I learned recently that the thalamus is part of a mechanism in the brain that “self-soothes.” For the first 6 months of a baby’s life, there is a lot of fear and crying because the baby has not learned how to self-soothe yet. There is no mechanism in the brain that reassures, “You will get fed, you just have to wait a little more,” or “Someone will come to change you,” or “Look, you always get held, eventually.” There is just a lot of emotions without management of said emotions. The mechanism of self-soothing pops in at around 6 months–courtesy of the thalamus’s development.
And the thalamus is precisely where I have been struck. And this explanation of a lack of self-soothing explains my short fuse and sudden lack of coping tools! I find myself these days suddenly filled with anger or sadness and not knowing what to do to manage my feelings.
Often, I end up walling myself off, or walking out of a room to get some air, out of fear that I’ll lash out or continue to be hurt. What is wrong with me? I have been so frustrated. I assumed it had to do with my stroke of course.
Because of this lack of confidence and ability–I’ve continued to isolate myself in recent months. My world has gotten pared down to just a few people, and I’ve only just begun to build it out in very very small steps. The smallness of my world has become clear to me in recent days, with family tragedy taking me into a very large emotional circle, and expanding my social interactions. Grief is quite a wieldy thing.
But my handling of grief by itself is not the only evidence of my limitations these days–I went to a wedding, filled with jubilant guests. I found myself cringing in the music, and shying away from people and conversations. It was too sudden a shift from my small small isolated world. I felt emotionally naked–not an item of clothing on me to hide behind or give me strength and confidence.
What had happened to me? I hardly recognize myself at moments, though I’m sure I do a fair job of hiding these deficits.
But now I see–the actual terms and clear explanation themselves soothe me. I have lost the ability to self-soothe!
Identifying the problem is half the battle. I feel victorious already.
The hope of progress is an amazing thing.