Emotions swirl, need processing. They push against a resistant skin, demanding out but not identifying themselves. I poke and poke with therapy and music. They emerge in a storm that bursts and flees for a little while. But I haven’t experienced the full shut off for quite some time. Until I awoke Sunday morning.
I guess my brain at some point while I was sleeping decided to protect me and disconnected the emotion neurons from the rest of me. I woke up happy. No more tears. No more difficult emerging memories. No more processing. But the biofeedback data this week belied the happiness was real. Both my muscle tension and busy brain were up while SMR was down a bit. Things were going on underneath that I cannot identify and have only felt briefly and vaguely since Sunday.
During tDCS, I flipped to the page of emotions in the Thompsons’ Neuroanatomy book. I recognized the effects of right temporo-parietal damage with such things as lacking prosody. But my regained prosody hasn’t vanished. I read further. Ah ha. Damage to the right frontal area results in euphoria or emotional indifference. Well, I know the area around F8 (right frontal) is snoozing in me, and Dr. Michael Thompson is loathe to stimulate it directly due to the risk of developing depression. But when we stimulated the left frontal with tDCS, it caused quite the dramatic PTSD reaction (usually one works on the left frontal, not the the .right, to balance the two lobes). In any case, was that what had happened to me Sunday morning, that my brain re-entered emotional indifference?
Emotional indifference is not recognizing what feelings one is feeling or, I think, not even feeling them. For years, because of my brain injury, I felt nothing except for brief bouts of strong emotions. That has gradually changed so that I can feel a variety of emotions and identify them too. But it’s not stabilized in me, nor does it feel stable anyway. Perhaps that’s why when faced with extreme emotional duress, my brain went, fuck it, we’re going back, we’re turning these feelings off.
The neurophysiological affects the psychological and psychology affects neurophysiology. The brain injury turned off my emotions and gave me emotional indifference back in 2000. As I faced year after year of hell, my psychology learnt that this was good, that having emotions OFF meant I could survive. I learnt that being vulnerable gave people permission to walk all over me. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. And feeling that vulnerability — though it gave me a sense of freedom, freedom from the effort of control — made it much, much harder to deal with. Having no feelings was good.
Sunday, that learnt behaviour tapped my neurophysiology on the shoulder and said, hey, you know that problem you had awhile ago? Well, how about switching the neurons back to that state? And my brain went, yeah, it’s getting a little overwhelming in here. Good idea!
So what to do? I have to unlearn that that particular aspect of my injury is desired. I have to find a safe place to let go. I guess it’s a little like my brain injury enabling my PTSD symptoms. It’s not enough to heal the injury, I have to heal the PTSD too so that it doesn’t deactivate healed injured areas through its maladaptive ideas of keeping me safe. Another reason PTSD healing has to be sped up, but our mental health care is overburdened, like everywhere else. I’m lucky I have a neurodoc; I just wish I could see him as often as I need to not as little as his time and our health care resources allow.