Mirroring Complications

What I want to show you, is that so much of the framework we rely on disappears when we have brain damage. The sense of continuity that we take for granted in the course of our days, disappears: when I leave the kitchen I can’t remember where I was; if I put down a book, I can’t remember what I was doing, much less the people I’d been reading about.

It wasn’t just that I had paid my 1984 taxes, and IRS maintained I had not, it was that I could not get the truth to be acknowledged. I felt that if the truth, the facts, were acknowledged by the government that everything would be all right, that the abuse would stop, and I would once again feel good. IRS Stress ~ Read more.

Mirror Mirror

Reflecting back

I think that if what was happening had not mirrored something deep in my past that it might not have mattered so much, perhaps I could have behaved as if I were to blame, knowing within myself that I was not, paid how ever many times I was asked (if I had the money), and slept soundly. But ~ As Shakespeare (or Bacon) wrote, “Sleep knits up the raveled sleave of care.” I used to think the “sleave” was the arm of a garment, but it’s a skein of thread when it’s spelled this way and really that’s a perfect image: events of our lives are strung together on the thread of cause and effect, “If I hadn’t moved to Monterey, I wouldn’t have met John, and if I hadn’t met John I wouldn’t have moved to London.”

Similarly there are the events of the day, “If there hadn’t been a rush on this project I wouldn’t have stayed late at work, and if I hadn’t stayed late I wouldn’t have missed that important call.”

It’s all well and good when things are chugging along in a relatively normal way, but when something goes so monumentally wrong that it defies being happily threaded together with other things, then there is little that can be knit and sleep is hard come by. At least that’s how it was for me.

One of the things I’ve noticed now that I’m living with the damage to my brain is that once my mind fills up, which sometimes doesn’t take very long, my efficiency is greatly diminished. What seems to happen is that once my mind is “full” things no longer stay clearly defined, it’s as if they top their borders and become intermixed.

If you have ever tried water paints, you have some idea of how the most beautiful colors and effects can be created by just the right mixing, but how all too easily one too many strokes of the paintbrush muddies it. While you can throw away a muddy painting, it’s not so easy with your mind.

If, for example, your mind has memories from a worrying childhood, remnants of conflicting feelings, remnants of unresolved anxiety, then your mind space is not entirely free to begin with. If your childhood was primarily happy, then likely you don’t question that reality and you have more space, as it were, available in your mind.

In any case, what I found was that my past worries were repeatedly drawn to the present where they took up a lot of space in my mind. Once things had become crowded in my mind they soon became mixed up and I was confused, whether I realized it or not, I began to make exponentially more errors, the worst part of which was that I did not recognize many of them as errors because they were perfectly in keeping with my mind. But, because a sense of anxiety tends to accompany confusion, I would know I had to stop whatever it was I was doing. And, most often I could not go back to the task or do any other task until after I had slept. Once I had slept, it was as if my mind was fresh and I could use it again, being careful to fill it economically so as to be able to use it for longer.

Just a quick example of what I mean: before I had this brain damage, I could look at books that were in no particular order on a book shelf, and I could know how to rearrange them into alphabetical order with about the same ease as knowing where the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle goes. My mind showed me things in a very clear way.

But now, it’s as if I have to take each book and physically compare its title, letter by letter, to the alphabet: let’s see, this looks like this letter, and this letter appears to come before…

What I want to show you, is that so much of the framework we rely on disappears when we have brain damage. The sense of continuity that we take for granted in the course of our days, disappears: when I leave the kitchen I can’t remember where I was; if I put down a book, I can’t remember what I was doing, much less the people I’d been reading about.

When I talk about filling my mind “economically” I mean that when I can make things be sequential they seem to take less space in my mind and be easier to remember. Knowing this, I approach things in a much more methodical way than I used to, and I understand why people with mental disabilities often get upset when things are changed or moved from the way that had been familiar.

What I now understand is that mental disability is so disorienting, just to have brain damage, that to have things moved around on top of that removes the last vestiges of familiarity, creating the feeling of being absolutely lost.

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