From Underwater for Epilepsy Awareness Month. Buy Now: Underwater: When Encephalitis, Brain Injury and Epilepsy Change Everything.
Staring at a screen is normal in our image-driven culture. But on that early morning in a dim room, I gazed at an image which proved to not be normal.
White gray segments revealed a problem—just their appearance differed from the darker portions considered correct. The how-it-shouldn’t-look depiction was a visual reminder of me and my struggle to remember.
Before my eyes looked at the computer screen, revealing realities of the world within my skull, I lay down for thirty-five minutes—not allowed to move, only breathing and praying and thinking while feeling and hearing forceful percussion. Trapped in that place of investigation and revelation, I rested. I actually felt peaceful in that peculiar cabinet; instead of seeing it as a test to reveal my condition, I had learned to embrace it for a Sabbath.
I recalled previous MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging). I wondered if the damage to my brain would be the same or worse or better. I remembered when encephalitis initiated all these tests and almost caused my life on earth to end. My thoughts traveled in circles from past to present to future—all while waiting to view the latest news on my brain.
This brain of mine—scars creating crafty artwork through the left temporal lobe—needs to settle on a thought. If it wavers too soon it might never return. Repetition and concentration and simple instructions help its ability to grasp, to maintain, to understand, to retain, to explain. On that day, and in that passageway of exploration, my thoughts dwelled only on themselves for a while as the MRI’s back-and-forth rhythms continued exposing their effort to know me well.
So I settled on thoughts about thinking. About my brain, though severely damaged, still an astonishing work of design. About the brain’s parts, all team players hoping to win. About the brain’s weaknesses when damaged, something I know well. About the methods of recollection, seeking to hold on to a noun or a number or an encounter or a person before escaping into my land of forgetfulness. While a magnetic field and radio waves labored for useful diagnostic information, I just thought. While not able to move at all, I just thought about thinking—of these mysteries we are, of these brains at work, of these methods of remembering.