So, strange thing today. While talking with someone, another person from our department came up and had and was swollen and had stitches in her jaw. She had a benign tumor removed over the weekend, and thought the swelling would be down by today. It’s not. It was a little frankenstein-ish. I thought in my head: wow, she’s awfully young to be having tumors. As I was thinking this, I noticed I was feeling kinda bad. Just off, like I was going to be sick. Then I started going into shock.
After kneeling down for about a minute I was fine again, but it was intensely weird. I’ve only had that happen to me once, and it was when I was 17 and at the hospital with some friends who were in a car accident. One of them was really wrecked, with spine injuries and he just looked like hamburger. When I got back out in the hall after visiting, I went into shock.
Now, when I was sick a couple years back, I was going into shock a lot, though nobody could tell me why. So I’ve gotten pretty good at managing shock, in some cases being able to continue functioning pretty well, but I usually have to lower my head somewhat. I did have a thought flash into my head that maybe this was a return of the bad old days of being sick, but it quickly passed as pretty improbable.
I think in both this case and the one when I was younger, I was hit with a strong sense of my mortality. I’ve seen other people hurt really badly, and it never really bothered me, only my friends. When bad stuff happens to friends, it means it can happen to me. Apparently my body thinks the correct reaction to my inevitable demise is to put me into shock right this minute. Once I realize what’s happening and inform it that no, you will not be continuing with this improper behavior it backs right down, but what a weird reaction. I know some people pass out at the sight of blood, and maybe there’s some link here.
What I can’t understand is why the body would react with shock to trauma external to the body. Is it a malfunction, triggering a physiological response on accident? Or is it my brain is getting fooled into believing it’s local trauma because I have a psychological realization of my own mortality.
Back when I was sick, I was terrified of dying. Part of that was simply that my brain chemistry was thrown way out of whack. My nervous system was way too stimulated and I was very edgy. It was during that time that I first really seriously thought about death, and came to the conclusion that the longer I could put it off the better. I went through all the classical philosophical issues, and the psychological ones as well. I’m not a religious person, but have a spiritual side and there was some deal of questioning there as well.
The outcome of all that was pretty much this: it’s hard for anyone to really understand the degree to which we depend on stable brain chemistry to get through life in a happy productive way. These days I can reflect on my inevitable death with a detached, healthy viewpoint. For about a year, I couldn’t. Every time I thought about it, I had no detachment. It wasn’t like I thought it would be coming the next day or anything (though at one point I did think I was dying), I just didn’t have any sense of detachment. It took on a sense of importance that was way out of proportion. It gave me a tremendous sense of respect for people who suffer with chemical imbalances and have to cope with the shifting landscapes of their own minds.
Rounding another corner with this, I’ve recently been thinking that it’s too bad that as we really gain enough experience and knowledge to positively change the world around us, our bodies start failing. Of course one could argue that if we remained vital for much longer periods, we would have little motivation for changing things. No impending end means no impetus to leave a mark or make our place in the world. Also one could say that the craziness of hormones and puberty prevents a lot of younger people from being able to positively impact the world around them (in a general sense, that’s not to say plenty of young people aren’t doing good in the world). Also I seem to be finding out lately that most of the people I respect for one reason or another (usually smart computer people or business guys) struggle with mental issues of one sort or another.
Seems like the smarter we get, the less capable our bodies are of dealing with it. When I look into the long term future for humanity, it seems inevitable that out bodies have to change, or be eliminated. While they are amazing for some things, they fall down pretty badly where longevity or extreme circumstances are concerned. More and more, normal life is becoming “extreme circumstances” to our bodies.
Fun thoughts for a Monday morning.
Update: For some reason I forgot to mention that I am most likely also extremely dehydrated from a week of travel and a lazy weekend (I always forget to drink water on weekends). This probably helped things along a great deal. If I remember correctly, I was pretty dehydrated back oh so many years ago as well. Your brain doesn’t like not having water.