The Lyme 360 Podcast: Heal+

EP 88: Retraining Your Brain for Better Health as a Lyme Warrior

January 25, 2022 Mimi MacLean
The Lyme 360 Podcast: Heal+
EP 88: Retraining Your Brain for Better Health as a Lyme Warrior
Show Notes Transcript

Your brain, mindset, and nervous system play a large role in the healing process of chronic Lyme. Lindsay Mitchell, founder of Vital Side and Lyme warrior, used brain retraining to regain her health. The virtual programs provide a modern approach to finding solutions to limbic system impairment - key techniques for healing from many of the symptoms.

Tune in to this episode to learn about Lindsay’s journey, what brain retraining is and how you can use it to help with your chronic pains and symptoms.

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https://lyme360.com/brain-retraining-for-lyme-with-lindsay-mitchell/

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 Mimi:
Welcome to the Lyme 360 podcast for all things related to Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses. I'm Mimi MacLean, mama of five, founder of Lyme 360, and a fellow Lyme warrior. Tune in each week to hear from doctors, health practitioners, and experts, to learn about their treatments, struggles, and triumphs to help you on your healing journey. I'm here to heal with you.

Mimi:
Before we get started with the podcast, I wanted to talk to you about what is in your personal care products and cosmetics. What you put on your skin, which is your largest organ, is just as important as what you consume. Your body immediately absorbs what is on the skin, but did you know that there is limited regulation in the personal care industry? And the last law that was passed was 1938. So the chemicals and ingredients in your products have not been tested for human safety.

Mimi:
So for those of you struggling with your health, it is super important to use clean products. Eight years ago, I started using Beautycounter for my cosmetics and personal care products. They are the leaders in clean, safer products that work. Beautycounter has done the research and taken the guesswork out of what is safe. Go to lyme360.com/beautycounter to learn more. Reach out to me at mimi@lyme360.com if you want to learn more or find out what my favorite products are.

Mimi:
Hi, welcome back to the Lyme 360 podcast. This is your host, Mimi MacLean. And today, we have on Lindsay Mitchell and she is the CEO and founder of Vital-Side. She had a weak immune system and chronic pains from a young age, and she was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus as a teen, and later contracted Lyme with a tick while hiking. She refused to accept her doctor's lifelong prognosis and used neuroplasticity and retraining techniques to reframe her mindset and heal her symptoms. Lindsay's background is a medical practitioner, combined with her personal experiences, using neuroplastic tools to make a full recovery from chronic illness have served to create the truly transformational offerings found in Vital-Side.

Mimi:
Vital-Side's innovative approach to brain retraining is designed to help you define freedom from debilitating symptoms of chronic illness to achieve long-term, sustainable results. The virtual programs provide a modern approach to finding solutions to limbic system impairment, which is often related to chronic symptoms of anxiety, fatigue, pain, dizziness, and stress.

Mimi:
To get my detox for Lyme checklist, go to lyme360.com/detoxchecklist.

Mimi:
Lindsay, thank you so much for coming on today. I really appreciate it. And I'm excited to talk about the company you started, which sounded like it was in response to a chronic illness that you had. I don't know if you share that or not, if it's Lyme or some other illness, but I'd love to hear about your journey and how you used brain retraining to help you heal.

Lindsay:
Yes. Mimi, thank you so much for having me. Yes, so I started vital side about five years ago, and it was in response to being diagnosed with Lyme disease and going through the gamut of different treatments and still being sick and still being symptomatic. And prior to having Lyme disease, I worked as an internal medicine physician assistant, and I was a travel PA. So I've been in the Western world for a long time, Western world of medicine, and that's my training. And so, I was traveling around and ended up getting bitten by a tick. And soon after falling ill with a lot of chronic symptoms, chronic migraines, fatigue, joint pain.

Lindsay:
And I had treated Lyme before in my background as a practitioner, but in a very... This is what you take, these are the antibiotics, this is how long you take it for. And I recognized a couple months after I was bitten that this is probably Lyme. I need to do something about it. And it wasn't right away. I was traveling a lot. I thought it was jet lag, so I didn't even get that diagnosis until six months later. And then I received that diagnosis.

Lindsay:
And it's an interesting thing. In my practice now, the diagnosis isn't as important as how you are feeling because there are so many people... We live symbiotically with bugs, with bacteria, with viruses, but I was so impacted, and I know a lot of your listeners are so impacted by this bacteria. And at the time, so I received the diagnosis. I was like, "Okay, great, cool. I'm not going crazy." Because I think a lot of us think we're losing our minds. And I started to do all of the research into, okay, what next? At that point, it had been six plus months. Is this chronic Lyme? What do I do?

Lindsay:
And I went the typical Western medical model route of treatment first because that's how I was trained, that's what I know. I come from a long line of physicians and medical practitioners in my family. As a result of conditioning, this is what I'm exposed to. And some of it was okay, and I felt a little bit better, but then I'd plateau again.

Lindsay:
So I started to think outside of the box. What else can I do? And that's when I got into integrative, functional, alternative medicine. And my personality in general is zero to 100. Let's do all of it. Let's do all of the things because I need to get better.

Mimi:
Better, yeah.

Lindsay:
And I think one of the most frustrating things, which I know a lot of your listeners can relate to, is I was told this is something you're going to have to live with for the rest of your life, make yourself comfortable. I was told, "Well, you're a female and you're mid-20s. This is probably something that you'll just get through in a couple of months." And just constantly dismissed and constantly having my very real symptoms of pain and fatigue and migraines, which I'd never had in my life, be pushed to the side.

Lindsay:
So of course, medical trauma just grew with that experience. And it was a really interesting one, having been in on this other side of that as a patient. So very, very interesting experience. And again, my independent side can also be stubborn, and I'm like, "No, there's no way. I want to prove all of these practitioners wrong." And luckily, I did have support. I had myself as an advocate, yes. But on those days where I was so tired and that self support was lacking, I had my husband, I had the people in my life who were rallying for me and thinking, "Okay, there's got to be something else."

Lindsay:
So I tried all the things. Somebody asked me to name them the other day, and the first couple years I used to go through all of them. And I'm like, "You name it, I tried it."

Mimi:
Yeah. That's how I feel. There's a couple things I haven't tried. I haven't tried stem cells. I haven't tried... Very few things. I've tried most things at this point.

Lindsay:
I didn't try the bee venom therapy.

Mimi:
Yeah. That's the other one I haven't tried. I'm afraid to get stung by a bee.

Lindsay:
It wasn't as popular when I was diagnosed. It wasn't something that was talked about. Yeah. I probably would've tried it.

Mimi:
I contemplated... Because every day, I drive home, I pass a beehive my neighbor has and I'm like, "Oh, should I just try that just to say I've tried it?"

Lindsay:
But it's so interesting because now on the other side of it, I'm like, oh, it's so interesting how a lot of people were like, give me all of the things. I want to try all the things. And then we move to the next one, move to the next one. And then it's hard to know what's working [crosstalk 00:08:31] and what's not working.

Lindsay:
When I was first diagnosed, I went down the rabbit hole of all the social media accounts associated with Lyme. I'm looked at all of the blog posts, the forums. And I quickly realized I overstepped a boundary of mine here because then I was flooded with all of this information, and it was overwhelming. It's too much. It was too much for me. Our brains can only get one piece at a time. All of this information, you can just be inundated and anxious. And I had never been anxious before. So all of a sudden, my anxiety was rising and it was a lot.

Lindsay:
But I did try a lot of different therapies, lot of different modalities. And some of them worked really well for a bit. But again, I'd always reach that time where I'd plateau, meaning, I'm sure if you have Lyme, you can relate to this. You start a treatment, you're doing better, you're feeling a little bit better. And then you just stop feeling better. And not just for a day, for weeks and months, and so it continues. It's not like it peaks and then that nonlinear version of healing. It just would plateau.

Lindsay:
So I really dug deep, and I was like, okay, I've addressed the physical body. I always tap my arm when I do that. Because a lot of times, we're trained in, okay, our physical body is sick. My hand hurts because I banged it on something. I need to address the hand because it hurts and it's inflamed, and same idea here. I addressed the physical body. I detoxed. I was eating this very clean diet. At some points, I was just eating bone broth for weeks at a time, doing these intense cleanses, all of this stuff.

Lindsay:
And I came across a blog post, just a random blog post I had found somebody posted. And she was talking about brain retraining as a treatment for Lyme disease. And I'm at first like, "Okay, huh, that's weird. It sounds scary. What is this?" And then she talked about neuroplasticity, and I'm like, "Okay. I learned about that in school. I know what that is. I don't know the application of it."

Lindsay:
And I started to do some more research, and that led me to people like Dr. Norman Deutsch and Dr. Joe [Dispenza 00:11:07] and Dr. Candace [Pert 00:11:09] and all of these incredible people who wrote these incredible books about the connection that the brain has with the body. And this idea that we think the physical body addressing the physical body only addresses the physical body. Well, that's just not the case, and we have the information to prove it now. We have the technology to prove it, how the brain and body are always communicating with each other. And even within the own brain, we used to think... A couple decades ago, there was this idea of localization where one part of the brain is responsible for one thing. And that's not the case. We know that the brain is malleable. The brain is always changing. Even as adults, it's changing.

Lindsay:
And when you change one part of the brain, it changes another part, which communicates and sends a different signal to the body. And the brain and body are always communicating with each other and communicating through how we're experiencing our reality, so through our five senses. What we're picking up from our external environment, what's around us, the smells and the tastes and the things, the sights, the noises. And then our internal environment, so what's happening inside of us.

Lindsay:
And at this point in my journey, I had detoxed and I had treated and I had killed, I had killed the infections, and I had worked on that so much. And when I read this, I was like, "Okay. I think that I've been missing this puzzle piece of the brain." Of course, we have other parts to us. So physical, I think of categorizing this healing process with the physical body addressing the physical body, the brain, and the nervous system.

Lindsay:
And then there's this third area that's ambiguous and has a lot of different areas, but that to me is trauma processing and working on your mental health, emotional health and wellbeing.

Lindsay:
So I hadn't done those two. I hadn't addressed the brain and nervous system. I hadn't processed trauma. And I had gone through trauma as a kid, and I had been to therapy for years and years and years. So I was used to that, but I had never processed trauma that gets memorized in my body. So when I had read about the brain and the nervous system component first, I was like, "Okay, this is a missing puzzle piece that I can..." It's palatable. I can get my hands on it. I can wrap my mind around it. Because I know that from this experience alone, I've been stuck in this state of heightened stress. I could tell I was hypervigilant. I was responding to things in my environment with hyper reaction, hypersensitivity to food, to smells, to inflammation. All of a sudden, I couldn't drink alcohol. I couldn't drink coffee.

Mimi:
The smells, you walk in with a candle smelling somewhere. You're like, "I got to get out of here." Or even walking down the aisle of a grocery store and being in the cleaning supply aisle. You're like, "I can't even walk down here. I'd break out in hives."

Lindsay:
Totally. At one point, I stopped driving because I would drive to a place and then I'd forget how I got there. And I was like, "I think this is dangerous." And so I started taking Ubers to appointments, and I would get into an Uber, and if they had a very strong scent, like a cologne or perfume, I would just get super dizzy, check out. It was pretty terrible.

Lindsay:
So all of a sudden, you're this person living in this world that doesn't quite fit, and you can't function in the world like you're used to functioning. So those, to me, were all very obvious signs that, okay, there is this brain component, this nervous system, this neurological component going on here that is impacting my body. And then there's also the other components, when I started to read and research... And throughout this time when I was healing too, and I was looking more into brain retraining, I started to take a neurolinguistics programming course. And so, just learning about how our environment, how the brain, how the words that we use, how this all impacts our body.

Lindsay:
And I was just learning more and more about this. And I was thinking, "Oh my goodness, okay. There are other things in my life, too." The inflammation that I experience, the pain that I experience that comes and goes, the rashes that I have, this inflammation, all of these symptoms that supposedly were a result of Lyme are also symptoms of experiencing limbic system impairment, being stuck in this chronic stress response, hyper vigilance, hyper-reactivity. And it's basically, you are that Canary in the coalmine. I hate that saying it was something that I was told I was a lot of times when I was really sick, but that's how you feel because they sent the canaries down into the coal mine. And they were the first ones to get sick and maybe die. And I hated being compared to that. I was like, "I don't want to be the canary in the coal mine." But that's how I felt, is just this horrible feeling in the world, you can't live in anymore.

Mimi:
Yeah, yeah, no, it's true. And when I went to a neurologist, they gave me a good analogy. She was like, "Your bar has been lowered. Your Lyme and all your illnesses lowered your threshold. And so, that's why you become so hyper sensitive and even after the lime is gone or the parasite's gone, that bar is still lowered because it's like a PTSD almost. And that's what you are doing with your program, is raising that bar back up to normal and getting your body back to knowing that it's not in this fight or flight pattern all the time.

Lindsay:
So yes. And that's a good point because people ask me, "Well, when do I start brain retraining? Can I start after I was just diagnosed?" So everyone is different. And I can't make that call. I have worked with a lot of people who were just given that diagnosis. They're also working with a practitioner, but there is this idea of, okay, do you have this toxic overload? Do you have all of this Lyme, all of this bacterial infection and you've never treated it? Just addressing the brain, it's possible that you can feel better, but [crosstalk 00:17:47].

Mimi:
Need to do both.

Lindsay:
You have to address the physical body. That's why I have the three categories of the physical body, brain/nervous system, and trauma processing. So to me, collective healing is this symbiosis with all three of those. You don't have to do them all at the same time [crosstalk 00:18:03]

Mimi:
But you need to do them all, I think. I truly believe they're all hand in hand in hand. I don't think you can just do one and get away with it. I don't think you just treat the physical. And you might get better, but I think in the long run, you're going to relapse because if you haven't dealt with what the trauma is or your negativity and your negative energy vibe that's causing you to be sick is going to just go right back.

Lindsay:
Totally. And you can think about it from the perspective of, okay, if you just addressed the trauma processing, but you ate 20 donuts a day and you didn't think about your thoughts and you didn't regulate what you were doing, what you paid attention to, but you just addressed the trauma piece, where would that get you? Or vice versa. If you just ate very, very healthy, as a lot of people do. They eat all organic, they eat all of these things, they have the specific diet they've stuck to and then neglect the nervous system, neglect the trauma processing. Like you said, it's very hard to get to a place where, like you said, you raise that threshold. And so, I call that your innate natural resilience.

Lindsay:
And it's not something that people talk about quite often. We all have this innate ability to heal in our bodies. Animals, humans, we were designed to heal. Our bodies are made to heal. And so yes, we can use food and supplements and modalities in our lives to enhance that process, but being able to tap into our own healing properties is so important. And that's what I specifically focus on within this niche of brain retraining, of going from that limbic fight or flight freeze response, to accessing more often than not that parasympathetic rest and digest.

Lindsay:
But we don't just stop there. That's one element to it, but we focus on how do we create the feel good neurochemicals in our lives again, that dose, that dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, which makes it easier to connect with that parasympathetic response. And then, how do we apply that to the things that we've perceived to be dangerous, whether that's food or an activity like walking. For me, I was a gymnast as a kid. I did yoga my entire life. I could do headstands, and I would do them all the time. Well, I got to a point with Lyme that I couldn't even raise my hand above my head to wash my hair. So, okay. That's my baseline. I have to start there. And I have to start training my brain that this activity of raising my arm is safe.

Lindsay:
And so it took a strategic, structured practice in order to do that. So yes, all of those pieces are so important. And I think addressing all of them is that perfect recipe to this lifelong process of healing. I say lifelong process of healing because I think the trauma processing is always. It's never ending. But the physical and the brain retraining, I think you can get into a flow, so you don't have to have it be the something that you spend an hour doing every day.

Lindsay:
But I think you can get into this flow of habit, when it comes to creating good habits with the addressing the physical body, really taking care of your nervous system, supporting your nervous system, and then being proactive about trauma processing because we're human and we're all traumatized.

Mimi:
Right. No, it's true. And can you tell us a little bit about your company, Vital-Side, and what you offer with your company?

Lindsay:
Yes. So after I recovered, and I did make full recovery from Lyme disease, and I wanted to go back to work, and I started working, shadowing an integrative practice here in Austin. I quickly realized that I didn't want to do that because there were a lot of people that are really good at that. And there are a lot of different methods of thinking. And I was like, "You know what? I have all this knowledge from my personal ability that I used to recover. And brain retraining was the last piece of my puzzle that I think I used to make that full recovery." So I was like, "I want to bridge the gap between medicine and then this idea of using our minds, using our brains to heal, which often there is that disconnect."

Lindsay:
And that was really, really important to me. And the first thing that I wanted to do was start to educate practitioners about this brain/body connection. And that's what I started to do. So I started Vital-Side. And that practitioner I was working with, I said, "Hey, I'm starting this company. Why don't you start sending your patients to me?"

Lindsay:
So anyway, I started talking with patients, coaching them. I had become an NLP practitioner and became an emotional freedom technique and thought field therapy practitioner as well, just learned some additional tools. And throughout that first year of coaching, my goal was to really solidify a practice, a daily structured practice people could use who are chronically sick, have chronic symptoms, may even be bedridden, and they could start there, shifting and changing what neural pathways they take in their brain to break that well-patterned chronic stress response.

Lindsay:
And that was my goal. And so that first year, I did a lot of research and a lot of trial and error. And I came up with a structured technique. And so I teach... In Vital-Side now I have a membership subscription. You can go on and you can actually start retraining your brain with some educational videos, learning about how the brain changes, how the brain is plastic and malleable, and then start learning these quick techniques that the first couple techniques only take a couple minutes, and then you can start sprinkling them in throughout your day.

Lindsay:
And then as you get to the middle, towards the end of the Vital-Side membership, you'll find the longer technique. And basically I have people commit to using this longer technique. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes. It includes mental rehearsal, some visualization. And then we apply that to whatever you want to train with, that mile walk you want to take, whether it's raising your arm above your head, that food you want to eat again, that activity, that place you want to go travel to. We train with the goals that you have in mind, using this practice to shift and change your survival response, that fight/flight or that freeze response, so that you can start to connect with safety in your life again.

Lindsay:
And so that's the structured practice I teach in my membership. And then from there, I offer group sessions and then private sessions for people who just want to expand their practice, or they want some extra accountability. I've got a community of retrainers. We have thousands of people retraining their brains. So it's blossomed into this really beautiful community of brain retrainers, and I've really expanded it now into working in other areas too, for people who've done other programs and brain retraining programs. Now I offer them advanced retraining program. So it's been this beautiful, very natural expansion in this brain retraining world, which I've just been so excited to be a part of.

Mimi:
This is great. And I'm so glad you're feeling better. And your company is a great resource to a lot of people because dealing with the emotional part of your body is usually not the first thing and usually forgotten. So which is, I think, crucial and critical to do in order to get better. But your website is vital-side.com, so people can find you there. And then is there anything else that we should cover before we go?

Lindsay:
Yeah, if you want any resources, I do offer a lot of really fun, informational videos on my Instagram at my Vital-Side. I also do have, if you're just... This is the first time you're hearing about brain retraining, and you're like, "Oh, this sounds interesting. This could be my missing puzzle piece." I have this 34-minute long video on what the chronic stress response is, a little bit more about my story, and just learning that first piece of how the brain changes when you have a chronic illness and how do use neuroplasticity. So that's free. You can find that on the homepage of my website.

Mimi:
That's great. Thank you so much. This is amazing. And I really appreciate your time, Lindsay. Thank you.

Lindsay:
Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.

Mimi:
Each week, I will bring you different voices from wellness community so that they can share how they help their clients heal. You will come away with tips and strategies to help you get your life back. Thank you so much for coming on, and I am so happy you are here. Subscribe now and tune in next week. If you want to learn how I detox and you want to check out my detox for Lyme checklist, go to lyme360.com/detoxchecklist. You can also join our community at Lyme 360 Warriors on Facebook, and let's heal together. Thank you.