When I was a teenager, a lot was going on in my home life that left me super tired. I absolutely loved school and would head off each morning but was soon having trouble keeping my eyes open. So I began wagging afternoon classes to go home, where I would hide under my bed with a pillow and go to sleep.
(I hid under the bed so that, if anyone came home, they wouldn’t know I was there).
At the end of the school day, I would come out from under my bed, still in my uniform, and act as if I had just got home from school. This went on for a while, because the nightly events of domestic friction that lost me sleep continued for some time.
I felt guilty about missing so much school, though, so I went to enough classes to get by. I also attended tests and exams, and was so surprised that I passed with high scores. It seemed that I had got away with these ‘time out‘ periods until the regular parent/teacher interviews called my parents’ attention.
I felt even more guilty after that, because my teachers expressed disappointment in me. I had always been a good student and well mannered, but I had been missing so many classes throughout the year…
(I didn’t blame them. No one knew what was going on in my home life. I was too embarrassed to talk to anyone about what happened, there. I felt that people would think I came from a bad family, if they knew. I didn’t think my family was bad, just that it had lots of problems).
It was what my teachers added to their summations that was astonishing. They said that since I had passed all my exams with such high scores and with such little actual class attendance, they believed I was possibly a genius.
(No, I did not cheat on my exams, and my answers were usually very unique, which are hard to duplicate).
That assessment surprised me. My parents got a bit shocked, not only by the news that I had been wagging school but that I might be a genius. I think they actually felt confronted by that. (Hell, I felt confronted by it!) At home, when things went wrong, afterwards, more was expected from me because I ‘should have known better‘.
I didn’t really always know better, though. I may have been smart but I was still a kid. I was still learning about how the world worked. I was still processing information, not just about things but about people and life.
Once the word got out at school, I was ostracized and abused by some, or used by others who called me ‘Brain‘. I realized that (in the outer world, at least) I didn’t like being smart. I didn’t like feeling that I was the odd one out. So I dumbed myself down. I stopped interacting with my teachers so much. I stopped being the one to pipe up in class with answers. I even stopped contributing to the school magazine. I diverted my attention away from schooling.
I met my future husband when I was sixteen and that was the end of my childhood schooling. (I did go back, later, as a mature age student). I ran away and set up a new life with him because he gave me what I was missing, then – affection, love, and acceptance.
People asked me if I would ever go back. They shook their heads that so much potential was lost in me. They couldn’t believe that such a ‘bright spark‘ was now working as a ‘checkout chick‘ and had aligned herself to a mere apprentice television technician. They didn’t believe we would last as a couple. They thought we were a mis-match, and they thought I had wasted my skills and talents.
I was just happy to be living life as me, not as someone’s expectations of me. On a deep inner level, though, the teachers’ words found home. I actually liked being smart. I just didn’t like people picking on me or expecting me to be their ‘walking dictionary or encyclopedia‘ or ‘automatic answer to everything‘ just because they thought I was smarter than they were.
Long ago, I did some Mensa (high IQ) tests to see how smart I really was. While I’ve lost those scores, now, they were in the top IQ range, then – but an interesting thing happened over time and through the long processes of life – I redid a Mensa test in recent years and did not come off so well. Still intelligent, no longer high IQ level…
What happened? I never stopped using my brain. I’d always expressed it in one way or another. I’d been an artist, a writer, a dramatist – was it because my focus drew away from technical issues and became more creative? Yet I’d also been a business woman by then. I’d run my own theater group. I’d gone back to school and sat further exams. I’d earned myself diplomas. Surely, dealing with the technicalities of those modes kept using those parts of my brain?
It is said that the brain has an endless capacity to absorb information. On the other hand, most people have a limit to how much can be recalled. There’s not much use having knowledge stored if it isn’t accessible.
Maybe that is a way the brain prioritizes. Just as we archive information on computers, so that what isn’t absolutely necessary is not taking up too much energy, our brains archive old knowledge, which can get harder to find again as we get older or find ourselves under stress.
(When I started to forget things, my grand-daughter told me that I had a leaky brain. She said that my head was so full that there was no room left in it, so things had begun leaking out… ).
I believe that not being able to access the information in your head can also happen when life makes you tired. When you are dealing with mundane problems all the time, and especially draining ones, your brain can begin to shut down because of overload.
I’ve seen movies and read books where the theme of social deterioration was examined, like “Lord of the Flies.” People question how sensitive, kind, intelligent humans can become so bestial, gross, and lacking in forethought or decency.
I think it is because the brain is selective. Just as it does when archiving old knowledge, I believe it prioritizes the necessities. When we are in survival mode, the brain does not think about good manners and decency any more. It thinks about how best to make it through the challenging moments.
That’s why stories about normal, sane, intelligent people being put into highly challenging and dangerous situations, and having to fight for their lives, are so rife today.
In a society where intelligence has become an aspiration, where the ‘used to be nerds‘ are now heroes, and where even pre-school children are expected to develop advanced intelligence, it is confronting to realize that human nature overrides all the concepts that go with intelligence in any situation of survival. Instinct often seems to overrule intelligence in that state.
I’ve been through a lot of very challenging circumstances during the course of my life. These were emotional, physical, and fiscal, but not often intellectual. (Well, there were intellectual challenges, but I had a knack for dealing with them… It was the other modes that rattled me). They also came at me from many directions and in different ways, so it wasn’t like I could learn a method of coping and then relax.
While I have amassed quite a history of achievements, I am very aware of how much more I could have done if I had not felt so tired or drained by the personal circumstances I was in, sometimes.
It is not surprising to me at all to learn that highly intelligent people can become so depressed that they take their own lives. When emotion and energy gets so low, not even the most acute intelligence can break through to give them a boost.
One of the diplomas I earned was in method acting. Through that, I learned that people are not born to particular roles or modes in life but have many different potentials inside of them.
The premise of method acting is that roles are not different characters but are the same person who is being affected by different circumstances and challenges.
It seems. for instance, that if the same person is born into poverty and hardship in one life stream, and into wealth and ease in another, they will behave according to the circumstances they find themselves in, the environmental conditions surrounding them, and the physical, intellectual, and emotional stimulations upon them.
So, from that premise, there really is a point to make that character is not embedded but lies in how and where you are brought up, and how and where you enact your life thereafter.
Sometimes character, or the way you interact with the world, has nothing to do with any of these, though. In my family tree, there are members who have the brain disease of bipolarism (which used to be called manic depression).
My mother had episodes of bipolarism when I was a girl (it is not always a life long condition) and tried to kill herself a couple of times. (Shock therapy did make life smoother for her but also blanked out large chunks of her memory. I suppose that might help for someone who is troubled by their memories but it also took away good memories. She then became distant from those she had once loved).
I also have an aunt with this condition, who has talked me through the problems that arose from other affected family members.
Her doctor treats it as a life long disease and told her to think of it as though she has diabetes. That helped her to realize that her medication was not something that she could stop taking just because she was feeling better.
When affected by her bipolar disease, she did not behave badly because of behavioral or character traits. It was because there was an inherent physical condition of chemical imbalance in her brain, that triggered errant words and actions.
Therapy does not help people with bipolar disease because the problem is physical not mental.
People with the disease can talk to a therapist and see the truth and validity of every therapeutic suggestion, and may try to enact this advice in their lives, but when the chemical imbalance trips off they can’t stop themselves behaving weirdly because they need medication to remedy that imbalance.
My aunt told me that she can remember every time she thought or said or did weird things quite clearly. During those phases, it was like her body and actions were driven by some outside force that she had no control over. She could see and hear what she was saying and doing. She just couldn’t stop herself.
Apparently, certain life phases trigger bipolarism in susceptible people. Those are usually puberty, or during other highly hormonal stages such as pregnancy and after childbirth, and also during highly stressful life conditions such as unemployment, fiscal destitution, or difficult and ongoing emotional wranglings.
My grandfather (my mother’s father) had his bipolar phases triggered during an era when ‘mad‘ people were sent to institutions, so when he had psychotic phases (which can be part of bipolar disease) and began hurting his wife and children after his long search for employment failed (it was a time when there were no social services or government handouts, and his farm had become non-profitable), he was put into an asylum.
(That’s when my Nanna moved on with her life and became a single mother. People didn’t know that much about ‘madness’ then and many thought it was for life).
I watched a documentary about the human brain and bipolar disease some time ago. There have been many famous people in history who had it, yet they also had highly productive or creative lives. You can live a fairly normal life either side of bipolar episodes, apparently.
What struck me, though, was that scientists believe that people with such conditions of ‘madness‘ also have the ‘genius‘ gene.
Most people with bipolar disease are extremely intelligent but also extremely sensitive in their perceptions, (which is what eventually brings them down).
Apparently, this all stems from a genetic condition, and the people who have it ‘sit on the fence‘ between ‘madness‘ and ‘genius‘ until something comes along to push them to one side or the other.
So I’m no longer investing in the idea of being a genius. With my family history, I’d rather be ordinary.
I also no longer fret so much about taking after my ‘starcrossed‘ relatives, since I realized that with all I have been through in my life, if I had the disease it would well and truly have triggered off by now… (So, those who still call me ‘bonkers’, take note).
My son got ‘acquired brain injury‘ (ABI) after his head bounced on the asphalt a few times after being hit by a van as he ran across a busy road at age 13. That was how I discovered that the human brain is a relatively unknown continent, even today.
They used to say that brain cells never regenerate, that when you lose them they are gone forever. That’s why conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are so frightening.
At least now science has begun to admit its lack of understanding of how the human brain works. I mean, there is much that is known, but also much, much more that remains unknown. That’s why coma patients who have been asleep for decades can sometimes wake up, long after the doctors gave up on them completely.
It’s just as well that we never gave up on our son, as a major neurologist did at the time. He told me that my son would most likely be a ‘vegetable‘ and remain in a coma for the rest of his life.
Admittedly, I enacted some powerful healing elements of my own, after that, including spiritual and metaphysical modes, and perhaps those actions got my son back on track… but, while the results were nothing short of miraculous, I still wonder why he wasn’t completely healed and hope that, deep inside his brain, slow healing work is still going on.
It’s been over 20 years since his accident and his condition is now stable in disability, so even the smallest change is something to be grateful for.
Today, he lives a fairly normal life and has children of his own, but needs constant supervision.
Having been his carer for so long, I’ve studied as much about the brain as I could to give me insight into what can be done. His brain is affected like that of an Alzheimer’s patient, in that cells have died and pathways have become dead ends. It’s like swiss cheese with holes in it – many thoughts get through perfectly okay, some fall into the holes and get totally lost.
In the end, there’s not much that a lay person like myself can do. I have to wait for scientists and medical researchers to come up with solutions, and time is against anything changing for my son.
I may get hopeful when I read of new results, like how they can now get rats with severed spinal cords to walk again, but these are not humans and they are not to do with brains. My son’s nerve endings work very well. They just lost their connections in the brain, so certain muscle systems no longer work well.
It is frustrating when some people think I don’t care any more because I’ve run out of energy to keep doing high doses of therapy with him every day.
They tell me that there are things that can be done, but they expect me to do them all. They tell me that I need to up the ante, but I am already dealing with a multitude of other tasks and I cannot focus solely on my son any more.
I still give him healing, sometimes, and it improves his moods and clears his thinking but there is little change in his physical paralysis, his inability to speak without blocking, or his short term memory problems.
What has helped him the most in life has been the lesson of spirituality.
When people pick on him or are too impatient to try to understand his condition, he has been able to shrug that off and forgive them.
When his marriage broke up and he no longer saw his daughters every day, he was able to put that into the perspective of his immortal spiritual self, with his physical life being just a phase in it’s eternal one.
When he got depressed about being lonely or missing his daughters, even though other family are still around him, he used the same references to touch his soul and rise up from the mire that would bog him down.
No matter the physical problems that assail him, he manages to smile and engage in life with the fullness of his being.
For me, that is truly living.
Spirit has always been the key for me, too, in overriding the ‘bog down’ elements of life. This mode is encapsulated in the metaphor of the lotus lily plant (we use a blue lotus lily flower in our business logo).
In vedic spirituality and buddhism, there is a great focus on the lotus as a flower embodying spirit and transcendence.
The lotus plant is embedded in the mud beneath the water, representing how our roots are embedded in physical life with all its problems. Its leaves float broadly on the surface of the water to soak in the sunlight, representing the energy we can achieve from accepting our emotional state as just being part of the human condition. Its flower buds rise up on long stalks above the mud, the water, and all else, to open their delicate beauty for divinity to rest upon.
(If you look at statues or pictures of buddhist and vedic gods and goddesses, they often sit on lotus lilies).
For in these spiritual streams, it is believed that by transcending the worldly ‘bogs‘, and our reactions to physical life, we become more than we are as just human beings, and reconnect with the divine.
While my first touch with spirit came through psychic feelings and manifestations as a child, I explored much further by dedicated choice and found many helpful modes to rise above the physical condition.
There are certain modes that can be instilled through spirit that seem to overcome the limitations of the brain. For instance, I can realign myself in spirit when I am tired and clear my thoughts to enable great focus.
This is not a choice or a mental viewpoint, it is a realignment of the spiritual self by realizing that spirit is actually unaffected by the physical condition, that spirit is the rider within the vehicle of my physical form, and that being tired is just a sensory condition affecting my body and its brain, not my true spirit self.
It’s easy to forget these modes in the course of daily human life. Even though I know these modes, I often forget them as I ply my life. That is just the physical realm asserting itself.
The physical world that forms our mortal destiny has many programmed laws that shape every sensation and reaction. So I am often assailed by one ailment or another, and so is my husband, as we grow older.
These are the modes of the physical realm, that has many challenges embedded into it as par for the course. Even buddha got old and ill and died at the end of his incarnation. Being spirit or spiritual does not bring full escape from the laws that come with life, nor should it.
(For me, there is a reason why I chose to incarnate in a physical body, and overcoming all the natural problems that are embedded with life by using such overrides may wreck my original intentions).
Even as I know these modes, though, the laws that shape my thoughts and body caused me to doubt when I was inspired to try something out, recently.
My arthritis was so bad that I was aching and hobbling around, just waiting for the phase to pass, which it wasn’t doing too quickly. My husband was in much the same shape, and his posture looked as if the world was sitting on his shoulders.
Such inspiration comes on me, occasionally, so I just stood in stillness for a moment and realigned my spirit. (This is something that many people do amid deep meditation but I find that it is possible to connect anywhere, at any time, so long as you know what you are doing).
So I stopped amid my hobbling pace, stood on my aching feet and ‘adjusted‘ myself. I found that quiet center of peace and energy, deep inside, and remembered ‘who I really was‘ and that my body was the vehicle I was driving, not vice versa… Then I stepped forward again. I felt graceful. I moved gently and without pain. It was as if my body had remembered how to move in a way to avoid pain, (or maybe it was me remembering that I was the driver). The pain was still there but just niggling, not inflamed.
I decided to try it on my husband, (who has carried with me through many years of spiritual education. So it didn’t take much for him to understand what I asked of him). He stood up, looking old and bowed, and as I watched I could see him find his center, remember who he, too, was, and realign. Or so I thought. It actually took a little longer for him than it did for me. The first time he tried to walk, his shoulders were thrown back and he forced a strut. I said, “No, that’s not it. You haven’t done it yet.”
(When you have it, it’s a visible serenity).
I left him to it, wondering if he was going to be able to do as I had done, but only moments later he entered the room I’d gone to, smoothly striding like a young man with a glow in his eyes. His ‘chooky‘ neck had disappeared, his stoop had gone and he walked straight and sure, with smooth relaxation. I said, “You did it!”
(He suddenly looked much younger).
Was this our brains, thinking ourselves into a new mode, or was this the spiritual alignment I believed it was? That’s the doubt I had, for a moment.
(Such doubts for me are always passing. I am always a believer).
To be honest, the realignment did not last all night and we had to keep reminding ourselves – (and our son is also still disabled) – but that’s what you get for being incarnate in a physical realm. It will keep reasserting itself!
So if life makes you feel so tired that your brain doesn’t seem to be working, try realigning your spirit. Even if, (like us), you have to keep making adjustments, it’s better than giving in to the physical world completely. (I’m not saying don’t be alive in the physical realm. I’m just saying you don’t have to let it get to you…)
I’ve often noticed something amazing about those who are aligned in spirit. Despite the fact that their physical bodies get old, they do not look so old. Despite the problems of life that naturally afflict them, too, they do not look afflicted. Instead, what is immediately noticeable is their ‘glow‘ – an emanation of their life force in the fullness of its being, that you cannot miss as being ‘truly alive‘.
When we allow the assaults that come from the high challenges of physical life to affect our spirit, we get lost in the physical condition. This causes us to look older than we are, to become frailer, and to be more affected by our bodily conditions. When that happens, our brains go into overload mode and we begin to forget things, too.
Despite the bombardment that may come from the challenges of life, we can choose to align ourselves differently. That is what having a brain does for us. Even as we can’t change some things that happen to our physical condition in the world, we can select what attitudes we take toward them.