Wednesday, May 9, 2012

ALMOST TWO AND A HALF YEARS SINCE THE BRAIN SURGERY AND...

Had dinner last night with a great old friend and a great old acquaintance and two other guys I've met before and it was a pleasure to become reacquainted with. They are all smart accomplished guys, so the conversation was not just fun but often enlightening.

I have no idea what they thought of my contributions, but for myself, I found I had things to say and then articulated them at times (especially as the evening wore on) either in such general and broad terms that they almost made no sense to me, or I just couldn't finish the thought I was trying to express.

No one may have noticed, and not having seen most of them in a while they might not remember me as being much different anyway. Many friends tell me, when I bring up the operation as an explanation for limitations in my thinking and articulation of my thoughts, they see no difference or attribute it to my aging and make the point they have similar problems without having had brain surgery.

But as a cognitive therapist who tested my memory a few months after the operation told me, (the good friend who drove me to the test—at the time I still couldn't drive—sat behind me during it and said I did better than she did and she didn't have any operation), it's not a matter of how I appear to others (which in this case was better than normal, the highest score she said she'd encountered in all her years at this treatment center, the same one where Woody Guthrie and Dudley Moore had been treated in their day), it's a matter of how my responses compare to what I was capable of before the operation.

And, as with all of us, these things vary from day to day and moment to moment. Some days when I write a post for this blog I have to spend a lot of time rewriting and rewriting to eliminate not just the many typos, which I didn't used to make before the operation, but also the out and out misstatements, which I don't remember ever making before the operation (like writing "Northwest" for "Northeast" a few days ago, or "Good" for "Google"—or even more bizarre ones like "party" for "politics" or "war" for "one" or ever crazier like "want to" for "country" etc.).

I rarely find any of this disconcerting or even that disappointing. I mostly find it intriguing, the ways in which the mind works and the impact that has on everything, including and especially in a year like this  one, politics.  They've already shown that the brains of people who self-identify as "conservatives" or as ""liberals" or "progressives" often work entirely differently, responding to the same cues oppositely (afraid of, or moved by, situations and people in diametrically opposed ways etc.).

For instance last night I would try to make a point that was clear in my head in a very sophisticated and informed and articulate way and it would come out in the most simplistically generalized terms that it almost made no sense at all (at least as I was hearing it and later remembering it). Normally this would be terrifically frustrating, but again, I find it more interesting than frustrating. It's not like I haven't articulated my thoughts pretty clearly in my writing, whether before or after the operation, in books and online in this blog etc.

And as others point out continually, aging causes many of us to have these kinds of challenges, whether we are aware of them or not. But for me these changes all occurred like night and day before and after the operation, and since it's a few days from the two and a half year mark after the operation and I was so aware of this last night (not to say I didn't clearly and intelligently express some thoughts and observations during the few hours we were together over dinner) I just thought I'd pass on these thoughts and observations about the ways the brain works and doesn't work for at least one survivor of brain surgery.

(And I also noticed that the later it got the more sensitive I was to stimuli so that by the time we were down in the street saying our goodbyes I was completely distracted by the foot and car traffic and noises etc. in ways before the operation and all my life I found exhilarating but at times now I find overwhelming and sometimes even confusing. Though there are days and evenings when none of this manifests and it does seem "normal" or as it all once was. How fascinating.)


11 comments:

-K- said...

There's no denying my brain is aging along with the rest of me. Someday I hope to accept it with the same even-mindedness as you seem to be doing.

But I ain't there yet.

Anonymous said...

It is fascinating how the brain works. I find that your attitude about your limitations of expression at times is very appealing. You have good sense about you.

Lally said...

Part of my equanimity about the changes post-brain-op I think come from my first weeks after it when I couldn't read for a while or listen to music or watch movies etc. All I could do was talk and listen (one person only) and eat and rest, so it forced me to spend a lot of time in contemplation, observing my mind's limitations etc. And it was kind of like watching a movie about how the mind works. At least that's the way it seemed in my mind, though in person I could get very grouchy because of too much stimuli (if the phone rang when I was listening to one person talk to me, etc.). I'm "normal" now compared to all that, but my anxiousness when I get confused or flustered from too much stimuli or multi-tasking, something that never bothered me before, can temporarily upset me.

Anonymous said...

I heard a neurologists explain that the concept of multi-Tasking is a myth. It's a lie we've been sold by "social trends" and media. even the healthiest, most intact brain is actually capable of attending to one task at a time...and I say w/ all love, your brain is far from "intact". Brilliant, yes, but I don't think you've ever had what could be described as a status quo "normal brain" thank god. Bea Locke-Finkel

Anonymous said...

P.S. Sorry for the typos. LOL
Bea

Anonymous said...

Nice post Michael...re your friend who didn't do as well as you in post op test, during athena's pre op verbal tests I didn't do as well as she :)

suzanne

Lally said...

The whole process is so interesting isn't it?

Jenni said...
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