We traveled to Kansas City again, this week, for a follow-up visit to get a neurology consultation. After looking over all of her records and examining/interviewing her, the neurologist's diagnosis is "Conversion Disorder". He explained more about what that is, telling us it is more technical than just saying, "It's a physical manifestation of stress." He says the recovery period depends upon the patient, and he gave her some instructions and suggestions to help her face things down and retrain her brain to give her more control.
It seems that Conversion Disorder affects less than half of one percent of people. The doctor explained it quite clearly to us. It seems there has been limited research into CD, but that there has been enough to describe it. Researchers have examined the MRI results of people with CD and compared them with people without the disorder. For both groups, they flashed them a scary picture. When they did, the center of the brain lit up on the MRI. In a normal brain, the outside part of the brain turns off the center, telling the individual that it's just a picture and there is no danger. For a person with Conversion Disorder, the center stays lit up for longer before finally turning off. The same happens with other emotional stimuli.
My daughter's challenge now is to retrain the outside of her brain. She will start the appropriate therapy soon, but in the meantime, she has a specific breathing exercise that she must remember to do daily without anyone reminding her to do so. Making the decision to do the exercise is part of the brain retraining. He also suggested doing some exercise that involves thought, such as yoga, martial arts, or dance. She will continue to take time out to do a regular, enjoyable activity, as well, such as sketching and drawing - again, something that requires thought and not something she can do just as a fidget control.
Why does she keep "zoning" out? The explanation is something akin to driving to work, arriving at my destination, and not remembering going through a particular intersection or making a certain turn along the way. We all have a degree of "zoning" out that happens. It just happens to us without warning. For my daughter, it also occurs without warning, and it happens in a more extreme form.
We have follow-up consultations to continue both at home and in Kansas City during the next few months. The neurologist gave the most specific diagnosis we have received, and we have more specific guidelines to point us in the right direction, assuring my daughter that she will recover but not promising any timeline for the recovery. He told her that some make a full recovery in one month, but that others take as long as a full year to return to normal. Obviously, this is going to take some adjustment, some trust, and some patience along the way.