Friday, March 13, 2009

My Big Brain

Several years ago, 18 to be exact I suffered a grand-mal seizure. After the dust settled and I had a chance to call my sister the first thing she said to me was something to the effect of perhaps the large brain pan I had was not such a blessing after all. I had teased her relentlessly over the years about how her puny her head was and now she was getting back at me. It was good, I needed a laugh. For 6 months after this episode I took several anti-epileptic drugs which had various interesting side effects. The most annoying of these being a loss of access to my vocabulary when excited. I stuttered slightly and was at a loss for words quite often. I also had my drivers license revoked while I was taking these drugs. I lived in the San Fernando Valley at the time and worked in Hollywood. Getting to work without a car was a bitch but that is another story.

This story is about anxiety and how mine developed. When your brain fails you it raises many ugly questions. I became acutely aware of the fact that I had no control of things in my world. I realized my brain could simply cease functioning and that would be that. It scared the shit out of me and that was when my anxiety attacks started. It didn't help that I was married to someone who was also suffering the same illness. It was a co-dependent hoe-down.

My anxiety continues to this day in varying degrees and recently I stopped taking a medication that I thought was helping. It wasn't, something in my brain had changed and the help was turning to hurt. I felt I was slowly becoming unglued, I am getting older and my hormones are changing, I am not sure what my brain chemicals are up to but what I do know is that my thoughts about death were increasing and when suicide starts seeming like a viable solution its time to look at what's going into your body and how the old brain is reacting to it. The anxiety was replaced with deepening depression. Anxiety you can control, its mind over matter. I can distract myself, practice deep breathing filling my belly with air and exhaling, I can implore myself to relax. I can go for a run, I can chop firewood, make love, going skiing, it all helps. Depression on the other hand is nasty business because it weakens you and takes hold, it's harder to talk the brain out of depression because you begin to feel so physically shitty. I could see the world I loved but I barely had the energy to enjoy it.

I am a lucky smart girl and I have learned to pay attention to my brain. So far it's reacting well, not causing me too much trouble except when the barometric pressure changes but that's manageable. I am fascinated by how my brain works, what effects it and how I can control it. I have learned which substances to avoid and which activities to embrace. Just like with babies, you can't fall in love with any phase because once you do the baby changes. I think this is a pretty apt metaphor for how I see my brain as it continues to develop. It, ergo me, is changing all the time. Ideally the result—finished product—appears as wisdom and over time it increases.

1 comment:

syd said...

This is so fascinating and rings so true, I love following along.

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