When I was a kid in the late 90's, "The Brain" to me was the nickname of a smart, grey sweater-wearing bear from Arthur. Remember that TV series?
Fast forward and the brain I now know is housed under my skull, not in Elwood City. Lately, it seems that organ is in hiding. Stress is usually the trigger—even good stress is enough for the onset of a flare up. So, cognitive functions lag again. This affects my verbal fluency, short-term memory, and ability to process information or problem-solve. It's like thinking through black carbon.
I hold no background in neurology but research tells me what Lyme can do to the brain. Damage is possible and decline, in some ways, has already come.
Several times a week for the last several weeks, I've prepared to write. I'd sit down, open a blank page like usual, ready to share about spring and summer happenings. Over and over again I'd try to form sentences around these recent events but then, there it would go—my brain running off somewhere unseen, bringing the writing process to a reluctant end. I'd close the laptop and then my eyes, crying out to God for his comfort and truth.
Loss rearranges us. Once provision, health, or people slip away, there's finally an admission of what we've taken for granted. Loss upends control, jolts priorities into place, and reveals the value of what's been near us all along. I surely didn't appreciate my brain until it began disassembling. Perhaps this sounds familiar.
Yes, there's neuroplasticity and treatment and if those don't work, there's also the promise of a redeemed body to come. But if I'm honest, cognitive impairment in real-time feels alarming. My friends call certain experiences unforgettable and yet, I cannot will my brain into remembering along with them. It's beyond my control. As memories lose vibrancy and words fall off their proper shelves, I'm tempted to hide my weakness. If I can't wow others, I immediately self-protect. Seven years into illness and I wonder, can I trust my Creator has good purposed for me? I've been afraid to let go of my pride and control—prizing fond memories, intellect, and others' perceptions over my Jesus. I still think I know what's best.
Without God, these losses—memory or the like—would seem like an awful joke. But I'm not one without him or without hope. Instead, I have the Spirit of God living in me, untying me from fear and redirecting my affections to what matters. My brain might labor against bacteria, but guess what? This hollowing out creates more room for my Savior to step in and meet me. More awareness of him, more prayers to him, more love for him. When I experience Jesus and his unfailing love, I know I'm not empty-handed. And that, to me, is the true healing I need.
This post is dedicated to my friend Abby: Abs, thanks for believing me when I say it's been hard and for pushing me to write anyway. You help me call to mind God's faithfulness. In all my Dory moments, you never judge. Thank you.