I always thought of blogs as being narcissistic, business related, or as my sister's, a way of keeping in touch or memorializing.

But, by necessity, I am learning a lot about myself. I find I need to get my thoughts out, and it helps me to know that someone else will read them. So I have created this little space for myself, to express the things I have trouble saying (be it emotional or physical trouble), to share what I'm going through, and what I'm learning through it.

I absolutely welcome comments. It's nice to know how people relate to what I'm saying.
To send me a private message, please e-mail me: flylittlewordsfly@gmail.com
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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

My Overworked Brain

Of the many things that surprised me during my appointment with the Osteopath is that she noticed my brain. I don't know how she does it, and I don't particularly need to understand it, either. What matters is what she told me, and that is that my brain never rests. Ever. It is completely and utterly overworked. I am hyper-vigilant. Aware of things that most people never notice. I am always thinking, planning, remembering, rehashing, conversing, composing, singing and wondering, all in my head.

I asked her if this is a common thing, because, you know, my brain automatically has a thousand questions when I am told things like this. She said that it is not at all common. Most people's brains have periods of rest. But not mine.

So what's happened since the appointment is I've turned that hyper-awareness inwards, and oh my goodness, I am overwhelmed by how true her statement is. It really never stops. I notice it now, when I'm waking up, when I'm eating, driving, walking, getting dressed... no matter what I'm doing - unless I concentrate on my senses with all my consciousness, there is always something going on up there. Even when I'm in a conversation, or when I'm watching TV or reading, I will catch myself going off on a tangent in my head. And it's fast. I also have to focus on the inner dialogue to be able to hear it - otherwise it's just background stuff that is constantly chattering away.
I think I know where I got this, because I'm pretty sure my father's brain doesn't stop much either. My dad is incredible in his conceptualizations, in his ability to see patterns and make plans. He also has a tendency to distract himself, as I do, when waiting, or trying to sleep, or when there is an opportunity for rest. He and I also have in common a 360degree awareness. He developed this to stay safe on the streets of Mexico City. I learned it from him, and have put it to great use in classrooms and playgrounds. It's amazing what people will do when they think you don't notice them.

In talking to my therapist, I realized that a big part of the reason I have come to love blogging is that it helps me get some of the recurring thought patterns out, and alleviates some of the tension in my brain. In talking to my Mom, I also realized that all of the activities that put me in a state of flow have a strong cognitive component - and I don't mean in the way that everything is driven by the nervous system - I mean my brain is actively working things out related to that activity, and often processing other sensory input. I get flow from doing difficult jigsaw puzzles (if they're easy they're boring) while I listen to music, from doing crossword puzzles, anagrams and other such things, from making jewellery, from writing...

And finally, when most people's brains rest, in their sleep, mine seems to be always chasing that elusive thing called deep sleep. My dreams are intricate sagas every night. To describe the plot line of one dream would be to write a novel. It is common in ME/CFS to have unrefreshing sleep, and for patients of this illness to not reach a state of deep sleep.

What's funny, is that there is a big part of me that is proud of this overactive brain of mine. Like I've said before, my brain is my playground. I love making connections, and seeing things that others don't see, and helping people learn. I get no greater pleasure than I do from exploring complex ideas. The more complex the better. I am proud (still, however many years later) of my 99th percentile SAT score, and of the relationships I built with my teachers and professors. I don't hesitate to question, or point things out. When something comes up I'm not sure about, I'm all about solidifying my knowledge. I love looking things up, and I love conceptualizing, and weaving, and academic and intellectual stuff.

And this illness has been very frustrating because my cognitive processing has slowed, and there are times when there seems to be a hole in my brain where the perfect word lives, and I can't absorb information in the same way I used to. I've had many comments (and I am flattered by them all) regarding my writing skills and my ability to communicate my situation, and how insightful I am in this blog. And as much as I appreciate that, and I do, I still know that I'm not up to my own standard, and that I'm not functioning at my full capacity. 70% of 99 still gives you 69 point something. And 69 point something is still far higher than average. So I may still be intellectually and cognitively higher than average, but I'm not where I was before, and that is, ironically, in part because my brain  won't stop.

So it's really something quite synchronous, that as I am getting started with Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I am also realizing that my brain seriously needs a rest. I have been resistant to the mindfulness program, because a) it is a program, b) I feel forced to meditate when I don't feel like it, c) it's rigid and, d) I need it. I came to this realization yesterday as we were going over the attributes of a mindful state - the beginner's brain, non-judgment, acceptance, and all that. I realized that yes, this is exactly what I need to do right now. I need to build in those brain-rests for myself, because that is part of the reason my body is unable to heal itself at this moment.

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