Our Brains Are Tougher Than We Think

Recently I struggled with writer’s block.  I really wanted to have the satisfaction of writing something meaningful, though, so I sat down and fumbled in front of my computer.  Facebook was calling my name, but I told it to buzz off!  I decided to free write.  Free writing is a prewriting technique in which you write continuously for a set period of time without getting fixated with spelling, grammar, or topics.  Free writing helps writers overcome blocks, apathy and self-criticism and it was just what I needed to do, and it actually worked!  The subject that came to me was about something that was within myself. Yes, my very own brain! I began typing in a frenzy, but then I had to schlep away to do errands and pick up my girls at school. 

As I drove around, I realized that I couldn’t even think about brains anymore without recollecting my my most harrowing brain experience, namely my rounds of ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy. (For details about my ECT please see my previous IBPF blog post “Are You Shocked That I Got Shocked?”)

The first ECT series I had was after my Dad died. He was one of my best friends and I became suicidal. I voluntarily admitted myself into the hospital and asked for ECT because I had been medication-resistant up to that point.  The good news is that I am one of the luckier ones; ECT helped me function and ultimately recover above and beyond my expectations. My psychiatrist told me that my short-term memory loss would come back by the end of six months following my treatment. While I have no empirical evidence to prove this assertion, I can feel it in my bones that it’s true in my case.  

My brain feels stronger, I can retrieve my memories easily, and my intuition tells me that our brains are WAY more resilient than we give them credit for! The phrase “mind over matter” means when something that seems impossible can be overcome if it’s thought out. I think that concept could be literally applied to our brains – maybe we can heal them by the very thoughts that we think.

I turn forty-four in a week, and while I doubt that my brain’s growing older is a plus, I believe that my healthy habits and attitude are restoring my brain. Some of these habits are: working out, using my Sunbox, having a few people love me unconditionally (and who I love back!) and getting daily doses of nature. Writing helps too, as does music I enjoy. Miracle of miracles, I even starting doing a smidgen of guided meditation with my counselor! In other words, I’m doing many things to stay stable and productive. (I won’t get into my sugar, fat and chocolate consumption, but you don’t expect me to be perfect, right?)

Yesterday I received an email message from my friend Amy who runs a yummy gluten-free food business “Gluten-Free For All”.  Amy wrote to tell me about a psychiatrist/psychopharmacologist/neuroscientist’s podcast.  The podcast headline caught my eye: “How Gluten & Gut Health Impact Your Brain with Dr. Charles Parker”. Amy has raved to me how going gluten-free has improved her mood among many other things, and I’ve been curious about how being gluten-free affects bipolar disorder.


When I visited the podcast link, I noticed a handy outline of the key points that Dr. Parker discusses. I will watch this podcast because I’m curious at what Dr. Parker has to say about our brains!

Another brainy thing I noticed yesterday as well was posted on one of my favorite blogs “Bipolar, Unemployed and Lost”.


The blogger known as “Oh Temp” informed us that this is “Brain Awareness Week”.  Oh Temp blogs, “This week kicks off NATIONAL BRAIN AWARENESS WEEK and for a whole week I will be posting a random fact on the human brain.  Since a lot of our brains hold our mental illness, I wanted to share great facts about the good and interesting things about the brain!! Enjoy this week, and enjoy your brain (just a little…)”

The following link leads you to a two-minute YouTube video “The Human Brain – 10 Fascinating Facts” that Oh Temp posted on the blog.  

If you’ve been feeling insecure about your brain’s potential, watch this inspiring video!  You will learn facts you definitely didn’t know in less time that it takes to brush your teeth.

Soon after I wrote about the “mind over matter” concept above, I encountered the link below, which discusses ten compelling reasons why “mind over matter” may not be a fairy tale. Some of them I was familiar with, i.e. the placebo effect, but there were others that I hadn’t heard about. I encourage those of you who are especially jaded about the power of positive thinking to take a peek at this link. It might very well change your mind about the power of our brains to change themselves on their own.


If you are like me in that you take a lot of heavy-duty bipolar medications, you may sometimes wonder how these meds truly affect our brains. I am just hoping that our chemically “different” brains can not only handle the drugs that give us the gift of stability, but that our brains can get better, not worse, for a good long while.  Let me know what you think by commenting below, and thanks so much for reading this novella.  I got carried away – my brain couldn’t help it.

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