I have been living with chemo brain and Tamoxipause brain for six months now. To be honest, it seems my brain gaps over these last three months have been worse than the first three! Fatigue and overstimulation amplifies the problem. As I have stated before, my brain and body go into slow motion like a tape in a cassette player when the batteries run out.
What is it like living with a chemically compromised brain? Well, my focus and attention span is hilariously short and I get distracted easily. The whole, “easily distracted by shiny objects” is my new motto. I am slow at comprehending information, especially if it’s a lot of information. Speaking of a lot of information, I get overwhelmed to the point of confusion if I begin to juggle more than three things. If someone is listing things off to me, by item three, I have forgotten the first two. I especially like it when I agree to do something and then I completely forget about it. Cheryl is forever saying, “don’t forget you were going to _____”. (I say, “yes, I remember!” Really I didn’t, and I am secretly very happy when she shouts those reminders out to me). While I am speaking I forget what I am saying mid sentence. Friends and family now just giggle about it and I am ok with that. A sense of humour helps get through those awkward moments. Even writing, I have something deep and profound to type out and before I am three words in, the thought is gone.
In recent weeks I have made four attempts at writing an update for Thrive the Climb, and each one felt like I was trying to put a square peg in a round hole. The more I tried, the less it worked, and the more jammed and numb my brain felt. I really wanted to get my blog launched before I went back to work, but time ticked on, no writing progress was made, and I started back to work this week.
After a year away, it really does feel as though I am starting from scratch. I am stretching my brain cells to get back on track, but they don’t feel as pliable as they were a year ago. Chemotherapy and Tamoxifen have definitely altered my brain. I was hoping that getting back into the swing of the job would be like “riding a bike”, but that is not the case. I used to have a fantastic memory, now it seems as though nothing sticks.
I found myself feeling frustrated these last few days and decided to see if I could shift my energy through meditating. I was very clear on my intentions going into my meditation and I received visions, answers and solutions to help me surrender and accept What Is. I know that my brain isn’t the same as it was before cancer treatment. In fact, my brain will never be the same as it was, and my meditation brought peace to that realization.
Explaining a vision can be a challenge, as words to describe these flashes of insight are limiting. However, I will do my best to paint you a picture.
As we learn, our brain retains information and begins to build neural roadways. Overtime, things we think, say and do repetitively, build “super” neural highways. Once built, these highways become second nature to us and we don’t even need to give much thought to them. For example, at first learning to walk requires a lot of thought and focus. After we do it a few times, it gets easier and easier and the next thing we know, we are running. Walking and running becomes a super neural highway built and embedded in our brain. We no longer have to build up the road and consciously think about it.
We have learned how to be efficient with our thoughts because we have built super neural highways. In fact, anything that we choose to spend time thinking and doing, we will eventually build up quick roadways to make things easier for us. Building efficient neural roadways is a natural form of survival, but sometimes they can become a highway to hell. For example, if we have only learned one way to do or look at something, and have become closed off to learning and doing things differently, we have missed opportunities to build new roads. Subconsciously we think why build a labour intensive new road, when we already have a super neural highway? What we become blind to, because we are in automatic pilot, is whether or not that existing highway is really the best route for us. Chances are we constructed that road with data that is now out dated, or worse, we made the super neural highway based on someone else’s beliefs and opinions and continue using that highway just because it is there. That is what you call a highway to hell!
Just like a roadway getting wiped out from a natural disaster, the neural roadways in our brain can get wiped out from a trauma to the brain. While I was in my meditation, I saw faces of people I know who have altered brain function due to various conditions. Sadly, society has created a “norm” of how all humans should think, speak and act, and if someone doesn’t fit into that definition they are considered to be abnormal. In a flash I had a vision showing me that just because these people had neural highways wiped out in certain parts of their brain, doesn’t mean they aren’t a fully functional human being in this world. As long as a person has a heartbeat they are here on this earth for a reason.
A brain trauma to our loved one is devastating to witness. This is because our Ego is sad that the person has trouble relating to us, or to the societal norm. They are now a crazy burden! Ego does not like change and will make up stories and do everything possible to retain what it believes to be true. We take their brain malfunctions personally, get angry and even try to avoid that person. Ego finds it unsettling when it has invested time in someone and they don’t remember everything we talked about or done. By the way, it’s not just our Ego struggling with this change. Ego in the injured brain is having a melt down as well because it has lost some control. On the flip side, Spirit is smiling at the infinite possibilities of building different neural highways.
What we are missing in our Ego pity party, is that brain trauma is opportunity for a do over in parts of the brain. While it looks tragic at first, the actual beauty of this twist of fate, is getting to rebuild neural highways from an entirely new perspective. The Soul is creating new ways of looking at and doing life. Just because it looks wrong, sad or scary to Ego doesn’t mean that it’s wrong for our Spirit. Once we stop coming from Fear, and being concerned about fitting in to the norm, and we embrace the beauty of what the Spirit is doing, we realize that injured brains are another opportunity for the Soul to evolve further in its journey to learn, grow and create.
Understanding this vision was my “a-ha” moment. My brain gaps are a gift. Instead of unconsciously using the same old super neural highways that are causing chaos and no longer supporting me, I am getting the opportunity to consciously create new neural highways that are in alignment with Who I Am. I am literally free and lighter in my thought patterns.
Aside from learning to be gentle with myself, understanding brain trauma from this perspective, showed me how to support other people experiencing cognitive change with Love instead of Fear.