Bananas on the Brain

Dear Brain,

I’ve been avoiding writing you this letter.  There’s no point in trying to hide the truth from you, as I know you’re extremely intelligent, not to mention you have natural wit and a snarky sense of humor.  But I have, nonetheless, avoided this encounter because we seem to be having a sort of…disagreement. Or perhaps just a difference of opinion. It’s not a big deal, really, we’re still friends.  But it comes down to this: I feel I shouldn’t have a banana anymore, and I can’t help but notice that you feel I should have a banana.  This is a bit of a problem.

The banana has been around for a long time.  I’m sure you didn’t mean to hurt me in the beginning, as I’ve always found you to be a very nice brain. But after weeks turned into months, the banana made us grow apart. We stopped seeing eye to eye, and I started to wonder if we’d ever love each other again. So I had no choice but to learn about chronic pain from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and from regular therapy, and from different apps and podcasts.  These things have helped me to love you again, my dear brain, and I’m understanding bananas better, too. And I’m ready for us to start over, if you’ll take me back. Please give me a second chance.

But we should really talk about the you-know-what…the banana.  I’ve learned that your fight-or-flight physiological response is overworked, and that can perpetuate the banana.  In fact, you’re so stressed out that sometimes just me saying you-know-what pushes you over the edge. That’s why I’m saying banana instead.  But I don’t mean that you’re delicate or unstable! You’re just tired, and we’re both to blame. My perfectionism and tendency to take on stress has made it harder for you to get out of fight-or-flight mode. So I’m going to take it easier on myself and help you re-learn how to be safe and relaxed.  I’ll go out and enjoy the sunshine, and I’ll do things that make me smile and laugh. I’ll continue doing deep breathing exercises, too, to calm down the peripheral nervous system. We’re in this together, and I don’t mean just you and me. Donut is also a big fan of my new activities, because he has ample time to get chicken bones out of the trash when I’m deep breathing, and I force him to go on fewer walks nowadays (because walking is more enjoyable for me when I’m not dragging a shaking, lumpy ball of terrified fur down the street).

But there’s something else you should know, brain…and I don’t really know how to say this…you’ve changed.  Really, you have. The continuous bananas have caused you to create what is called neuroplastic pain.  This means your neural pathways have reorganized, and now it’s just as easy for you to remember pain as it is for you to remember my name.  You’ll always be my brain, but I miss how you were before. And I think, deep down, you miss the old you, too. If you let me help you, we can change your pathways so that they bypass bananas.  I’m doing stretches, and using ice packs and head massages and more acupuncture. Anything to help you forget about bananas for even a second! I know there will be hard days, because recovery is not a straight line, but the old you is still in there somewhere. I’ll remember this when you forget.

I want to rush back into normal life, I want to leave the bananas behind.  But if you need to keep throwing bananas my way…well, I won’t move on without you.  How could I? So I’ll try to slow down, I’ll try to not rush you like I did before. And if there’s anything else you need, just let me know.

Though I’ve never seen you, I’ll always love you.  Please write back soon.

Yours Forever, or until lobotomy,

Natalie

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