Personal Note: Good Attitude, Bad Brain

John McManamy Health Guide
  • This piece is going to be very short. Six days ago, I got into an argument with someone close to me. In the course of our discussion, she said something that caught me by surprise. Suddenly - just like that - I felt the power drain from my brain. I walked out the door, disoriented, confused, and depressed.

    The part of my brain responsible for looking at the bright side of life was no longer operational. Either I could not input these kind of thoughts or the meat housed inside my skull was incapable of processing them. I knew my entire Sunday was ruined, and that the week ahead was in jeopardy, as well.

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    The only part of my brain that seemed to be working was a section I identify as "malignancy 666," as useful to me as an impacted wisdom tooth, only not nearly so pleasurable. Malignancy 666 is responsible for churning out destructive ruminations. In nothing flat, this malevolent chunk of gray matter - which I would gladly pay to have lobotomized - was turning a minor misunderstanding into the end of the world.

    And, of course, as worthless and incompetent and unlovable as I was, I had no choice but to accept my fate and crawl under a rock for the next two decades or until I needed to go to the bathroom, whichever came first.

    Literally, I had no choice. I could not simply will my brain to boot back up. I was stuck. My only option was to get myself home, where I felt safe, and ride this thing out and try not to do anything stupid.

    Fortunately, during the evening, I felt my brain coming back on line. Enough neurons were connecting for me to start considering some options. Should I call this person back up? What if she confirmed my worst ruminations? Then I would really be down for the count. But maybe she could reassure me. With great trepidation I picked up the phone.

    It turns out our little misunderstanding was no big deal, and I was able to go to bed with my mind at ease. I was going to be alright. Indeed, the next morning, I was back up and running. Nevertheless, I was faced with this sobering set of facts: While I was incapacitated, facing the end of the world, dealing with a brain disease, this person had a great day. To her, what happened was a drop of water splashing off a freshly waxed surface. To me, what happened was a torrential cascade that swept away everything in its path.

    Same event, very different reactions. So did the fault lie with me? Hardly. I'm as capable as thinking positive thoughts as the next person, of reacting calmly and making rational choices. The catch is I need a working brain to do it. And on this particular Sunday morning, in reaction to something totally insignificant, my brain happened to stop working. Not only that, it stayed that way the whole day.

    Sometimes I forget that I'm not like everyone else. Last Sunday was a brutal reminder that this is not the case, that any second, for no reason at all, my brain can just quit on me and turn my world into the worst imaginable hell. It's a bitter fact of life I have learned to accept. I have no choice.

Published On: November 06, 2010