Lately I have been having some issues (umm, maybe you know that already from reading this blog…). I can’t tell if they are actually getting worse, or if I am just being harder on myself because I feel like I should feel better by now. It has been five months since dad died.
I have been doing things like forgetting appointments, misjudging my schedule in ridiculous ways (thinking I have time for things that I don’t), not communicating well with others – having vocabulary and thought retrieval challenges…
It seems like I vacillate between being in a fog, during which I have a hard time focusing, to feeling completely anxious, like at any moment I should be prepared for fight or flight.
I’m tired – so tired – right up until I lay down in bed….and then my mind races.
I had a meeting scheduled for 4:30 today at work. I own a business, and this was a meeting with all of my colleagues – a meeting I would lead.
Yesterday, I sent out an email reminder about this meeting – on Thursday afternoon.
I also offered to take the children of two of my friends home from my daughters’ school for a playdate. I offered to pick them up and keep them until dinnertime. I invited my ex-husband over to have dinner with the girls and me. I’ll make some soup, I said. During the play date, I thought.
Yesterday, I sent out a text checking in about the play dates – on Thursday afternoon.
I fully intended to do both of these things, and it did not register in my brain until this morning that this was, um…impossible.
When I realized my mistake, I felt stunned.
It’s a scary thing when you feel like you are losing your mind. Especially when you have a lot of people relying on you to not to lose the plot.
I sat down and cried…
It wasn’t that it was a big deal to fix, I was just so distraught over the non-workings of my own brain. So, I asked for help. I called my ex. I explained to him what I had done. Bless him, he agreed to come over and see the play date through while I went to my meeting. I explained the mid-afternoon change of supervision to the two mom-friends, and it was fine.
Then, I sat down with my office colleague. I admitted to her that I was struggling. (It is entirely laughable to think she didn’t know that already.) I told her what I had done, scheduling myself in two places at once, and lacking any awareness of the conflict. I told her I was scared that I was losing my mind.
She said, “Well, that’s a bit like thinking you have dementia – if you are aware enough to be worried that you have it, then you probably don’t.”
I was listening…
She went on to explain that when you are mourning a loss, grief uses up so much of your brain functioning that other things take a back seat (whether you plan for them to or not). She said, “Stop giving your attention to things that aren’t necessary. Stop offering to take care of other people’s children. Stop offering to make dinner for other people. Just worry about taking care of you, and the girls, and your work. Sleep, eat, do what you need to do – and no more – for one year.”
That will be hard for me. I like to do things for other people. It makes me feel good, and pulling back on something that usually feels good seems counterintuitive to the healing process. But, I get it.
At least for a while, until I feel more steady, I need to simplify.
Tonight I looked up “effects of grief on the brain.” I found this article (link below) and as I read it, I sobbed. It was all so spot-on.
Grief may impact you or loved ones in the following ways:
- concentration is compromised
- completing projects seems impossible
- memory and recall are less sharp
- ability to make even simple decisions is reduced
- organization and planning are unusually challenging
- a general sense of “absent-mindedness” sets in
Consider these areas of the brain and how scientists believe grief symptoms affect them:
- The parasympathetic nervous system: This section of your autonomic nervous system is in the brain stem and lower part of your spinal cord. In this system, which handles rest, breathing, and digestion, you may find that your breath becomes short or shallow, appetite disappears or increases dramatically, and sleep disturbance or insomnia become an issue.
- The prefrontal cortex/frontal lobe: The functions of this area include the ability to find meaning, planning, self control, and self expression. Scientific brain scans show that loss, grief, and traumas can significantly impact your emotion and physical processes. Articulation and appropriate expression of feelings or desires may become difficult or exhausting.
- The limbic system: This emotion-related brain region, particularly the hippocampus portion, is in charge of personal recall, emotion and memory integration, attention, and your ability to take interest in others. During grief, it creates a sensory oriented, protective response to your loss. Perceiving loss and grief as a threat, the amygdala portions of this system instructs your body to resist grief. You may experience strong instinctual or physical responses to triggers that remind you of your losses.
Your psychological grief responses pull so much from the regions of your brain. The areas that manage attention and memory are activated. The sections that focus on emotion and relationships are stimulated. The zones that are dedicated to planning and language are triggered. Hormones reserved for emergencies course through you.
Reading this made me feel sane, and so relieved. There it was in black and white…I’m not crazy. I’m just really f’ing sad.
Read the full article here: http://barbarafane.com/grief-symptoms-how-grief-affects-the-brain/