Mind and Brain

This has nothing to do with scholarship, but I’m learning that it can be a prerequisite for me–so this time, some more personal musings.

I’m settling into a pattern (not a routine!) that I think will do me a lot of good over these next few months before (I hope) I go back to school. My job isn’t too far away and it leaves me time to write in the mornings and time to rehearse and read in the evenings. (Still working on that “social life” thing.) This morning I got up not-too-early and still had time to read some, “check the incoming” without being overwhelmed, do laundry, bake cookies, and start to write this at the sun-drenched kitchen table in a home that breathes the fresh air with me in the mornings. I have time to myself, gloriously alone in the mornings–time that I’m slowly, but surely, learning to manage and not fritter away with the temptations of the Internet. And I have time with my family and to catch up with friends in long phone conversations at night. This is a good thing I have going.

Amidst all that, of course, there’s the constant struggle between mind and brain–that’s how my doctor has started framing it, and it’s a distinction I find useful. This week, as I changed my medication regime, I started feeling like I could track hourly the dosage of the stuff that was in my system by a physical sensation of my brain being “pumped up” or drained. This was a rough week in the mind-over-brain struggle. But I also got through a depressive episode by realizing that it was the medication change that was bringing these depressed thoughts I haven’t seriously dwelt on in months, that I could continue to feel secure in the progress I’ve made recently despite the apparent relapse, because it was my brain’s altered chemistry asserting itself. For a while finding that there was something going on in my brain that was out of my control–something that is a sort of baseline that can’t just be fixed by will or character or moral fortitude–was a deep blow to my sense of self. Here I was thinking that I’d figured out a lot about myself these past few years, and I was convinced I saw it all come tumbling down into a muck of chemical vicissitudes and moods that seemed to intrude themselves from outside me. Self-insight is really important to my self-concept and sense of control, and I thought I must’ve been deluding myself to miss something so basic to my psyche. 

More recently, I’ve made a lot of peace with my brain. She and I are learning to work together, and she lets me subdue her least welcome side with pills most of the time. I still look at my little white pills and have a moment of bizarreness sometimes, wondering how the hell these things can do so much to me–but I’m not resistant, and so far it’s always a passing thought that goes with a shrug. And I’ve gotten back a certain trust in myself: trust that I know what’s going on in my inner life, or that I can look inward and discover some things at work when I don’t understand. I’m getting more practice with that under my new framework for understanding my inner life and how my brain mediates it, and I can look back at past events with a sense of understanding again.

I even found a dosage that makes me feel calm and centered even as it increases focus! Thank goodness–not sure I could’ve handled the highs and crashes new meds had me going through for any length of time.

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