Saturday, March 10, 2007

My two brains

When I'm not depressed, my brain is like a sponge. I've got a phenomenal memory, and I can think flexibly and originally. That's why I've always been a good student.

When I'm depressed, my brain is like glass. If I try to read or study, the information doesn't get absorbed -- it slides right off. It feels like, if I think too hard, everything will shatter. It's a horrible anxiety and paralysis.

That's how I felt this past Thursday. I don't know why. Tuesday I started my internship. Wednesday I went to classes and did some research for a term paper, downloading articles on the effects of witnessing domestic violence on children. Came home, relaxed, and woke up the next morning paralyzed. I couldn't read. I couldn't write my reading log for Foundations of Social Work Practice, my favorite class because it's most like psychology. I couldn't write a stupid little 2-page brief about my term paper for another class. I had to e-mail both professors and tell them I was sick.

I don't know why things hit me so horribly Thursday morning. Friday morning I felt awful as well, but went in to my internship and managed to get through the day. Next week is spring break, and because I started my internship so late, I will go the DV shelter every day. I hope, I hope, I hope my brain won't turn to glass.

Kay Redfield Jamison, a famous psychologist who has bipolar disorder, has written about feeling alienated from her brain at times. In her case, it was because her lithium dosages were too high, and they blunted her thoughts and senses. But when I'm depressed I feel that same sense of loss. It's terrifying when you can't think and concentrate; it makes going to work or school an exercise in deception. Trying to pretend everything's normal, trying to talk with other people and not show your rage and despair. It's a hard act to carry on, and I've had to do it so many times. I'm so tired of it.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. HI. Thanks for your article- it made me feel so validated. I am a student in College and have Bi- polar disorder. I have never thought of describing it as "two brains" but it does describe the situation well. Sometimes i fail simple exams and am unable to write or read anything. Other times I am a top student and can have the highest grade in the class. Because of the two extreme opposites my Psychiatrist suggested i get evaluated for learning disabilities- where i obviously didn't have any. For some reason the professionals in my life were reluctant to believe that my illness had such effect on my brain. Its very frustrating to be in school and be this way because people dont understant and many times think I am just a "cop out". I dont feel quite so alone now. Thanks

  2. Thanks for commenting! I'm glad you feel understood. Some psychiatrists are nice and well-meaning and all that, but they don't understand the experience of being manic or depressed. I hope you're getting the help and support you need.

  3. some psychiatrists understand the experience because they have had several manic and depressed episodes themselves, and even experienced psychosis. dont assume nobody understands. your psychiatrist wouldnt be able to tell you even if he/she wanted to.