My brain feels a lot of times like it is a computer. I know it’s cliché and corny to use that metaphor these days. But I started using it in elementary school. When the only time we used a computer was to play Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, or Math Blasters, or the best game of all – Oregon Trail.
I see a computer as a really good metaphor for a brain for a variety of reasons. Brains (or at least my brain) have specific programs, like computers do. When I go somewhere, like the grocery store for example, I ‘boot up’ that program. In that program, I have a map of the store showing me where everything is. I have a list of the protocols I am supposed to follow, things to remember, things to not do, and such. My grocery store program also has a feature that lets me keep track of my purchases to ensure I don’t go over budget. Doesn’t everyone do that when they go shopping? It makes a lot of sense.
I also have programs for work and programs for play. When I boot into work mode, it’s kind of like booting your computer into safe mode. When I boot into work mode, I can turn off emotions completely and only focus on what I need to. It is ridiculously useful, but has gotten me in a lot of trouble over the years. Apparently, when I am in work mode, I also forget that others are not in their proper ‘work mode’ and so they still have feelings turned on. I have a tendency to say rude things while in ‘work mode’ because I am only interested in doing the work to the best of my ability and have no concern or interest in those around me. So there is often some conflict there, I have been slapped more than a few times for rude comments. In my defense, I have never meant any of them, nor did I ever think that they were actually rude. But other people can be squishy and soft, like a jellyfish. And that is really hard to navigate if you are something like a sea urchin.
I have learned that just like on a computer, the more windows you have open the slower things work. It gets really difficult to keep open the window to remind me of everything I need to be doing. For example, if I am at work I need to open the program to remind me of what to do, the program to control what I say, the program to control how I respond, the program to control how I behave, the program to control my face and make sure I don’t make any weird faces accidentally, the program to make sure I keep track of time, the program to make sure I speak at the appropriate times, and so on. So suddenly, going to work becomes a lot more complicated. Often times, I get overloaded and some windows get shut down, which often causes a problem later on.
I also have a master switch on my emotions. I can turn it off or on, at least most of the time. This emotion switch is a strong survival technique really. I feel a lot of very strong emotions, and I have to turn it off when I go out into public. If I don’t then I get obscenely upset at small things that no one else ever notices. Or I start crying randomly because I start thinking of a sick puppy limping his way down the street and yelping in pain. It’s not pretty. So I turn off the emotions in order to blend in better. But unfortunately, that doesn’t always work either. Because somehow, other shapes have a natural filter on their emotions I guess. I really have no understanding of how it works for them. Regular shapes seem to be able to control their emotions while still experiencing them. They can modulate them, without being overtaken. That is a skill I would love to learn one day. I am working on it. More about emotions later.
In my ‘computer brain’ I have a very intense database. I have stored all kinds of useful and a lot more useless information in there. I have records of most things I do that involve other people, records of their conversations, of things that we did together, and things like that. I use this a lot for my work now, because I can very easily recall the topics we discussed last week with my students and remember what they are doing in their own lives and tie that in to the lesson somehow. Mostly though, this effect is fairly useless. I can recall infinite random facts about most anything. I think that is also connected to the fact that my memory feels more like a great connected spider web.
This database, or as I call in ‘mindspace’, doesn’t really have a physical manifestation. By that I mean, I don’t really think of it as a file cabinet or a computer specifically, but I can conjure up that image easily. It’s more like the database is the back-end to the program that is my life. Certain things that I do or things that I see will reference or search for the information I need. This part can be really annoying to me. For example, just yesterday, a friend told me that she was engaged. I guess most people would be happy and scream or cry or whatever, but I didn’t. I could only think of the fact that I thought she was too young to be getting married, and that based on her previous relationships which she burned out on very quickly, this one would likely have the same problem but at a much greater cost. I also was concerned that neither of them had a stable career, and that usually marriage means kids, which usually requires a stable career. All of this came to my mind as an annoying pop-up window instead of feeling happy for my friend.
This kind of problem also occurs whenever I spot someone that makes a mistake. As soon as I hear someone say something that is not true, my brain pulls up the correct info and I have an almost pathological need to correct them and explain why they were wrong. Luckily, I have a much better control on that now because I am aware that people hate that kind of thing.
My brain feels almost like a freight train at times, most of the time really. From the moment I wake up in the morning my brain starts turning. It runs all day long at full speed. There is not any way I have found to safely stop it. I can distract myself by doing something I am involved in for a while, but then I am back to riding the crazy train. This fast moving train of thought can be a great thing. I can quickly run any conversation through in my head and see where it is going based on past conversations. This is very useful with my students because I can spot an error that they will make several steps before they do, and then set them on the right course before they ever make a mistake. I can also solve problems very fast and seem like I know everything (maybe I do know everything after all).
Sometimes though, I feel like I am going off the rails on a crazy train. Not being able to stop or even slow down this train is a huge problem. The second the train takes a negative turn, it goes down that road fast. I can go from being happy and laughing one minute, to feeling the utter emptiness of despair and depression the next minute. My brain takes any small negative thing and turns into its natural (not-so-logical) conclusion. That bump heard in the night is definitely aliens coming to kill you – that sort of thought process happen to me daily.
I also have a very hard time relaxing because of this. My brain is always buzzing with thoughts and things that I need to do, things that are coming up, things that I am planning for, and such like that. It is sickening. I feel trapped inside my own head with no way out, no way to stop these racing thoughts and allow myself to settle down. I feel a need to constantly be doing something, to be working, or doing something productive because if I can’t relax and have fun then I should be working. This was also part of the reason I used to drink so much. When I am drunk, the brain stops almost completely. Being drunk is the only time I have experienced the complete and total control over my thoughts. No more racing things through to the end, no more looking at a puppy and knowing that it will die someday, no more feeling that every time someone says bye that I will never see them again. I imagine that is how most people feel all of the time, and it must be nice.