Adapt or Die

I broke my brain a few weeks ago, a remarkably frightening experience. Now, I’ve had cognitive burnout before, it’s pulled me out of school on many occasions: an inability to study or take the ideas in my head and find words for them. This was nothing like that. My brain suddenly seemed incapable of any kind of complex processing. Even negotiating downtown streets on foot was too much – cars, people, noise, lights, walk/don’t walk …all loud and overwhelming. My last attempt to leave the house (what a week or two ago?) left me in tears, seeking sanctuary in an inner city park – even the complexities and stimulation of a bus ride home were too much.

In that moment I realized how much of my identity and sense of security were wrapped up in my intellect. Who was I if I didn’t have my wit? How could I cope if I couldn’t, well, cope? Even at my physical worst, I’d always been able to think critically (if slowly) – to analyze, to problem solve, to find the go-around. How would I manage when I’d lost even that?

This mental crash preceded by only a few day the worst physical relapse I’ve had in well over a decade. Surviving for a while on potato chips and boost – too weak to remain upright even long enough to fry an egg, unable to stay awake long enough to eat it anyway. Humbling to say the least. To have to let go of any idea of independence, self sufficiency; to acknowledge my inability to care for myself in even the most mundane of ways. A lot of my identity wrapped up in that too – my independence, my belief in my ability to manage.

Adapt or die. I’ve been thinking a lot about that (in a non-thinking sort of way, as I let ideas just flit in and out of my brain). An idea reinforced, now that my brain’s working a bit, by reading The Jesus Incident and The Lazarus Effect back to back. Sci Fi novels about humans – genetically manipulated and mutated – trying to survive in a very harsh world. Adapt or die. Finding a way to fit, to continue on – the challenge of our species, of every species.

But not just an evolutionary, generational challenge (I’ve been thinking in my non-thinking sort of way) but a personal one – our lives are ever changing: the climate, the influences …adapt or die. A question put to myself in those first really rough days of this crash- accept the abrupt change in my world, find a way to adapt to it, or die a thousand deaths in a thousand moments of resistance and misery. My sense of identity and security crashing around me, adapt or die.

Who am I if I can’t think? When I’ve lost everything I’m proud of, everything I count on, everything I identify with, what’s left?

Something. Something was left, something that was so fundamentally me there was no question, no doubt. Even without being able to think, without being able to do for myself, there was something that just was. Something that had the capacity to adapt, to survive (I did get to those potato chips after all!). Something comforting, something that persisted, no matter what changed around me.

And THAT is something really interesting to think about (in a non-thinking sort of way).


3 thoughts on “Adapt or Die

  1. Pondering this age old question about “Who am I?” But instead of tackling it from an intellectual point of view, you are describing it from a heart breaking, gut wrenching perspective. That ultimately makes it more real and identifiable to everyone.

    I have been pondering a related question “What is your definition of failure?” I put it out on twitter but either misunderstood the use of twitter or the question itself is too painful, too personal, too whatever to engage people into a discussion.

    This all stemmed from reading a Shambala (magazine) article about failure. The author took a new perspective. She looked at the root word as being “lure”, instead of the traditional “fail”. She also goes into a poetic description of how she pronounces “failure”.

    This lovely article was so alluring (there’s that lure word again!) that it drew me to reflect on my own person failures and how I am able to flip it over to become a gift of learning.

    Sorry to hear about your brain breaking. Wish I could take you to Oz and ask the Wizard for a new one. Hugs and love to heal your lovely brain.

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  2. My brain broke when I was 20. It was horrible. You describe the difficulty and danger of even walking down the street, and needing to walk down the street, very well. For me, I think there was a 25 % chance that I could have died on the road. Not sure if yours was less risky, but it sounds a matter of degree. Then more shit happenned…

    Who am I when my brain is broken? Who am I when people hurt me shortly afterwards? I say I am me, I was there, I was scared, I suffered. Some have argued otherwise, which makes it more convenient for them to remove civil rights. Then again I too have called the cops on people. Years later, from many sides of the struggle, I’m not sure what I think of forced treatment/ the mental health act/ locked hospital units/ etc. So hard to determine the lesser evil…

    “That wasn’t you, that was your illness.” I choose to say bullshit. It’s a choice and it’s gut, deeper than debate. I am willing to admit, I called the cops on people, not on illnesses. I am willing to admit that I’ve inflicted the terrors of imprisonment and physical overpowering on people, not on bipedal illnesses.

    But suffering is not the only reason that I include in myself everyone I’ve ever been. I don’t think I recognised an existant self, very me, unmistakably me, to the same extent that you did. But I am willing to be a string of separate and contradictory beads that are moment after moment. My recogniseable and recognising me flared up and shared spirit unbreakable with my most impaired self, when, near broken I called out, calling instead of trying trying desperately to make it better. I am willing to invent the string in a mess of beads, even if any possible bead could come next.

    My experience of myself has varied a lot but I’ve always been willing to be mine, the same me. But I think it’s okay if people choose otherwise, too.

    Wishing you energy and vision.

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