Brain/Brian Molko

I find one of the worst parts of my mental illness is a combined effect of three things that together are most likely to be the reason that I often have a sudden flash of genius... and then in the time it takes me to try and unlock my iPhone and decide whether to try and type it in whilst walking with my awful finger control, or do a voice recording that actually works, the inspiration has gone. It used to be the time it took to find paper and a pen, but I'd likely just put that down and forget about it just as quickly. I regularly find such bits of paper I've held on to for years, but the point I was trying to make has been lost in the passage of time. 

Just like with British weather, where unless you carry around an umbrella, waders and a sun visor in a rucksack that if you sat down when worn would prevent you from getting up without assistance whilst on your holiday to Devon 'just in case', you're unlikely to be prepared for it. 

20 years of medication is an achievement, isn't it? Shouldn't I be dead by now, or at least eating through a tube, surrounded by loved ones all preparing for the inevitable? Both the prescription kind and the kind that gives you 'wet brain' are usually only tested on rodents, who barely live long enough to fart, let alone long enough for the long-term effects of most of the drugs we now have to hand to be felt. The revolving door of uppers and downers. Drugs that make you calm, remove pain, stop your heart beating too fast, help you sleep. I drink a 500ml can of energy drink first thing every morning so I can wake up enough to function. I've given up alcohol because I kept waking up in my chair with the TV blaring at 2am with a crick in my neck. I only had 3 glasses of Prosecco in the whole day of my wedding - unprecedented for me - I've been a drinker since I was a teenager because it allowed me to actually feel something, which felt good even when it felt bad. All of these substances are making physical changes to the brain, in ways we don't yet understand, and there's just no way of knowing how these changes will end up, This is thing number one. 

Thing number two is simply the day to day of your brain having to fill in the gaps left by the bit that should regulate emotions using other, already over-taxed parts of the brain. This whole thing of operating 'normally', in a way others expect you to, gets harder and harder the older you get and I'm beginning to wonder if that's why people appear to get more eccentric over the years - they just find it less easy to reconfigure.

I'm famous for having the same conversation - and I mean word for word - twice in the same evening and even with the same person (my husband usually - I don't get out much these days), but having no recollection of the first time whatsoever. Because when your wiring's a bit off and you're also exhausted and not giving your brain enough calories to run, your short-term memory just grinds to a halt apparently, to run other more vital processes, like... oh, I don't know, breathing? I'm effectively a hard drive at capacity but without a time machine to roll back to the last working system so I keep metaphorically crashing. 

If I want to commit something to memory now, I have to walk around whispering it to myself at least 20 times so it knocks one of the older and largely useless bits of information learned in early life off the bottom into the recycling bin. Try explaining all of that to your boss when you've started making mistakes doing the simplest of tasks, things I had down as autopilot and this is the first time in my life that I feel I've hit the ceiling. If I'm going to progress any further in life, I'm going to need to do something dramatic. 

By the end of every day I have a thousand thoughts and new ideas buzzing about very loudly in my mind, and no time to think any of them through to conclusion. It can take me days to write one of these posts simply because I'll write something that starts me off imagining whatever it is I'm writing about, and then a whole story kicks off until I find myself imagining some situation of another where I need some bit of key information - so I dutifully go off opening new tabs to Google it, and begin this whole big loop that hopefully will lead back around to being reminded of the blog post again in about 15 minutes. 20 new tabs, a couple of Amazon purchases, 3 Wikipedia entries and a new Tumblr account later, I may have lost my train of thought somewhat. 

This is all ok, as long as you don't have a deadline the next day. And more importantly, as long as you NEVER TELL ANYONE. If you happen to mention let's say, to your boss, that you're as likely to stay on task as you are bareback on a horse, they perceive you to be incompetent. This was big news to me. I was genuinely surprised when I was told this because until now I'd ticked along quite happily both having these experiences and still getting everything done on time - although they always came out best when there was absolutely no planning involved and when executed in the absolute last possible second. This was how I passed my GCSEs with no revision. I could just pull it off somehow. I never thought there'd be a time when this no longer worked. I trusted my intellect to carry me through, but I was wrong. 

When I watch my 2.5 year old going about his day, it's a bit like watching my own thought processes happening as a live show - he doesn't need to keep them hidden because people expect children to be crazy. Anything that pops into his head comes straight out of his mouth, with accompanying actions and random dancing thrown in for effect. He'll suddenly grab my face and forcefully kiss me until it hurts, or throw whatever's in his hand across the room, or throw himself off the furniture whilst visibly gritting his teeth and growling. As I write I'm watching him eating cereal and doing what looks like lunges across the room. He's definitely my boy. 

Finally on to the third prong. BPD has been described to me as a condition with a genetic basis in the brain's make up, plus early experiences that combine so that whilst your IQ develops as normal (and sometimes more than normal, although I'm not claiming this applies to me even for a second), your emotional intelligence is stunted and you get sort of stuck around the time those experiences happen. I'd estimate that I'm between 9 and 12, and I spend a lot of time reminiscing about this time and trying to recreate things in my environment that remind me of then - which at the time I swore blind I'd never do. Even though it was an emotionally painful time, it feels increasingly more comfortable with age. 

Maybe the 90s is fashionable now, but it'll move on to another decade soon enough and I'll still be wearing Cobain cardigans and listening to Brian Molko's plaintiff serenades, re-feeling everything I felt about life and the world when I first heard it. I remember what pyjamas I got for Christmas in 1993 with the rabbits printed on them and pink (I hate pink) trim, and the CD walkman I got in 1998 with a Marilyn Manson's 'Mechanical Animals' CD. I spent the whole day blocking out my family with it, plugging the music directly into my brain and shutting out the background sounds. This is how I experience it - when I listen to something through headphones it sounds like it's coming from inside my head. Brian's words were my thoughts. The music becomes not music - instead it becomes silence. This one is probably especially hard to relate to; it sort of takes over the job of the aforementioned deactivated bit of brain that should be feeling so I no longer 'hear' the music, it's become a cognitive process. 

After I do this I can't stand having to come back into the world where there's just so much distraction and noise coming from everything. If anyone reading this has access to an MRI machine I will gladly offer myself up to know what is actually happening with my biology when this happens - it could be the key to so many unanswered questions.

I still use music to block out feelings that get out of control and often it really helps. I have to continually come up with ways to control my emotions because my brain doesn't have the wherewithal to do it for me, and these things can become obsessions themselves. Every time I get a new one I believe it's the answer I've been looking for, and then it stops working and I have to move on. Often they have rigid routines attached to them. Some of the ones I can think of right now are going to the gym (always the same calories burned on the same machines in the same order), making soup, dehydrating fruit, ASMR, buying stuff... and yes I know many people have similar coping mechanisms. The difference is that I cycle through them in a way I don't see others doing. And I can just change without warning - I'll suddenly feel like doing something else having been seemingly controlled by the previous activity to the point of shutting out anything else. For months I had a strict cooking routine which stopped me taking part in any kind of social activity in the evenings. Then one day I just didn't have any dinner.

There have been times when my emotions have become so huge and scary that I've shut down completely, but it's not a conscious choice. My brain simply can't carry on trying regulate something so all-consuming so it shuts down the parts responsible for feeling and I'm left not feeling anything. That includes joy, or pleasure of any kind. I can't even feel love when this happens. Anger is the only thing that gets through and nobody seems to know why that is. I react with anger every time I perceive an injustice, or something unfair, and it doesn't even need to be happening to me to trigger it. I can get angry on behalf of complete strangers. This state of emotional shutdown can last for years at a time. Sometimes therapy is required to relearn how to feel. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it. 

It's not easy to keep all of this in check; It actually hurts a bit sometimes - the kind of pain you get when you have restless legs and you're trying not to move them. I enjoy the anger because being numb is horrible. Funny, considering that being numb to pain is usually so desirable. Anaesthetic is nice and people seem to want it mostly. 

The result of this trident of a disorder? Feeling is painful. Not feeling is horrible. Not being able to remember what you were not feeling? Well that's worst of all.


Anonymous said…
This is the first blog I have ever read from beginning to end without wishing that I hadn't. I just stumbled across it while I was supposed to be writing a book or something... I hate most people's writing unless it's in the form of a book. I can never get further than the first paragraph without feeling frustrated at how bad they are at writing or how boring their content is. This is well written and I can relate to almost every single word of it. I am happy to have finally found a blog that I don't think is complete bollocks.
Thanks Laura, I like the irony of this particular blog post being part of your procrastination too ;)

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