Don’t get your amygdala in a twist


amygdala exorcised

Amygdala – is a fancy word for the almond shaped part of the brain, the busy part involved in emotion and fear and, boy, is my amygdala getting overworked these days. There is so much new to process inside this skull and I don’t have the words. Literally.

For the first time I have reached in the never-ending well that had all my phrases (original and stock), ad lib, grammar, jokes, put downs, intonations, pitch, mannerisms, regional accents, idioms, argot, and theories on the Kennedy assassination and got nothing in return. I could answer yes or no questions by shaking my head up and down or sideways, but the speech I used to rely on for a living was gone. I try and all that I get is an empty throat, words not forming as though I forgotten how say them, although I could remember them…mostly.  That has left my amygdala working overtime in the emotion department, mostly in the fear department, because I was scared.  I had questions (based on false premises); these were unknowns, the dreams of nightmares because they were so foreign to me. The dread is that this would be permanent – I am forever mute.

(I remember the Annie Lennox song “Why” because it has reverberated in my head since back in 90’s:

This is the fear, this is the dread
These are the contents of my head)

There is a vortex approaching my bed with dour, serious faces—three or four people swarming like wasps noting my demeanour. They picked up a chart at the foot bed while some performed a sweeping motion with the curtains (for privacy, even though I could hear the doctors/nurses conversations from my neighbours adjacent  with the curtain drawn and get their prognosis/prescriptions so they were not soundproof) and others approached me directly.  I am left wallowing with fish-like gurgles instead of words. They are patient with their patient.

These medical minds have deduced that I have had a stroke. They ask can I move my right arm; make a fist; move my right leg. They make notes and I get the impression that I performed badly. It is not only time I perform badly I would later find out.

Out of my peripheral version I see a familiar sight come into view – it is Amoret, with my two daughters. With the exception of the birth of my youngest daughter I have never been  away from my Amoret over night.

(Where has the time gone? This is Friday morning. I came in late Thursday afternoon. So much is lost in the vagueness of the hospital time zone. Is one hour forward or six years back?)

There is a smile to me that says: “I’m so relieved you’re here/I love you/anxious to find out how your doing.” A squeezed hand with the pressure kept on. It is a moment frozen in time – a movie moment when the orchestra swells into fulfilling inner strength, hope-filled strains. But it is quiet on our set and we get by on unspoken feelings messaged by squeezing of hands.

To add a soundtrack I try to say “sorry” but what comes out is my impression of a goldfish – the constant puckering of lips into an O shape, focusing on making a sound. Sorry is on my mind but never makes it to my lips. Inhale and try to force something intelligible beyond my mouth but I’m left breathless at producing only grunts and groans instead of language.

(I am reminded of film involving cavemen in search of fire [Quest for Fire – 1981] and the whole hour and a half of the movie was a series of grunts and groans. I imagine being the screenwriter)

But we’re not after life-sustaining fire. Amoret realises my frustration and silences me – that’s easy. She asks simple yes or no questions I can answer with my head and shoulders, and even “I don’t know” with shrugs. Even my daughters engaged in the conversations of this sort. There is an unsaid feeling of relief – from me the freedom of trying to talk to my family, and from them knowing that I understood and could respond beyond the power of language.


One response to “Don’t get your amygdala in a twist

  1. I can empathise with this so vividly it’s frightening – I thought, it’ll be ok – I’ll be able to write things down. When I found I no longer had the coordination to write, I was gripped by fear. That question. ‘How long will this last?’ you just ask yourself over and over again. Fear of not knowing was the worst thing.

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