I am without it and to face losing it – or at least to begin actively engaging in something that could result in it’s loss – was not easy to deal with.

Cue minor existential crisis

This part, typed into my phone while chain smoking and shivering in the cold, the night before the trial was due to start, stands out in particular:

I’m being handed an incredible opportunity by being able to take part in this trial. Without this study if I wanted this treatment it would cost me up to £10,000 or something ridiculous like that. Not an option when I haven’t been out of my overdraft in seven years. This is my only chance. I’m just so terrified of me (or my Anorexia, whichever one of us it is) sabotaging this. I know I am still reeling from being discharged against my will from mental health services not long ago and finding my feet on my own. Everything is so messed up at the moment too, is this really the time for this fight? I know I’ve been fighting recovery and in perpetual relapse mode. I don’t know if this treatment can work if I don’t want it to. And if that’s the case surely I shouldn’t be so selfish and stop this now, I’ll only screw up their results and then this treatment won’t get approval and people that actually deserve this treatment won’t get it..

If I put my psychology hat on it’s as clear as day looking back – I can see the major catastrophising for a start (I realise objectively obviously I’m not so important that a whole treatment could be made or broken on the results of one participant alone), a lot of black and white thinking (now or never) and a lot of guilt, shame – that I had this opportunity, whether or not I was “worthy” of it.

Of course now looking back I can see objectively that this is classic me behaviour when entering treatment and it’s played out many times before but as ever, it can be bloody difficult to see the woods for the trees when it comes to your own mental health.

When you share a body with this particular disorder for half a lifetime it knows your every weak spot and it does not hesitate to twist the knife when it sees an opportunity.

I had concerns too about how I would manage such a dramatic shift in my daily routine. I was lucky in that the trial was only 1 or 2 trains and only 90 minutes or so door which meant I only had to deal with a maximum of 4 a day (not bad for me!) and my Disabled Rail Card made costs much more manageable. However I still needed to be in London every week day for 18 sessions and an extra day for the final assessments and MRI. A few years ago that would have been nothing for me, I would have laughed at the ease when I was working full time, travelling in peak hours, commuting 4 hours a day on top of volunteering and being a carer. However a year out of work and mostly being told (and often made) to not “over-do it” my stamina has diminished considerably and even a trip a week into London can require days of recovery.

I was very aware that my devious disorder could easily use this as a perfect opportunity to ramp up it’s behaviours and pull my strings like a puppet. I would have opportunity, certainly, to over exercise and reduce my intake. My brain went back and forth trying to work out if my intentions were good, or at the very least “good enough” to do the trial.

In the end I decided to take the risk but make sure that I had back up in the form of peer support, my partner and family as well as calls with my lovely GP. I’m still not sure how well I did on this front, I know I pushed limits at point, tested waters I shouldn’t but overall I managed.

In part three: The part you’re all actually interested in – the treatment itself! Including the procedure itself, the idiosyncrasies and particulars of the trial and a few ridiculous pictures including my brain selfie.