My sister had been experiencing headaches and was occasionally a little unsteady on her feet. She had dismissed such symptoms ‘stress’ but told her doctor about it. The doctor suggested she have some tests, including an MRI on her brain, but it was some time before she agreed to do so. It was only after she had a fall off a stool and bumped her head that she thought it might be a good idea to undergo some testing.
Some days after the MRI test she visited her doctor to discuss the results. It was then that the doctor informed her that her brain was harbouring three (THREE) tumours.
She took in the news and calmly set off home, stopping off at the supermarket to buy a hot roasted chicken and a few other supplies. Acting as if nothing was untoward, it was only much later that the information that had been imparted to her sank in and she began to wonder what was in store for her.
Why didn’t she fall to the floor in despair on hearing such news? How was it that she took in such terrible information and yet continued on as if nothing was amiss? It seems that, in that sort of crisis, the brain takes you onto a different plane and you act on some sort of auto-pilot.
A similar thing happened to me and my husband when we went to hear the biopsy results after his testing for cancer. The surgeon explained that there was a test result that provided a number on a scale from one to ten. “A score of 4 is very serious,” he said, “and I’m afraid your result score is nine.”
From that moment, we operated on auto-pilot. There was no panic, no tearing of hair in distress, just simply a calm following of any instructions offered by the surgeon and (later) hospital staff. Quiet composure was the ‘mood of the day’ and most days that followed.
I have read stories of how people injured in accidents act normally and even walk on broken feet, seemingly unaware of injuries as they go about doing (for a short time) what they think is necessary, but I’m not sure if that is the same response as the ones I have mentioned above.
I am thinking that the mind is a very interesting part of us, enabling us to cope by taking over, so to speak, and letting us function when we might otherwise fall apart.
Most studies on personal crises or trauma quote the ‘fight or flight’ response, whereby people’s reaction is to accelerate their actions in order to handle the situation. Perhaps the examples I have offered here are not quite crises or traumas, so that they don’t elicit such dramatic response. However, I am convinced that in some situations the mind has the propensity to put a person into autopilot to enable life to go on, without the need for undue stress and (even) panic. It’s a helpful ‘condition’, in my view.
PS: My sister’s tumours are not malignant. They are meningiomas that are being treated with radiotherapy and steroids as they are in too dangerous a position to excise.
My husband underwent major surgery and is now perfectly well.
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