Trauma and Brain Fog

One time during a meeting, someone shared that she felt like she was in a “brown-out”. A brown-out is when there is a shortage of power and the lights dim. It isn’t as bad as a black-out, hence the term “brown-out”. I knew exactly what she was talking about, only I called it a “fog”.One day back in 1977 or 1978 I had a remarkable experience. Here is the scene. I was a student at the Arizona Heart Institute’s Cardiovascular Nurse Specialist program.

The program was tough and I would study for hours and hours. Personally, I love working with people who have heart problems. So I enjoyed this program very much.

This experience occurred during the middle of the week, I believe on a Wednesday. I had been in the cardiac catheterazion lab the day before. A mid 30 year old patient had been catheterized for diagnosis for symptoms of sudden severe congestive heart failure. Turned out that the person had a tumor in one of the chambers of the heart.

On this day, I was assigned to work with nursing students who where assigned to work with this patient. I offered and they asked to see the “cini” (as it was called back then) of the patient. I took them down to the cath lab and we reviewed the films. That was awesome in and of itself.

But there was one crucial difference. On this day I was mentally CLEAR. All day long I experienced my mind as in sync and clear as a bell. The whole day just flowed like a stream. I had never had an experience like that before. That night when I went to bed, I thought about the day. It was so clear. I realized that I felt like I was in a “fog” all the time. I thought about saying something to the program director, then thought better of it.

That day was a gift, and I have spent the rest of my life getting back into clear.

There are many adult children of trauma (emotional, mental and physical abuse). We all suffer from some residual. Try and have a relationship with people and with life when many others have similar wounds.

When there is danger (trauma) the amygdala (emotions) triggers the fight or flight system (sympathetic) chemicals and hormones in an effort to protect the body. It shuts down the calming part of the brain (parasympathetic). The body stays in hyper alert.

The hippocampus is responsible for filing and retrieving memories. It will bring together all the memory elements: sight, sound, touch, smell, who, what, why and where for short term and then file it together for the long term.

When children live in a traumatic environment, the amygdala takes over and the hippocampus doesn’t function well. The events get splintered and just filed anywhere. That causes gaps in the brain, much like corrupting a computer hard drive.

At any time, any of these memory pieces can be stimulated by sight, sound, smell, body posture, tone of voice and the person reacts as if they are in “the trauma” even though it is years later.

If the hyper alert situation lasts too long (what that time frame is, I don’t know) there can be permanent brain damage.

If you have splintered memories from a traumatic childhood, they can flare at any moment. It is a challenge to live in the present moment because in a nanosecond a slight nuance can catapult you into another time. You have to call yourself back into present time. It is worth the work.

Talk therapy is OK. But it has its limits as it appeals to the left brain that was shut down during the trauma. Other things to consider are music therapy, art therapy, energy psychology (EFT, TFT), EMDR (eye movement desensitizing reprocessing), energy healing, massage, movement and others that I can’t think of right the moment.

Here is to clear thinking one moment at a time. :)

Comments

  1. Awesome post! Trauma is so common for children and adults, and especially veterans. As a coach I strongly believe in art therapy, but know that the research on exposure therapy is also really good. Thank you for getting the information out there! awesome blog!

  2. Growing up is traumatic in and of itself, especially junior high and high school… We all deal with some sort of trauma on some level, and how it shapes our lives and our thought processes is a really interesting realm of exploration.

    My childhood wasn’t physically traumatic, but very much so emotionally… and today, I have to wonder whether my adulthood “fog” is a result of those things I internalized as a child?

  3. Thanks for the post Mary Pat! I have found movement to be a very powerful tool for changing at the cellular level! Being aware of my body/mind helps me to be present in my life!

    • Yes movement is very good. Try yoga, dance, trance postures and unwinding. Unwinding is something that often happens in massage or energy healing. The body literally unwinds around a held event. If it happens to you, just go with the flow.

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