Does a diagnosis need to “stick?” Can we challenge or change it or is our course set, according to what the doctors have told us? Victor Mifsud was given the diagnosis at the age of 9 that he had tunnel vision and a condition that was going to ruin his eyesight. He chose to challenge that idea and this set him on a journey to explore what it takes to heal the body, mind, and spirit.
On today’s podcast, he shares the most helpful therapies. He talks about how to tap into the brain’s neuroplasticity (its ability to strengthen and develop new neuro-pathways). He discusses sound and somatic therapy and their role in relieving mental health issues, including PTSD. While Victor is legally blind, he reminds us that there is more to health than meets the eye.
Listen to the episode here:
Within the below transcript the bolded text is Hilda
Sometimes we resigned ourselves to a certain condition or diagnosis. The doctors say what we have and we accept it. Are we as stuck as they say we are or as we think we might be? Our guest is Victor Mifsud. Victor is a health coach, citizen scientist and documentary filmmaker. He also happens to be blind. He received a diagnosis at the age of nine that he chose not to accept however. He began a journey to defy that diagnosis. In the process, he learned a great deal about how to heal the body, spirit, and mind as well.
Now he shares what therapies have been the most helpful as he has dealt with his vision condition. He talks about how to tap into the brain’s neuroplasticity, its ability to strengthen and develop new neural pathways. He discusses sound and somatic therapy and their role in relieving mental health issues and treating PTSD. He reminds us that there is more to health than meets the eye. Victor explains why he believes childhood trauma might have played a part in the problems with his eyesight, and how it also could be behind a whole host of illnesses.
Welcome to the show, Victor.
Thanks for having me here.
You have a very compelling story. Let’s take it from the top. When you were nine years old, I understand you were diagnosed with a condition that the doctor said was irreversible. What was the diagnosis and how did you feel about it?
The diagnosis was a condition called retinitis pigmentosa. I was told I was going to go blind. The symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa are extreme night vision issues and tunneling of the vision. I was told that nothing could be done about it. I was going to have to prepare my life for going blind.
Victor, was this something that ran in your family?
It does run in my family. It pops up here and there.
How did it hit you to hear this at nine years old?
At nine, it didn’t mean much. The name of the condition was like, “I don’t even know what that means.” It’s a bit of an invisible visual disability in the sense where if you look at me, it doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong. It’s such a spectrum of vision loss that people think you can’t see or you can see. I have decent central vision. What I see in front of me, I can see perfectly fine, but I don’t have any visual fields and I’m extremely night blind. I was able to make my way through life. You don’t have too much responsibilities when you’re young and living at home. My vision wasn’t that bad. At sixteen, I was able to get my driver’s license, but that all changed when I was 21 where I went in for a routine eye exam and my vision had drastically worsened. That’s when it affected my life.
You didn’t just roll over and play dead when they told you at 21, “It’s worse.” You didn’t settle. What did you decide to do next?
When I got the news, it was tough news for me. I didn’t know how to deal with it because I was also dealing with some aspects of depression and mental health issues before that. At 21, when I lost my license, I tried to get it back and go through all of this. That was this transition period between 20 and 30 of feeling lost, depressed on antidepressant medications, anti-anxiety medications, and not knowing how to deal with this diagnosis and this loss of independence. It was hard. I was in despair.
How did your depression, discouragement, and anxiety play out in the day-to-day?
It was feeling that my life isn’t going anywhere. What’s the point that I didn’t fit in with anybody? How is this going to affect my relationships with women? It’s very low self-worth. I didn’t know how to feel like I fit in with this mysterious vision condition, not driving, what it means to be a man, and all of this stuff played into it. I was drinking more than I should have, doing other things to escape my reality, and not dealing with the main issue of accepting where I was in life.
I appreciate that you share that. There are a lot of people walking around with those same feelings of unworthiness, feeling like they don’t fit in, wondering how they can relate to others without the vision condition. Your story is relatable but I’m sure you couldn’t get out of that on your own. What did help you turn things around?
I did the whole talking to therapists, and on the slew of different antidepressant medications, anti-anxiety medications which did more harm than good, especially those clonazepam ones are problematic in terms of addiction and getting off of them. That was a whole thing that I had to deal with in terms of getting off that. I managed to get through life in the next ten years or so. I was involved with another relationship and this pattern kept happening where it didn’t go where I want it to. When that relationship ended, it brought up all of this trauma of self-worth and independence. It threw me back into this bigger depression. I was like, “This can’t keep happening. What is going on? I need to change this.”
It was then where I came across these books. One of them was Dr. Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself. It’s a New York Times bestselling book about the science of neuroplasticity. Dr. Gabor Maté is a mentor of mine. I came across his book called Scattered Minds. It’s about the true origins of attention deficit disorder, and how childhood trauma plays a role in ADD symptoms. I was reading this and I was completely jaw-dropped. It made a lot of sense on how I was unconsciously acting in my life, relationships, and the relationship that I had with myself.
To go back to that other book, The Brain That Changes Itself, I read this story of Barbara Arrowsmith. She was diagnosed with severe learning difficulties as a child. She was set to be like, “The brain can’t change. You have these learning challenges. That’s the way you are for the rest of your life.” She discovered that through doing these cognitive exercises, she was able to rehabilitate her brain, function in school, and even function on a social level. A lot of people with learning difficulties have these things that affect their relationships with people, family, significant others, friends, etc. There’s so much tied into the brain and how we interact. That was a big factor in how it affected my relationships with women in terms of communicating. I was like, “This woman changed her brain. I need to go to the school.” It gave me hope that I can change my brain for the better. That’s the art of what neuroplasticity is.
It’s a fascinating concept. I love the phrase you used, “Rehabilitate the brain.” Can you tell us one of the exercises or one of the things you did to begin to change your own brain?
The school isolates about nineteen different types of learning dysfunction. You have this assessment before going in, and then they develop a little system for you. There were a few different exercises. Some involved your eye being patched while you do these tracing exercises. It’s supposed to re-coordinate the left brain, right brain hemisphere. There are some auditory exercises where you hear this message in this recorder and have to listen to it as long as you can so you can repeat what was said. There’s this one called Clocks. It’s a computer program where it flashes these hands of a clock and you have to quickly type down the time. It starts building hands so it works for spatial memory. It’s interesting. There were about 6 or 7 exercises that I was doing there. It made a huge impact. It changed the way I learn, interact, my ability to research, absorb information, and transmute information as well.
It sounds like a fantastic experience. Let’s go back to the word you used earlier, neuroplasticity. Can you define that term? What it means to you and what it meant to you in this whole process?
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change itself. Neuroplasticity could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the environment and the stimulus. That’s what it meant for me. Growing up, we were often taught that the brain can’t change and you’re stuck the way you are. You realized the way you act or do certain things. You’re like, “Why do I keep doing that? I know I shouldn’t be doing that.” You want to override this system. A lot of this is teaching the unconscious brain how to learn and make new neurons. There’s a famous saying, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” It’s the rerouting of this old system to build new connections to have the brain function more efficiently.
I think of it sometimes as the flexibility of the brain. In other words, if I drive the same way to work every day or always use my right hand to brush my teeth, these are very simple examples, I’m in a rut. If I try a different route in driving there or use my left hand, I’m allowing my brain to be more flexible. That’s healthy for my brain and keeps it firing properly. Do you agree with that?
You need to take a different path to build its plasticity, to keep it nimble, and to allow for new neurons to do their thing. It’s easier to do the same thing over and over and take the simple road, but the brain doesn’t grow that way. It needs that challenge. It’s a big part of what neuroplasticity is.
What it makes me think of is my father. He is over 80 and he keeps learning languages. He told me, “I’m working on German.” I don’t even think he has a plan to travel to Germany in the near future but this keeps his brain nimble, doesn’t it?
It does. Doing crossword puzzles, anything that’s a challenge most definitely keeps the brain nimble indeed. That’s good for him.
I know it’s great for him. It’s throwing down the gauntlet for me. Although I have to say, I learned this is on the side for you and me. I’m not going to put this out there. It’s fun for me that I learned how to podcast, edit, and do all these things because this was not my career a few years ago. It’s like, “I’m going to continue learning and growing in different ways so it’s fun.” You went to a particular school. Were you there physically or was it virtual?
There’s a physical location. She grew up in Peterborough which is a small town in Ontario, Canada. She started the main school in Toronto. It spread out across Canada, the States, Australia, and it’s around the world now. It was a physical school and I did go as an adult. I went at 31 years old. The brain can change at any age.
Doing some rote tasks, new ways, and language learning for keeping that neuroplasticity going strong or working on the brain’s neuroplasticity. Talk to me about some other therapies. What about sound therapy? Is that used for this as well?
Sound therapy is used more in the mental health realm in a sense. I did participate it in my documentary, but that was more at the center that deals with mental health. They use different modalities for healing. Sound therapy can be used, and specific frequencies of crystal balls can resonate to help balance the central nervous system. I’m sure your readers know that people who are traumatized or who have PTSD, the system tends to be in a constant fight or flight. These sound therapies can resonate with the system and use these vibrations to put the body back in rest and digest.
It’s like the Shakespearian phrase, “Music soothes the savage breast.” What’s somatic therapy? I saw that in some of your resources as well. Did you use that as a healing mechanism?
Throughout my life, I’ve been working with different therapists. Somatic therapy is this body-mind-centric connection. It was based on a work by Peter Levine. When we’re traumatized, there’s an energetic response that the body tends to hold onto. This energy that didn’t get a chance to release gets its chance. You have to be in a bit of a state of mind when you’re working with the therapist to find out. They ask you questions like, “When this happened to you, where do you feel it now in your body?” You can close your eyes and sense like, “I felt it in my chest or I felt it in my leg.”
They end up asking you like, “When did this feeling first start? All the feelings that were associated with that, and what time period were you already in your life?” It allows that energy that is stuck with this trauma signature for it to be released. There’s so much going on in the unconscious mind that we’re not aware of it. We’re running about 5% conscious and the rest is all unconscious, how we’re breathing, our thyroid gland is functioning, or our eyes blinking. There’s also the early implicit programming that we received from our parents. Those formative years are impressionable. If there was a lot of stuff that happened, those get embedded and need to be in a certain state of mind to get to those traumas. The somatic therapy reconnects the body and the mind together to allow for these traumas to get released. It is very similar to where they are now going with a lot of the psychedelic-assisted therapies like MDMA-assisted therapy, Ayahuasca, or psilocybin. That’s something else I did explore as well.
Were you saying that the diagnosis you had for your vision might’ve had its root in some childhood trauma that you had? When people get diagnosed with cancer, it might not necessarily be that a cell decided to start replicating, but that there is some traumatic experience that they have that’s causing this energy to be contained in their body in a way that’s not healthy?
It does sound a bit strange that could be the case. There’s a lot of science now saying that we hold on to these traumas. If not released, they can manifest into auto-immune issues. To take it one step further, and this maybe is a little bit woo-woo, but there’s a lot of amazing science on this right now. If my condition was seen as a genetic condition, that trauma might have not even been in my generation. It’s ancestral. Something happened in my lineage where the trauma wasn’t resolved and it’s now manifested into my vision condition.
You believe that you can turn things around even if it is a generational trauma.
I do. I’m attacking it at two different levels from a biohacking health optimization level and an ancestral trauma. It’s a combination of the inner world and the outer world. There’s a lot of evidence about how epigenetics works and what is our environment.
In other words, our genes are not necessarily our destiny.
The work of Dr. Bruce Lipton talks a lot about that. We control our genes with our environment. Once you know about the environment, I’m sure you learned a lot about how the sun, circadian rhythm, grounding, water, all these things we can’t see specifically, but they have a tremendous effect on us. We can’t see our emotions, but they have such a profound effect on who we are. That’s something else that going blind taught me. There are many factors of just because you can’t see, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
For any readers who are skeptical right now, I have a very practical example of how this plays out. Have you ever heard someone say, “That makes me sick. That person makes me sick. I am sick to my stomach over this situation?” When they say that, I don’t think they should be surprised if they get a digestive issue because they keep saying that this is making them sick. Their words and their emotions are causing sickness to appear. That’s what I think. That’s part of the puzzle, but you can see that happening to people.
It’s done very unconsciously. There are many things. We’re a society that’s unconscious about these bigger controlling factors. It’s learning how to see these invisible things have an effect on us. Doing this inner work, you can see this world that we have inside of us, look how many things are at play, and everything is holding each other’s hands. Once you see that, you can have more of an effect on controlling the outcome in terms of getting well and seeing what you’re holding onto that’s not serving you.
I want to pivot for a moment, Victor, and ask you about ancestral health paths and healing protocols. Here at Wise Traditions, we’re all about that. Were there any ancient health practices or protocols that you took on as you tried to tackle your sight issue and all the other things that came with it?
One of the big things that I say in regards to why are people so unwell is because of our disconnection to nature. Once you realize how we’re disconnected to nature and what our ancestors were doing, you see how off we are now. Talk about being bombarded with EMF left, right, and center. Not to mention the circadian mismatch from all this non-junk light we’re receiving. We’re not walking around grounded. We’re building up all this harmful charge. I became super EMF sensitive. I was always afraid of the sun. I was always wearing sunglasses. I was severely Vitamin D deficient. Once I started getting those things right, also drinking the right water, that helped.
There was also some help from learning how to connect to myself on an emotional level. Even with the eyes too, I didn’t mention this, but we see with our brains, not with our eyes. If there’s something going on in the brain, there’s something going on in the eyes. To add to that, if the brain is plastic, why we always think that the eyes are fixed. If you get glasses, you’re stuck with them for the rest of your life, or if you have an eye issue, you’re stuck with it for the rest of your life. There is a book that came out in the ‘30s or ‘40s by a guy named Dr. Bates. He developed this system called The Bates Method, which uses these eye exercise practices to reverse stigmatism, improve visual acuity, or improve eyesight. There’s not a lot of people talk about that the eyes can improve and change.
It’s true. It’s like what you said in one of your resources that I was looking at. We think when an arm breaks, the doctor doesn’t say, “It’s going to be like that for the rest of your life.” They’re like, “Let’s put it in a cast. Let’s reprogram or rehabilitate that arm.” Why do we give up on the eyes I wonder?
I have my theory. The modern-day optometrists are using a bit of an old-school outdated system. If you were given the proper lenses for your eyes, that would allow your eyes to move, your eyes can heal. The problem is they compensate for astigmatism usually on most people’s lenses and that acts as a crutch. It blocks people’s eyes from moving so they can’t heal. Not to mention some of them are coated with UV blocking. There’s been a few articles saying red light in the eyes can reverse some types of myopia. We’re covering up the eyes and allowing them not to move. There are holistic optometrists and behavioral optometrists that people can work with where they do color therapy. They can give you a type of lenses for your eyes to move properly. It’s less of astigmatism compensation. The eyes can move and there are certain exercises that you can do as well with the eyes to help relax the eyes.
A lot of people don’t even know that their eyes are in a stress response. There’s this thing called palming that you can do. You take the palms of your left-hand, right-hand, put them over your left eye, right eye, and rest it there. Not press it in. You meditate on it and then you slowly, gently press. You realize it’s almost like you’re holding your eyes as opposed to your brain, and the muscles in your head are not straining. Once the eyes can relax, oxygen will improve and blood flow will improve. You realized, “I’m straining my eyes and they don’t need to be.” Our eyes are on constantly twelve hours a day, whatever and we’re bombarded with technology. Nobody talks about how to take care of our eyes and what they need to relax. If you give them the right environment, they can repair.
Victor, you sound healthier than ever. Emotionally, it sounds like your depression and anxiety have lifted. How is the condition of your eyes? Is your prognosis exceeding the doctor’s expectations?
I was told that I was going to go blind. It wasn’t any given set date or time. My central vision is still great. Most people don’t even know that I have a visual condition. I still have some tunneling and night vision issues. Since I have done quite a bit in the new realm from visual exercises to eating right and well, it’s still not in remission. My goal is to drive a car again. I have some tricks up my sleeve with the future of technology and medicine. I’ve been interested in the world of peptides right now as signaling molecules to regenerate the retina with these retinal peptides and immune system peptides.
I’ve been working with a lot of key people in the peptide world. I’ve been on a few different protocols. I’ve seen some interesting results. It’s still a bit early but some of the data that I’ve seen from a lot of the Russian studies are good. They seem to halt and even reverse my condition. There’s stuff now happening with Andrew Huberman’s Lab in San Francisco. He was on Rogan and they say within about two years, they’ll have a cure for most forms of blindness using VR and these types of polypeptides. I’m on the forefront of seeing what’s going on. I’d like to talk about it in my next documentary.
I was going ask you if you were going to do another one but I didn’t expect that you might be. First, tell us about the one you’ve already put out and then tell us about the one you’re going to put out.
The one I put out is called My Neuroplastic Adventure. It’s my story talking about how I found out about going blind and what it meant to me. It’s a very candid open film of sharing what I went through and the people I met along the way that used science and ancient wisdom to heal the body, mind, and soul. Dr. Gabor Maté is in my film, and Professor Magda Havas. She’s one of the leading EMF experts. We talk about PMF therapy. My somatic therapist is in there. If I ever were to say I’d be recording a documentary and a conversation with me and my therapist, I would have thought you were bonkers but there’s a scene with me and my therapist, and I sat with my sound therapist.
There’s this fellow, David Webber. He passed away but he was a blind man who learned to see. He was also featured in one of Dr. Doidge’s books. He used the Feldenkrais Method to heal his eyes. I have a session with him. It was a healing journey to explore different modalities on what it’s like to heal. The modern approach didn’t work for me from a mental health perspective, and the other perspective like take these pills. It didn’t do anything for me. It came through an element of sink or swim. I know all these people. I felt that I need to share my story as a roadmap. The place that I was in several years ago was a mess. If I had this film, it gave me so much hope and empowerment that I can take my health into my own hands, heal myself, and take responsibility. It wasn’t easy. That’s pretty much what the film is about.
What’s your next one going to be about?
The next one is a bit of a sequel. I still have this desire to truly heal my eyes. There’s always still work that we can do on ourselves. It’s going to be about that. It’s going to be about how a certain industry like big pharma now is censoring a lot of different modalities that can help even with the peptide world. Peptides are such a novel molecule that they seem to be very disruptive for that side. There are still other modalities that I would like to explore in terms of healing, but talking about certain medicines and peptides. That’s where I’m going. I’m picturing a bit of Anthony Bourdain-style travel series to go to different people. I love to travel and talk to all these experts in the field of alternative healing. That’s what I’m wanting it to be about.
You’ve already mentioned so many resources. We wish you well on your continued journey. I want to pose to you the question I often pose at the end. If the reader could do one thing to improve their health, what would you recommend that they do?
I say get outside, take your shoes off, and empower yourself with reading books of healing. It’s out there. The universe is so intelligent. If you look hard enough, you can find an answer for what’s on your mind. That’s what I would suggest. The film is being released on iTunes. If somebody wanted to see it, it wasn’t available in the States for a long time but it’s now released on iTunes. I’d love for your people to see it and check it out. If they want to reach out to me, I’m on Instagram @BlindBiohacker. We have a website for the film. It’s MyNeuroplasticAdventure.com. That’s where you can find me.
Thank you so much for your time, Victor. We wish you the best.
Thank you. It’s such a pleasure talking with you.
Our guest was Victor Mifsud. Watch his documentary, My Neuro Plastic Adventure on Amazon Prime and iTunes. I invite each of you to rate and review our show on Apple Podcasts. Thank you so much for reading. Stay well, my friend. Hasta pronto.
About Victor Mifsud
Victor Mifsud is an optimal health coach, citizen scientist, and a documentary filmmaker.
He has recently completed a feature-length documentary called My Neuroplastic Adventure.
His journeys take him from the cutting edge of neuroscience to the most ancient forms of healing.
He has interviewed doctors and scientists who are using technology and wisdom in equal measure.
He has worked with renowned National best-selling author & physician Dr. Gabor Maté; Canada Research Chair in Neurobiology of Motor Learning Director, Dr. Lara Boyd, and NY Times best-selling author Dr. Norman Doidge to name a few.
He also happens to be blind.
- Victor Mifsud
- Apple Podcasts – Wise Traditions
- The Brain That Changes Itself
- Scattered Minds
- Barbara Arrowsmith
- Dr. Bruce Lipton
- The Bates Method
- Dr. Gabor Maté
- Professor Magda Havas
- @BlindBiohacker – Instagram