Curiouser and curiouser: my battered brain and the looking glass

by Mary Beth Huwe

We retained consciousness while the car toppled around, flipping over itself before finally coming to rest in the median of the divided highway.

I know I didn’t black out because I heard the others – my husband and my baby – screaming, and I heard the thumps and thuds and cracking of the car. I heard my own grunts as we rolled. And probably, now that I think about it, as I hit my head.

From impact to rest felt like forever – a very busy, noisy, disorienting, overstimulating forever. It was like being shaken up in a tunnel of noise and metal.

As the car jerked and flipped I remember thinking, “This is still happening,” but really having no idea what “this” was.


I read somewhere recently that it’s not necessary to lie in a dark room following a concussion, and it may even be harmful. I don’t really know who this advice is intended for, but not me.

In Chinese medicine – a term I don’t love, but let’s just tolerate it until I find something better – we refer to the brain as one of the “curious organs.” And how.

Lying in bed in the dark things got mighty curious.

After surviving a trauma of that magnitude with very little gross injury to contend with, I got to experience the weirdness of my brain scramble. As I lay there with my eyes closed, I saw lots of shapes and colors -and they were always moving. It was kind of like a laser show. On acid. I’ve never dropped acid, so I don’t know if that’s an accurate comparison… but I definitely imagine that it was like being on acid.

It was very much like this:

nasa-89127

Uncannily, weirdly, creepily like this. This is a picture of space from NASA, and similar landscapes were flowing around before my closed eyes.

There were lots of shapes that made me wonder if I was looking in a microscope at an atom or maybe, actually, at the sun. I couldn’t tell if things were huge or minuscule. Before I could fix my mind’s eye on them, they changed into other things.

They looked a lot like this, only moving:

nasa-89125
(Another NASA pic. From unsplash.com)

In addition to being a “curious organ” in acupuncture theory, the brain is referred to as “the sea of marrow.” The idea here being that the same mysterious, dense, squishy, life-generating stuff that lives in your bones also pools in your headbone, where it mixes with consciousness and makes myriad things happen.

It’s the source of action, thought, memory, sensory processing, and all the roles that biomedicine would apply to it… plus a few more.

And it sure felt like a sea in those early days following the hit, and still kinda does. Sometimes gentle, sometimes rushing, always moving.

Lying there in the dark, looking at planets or atoms or suns or angels or trees or snowy scenes or rock giants, I remember thinking of a friend’s young daughter – only 9 or 10 or so – who had gone through a rough couple of months post-concussion.

Good lord, I thought, this would be pretty scary if I didn’t have the context of understanding that I do. 

Even with that understanding, the rocky sea of marrow got freaky a couple of times.

But on the whole, I could simply observe. And just watch the show. Pretty amazing view:

nasa-45072

Wishing all y’all well,

MBH Signature

These writings are an exploration of what it means to be human – to be sick, to be well, and to heal – viewed through the lens of acupuncture and, occasionally, herbal medicine.

My words aren’t medical advice. And they aren’t meant to be the final word on… well, anything. Rather, I hope they are a beginning of a conversation you have with someone in your life. Thanks for reading!