Yes, as fucked up as it is, it still fascinates me.
I am hoping that after I die that my brain is removed and sent off to one of the many institutions in Canada that study human brains to try and decipher mental illness and addictions.
I’ve suffered from major depression and anxiety for the majority of my life. I endured sexual assaults for over 1-1/2 years. I endured what would be tantamount to “conversion therapy”. I endured more sexual assaults before I turned 16. I grew up in a dysfunctional household.
So my brain should be interesting.
What I have always found to be very interesting is that I am not addicted to anything. Nor am I living on the streets.
Where I work, we have various programs to help addicts. One of the things that becomes apparent to me is that addiction and mental illness go hand in hand.
I’d say that most of the clients of these programs started off with mental illness first, found themselves on the streets, and then ended up with addictions.
It’s stunning how many mentally ill people are just discarded by society like trash.
The problem there I think is that unless you’re talking to the chinaware or unless you believe that everyone is a lizard person from the future out to kidnap you no one believes that you’re mentally ill.
My father would often rail on to no end that “my moods could be whatever I wanted them to be” and that “I was just doing this to get his attention”. And there are a lot of people like my father in the world. People who believe that mental illness is a scam, that people who claim to be mentally ill are liars, that people with depression are just weak wimpy cry babies who want to take the easy way out.
But even if you are one of the “lucky ones” with a “real” mental illness, you too are at an elevated risk of being tossed to the street when those close to you get tired of your “drama” and your “bullshit”.
At an early age I found myself with mental illness, diagnosed but untreated mental illness.
I found myself homeless for a number of months for most of 1992 and then the early part of 1994.
For the first few years of my adult life, I was always one or two pay cheques away from losing it all.
Help from home was out of the question, so I knew even better than to ask.
As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months at the Catholic Charities men’s hostel numerous of my fellow bunk mates would offer drugs. Wasn’t interested. Didn’t want drugs. Didn’t want booze.
I didn’t consider myself superior to my bunk mates. I just wasn’t tied up in making friends with them.
Maybe my inability to make friends actually saved me from a life of addiction. Nobody becomes addicted on their own. There is always an enabler involved.
I was flagged by social services both in Alberta and Ontario as not having the ability to make friends or to associate with others. Also, I really despised being touched. And that is still the way things are to this day. Don’t touch me.
To tell you the truth, I just find it so hard to trust people. I’m not paranoid. I think that after CFB Namao and CFB Griesbach, I just learnt that there was no one there for me, that I was always going to be on my own.
If you ask my brother, he’ll tell you that I was just a stuck up little asshole who thought himself better than anyone else. But that’s not my brother talking. That’s Richard speaking. Richard had a million and one opinions on my mental health issues, none of them helpful.
But yeah, I assure you that I wasn’t “stuck up”.
So was it the inability to form friendships that allowed me to stay off drugs?
My self worth has always been lower than shit, so it’s not that I considered myself too good for drugs.
So there has to be something else going on in my brain. Something that researchers may find of interest.
I haven’t cried since I was about 30. I’m too emotionally numb on the inside to cry anymore.
I used to cry a lot trying to figure out what the fuck was wrong with my brain and why I couldn’t fit in no matter how hard I tried and why I was always susceptible to days on end of feeling completely unmotivated and unable to think.
Employers were always impressed with my technical skills and my dedication to work, but I just lacked the “people skills” to deal with people therefore I was always going to be the guy behind the scenes who just wasn’t presentable to the public.
At the time I didn’t have access to my Foster Care records from the Alberta Government so I had absolutely no idea that I had already been diagnosed with depression and anxiety so bad that I was supposed to have been institutionalized.
I wouldn’t get my hands on those records until August of 2011. Almost 30 years after the fact. 30 years I was allowed to participate in society as some sort of experiment to see if I would succeed or fail.
And no, there was no going to “head shrinkers” or talking to a doctor about my issues. Not after my experiences with Terry and my father and the various psychologists that I had seen while we lived on Canadian Forces Base Griesbach from October 1980 until April 1983.
The fact that Terry and my father would both get me to say lies and bullshit to my civilian counsellors means that I don’t think that I could ever be honest with these people. My emotions and my inner turmoil were always something that I was taught to be ashamed of and to hide behind a wall of lies.
My father had told me during those years that I was making up all of my problems, that I was only “acting up” to get attention.
With no family support, no professional support, no community supports, here I am at 50 years of age.
My brain is fried and burnt out.
I don’t really have anything much to offer other than my brain for research.
The brain is a fascinating organ.
It is who we are. It is what we are.
It’s where our thoughts, our memories, and our dreams live and die.
The more researchers learn about the brain, the more it becomes apparent that it functions similar to a computer in the sense that it has specialized portions of the brain that do specific tasks.
I view my brain as a biological computer with over 250,000 years of innovation behind it. I view myself as the operating system. Unfortunately my operating system was corrupted by various hacks over the years that led to irreparable hardware damage.
Sure, there are patches that could sorta maybe kinda work, but an operating system that is held together by patches is unstable.
That’s one of the reasons I have no issue facing my death. As long as my brain is rendered unconscious and is denied oxygen I won’t experience my death. It will literally be like turning off the power switch on your computer. A power switch that can never be turned back on.
Still, it is very interesting how the brain processes information.
One thing that I’ve always found interesting is that you don’t actually live in the real world. Yes you and your body are present in the real world, but what your consciousness “sees”, “hears”,”tastes”, “touches”, and “smells” is AFTER the various cortexes have processed the information presented to them. What you are experiencing are the outputs of your cortexes. This is why hallucinations and dreams can appear so lifelike and vivid. The brain can’t tell the difference. To it everything is real.
But this apparently is the best way for the brain to function because if your brain had to process the raw information from your senses by itself without the automated processes of the cortexes your brain would become severely overwhelmed.
For instance how the brain processes visual information. One part of the visual cortex looks for shapes, another part isolates written languages or symbols even if we’ve never seen that language or symbol before, another part looks for faces and the emotions on those faces, another part looks for movements, and yet another part uses our stereo vision to calculate distances between objects. Our brains rely on contrast between light and dark for depth perception, even though we see in colour. We perceive all of these processes happening all at once. But they’re being processed by different parts of the visual cortex.
Car makers know that the visual cortex can be easily manipulated to elicit emotions. This is why car makers now spend so much time putting anthropomorphic features on to car and truck grilles and head lights. By making the car or truck appear happy or angry they can sell vehicles to people based upon their primary emotion.
Our hearing has many different sub processes as well. One part of the auditory cortex is listening for speech. One part has something similar to a comb-filter that is designed to be sensitive to certain frequencies. One part seems to love music. Another part gets triggered by rhythm. A different part of the auditory cortex is used to pinpoint the location of a sound in 3-dimensions even though we only have two ears. I was diagnosed at a young age with an auditory memory problem. And it’s true. I have a very hard time remembering things that are verbally told to me in a specific sequence. However I can easily remember written phrases, concepts, and details. This is one of the reasons I don’t do telephone calls unless I absolutely have to.
Then there’s the interconnection between all of these different processes. Your steady eyesight comes because the inner ear also coordinates your eye movement so that as your head moves your eyes are able to move in a direction to counter the movement of your head. Without this communication you eyesight would be very blurry.
Your ability to turn your head in the direction of a sound comes from the ability of your auditory cortex to direct your head muscles and your eye muscles towards the direction of the sound.
Your visual cortex processes you central vision and your peripheral vision in two different process, but presents this to your brain as one image. You visual cortex fills in the blind spot in each of your eyes with made up data so that you don’t see two black spots in your vision. These black spots are where your optic nerve connects to your retina. You can’t see there. Your peripheral vision sucks at detail, but it is really great at detecting motion. Your peripheral vision can direct your eyeballs and your head into the direction of motion.
Your ability to listen to music on headphones without constantly turning your head in every direction is because your auditory system has realized that what you are hearing is not a threat.
Emotions are another interesting part of the brain. Your brain can control its emotions by releasing or not releasing certain chemicals. And it has been discovered that your brain can damage itself if it releases to many of these chemicals for a prolonged period, or doesn’t release enough chemicals for a prolonged period.
Sadly, when these chemicals go out of whack, the brain often isn’t able to bring itself back to “normal” without external help. The longer the brain is without help, the more substantial the damage will be.
So yes, you can suffer actual physical brain damage due to traumatic events such as emotional trauma, psychological trauma, or physical trauma.
The brain is plastic in the sense that it can try to overcome the damage by using different portions of the brain.
I’ve never seen the actual removal of a human brain from the skull during an autopsy, but there are hundreds of autopsy videos available on the net. And I’ve seen quite a few. All you really need to remember is that the body is dead and feels no pain.
Once the skull is removed and then the dura mater is cut open, the brain is ripe for the picking so to say. Gently tilt the brain outwards from the skull, sever the olfactory nerves, the optic nerves, the facial nerves, the auditory nerves, the neck and throat nerves, and the spinal cord, and out pops your brain. Do Not Try This At Home, especially not on yourself.
It’s a good thing that you’re typically dead when this happens otherwise might be a little on the painful side. Plus might also cause a panic attack.
Now, I don’t know what exactly can be learnt from my brain. Probably nothing substantial. But maybe something incremental. And incremental would be far better than nothing, eh?
I would imagine that having a somewhat fresh brain would be beneficial to the researchers.
I would much rather prefer that my brain go to somewhere where it can be of some use rather than just tossed into an unmarked grave, or a crematorium, or a resomation chamber.
Then at least my suffering will be over and something beneficial will have come of my life.
And I’ll be able to say that “I’m going to medical school!”
I really wish that I could donate my skull to whomever I wanted to.
I have a few people in mind that I would love to give my skull to.