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).