A recent commenter to this blog asked if all the people who find this site are brain-dead. Well, the fact is that from my experience and from the stories others tell…yes, many of us may, in fact be mentally impaired by the music that runs constantly in our heads.
One fellow suffer with whom I correspond, has told me that even the simplest suggestions I have made are often too hard for her to understand. I may write up suggestions and snapshots of the common experiences for her doctors so she can just print my emails and take them to her appointments, rather than try to remember what I’ve said.
For me, my brain-deadness came from a combination of factors.
One: Lack of sleep. I went through one solid year in which I experienced not one second of quiet. Even in my sleep and dreams the music played on like a kind of maniacal torture. I’d sometimes awaken in a frenzy with one 5-15-second music track hitting me over and over and over like a hammer.
Two: Too loud to hear my own thoughts. At its worst, the music was so loud in my head that when I tried to think–when I tried to remember something, when I tried to craft a new sentence or process some data–I could only get part of the way through the process before the profoundly distracting music would pull me off track. In this respect, the AMLs (auditory memory loops) were like hyperactive children, never letting the parent have a moment’s peace, constantly demanding attention.
Three: It can make you crazy (really). For me this was worse than being at, say, a parade or rock concert, because at least there the music continues on through the whole song with different melodies and different words, and then changes to a new song after a few minutes. The music in my head played only the same brief 10-second (average) snippet. If you figure this went on 24 hours a day, that’s over 8600 repetitions of the same sequence. Every day. For a year. (And some people have had this problem for many years, though few seem to have music that invades their dreams, as far as I know.) By the time I went to the doctor seeking help, I was on the verge of either a mental breakdown or suicide.
So are many of us truly brain-dead? Maybe not. At least not any more than we would be if reliving the same 10 seconds of time managing 200 kindergartners at a Mardi Gras parade over and over, with no sleep.
But does this massive distraction keep our brains from performing at their best? Absolutely.
And then there’s the cortisol factor. If indeed these experiences are fueled in part by cortisol, then that hormone is coursing through our bodies consuming any cells if finds, believing we are in dire peril and need energy at all costs. Cortisol doesn’t care if it burns fat cells or brain cells. All it cares about is liberating fuel to keep your body running to escape the danger. Unfortunately, the danger is coming from inside us, from all the real and perceived emergencies that stress us out and shoot cortisol and adrenalin into our bodies.
I wish I had some news to present here. The best I can do is recommend we all do what we can to reduce stress.
Meanwhile, I’m scheduled to attend a lecture at a brain institute and hope to at least make connections to researchers who might be interested in studying this phenomenon. Cross your fingers!