My brain is special and magical. It makes me who I am and has often seemed to me to be the best part of who I am. I have always been intelligent and a quick learner. And I thank my brain for that.
On the other hand, my brain is deficient in some ways. It doesn’t have the correct balance of neurotransmitters (or has been adversely affected by trauma as I’ve lived my life or inherited from my parents). When it comes to bipolar disorder, I blame my brain. It’s glitchy, unpredictable, and guilty of making my life miserable at times.
So, I have cause to both love and hate my brain.
The thing is, I have no control over either of those perspectives. I didn’t make my brain smart and adaptable. I can’t take credit for that. I also didn’t make my brain misfire and become my biggest enemy. I can’t take the blame for that.
Much of what I am, my brain is responsible for. I am a moderately successful writer. That can be attributed to my brain as well. I’m creative, too, another quality that resides in my brain. But when I’m depressed, I lose the ability to write, and when I’m hypomanic, I lose the coherence I need to write well. It would be easy enough to say that I love my brain when it’s functioning well and hate it when it’s not. That’s not completely true, though. I’d have to say that my brain is my frenemy.
I am notoriously moody and difficult – hardly surprising since I have bipolar disorder. My intellect doesn’t go away when I’m depressed or hypomanic, but sometimes it goes into hibernation. It makes poorer decisions, it’s true. It’s led me astray many times, even to the edge of death. And I can’t always recognize when it does that. My brain is not the best gatekeeper of my behavior. But my brain does help me clean up the consequences when it does occur.
There is currently a great debate on whether bipolar disorder even comes from the brain. It may not be because of my neurotransmitters, though I still consider them complicit. It may be because of my childhood trauma (at the hands of children my age, not my parents). But again, trauma is said to make physical changes in the brain, so perhaps it is a brain-related reason as well. The other prevailing theory is that bipolar disorder has a genetic component. I don’t know if that means that my genetic heritage affected my brain development, though I suppose it could have. I just don’t know.
I do know that it feels like my brain is at fault. Bipolar is, after all, a mood disorder, and I don’t know where my moods reside, if not in the brain.
So, what can I do with my brain to increase the love and lessen the hate? First, I try to keep my brain fed. I read every day and play jigsaw sudoku to keep it lively and stave off dementia – and to stretch my brain because so much of what I do is word-related, not mathematical. My reading is varied, from novels to nonfiction. I revisit beloved novels from my past, which keeps me grounded in who I am, and explore new books and authors I find, which keeps me excited and open to the new. I try to lessen the opportunities for hate by keeping my brain stable with medication, therapy, and listening to my husband and my friends when they tell me I am loved.
On balance, I love my brain more than I hate it. But I have to keep an eye on it (as it were) to make sure that the hated half doesn’t take over.
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